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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"

June 2016


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.6.16)
GERMANY: Far-right violence rising sharply in Germany (DW, link);

"The number of violent crimes committed in Germany by far-right extremists has risen by over 40 percent in one year, the nation's internal intelligence agency says. In particular, asylum seekers have been targeted....

In its annual report, Germany's domestic intelligence service (BfV) showed a 42 percent increase in violent acts by extremists associated with the far-right in 2015, describing attacks against journalists, politicians and refugees.

The report shows a recorded 1,408 violent crimes, compared to 990 such crimes in 2014. During the same period, seventy-five arson attacks against refugee centers were recorded, up from just five a year earlier."

See: 2015 Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution (English - Summary, pdf) and Full report (German, 317 pages, pdf)

Greece: Lesvos: Doctors of the World accuses police of violence against migrant children (ekathimerini.com, link)

"Humanitarian aid organization Doctors of the World (MDM) has accused Greek police of subjecting 12 Pakistani minors at the Moria reception center for refugees on the island of Lesvos to mental and physical abuse earlier this week, and called on Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas to launch an investigation.

The minors allegedly came to blows and threw rocks at each other on the night of June 23, before they were handcuffed and dispatched to the local police station where they were held for 14 hours and reportedly subjected to mental and physical abuse."

and see: Reported incident of police violence towards unaccompanied minors at Moria Reception Center in Lesvos (mdmgreece.gr, link)

and: Lesvos: Inter Agency Consultation records on 23 June: "Thirty eight (38) trouble makers from Moria have been transferred to Paranesti, Drama. UNHCR and protection partners are following up on their cases." [emphasis added]

Mourning the dead while violating the living (open democracy, link)

"As of the end of April 2016, the Italian Navy has deployed four ships to fish out the wreck of a migrants’ boat from a depth of 370m and retrieve the bodies of the several hundred migrants who remained trapped inside since the night of the 18th of April 2015. Following a collision between the migrants’ severely overloaded vessel and a 147m cargo ship that had approached to rescue it, the boat capsized, causing the death of more than 800 people – the largest shipwreck in recent Mediterranean history...

If the EU-Turkey deal is not blocked through institutional means, then all that will still stand in its way will be the acts of civil disobedience such as those enacted by activists by blocking the Frontex operated ferries on their route to Turkey with their very bodies, and forms of direct support to migrants’ illegalised crossings through the work of the numerous NGOs and activists who have, since summer 2015, transformed the Aegean islands into a new laboratory of transnational solidarity. The re-opening of a safe(er) passage through the Aegean is a matter of life and deaths for thousands of migrants, and an urgent response to revert the self-destructive course the EU is heading in. For as long as migrants will drown, Europe will keep sinking."

BULGARIA: “Who gets detained? Increasing the transparency and accountability of Bulgaria’s detention practices of asylum seekers and migrants”: STATISTICAL REVIEW (EPIM, pdf):

"It seems that one common European response to the “flow” is the increased detention of migrants. This statistical review illustrates the implication of this common trend for Bulgaria. It is appears as if detention has become a migration management tool, especially in times when most states found themselves unprepared for the increased numbers of migrants arriving on their territories. Furthermore, the ongoing economic crisis and the mass austerity measures around the continent provoked the proliferation of far-right political movements.

Pressured by a potential loss of votes, liberal European politicians also started to resort to practices that are more akin to the far-right spectrum: migrants are more than often portrayed as a national security threat and criminals, and detention practices are often used as summary punitive measures against migrants in the name of the protection of the national interest."

HUNGARY: Show trial in Hungary: solidarity with the accused in Röszke (migszol.com, link):

"This report is based on the talk and discussion on an event on of the Röszke trials in Hungary, on refugees accused of violating the border fence during a riot/mass disturbance - which was held in Auróra, Budapest 24th 2016. As our guest, we had Tamas Fazekas, who works for the refugee program at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. Fazekas is a criminal lawyer, the defendant of three of the accused, and works for the HHC since 2001. The views expressed in the event and in this blogpost are his own and not representative of the HHC. HHC has unique access to all refugee camps and detention centers in Hungary. They are independent from the Hungarian government and do not receive any project money the EU, and provide free legal aid for people seeking international protection in Hungary."

And see Show trials message

European Court of human rights turns a blind eye on migrants’ life endangerment in Chios (GISTI, French and English, link):

"Last weekend, the European court for human right rejected a request for emergency measures sought on June 16th by 51 Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi nationals (amongst which many minors) who are forcibly maintained on Chios Island, Greece, in a desperate situation. This island, like many others in the Aegean Sea, has become an open-air prison. The victims, lead by a GISTI lawyer, a French NGO for the defence of migrants, had asked the court to compel Greek authorities to put an end to the violations of their right to life and to the inhuman and degrading treatment they have been enduring in Chios since an immigration deal was concluded between Turkey and the EU on march 20th – more than three months now - and which puts their children’s’ and their own lives at risk.

Although they all applied for asylum, none of those 51 victims enjoyed any of the fundamental civil rights theoretically guaranteed by Greek and European law. They received no legal assistance at all. Most claimants ... the grounds for this «house arrests» on an island, which turns every day more into an Alcatraz, and cannot understand why they are forced to live in such appalling and degrading material conditions. They are granted neither safe nor decent housing, and lack basic access to health: medical assistance is grossly insufficient compare to the number of civilians in the camps who would need specialised care or hospital recovery. (only some prescriptions are given but no drugs). In one of the island’s three “camps”, the authorities do not even provide for food.)"

News (30.6.16)

Italian navy recovers ship that sank with over 800 people on board - Forensic experts to begin identifying victims of 2015 Mediterranean disaster in which vessel capsized off Sicily (Guardian, link)

Schulz: Switzerland and EU need to find compromise on immigration (euractiv, link): "Switzerland and the European Union have to find a compromise on how to act on a Swiss referendum to limit immigration without breaching bilateral treaties with the EU, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in a TV interview on Wednesday (29 June)."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (28-29.6.16)
Are You Syrious (link):

Bulgaria Drops Case against Border Police Officer Who Shot Migrant

"Prosecutors in Burgas decided to end pretrial proceedings into the death of an Afghan migrant who was killed not far from the Bulgarian border last October. Border police claim that officers noticed the movement of over 50 people near the border and that after shooting in the air “as a warning sign”, a bullet “rebounded” hitting one of the people on the move in the back of the neck. Human rights organizations pointed to the development as a possible case of police brutality.

Burgas District Prosecutor’s Office investigation established that no crime had been committed accepting the version according to which the bullet fired ricocheted off the bridge, changing its movement and hitting the migrant."

Hungary: New law that allows push backs of people

"Hungarian president signed the “8km law” that will be in effect from 5th July. The law allows pushing back people to the Serbian side of the fence. Namely, the new amendment of the law allows the police to ‘escort’ all refugees that are caught within 8km of the fence to the ‘no man’s land’ at the other side of the fence where they have to wait for days and weeks in inhumane conditions and almost no legal counseling. The only independent source of legal assistance in transit zones, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, but they have limited access and capacity to deal with each case."

Germany: Rise of far-right extremists attack

"An annual report by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency recorded 1,408 violent crimes by far-right extremists in 2015. That compares with 990 such crimes the previous year.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Tuesday that far-right extremists targeted asylum seekers in particular last year. Far-right groups have seen a rise in membership and support amid growing anti-foreigner sentiment last year, as Germany saw an unprecedented influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa."

BORDER CONTROLS INCREASE DEMAND FOR SMUGGLERS: Europol: 39 migrant smugglers arrested during Sirocco-2 Action Day along Western-Balkan route (Press release, pdf)

""Border management restrictions in the South East European region have created demand for criminal networks to offer their services to those migrants who are stranded in various phases of their journey. Facilitators often appear in refugee camps and offer their services to asylum seekers."

Greece: Lesvos: Reported incident of police violence towards unaccompanied minors at Moria Reception Center in Lesvos (link):

"Médecins du Monde – Doctors of the World Greece expresses its deep concern about the reported incident of police violence towards unaccompanied minors detained in Moria Reception Center in Lesvos.

On the 24th of June 2016, twelve (12) unaccompanied minor of Pakistani nationality, accompanied by the coordinator of the Centre, were examined by the doctor and the psychologist of the medical team of MdM."

European Parliament Study: The Reform of the Dublin III Regulation (pdf):

"It examines the performance of Dublin and of relocation schemes, and assesses the Commission’s “Dublin IV” Proposal in this light. It argues that by retaining the Dublin philosophy and betting on more coercion, Dublin IV is unlikely to achieve its objectives while raising human rights concerns. It advocates re-centring EU responsibility allocation schemes on one key objective – quick access to asylum procedures. This requires taking protection seekers’ preferences seriously and de-bureaucratising the process. Such a reform would need to be accompanied by (a) stepping up the enforcement of refugee rights across the EU, (b) moving solidarity schemes from a logic of capacity-building to one of compensation, and (c) granting protected persons real mobility rights."

Towards compassion and a ‘compact’ on refugees (euractiv, link):

"UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appeals to European leaders meeting in Brussels today (28 June) to contribute for a new Global Compact on Responsibility-sharing for Refugees, as well as a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The author is Secretary-General of the United Nations.

New figures released last week by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show that forcible displacement has reached new heights: 65 million. Every minute, 24 people are uprooted – four times the level of a decade ago. As European leaders meet in Brussels, they must focus on humane solutions that save lives, uphold international law and protect human rights."

European Council: 28-29 June: Draft Conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 8471-16, pdf):

"the return of migrants to Turkey in full respect of the provisions on inadmissibility under the Asylum Procedures Directive..."

Comment: The problem with the Asylum Procedures Directive is that is based on the lowest possible standards and does not requite third countries to implement the 1951 Geneva Convention standards and protections.

"In the Central Mediterranean, flows of predominantly economic migrants remain at the same level as last year..." [emphasis added]

Comment: People arriving from north Africa are refugees.

"fast and operational returns of irregular migrants, including by applying temporary arrangements, pending the conclusion of full-fledged readmission agreements."

Comment: To be based on the use of "leverage", that is, threats to withdraw development aid and trade if not compliant to EU demands.

See: EU to use aid and trade to stop Africa migration (euobserver, link): "EU leaders are likely to agree to use all means possible to keep irregular migrants from leaving Africa to reach Europe when they meet at a summit in Brussels later, according to leaked papers seen by this website. The heads of state are set to back a master plan to use development aid and trade as leverage against so-called countries of origin in Africa."

EU-AFRICA: ARCI: Steps in the process of externalisation of border controls to Africa from the Valletta Summit to today (pdf)

"While the logic of externalisation of borders control to neighbouring countries, has been an essential feature of EU strategy over the last ten years, as evidenced first by Tony Blair’s government’s proposal of 2003 to create asylum seekers’ camps in transit countries, by the Italy-Libya agreement of 2008, by that between Spain and Morocco of 2012, as well also as the EU-Turkey readmission agreement of 2014, we are now witnessing an acceleration in the agreements and in their effects.

This is also due to the considerable funds it has been decided to invest in the criminalisation of migration. Trust funds for Africa, established at the Valletta Summit, have made cash available to facilitate dealings with African countries. This monetisation of the relationship with African countries opens up a trade logic that appears to skate over questions of human rights and the fate of thousands of people on the African continent."

Report in Italian (pdf) and French (pdf)

NGOs warn EU against opening ‘dark chapter in its history’ on migration (euractiv, link):

"More than 100 NGOs have called upon the European Commission to put a stop to its controversial migration plan. EurActiv Germany reports.

The executive’s plan sees trade deals, development aid and other financial tools being used to limit the number of migrants reaching Europe from third countries. “We propose to use a mix of positive and negative incentives to reward those third countries willing to cooperate effectively with us and to ensure that there are consequences for those who do not,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans. EU leaders will discuss the plan this week at a summit being held in Brussels.

The NGOs have criticised the EU for focusing solely on curbing migration through its foreign policy and highlighted that this undermines the bloc’s credibility and authority when it comes to defending human rights. The organisations therefore called upon the member states to reject the Commission’s proposal."

See: See Statement: Joint NGO statement ahead of the European Council of 28-29 June 2016: NGOs strongly condemn new EU policies to contain migration (pdf)

News (28-29.6.16)

French politicians warn about migration from UK (New Europe, link): "France is reviewing the Touquet accord, an agreement signed in 2003 to reinforce French-British cooperation on immigration. The deal essentially moved the British border to cross-channel embarkation areas in France and Belgium and allowed London to offload some responsibility for border control."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27.6.16)
Statement 26th of June 2016: Three deaths in the straight of Gibraltar caused by the arrival of the Marine Royal (Moroccan Navy) (Alarmphone, link): "During the interception the migrants’ boat capsized. The survivors witnessed that the Marine Royal did not rescue all passengers, but only 5 of the 8. The Marine Royal then left the three dead bodies behind.

On Sunday the 26 of June 2016, the Alarmphone got a call from a Senegalese man staying in Morocco. His brother had left in a rubber boat with a group of 8 persons, heading from Tangier in direction of Tarifa. During the interception the migrants’ boat capsized, because of the big waves produced by the ship of the Marine Royal.

The survivors witnessed that the Marine Royal did not rescue all passengers, but only 5 of the 8. The Marine Royal then left the three dead bodies behind. In anguish the Senegalese comrades in Tangier wrote the following statemen"

Europol press release: Latest trends in migrant smuggling: nearly 7000 suspected smugglers reported, increased exploitation, higher prices (pdf): "Between January and June 2016, Europol received intelligence on more than 7000 newly-identified migrant smuggling suspects. 95% of them are male, with an average age of 36. Recent data also shows that migrant smuggling remains an increasingly profitable business for criminals, with the
prices for migrant smuggling having tripled. These are only a few of the most recent trends perceived by Europol and published today.

At the end of last summer, migrants were paying between EUR 2000 and 5000 for their entire trip, i.e. from the country of origin to a final destination country in the EU. Nowadays, prices have increased significantly, with migrants paying up to EUR 3000 for just one part of the journey, for example from the country of origin to the EU entry country. More then needs to be paid for the next part of the journey. One of the consequences is that the overall time between leaving the country of origin and arriving in the country of destination is longer. Last year, the trips were sometimes completed in one to two weeks; now a journey can last for months. An increase in pressure on secondary movement routes is expected."

Over 100 NGOs to European Council: don't try to curb migration at the expense "of fundamental values and human rights"

"The European Union is set to open a dark chapter in its history unless it rejects the European Commission’s proposal on migration, a coalition of more than 100 NGOs warned on Monday. Shifting towards a foreign policy that serves the single objective of curbing migration, the EU and its member states risk further undermining their credibility and authority in the defence of human rights, the organizations say. They call on European leaders to reject the Commission proposal that would cement this approach, making deterrence and return of people the main objective of the EU’s relationship with third countries."

See Statement: Joint NGO statement ahead of the European Council of 28-29 June 2016: NGOs strongly condemn new EU policies to contain migration (pdf)

EU: (Language) policing at Europe’s borders (IRR, link): "Frontex plays a key role in screening of new arrivals on Europe’s southern borders, with its interpreters often deciding nationality. Aisha Maniar shows the inappropriateness of this role, given Frontex’ quasi-military role in policing the borders."

Unaccompanied minors in the hotspot (ECRE, link): "Italian law prescribes that unaccompanied children cannot be placed in detention centres or in reception centres for adults. However, in practice unaccompanied minors (UAMs) are placed together with adults in hotspot facilities in Italy, in “closed” centres in open violation of Constitutional law. Paradoxically, they are obliged to remain in a detention-like situation longer than adults due to the lack of available places in dedicated reception centres for them. These centres are few in number and usually overcrowded, and there are few places available due to the sharp increase in the number of unaccompanied minors arriving over the last few years. According to data from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, in 2015, 11,921 unaccompanied minors were accommodated in Italy, whereas in 2014 10,536 were accommodation. The number was 6,319 in 2013. While adults generally remain in the hotspot facilities from between two to six days, minors have had to stay for several weeks (mainly in Pozzallo and Lampedusa). For instance, 260 unaccompanied minors reached the Sicilian coast in a disembarkation on 25 May in Palermo. They were sent to the hotspot facilities for identification and registration. As of 11 June, ten of them were still in the hotspot premises at Trapani waiting for available places within the dedicated centres. On that date, in Lampedusa there are 66 unaccompanied minors still waiting to be transferred to dedicated reception centres."

European travel document: MEPs and ministers strike informal deal (EP press release, link): "A new standard European travel document to speed the return of non-EU nationals staying "irregularly" in EU member states without valid passports or identity cards was informally agreed by MEPs and EU ministers on Thursday evening. A key goal during the talks has been to increase third countries’ acceptance of the document through improved technical details. To enter into force, this informal deal needs to be formally endorsed by the full Parliament and the Council of Ministers."

EU: Border and coast guard: consolidated text of proposed Regulation

This is the text agreed in an informal deal between negotiators from the Parliament, Council and Commission last week. The Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee will vote on the text today.

See: REGULATION (EU) 2016/… OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC and amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 (pdf)

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Resolution 2128 (2016): Violence against migrants (pdf): "1. The Parliamentary Assembly is very concerned about the increased phenomenon of violence against migrants in Europe, which manifests itself in forms such as physical violence, labour exploitation, trafficking, sexual harassment and abuse, discrimination and hate speech.

2. Regrettably, very few European governments have taken active steps to combat the root causes of violence against migrants. Moreover, during the recent economic crisis, anti-migrant rhetoric has been widely used by populist parties and mass media, provoking stigmatisation, intolerance and xenophobia. The introduction of increasingly restrictive policies towards migrants and harsher measures against irregular migration is also exacerbating the situation.

3. The Assembly is deeply concerned about women and children migrants, who are particularly vulnerable to different forms of violence and abuse, including sexual violence, especially in detention centres or places with high concentrations of migrants. These groups should receive special protection from the receiving countries, including through the provision of safe reception facilities and alternatives to their detention.

4. The Assembly believes that the opening of regular channels for migration, combating the exploitation of migrants in the labour market, the promotion of a positive image of migrants in political discourse and in the media, as well as the development of social inclusion programmes are the most effective steps to combat violence against migrants in Europe.

5. The Assembly therefore calls on all member States of the Council of Europe to place the protection of the human rights of migrants at the forefront of migration management priorities and to combat racism, discrimination and hate speech, which lead to violence against migrants."

Rethinking asylum distribution in the EU: Shall we start with the facts? (CEPS, link): "Ten months of what has alternatively been called a "refugee crisis", a "migrant crisis" and a "migrant and asylum crisis" in the EU has fuelled an exceptionally vivid discussion about statistics. All member states are required to provide Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency, with data on immigration and asylum in accordance with a regulation that sets out clear and concise rules on what data must be submitted. The purpose of the regulation is to ensure that the data on migration and asylum the member states provide to Eurostat for publication is comparable across all EU countries.

A number of member states also have other data sources that do not conform to the Eurostat regulation but which they release to the public. These data, for instance in the case of Germany, from the EASY registration system designed to allocate responsibility for possible asylum applicants across Germany, are not consistent with the data member states must produce for Eurostat, so the results can be startlingly different. Over the past ten months of the refugee crisis, uncertainty about the numbers has been a real challenge for policy-makers.

To understand the distribution of asylum seekers across the EU, the only consistent source of information is that released by Eurostat. So what do the Eurostat data reveal about the distribution of asylum seekers in the EU? According to the report it issued on 3 March 2016, relating to the full year of 2015, the total applications received for asylum was just over 1.2 million, with the number by month shown in Figure 1."

News (27.6.16)

Boat migrant rescues surge, as calm seas return to Mediterranean (EurActiv, link): "Ships manned by humanitarian organisations, the Italian navy and the coast guard helped rescue more than 2,000 migrants on boats today (23 June) as calm seas returned to the Mediterranean prompting a surge in departures.

The Topaz Responder, a ship run by the Malta-based humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), said 23 different migrant boats had been spotted in the sea about 20 nautical miles from the Libyan port city of Sabratha.

Rescue operations were ongoing, the Italian coast guard said. “The mass movement is probably the result of week-long, unfavourable weather conditions” that have come to an end, MOAS said on Twitter."

GREECE: Vital refugee centre on Lesbos forced to close and British owners hit with €10,000 penalty (Daily Mirror, link): "Neck deep in freezing waves, Philippa Kempson battled to pull a little boy from a sinking boat crammed with 80 people.

Terrified six-year-old Mohammed, who had arrived at the Greek island of Lesbos after a perilous 1,600-mile journey from Syria, was just one of thousands of refugees Philippa and her husband Eric have helped.

But now the British expat couple, who run a beachside refuge for migrants called Hope Centre, face being closed down after a ruling by local authorities.

They have been told their 20-room centre – a former holiday hotel – can no longer be used to provide shelter, food or clothing."

HUNGARY: Top court rejects all four quota referendum appeals (Politics.hu, link): "Following a court ruling rejecting several appeals against the government-backed referendum against the EU mandatory migrant quota system, the popular vote on the quotas will go ahead, a government spokesperson said. The Constitutional Court rejected on Tuesday four appeals against plans to hold the referendum. “Left-wing politicians attacked the government’s plans to put the issue to a popular vote but no obstacles remain”, Bence Tuzson, state secretary for government communications, told a press conference. According to the legal timetable, the referendum is most likely to be held in September or October. The government asks Hungarians to say no to EU quotas, he added."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.6.16)
EU: European Border and Coast Guard: Parliament and Council compromise position

On 22 June negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached an "informal agreement" on the text for a Regulation establishing a European Border and Coast Guard, which will upgrade the Frontex agency with an increased role in returns, greater access to technical equipment, more powers for liaison officers and new possibilities for the Council to reintroduce border controls where states refuse to accept asssistance from the new agency.

