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Statewatch Observatory
The refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: a humanitarian emergency

This Observatory covers the arrival of refugees and migrants, the reactions and failures within the EU (both governmental and within communities).

Edited by Tony Bunyan. See: "We are ashamed": Statement on Mediterranean: "The EU is behaving shamefully"

May 2019

200,000 displaced Syrians flee towards Turkey (euractiv, link):

"Pressure is mounting on Turkish authorities to open their borders to more than 200,000 refugees from Syria. What prevents the refugees from entering is a 764-km wall Turkey has built along the border, in fear of Kurdish “terrorists”."

Net immigration to Britain falls to 5-year low in 2018 (Reuters, link):

"Long-term immigration to Britain fell to a five-year low last year, driven by a fall in the number of migrants from the European Union, official figures showed on Friday."

EU development aid used to put European police in Senegal (euobserver, link):

"Police in Senegal deal with a street disturbance - they will soon be joined by European officers, paid for by EU development aid, to tackle people-smuggling

In a matter of weeks, some €9m of EU development aid will be used to shore up the police in Senegal, West Africa, to help crack down on migrant smuggling.

While such EU-funded development projects on security are nothing new, the latest effort in Senegal is a novelty."

Dutch minister resigns over manipulated report of crimes committed by asylum-seekers (euractiv, link):

"The Netherlands’ minister for migration, Mark Harbers, resigned Tuesday (21 May) after a parliamentary outcry over elided data on crimes committed by asylum-seekers, in a bad blow to the government just ahead of European elections."

Council of Europe: Hungary should address interconnected human rights issues in refugee protection, civil society space, independence of the judiciary and gender equality (link):

"The Commissioner finds that the government’s stance against immigration and asylum seekers has resulted in a legislative framework which undermines the reception of asylum seekers and the integration of recognised refugees. The Commissioner calls on the government to repeal the decreed “crisis situation due to mass immigration” which is not justified by the number of asylum seekers currently entering Hungary and the EU and urges the authorities to refrain from using anti-migrant rhetoric and campaigns which fan xenophobic attitudes."

See: Commissioner's Report on Hungary following her visit to the country in February 2019 (pdf) and: Hungarian government comments (pdf)

ITALY: UN special rapporteurs call for withdrawal of Salvini decree criminalising search and rescue activities

Six UN special rapporteurs and independent experts have written to the Italian government demanding the withdrawal of an interior ministry directive that prioritises 'security concerns' over the saving of lives at sea, as examined in a Statewatch analysis published last month.

EU: Externalisation: Frontex launches first formal operation outside of the EU and deploys to Albania

The EU has taken a significant, if geographically small, step in the externalisation of its borders. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, has launched its first Joint Operation on the territory of a non-EU-Member State, as it begins cooperation with Albania on the border with Greece.

FRANCE: Les Gilets Noirs: We are in the airport in France

“I’m here to tell you that for them we are commodities! If they give us documents they lose their business. So they must see that someone stood up. We are not balls to be kicked about, we are not children. Our struggle is not only about papers. What you have yet to see you’ll see when you fight. There is sorrow and happiness inside. Things need to become red and people need to rise to bring it out. The shame is theirs, not ours. They must stop seeing black people as blackness, but see that they have become red.”

Italy seizes Sea-Watch 3 rescue vessel (DW, link):

"Italy's far-right interior minister has condemned the seizure of the ship, saying migrants on board should not have set foot in Italy. However, the condition of the refugees had swayed the authorities' opinion.

Italian prosecutors on Sunday impounded rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3 for breaching immigration rules despite government attempts to block the ship from reaching an Italian port.

The ship rescued 65 migrants off the coast of Libya last week. It had originally signaled its intention to disembark them at an Italian port, but was blocked by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini."

ECHR: Italian Government must provide temporary accommodation for Roma children and their parents evicted from a settlement (pdf):

"On 5 April 2019 the Mayor of Giugliano issued Decree no. 29, ordering that all the settlement’s inhabitants be evicted for reasons of public health and safety. That order was carried out on 10 May. The applicants currently live with their families in an improvised campsite in an industrial area outside Giugliano.(...)

had been rehoused, the Court decided to apply an interim measure indicating to the Italian Government that it should provide temporary accommodation for the minors involved and their parents, without separating them."

EU elections 2019: Where do parties stand on migration? (euractiv, link):

"Although irregular arrivals in Europe are at their lowest level in five years, migration remains one of the top priorities for European citizens in the upcoming EU election. EURACTIV has looked into the European parties’ proposals on the matter."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-20.5.19) including:
- Hundreds of Europeans arrested for solidarity with refugees
- Ill-treatment and detention: investigation of the Lampedusa centre
- Germany: anti-torture committee calls on authorities to ensure better treatment of foreign nationals being removed by air

Hundreds of Europeans including firefighters and priests arrested for ‘solidarity’ with refugees, data shows (The Indepdendent, link):

"Firefighters, priests and elderly women are among hundreds of Europeans who have been arrested or investigated for demonstrating “solidarity” with refugees and asylum seekers over the past five years – with such cases rising sharply in the last 18 months, new research shows.

A database collated by global news website openDemocracy reveals 250 people across Europe have been arrested or criminalised in other ways for providing food, shelter and transport and other “basic acts of human kindness” to migrants.

The number of cases increased dramatically in 2018, with more than 100 cases recorded last year – twice as many as in 2017. The majority of the cases in 2018 were arrests and charges for providing food, transport or other support to migrants without legal papers."

See: Hundreds of Europeans ‘criminalised’ for helping migrants – as far right aims to win big in European elections (OpenDemocracy, link) and: European governments’ targeting of migrant solidarity activists for prosecution must stop, says IRR (IRR, link)

ITALY: Ill-treatment and detention: investigation of the Lampedusa centre

Long periods of detention, ill-treatment, abuses of law in the treatment of migrant children and unaccompanied minors. The handling of foreigners in Lampedusa resulted in allegations framed in very strong terms by the judge for preliminary investigations [gip] in Rome, who asked for the investigation into events at the Sicilian detention centre to remain open: "There is an evident need," states the order dated 2 May 2019 "to carry out territorial inquiries".