A leaked copy of the text (pdf, html) sets out the positions of the institutions and the compromise text, which will be voted on by the Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee on 27 June and, if they agree to it, by the full Parliament in July.

Swedish crackdown targets migrant families (EUobserver, link): "Sweden’s parliament passed a restrictive asylum law on Tuesday (21 June) that critics said could put more children at risk.

A broad majority backed the government’s proposal, which aims to sharply reduce the number of asylum seekers over a three-year period during which Sweden is to improve its capacity for reception and integration of migrants.

The law makes it harder for people who get asylum, but who are not classified as refugees, to bring in family members. It also replaces permanent residence permits with temporary ones, which must be renewed every 13 months.

The Social Democratic-Green coalition government said its goal was to bring Sweden in line with the EU’s minimal conditions for asylum rights."

And see: Sweden: Restrictive Asylum Bill (Human Rights Watch, link): "The Swedish Parliament is expected to approve a restrictive new asylum bill on June 21, 2016, that could harm the well-being of migrant children in need of protection and undermine their opportunity to effectively integrate into Swedish society, Human Rights Watch said today. The bill, which will apply to all children and adults who applied for asylum after November 24, 2015, will temporarily roll back some rights currently available under Swedish asylum law."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22.6.16)
EU: Border Guard: European Border and Coast Guard agreed: European Commission - Press release: The European Parliament, Council and Commission have reached an agreement, endorsed by the Council today, on the Commission's proposal on a European Border and Coast Guard (Press release, pdf):

"The European Parliament, Council and Commission have reached an agreement, endorsed by the Council today, on the Commission's proposal on a European Border and Coast Guard, paving the way for the reinforced Agency to be up and running starting this summer. The European Border and Coast Guard will combine a new reinforced Agency, building on the foundations laid by Frontex, with the ability to draw on a reserve pool of people and equipment."

See: Background documentation: Regulation on a European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Statewatch SEMDOC)

European Court of Human Rights: Grand Chamber hearing concerning the confinement and return to Tunisia of irregular migrants who arrived in Italy by sea (Press release, pdf):

"The case concerns the detention in a reception centre on Lampedusa and subsequently on ships moored in Palermo harbour, as well as the return to Tunisia, of clandestine migrants who had landed on the Italian coast in 2011 during the events linked to the “Arab Spring”....

The applicants, Saber Ben Mohamed Ben Ali Khlaifia, Fakhreddine Ben Brahim Ben Mustapha Tabal and Mohamed Ben Habib Ben Jaber Sfar, are Tunisian nationals who were born in 1983, 1987 and 1988 respectively. Mr Khlaifia lives in Om Laarass (Tunisia) and Mr Tabal and Mr Sfar live in El Mahdia (Tunisia)....

On 1 February 2016 the case was referred to the Grand Chamber at the request of the Italian Government"

See also Statewatch Analysis: ECtHR/Italy: Khlaifa judgment reveals illegal detention and collective expulsion practices in Italy’s treatment of Tunis ians in 2011 (pdf)

European Parliament: MEPs ask EU to verify whether Turkey is shooting Syrians who try to cross border (Press release, pdf):

"The European Union should check the veracity of reports that Turkish border guards are shooting and killing Syrians who are trying to flee their country, said the Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday. MEPs also asked the European Commission to assess whether the EU-Turkey deal to manage migration and refugee flows can continue to apply in these circumstances."

15 Years Fortress Europe: Interactive map of migrant and refugee deaths on the way to Europe, or trying to stay in Europe (link) Click "Start"

Returning and Deporting Irregular Migrants: Not a Solution to the ‘Refugee Crisis’ (Human GEography, link):

"This article questions whether the presentation of the return and deportation of irregular migrants as a solution to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ is ethical. Legally, the return of irregular migrants may be a legitimate activity by the state, but the current pressure by the European Commission on member-states to increase the current 40 percent rate of effective returns can lead them to operate returns below minimal human rights standards in a bid to increase the rate."

News (22.6.16)

Swedish crackdown targets migrant families (euobserver,link): "Sweden’s parliament passed a restrictive asylum law on Tuesday (21 June) that critics said could put more children at risk.A broad majority backed the government’s proposal, which aims to sharply reduce the number of asylum seekers over a three-year period during which Sweden is to improve its capacity for reception and integration of migrants. Critics said more women and children likely to attempt perilous crossings as families try to stick together (Photo: europarl.europa.eu) The law makes it harder for people who get asylum, but who are not classified as refugees, to bring in family members. It also replaces permanent residence permits with temporary ones, which must be renewed every 13 months."

Dispatches: Greece’s Prime Minister Should Uphold Refugee Rights at the Council of Europe (HRW, link): "Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras should take the opportunity to address pressing concerns about the fate of refugees and asylum seekers in his speech today before the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.6.16)
Greece Overhauls Appeals To Speed Up Returns To Turkey (News That Moves, link):

"The Greek Parliament voted late last week to change the composition of the Appeals Committees who are tasked with examining the claims and appeals of asylum seekers who crossed into Greece from Turkey after March 20.

The legal amendments state that Committees will now be composed of two judges appointed by the government and one member nominated by UNHCR. In the previous structure, there was one civil servant and two independent experts nominated by UNHCR and by the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR).

The GNCHR yesterday expressed concern about the constitutionality of the Committees’ new composition and the timing of the additional reforms." [emphasis added]

See also: The government manipulates the Asylum Appeals Committees (AnalyzeGreece, link), link in Greek and: Letter by members of the Asylum Appeals Committees of Greece (Presidential Decree 114/2010), regarding the latest developments in the asylum claims review process (pdf)

Leading rights groups slam EU-Turkey refugee deal (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Leading rights groups used World Refugee Day Monday to criticize the recent EU-Turkey refugee agreement and the conditions in which refugees live in Turkey....

Instead of increasing the means by which refugees could safely and legally enter Europe, “the EU made unlawful agreements with Turkey in order to stem the tide of migration,” Amnesty said in a statement. Thousands of migrants have lost their lives on the perilous sea journey to Europe.

An EU-Turkey agreement reached in March allows Greece to return Syrian asylum seekers to Turkey without evaluation of their protection claims on the basis it is a “safe third country.”

In order to limit refugees crossing into Greece by sea in keeping with the agreement, Amnesty claimed Turkey had not only increased unlawful detentions but was also forcibly returning them to Syria or pressuring them to return “voluntarily.”"

Brexit would prevent UK from returning asylum seekers (euobserver, link):

"should it go, Britain may inadvertently become a brighter beacon for those hoping for international protection who are already near the UK borders.

EU asylum law gives governments the right to return people to the EU state they first entered. The UK is a staunch defender of the agreement, also known as the Dublin regulation, because they get to send people packing. A Thursday vote to reject the EU would annul the UK's participation and also deny the UK access to Eurodac, an asylum-seeker fingerprint database.

It means EU states would not need to accept the return of any asylum seeker who somehow made it to the UK.

"It seems obvious that we would no longer be a part of the Dublin system and therefore we have to rely on some kind of bilateral arrangement or informal arrangement to send people to EU countries," Steve Peers, a professor of EU and human rights law at the University of Essex, told this website."

UNICEF slams treatment of refugee children in Germany (DW, link):

"Germany does not extend the same rights to refugee children as it does to native-born children, UNICEF has said. This was worrying for a group in need of special care, the children's organization has warned. "

Seeking Refuge - Unaccompanied Children in Sweden (HRW,link):

", the arrival of tens of thousands of children in 2015 has put a strain on this system. This report, based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in Sweden from January 25 to February 8, 2016 identifies key shortcomings in the system. As a result of these shortcomings some children are not rece iving the care and attention they need and to which they are entitled."

News (21.6.16)

UN Official critical of Hungary’s plan to shut refugee centres (New Europe, link): "Hungary’s plan to close its refugee reception centres will make it much more difficult for people granted asylum to integrate, forcing them to leave the country, the regional head of the United Nation’s refugee agency said June 20. Montserrat Feixas Vihe, the UNHCR representative in Central Europe, said conditions in the countries refugees are fleeing from have not improved but it is now much harder for them to seek protection in Europe. “The need for them to flee is just as bad as last year,” Feixas Vihe told The Associated Press. “They need to seek protection and they are not able to get it here. That is a major problem.”"

EU: Don’t Send Syrians Back to Turkey - Lack of Jobs, School, Health Care Spurs Poverty, Exploitation (HRW, link): "Delays in registration and limited implementation of temporary protection policies in Turkey mean that many Syrian refugees are left without effective protection or access to jobs and services that they desperately need, Human Rights Watch said today. As long as Turkey remains burdened by overwhelming numbers of refugees and unable to provide sufficient protection and security for all, the European Union should not be sending Syrian refugees back to Turkey."

Let Aid For Refugees Pass – Convoy to Calais (passeursdhospitalites, link): "The Convoy to Calais, on Saturday 18 June 2016, was refused entry into France. Over 250 vehicles carrying many tonnes of much needed aid for refugees in the ‘Jungle Camp’ were turned away at the border by the French authorities. The reasons given for refusing the convoy entry were spurious, including the ‘State of Emergency’, football hooliganism and the threat of terrorist attack. None of these had any connection with our humanitarian mission. While two lorries and a handful of cars and vans managed to get through, less than half of the aid collected was delivered."

EU: ‘Lighthouse for Lampedusa’ erected on Brussels skyline (euractiv, link): "A makeshift lighthouse – constructed out of the remnants of refugees’ dinghies – was erected on the Brussels skyline on Sunday night (19 June), to mark World Refugee Day and pose an ongoing question to EU policymakers through the summer."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20.6.16)
EU-TURKEY: New information platform on EU-Turkey migration policy launched: “A critical monitoring of the EU-Turkey deal is absolutely necessary” (pdf): "While the EU is intensifying its cooperation with Turkey regarding border surveillance and deterrence, there is a lack of independent analysis and information on politics and practices onsite. The critical civil society of Turkey is facing practices of intimidation, making independent research and media reporting more and more difficult. At the same time, the importance of Turkey for the European border regime is growing rapidly.

“In the situation we are facing right now, we feel that it is crucial to establish a critical and free source of information, which aims at strengthening the power of civil society”, explains Lülüfer Körükmez. Activists and the interested public, as well as researchers and journalists should use the information provided by HarekAct to follow, initiate and comment on recent debates, discourses and activities around migration policies."

See: HarekAct (link): "This blog-project is the collective work of a group of researchers and (no border) activists from Turkey, Austria and Germany active in networks such as kritnet (Network for Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies), GAR (Migration Researchers’ Platform, Turkey), Mülteci-Der, borderline-europe, and bordermonitoring.eu."

Greece sidelines officials who blocked expulsion of refugees to Turkey (The Guardian, link): "The Greek government has sidelined members of an independent authority that had blocked the deportation of Syrian refugees, following sustained pressure from other European countries.

Greek MPs voted on Thursday to change the composition of the country’s asylum appeals board, in an attempt to sideline officials who had objected on legal grounds to the expulsion of Syrians listed for deportation to Turkey.

The appeals board had jeopardised the EU-Turkey migration deal, the agreement enacted in March that is meant to see all asylum seekers landing on the Greek islands detained in Greece – and then deported."

See also: The government manipulates the Asylum Appeals Committees (AnalyzeGreece, link), link in Greek and: Letter by members of the Asylum Appeals Committees of Greece (Presidential Decree 114/2010), regarding the latest developments in the asylum claims review process (pdf)

EU: COMMON LIST OF SAFE THIRD COUNTRIES: European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Council adopts opinion

"The Rapporteur welcomes this proposal which should help the swift processing of asylum applications from persons originating from these countries and reduce divergences between existing national lists. The proposal includes provisions on the regular review of the situation in the countries on the common list and on the removal of a country from the list in case of sudden change of situation.

It is important to stress that the inclusion of a country on the list cannot establish an absolute guarantee of safety for nationals of that country and therefore will not dispense with the need to conduct an appropriate individual examination of their applications for international protection.

The Rapporteur notes that in the case of Turkey, the rate of asylum applications considered by EU Member States as well-founded is relatively high, testifying to the fact that discrimination and human rights violations of persons belonging to vulnerable groups still occur there. While the Rapporteur agrees with the Commission's conclusion that Turkey is a safe country of origin within the meaning of Directive 2013/32/EU, he considers it of particular importance to make sure that the duty of individual examination of asylum applications is fully respected."

See: OPINION of the Committee on Foreign Affairs for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin for the purposes of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, and amending Directive 2013/32/EU (pdf)

European Commission: Joint Statement ahead of World Refugee Day 2016 (press release,19 June 2016, pdf): "On the occasion of World Refugee Day, the following statement is issued by Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President for Better Regulation, Interinstitutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, and Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management"

Austria says agrees to help Hungary secure Schengen border (Reuters, link): "Austria agreed on Friday to provide equipment and personnel to help Hungary secure its Schengen border and prevent illegal immigration, an Austrian Defence Ministry spokesman said.

(...)

But at a meeting in Sankt Martin an der Raab in the Austrian state of Burgenland, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Hungary, ministers agreed to increase cooperation on Hungary's southern and eastern borders.

They also discussed conditions under which Austria could send back refugees who initially applied for asylum in Hungary but moved on to the Alpine republic afterwards, a spokesman for Austria's Interior Ministry said.

Two working groups were formed to provide concrete proposals within four weeks."

GREECE: 127 refugees have arrived in Lesvos, according to the UNHCR (20.6.16).

Millions in asylum claim backlog (IRIN, link): "The latest refugee and asylum figures, released by UNHCR today, show the global population of refugees rising to 16.1 million at the end of 2015.

(This figure excludes Palestine refugees.)

Africa, Asia and Europe all saw increases in refugee registrations, but Europe's "crisis" should be seen in perspective:

Europe has not yet processed all the applications by asylum-seekers that have arrived in the last year or two, and has about one million cases yet to consider, about one-third of the global total caseload.

Even so, of the global backlog of 3.2 million asylum applications, Europe is by no means exceptional, as today's figures for UNHCR show:"

AUSTRALIA: The worst I've seen – trauma expert lifts lid on 'atrocity' of Australia's detention regime (The Guardian, link): "Exclusive: In his 43-year career, Paul Stevenson has worked in the aftermath of the Bali bombings and the Boxing Day tsunami but says nothing he witnessed was as bad as the treatment of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus "

GREECE: A colourful place in a bleak reality (ECRE & AIRE Centre, link): "We are standing outside a big white tent in Hara Hotel, a makeshift camp on the side of the road, a bit further down from the intersection leading to Idomeni, in Northern Greece. The name comes from a hotel and petrol station which, quite unbelievably, are still running. We are approached by smiley Ali, the only teacher in the camp, who wants to open the tent and show us the school of Hara.

A little boy starts running towards us. He is visibly excited, with his notebook in hand and a small backpack, and starts chanting the latin alphabet: “A B C D E. A B C D E. A B C D E.” Another boy is following in silence.

“This is Omar,” says Ali pointing at the little boy who is all excited about the thought of going to school one more time today. Ali greets the other boy who is quietly looking at us and tells us with a soft smile and proud eyes: “This boy has my name – Ali – and is one of my best students. He can write some words in English already”. He modestly shows us his school and the donations he has received. Books, pencils, pens, white boards, notebooks – everything he needs to teach. The only thing missing are more teachers willing to join him. “The children need to learn history, maths, so many more things and I can only teach English. They are missing out on school”. Makeshift Hara is hard, and the thought of making a life in this camp scares many, who see their situation as temporary, and so starting to teach in a school is not appealing to everyone, he explains."

UN refugee chief: Worrying ‘climate of xenophobia’ in Europe (EurActiv, link): "The UN’s refugee chief says a worrying “climate of xenophobia” has taken hold in Europe as the continent struggles with the biggest influx of migrants since World War II.

Speaking to AFP in Tehran at the start of a regional tour, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said European leaders needed to do more to coordinate migration policies and to combat negative stereotypes about refugees.

“Refugees… don’t bring danger to us, they flee from dangerous places,” said Grandi, who took office in January.

National leaders need to better explain that immigration “in fact contributes to the development of societies”. he said.

“Those who do the opposite, who stir up public opinion against refugees and migrants, have a responsibility in creating a climate of xenophobia that is very worrying in today’s Europe,” he said."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18-19.6.16)
Turkish border guards 'kill 11 Syrian refugees' in indiscriminate shooting - Syrian groups condemn 'massacre' – but Turkey denies reports (Independent, link):

"Turkish border guards have killed at least eight Syrian refugees, including several children, as families were “fired on indiscriminately” after attempting to cross into the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said.

At least eight others were injured, according to the UK-based violence monitor, with the death toll likely to rise due to the number of people in “critical” condition.

The Observatory said in a statement: “Turkish border guards have committed and are committing massacres against several refugees fleeing from the brutality of the regime and its bombardment since the beginning of the year.

GREECE: The government manipulates the Asylum Appeals Committees (AnalyzeGreece, link):

"On the 16-6-2016, with a last minute amendment, the Greek Government changes the composition of the Asylum Appeals Committees, because the existing ones were not sending refugees back to Turkey, were not considering turkey a safe third country for each applican as the implementation of the EU-Turkey refugee deal imposes. This is a disgraceful intervention and some members the existing Asylum Appeals Committees explain about it..

Managing legal issues by use of political priorities raises many questions about the future of the asylum system in Greece, the protection of human rights and the rule of law. For us, it is apparent that the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement is incompatible with the guarantees of the existing asylum system and the level of protection of human rights which has been achieved within the international and European legal framework. Unfortunately, the Ministry’s orchestrations indicate that whenever any decision making body, old or new, is not in line with the objective of mass returns to Turkey, such law amendments and wresting of authorities and responsibility will not be in the future the exception but rather the rule."

See: Link in Greek and: Letter by members of the Asylum Appeals Committees of Greece (Presidential Decree 114/2010), regarding the latest developments in the asylum claims review process (pdf)

EASO recruits security firm giant G4S: LESVOS, GREECE: New Security on Greek Islands Reduces Access: European migration commentator Apostolis Fotiadis probes the legality of the European Asylum Support Office’s decision to limit access to asylum proceedings as part of new security measures on the Greek islands.(News Deeply - Refugees Deeply, link):

"On June 9, the Lawyers Association of Mitilini (Lesvos) sued the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) for obstructing access to asylum proceedings by its members. The lawyers claim that EASO officials and private security guards are prohibiting access to specific areas of the holding centers, also called hotspots, that host the EASO offices and the asylum proceedings.

“The [lawyers’] association will guard the rights of its members as well as refugees against anyone who creates obstacles to their representation according to law,” said Haris Petsikos, a lawyer and member of the association....

The lawyers in Lesvos have accused the European agency of using increased security measures to deliberately limit uninhibited monitoring of how the asylum proceedings are being conducted. Reacting to questions about the unusual security measures, an EASO spokesperson confirmed that it has contracted G4S, a private global security company, to provide services inside refugee hotspots on the Greek islands due to “serious safety concerns” about their officials.

G4S is the world’s largest security company in terms of revenue and operates in 125 countries. Recent controversies involving the company include allegations of using immigrant-detainee labor in prisons, misconduct in child custodial institutions and manipulating police telephone data. Given this record, human rights groups and lawyers are understandably concerned about the rights and treatment of asylum seekers.

Civil society activists and advocacy groups such as Pro Asyl have also criticized the European asylum office for purportedly acting beyond its stated mandate. Some groups also claim that the EASO is helping impose a policy of en mass inadmissible decisions on asylum claims, in order to bolster the E.U.-Turkey deal."

MSF rejects EU funding in protest at refugee deal - Aid group could lose €60m but says it cannot take money from countries that are ‘pushing away’ people and their suffering (Guardian, link):

"The aid group Médecins Sans Frontières will no longer take money from any member of the EU, including Britain, in protest at the way Europe has responded to the refugee crisis. The decision could see the organisation miss out on €60m (£47m), the amount MSF was given by EU members, EU institutions and Norway in 2015.

MSF says it can no longer take money from countries and institutions that are “intensifying attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores. This decision will take effect immediately and will apply to MSF’s projects worldwide.”

In particular, MSF has criticised the EU-Turkey deportation deal, the agreement created in March that is meant to ensure the deportation of almost all asylum seekers arriving by boat to Greece, and which has seen thousands of people stranded in legal limbo in squalid conditions on the Greek islands.

MSF has also condemned Europe’s ongoing attempts to pay dictatorships in Africa to stem migration flows before they reach Europe.......

Jérôme Oberreit, MSF’s international secretary general, said. “The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further and has placed the very concept of ‘refugee’ and the protection it offers in danger.”"

UN chief calls Lesvos 'island of peace' during visit to refugees (ekathimerini.com, link):

"UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Lesvos "the island of peace" and the Aegean "a sea of solidarity" during a visit to the eastern Aegean island on Saturday.

The UN chief expressed his thanks to the Greek government, local authorities and the people of Lesvos for their efforts to help refugees. Accompanied by Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas and local officials, Ban visited the Moria reception center and the Kara Tepe refugee settlement."

ITALY: Oxfam report: HOTSPOT, RIGHTS DENIED (pdf):

"The lack of a legal framework is threatening the rights of migrants reaching the Italian shore. Oxfam calls for immediate and mid-term action....

The European response to the refugee crisis is proving ineffective and dangerous. Ineffective, because it is failing to hold back the migratory flows, which was its main objective, and to ensure an appropriate management of incoming migrants, as we will see in this report which tries to describe the situation in Sicily."

And: Report in Italian (pdf)

Countries must do more help Greece with migrant crisis, UN chief says (ekathimerini.com, link):

"United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Saturday for countries to do more to help cope with Europe's migrant crisis, saying Greece could not manage on its own.

Speaking in Athens before heading to the Greek island of Lesbos, the gateway into Europe for nearly a million people last year, Ban said Greece had shown "remarkable solidarity and compassion" in dealing with the hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing war, despite its economic hardship.

"Greece should not be left alone to address this challenge on its own," Ban told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras."

FRANCE: La Cimade’s Charter Awards highlight unlawful practices enacted by prefectures against migrants which subordinate the law to immigration policy objectives (pdf): "Detention and expulsion: prefectures awarded prizes for their illegal and abusive practices."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.6.16)
Illegal detention of migrant children in Switzerland: a status report (Terre Des Hommes, link):

"“Children in the context of migration, whether accompanied, separated or unaccompanied should never be remanded in custody. Migratory status should not be considered as an offence and should not justify the detention of children as such.” Jean Zermatten, Founder and former director of the International Institute for the Rights of the Child (IDE) and former President of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child."

Full report: English, German and French (links)

Lesvos: Platanos Refugee Solidarity (Facebook, link)

"In 24 hours, three boats with refugees arrived on the shores around the ladder sykamiás. Saturday morning, the situation went to escape when inflatable boat with 55 refugees was stopped by the Greek coast guard off the stairs and 6 refugees scared dived into the sea to get away, thinking the coast guard will return them to turkey. Some people don't even have life jackets and even a wife yelling "I'd rather die than go back to turkey". Thankfully, all were picked up safely from the salvage vessel of proactiva. For many of these people, this is the second or third time attempting to come to Greece and many have already gotten violent return (push backs) in the Aegean Sea and return to turkey, which although illegal conducted continuously in the tandem NATO - Frontex-EU-Turkey.

Then the coast guard was carrying refugees in mólyvos, put them in a row and forced them to cross the entire village walk, under the condemnation of local residents who are protesting against the resurgence of refugees and the threat to the "tourist them heaven". Yes some shopkeepers you insulted me vulgar and propelákisan volunteers who went to give water to thirsty refugees. Again, humanity above all...

We have to keep in mind that many of these people have already experienced violent interceptions at sea in their attempt to come to Greece. Some of them have tried 2 or 3 times to cross and were turned back by the turkish coastguard (push back). Apart from the turkish government, these illegal tactics are carried out with the participation of NATO and EU.

Eventually, the greek coastguard took the refugees to Molyvos where they made them walk through the entire town under the heavy boos of local residents who see the refugees as a threat to their tourist-based local economy, In particular, some angry shop owners verbally attacked volunteers who were giving water to thirsty refugees. Shame."

Eric Kempson linked this story on Facebook - see what happened next: Incitement To Hate! 16/06/2016 (YouTube, link)

News (17.6.16)

UN chief due in Greece for talks on refugees as new panels set up (ekathimerini.com, link): "the government is trying to overhaul its asylum processing system, setting up new committees to rule on hundreds of asylum claims being lodged by migrants arriving in Greece. The reform comes after the current committees upheld the vast majority of appeals by migrants against overturned applications and ruling that Turkey is an “unsafe country” to which to return the migrants."

Asylum requests plummet across Europe (euobserver, link): "Some 287,000 people made their first application for asylum in the EU in the first quarter of this year, a fall of 33 percent from the last quarter of 2015, Eurostat figures show. Syrians continue to be the most common nationality asking for protection, making up a third of all requests, the EU's statistical office said on Thursday (16 June). Iraqis and Afghans remained the second and third largest groups, with around 35,000 applications each. The three nationalities account for 60 percent of all first-time applicants."

Russia-Trained Civil Militias Along Bulgaria's Borders Are ‘Ready for War With Refugees’ (Global Voices, link): "At least 800 people are involved in organized militias that hunt refugees along the borders of Bulgaria. According to their leader, they receive free training from Russia. An investigation by German public television channel ZDF aired on June 8 found that at least half of these men have done stints in the Bulgarian military. They wear masks and military camouflage, and most carry knives. Some, however, have guns as well."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16.6.16)
UPDATED: Thursday 16th June: French border police ban aid convoy from sailing from Dover (Peoples' Assembly)

"Last night we were contacted by the Metropolitan Police who informed us that the French authorities have decided to ban the Convoy to Calais from entering France and, as things stand at the moment, we will not be granted permission to cross the border.

We are doing all in our power to get this overturned. It is more important than ever that we go ahead and show the strength of feeling and support for refugees. If the authorities still refuse to let us cross the channel we will be holding a protest in Dover.

We will still assemble the convoy on Whitehall at 8:30am and will drive to Dover.
We are in negotiations to get the ban lifted and are putting political pressure here and in France to allow the convoy to cross the French border.

How you can help: Sign and share the petition Calling for a reversal of the ban and demanding that the UK government gets involved. Sign the petition here"

WatchTheMed Alarm Phone denounces illegal push-back operation with Frontex present! (link):

"Following a period without any reported incidents of push-backs since January 2016, and decreased numbers of emergency calls from the Aegean Sea which is clearly related to decreased border crossings as a consequence of the EU-Turkey deal from March 20, the Alarm Phone documented a push-back operation on June 11, 2016. "

Bodies of 34 migrants, including 20 children, found in Niger desert (France 24, link):

"The bodies of 34 migrants, including 20 children, who were abandoned by people smugglers while trying to reach neighbouring Algeria were found in the Niger desert last week, authorities said Wednesday."

Appeal for the closure of Detention Centres and HOTSPOTS in Europe! (pdf):

"There are 393 Administrative Detention Centers in Europe. Their purpose is to keep foreigners who have an irregular administrative status locked up before they are expelled from the territory. ...

We demand that the European states close those places, that serve to establish differences between human beings, those who have rights and those who are considered as «undesirable foreign objects» in violation of articles 1, 2 and 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We demand that the European states adopt reception policies that respond to the urgency of the humanitarian situation at the external borders and within the territory of the European Union...

First Signatories

Antirazzista Catanese (Italia), Askavusa Lampedusa (Italia), ATMF (Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins de France), BAAM (Bureau d’accueil et a’accompagnement des migrants - France), CISPM (Coalition internationale des Sans Papiers et Migrants), CISPM New Haven (USA), CSP93 (Coordination 93 de lutte pour les Sans Papiers - France), CSP75 (Coordination 75 des Sans Papiers - France), Fondation Frantz Fanon (France), Intégration 21 (France), Kâlî (France), MAFED (Marche des Femmes pour la Dignité - France), Tanquem els CIEs (España), UNSP (Union nationale des sans papiers et des migrants - France), Union syndicale Solidaires (France)....

EU trying to bury report on Turkey migrant returns (euobserver, link):

"The European Commission and some member states want to bury a report by an EU agency that is likely to say Turkey is unfit for asylum seekers, EUobserver understands.

People sitting on the management board of the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office (EASO), including EU commission staff from the home affairs department, DG Home, are unhappy with EASO's efforts to determine if Turkey is a safe third country....

EASO is now caught in a dilemma. Either they publish a credible report or one that toes the EU line on how Turkey is fit for returned asylum seekers. The report is not yet finished.

Asked to comment, Schembri says they are still in consultation with the management board and with the commission to determine "if this [safe third country] is in our role or not."

EUobserver also understands that the UK members on the management board had objected to the EASO probe and then decided to write their own report."

European Parliament Briefing: Towards an EU humanitarian visa scheme? (pdf)

"With large numbers of protection seekers continuing to risk hazardous sea crossings to reach the European Union, there has been considerable focus on the need for legal entry channels, notably resettlement. Humanitarian visas represent one such legal channel. This briefing provides a succinct overview of what humanitarian visas are, the rationale for their use, how they function, how they are regulated in EU law and the scope for future development of a fully-fledged EU
humanitarian visa scheme."

EU pushes Greece to set up new asylum committees (euobserver,link):

"The EU wants Greece to quickly set up new appeals committees to better cope with the large number of asylum requests.

"New appeals committees under the new law will be set up in the next 10 days, I am confident that procedures will be accelerated soon," EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told journalist on Wednesday (15 June).

EC prods Greece to enforce Dublin Regulation (/ekathimerini/news, link):

"Even as the process of relocating refugees from Greece and Italy to other European Union member-states as part of an EU program proceeds very slowly, the European Commission on Wednesday called on Greece to improve its implementation of the so-called Dublin Regulation which stipulates that migrants who have traveled on to other countries in the bloc via Greece be returned to Greece."

See: Asylum: Commission calls on further efforts from Greece to allow resumption of Dublin transfers

UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN: Supporting unaccompanied and separated children and youth in Greece (pdf)

"In a collaborative effort, the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM) and eleven other European Foundations, including the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Bodossaki Foundation and the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation are dedicating a funding programme to the particularly urgent situation of unaccompanied and separated children and youth in Greece. The programme is part of the Europe-wide initiative “Never Alone –Building our future with children and youth arriving in Europe”.

Are You Syrious (link)

WatchTheMed Alarm Phone denounces an illegal push-back operation with Frontex present.

WatchTheMed says a refugee boat between Chios and Cesme was illegally pushed-back to Turkey by Greek coast guards. It says that refugees reported being told by the coastguard that they were safe but were later handed over to the Turkish coast guard. The refugees were brought back to the port of Cesme and later detained.

UNHCR Weekly report: Greece: 15 June:

Situation on the islands

"Situation on the islands Conditions in the Reception and Identification Centres (RICS) on the Greek islands continue to be dire, particularly for people with specific needs. On Lesvos, families with specific needs who were transferred to the open facility Kara Tepe have begun to spontaneously return to Moria asking to be transferred to facilities with better living conditions and where cash assistance is distributed by some NGOs. On Samos, 128 refugees and migrants arrived during the reporting period, while no additional accommodation space is available. There are currently 1,063 people present in the RIC in Samos, which has a capacity of 636. As a result, new arrivals are staying in tents, which has led to increasing need for communal water and sanitation facilities and protection risks for the population."

Situation at the border between Serbia and Hungary

A significant number of refugees and migrants continue to accumulate at the border between Serbia and Hungary. Between 6 and 12 June, there were on average, 600 people, mainly women and children, awaiting admission into the “transit zones” in Hungary, without appropriate shelter or sanitary conditions. UNHCR, UNICEF and the Red Cross continued to distribute food and non-food items to people present at the border in Horgos I and Kelebija. Some 213 individuals were admitted in the “transit zones” in the past week. Tensions remained in the pre-transit areas along the Serbian border. In addition, in relation to people trying to cross irregularly to Hungary, reports about pushbacks, physical abuse and harassment by Hungarian police forces and military personnel have increased in recent weeks. UNHCR has raised concerns about the increase in reported incidents with the Hungarian police."

News (17.6.16)

Turkey fails to meet criteria for visa-free EU travel - European commission says Turkey has not met conditions of possible deal including border security and human rights issues (Guardian. link)

UNHCR warns of ‘collective failure’ following London donor conference (euractiv, link): "The UNHCR warned of a “collective failure” by the international community to deliver on pledges made to help the countries which bear the heaviest burden of the Syrian refugee crisis."

UN authorises EU operation against Libya arms smuggling (euractiv, link): "The UN Security Council on Tuesday (14 June) approved an EU operation to intercept ships suspected of arms smuggling to Libya, moving to shore up Tripoli’s unity government as it battles the Islamic State group."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15.6.16)
EU-TURKEY: Commission publishes second progress report on the implementation of EU-Turkey deal

"This Second Report sets out the considerable further progress made in implementing the EU-Turkey Statement since the First Report, and identifies the next steps required to consolidate this achievement so as to maintain the momentum. These are needed given that the context remains difficult and geopolitical risks continue to exist, while all aspects of the EU-Turkey Statement are not yet established on a firm footing."

EU-GREECE: Asylum: Commission calls on further efforts from Greece to allow resumption of Dublin transfers

The European Commission has today adopted a second Recommendation setting out requirements that Greece must meet to allow the resumption of transfers of asylum-seekers to the country under the Dublin system. Dublin transfers to Greece were suspended following judgements in the European Court of Human Rights case M.S.S v Belgium and Greece and the European Court of Justice case NS v Secretary of State for the Home Department.

The new Recommendation follows one adopted in Februay this year and provides more detail on "the significant amount of progress" that Greece must make in seven areas: reception conditions and facilities; access to and resources for the first instance asylum procedure; appeals authority; legal aid; treatment of unaccompanied minors and vulnerable persons; use of EU funding under national programmes; and reporting on actions taken.

EU-AFRICA: The Valletta process gets going: €125 million for border control and security; €21 million for training and job programmes

Six projects worth a total of €146 million have been approved by the European Commission as part of the follow-up to the Valletta Summit. Four of the projects - worth a total of €125 million - focus on policing, security and border control, while two - worth a total of €21 million - focus on education and training opportunities for "young Chadians in vulnerable situations" and "job and training opportunities for returnees and people most likely to migrate" from the Gambia.

Fatal Journeys, Vol. 2 - New Global Report from IOM (IOM, link): "IOM reports in the latest edition of its publication Fatal Journeys Volume 2: Identification and Tracing of Dead and Missing Migrants that over 60,000 migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing on sea and land routes worldwide since 1996.

According to the report released today (14 June), an estimated 5,400 migrants died or were recorded as missing in 2015. In 2016, already more than 3,400 migrants have lost their lives worldwide, this year over 80 percent of those attempting to reach Europe by sea.

The true number of migrant deaths is surely greater, said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC). Laczko explained countless deaths remain unknown as a result of migrants dying at sea or in remote areas where fatalities seldom are witnessed or recorded.

“But what happens to those who die? Who are their families and will they ever know what happened?” asked Laczko. “A further tragedy to the loss of life, is the fact that many of the dead remain nameless.”"

See the full report: Fatal Journeys Volume 2: Identification and Tracing of Dead and Missing Migrants (4MB, pdf)

And for an in-depth examination of what happens to those who die in the Mediterranean, see: Statewatch Analysis: In Potters' Fields by Catriona Jarvis (pdf)

EU risks fuelling horrific abuse of refugees and migrants in Libya (Amnesty International, link): "The EU’s plans to cooperate more closely with Libya on migration risk fuelling the rampant ill-treatment and indefinite detention in horrifying conditions of thousands of refugees and migrants, said Amnesty International.

Last month the EU announced plans to extend its anti-smuggling naval mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia, for another year and to train, build up the capacity of and share information with the Libyan coastguard following a request by the new Libyan government. However, testimonies gathered during visits to Sicily and Puglia in May 2016 reveal shocking abuses by the Libyan coastguard and at immigration detention centres in Libya."

And see: EU willing to pay ‘almost any cost’ to stop refugees (EurActiv, link)

UK-FRANCE: Press release - Convoy to Calais, Saturday 18 June 2016

Hundreds of vehicles will be leaving Whitehall on Saturday 18th June as part of a Convoy to Calais in what will be the largest display of solidarity with refugees this country has seen for generations. As the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War unfolds across the channel, lorries, cars and minibuses will be making the crossing, taking aid donations and with the aim of pressuring the UK government to provide safe passage to those fleeing desperate situations and sending a clear message that refugees are welcome here.

The Convoy was initiated by the People's Assembly, Stop the War Coalition and Stand Up to Racism and is supported by trade unions including UNISON, Unite, CWU, PCS, ASLEF, TSSA, FBU, faith groups including the Muslim Association of Britain, and charities including Humanitas and Care4Calais who work in the camp.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt believes Europe has room for 1 million additional refugees (CPH Post, link): "Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s new position as head of the international charitable organisation Save the Children seems to have softened her stance on immigration issues.

Though her government sought to tighten Denmark’s asylum laws, Thorning-Schmidt now believes Europe has the capacity to accept a further 1 million refugees."

Migrant crisis: EU's top diplomat in Turkey resigns (BBC News, link): "The EU's top diplomat in Turkey has resigned after a row with the government in Ankara over his criticism of its conduct in a landmark migrant deal.

Hansjoerg Haber came under fire for comments made last month in which he castigated the government's implementation of the deal.

Mr Haber had been in his post only since October.

The agreement is aimed at halting the mass movement of migrants into Europe."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14.6.16)
Mediterranean: 2016 data shows massive increase in deaths compared to 2015

"International Organization for Migration reports an estimated 207,260 migrants, including refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 8 June, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain. Deaths so far this year are 2,856, compared with 1,838 through the first six months of 2015. In other words, fatalities in the Mediterranean in 2016 are over 1,000 more than last year’s mid-year total, although we now are some three weeks shy of 2016’s mid-year point." (emphasis added)

Reports on unaccompanied child migrants in Europe and Spain

"Migrant children making the perilous journey to Europe to escape war and poverty face possible beatings, rape and forced labor in addition to risk of drowning in the Mediterranean, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.

Minors account for a growing percentage of migrants and refugees, particularly those trying to reach Italy by sea from Libya, it said in a report, "Danger Every Step of the Way".

Of the roughly 206,200 people who arrived in Europe by sea this year to June 4, one in three was a child, it said, citing figures from the U.N. refugee agency.

"Every step of the journey is fraught with danger, all the more so for the nearly one in four children traveling without a parent or guardian," UNICEF said."

See: Children face beatings, rape, death trying to reach Europe: UNICEF (Reuters, link)

UNICEF press release: “If you try to run, they shoot you; if you stop working they beat you. It was just like the slave trade.” (link)

And the full report: Danger Every Step of the Way (pdf)

The Spanish arm of Save the Children has also recently released a report on the situation for unaccompanied minors in Spain: Invisible childhood: unaccompanied foreign minors, victims of trafficking and refugees in Spain (Infancias invisibles: menores extranjeros no acompañados, víctimas de trata y refugiados en España, pdf)

Published in Spanish, it contains an executive summary, an introduction and six chapters, under the headings of: foreign unaccompanied minors; children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation; refugee childhood; Fortress Europe; what Save the Children is doing; and a conclusion entitled "children versus migrants".

European Border Guard Agency: European Parliament position for negotiations with the Council

On 30 May the European Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee (LIBE) adopted its position on the proposed Regulation for a European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which would significantly expand the powers of Frontex. The text adopted by LIBE will be used as the basis for the Parliament's negotiations with the Council in the secret "trilogue" procedure.

Report of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief: Fleeing Persecution: Asylum Claims in the UK on Religious Grounds (pdf)

This report examines the treatment by the British state of claims for asylum on the grounds of religious persecution. It is based on an enquiry set up "to look at the quality of the assessment of religion-based asylum claims in the UK and the impact of the asylum procedure on the fairness and quality of decision making."

The executive summary highlights the main concerns raised by the report: that while the UK Home Office has updated its guidance on religious asylum claims and has offered relevant training to its staff, "there is a disparity between the Home Office policy guidelines and what is actually happening in practice."

These concerns include lack of knowledge amongst decision-makers leading to poorly and wrongly-assessed claims; procedural problems (for example "the adequacy of resources in the asylum system, the legal representation of asylum seekers as well as religious literacy training of Home Office asylum process staff"); problems with interpretation; and a lack of statistics on the grounds for asylum claims submitted in the UK.

U.N. rights boss deplores detention of migrants in Europe (Reuters, link): "The U.N. human rights chief on Monday decried a "worrying rise" in detentions of migrants in Greece and Italy and urged authorities to find alternatives to confining children while asylum requests are processed.

More than one million migrants, many fleeing Syria's war, have arrived in Europe through Greece since last year. More than 150,000 have come in 2016 so far - 38 percent of them children, according to United Nations refugee agency data. Italy has also set up mandatory detention centres.

"Even unaccompanied children are frequently placed in prison cells or centres ringed with barbed wire. Detention is never in the best interests of the child – which must take primacy over immigration objectives," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"Alternatives to the detention of children must be developed," he told the start of a three-week council session."

UNHCR report puts projected resettlement needs in 2017 at 1.19 million (UNHCR, link): "With a multitude of conflicts and crises causing record displacement around the world, resettlement has become an increasingly vital part of UNHCR’s efforts to find solutions and advocate for fairer responsibility-sharing for refugees, a UNHCR report released today at an annual meeting in Geneva says.

While the UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2017 report says that more than 1 million refugees were submitted by UNHCR to over 30 resettlement countries in the past decade, the number of people in need of resettlement far surpasses the opportunities for placement in a third country.

The report says that despite increased resettlement quotas from some countries, expansion in global resettlement capacity, and increases in submissions, the projected number of people in need of resettlement in 2017 will pass 1.19 million.

In response, UNHCR expects to submit 170,000 refugees for resettlement next year, based on the expected global quotas from resettlement states. This compares to a current target of some 143,000 in 2016 and more than 100,000 in each of 2015 and 2014 respectively. Despite the increase in quotas from states and submissions made, the gap in terms of needs remains great."

Full report (30MB, link to pdf): UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2017


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13.6.16)
Death at the Serbian-Hungarian border and demonstrations in detention centers (Migszol update from Hungary, May 25 - June 9) (migszol.com, link):

"We urge all other European Union member states to immediately stop all Dublin deportations to Hungary. In addition, we urge all member states to stop the deportation of people who already have a refugee status in Hungary, but are now seeking to stay in other EU countries." [emphasis in original]

UNHCR Daily Report (11-12.6.16): 108 refugees arrived in Lesvos over the weekend

Thousands of Minor Refugees Stranded Alone in Greece (IPS, link):

"Closure of the Western Balkans route has trapped tens of thousands of refugees heading to Central and Northern Europe in Greece, including many unaccompanied minors who either escaped from war zones after having lost their relatives, or were sent ahead in hopes of helping their families follow afterwards.