European Commission: EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: solid progress in supporting refugees (press release, pdf):

"The Commission reported today good progress in the implementation and programming of €6 billion of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. More than 80 projects are currently up and running delivering tangible results to refugees and host communities in particular on education and health. Out of the €6 billion, some €4.2 billion has been allocated, of which €3.45 billion has been contracted and €2.22 billion disbursed to date."

Salvini fumes at EU court ruling on refugee returns (euractiv, link):

"Italy’s hardline deputy prime minister reiterated his call to change the EU in reaction to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that refugees cannot be deported if their life or freedom is at risk in their home countries."

Migrants Trying to Reach Europe Are Trapped in Libya - Between Militias and the Sea (The Intercept, link):

"The lives of hundreds of migrants and refugees are under threat in Libya as the conflict there nears detention centers, according to a release yesterday from Amnesty International."

GREECE: Immediate abolition of the use of unsuitable detention facilities (Press release, pdf):

"The non-governmental organization AITHMA, along with 15 other Greek and foreign actors from civil society and academia, is addressing an open letter to the leadership of the Ministry of Citizen Protection and the head of the Greek Police regarding the continued detention of irregular immigrants and asylum seekers in inappropriate facilities in violation of Greek, Euro-pean and international law."

And Open Letter (pdf):

"Problems relating to the administrative detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers – Immediate abolition of the use of unsuitable detention facilities. We are writing to express our deep concern at the continued detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers in unsuitable detention facilities."

Are You Syrious Extensive report:

"Report on illegal practice of collective expulsion on Slovene-Croatian border. Processed under the readmission agreement, many people were denied their right to asylum procedure by the Slovenian police, still conducting systematic expulsions to Croatia under the guise of the readmission. This is a report written by Slovenian activists documenting the continuing unlawful police practice at the border between Croatia and Slovenia."

Illegal push-backs and border violence reports - Balkan Region - April 2019 (pdf):

"The methodological process for these reports leverages the close social contact that we have as independent volunteers with refugees and migrants to monitor push-backs in the Western Balkans. When individuals return with significant injuries or stories of abuse, one of our violence reporting volunteers will sit down with the individuals to collect their testimonies."

Germany: anti-torture committee calls on authorities to ensure better treatment of foreign nationals being removed by air (CoE, link):

"The monitoring of a return flight of Afghan nationals from Munich to Kabul (Afghanistan) on 14 August 2018 is the subject of a new report published today by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) (See the executive summary).

Austrian state plans 'Ten Commandments' for refugees (DW, link):

"Refugees in Lower Austria are to be issued with "Ten Commandments of Immigration" by regional authorities. Included in the edicts is a requirement for migrants to show gratitude to the country."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.4-13.5.19) including:
- Hungary's coerced removal of Afghan families deeply shocking
- EU research funds go to project developing swarms of AI border drones
- Report on collective expulsions at Slovenia-Croatia border
- Common European Asylum System: Member States oppose mandatory "border procedures"
- Masked men at Evros river push back Turkish asylum-seekers

Hungary’s coerced removal of https://www.dw.com/en/austrian-state-plans-ten-commandments-for-refugees/a-48712265Afghan families deeply shocking – UNHCR (UNHCR, link):

"Hungary’s actions overnight to force two asylum-seeking Afghan families to leave the country under duress is deeply shocking and a flagrant violation of international and EU law, the UN Refugee Agency said today.

The two families, four adults and seven children, who had been detained since January in a transit zone on the Hungarian-Serbian border, were escorted to a border gate with Serbia at night on 7 May. They were presented with a choice of entering Serbia or being flown back to Afghanistan on a flight organized by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

...UNHCR has advised the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, to refrain from supporting Hungary in the enforcement of return decisions which are not in line with International and EU law."

Mediterranea defiant as Italy impounds refugee rescue ship (Al Jazeera, link):

"Rome, Italy - The Italian rescue ship Mare Jonio was 64km off the Libyan coast on Thursday evening, when its crew sighted a raft in distress. The five-metre rubber dinghy was crammed with 30 people, and its engine was broken.

"It was so small that [navy] radars probably could not detect it," said Maso Notarianni, a rescuer on board the Mare Jonio. "The first thing those on board told us was: 'We come from hell'."

The Mare Jonio, operated by the Italian charity, Mediterranea, immediately alerted the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, but were told to contact the Libyan coastguard instead."

EU: Swarms of Drones, Piloted by Artificial Intelligence, May Soon Patrol Europe’s Borders (The Intercept, link):

"This is not science fiction. The European Union is financing a project to develop drones piloted by artificial intelligence and designed to autonomously patrol Europe’s borders. The drones will operate in swarms, coordinating and corroborating information among fleets of quadcopters, small fixed-wing airplanes, ground vehicles, submarines, and boats. Developers of the project, known as Roborder, say the robots will be able to identify humans and independently decide whether they represent a threat. If they determine that you may have committed a crime, they will notify border police."

The Lack of Transparency Surrounding EUROPOL and the Hotspots (Caught You Red-Handed, link)

"The 2015 European Agenda on Migration envisaged a significant role for FRONTEX, EASO, and EUROPOL, the function to operationally implement the Agenda and closely cooperate in the management of the hotspots established in Italy and Greece...

Despite EUROPOL’s operational role, in the recently adopted Regulation of EUROPOL there is not a single mention of this agency’s operational powers in the hotspots, unlike in the EBCG [European Border and Coast Guard] and the future EUAA [European Agency for Asylum] Regulations. Hence, the total secrecy surrounding the operational support of EUROPOL in the hotspots and the lack of any legal reference to the activities of the agency on the ground prevent the general public from assessing the actual implications, meaning, and extent of EUROPOL’s operational support.