While the Western Balkans corridor remained open, many minors opted to declare they were adults or register as relatives of other refugees transiting the country to avoid being put in protective custody and reception facilities.

According to a May 31 report by Save the Children, more than 1.2 million refugees have headed to Europe since 2015 – the continent’s “biggest wave of mass migration since the aftermath of the second world war.” They come mainly from conflict-torn countries like Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea."

Italy: Over 250 migrants arrive at Porto Empedocle, some 1,000 coming - 1,230 rescued yesterday, body found (ANSA, link):

"PALERMO, JUNE 13 - Some 257 migrants are expected to arrive in Porto Empedocle on Monday morning. They were rescued at sea over the last few hours by the Dignity Ship of Doctors Without Borders. Overall, 1,230 people were rescued in the Strait of Sicily, and one body was found, in nine operations yesterday."

and see: More than 3,000 migrants rescued at sea in 72 hours, says Italian coast guard - Italy's coast guard has confirmed that the number of migrants rescued in the past three days has reached more than 3,000. (DW, link)

News (13.6.16)

Amnesty says Spain asylum system 'obsolete (WB, link): "Amnesty International called Tuesday on Spain to reform an asylum system it labelled "inefficient, obsolete and discriminatory", blasting the "embarrassing" low number of refugees that have been taken in.After interviewing more than 80 asylum seekers and refugees and visiting several reception centres, the rights group concluded these faced big -- often years-long -- waits for their cases to be dealt with, coupled with inadequate financial aid that forced some onto the streets."

Police start evacuating migrant camps in northern Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Greek Police officers on Monday started evacuating a scattering of makeshift camps for migrants around the area of Polykastro in northern Greece. Around 300 officers were taking part in the operation to relocate a total of around 4,000 migrants from the makeshift camps into state-run facilities." and Makeshift refugee camps in northern Greece evacuated (http://apokoronasnews.gr, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11-12.6.16)
EU: Council of the European Union: Central Med Route, Relocation and IPCR

- Central Mediterranean route (LIMITE doc no: 8624-16, pdf) Written on 3 May before the arrival of thousands of refugees in Italy:

"due to the limited reception capacity in the hotspots, migrants are being transferred to larger reception centres. Due to the large number of migrants not eligible for international protection, the anticipated increase in arrivals during the summer months and difficulties with enforcing effective return, the pool of migrants in Italy and possibly Malta and elsewhere may increase. Without agreements on return, this will create an additional burden on those countries to handle the situation. All EU Member States have a responsibility to assist in this matter. Additionally, for the relatively small number of migrants eligible for relocation, continued and urgent efforts are still required."

- COUNCIL DECISION amending Decision (EU) 2015/1601 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece (LIMITE doc no: 8330-16, pdf):

"Member States may choose to meet their obligation by admitting to their territory Syrian nationals present in Turkey under national or multilateral legal admission schemes for persons in clear need of international protection, other than the resettlement scheme which was the subject of the Conclusions of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 20 July 2015. The number of persons so admitted by a Member State shall lead to a corresponding reduction of the obligation of the respective Member State."

- Refugee and Migration Crisis focused analysis of the use of the IPCR Web Platform between period of 1 October 2015 to 30 April 2016 (LIMITE doc no: 9398-16, pdf):

"Refugee and Migration Crisis focused analysis of the use of the IPCR Web Platform

This report presents an analysis of the use of the IPCR Web Platform with a specific emphasis on the Refugee and Migration crisis page. The creation of the monitoring page on this topic dates back to September 10, 2015. The IPCR was then activated in information sharing mode on October 30, 2015, leading to the creation of the crisis page (de facto replacing the monitoring page). The IPCR activation was then upgraded to full mode on November 9, 2015. The timeframe of the present analysis ranges from October 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016."

Note: It was not until 30 October 2015 that the Council Presidency launched this initiative: "The Council has taken over the last weeks a number of decisions to respond to the current migratory crisis. The scale of migratory flows has demonstrated the need for a more coordinated information sharing. The Luxembourg Presidency therefore decided on 30 October 2015 to trigger the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) arrangements on an "information sharing mode". The aim is to monitor the development of migratory flows, to support decision making and to better implement the agreed measures."

See: Another step after months and months of dithering: Entropy or incompetence? IPCR (Integrated Political Crisis Response) is the joint responsibility of the European Commission and European External Action Service (EEAS): Council of the European Union Press release: 30 October: Migratory crisis: EU Council Presidency steps up information sharing between member states by activating IPCR (pdf).

Are You Syrious (link)

GREECE

"EASO has been controlling the entry of refugees’ lawyers into the Moria camp, who need to specify exactly with whom they are going to talk and about what subject, violating the attorney-client privilege.

Furthermore it is often not a Greek civil servant that asks the questions but someone from a private security company or an EASO expert. Last Tuesday, one of these Easo experts prohibited some laywers of entering the camp which clearly goes beyond their mandate and violates national legislation on lawyers’ status. This Easo expert was brought to the police station but was released later on. The lawyers have filed charges and investigations are ongoing."

ITALY: Dozens continue to arrive in Italy, with a significant portion of them being unaccompanied minors

"These children are limited from the view of journalists and other watchdog entities. The number of children has climbed over 129% according to a recent study. For more information on the plight of refugee children in Italy, please explore this New York Times article."

UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL: UK: Sanctuary Scholarship Scheme (link):

"Extending educational opportunity to people from asylum seeking and refugee communities. What is it? The scheme offers scholarships to people from refugee and asylum seeking communities to study at University. The scholarship offers support towards the costs of Higher Education."

New FRONTEX agency: satellite reconnaissance and drones over the Mediterranean (digit.site36.net/, link) by Matthias Monroy:

"The EU is taking its maritime surveillance to a new level. The three agencies responsible for coastal and maritime surveillance are to be merged. 81 million euros has been earmarked for unmanned aerial vehicles alone, with hundreds of millions also being spent on the necessary satellite capabilities. The money is flowing into the coffers of arms companies."

Greece: Gov't plans 12 more centers for migrants in central Greece (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The government has announced the creation of 12 additional migrant accommodation centers in central Greece and its intention to reconstruct shelters at Koutsohero in Larissa, Katsika in Ioannina and Ritsona in Evia – three centers beset with serious structural problems... His remarks came amid growing anger at living conditions at migrant centers around the country and increasingly louder protests from local residents....

The latest official estimate puts the number of migrants throughout Greece at 57,112.

Of this number 5,509 are staying at shelters and structures managed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 8,197 are on islands in the eastern Aegean and 14,830 are in Attica – with the port of Piraeus providing temporary shelter to 1,397 while there are more than 3,600 refugees at the three shelters in Elliniko and 3,000 at Skaramanga.

In central Greece, there are 2,155, 283 in southern Greece and 26,139 in northern Greece (Macedonia and Epirus).".

News (11-12.6.16)

Refugees in Elliniko expressed mixed feelings about pre-registration as the first phase of the operation got underway at the three sites this week (News That Moves, link): "On June 8, teams from the Greek Asylum Service started issuing wristbands to people as part of a process to pre-register applications for asylum, family reunification and relocation to another EU state. Afghans, who make up more than 90 per cent of the population at the three Elliniko sites, are not currently eligible for the EU relocation program, but may be eligible to apply for family reunification. Registering for asylum is a prerequisite for applying for either program."

Refugees In Lesvos: “We Reached Breaking Point” (News That MOves, link): "Refugees on the island of Lesvos say they have reached breaking point and more antisocial behaviour is inevitable unless their situation improves.."

Eritrean accused of being people smuggling kingpin says he is innocent (Guardian,link): "Man in custody in Italy after being extradited by Sudan tells lawyer he is not Medhanie Mered but Medhanie Berhe"


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.6.16)
EU: Council of the European Union: Legal challenges to Turkey "deal", Entry-Exit and EU Border Guard

- EU-TURKEY "DEAL": Cases before the General Court of the European Union (LIMITE doc no: 9897-16, pdf):

"The three applications are directed against the European Council and request the Court to annul the "EU-Turkey statement" which was issued following the meeting of 18 March 2016 of the Members of the European Council and their Turkish counterpart (See press release 114/16 of 18 March 2016)....

The applications in Cases T-192/16 and T-257/16 state that they are brought on behalf of individuals who are nationals of Pakistan and who are currently staying at the "No Borders Refugee Camp", in Lesbos, Greece. The application in Case T-193/16 states that it is brought on behalf of an individual who is a national of Afghanistan and who is currently staying at the "Onofiyta Refugee Camp", in Athens, Greece."

- ENTRY-EXIST SYSTEM: Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 as regards the use of the Entry/Exit System (LIMITE doc no: 9910-16, pdf): Council Presidency addition and deletions for compromise on its negotiating position.

- EU BORDER GUARD: European Border Guard: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC - Progress report (LIMITE doc on: 9716, pdf):

"In the context of the second trilogue held on 7 June 2016 the Presidency, the Rapporteur and the Commission discussed the outcomes of the technical meeting and reflected upon possible compromises ... and had a first exchange of views on return"

and see: Correction (Not LIMITE, pdf)

Are You Syrious : SPECIAL REPORT: Desperate situation in camps around Thessaloniki (link):

"After camp in Idomeni, Greek—Macedonian border, was relocated, a group of independent volunteers started traveling in the area of Thessaloniki, where most of government run camps are, in attempt to collecting information about the situation. Some of the camps are “new”, others have already existed before the closure of Idomeni. This is their report."

ECRE: European Council on Refugees and Exiles: The slow unfolding of the EU-Turkey deal? (link):

"The first decision, handed on 20 May 2016, was hailed by several human rights organisation as proof that the EU-Turkey deal is unworkable and should cease to exist. “This decision goes to the heart of why the EU-Turkey deal was so deeply flawed to begin with,” Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International stated. A European Commission spokesperson, however, defended the validity of the EU-Turkey agreement, stating that these decisions only mean that there would be no blanket or automatic returns of people to Turkey.

The past week was also marked by the first case related to the EU-Turkey deal to reach the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Three Greek lawyers cooperating with ECRE members Pro Asyl and the Greek Council for Refugees applied for interim suspensive measures at the ECtHR to stop the deportation to Turkey of a Syrian man persecuted by ISIS."

European Court of Human Rights: Violation of the right not to be tried twice for the same offence and breach of the presumption of innocence in cases involving accusations of smuggling (pdf)

"In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Sismanidis and Sitaridis v. Greece (applications nos. 66602/09 and 71879/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 7 (right not to be tried or punished twice) to the European Convention on Human Rights as regards Mr Sismanidis, and

a violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 2 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time and presumption of innocence) of the Convention as regards Mr Sitaridis.

The case concerned the institution of proceedings against each of the applicants for smuggling despite the fact that the criminal courts had already irrevocably acquitted them of the same offence."

UN chief headed to Greece over migrants (ekathimerini.com/, link):

"United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he will head to the Greek Island of Lesvos next week to assess the migrant situation and show his solidarity. Ban said Thursday his trip to Lesvos on June 18 was part of the effort to formulate a global response to the crisis which has seen hundreds of refugees and migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea as they attempt to flee war and persecution in their home countries.>

Migrant spat brews between Austria and Hungary (euractiv, link):

"Hungary refused yesterday (9 June) to take back any of the several thousand migrants that Austria says should be returned under EU rules, adding to a brewing spat between the two neighbours.

“(It) is clear that Hungary cannot take back these migrants,” Defence Minister István Simicskó told a joint news conference in Budapest with visiting Austrian counterpart Hans Peter Doskozil.

“In order to take them back they would have had to begin their journey here. But… they crossed several countries before arriving in Hungary. They didn’t suddenly get here by magic, they crossed several safe countries”, including Greece, Simicskó said."

And: Hungary refuses to take back migrants from Austria (euobserver, link)

ITALY: Italy/Ventimiglia: Statement by PHM Italy in solidarity with migrants in transit and the No Borders network (pdf):

"As the People’s Health Movement Italy, a network of activists working to promote health, we express full solidarity and political support to the migrants in transit who are blocked at the Italian-French border and to the activists of the international No Borders network, particularly with regards to the serious events which are taking place in these hours in the territory of Ventimiglia....

The visit by interior minister Alfano which took place just over three weeks ago contributed to making a situation which was already intolerable harsher, leading to the closing of the centre set up by the Red Cross near to the station, to an increase in police control activities and to the creation of a tent city below the bridge of a highway which runs along the river Roia."

Greece returns 13 Syrian refugees to Turkey (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Greek authorities say they have returned 13 Syrian refugees to Turkey under an agreement between that country and the European Union to stop the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe....

The rate of returns has been slow after thousands applied for asylum. So far fewer than 500 people have been returned under the deal."

Frontex: West Balkan Risk Analysis (pdf):

"The unprecedented massive flows of people along the Western Balkan route proved to be unmanageable for the border authorities involved. These flows also exposed clear limits of border controls in the absence of uniform EU-wide migration and asylum policies.

All contingency plans were designed with lower numbers in mind and with a presumption that the arriving people would not refuse to follow the existing procedure."

News (10.6.16)

Italy: Over 2,500 migrants to arrive in Italy between Fri and Sat - MSF vessel docks in Palermo with 592 people in board (ANSA, link)

Europe looking to make more deals to keep out migrants as legal challenges loom (humanosphere.org, link): "Europe is making moves to decrease the number of migrants coming from Africa and the Middle East. At the same time, pending legal challenges may overturn the recent deal with Turkey that has helped to limit the number of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. Two migrants filed suit against the deal with the top court in the European Union....“To say today that we have a solution to our problem, that we are going to simply duplicate the deal with Turkey, and we’re going to roll it out to all the other countries – sorry, that is not the way forward,” Guy Verhofstadt, head of the European Union’s Liberal bloc, told the AP"


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9.6.16)
ITALY: Any hotspot to identify migrants at sea is illegal

It will be impossible to effectively guarantee rights in an adequate manner on the high seas. ASGI asks the interior ministry and the Italian government to immediately abandon this course, considering the unlawful aspects listed below, and it invites UNHCR to carefully monitor the situation in order for effective access to the international protection system in Italy to be guaranteed.

GREECE: Blockade not stopping arrivals on Aegean islands

UNHCR: Inter-Agency Coordination, Lesvos, 2 June reports that:

"160 persons of concern (PoC) arrived in the last week (until 31 May). Today, on the 2 June, 22 additional PoCs arrived in the North.
- Average of 25 PoCs arriving per week
- A total of 525 PoCs have arrived in Lesvos in the month of May"

EU-TURKEY: Council to Greece: forget judicial independence and individual assessment, tell your judges Turkey is safe for Syrians

"The European Council on Justice and Home Affairs is applying pressure on Greece over a recent statement about the EU-Turkey migration deal. They are urging Athens to recognise Turkey as a safe third-country.

“We have to make clear to Greece that the vast majority of member states consider Turkey a safe country for Syrians to be returned to,” stressed one diplomatic source on June 8, prior to the Justice and Home Affairs Council that is slated to be held in Luxembourg on June 9-10.

(...)

The Council also urged Greece’s government to explain to the country’s judges that Turkey is safe for Syrians and to review the composition and role of the appeal committees since people from civil societies are not neutral."

See: EU Council: Why Greece should consider Turkey safe for Syrian refugees (New Europe, link)

Unaccompanied child refugees' suffering on route to Europe laid bare (The Guardian, link): "The suffering of unaccompanied child refugees who have made their way to Sweden has been laid bare in a report detailing the horrific abuse some have been subjected to at home and on their journeys north.

Interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) with 50 unaccompanied child refugees aged nine to 17 reveal the scale of trauma suffered by many making the perilous voyages from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria and other countries."

See: Sweden: Migrant Children Face Barriers (Human Rights Watch, link): "Unaccompanied migrant children in Sweden are experiencing delays and difficulties in getting critical care and support, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Sweden has had an unprecedented increase in the arrival of unaccompanied children, but it should do more to ensure that all unaccompanied children get special protection, including swift processing of their asylum claims."

Morocco: Migrant dies trying to enter Spain via sewer (New Europe, link): "The Moroccan state news agency says a migrant from sub-Saharan Africa has died after trying to cross from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Melilla through the sewage system.

The MAP news agency reported the man was evacuated from the sewer by local authorities along with three other migrants. He was hospitalized in the Moroccan border town of Nador and died Tuesday.

MAP said the other three migrants were treated and released."

Britain helps arrest people-smuggling kingpin known as 'The General' (The Independent, link): "One of the world’s most wanted people-smugglers has been arrested after an operation involving Britain’s National Crime Agency and GCHQ.

Mered Medhanie, dubbed "The General", is said to be the mastermind of an international smuggling network who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of refugees in the Mediterranean.

The 35-year-old Eritrean, who earned the nickname because he styled himself on former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was arrested in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in May before being extradited to Italy on Tuesday."

'Where can I find peace?' Paris police clear makeshift refugee camp before Euro 2016 (Middle East Eye, link): "Before authorities began evacuating a squalid makeshift camp in the early morning, lorries transporting beer in preparation for the 2016 UEFA European championship roared down the street lined with tents and the sleeping bodies of almost 2,000 desperate migrants.

Homeless refugees and migrants from Afghanistan and Africa began living on the edges of Eole Park in north Paris a month ago. In the past week, their numbers swelled to about 1,850 people, all hoping for an official evacuation that would see them housed by local authorities. Amid the detritus and waste generated by hundreds crammed into a 4,000-square-metre area, many had lived in tents provided by local volunteers, and those without shelter passed nights on the pavement on cardboard boxes, pallets or in sleeping bags."

Refugees' Ramadan in Greece: No dates or milk, just bread and potatoes (Middle East Eye, link): "Sara will not be eating her traditional Ramadan iftar this year. “In Afghanistan, we have this thing called bolani [a stuffed flat bread] and we eat it with tomatoes and potatoes… and the fruit juices… It was all so yummy”, she said longingly.

“But here we have to eat the food they give us,” she added, looking thoroughly glum at the prospect.

The 17-year-old from Kabul, currently living with her parents and five siblings in Elionas camp near Athens, later sent this reporter a hurried WhatsApp message, just before breaking her fast.

“Maybe the food will be different for iftar. It has to be different. Am I right?” she wrote hopefully.

For the 50,000 refugees currently trapped in Greece, many from Muslim families, Ramadan will certainly be different this year."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (8.6.16)
Greece: Rulings back 35 migrants appealing deportation (ekathimerini.com, link)

"Fears are rising about the possible breakdown of a deal between the European Union and Turkey for the return of migrants after legal committees in Greece upheld dozens of appeals by refugees against their deportation.

By late Monday, Greek appeals committees had ruled in favor of 35 refugees, ruling that Turkey is “an unsafe country.” Only two rulings overturned appeals by refugees against their deportation....

Hundreds of applications are pending and there are fears that they too will result in rulings in favor of refugees, undercutting a deal signed between Ankara and Brussels in March to return migrants to Turkey.

Meanwhile there are also concerns about a pickup in arrivals from neighboring Turkey."

Greece: Samos Hotspot: Roaring With Rage But Who is Listening? (samoschronicles. link):

"The decision to place all the arrivals in a closed detention centre which followed on from the EU/Turkey pact led some activists and NGOs to withdraw from direct work in the Samos hotspot (aka the Camp). Given the dubious legality of the pact and the intention to return the majority of the arrivals back to Turkey which has been deemed a safe place for refugees, it was considered that any interventions with refugees in the Camp would signify compliance with this latest inappropriate and inhumane response to the refugees. As one MSF worker observed at the time, “how can I help and welcome the arrivals on the beach when I know that they are going to be locked in the camp and then possibly deported to Turkey? I can’t do that”....

the numbers now coming to the frontier islands such as Samos, Lesvos and Chios are slowly increasing. 55 refugees arrived on 7th June and a further 60 three days earlier."

Are You Syrious (link)

The EU is trying to halt migration by bribing the world into compliance.

"In an effort to halt the unstoppable, EU is trying to broker deals based on the failed EU/Turkey deal with Lebanon, Tunisia, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, and Libya , and as Guardian reports they are also mulling over whether or not to make the same deal with Sudan, the president of which is wanted for war crimes. To top it all off, the EU is looking for a partner in Eritrea, a country whose government is accused of crimes against humanity by the UN. Commissioner Avramopoulos says that the EU plans to secure up to €62bn of funding to convince these states to hold back the migration. EC has reportedly threatened ‘uncooperative partners’ in the migration crisis with ‘positive and negative incentives’ if they do not work sufficiently with the EU in combating the flow of migrants trying to reach Europe. Countries that do not let migrants cross their country and/or accept to take migrants back will be rewarded."

Refugees arriving in Crete are reportedly being stripped of their right to seek asylum.

According to reports which we have received, there are around 113 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (including families and children) who wanted to go to Italy from Turkey but have been caught in a Greece Island (Crete) from last several days.According to the information received from the island, they are “being kept in bad condition where there is no medical facilities and no good food...".

No new relocations for unaccompanied minors in almost two months.