... on 10 May 2019, the Ombudsman agreed with Europol’s explanation that the disclosure (full and partial) of documents regarding the agency’s operational activities in the Greek and Italian hotspots “would risk prejudicing the effectiveness and the outcome of the ongoing, but also future, operations in the hotspots”.That is, while Europol is undertaking operational activities in the hotspots, citizens cannot have access to what the agency does in practice and to what extent it operationally assists the national authorities in illegal migrant smuggling investigations. This lack of transparency is clearly problematic in order to effectively hold the agency accountable."

4 Portugal police arrested over assaults of immigrants (Daily Sabah, link):

"Portuguese detectives have arrested four police officers suspected of assaulting Nepalese immigrant workers in the country's latest allegations of police misconduct.

The Policia Judiciaria, which investigates serious crimes, says Wednesday the four arrested men belong to the Guarda Nacional Civil, a paramilitary police force which has jurisdiction in rural areas.

They are accused of assault in what local media reported was a dispute with the Nepalese workers."

Spain says 52 migrants force entry into its African enclave (Daily Sabah, link):

"Spanish authorities say 52 migrants have climbed a guarded fence to gain entry into Spain's North African enclave of Melilla from Morocco.

An official with the Spanish Interior Ministry in Melilla says four police officers and one migrant sustained light injuries as the group scaled the high fence around dawn Sunday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with government rules."

When witnesses won’t be silenced: citizens’ solidarity and criminalisation (IRR News, link):

"When witnesses won’t be silenced: citizens’ solidarity and criminalisation is a free downloadable briefing paper that looks at the dramatic increase in prosecutions from European states on humanitarian activists for their acts of solidarity with and assistance of displaced people. "

Download report here (link)

PRESS RELEASE: Mytilene, Greece: Peaceful demonstration and the human right to freedom of assembly prevails

10 May 2019

"Yesterday, 9 April 2019, in the Misdemeanours Court of Mytilene, the 110 on trial for resistance against authorities, rioting, and illegal occupation of public property were found not-guilty of all charges against them.

The charges were brought last year, after a peaceful sit-in of approximately 180 refugees took place in a small part of Sappho Square in the centre of Mytilene, Lesvos, between April 17- 23, 2018, in protest against poor living conditions in Moria Camp, lack of medical care and access to health services, imprisonment on the island and the long delay in their asylum process. The trigger of the mobilisation was the hospitalisation and death of an Afghan asylum seeker with serious health problems."

Report on illegal practice of collective expulsion on Slovene-Croatian border by InfoKolpa (pdf):

"This report is the result of a civil society initiative InfoKolpa, which started in the spring of 2018. The civil initiative was a response to an alarming number of reported illegal actions through which Slovenian police started systematically denying people the right to seek asylum in Slovenia. The number of people who were denied asylum procedure and were collectively pushbacked to Croatia under the guise of a readmission agreement increased drastically after May last year."

Hungary stems migrant flow, but issue remains big in EU vote (AP, link):

"Hundreds of migrants a day streamed through the Hungarian village of Asotthalom on their way to Western Europe in 2015. Today there are almost none. So one might think the political discourse has moved on.

Think again."

ITALY: Warehousing Asylum Seekers: Salvini’s Attempt to Dismantle the Italian Reception System (Border Criminologies, link):

"On 1st December 2018, the Italian Parliament converted into law the controversial decree no. 113/2018 on security and immigration (so-called ‘Salvini decree’). The new legislative act, Law no. 132, amends substantially national asylum policies, by introducing several restrictive changes that pertain to residence permits, the reception system, detention, cessation of protection, safe country of origin, manifestly unfounded asylum claims and subsequent asylum applications. This raft of measures is in line with the political strategy of the current Minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini, who based most of his electoral campaign on the fight against migrants."

UK-ITALY: Firefighters protest prison for rescuing refugees (Fire Brigades Union, link):

"UK firefighters will protest outside the Italian embassy in London today, on Europe Day, in support of a Spanish firefighter facing prison for rescuing refugees. Fire Brigades Union (FBU) activists will call on the Italian government to drop its investigation and end its anti-migrant crusade.

Spanish firefighter Miguel Roldan faces 20 years in prison for helping to rescue drowning refugees in the Mediterranean. Italian authorities have accused him of aiding illegal immigration and working with human traffickers, amidst pressure from far-right politician Matteo Salvini."

GREECE: Trial of Sapfous 122 – Today in Mytilene (Legal Centre Lesvos, link):

"Today 122 people are on trial in Mytilene, Lesvos, after being arrested in the early morning of 23 April 2018. They are charged with resisting arrest, rioting, and illegal occupation of public property. If convicted they could be imprisoned for two years. In the days prior to their arrest last year, 100-200 refugees and migrants who had been living in the notorious Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, gathered in Sapfous Square, the main square in town, to protest lack of access to medical care, horrible conditions, and delayed asylum procedures that kept them prisoners on the island.

After less than a week of their peaceful protest, on the night of 22 April 2018, they were attacked by a far-right mob. In this organized violent attack, roughly 200 fascists attacked the refugees and migrants, as well as those standing in solidarity with them, with projectiles. While 26 people are now facing criminal charges related to the attack against the migrants, during the night not a single attacker was arrested. Only the 122 people facing trial today were arrested, after facing a night of racially motivated violence against them, which left many people, including migrants, journalists, and children injured."

GREECE: Refugee, volunteer, prisoner: Sarah Mardini and Europe's hardening line on migration (The New Humanitarian, link):

"On the balcony, Mardini, 23, was enjoying a rare moment of respite from long days spent working in the squalid Moria refugee camp. For the first time in a long time, she was looking forward to the future. After years spent between Lesvos and Berlin, she had decided to return to her university studies in Germany.