"As for the relocation of the most vulnerable—News That Moves reports that not one unaccompanied minor has been relocated since April 12. There are unaccompanied minors from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Burundi, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahrain, Maldives, and British overseas countries and territories. Note that the so-called eligible nationalities for relocation are changing every three months, but currently these are the ones that are. The EU Commission stated that the process of relocation of unaccompanied minors has to be more efficient, but as it seems no real solution is in sight. According to UNHCR and Amnesty International observations, due to the time consuming procedures for the appointment of legal guardians in Greece and Italy, and due to the lack of effective information about their rights, unaccompanied children are often not effectively given priority for relocation."

EU migration policy suggests Europe prefers strongmen over reality (Guardian, link):

"Cuddly language cannot hide preferred EU method of dealing with migration: gratify those who cause it in the first place...

There is nothing especially seismic about the latest version of the EU’s migration policy, which was unveiled on Tuesday afternoon. The central premise is the same one that Europe has long employed: asking the developing world to deal with migration, so it doesn’t have to.

In a carrot-and-stick approach, Europe is offering aid, trade and expertise to countries bearing the brunt of migration flows in the Middle East and north Africa. Those that fail to comply will not get the aid or the trade. “There are consequences,” one EU memo ominously reads, “for those that refuse.”

Those taking the carrot will be expected to make life a bit better for the millions of migrants within their borders. Above all, they are tasked with readmitting the few who manage to escape – and to stopping the rest from leaving in the first place. It is the EU-Turkey deal, but repeated across the southern Mediterranean and the Sahara."

Greece: USEFUL LINK: Lawyers Available In European Countries (News That Moves, link): "The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) has published a list of lawyers and experts from several countries in Europe who work on asylum and immigration law. The list contains contact phone numbers for lawyers and organisations offering legal aid to refugees."

EU Court of Justice: The Return Directive prevents a national of a non-EU country who has not yet been subject to the return procedure being imprisoned solely because he or she has entered the territory of a Member State illegally across an internal border of the Schengen area (Press release. pdf):

"That is also the case where that national, who is merely in transit on the territory of the Member State concerned, is intercepted when leaving the Schengen area and is the subject of a procedure for readmission into the Member State from which he or she has come"

See: Judgment: Full-text (pdf)

And: Imprisoning woman trying to illegally enter UK was wrong, EU rules (Guardian, link):

"European court of justice says France acted wrongly after Ghanian woman was found with false passport at Channel tunnel...

France was wrong to imprison a Ghanian woman who was arrested at the Channel tunnel during an attempt to enter Britain illegally using a false passport, the EU’s most senior court has ruled.

The European court of justice said on Tuesday that the EU directive on returning irregular migrants prevents any member state imposing a prison sentence on a non-EU migrant who is in the country illegally, and whom they have not attempted to return."

Germany’s refugee policy: ‘Borders on cynicism’ (euractiv, link):

"Arms exports to Saudi Arabia, the return of refugees to Afghanistan and the deal with Turkey: Germany’s peace institutes have come out firing against many of Germany’s more controversial policies....

The five leading peace institutes in Germany have made wide-ranging criticisms of Berlin’s foreign and security policies.

In a new report, the organisations criticised Germany’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular, because of their links to the funding of terrorism and the propagation of fundamentalism...

“The fact that Germany arms countries like Saudi Arabia is scandalous,” said Margret Johannsen from Hamburg University’s Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7.6.16)
EU: New proposals on migration: "partnerships" with third countries, Blue Card reform, integration plan

The European Commission has published a series of new "migration management" proposals that foresee new "partnerships" set up with non-EU states; the reform of the 'Blue Card Directive' on the entry into the EU of highly-skilled workers; and an action plan on "the integration of third-country nationals and their economic and social contribution to the EU." See:

All at sea: Libyan detention centres at crisis point (IRIN, link): "“Yesterday, we received 203 new migrants, today it was 585, and tomorrow there will be more, and the next day, and the day after.”

Khalid al-Tumi runs the Zawiya migrant detention centre, 23 kilometres east of Sabrata in northwestern Libya. The coast around Sabrata has become one of the main departure points used by people-smugglers following a crackdown on their former hub of Zuwarah. All of the migrants he is referring to have been apprehended from boats and returned.

Zawiya houses 1,727 detainees, far above its official maximum capacity of 1,200. Food and water supplies are already inadequate and al-Tumi said he has no additional resources for the new arrivals.

“Next week, we will face a really major problem and I don’t know how I will manage. We have no more blankets or mattresses,” he told IRIN. “Everything I have is already being used.”"

EU-Turkey Deal: deportation of homosexual Syrian threatened by ISIS looming (Pro Asyl, link): "Yesterday evening three lawyers cooperating with PRO ASYL, a local Greek lawyer and the Greek Council for Refugees applied for interim measures at the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in order to stop the imminent deportation of a Syrian persecuted by ISIS from Greece to Turkey. This is the first case under the EU-Turkey Deal reaching the ECHR."

And see: The EU-Turkey migration deal is dying. What’s Plan B? (IRIN, link): "It’s been less than 11 weeks since the EU struck its controversial deal with Turkey to stem the flow of asylum seekers into Europe. The agreement was immediately under pressure on several fronts and now looks set to unravel completely, even before any mass returns come to pass.

Two weeks ago, a committee on the Greek island of Lesvos upheld the appeal of a Syrian asylum seeker whose initial claim had been rejected and who was facing deportation to Turkey. This week, nine more appeals by Syrians were upheld. Many more such decisions are soon to be delivered, according to Pro Asyl, the German NGO whose lawyers represented the Syrians. So far, just one appeal case by a Syrian has been rejected.

The appeal decisions are significant because they shatter the illusion that had given the accord its legal veneer – the principle that Turkey is “a safe third country”, one that even genuine asylum seekers can be returned to without running foul of international refugee law."

GREECE: Dispatches: Stranded Asylum Seekers Pay Price of EU Foot Dragging (Human Rights Watch, link): "With the Western Balkan route closed, more than 50,000 asylum seekers, including many women and children, are stranded in Greece in largely unsafe and appaling conditions. Meanwhile the EU scheme to relocate refugees moves at a glacial pace.

Last September, a majority of EU Council countries made a legally binding agreement to move 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU countries. The idea was to alleviate pressure on Greece and Italy where migrants typically first arrive, and to create legal and safe access to other European countries as an alternative to the chaotic routes through the Balkans.

EU Commissioner Avramopoulos has expressed his frustration at the failure of EU states to fulfil obligations to relocate refugees and urged member states “to get ready to move at last.”"

EU: European Parliament press release: Martin Schulz praises Portugal for how it integrates refugees (pdf): "Schulz praised Portugal for its welcoming approach to refugees during a visit to a refugee reception centre in Bobadela, which currently hosts 271 people. "This is a model to be followed by all 28 member states, which have to take up their responsibilities in this matter," he said. Schulz also gave the example of the kindergarten where Portuguese children mingle with children from other countries, calling it "the best way to combat racism and xenophobia"."

Lampedusa: Red Letter Days (openDemocracy, link): "'The journey to make my life easier has actually been the most difficult experience I have ever faced in my life'. An unaccompanied minor recounts his journey to safety in Europe."

Migrant men in Greece are selling sex to survive (PRI, link): "The first time Abdullah had sex for money was just two weeks after he arrived in Athens.

He was living at a disused airport along with thousands of other Afghan migrants. A week after he moved in, some friends took him along with them to the Pedion tou Areos, Athens’ main public park.

Abdullah didn’t like it. “It was a dirty place,” he said. “There were people there using drugs. A lot of strange people.”

Some of those people were older men who would come up and start talking to him. It was then that his friends told him why they came to the park. “They told me, ‘We have sex with these guys, and they pay us.’”

In his birth country Iran, he had slept with both girls and boys, he said, but never with “old men.”

“I got angry,” he said. “I had just arrived, and I had to do this just to get some money.”"


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6.6.16)
Cyprus sidelined as Brussels scrambles to save Turkey migrant deal - Push to allow Turkish participation in European agencies worries Nicosia (politico.eu, link)

"The European Commission has put new pressure on Cyprus in a bid to meet Turkish demands for quicker integration into the Brussels lawmaking machine.

After convincing Nicosia earlier this year to soften its opposition to Ankara’s EU membership bid in order to secure a deal with Turkey on stemming the flow of refugees into Europe, the Commission is now reviving long-frozen Turkish requests for participation in European rule-making bodies on issues such as maritime safety and industrial standards certification.

Diplomats said Cypriots have raised objections in several EU meetings over the last two months to the Commission’s efforts, which could lead to Turkish officials having input on European policy even though it is not an EU member."

EU-Turkey readmission deal in doubt (euobserver, link):

"Authorities in Turkey have yet to ratify a key component in the migrant swap deal with the EU despite the European Commission saying otherwise.

People who are not Turks but who reside in the EU without proper papers and who entered EU territory from Turkey can now be sent back to Turkey under the terms of a bilateral readmission agreement for third country nationals.

The agreement is part of a bigger package to let Turkish nationals enter the EU’s Schengen travel zone without a visa.

The readmission accord was supposed to have entered into full force on 1 June. But a government spokesperson from Turkey told this website on Monday (6 June) that the law has yet to be ratified."

Are You Syrious (link)

Another big refugee wave in the Balkans region

"While the so-called Balkan Route remains officially closed, more people are finding their way across the Balkans. More people are in Bulgaria as well as Serbia. In Belgrade, volunteers are asking for help while exhausted and dehydrated people are arriving in significant numbers. At the same time, Austria’s right wing politician suggests that the EUshould keep refugees offshore rather than allow them on to the continent. Meanwhile, no signs of peace in Syria."

The end of the EU-Turkey deal?

"German media, quoting Turkish pro-government media, are reporting that the deal between Turkey and the EU is suspended. The Turkish government threatened several times now that this would happen if the EU did not grant visa-free travel for its citizens, as it is set in the deal. The news about official suspension came from the “government close sources” of the newspaper Aksam and news agency AB Haber.... Turkey set the end of June as a deadline for the 28-member bloc to scrap visas. The EU officials claimed that it is nearly impossible to meet the deadline from the very beginning. At the same time, Turkish government claims they met the EU’s criteria for visa-free travel. Human rights activists, among others, claims the Turkey?—?EU deal is unacceptable and contrary to the international law."

EU to put migration top of foreign policy agenda (euobserver, link):

A new proposal by the European Commission puts stemming the flow of migrants in the centre of foreign relations with some neighbourhood countries by providing financial incentives for them to stop people flowing into Europe.

The new communication by the EU executive, to be unveiled on Tuesday (7 June), suggests using visa liberalisation and trade policies with countries such as Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Niger and Ethiopia as bargaining chips to stem the flow of migrants....

critics warn that a similar attempt to tackle migration last year at the Valetta Summit with African leaders have yielded few results. "

Greece: Frontex denied help to refugees including 'unresponsive' baby (middleeasteye. link):

" Frontex denied aid to refugees including a baby and kept them floating in the sea off Greece for nearly two hours, according to aid workers.

Eyewitnesses told MEE that Frontex officers prevented aid workers helping 50 people as they landed on the northern shore of the Greek island of Lesbos early on Monday. Their tactic was to take them directly into detention "without any aid, even the injured," one aid worker said."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-5.6.16)
UNHCR calls for investigation into river-drowning of Syrian refugee in Hungary (DW, link):

"The UN refugee agency has documented over 100 cases of 'excessive use of force' against refugees trying to enter Hungary. Budapest has taken bold measures to block migrants from entering the country."

Austrian FM urges EU to keep refugees on islands ‘like Australia’ (Press TV, link):

"Austria’s foreign minister says the European Union should follow the controversial “Australian example” and lock up the refugees on some islands to block their access to Europe’s mainland....

“A refugee, who stays on an island like the [the Greek island of] Lesbos with no chance of receiving asylum, will be more willing to return voluntarily, as someone who has moved into an apartment in Vienna or Berlin,” he added......

Australia denies settlement to refugees attempting to reach the country by boat. The refugee boats are intercepted and sent to the remote islands of Christmas and Manus in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific, where they are kept in reportedly inhumane conditions, and held indefinitely while their refugee applications are processed. The Canberra-run camps have been widely criticized by human rights agencies for harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse."

Greece: NGO targeted in Thessaloniki (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A group of unknown assailants threw Molotov cocktails at the offices of a nongovernmental organization in the northern port city of Thessaloniki in the early hours of Saturday, authorities announced.

The NGO’s offices are located on the ground floor of a building in the area of Kamara. Initial reports suggested the building’s entrance and a car sustained damage."

Report from Lesvos 30.5.16: Platanos Refugee Solidarity (link)

"Another boat landed yesterday morning at Skala harbour accaccompanied by a Frontex vessel. After the public outcry over the incident of May 29, where Frontex and greek coastgurad kept refugees away from front-line support and medical assistance, yesterday they changed their stance and they let volunteers to offer help to the refugees. Around 30 ppl from different countries got changed at the harbour of skala before getting taken by the coastguard buses to Moria. Our report against the abusive behaviour of frontex-greek coastguard on the 29 May went viral and was shared largely on local and national press. We assume this is the reason for them being so eager to cooperate yesterday. No human right was ever "granted" without struggle".

See report from: Platanos on the disgraceful events of 29 May (see translation, link):

"Late last night, inflatable boat with 50 refugees arrived accompanied at the port of stairs sykamiás. The Maltese frontex spotted the boat near Cape Korakas and did not offer any help, even though the machine of refugees was broken. For an hour just stood beside her, forbidding the other rescue boats to assist. After an hour, a frontex put the machine of refugees in front and led them to the port of the stairs. Two hundred meters before they reach the shore, xanaakinetopoioún refugees and keep them in the open outside the port for another hour. From the pier of the stairs, we heard the voices of refugees in the middle of the night screaming for help, unnecessarily anxious from waiting. Finally the waiting vans phrontexádes coast guard coming to take the refugees in moria and only then brought them to the coast....."

EU: Quaker Council on European Affairs (QCEA): Briefing on Operation Sophia (pdf)

"On 18 May 2015 the Foreign Affairs Council approved Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/778, establishing a military CSDP operation that would involve attempting to disrupt the operations of people smugglers in Libya. This operation was originally named EUNAVFOR MED, but was later renamed Operation Sophia. (For convenience, this document uses the term “Operation Sophia” even when referring to the part of the operation conducted before the operation was given that name.)

We at the Quaker Council for European Affairs have been concerned about the possible consequences of Operation Sophia for refugees and migrants. Therefore, in March and April 2016 we conducted a short, focused advocacy project that included meetings with relevant staff from three of the Member State Permanent Representations, as well as with a representative of the EEAS."

Meijers Committee: Note on the Reform of the Common European Asylum System (pdf):

"In its communication of 6 April 2016 (COM(2016) 197 final), the European Commission announced reforms of EU legislation in respect of the qualification for international protection, asylum procedures and reception conditions. In this note the Meijers Committee would like to make the following comments with regard to the proposed reforms."

Greece: Hundreds rescued, 9 die in shipwreck as tensions rise in migrant camps (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Hundreds of migrants were rescued on Friday after a smuggling boat sank in international waters south of Crete, while the Hellenic Coast Guard recovered the bodies of at least nine drowned migrants.

The 25-meter vessel capsized in the early hours of Friday morning under circumstances that remained unclear, leaving hundreds of migrants in the sea, some 70 nautical miles south of Crete. According to the International Organization for Migration, around 700 migrants had been aboard the vessel.

Five ships – cargo and commercial vessels – had been near the scene and offered assistance, rescuing scores of migrants. The Hellenic Coast Guard sent two vessels while the navy dispatched two Super Puma helicopters to scour the area. By late Friday, 340 migrants had been rescued and the bodies of nine migrants pulled out of the sea by rescue workers...."

UNHCR Launches Pro-Refugee Petition (News That Moves, link):

"The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) this week launched an online petition asking governments to act to support refugees. The #WithRefugees petition asks governments to ensure:

- every refugee child gets an education,
- every refugee family has somewhere safe to live
- every refugee can work or learn new skills."

Are You Syriious (link)

Greek rescuers respond to capsized migrant boat off island of Crete

"Greek rescuers have saved more than 300 people from a capsized boat in international waters south of the island of Crete. It was unclear where the migrant boat was launched or where it was heading.

Greek coastguard boats, helicopters and four nearby ships came to the aid of a “significant number” of people stranded after their boat capsized about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Crete in international waters, Greek authorities said Friday. At least four bodies were retrieved and more than 300 rescued. The death toll was expected to rise as rescue operations continued to search for at least another 300 believed to have been on board."

"First Deportation Following Asylum Rejection in Lesvos

"The first deportation of a Syrian citizen is going to be carried out on Thursday in Lesvos, after the final rejection of his asylum petition. The asylum request was rejected on the second, and final degree, while the petitioner has not been called for a vis-a-vis hearing.

The Homosexuality Claim

A Syrian claimed to be homosexual yet this argument to grant him asylum was also rejected by the committee. According to the Syrian’s representatives, the EASO employee asked him which were the colors of the Rainbow flag and whether he knew any famous Syrian homosexual. He answered that he was not active in the homosexual community of Syria and knew no such information as he was forced to hide his own sexual preferences. Accordingly, his claim, that he was homosexual was rejected."

Italy: FROM THE HUMANITARIAN BLACKMAIL OVER FOOD TO TODAY'S VIOLENCE

Permanent NoBorders Monitoring Post in Ventimiglia - May 24, 2016 | Presidio Permanente No Borders - Ventimiglia·Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"The mayor of Ventimiglia withdraws the order on the provision of food and drinks

When Ventimiglia's mayor Enrico Ioculano issued a mayoral order forbidding the provision of food and drinks to migrants who were in transit in the town's territory last July, various voices were heard criticising what in effect amounted to a criminal offence of solidarity. While the self-managed kitchen at the border monitoring post continued working at full speed, the only people who bore the brunt of this measure were some Islamic associations from Nice which went to distribute food to the people in the station every evening.

The order had two main objectives: to discourage solidarity towards the people who were travelling and to designate the Italian Red Cross as the only body responsible for managing the emergency. In the camp, its effects were the opposite: the self-managed kitchen's capacity was increased and the migrants decided not to accept any more food from the same organisation which was cooperating with deportations from Ponte San Luigi to the reception centre in the station. "

Migszol: Migrant solidarity group of Hungary: Solidarity with the people protesting against poor conditions in the closed asylum detention center in Kiskunhalas, Hungary (link):

"People imprisoned in the closed refugee detention center of Kiskunhalas organized a protest yesterday, June 1st 2016. Today, the protest continues. They are demanding freedom to leave the prison and live in an open camp, a faster asylum procedure and better living conditions in the camp. According to Julia Ivan, a lawyer at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, many of the protesters are people that Hungary is trying to deport to Greece with the Dublin regulation, despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against such deportations.

Kiskunhalas is one of the asylum detention centers, where asylum seekers are kept imprisoned up to six months, without ever having committed a crime..."

Amnesty International: No safe refuge: Asylum-seekers and refugees denied effective protection in Turkey (link):

"The European Union (EU) must immediately halt plans to return asylum-seekers to Turkey on the false pretence that it is a “safe country” for refugees, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

The briefing, No safe refuge: Asylum-seekers and refugees denied effective protection in Turkey, details the shortcomings in Turkey’s asylum system and the hardships refugees face there that would render their return under the EU-Turkey Agreement of March 18 illegal – and unconscionable."

German minister criticises ‘sluggish’ deportation rate (New Europe, link):

"Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere says he wants to speed up migrant deportations by assigning more police offers to the task.

In an interview with German mass circulation newspaper Bild, the minister said he will present a report bemoaning “long procedures” and “insufficient personnel” for this task. He said German states have “little political will to apply the residence law” resulting in the “sluggish” deportation rate.

As reported by Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), an interior ministry report based on March 31 data shows there were over 219,000 migrants set to be expelled from Germany. Almost 168,000 of them had been issued the so-called Duldung (tolerance) permits, allowing them to stay in the country until obstacles for their deportation are cleared. The remaining 51,000, however, were to be expelled as soon as possible."

GREECE: Pro Asyl: Press Release: Appeals Committee on Lesbos stops deportations to Turkey (link)

"PRO ASYL calls for an end to the inhuman large-scale experiment in the Aegean – stop deportations to Turkey!

Yesterday night three positive decisions by the Administrative Appeals Committee of Lesbos were published. Lawyers of the PRO ASYL project “Refugee Support Program in the Aegean (RSPA)” represented nine Syrian protection seekers before the second instance on 20 and 21 April. The concerned asylum seekers were greatly relieved to receive the news that their deportation to Turkey has now been stopped. By now ten decisions by Appeals Committees have been published in which it is asserted that Turkey is no “safe third country” for Syrian refugees." and see:

Greek court halts Syrian deportations to 'unsafe' Turkey (euobserver, link)

Are You Syrious (link)

Today’s numbers and news of new arrivals

"Today’s numbers as released by the Greek government are as follows: 8,417 refugees are currently in the islands, nearly 1,000 more than the official maximum capacity of the existing camps. The Attica region is hosting 14,510 refugees, while Northern Greece is hosting 26,840. Central Greece is hosting 2,262 refugees and Southern Greece has 289, bringing the total number throughout the country to 52,318."

A boat containing 22 people landed in North Lesvos. Between 130 and 140 refugees landed on Chios in the morning.

Dozens of asylum seekers have been injured in a riot at Moria Camp. There are also problems at Samos.

"Ekathimerini reports that clashes in the morning have left dozens injured after a group of Pakistani refugees accused Afghans of trying to seize control of the camp, with the Afghan refugees alleging that Pakistanis were stealing food as well as sexually harassing women and children. Fires were set in the camp.

Meanwhile there are also riots in Samos. Our sources report that these clashes were between the Algerian and Pakistani residents of the camp. 6 people were injured and 2 containers were burned down."

News (2-5.6.16)

Migrant crisis: Rescue under way from capsized boat off Crete (BBC News, link): "About 250 people have been rescued from a migrant boat that has capsized in the Mediterranean sea, Greek officials say.A coast guard spokesman said four ships were involved in the operation, with helicopters on their way.Hundreds of migrants were "in distress" in the water. The boat was found in international waters, 75 nautical miles south of the Greek island of Crete."

Bodies wash up in Libya, rescue off Crete (DW, link): "The bodies of more than 100 boat migrants have come ashore near Libya's western city of Zwara. Far out in the Mediterranean, off Crete, 304 people have been rescued from another stricken vessel."

Austria on brink of reaching self-imposed refugee limit (euractiv, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (1.6.16)
Two women try to stop deportation (Refugee Trial, link): "

"he was dragged onto the plane, where two women stood up to protest his deportation and called on other passengers to do the same....

In a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie, the stewardesses then walked through the plane and, according to a journalist who was inside, “asked passengers if they were happy with the plane departing.” This offered every single passenger the chance to save Eze from deportation. Not a single person did."

EU ships in Libyan waters would undermine Tripoli government: diplomat (Reuters, link):

"The U.N.-backed government in Libya has not invited European ships into its territorial waters to help stop people smuggling because this could harm efforts to broaden support for the fledgling government, its envoy to Rome said on Tuesday.

Ahmed Elmabrouk Safar, ambassador to Rome for Fayaz Seraj's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), told reporters foreign warships within sight of its coast "would not help Libyan stability".

"Inviting foreign military and naval forces in Libyan waters could be seen as an important security-led step which might cut down on the number of people who are crossing over the Mediterranean, but would it help in unifying the country in the current phase?" the envoy said.

The Tripoli government, established in March, is still struggling to assert its authority. It does not control the entire country, including much of the coastline. Armed groups hold real power on the ground and in the east there is a separate government that has not accepted the GNA."

Greece: Over 100 migrants land on Crete island (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A group of 113 mostly Afghan migrants has landed on Greece's biggest island Crete, officials said on Wednesday, the first big arrival on the island since the migrant crisis began.

Crete, Greece's southernmost island, lies north of Libya and Egypt. The migrants said they had set off from Antalya on Turkey's southwestern coast, some 260 nautical miles away, police and coastguard officials said."

Are You Syrious (link)

Turkey: Doctors Without Borders Refuses EU Funds Over Turkey-Migrant Deal

"The international aid organization Doctors Without Borders has decided to refuse all future European Union funding as it protests the bloc’s recent migrant deal with Turkey.

The decision follows a May 13 open letter from the group that called the agreement, under which people arriving on Greek islands are to be returned to Turkey, an “historic abdication of [the EU’s] moral and legal responsibilities.” It also described the official welcome offered by Europe to those stranded in Greece as “shameful.”"

Uptick in migrant arrivals raises concerns on Greek islands

"A recent spike in refugee and migrant arrivals from Turkey onto Greek shores is raising concerns among authorities on Greece’s eastern Aegean islands, Skai reported on Tuesday, also quoting sources saying that hundreds are gathered on the coast of Izmir waiting to make the passage that will bring them into European Union territory.

According to Skai, 160 migrants and refugees have landed on Lesvos in the past five days, marking an increase after a few weeks of almost no arrivals, bringing the total number being hosted on the island to just under 4,000 and stretching resources."

Czechia: Prima TV station told reporters to depict refugees as a risk and a threat or they would be fired

"The Czech NGO HlídacíPes.org (“Watchdog”) has testimonies from several sources inside Prima TV stating that the television station’s management gave producers there clear instructions during a meeting on 7 September 2015 about what angle to take toward the refugee “crisis” in its news reporting. The station’s reporting on the issue took center stage this spring because of how it chose to report on the arrival of Christian refugees from Iraq to the Czech Republic." and see:

Recording shows Prima ordered journalists to report negatively on refugees (Praha Radio link)

Greece: UNHCR reports that so far: EASO and Greek Asylum Service::

"Out of the 700 interviews conducted thus far, 200 have been considered inadmissible and subject to readmission to Turkey. Those deemed inadmissible are able to appeal the decision"

Denmark and Sweden extend border checks until November (euractiv, link):

"Denmark and Sweden on Wednesday (1 June) extended their border controls until November to curb the tide of migrants into their nations, saying the European Union still lacked security at its external borders.

Denmark received more than 21,000 asylum applications in 2015, a 44% jump from 2014 but significantly less than its northern neighbour Sweden, which registered 163,000 applications in the same year.

“In the current situation, where there still isn’t a sustainable solution for securing Europe’s external borders,” Danish Integration Minister Inger Stojberg said in a statement."

European Parliament: Study: The Implementation of the Common European Asylum System (pdf):

"This study was commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee. It provides an overview of the current implementation of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) from both a legal and practical perspective. Against the background of large inflows of seekers of international protection, the study covers the CEAS instruments as well as the EU policy responses brought forward in 2015 until May 2016....

Reception conditions represent a very difficult field of harmonisation. Standards set by EU law cannot erase the economic differences between EU MS, implying that prospects in some EU MS remain better than in others. As evidenced in the study, the reception conditions vary significantly in EU MS. The shortcomings in the EU reception conditions trigger secondary imovements and consequently thwart any distribution mechanisms."

European Parliament: Press release: MEPs back new EU travel document to ease return of irregular non-EU residents (pdf):

"The Commission's proposal for a standard EU travel document, to speed up the process of returning non-EU nationals who stay "irregularly" in EU member states without valid passports or identity cards, was endorsed by Civil Liberties Committee MEPs on Monday. Members highlight that many EU countries are currently facing serious difficulties in returning these residents to their home countries in a safe and lawful way.

The text, drafted by Jussi Halla-aho (ECR, FI) and approved by 39 votes in favour to 9 against, with 2 abstentions....

Finally, MEPs call on the EU and member states to promote the use of this harmonised document in the context of readmission agreements reached with third countries."

The "New Europe" headline is a more accurate one: MEPs back new EU travel papers for undocumented migrants (link):

Statewatch comments: Previous attempts by the EU to issue its own travel documents for forced returns have been resisted by African states.

EU-Turkey deal 'not working' - Boldrini (ANSA, link):

"Greek court ruled Turkey 'unsafe' for refugees says speaker.

Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini said Monday an EU-Turkey accord on asylum seekers is not working. There are political and juridical "problems", she told reporters. The European Parliament has decided not to proceed until they see a commitment from the Turkey side to satisfy all the criteria" contained in the bilateral deal, Boldrini explained. "A Greek court of appeals has ruled Turkey cannot be considered a safe country of first arrival" for asylum seekers, the speaker pointed out."

News (1.6.16)

Migrants rescued off Lefkada on Greece-Italy sea route (BBC News, link): "Greek rescuers have picked up 29 migrants at sea off the western island of Lefkada as they headed for Italy. It is the first time migrants have been rescued trying to cross from Greece to Italy since Greece's land border with Macedonia was closed in March."

Sudan: Hundreds Deported to Likely Abuse (HRW, link): "(Nairobi, May 30, 2016) – The Sudanese authorities deported at least 442 Eritreans, including six registered refugees, to Eritrea in May 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. Sudan denied the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to identify those who wanted to claim asylum and also denied the agency access to 64 Ethiopians still in detention who risk deportation."

May 2016


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (31.5.16)
Turkey starts building automatic shooting gun towers at Syrian border (yenisafak.com, link)

"As a part of measures to increase security on its border with Syria, Turkey begins building smart military towers that can warn and fire automatically.. Following the recent cross-border rocket attacks from the Daesh-held areas in northern Syria that killed dozens of civilians in Turkish border city of Kilis, Turkish security authority has hastened building security measures along the border line.

Turkish Defense Ministry said the establishment of a smart tower every 300 meters along the border with Syria to prevent illegal crossing was going at full speed.

Turkey has already sealed hundreds of kilometers of the border, either with concrete blocks or wire fencing. In the border city of Kilis, the construction of a concrete wall is nearly complete as the ministry started to build smart watch towers at 300-meter intervals.

The towers will be integrated with a computerized system that would feature a 3-language alarm system and automated firing systems."

EU Border Guard: European Parliament: Civil Liberties Committee backs new European Border and Coast Guard (Press release, pdf):

"Plans to set up an integrated EU border management system, with a flagship European Border and Coast Guard agency, bringing together Frontex and national border management authorities, were backed by the Civil Liberties Committee on Monday. They would enable extra border guard teams to be rapidly deployed to EU countries whose external borders are under pressure. National authorities would still manage their borders on a day-to-day basis, but could seek help from the new agency in a crisis. (....)

Specifically, they amended the original Commission proposal so that it is up to member states (in the Council) to decide on the intervention, by qualified majority, and not the Commission.

The draft regulation was approved by 40 votes to 10, with 5 abstentions."

Asylum- A Right Denied: NO to the EU’s lists of ‘safe countries’! (Euromed Rights, link):

"To label a country as a “safe country of origin” suggests that there is no general risk of persecution and that the state of law is respected.

A “safe” country can also be categorised as a “safe third country” where asylum-seekers who have transited through the said country may be returned there, because their asylum procedures is in line with international and European refugee law standards.

This notion of safety as an examination tool can therefore have dire consequences on asylum-seekers’ rights. That is why we at EuroMed Rights, the AEDH and the FIDH are fiercely opposed to the use of the notion of « safety""

Are you Syrious (30.5.16, link)

Millions more coming?—?deal with it, UN chief tells EU

"As the new number of arrivals from Libya show, it is more than obvious that we are to expect an even bigger influx through this dangerous route. Yesterday, Michael Moller, who heads the Geneva office of the UN, said that Europe should deal with the fact that millions are coming and will not be stopped since they are leaving their countries because they have no choice. Moller accused EU officials with “complacency and lack of leadership” who left Europe unprepared for the mass influx of migrants. “What we have been seeing is one of the biggest human migrations in history,” Moller, a Dane, said in an interview. “And it’s just going to accelerate.”"

97 new arrivals to Greece today

"Number of people stuck in Greece remains pretty much the same with 52, 871 people living in camps all around the country. There were 97 new arrivals today with 50 on Lesvos and 47 on Samos."

Hostility towards new arrivals by Maltesian Frontex. Volunteer report

"Platanos refugee solidarity team from Lesvos is reporting on new arrivals being held floating in the sea by Frontex. Here is their report in full: Last night we were informed of a boat approaching skala accompanied by Frontex and Proactiva. The dinghy carrying around 50 people was stopped by the maltesian frontex 200 m from the harbour. For more than 45 minutes they were kept drifting on the water, away from volunteer help and medical assistance, whilst ground frontex units arrived to the harbour to detain them. Despite the fact that many people were wet and travelling with young children, police deprived them of any form of support, even denying access to the UNHCR officer present. The maltesian frontex were notably hostile and aggressive towards the refugees, they put them in line and made them walk uphill 300 m to the coastguard bus, whist keeping all the volunteers at distance."

ITALY: Number of refugees in Italy on the rise - government urging for distribution of responsibility

"Due to large numbers of refugees arriving in Italy, both with a huge influx last week and existing numbers, an urgent message spread from the Italian government tries to manage the huge amount of migrants arrived in Italy during the last week. The government urges every province to receive and host 70 migrants each, so to avoid further burden upon regions and municipalities. This fair distribution involved also Friuli Venezia Giulia, a special-status region usually excluded from the migrants’ quotes. Italy is slowly filling up all of its capacities and is going to need more soon."

Electra (link) notes: "In the first 4 months of 2016, Greece declares it has deported 1.143 personsto Morocco, 585 persons to Pakistan, 249 persons to Iraq, 249 to Iran, 69 to Turkey, 198 to Algeria, 190 to Georgia, 442 to "other"... It is interesting to note that Greece continues deporting EU citizens too (65 to Bulgaria, in only 4 months...)"

Greece: Report by Pro Asyl: Vulnerable lives on hold: Refuges are hardly surviving the mass camps in the Athens region (pdf):

"A very high percentage of them are estimated to be admissible for family reunification or relocation.All these people are barely surviving the inhumane and devastating conditions in the reception centres, while at the same time the dirty deal agreed by Turkey and Europe turned the hot spots on the islands of the Aegean into detention - and deportation centres, keeping out those who were planning to follow."

From refugees to prisoners (Open Democracy, link):

"New data show that large swathes of the European public want their governments to show more solidarity with refugees, but instead the EU-Turkey deal has paved the way to mass detention...

Walls, fences and camps do not offer protection. They create vulnerability. All EU states and more importantly their populations know that on the other side of the wall are men, women, and children who crave safety. Now these people face an uncertain future in closed detention centres. In all likelihood they will eventually be returned to the places from which they fled. That’s how refugees become prisoners. We must resist this turn and press for alternatives to detention which respect the rights of refugees and migrants."

Italy plans a cemetery for refugees drowned at sea (aljazeera.com, link):

"A field beside a former fascist concentration camp could soon become the final resting place for hundreds of refugees.

Few refugees imagine ending up in a field in the toe of Italy's boot. But this rural slope between Tarsia, a hilltop town in the Calabria region, and the remains of the country's largest fascist concentration camp, may soon become the final resting place for those who lose their lives en route to Italian shores.

"Dedicating a part of our territory to the burial of these victims is simply an act of great humanity," says the town's mayor, Roberto Amerusa, who is spearheading a campaign to build the first cemetery for victims of the Mediterranean refugee crisis."

Council of Europe: Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees visits Turkey (link):

"The Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees, Ambassador Tomáš Bocek, is conducting a fact-finding mission to Turkey from 30 May to 4 June 2016 to assess the situation of refugees and migrants and identify areas where the Council of Europe could be of concrete assistance to Turkey, particularly in respect of children and unaccompanied minors."

News (31.5.16)

Turkey: No future for refugees (euractiv, link): "Despite official claims, Turkey cannot be considered a safe country – neither for migrants nor for its own citizens, writes Hakan Ataman..To sum up, there are no adequate national structures for the provision of services to refugees in Turkey. Local social programs and community-based organizations lack the capacity to meet refugees’ needs, while the support provided by United Nations agencies, other development and humanitarian partners and the private sector is also limited."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.5.16)
HOTSPOTS: ITALY: Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) applicable to ITALIAN HOTSPOTS (pdf): "The SOPs for ITALIAN HOTSPOTS have been drafted by the Italian Ministry of the Interior, Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration, and Department of Public Security. The European Commission, Frontex, Europol, EASO, UNHCR and IOM provided valuable contributions to the preparation of this document. The procedures indicated in this document should be used as an operational guide for activities organised within Hotspots. In the event of discrepancies between this document and current legislation, the latter shall apply."

Official document on how the "hotspots" in Italy are supposed to function in practice, which agencies and institutions are involved, and what their different roles are. See also the same document in Italian: STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES (SOP) applicabili agli HOTSPOTS ITALIANI (pdf) and a presentation on how the relocation scheme is supposed to work (also in Italian): L’hotspot approach e la relocation (pdf)

Annual reports for 2015: Fundamental Rights Agency and European Ombudsman

The FRA's report deals with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its use by Member States; equality and non-discrimination; racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; Roma integration; information society, privacy and data protection; rights of the child; access to justice, including the rights of crime victims; developments in the implementation of the convention of the rights of persons with disabilities.

The report also includes a section focusing specifically on the situation for migrants and refugees in Europe:

"Over a million people sought refuge in EU Member States in 2015, confronting the EU with an unprecedented challenge. Although this represents only about 0.2 % of the overall population, the number was far larger than in previous years. Moreover, with about 60 million people in the world forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence or human rights violations, the scale of these movements is likely to continue for some time. FRA looks at the effectiveness of measures taken or proposed by the EU and its Member States to manage this situation, with particular reference to their fundamental rights compliance."

The section on asylum and migration provides a useful oversight of developments across Europe in 2015, including the immediate responses to the arrival of large numbers of refugees and migrants; the construction of fences and introduction of border controls in the various countries; and legal and policy changes introduced by the EU and its Member States and their implications for migrants and refugees.

See:

Migrants could die crossing Channel, ex-chief inspector warns (BBC News, link): "More resources are needed to stop migrants trying to reach the UK on boats or lives will be lost, a former border force chief inspector has said.

A group of 20 people - including 18 Albanian migrants and two children - were rescued from an inflatable boat off the coast of Kent on Sunday.

Two British men, aged 35 and 33, have been charged with immigration offences.

Ex-inspector John Vine said there was an "equal chance" of migrants drowning in the Channel as in the Mediterranean."

And see: Kent boat rescue: two Britons charged with immigration offences (The Guardian, link)

MEDITERRANEAN: Statement in light of the current situation in the Mediterranean Sea and yesterday’s events (Alarm Phone, link): "Yesterday, on Thursday the 26th of May, it took more than four hours for rescue vessels to arrive. Four hours of worrying and of attempts to support the anxious people on board of an overcrowded wooden boat. In a SOS call at 6.21am, our WatchTheMed Alarm Phone shift team passed on the GPS coordinates to the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome. Shortly before, an emergency call had reached us via a satellite phone. The caller informed us about two boats carrying 500 people each, among them many Syrian and Iraqi refugees. At 10.31am, rescue finally approached but an hour earlier, the second boat had already capsized, within eyeshot. So far it is unclear how many people drowned or disappeared. MRCC Rome reported in their daily statement about one capsized boat and 96 survivors. Fatalities were not mentioned. However, the private rescue boat Sea-Watch, which arrived at the site of distress in the early afternoon, had to recover bodies of drowned people."

And see: Refugee crisis: 13,000 people rescued in Mediterranean in one week (The Guardian, link): "A flotilla of ships saved 668 people from boats in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, authorities in Italy said, bringing the week’s total of refugees plucked from the sea to 13,000 people."

Greece: Involuntary eviction from Idomeni creates further hardship for refugees (MSF, link): "Athens - As the eviction of residents from Idomeni camp continues, Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) denounces the forced movement of thousands of refugees, the lack of information provided about their destinations and the restrictions imposed on humanitarian assistance during this process.

MSF calls on the Greek authorities to ensure that adequate and continuous assistance is guaranteed during the movement of people from the informal camps and in the new locations."

And see: Greece: UNHCR concerned at conditions in new refugee sites and urges that alternatives be found (UNHCR, link): "UNHCR is seriously concerned about sub-standard conditions at several sites in northern Greece where refugees and migrants were evacuated this week from the makeshift site at Idomeni, and urges the Greek authorities, with the financial support provided by the European Union, to find better alternatives quickly."

The back way to Europe: Gambia’s forgotten refugees (openDemocracy, link): "The distinction between a refugee and other irregular migrants coming from the Gambia is hard to maintain in a country where a lack of democracy is accompanied by failures of economic and political governance."

IOM Records Over 60,000 Migrants Passing Through Agadez, Niger between February and April 2016 (IOM, link): "Niger - Through its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), IOM has recorded a total of 60,970 migrants passing through the transit towns of Arlit and Séguédine in the Agadez region of Niger between February and April 2016. Of this total, 44,890 were recorded leaving Niger, while 16,080 were migrants entering the country. Niger is a transit country for West African migrants travelling to and from Algeria and Libya.

The results of the flow monitoring during this period shows that minors represent 2.9 percent of the flow through Séguédine, which is an increase in the number of reported unaccompanied and accompanied minors heading towards Libya. The proportion of minors through Arlit is 9.4 percent, which includes those coming from and going to Algeria."

Syrian refugees sue Denmark over immigration law (EUobserver, link): "Five Syrians have sued Denmark over its recent law that extended the waiting period before refugees can apply for family members to join them from one year to three. Their lawyer Christian Dahl Ager says the law breaches the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives right to family life."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (28-29.5.16)
Refugee deaths intensify call for safe EU passages (aljazeera.com, link):

"EU member states need to do more to prevent deaths as peak crossing season approaches, rights groups warn...

The latest incidents have raised alarm among human rights groups and NGOs, who are urging EU member states to do more to protect the thousands escaping turmoil.

"The first thing to do is to ensure a robust search and rescue operation," Judith Sunderland, associate director for Europe at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Al Jazeera.... HRW's Sunderland said the EU's naval mission in the Mediterranean - Operation Sophia - aimed at checking undocumented migration could be exacerbating the danger."

and Libya Is Saving Migrants At Sea Only To Trap Them In Dire Conditions On Land (Huffington Post, link):

"Europe, desperate to stem the flow of refugees and migrants, has offered the fragile country help to stop migrants from leaving. Libyan forces intercepted over 2,000 migrants trying to flee by boat this week, as European leaders offered the country’s fragile new administration more help to turn back migrant boats.

Among them were four boats crammed with 500 people headed to Europe, including three children and eight pregnant women, that were intercepted by Libyan coastguards on Tuesday. They are now destined for Libya’s network of overcrowded, squalid detention centers, where human rights groups say violence is rampant and detention can stretch on indefinitely.

Libya’s efforts are potentially saving lives in the Mediterranean Sea, but they risk solving one problem by creating another."

Lesvos, Greece: Eric Kempson reports (link): "Another boat came in on the north last night every one safe, that's four boat on the island that we know of in three day all the teams are working well, great job."

Are You Syrious (28.5.16)

UNHCR concerned at conditions in new refugee sites and urges that alternatives be found

"UNHCR is seriously concerned about sub-standard conditions at several sites in northern Greece where refugees and migrants were evacuated this week from the makeshift site at Idomeni, and urges the Greek authorities, with the financial support provided by the European Union, to find better alternatives quickly."