But when she went to the airport to leave, shortly after The New Humanitarian visited her, Mardini was arrested. Along with several other volunteers from Emergency Response Centre International, or ERCI, the Greek non-profit where she volunteered, Mardini was charged with belonging to a criminal organisation, people smuggling, money laundering, and espionage."

Libyan Prime Minister brings message of migration increase to Europe (Euronews, link):

"Hundreds of thousands of refugees could flee the fighting caused by Libyan Army chief Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to seize Tripoli – that is according to Fayez al-Sarraj, Libya's Prime Minister, who leads the country’s UN-recognised government."

Are You Syrious (6.5.19, link):


"Greece struggling to examine the 62,418 asylum applications lodged between 2015 and 2019, while 5,500 new applications are submitted every year on average by the newly arrived people.

In the same time bracket, Greece granted asylum or subsidiary protection to 36,683 applicants, according to Ekathimerini.

The bulk of asylum applications are made at the service’s offices the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Samos and Chios, as well as in Attica and Thessaloniki, with the latter also responsible for arrivals through the Evros border. One asylum-seeker who recently turned up at the Thessaloniki bureau was given an interview date for December 2023.

Just in 2019 (up until the end of April), 10,892 people arrived to Greece either by sea or land states UNHCR, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria."

EU-TURKEY: A shameful bureaucratic development in 2016 (pressenza.com, link):

"In May and June of 2016, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) carried out a survey in Turkey for people from Syria and other third countries who were seeking international protection.(...)

Tens of thousands of people became trapped in unsuitable conditions, often affecting their mental health, with a lack of unrestricted access to basic health services and constant exposure to physical dangers.

The allegedly successful transfer to Turkey of responsibility for migration flows, in exchange for major financial gains, constituted a blueprint for the aggressive policy the EU has been pursuing since then as part of its foreign affairs."

Greece: Lesvos: Thermi: Lest we forget: Memorial for the Dead of the European Borders, Thermi/Lesvos 25th of October 2017 (w2eu.ne, link). In 2018 the memorial was destroyed by local fascists.

See: "Destroying the memorial cannot erase the memory!" (pdf)

Libya coast guard detains 113 migrants during lull in fighting (euractiv, link):

"The Libyan coast guard stopped two boats on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, carrying 113 migrants in all, and returned them to two western towns away from the Tripoli frontline, where they were put into detention centers, UN migration agency IOM said."

European Border And Coast Guard – First agreement with a non EU country on border co-operation becomes operational (EU Reporter, link):

"On 1 May, the agreement on border co-operation between the European Border and Coast Guard and Albania became operational. This is the first agreement on operational cooperation to be signed with a neighbouring non-EU country, and also the first such agreement with an EU partner from the Western Balkans, to enter force since the launch of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency".

EU: The human rights monitoring ship Mare Liberum is being prevented from leaving port

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transportation (Bundesverkehrsministeriums) sent an order of suspension for the ship Mare Liberum to the German association of traffic and transportation (Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr)--which handles the registration, licenses and flags for ships--to further scrutinize civil rescue vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.

ITALY: Digital Identity in the Migration & Refugee Context (Data & Society, link):

"For migrants and refugees in Italy, identity data collection processes can “exacerbate existing biases, discrimination, or power imbalances.” Digital Identity in the Migration & Refugee Context analyzes the challenges arising from this digital ecosystem and identifies three major areas of concern: bureaucratic bias in identity systems; privacy and mistrusted systems; and organizational data responsibility. The report is co-authored by Mark Latonero (Principal Investigator), Keith Hiatt, Antonella Napolitano, Giulia Clericetti, and Melanie Penagos.

One key struggle is obtaining meaningful consent. Often, biometric data is collected as soon as migrants and refugees arrive in a new country, at a moment when they are vulnerable and overwhelmed. Language barriers exacerbate the issue, making it difficult to provide adequate context around rights to privacy. Identity data is collected inconsistently by different organizations, all of whose data protection and privacy practices vary widely."

April 2019

EU: Common European Asylum System: deadlock in the Council as "frontline" Member States oppose mandatory "border procedures"

Council discussions on controversial proposals for dealing with asylum applications at the external borders of the EU hit a wall recently, with "a large majority" of Member States who favour tougher measures facing opposition from those on the "frontline". Member States' diplomatic representatives were called upon to try to reach a resolution, but the Council is remaining tight-lipped on the outcome of those discussions.

Turkish asylum seekers attacked by masked men, pushed back from Evros shore (Keep talking Greece, link):

"A group of Turkish asylum seekers claimed that following an attempt to cross the Turkish border via the Evros River in northeastern Greece on Friday evening, they were pushed back to the Turkish side after being beaten by masked men with batons, the IPA news agency reported.

Tugba Özkan, a journalist in the group, told IPA News on the phone that the group of 15 people fleeing persecution in Turkey crossed the Turkish-Greek border on Friday at 9 p.m. near the town of Soufli.

When they set foot on Greek soil, however, she said a group of masked men beat them and pushed them back across the river to the Turkish side, where a post-coup crackdown targeting Gülen movement followers has led to the prosecution of over half a million people."

Are You Syrious (29.4.19, link)

Border Violence Monitoring reports

"A group of people was apprehended by the Bosnian police near Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and, under the pretext of being brought to the official camp in Sarajevo, they were held in detention for 16 hours in the Klobuk border crossing point - the one that is known for holding people in cage-like detention cells. In the morning, they were loaded into two white vans and brought to the border with Montenegro."

Rescue Ship Stopped by German Government

"The search and rescue ship Mare Liberum has been blocked from leaving Lesvos by the German Federal Ministry for Transportation. “The ministry of transportation, led by the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) politician Andreas Scheuer, apparently wants to perfidiously prevent any civil presence in the Mediterranean Sea to document human rights violations and the effects of the European Union’s deadly border policy. We are urging for an accelerated response to repeal the decision,” said a spokesperson for the NGO. You can read their entire press release (EN) here)."