Turkey: Refugees in Turkey already searching for new routes to Europe

"Turkey-EU migrant deal has apparently paid off and European leaders seem to be satisfied with the decreasing number of people crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece. However, keeping Europe migrant-free using Turkey’s help may come to an end in the wake of exchanged ultimatums between Brussels and Ankara."

Refugee agency says survivors from three shipwrecks being taken to Italian ports but hundreds of people still missing (The Observer, link):

"More than 700 migrants are feared dead in three Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks off southern Italy in the last few days as they tried to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats, according to the UN refugee agency.

Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for UNHCR, said on Sunday that an estimated 100 people were missing from a smugglers’ boat that capsized on Wednesday. The Italian navy took horrific pictures of that capsizing as it attempted to rescue survivors." and

Refugee crisis: 13,000 people rescued in Mediterranean in one week (The Observer, link)

Greece: New migrant centers ‘substandard,’ UNHCR says (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Despite the evacuation of refugees from the sprawling makeshift border camp of Idomeni in northern Greece on Thursday, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed serious concern Friday over the “sub-standard” conditions at the new camps they have been relocated to.

The new camps, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said, “fall well below minimum standards,” and she appealed to Greek authorities to address the matter as soon as possible."

Deaths at the Borders: Evidence from the Southern External Borders of the EU (thomasspijkerboer.eu, link)

"This paper contains a brief introduction to the Deaths at the Border Database, including methodology, prelimiary outcomes and preliminary policy conclusions.

Deaths at the Borders: Evidence from the Southern External Borders of the EU, published in HIJRA – La Revue Marocaine de Droit d’Asile et Migration 2016, no.1

English version: p. 5-23
Arabic version: p. 24-36"

Are You Syrious (27.5.16, link)

HUNGARY: Anti-refugee propaganda continues to escalate dangerously as new laws threaten deportations and pushbacks

"Political tensions and propaganda continue to escalate as camp conditions only worsen in Hungary, reports Migszol. György Bakondi, security advisor to the Ministry of the Interior, labeled refugees trapped in camps “criminals” on state television. Furthermore, Hungarian Parliament is discussing a new law to return anyone “found within 8km of the fence” to the transit zone. Not only would this endanger the lives and freedom of refugees in the future, it also has the potential to worsen the conditions of the transit zone camp on the Hungarian-Serbian border where hundreds of people have been trapped for weeks with minimal aid"

Mytillini: quest for justice unites all as hundreds protest

"On the 26th, three days of protest culminated in hundreds of people gathering in front of the port and marching, uniting refugees of different nationalities, demanding freedom, volunteers reported."

3,900 asylum-seekers have disappeared from Idomeni, their arrival not being registered in other official camps

"From numbers calculated using the Greek government’s daily refugee flow numbers, 3,900 refugees are estimated to have disappeared from Idomeni without relocating to new official camps. With many camps remaining dangerously overcrowded, “Scores of tents” have appeared near the to"

GREECE: One boat with fifty people landed in the South of Lesvos

"Remar S.O.S. is in need of volunteers to help in a RefugeeAid Project in Lesvos from June 1st through June 15th, 2016. They are looking for volunteers who can join them for a minimum of 7 days. Work will consist of handing out food, cleaning, and food preparation,contact them at info@remar.ch"

Child refugees in Greece have been out of school for 1.5 years on average

Child refugees stranded in Greece have been out of school for an average of 1.5 years, according to Save the Children. The study conducted by the charity ahead of the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit found that Syrian child refugees have been out of school for an average of 25.8 months, while Afghan child refugees spent an average of 10.7 months out of the classroom."

UPD Imminent intervention? Greece, Italy & Malta close their airspace for aircraft departing from Libya (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Weird things are happening in the Mediterranean Sea. Almost simultaneously three countries in the Mediterranean have closed their airspace and territories for aircraft departing from Libya. The exceptions are very few and could hind on the transport of military and evacuees. At the same time, three NATO exercises are taking place but the airspace closure and directly little to do with that.

The first country to close its airspace for aircraft departing from Libya” was Italy, followed by Malta. Today it was Greece’s turn. All three countries issued relevant NOTAMs: Italy on May 11 and closes the airspace May 11 – August 8 2016, consequently at the same period Malta that issued the NOTAM on May 12."

News (28-29.5.16)

EU: Stop ignoring the refugee crisis and start working on solutions (euractiv, link): "Nothing better demonstrates the decline of the EU as the pillar for common solutions than the painful scenes of refugees abandoned at Idomeni. The crisis is here to stay, so the EU must adapt, write Joost Lagendijk and Monica Frassoni.... In recent months, the EU has demonstrated an inability to live up to its values, with its member states unwilling to respect and enact common decisions, choosing instead go their own way by building fences and walls, irrespective of the fact that these are not legal."

Greece: Ethnic tensions at migrant camps seen as potential risk (.ekathimerini.com, link): "“Tension cannot be avoided and the safety of refugees cannot be guaranteed if Idomeni was evacuated only to create little Idomenis here and there,” Achilleas Tzemos, the deputy coordinator of the Doctors Without Borders team, told Kathimerini on Saturday."

Italian navy recovers 45 bodies after refugee boat sinks - Coastguard sent in rescue ships after receiving a call for help reporting 350 people in the water (Guardian, link)

Afghan migrant killed by lorry in Calais (The Local.fr, link): "A 25-year-old Afghan migrant was killed by a lorry on a motorway near the French port city of Calais in the early hours of Saturday, according to officials.."

Erdogan threatens to pull the deal (eurointelligence.com, link) " The EU will no doubt try its utmost to bend its own requirements - though it is not clear that they will be able to cowtow to Erdogan to quite the degree that now appears necessary for the deal to be ratified. We would, however, expect the EU to try and soften its stance on the quid-pro-quos for visa-free travel. Never underestimate the ability by Brussels to seek out a fudge. The bottom line is: if you strike Faustian pacts with dictators, don't pretend to be shocked about human rights violations.."

Serbia-Hungary: U.N. urges relief for migrants at border (link)" The United Nations' refugee agency on Friday urged Serbia and Hungary to find a solution for the migrants camping in dire conditions at their border, hoping to enter the European Union despite border closures."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27.5.16)
Dispatches: ISIS Advance Traps 165,000 Syrians at Closed Turkish Border (Human Rights Watch, link): "There are two walls on the Turkey-Syria border.

One is manned by Turkish border guards enforcing Turkey’s 15 month-old border closure who, according to witnesses, have at times shot at and assaulted Syrian asylum seekers as they try to reach safety in Turkey – abuses strongly denied by the Turkish government.

The other is a wall of silence by the rest of the world, including the United Nations, which has chosen to turn a blind eye to Turkey’s breach of international law which prohibits forcing people back to places, including by rejecting them at the border, where their lives or freedom would be threatened."

EU: Safe country lists deny the right to asylum: AEDH, EuroMed Rights, FIDH report

From the press release (pdf): "On 30 May 2016, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament will discuss the proposed amendments to the proposal for a regulation by the European Commission in September 2015 for the purpose of establishing an EU common list of "safe countries of origin". Such a labelling implies that there should be, in principle no risk of persecution for asylum seekers and that the rule of law is respected in those countries.

The AEDH, EuroMed Rights and the FIDH warn against the dangers of using the concept of safety in processing asylum applications (see analysis). No country may be deemed "safe". By adopting such a list, the European Union (EU) and its Members States will institutionalise at European level a practice by which the Member States could refuse to fully comply with their responsibilities towards asylum seekers, in violation of their international obligations.

To date, 12 of the 28 Member States have a national list of "safe countries", but the lists are far from homogeneous. The Commission's proposal aims to remedy these disparities. The seven countries that the proposal deems "safe" are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

The Commission plans to use the same approach in order to ensure that a common list of "safe third countries" is adopted to enable asylum seekers to be sent back to the countries through which they transited before their arrival in the EU, and where they could "legitimately" file their asylum applications."

Full report: "Safe" countries: a denial of the right to asylum (pdf)

GREECE: Idomeni evacuation: consequences and next steps

Major NGOs and numerous independent voices have criticised the clearance of the Idomeni camp in northern Greece, whilst others have highlighted the consequences of the decision and the Greek government makes plans to clear the Elliniko camp in Athens next.

Dozens feared dead as migrant boat capsizes in Mediterranean (The Guardian, link): "Dozens of people are feared to have drowned in the second shipwreck in as many days in the southern Mediterranean, amid tentative signs that some Syrians may be trying once again to make for Europe from Libya.

At least 20 people drowned in a wreck 35 nautical miles north of the Libyan smuggling hub of Zuwara when a repurposed fishing boat sank on Thursday morning, the EU’s anti-smuggling operation said. Photographs taken from an EU reconnaissance plane showed groups of men desperately waving at the aircraft from a half-submerged blue trawler.

It followed another tragedy on Wednesday, when a boat of about 600 sank in nearby waters, drowning at least five."

UNHCR (Daily report, 26.5.16)

104 people arrived in Lesvos on 26 May (the highest number for weeks).

EU: Relocation from Italy and Greece: Sweden's obligations postponed

Agence Europe reports that the European Parliament has approved a Council Decision which will postpone for a year Sweden's obligations to relocate refugees currently in Greece and Italy: "The mechanism has been devised over two years and this temporary derogation granted on Thursday will postpone, but not suspend, Sweden's obligations to host its share of the asylum seekers currently in Greece and Italy. In November, the Commission authorised Sweden to have a derogation, as the country stressed that it was at its limits for hosting asylum seekers and that it had the highest rate of asylum seekers per million citizens (11.503/1 million) in 2015. Austria also secured arrangements regarding its obligations."

SPAIN: Andalucian Association for Human Rights confirms an increase in arrivals and deaths at the southern border during 2015

Last month the Andalucian Association for Human Rights released a report, 'Human Rights at the Southern Border 2016', which documents and analyses the situation for migrants and refugees at the southern borders of Spain. The organization condemns the increasing number of deaths "resulting from the immoral migration policies than confine people in countries immersed in war and hunger."

European Commission: Press release: Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €47 million to strengthen migration management and to support education of Syrian refugees (pdf): "Today, the European Commission is delivering on its commitment to accelerate the implementation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey by announcing a further €47 million in new projects, bringing the total amount contracted under the Facility to address the immediate needs of refugees and host communities in Turkey so far to almost €240 million.

€20 million has been committed under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) to enhance the capacity of the Turkish Coast Guard to carry out search and rescue operations. An additional €27 million will fund educational infrastructure, skills training and social support for Syrian refugees under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis. This new commitment is part of the accelerated implementation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey which was agreed under the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March."

UK: Information Commissioner's Office instructs Home Office to provide Syrian refugee data (parliament.uk, link): "The Home Affairs Committee submitted an FOI (freedom of information) request to the Home Office on 7 April 2016 in an attempt to uncover the number of Syrian refugees settled in each local authority area, since the Prime Minister's September 2015 announcement that 20,000 Syrian refugees would be settled in the UK by 2020."

UK prepares to send warship to tackle Libya refugee crisis (Middle East Eye, link): "The British government is preparing to send a Royal Navy warship to the coast of Libya to lead new attempts to tackle people and weapon smuggling amid fears of a surge in refugee boats following the closure of the Turkish route into Europe.

Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to outline a new EU plan on Friday, and a government spokesman said late on Thursday that a formal request for help was imminently expected from the UN-backed Libyan unity government."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.5.16)
Electra reports (link) Idomeni clear-out: volunteers denied access to their equipment, tents etc bulldozed

"This is OUTRAGEOUS! I guess that's the Greek Government's way of saying 'thanks' to volunteers... By destroying the humanitarian material and belongings thousands fundraised for... Volunteers in Idomeni, who were told that if they approach the camp during the - priorly unanounced - eviction they would be arrested, return to the field, just to find all their tents, belongings and humanitarian material smashed under the bulldozers: "Despite liaising with authorities to recover resources all of our resources and the ngo resources have been destroyed by the authorities. This includes thousands of euros of medical equipment all the NGO tents and hundreds of thousands of euros other infrastructure."

Idomeni clear-out (read more)

Eric Kempson
on Facebook posted this report today (26.5.16)

"This post was put on by Phoebe Ramsey a must to read. This what has happened in the last 36 hours, summarized to the best of my ability in my present exhausted, sad, and angry state.

At present, there are only a couple of hundred people left in Idomeni. There has been no major resistance or violence. It seems everyone was resigned and complied in the face of the enormous presence of riot police. As the tents have been emptied, bulldozers have come in to flatten them. Just over 2,000 people were moved yesterday, and about 1,000 today. Given that there were at least 7,000 people in Idomeni two days ago, this means that about 4,000 people are 'unaccounted' for. They have either tried to go to the major cities, or made a panicked rush for the border-hundreds and hundreds of people headed west into the woods last night. This is in convenient conjunction with today's reported announcement by police that from now on, anyone caught and returned by FYROM (pushbacks) from an illegal border crossing will be arrested in Greece, and have any existing asylum claims canceled.......

Council of Europe: detention of lone minors 'unacceptable' (ekathimerini.com, link):

"One of Europe’s top human rights officials says it is “unacceptable” that any unaccompanied refugee and migrant children who arrive on the continent are held in detention centers, and called on European countries to ensure such children can be housed in special facilities and quickly reunited with their families.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland also voiced criticism Thursday over the increasingly restrictive legislation some European countries are adopting that would make it harder for such children to be reunited with parents already living in Europe."

EU: SHIPPING AND FISHERIES INDUSTRIES CO-OPTED INTO BORDER SURVEILLANCE & INTERCEPTING "SUSPECTED" BOATS Frontex, EMSA and EFCA extend cooperation (Frontex, link):

Frontex, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) signed bilateral interagency agreements today to extend their cooperation. The three agencies will continue to work together in their respective areas of border surveillance, interception of vessels suspected of engaging in criminal activities, cross border crime, support for search and rescue at sea and illegal fishing.

Denmark: creating a hostile environment (IRR News, link): "Nearly 300 people face criminal charges for aiding refugees in Denmark in September 2015, and the government continues to create a hostile environment by cracking down on migration." and

Solidarity criminalised: an interview with Reem El-Awwad (link):"Below we interview a member of the Danish group MedMenneskeSmuglerne (With the Human Smugglers), about the criminal charges of ‘human trafficking’ those who acted in solidarity with refugees now face."

Sudan and Eritrea crackdown on migrants amid reports of EU incentives (IRIN, link):

"Authorities in Sudan have launched a crackdown on Eritrean migrants - arresting those living in the capital, Khartoum, and intercepting hundreds travelling north through the country towards Libya, the launching point for smugglers’ boats heading for Europe.

Reports that 900 Eritreans were rounded up in Khartoum on Monday and that a further 400 arrested en route to Libya have been deported to Eritrea, come amid recent revelations in the British and German media that the EU is planning to deepen its cooperation with a number of African countries, including Sudan and Eritrea, to stem migration towards Europe."

Syrian refugees caught in the middle of Europe and Turkey standoff over migrant deal (IBT, link):

", the EU and Turkey have found themselves wrangling over the issue of Turkish visa-free travel to the continent. The visa waiver scheme for Turkey's 75 million citizens was one of the largest incentives on offer to Ankara for accepting the deal....

Speaking as the UN's World Humanitarian Summit took place in Istanbul Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his parliament would block the swap deal if visa-free travel was not granted.

"If that (the visa exemption) is not what will happen... no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament of the Turkish Republic," he was quoted by the Hurriyet Daily News as saying."

EU: Turkey 'threats' over migrant deal won't work, says Juncker (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Turkey must uphold its side of a deal made with the European Union over stemming the flow of migrants, a top EU official said Thursday, warning “threats” against the bloc will not work. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Ankara must ease strict anti-terror laws if it wants its citizens to enjoy visa-free travel on the continent."

Italian navy saves 550 refugees as smugglers' trawler capsizes in Med (Guardian, link):

"Praise for sailors’ swift action as dramatic photographs show overloaded boat turning over as naval vessel approaches...

More than 500 people narrowly escaped drowning on Wednesday after their smugglers’ boat capsized in the southern Mediterranean, a series of dramatic photographs have revealed.

As Italian naval ships approached to rescue the stricken asylum-seekers, their boat – a repurposed trawler – tipped over, throwing those on deck into the water.

At least five people drowned when the boat capsized “due to overcrowding and instability caused by the high number of people on board”, the Italian navy said in a statement. But the sailors managed to save about 550 lives, in a mission that migration experts described as miraculous.

Bulgaria to Have 146-km Wire Fence along Border with Turkey in 2 Months (novinite.com, link):

"In about two months Bulgaria will have a wire fence built along 146 km of the country's border with Turkey, preventing illegal migration flow, Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova has said."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.5.16)
On the Refugee Trail: Keep quiet and eat soup (link):

"Today, the Greek authorities at last started what they had long threatened: an eviction of the camp at Idomeni. Greece’s migration spokesman said that everyone knew that “conditions would be much better” in the camps they’re being moved to. He promised “no violence would be used”, but also that he expected the 8000 people, who’ve been there for months, to be gone in “no more than a week.” To ensure that nobody sees just how peacefully Idomeni will be evacuated, all journalists and activists have been removed from the area."

Are You Syrious (24.5.16)

2000 or so people so far evicted from Idomeni.

"After an MSF doctor finished her shift in Idomeni today, she stated “What struck me the most were the blank faces. People looked like they had lost all hope”. She was referring to people who were evicted today from the camp where some of them have lived for over three months. They were hoping the border would open and that they would have freedom of movement.

Early in the morning, police arrived with buses and bulldogs, and eviction began. Before the evening, about 2,000 people were taken to other camps from Idomeni. Relocation will continue tomorrow and it should be finished by the end of this month. Unfortunately, people are being relocated to camps where living conditions are unbearable."

Czech Republic: Refugee shelter eviction

"Police in Prague made another attempt to evict people who are squatting at Klinika center, including several refugees. From Klinika Twitter we learned how riot police came claimed the presence of a bomb in the building. However, the bomb was not found, but the police entered the center forcibly. Apparently some people were arrested. Activist living inside are calling for help. Follow their twitter account @centrum_klinika.

The same center was attacked several times this year. In February, a group of people threw Molotov cocktails at the building. The attack took place just hours after thousands of people rallied in Prague against Muslims and immigration. Activists who work at the center said the attackers were neo-Nazis."

and see: Idomeni Special: Around 2,000 people moved out from the camp during the first day of eviction (link)

Merkel desperate to salvage her Turkey deal (EVRO Intelligence, link):

"Frankfurter Allgemeine has an excellent report about Angela Merkel's difficult visit to Turkey. The most important new information is that the German government does not expect the visa liberalisation to happen this year because Turkey will not change its anti-terrorism laws. But it still hopes that Turkey will continue to abide by the agreement on refugees. This hope rests on the assumption that President Tayyip Recep Erdogan will not ultimately behave like a sultan, but will act like a rational politician....

It is very clear from this article that the only thing Merkel cares about is salvaging her deal. She addresses the human rights situation in Turkey in a perfunctory manner, to the extent that German domestic politics demands of her. "

Migrant crisis: Turkey could block EU deal over visas (BBC News, link):

"Turkey's parliament will block a deal with the EU on migrants if Turks do not gain visa-free access to the bloc, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says....the EU says Turkey still needs to meet certain conditions, including changes to its terror laws, before access can be granted. The agreement is aimed at halting the mass movement of people into Europe." and see:

Turkey's president: No refugee deal without EU visa waiver (AP, link):

"But for Turkey to enjoy visa-free travel for its citizen narrow it must meet five conditions, out of an initial 72, including narrowing the definition of terrorism. The bloc is concerned that the existing legislation is being used to silence dissent.... Erdogan added that if further bilateral talks on the visa issue didn't yield results, "the readmission agreement" on refugees wouldn't be approved by Turkey." and also:

Erdogan says Turkish parliament will block EU refugee deal if no visa-free travel (euractiv, link): "President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday (24 May) warned the European Union that lawmakers would block legislation related to the landmark deal to stem the flow of refugees to Europe if Ankara was not granted its key demand of visa-free travel...." and Erdogan says Turkey will not change its anti-terrorism law (euractiv, link)

Bulgaria to put more barbed wire along Turkish border, says PM (hurriyetdailynews.com, link)

"Bulgaria will increase the line of barbed wire along its border with Turkey, which it set up to stop the flow of migrants entering the country, from 30 to 146 kilometers in two months’ time, the country’s prime minister has said.

The 30-kilometer-long barbed wire fence along Bulgaria’s border with Turkey is not enough to stop migrants from crossing into Bulgaria and will thus be extended to 146 kilometers within the forthcoming two months, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was quoted by Bulgarian News Agency BTA as saying....Turkey has around 270 kilometers of border with Bulgaria."

Italian navy saves 550 refugees as smugglers' trawler capsizes in Med (Guardian, link):

"Praise for sailors’ swift action as damatic photographs show overloaded boat turning over as naval vessel approaches..

As Italian naval ships approached to rescue the stricken asylum-seekers, their boat – a repurposed trawler – tipped over, throwing those on deck into the water.

At least five people drowned when the boat capsized “due to overcrowding and instability caused by the high number of people on board”, the Italian navy said in a statement. But the sailors managed to save about 550 lives, in a mission that migration experts described as miraculous."