Increase in Boat Interceptions by the Turkish Coast Guard

"There has been an increase in the number of refugee boats being intercepted by the Turkish Coast Guard (TCG), according to numbers released by Turkish authorities. Aegean Boat Report stated, “Last week 52 boats were stopped, and 1,501 people were arrested. This is the highest number of boats stopped in one single week for over a year. Is Greece prepared for what would happen if Turkey should look the other way, and again let boats flow towards the Greek Aegean Islands…”


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16-29.4.19) including:
- France delivers boats to Libya: NGOs demand justice!
- Case filed against Greece at ECHR over crackdown on humanitarian groups
- European governments' targeting of migrant solidarity activists must stop
- Legal crackdown on asylum seekers in Germany
- Starving in Hungary's transit zones

Global Detention Project Annual Report 2018 (link):

"Last summer, people across the globe expressed outrage when U.S. immigration officials began separating children from their parents at the U.S.- Mexico border and placing them in hastily set up camps and cages. Absent from much of the criticism, however, was any recognition of the fact that children are detained for immigration-related reasons in dozens of countries, all of which—with the exception of the United States—have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2019.

...The continued insistence by states that immigration enforcement decisions take precedence over considerations of the well-being of children is also reflected in the much-anticipated Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), adopted in December 2018. As we discuss later in this Annual Report, there is much that is laudable in the GCM, including its insistence that immigration detention only be used as a measure of last resort and its re-iteration of long-standing fundamental norms requiring that detention “follows due process, is non-arbitrary, based on law, necessity, proportionality and individual assessments.”

Concerning children, the GCM encourages states to apply “alternatives to detention” while “working to end the practice of child detention.” But the compact falls short of recognising immigration detention’s violation of the “best interest” principle or calling for the prohibition of child detention."

Detention, Insecurity, Rights Deprivation – The Legal Crackdown on Asylum Seekers in Germany (ECRE, link):

"On 17 April 2019 the German Government pushed ahead with the deprivation of rights of refugees with two laws – the so-called “Orderly Return Bill” and an amendment to the social welfare law for asylum seekers. The highly controversial “Orderly Return Bill” promoted by the Ministry of the Interior has now been passed by the cabinet meeting of the Government and will be discussed in parliament. The draft law is part of a recent wave of legal measures that represent a crackdown on asylum seekers. It provides for far-reaching changes which have been sharply criticised by civil society associations as they include the deprivation of rights, expansion of the use of detention, and withdrawal of social benefits. It also makes the status of recognised refugees more precarious, introduces a downgraded version of the “Duldung” (toleration) status, and targets people and organisations involved in refugee support."

European governments’ targeting of migrant solidarity activists for prosecution must stop, says IRR (IRR, link):

"The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) publishes today a compelling new report on ‘crimes of solidarity’, drawing attention to a dramatic increase in prosecutions, restrictions and penalties, against a variety of civil society actors.

The online publication of When Witnesses Won’t be Silenced: citizens’ solidarity and criminalisation comes just days after the Global Legal Action Network petitioned the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecution in January 2016 of Salam Kamal-Aldeen, the founder of Team Humanity, for his rescue work in the Aegean Sea constitutes a violation of human rights law."

France delivers boats to Libya: NGOs demand justice! (press release, pdf):

"Today our eight organisations invoke justice and denounce France’s complicity in violations of human rights in Libya. At the Administrative Tribunal in Paris we demand the suspension of a delivery of boats planned by the Armed Forces Ministry destined for Libyan coastguards, on account of serious doubts about its legality.

Last February, Florence Parly, France’s armed Forces minister, announced the purchase of six high-speed boats destined for Libyan coastguards in order to deal with ‘the problem of illegal immigration’. For the first time, France publicly announced direct and concrete bilateral collaboration with the Libyan coastguards. In buying these six boats for their use, France is participating in the cycle of violations of human rights committed in Libya in relation to refugees and migrants, by providing the logistics to intensify such measures."

GREECE: April 2019 Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos (Legal Centre Lesvos, link):

"Last week, it was reported that in response to criticism the director of the notorious Reception and Identification Centre outside Moria village in Lesvos stated that “anyone who thinks they can do better than us is welcome to try.”

What he misses is that it is actually an obligation of the State to provide adequate reception facilities for asylum seekers. It is also an obligation of the state to respect, protect, and ensure the enjoyment of human rights for all residing in its jurisdiction, including all migrants and refugees.

Three years after the EU-Turkey Statement, time has shown that the Greek state, and the European Union in its role implementing European migration policies, have utterly failed to meet these obligations. The horrible conditions and systematic procedural violations are not only morally, but legally unacceptable.

The practices we have documented in the first quarter of 2019 demonstrate a continued policy of dehumanization, discrimination, and structural violence against migrants entering Europe via Lesvos. Below is just a sampling of the continuing violation of migrants we have repeatedly reported on."

Case filed against Greece in Strasbourg Court over Crackdown on Humanitarian Organisations (GLAN, link):

"Following a two-and-a-half-year legal ordeal in Greek courts, Salam Kamal-Aldeen, founder of the non-profit Team Humanity has filed an unprecedented application with the European Court of Human Rights challenging Greece’s crackdown on NGOs rescuing refugees at sea. (More on Salam’s show trail in Greece here.

The application filed with the Strasbourg court exposes the illegality of the Greek authorities’ crackdown on human rights defenders working to render assistance to persons in distress at sea. It challenges Greek’s abuse of power to arbitrarily prosecute and expose Mr Aldeen to a minimum ten years’ imprisonment, only to suspend his life-saving activities. The best evidence for the political extraneous considerations in prosecuting Salam is of course his complete acquittal."

GREECE: Racist Violence Recording Network: Annual Report 2018 (pdf):

"In 2018, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) recorded an increase in incidents of racist violence, especially against refugees and migrants. This increase is linked to the political polarization at a global level regarding the reception of refugees and migrants, coupled with national and local factors shaping the situation in Greece. The reinforced presence of the far-right parties in Europe encourages the violent xenophobic groups that claim an increasing proportion of the public sphere. In view of the European elections, the more space is occupied by the far-right agenda and euro-scepticism, the more the far-right, neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups across Europe gain further strength and form alliances with each other or even compete in committing racist attacks."

Starving in Hungary's transit zones (InfoMigrants, link):

"Since August 2018, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), a non-governmental organization advocating for human rights in Hungary, has counted a total of 13 cases of starvation in Hungary’s transit zones, affecting 21 individuals.

An Iraqi family of five with three children left Iraq in the hope of finding treatment for their 9-year-old son who is particularly vulnerable due to his mental disability. Their 6-year-old child also has autistic tendencies.

An Afghan family arrived in Hungary after fleeing Afghanistan during a family dispute over land. They were threatened with death and then mistreated in Iran because they were Afghan. Another Iraqi family of eight fled Iraq due to ISIS. They had witnessed killings and the abduction of young girls. They were afraid for their lives.

These are just some of the case studies highlighted by the HHC in their latest report about the denial of food to rejected asylum seekers inside Hungary's transit zones. In all cases, food was denied to the adults in the group for between one and five days."

Libya: Detained refugees shot as clashes near Tripoli continue (Al Jazeera, link):

"Refugees and migrants trapped in a detention centre on the front line of conflict in Tripoli for weeks say they were shot at indiscriminately on Tuesday by fighters aligned with eastern forces advancing on Libya's capital.

At least 10 people were seriously wounded by gunfire, detainees said.

"Right now they are attacking the centre, shooting more people … They are shooting us directly," an Eritrean man told Al Jazeera through the messaging service WhatsApp."

And: Migrants in Libyan jail were reportedly seriously wounded in shooting: U.N. (Reuters, link)

EU-TURKEY: 10,000 irregular migrants held in Turkey this year (Anadolu Agency, link):

"Some 10,000 irregular migrants were rounded up off Turkey's Aegean Sea coast in the last three months, security sources said.

Coast guard units held 5,729 migrants. Six migrants lost their lives due to drowning or hypothermia and 15 human smugglers were arrested.

Also, 3,919 migrants and 82 human smugglers were held by the land forces.

All of the migrants were later referred to provincial migration directorates.

Last year, 6,336 irregular migrants were held in Turkey."

Germany sets tougher rules for deporting migrants (AP, link):

"The German government has agreed on a set of rules aimed at making it harder for failed asylum seekers to avoid deportation.

The country’s top security official, Horst Seehofer, said Wednesday that the package agreed by the Cabinet focuses on people who have exhausted all legal avenues to obtain asylum.

Seehofer told reporters in Berlin that people who try to hide their true identity can be jailed and those who fail to replace lost travel documents may face fines.

Authorities will double to about 1,000 the number of prison places designated for deportees."

CATALONIA: Government launches 'safe' ports plan for refugees and rescue boats (Catalan News, link):

"The Catalan government has launched an initiative bringing together several departments in order to make its ports "safe" for refugees and NGO rescue boats.

Speaking as the scheme started on Monday with the first meeting of the working group, the foreign minister reminded reporters that Catalonia does not have the power to grant migrants asylum, but does have control over reception and integration policy.

Alfred Bosch said the plan was a response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and recognition of the "moral and political obligation" to welcome migrants, particularly in the face of what he denounced as the "inaction" of EU member states."

Fighting in Libya will create huge number of refugees, PM warns (Guardian, link):

"Fayez al-Sarraj says Khalifa Haftar’s attack on Tripoli ‘will spread its cancer through Mediterranean

Hundreds of thousands of refugees could flee the fighting caused by Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to seize the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the prime minister of the country’s UN-recognised government has warned.(...)

There have been concerns that Libya could become a “new Syria”, with civil war leading to massive population displacement.(...)

“There are not only the 800,000 migrants potentially ready to leave, there would be Libyans fleeing this war",

Rescue ship says Spain is blocking its bid to aid refugees in Greece (El Pais, link):

"A vessel operated by an NGO is trying to deliver humanitarian relief to Lesbos, but Spanish authorities say it needs a new permit despite having one from Portugal.

A Basque fishing vessel converted into a migrant rescue boat called the Aita Mari is having problems going to the Greek island of Lesbos, where it aims to deliver humanitarian aid to the thousands of refugees concentrated there."

The excetional become the norm: Border controls: state of emergency becoming state of normality (euractiv, link);

"Germany, as well as other EU member states in the Schengen area, is extending the period of random border checks. The EU Commission is not pleased. EURACTIV’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Actually, border checks should only be temporary. However, the deployment of the German Federal Police at the German-Austrian border, which began at the height of the refugee crisis in September 2015, has since been repeatedly extended."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9-15.4.19) including:
- Safe harbours: the cities defying the EU to welcome migrants
- Joint Statement – the case of Alan Kurdi
- Switzerland: Authorities must drop absurd charges against priest who showed compassion to asylum-seeker

EU: Safe harbours: the cities defying the EU to welcome migrants (Open Democracy, link):

"This weekend, thousands of people marched in Berlin, and several other German cities including Nuremberg and Cologne, to protest a bill, proposed by the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, that would toughen the country’s asylum and deportation laws and criminalise pro-migrant activism.

The protest was not the first of its kind. Over the last few months, there have been several coordinated demonstrations over migrant policy across Germany. Between July and September last year, tens of thousands of people dressed in orange, many wearing life jackets, took to the streets to protest a growing clampdown on migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean and the civil society organisations aiding them."

HUNGARY: Migrant debit cards: a tool of terrorism? Yes, so vote Fidesz (Hungarian Spectrum, link):

"Commentators outside of the Fidesz propaganda media claim that Orbán’s seven points, which are the basis of Fidesz’s campaign program for the European parliamentary election, are meaningless and undecipherable. Naturally, they are all about migration, but none of them addresses existing EU regulations or directives, which Orbán’s campaign is fighting against. For example, the fourth of the seven points is a demand to terminate the issuance of ‘migrant visas’ and ‘migrant cards.’” In light of the Orbán government’s latest propaganda effort on an international scale in the form of a news agency, V4NA, I think it might be educational to see how the regime creates fake news and uses it for propaganda purposes."

Joint Statement – the case of Alan Kurdi (sea-watch.org, link):

"We have learned that Sea-Eye’s rescue vessel, the ‘Alan Kurdi’, has finally been allowed to disembark the people who were rescued on April 3 when in distress on the Mediterranean Sea. These 64 people (of whom two were evacuated already due to medical emergencies) are allowed to reach land in Valletta/Malta after suffering through ten days of uncertainty at sea.

We are relieved that these people have finally reached firm land in a safe port in the EU but we by no means consider this case a victory. Instead, it was once again a shameful episode in which EU member states unnecessarily prolonged an emergency at sea, the very same countries and institutions who now declare this a successful solution."

Malta announces deal on migrants stranded on Sea-Eye ship (DW, link):

"Malta says some 60 migrants stranded off its coast in the Sea-Eye charity vessel will be taken by four EU countries. It said none of the migrants were to remain in Malta.

The Maltese government said on Saturday that more than 60 migrants stranded at sea for more than a week on the German rescue ship would be taken in by four EU countries after a deal was reached with the European Commission.

"Through the coordination of the European Commission, with the cooperation of Malta, the migrants on board the NGO vessel Alan Kurdi will be redistributed among four EU states: Germany, France, Portugal and Luxembourg," a government statement said.".

Moving Stories - Abshir’s (Samos Chronicles, link):

"Just over a week ago Abshir, from Somalia, was transferred from Samos to a mainland refugee camp at Nea Kavala in northern Greece. He was part of around 350 refugees taken that day from Samos as part of the Government’s attempt to ease pressure on the massively overcrowded camp in Vathi. All of them left on the ferry to Athens and in Abshir’s case with some others, he was bussed north. In all a journey of nearly 24 hours. No food or drink provided.

Abshir was very nervous about this move. He did not want to leave Samos. After 5 months this shy gay young man from Somalia was at last feeling more comfortable."

Trapped refugees must be released and granted safety from Tripoli fighting (MSF, link):

"Fighting that has broken out in Tripoli has further trapped refugees and migrants held in detention centres

- MSF is extremely concerned for the wellbeing of civilians and refugees and migrants caught in the fighting

- We reiterate our call to allow refugees and migrants held in detention to be released to an area of safety and to increase the capacity of search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea."

The Mediterranean battlefield of migration (opendemocracy.net,link):

"What plays out off the coast of Libya are forms of mass abduction that are not merely tolerated but strategically organised and orchestrated by European governments and its coastguards."

Stranded migrant boat appeals to Europe for port after eight days at sea (Reuters, link):

"A charity ship with scores of African migrants on board appealed to European states for a safe port on Thursday after being stranded for eight days between Malta and Italy, saying the health of the rescued people was worsening."

Greece in Denial About Police Detention of Lone Kids - Athens Fails to Act on European Court Ruling Against Detaining Migrant Kids (HRW, link):

"The European Court of Human Rights recently confirmed what many have long known: that Greece’s practice of locking up unaccompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children in police cells and detention centers leads to serious rights abuses.

But despite that ruling, as of March 30, 82 unaccompanied children were still detained in so-called “protective custody,” held in police station cells or immigrant detention centers across the country."

Refugees on stranded NGO rescue ship in 'poor state' (DW, link)

"The Sea-Eye rescue ship Alan Kurdi is anchored off the coast of Malta with over 60 refugees on board. The vessel has been forbidden to dock. Sea-Eye spokesperson Carlotta Weibl spoke with DW about the situation."

Switzerland: Authorities must drop absurd charges against priest who showed compassion to asylum-seeker (AI, link):

"Pastor Norbert Valley, who was taken from his Sunday service by police for questioning, is charged with “facilitating the illegal stay” of a Togolese man. Following his refusal to pay a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs, the Public Prosecutor will decide tomorrow whether to issue an indictment."

Migratory situation in March – Eastern Mediterranean accounts for most of all irregular migrants (Frontex, link):

"In March, the number of detections of illegal border crossings on Europe’s main migratory routes fell by 7% from the previous month to nearly 4 600, mainly due to a drop in migrant arrivals in Spain. The total for the first quarter of 2019 was 13% lower than a year ago at around 17 900."

Illegal migrants stopped in Edirne as rumors spark exodus to Europe (Daily Sabah, link):

"From highways to railroads, everywhere seems to be teeming with illegal migrants in Edirne. This northwestern province bordering Greece is a common route for migrants, but it is rare for migrants to arrive en masse to Edirne, hoping to sneak into Greece. More than 2,000 illegal migrants were intercepted by security forces in the province since April 4, and this new trend is attributed to rumors on social media accompanied with fake news that the border crossing will be opened for migrants traveling to Europe.Security forces work around the clock in areas near the border and in downtown Edirne and try to persuade migrants with the proper paperwork to go back to the cities they arrived from. Others without documents are accommodated at migrant centers in the province. Scenes in Edirne are reminiscent of another mass illegal migrant attempt four years ago when Syrian migrants heard rumors that European countries would admit more refugees."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-8.4.19) including:

- Analysis: Italy's redefinition of sea rescue as a crime draws on EU policy for inspiration
- IOM: 356 deaths in the Mediterranean so far in 2019
- Overhaul of Spanish coastguard agency sparks fears for search and rescue operations

Analysis: Italy's redefinition of sea rescue as a crime draws on EU policy for inspiration

On the evening of 18 March, an ongoing conflict between the Italian government and civil sea rescue initiatives was reignited following the rescue of 49 people in international waters north of Libya by the ship Mare Jonio, of the Italian citizen-funded sea rescue initiative Mediterranea - Saving Humans.

Three teens charged in Malta over refugee ship hijacking (Al Jazeera, link):

"Authorities in Malta have charged three teenagers with committing an act of "terrorism" for their suspected role in hijacking a merchant ship that rescued them off the coast of Libya.

The teenagers, among 108 refugees and asylum seekers rescued by El Hiblu 1 earlier this week, appeared at a court in the Maltese capital, Valletta, on Saturday.

They were accused of seizing control of the tanker and using force and intimidation against the crew to change the ship's course to Europe."

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 12,174 in 2019; Deaths Reach 356 (IOM, link):

"The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 12,174 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through 3 April. Deaths on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes have reached 356 individuals."

See also: IOM Statement: Protecting Migrants in Libya Must be Our Primary Focus (link): "Libya cannot yet be considered a safe port."

EU Trust Fund for Africa: €115.5 million to enhance security, migrant protection and job creation in the Sahel region (European Commission press release, pdf):

"The European Commission adopted five new programmes and three top-ups of current programmes worth €115.5 million under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to complement ongoing efforts in the Sahel and Lake Chad region.

...An additional €30 million will serve to protect migrants and refugees along the Central Mediterranean route and look for sustainable solutions in the Sahel and Lake Chad region. It will further increase the number of migrants benefitting from protection and voluntary return while ensuring their sustainable and dignified reintegration. In Niger, the Joint Investigation Team has dismantled 33 criminal networks and 210 smugglers have been convicted over the past two years. It will receive an extra €5.5 million to build on this success. In Ghana, €5 million for capacity-building and equipment will strengthen the country's border management."

Austria extends duration of border checks for Hungary and Slovenia - APA (Reuters, link):

"ZURICH (Reuters) - Austria will extend its border controls for fellow EU members Hungary and Slovenia until at least November, Austrian news agency APA reported on Sunday, citing a letter from the country’s interior minister to the European Commission.

In the letter to the EU Commission, Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl cited a persistently high number of illegal migrants and a “latent threat of terrorism” related to the prospect of fighters returning from former Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq, APA reported. "

Surveillance Company Cellebrite Finds a New Exploit: Spying on Asylum Seekers (Privacy International, link):

"Cellebrite, a surveillance firm marketing itself as the “global leader in digital intelligence”, is marketing its digital extraction devices at a new target: authorities interrogating people seeking asylum.

Israel-based Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corporation, markets forensic tools which empower authorities to bypass passwords on digital devices, allowing them to download, analyse, and visualise data. "

Spanish fireman faces 20 years in prison for rescuing migrants at sea (El País, link):

"“We could only save half of them, many people drowned,” remembers Roldán, a 32-year-old firefighter from the southern city of Málaga, who has been part of the underwater unit of the Seville City Hall Fire Department since 2013. His act of solidarity that day, as well as his help on other rescue missions in the summer of 2017, could land him behind bars for 20 years for allegedly aiding illegal immigration and working with human traffickers."

Spain’s civilian coast guard caught in election crosshairs (Politico, link):

"An overhaul of Spain’s operations in the Mediterranean has sparked fears among activists that Madrid is quietly gutting a civilian search-and-rescue agency credited with saving thousands of lives.

The changes to the Salvamento Marítimo rescue operation come as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s center-left government is under electoral pressure from the far right ahead of a general election later this month.

...Four of the agency’s mid-sized rescue ships will be moved from the Sea of Alborán, where most sea rescues took place last summer, to areas that receive less migrant traffic: one to the Balearic Islands, two to the eastern Spanish city of Cartagena, and one to the Canary Islands, according to an internal February report from Salvamento Marítimo’s security and safety committee obtained by POLITICO."

Gen Khalifa Haftar’s forces close in on Tripoli (Irish Times, link):

"Dozens of migrants and refugees in a Tripoli detention centre were dressed in old military uniforms and ordered to begin packing weapons this week, as rival forces began to march on the Libyan capital.(...)

In the Tripoli detention centre, some of the thousands of refugees and migrants who are locked up indefinitely, after being returned to Libya by the EU-backed Libyan coastguard, worried that they may be forced to fight."

Vento e pioggia sui migranti: le immagini a bordo della nave Alan Kurdi (lapresse.it, link):

On board of the Alan Kurdi, ship blocked in application of the directive from interior ministry. Appears its heading for Malta after not having been allowed into Italian waters.

. AYS on criminalisation, pushbacks in EU Parliament (link)

UN head ‘shocked’ by suffering at migrant camp in LibyaUN head ‘shocked’ by suffering at migrant camp in Libya (euractiv, link):

"UN Secretary General António Guterres said Thursday (4 April) he was “shocked” by the level of suffering of migrants at a detention centre in Tripoli which he visited during a visit to the Libyan capital.

“I was very moved and shocked by the level of suffering and especially by the level of despair that I found,” Guterres told reporters during the second day of trip to Tripoli during which he visited the Zara detention centre."

EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean (link):

"The European Union has mandated Italy to set up several maritime control centres in Libya. The Coast Guard and Maritime Police will be linked to European surveillance systems, the authorities will communicate directly with Frontex. The project costs 46 million euros and starts in July. But the Libyan Coast Guard has since long been connected to Italian counterparts.

European Parliament: Briefing: Recasting the Return Directive (pdf):

"Taking into account the decrease in the EU return rate (45.8 % in 2016 and 36.6 % in 2017), and following European Council and Council calls to review the 2008 legal text to enhance the effectiveness of the EU return policy, the Commission has proposed a targeted recast of the directive aiming to 'reduce the length of return procedures, secure a better link between asylum and return procedures and ensure a more effective use of measures to prevent absconding'."

See also: Lock ‘em up: the proposal to amend the EU’s Returns Directive (EU Law Analysis, link) by Professor Steve Peers.

The refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: a humanitarian emergency


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