News (25.5.16):

Greek police steps up evacuation of Idomeni border camp (euractiv, link): "Greek police yesterday (24 May) transferred some two thousand refugees out of the overcrowded camp of Idomeni, launching a major operation to clear up the squalid tent city where thousands fleeing war and poverty have lived for months."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (24.5.16)
Moving Europe: Updates from the eviction in Idomeni (link): "Moving Europe is writing live updates on the situation in Idomeni and on the unacceptable conditions in the camps where people are being brought to. As journalists and indepedent observers are not allowed into the area around Idomeni, the updates are based on observations and information from people in the camp. The page will be updated constantly, please spread!

As journalists and independent observers are not let into the area of the camp in Idomeni, on this site we are constantly collecting observations and information which residents of the camp send to us. Follow us as well on Twitter "

Greek authorities begin evacuation of Idomeni refugee camp (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Greek authorities began an operation at dawn Tuesday to gradually evacuate the country’s largest informal refugee camp of Idomeni on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), blocking access to the area and sending in more than 400 riot police....

Journalists were barred from the camp during the evacuation operation, stopped at a police roadblock a few kilometers (miles) away. Twenty buses carrying various riot police units were seen heading to the area while a police helicopter observed from above. An estimated 700 police were participating in the operation."
[emphasis added]

and see: Idomeni: Greek riot police move in to clear refugee camp (Guardian, link): "No violence reported as Greek authorities order 8,000 residents of Europe’s largest informal refugee camp to leave."

Are You Syrious (23.5.16, link)

50 new arrivals on Greek islands

There are 54,195 people still stuck in Greece with 50 new arrivals, 35 in Lesvos and 15 in Samos.

7th day of hunger strike in Souda camp in Chios

"Fifty people still stuck in #Souda camp in #Chios island are continuing their already seven day long hunger strike. Two hunger strikers have had to receive medical attention so far. The hunger strikers are demanding clarification about their future after the implementation of the EU–Turkey agreement, the implementation of the international regulations for protection, and the relocation program to Europe and North America. In addition, they request a speed-up of the evaluation procedure for asylum requests."

ITALY: New disputes over Austro?—?Italian border

"Austrian authorities have reported that 40–50 migrants attempt to cross Brennero daily while Italy pegs the estimate at 2–3 people per day. Austria speaks about an “invasion”, while Italian PM Matteo Renzi accuses Vienna of “demagogy” and “lies”. Governor of Tirol Günther Platter has just deployed other 80 Austrian police on the border, to stop the migrants from crossing it; he declared that this decision was taken since “Italy has made deceiving moves to avoid Austrian controls”.

High number of refugees in Belgrade

"Info Park reports that “People are arriving and the numbers are steadily rising in Belgrade. Most of the new arrivals are from Eidomeni, practically all assisted or organized by smugglers for sums starting from 1000 euro per adult person and more. To illustrate the rising numbers: in the hotel Bristol park area alone, Info Park and associated organizations distributed 818 meals this Saturday, and more than 1500 for the weekend in total""

European Parliament: MEPs assess refugee camps in Greece and call for smoother implementation of EU-Turkey deal (Press release, pdf):

"A delegation from the civil liberties committee visited Greece last week to assess refugees' situation at the EU's external borders and the implementation of the EUTurkey deal to manage the influx of migrants and refugees. The delegation was led by Hungarian S&D member Péter Niedermüller. Members also met with representatives from the Greek authorities, international organisations and nongovernmental organisations.

According to Frontex, 1.83 million illegal crossings were detected at the EU's external borders last year. Southern European countries were responsible for dealing with most of these migrants, but the sharp increase has proved challenging. The delegation aimed to see how Greece was coping."

Statewatch comment: Unfortunately the Press release cites Frontex (in January) stating: "In all of 2015, there were 1.83 million illegal border crossings detected at EU’s external borders." By its own admission Frontex figures are inflated by the double-counting of refugees. UNHCR states: "UNHCR’s latest figures show that some 1,000,573 people had reached Europe across the Mediterranean, mainly to Greece and Italy, in 2015."

Italy helps rescue 2,600 migrants from sea in 24 hours (Reuters, link):

"Italian vessels have helped rescue more than 2,600 migrants from boats trying to reach Europe from North Africa in the last 24 hours, the coastguard said on Monday, indicating that numbers are rising as the weather warms up.

Some 2,000 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast from 14 rubber dinghies and one larger boat in salvage operations by the Italian navy and coastguard, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres and an Irish navy vessel, the coastguard said.... Officials fear the numbers trying to make the crossing to southern Italy
will increase as conditions improve in warmer weather...

More than 31,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat so far this year, slightly fewer than in the same period of 2015."

EU navies to help Libya coastguard stop migrants (euobserver, link): "EU navies are to start training the Libyan coastguard amid concern that the summer could see huge numbers of migrants try to cross the Mediterranean. Foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (23 May) agreed the new task for Sophia, the EU's anti migrant-smuggling naval operation."

See: External aspects of migration - Council Conclusions (23 May 2016) (pdf)

"Regarding the Central Mediterranean route, the Council highlights the need to use the broad range of tools available to manage flows in cooperation with third countries of origin and transit as part of an EU regional approach to migration, including via CSDP instruments. In particular, it highlights the importance of the work to be undertaken at the request of and in partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord on a comprehensive approach to manage migration, which includes the fight against smugglers and traffickers, as well as capacity building and training of Libyan coastguard and Navy as one of the two further supporting tasks to be implemented by EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. Work will be carried forward to this end to amend the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia as well as the possible setting up of an increased civilian CSDP presence in Libya, including on border management assistance, in addition to existing EU funded capacity building projects."

Divert 10% of EU funds to deal with refugee crisis, says Germany (Guardian, link):

"Development minister Gerd Müller also says EU’s mechanisms for responding to refugee crisis are not fit for purpose.... Müller’s proposal follows a year in which Europe’s leaders responded to a wave of migration at its borders with a fragmented series of strategies and promises, many of which they failed to uphold, or were slow to enact.

In April last year, leaders said they would crackdown on Libyan smugglers, but the mission took until September to get underway, and has largely been a failure.In September, EU members pledged to relocate 120,000 refugees from Greece and Italy, the frontline states where most new asylum-seekers enter Europe. But despite renewing these vows in March, less than 1% of the refugees concerned have been moved. Similarly low numbers have been resettled directly from the Middle East.

In January, European and western leaders promised to send billions of pounds to countries in the Middle East where refugees form substantial proportions of the population – but so far only a sixth of the money has been paid... Alluding to some of these problems, Müller said: “We can’t just go from one summit to the next, making statements that we don’t fulfil.”".

World humanitarian summit starts amid hope, hype and fear of empty words (euractiv, link):

"Hundreds of world leaders and politicians will descend on Istanbul on Monday in a nominal attempt to reform the global humanitarian system, despite criticism that their summit is a photo opportunity that will achieve little....

Speaking to the Guardian, MSF’s UK director, Vickie Hawkins, said it was unlikely that the same countries who are currently shirking their obligations to refugees would turn over a new leaf next week. “The contradiction became too much for us,” said Hawkins. “We didn’t have any confidence that anything different will come out of the conference. There’s a lot of good intentions, but also empty rhetoric. And we felt we needed more than that, given the current disregard for international law.”

Germany sees rise in right-wing violence (DW, link): "The German government says political violence reached a new high in 2015 as the country saw a massive influx of migrants. German ministers have previously promised to crack down on hate crimes."

UNHCR: Daily Report (23.5.16):

"According to the [Greek] Ministry of Citizen’s Protection press release, 1,048 foreigners of various nationalities were returned to Turkey on the basis of the Bilateral Readmission Protocol between Greece and Turkey, 34 Turkish nationals were returned to Turkey under the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, and 441 foreigners of various nationalities were returned to Turkey on the basis of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement of 18 March."

"In Austria, during the month of April, 4,152 people lodged asylum claims. This brings applications up to 18,597 in 2016 (to the end of April). In total this constitutes an increase of 29.18% compared to the same period in 2015. Afghan nationals ranked first with 5,234 applications, followed by Syrian nationals (3,926), people from Iran (1,520), and Iraq (1,489)."

News (24.5.16)

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 191,134; Deaths 1,370 (IOM link): "Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said Monday the world is witnessing the "complete collapse of humanitarian law" and criticized the EU for "looking the other way when it comes to rights violations in Turkey itself" and "abdicating its responsibilities" toward refugees. Shetty said the 12 Syrians who have been returned from Greece to Turkey in line with the EU-Turkey deal have been held in a detention center without access to a lawyer. He also said Turkey, which lacks an asylum system and is either turning back or detaining new arrivals, cannot be considered a safe country."

Humanitarian summit aims high amid refugee rights concerns (AP, link):

Merkel warns Erdogan his authoritarian drift endangers visa deal (euractiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday (23 May) of her “deep concern” over the state of democracy in Turkey and voiced doubt that a plan to offer Turks visa-free travel to the EU would be implemented on time."

Migration crisis: Italians protest over Austria border fence plan (Guardian, link): "Clashes with police at Brenner Pass coincide with far-right march in Germany calling on Merkel to resign"

Martin Schulz: Turkey on the way to becoming a ‘one-man state’ (Politico, link): "No visa liberalization for Turks in Europe until Erdogan meets all conditions, the European Parliament president insists."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.5.16)
EU: External aspects of migration - Council conclusions (23 May 2016) (9111/16, pdf)

"The Council stresses the need to further strengthen the work on the external dimension of migration policy and reaffirms its commitment to a comprehensive and geographically balanced approach on migration on the basis of the European Agenda on Migration, European Council conclusions and Council conclusions of 12 October 2015 and 12 May 2016 in full respect of international law and human rights. The Council recalls the steps taken by the EU and its Member States in integrating migration as a permanent and structural component of EU foreign policy. While implementation of agreed actions should form the core of the EU approach, the Council welcomes Member States' calls and initiatives for further, collective strengthened EU action towards third countries."

The conclusions say that the EU will continue with various efforts at stemming migration to Europe, for example through High-Level Dialogues and the Valletta Action Plan, and the Council is to "continue to look into the proposal by Hungary on "Schengen 2.0"."

There is also affirmation "of the importance of the security-development nexus"; the "need for full and effective implementation of existing readmission agreements," as well as the completion of negotiations on new agreements; and "the need for cooperation on migration with all third countries, such as Iraq, that are key in managing the current irregular migration flows".

Increased involvement in Libya is also noted:

"Work will be carried forward to this end to amend the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia as well as the possible setting up of an increased civilian CSDP presence in Libya, including on border management assistance, in addition to existing EU funded capacity building projects."

Furthermore:

"The management of mixed migratory flows is not only a European, but a global responsibility, which calls for collective commitments and solutions. It requires countries of origin, transit and destination to forge genuine partnerships, on the basis of enhanced mutual support and solidarity, and an equitable and balanced responsibility-sharing within the international community. The EU will continue to advocate strongly for the respect of international law, including international humanitarian law, refugee law, notably the principle of non-refoulement, and international human rights law."

EU: Commission statistics on hotspots, relocation, financial pledges, civil protection and returns: updated 23 May with figures published 20 May. See: Refugee crisis: Statistics: September 2015-ongoing

GREECE: Camp at Idomeni to be evacuated

Refugee Crisis: Evacuation of Idomeni Begins Tomorrow (The Press Project, link): "Mr.Kiritsis estimated that the entire camp will have been evacuated within the next 10 days. He clarified that this is not a brutal police evacuation but, rather, a smooth operation aiming to help the refugees relocate in a civilized non violent manner. "This is not a primarily police, or police centred, operation" were the words of Kiristis.

It has been reported that squads of riot police have been assembling close to the camp but the authorities assure that their work will only be to aid and facilitate.

The representative stated that the refugees will be mostly relocated to Thessaloniki where 6 ex-industrial spaces have been altered in order to host 6500-7000 people."

And: Police poised to evacuate Idomeni refugee camp (Ekathemerini, link): "It appears that Greek authorities are poised to put into action a plan to evacuate the refugee camp in Idomeni, on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

According to sources, nine squads of riot police received orders on Monday to travel from Athens to Kilkis so they can take part in the operation if their contribution is needed. Authorities will attempt to move the refugees from the unofficial camp to other sites that have been made ready in various parts of northern Greece."

Migreurop press release: close the camps

"On 18 June 2010, the Migreurop network decided to make a stand against the detention of foreigners.

Launched in 2011, the ‘Open Access Now’ campaign aimed to publicise the unseen realities of immigration detention, its excesses and the rights violations that flow from it. The campaign demanded total transparency and unconditional access to information and to locations where people are deprived of their liberty, for journalists and for civil society.

(...)

In the face of the increase in immigration detention, following the ‘Open Access Now’ campaign, in the years ahead Migreurop will give priority to campaigning for the closure of all the detention camps for foreigners in Europe and beyond, under the slogan ‘Close the Camps’.

The ‘Close the Camps’ mobilisation will aim to better expose detention centres including their new forms, to familiarise the public with them, in order to demand different policies."

See: After the 'Open Access Now' campaign: mobilisation (pdf)

EU: Migration and border security top INTERPOL European meeting agenda (INTERPOL press release, link): "Addressing the border security challenges posed by an unprecedented number of migrants travelling to Europe is a key issue for senior law enforcement officials gathered at the 44th INTERPOL European Regional Conference.

Following the publication of the joint Europol-INTERPOL Report on Migrant Smuggling Networks earlier this week, delegates at the conference will hear from countries including Austria, Germany, Slovenia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as well as from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on their experiences in tackling this phenomenon.

With the report highlighting that border controls influence key routes for migrant smuggling, ensuring frontline officers have access to INTERPOL’s capabilities in order to access vital policing information, particularly within the Schengen area, is an essential part of enhancing national, regional and global security."

See: MIGRANT SMUGGLING NETWORKS Joint Europol-INTERPOL Report (pdf) and speeches from the conference: Opening address by Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General (pdf) and Closing speech by Mr Alexander PROKOPCHUK, INTERPOL Executive Committee Delegate for Europe (pdf)

Questionable Deal: EU to Work with African Despot to Keep Refugees Out (Der Spiegel, link): "The ambassadors of the 28 European Union member states had agreed to secrecy. "Under no circumstances" should the public learn what was said at the talks that took place on March 23rd, the European Commission warned during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee. A staff member of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini even warned that Europe's reputation could be at stake.

Under the heading "TOP 37: Country fiches," the leading diplomats that day discussed a plan that the EU member states had agreed to: They would work together with dictatorships around the Horn of Africa in order to stop the refugee flows to Europe -- under Germany's leadership.

When it comes to taking action to counter the root causes of flight in the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, "I strongly believe that we must improve peoples' living conditions." The EU's new action plan for the Horn of Africa provides the first concrete outlines: For three years, ?40 million ($45 million) is to be paid out to eight African countries from the Emergency Trust Fund, including Sudan.

Minutes from the March 23 meetings and additional classified documents obtained by SPIEGEL and the German public television station ARD show "Report Mainz" show that the focus of the project is border protection. To that end, equipment is to be provided to the countries in question."

And see: Europe’s secret deal with Africa’s dictators (New Statesman, link): "Detailed plans, copies of which have been seen by the New Statesman, lay out a programme of co-operation with some of Africa’s most notorious regimes. The aim is to curtail the exodus of African refugees, whose arrival in Europe has become such a toxic political question."

Background: EU-AFRICA: EU refugee crisis: Valletta Conference 11-12 November 2015 Update: Final texts and full documentation (Statewatch News Online, November 2015) and The 'Khartoum Process': beefing up borders in east Africa (October 2015)

GERMANY-MAGHREB: Condemnation and denunciation statement: Stop the attack on human dignity (pdf) signed by Maghreb LGBTQ organisations Mawjoudin (Tunisia), Aswat (Morocco), Alouen (Algeria) and Quzah (Libya): "In the context of the International day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and as Human Rights activists generally and LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queer) rights activists specifically in the Region of North Africa, we address our speech to all Governments concerned and to International Organizations following the last decisions issued by the German Parliament concerning the “Safe Country” report regarding Asylum Seekers from the Greater MaghrebCountries (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria) without consideration of International Covenants and what they stipulate as to guaranteeing the right to seek protection and Freedom of movement that are clearly enshrined in the Article 13 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which includes the principle of freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State."

See: 'Safe countries': German MPs vote to block asylum applications from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria (RT, link)

Dispatches: Dignity at Stake for Refugees with Disabilities in Greece (Human Rights Watch, link): "“Here it is very hard for me to go to the toilet. My husband helps me at the door and random women help me inside the toilet,” Nawael, a 34-year-old Syrian woman who uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed from an airstrike in Syria, told me. I met her, her three children, and husband last March at the informal refugee camp at the Athens port of Piraeus.

Nawael is among dozens of refugees with disabilities I’ve met in Greece over the past year. Like many other people with disabilities forced to flee, Nawael told me of their treacherous journey to Europe, and how her husband carried her most of the time. She spoke of the difficulties in Greece in accessing a proper place to sleep, the toilet, food, and medical assistance."

EU-TURKEY: The saga continues

Bulgaria asks EU for ‘plan B’ if Turkey abandons refugee deal (EurActiv, link): "Bulgaria asked the European Union to develop a backup plan, in the event that Turkey refuses to implement its agreement to deal with the refugee crisis, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said on Friday (20 May).

Mitov made the comment at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers last week, at which NATO-EU cooperation to deal with refugee crisis was discussed.

“We are pushing for plan B. It must take into account many factors. You need to be aware that the agreement itself has its delicate moments. We have insisted for such a plan and now we are discussing it,” said Mitov, according to Bulgarian newspaper Sega."

See also: Erdogan approves law on Turkey-EU readmission deal (Hurriyet Daily News, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved a law on an agreement between Ankara and Brussels on the readmission of people residing in the EU without authorization."

But: Erdogan adviser warns Turkey could suspend EU agreements (Reuters, link): "Turkey could suspend all of its agreements with the European Union, including a customs union, if the bloc continues its "double standards" in talks with Ankara, an adviser to President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Speaking on state broadcaster TRT Haber, Yigit Bulut, who advises Erdogan on the economy, warned that if Europe failed to live up to its promises to Turkey, Ankara could review all of its relations with the 28-member bloc."

And: Bulgaria to build more fences to stop migrants: media report (EurActiv, link)

France, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands met at Eurojust and set up a task force on illegal immigrant smuggling in the North Sea region (Eurojust press release, link): "Judicial and law enforcement professionals from France, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as liaison magistrates and specialists from Europol, recently came together at Eurojust for an operational meeting on illegal immigrant smuggling in the North Sea region.

The meeting, which was chaired by the National Member for France, discussed emerging trends and new threats in the field of illegal immigrant smuggling and explored the possibilities of more efficient cooperation and information sharing in related cases.

During the meeting, the work of Eurojust’s Thematic group on Illegal immigrant smuggling (TG IIS) was presented, after which the authorities involved outlined the state of play in the fight against illegal immigrant smuggling in their respective countries. Specialists from Europol then presented the work of their team in disrupting migrant smuggling networks. The participants highlighted the complexity of the migrant smuggling phenomenon, in which national authorities are confronted with highly adaptable and mobile transnational criminal networks."

Joint press release of the Greek Asylum Service, UNHCR and European Asylum Support Office (EASO): The registration of asylum seekers residing in open reception facilities in the mainland will begin in the next few weeks (link): "The Asylum Service will conduct a pre-registration exercise for international protection in the mainland from end of May to end of July with the financial support of the European Commission (DG Home), The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will support the Asylum Service in this exercise.

The pre-registration exercise will take several weeks to conclude, but all those who arrived in Greece before 20 March, wishing to apply for international protection in Greece and are currently residing on the mainland will be able to pre-register.

The pre-registration exercise is the first step to apply for international protection in Greece, which could eventually lead to (i) examination of the application for international protection by the Greek authorities, and potential recognition of beneficiary of international protection, or (ii) transfer to another EU Member State in the context of Dublin III provisions, or, (iii) transfer to another EU Member State in the context of the relocation scheme.

Before and during the pre-registration exercise, information will be provided on the available options to those concerned, through leaflets and information teams deployed to the open accommodation sites.

The International Organization for Migration will also participate in order to provide information on voluntary repatriation to the countries of origin to those interested.

Those wishing to be pre-registered must be physically present during this exercise, including any members of their family. A photo will be taken of each individual during this exercise. At the end of the pre-registration an asylum seeker card will be issued for each individual."

GREECE: Humanitarian space and border management in Lesbos (OpenDemocracy, link): "The latest EU-Turkey deal is the culmination of months of attempts by the European Commission to take control of the eastern Mediterranean, a space that has recently seen the arrival of over one million people as well as unprecedented displays of solidarity by people across Europe.

(...)

The unfolding drama on the Greek islands can be read in three acts: the rise of autonomous and solidaric organisation; the emergence of a securitised humanitarian border space; and, finally, the consolidation of a de facto securitised and punitive regime. Throughout all three of these acts, actors have negotiated and renegotiated the relationship between the solidarity, humanitarianism, and securitisation agendas."

News (23.5.16)

Migrant crisis: Child trafficking on rise in EU (BBC News, link): "The number of children trafficked to EU countries by gangs - often for prostitution - is rising and the UK is a major destination, new data show.

The European Commission says child trafficking is "one of the trends that is increasing most sharply".

In 2013-2014 there were 15,846 registered victims of trafficking in the EU, at least 15% of them children.

Three-quarters of the victims were women, and 67% were trafficked for sex. Many other victims were not detected.

According to the official Commission figures, the UK registered 1,358 victims in 2013-2014, and the Netherlands registered the most - 1,561."

GERMANY: Rightwing violence surges in Germany (The Guardian, link): "The number of violent crimes with a rightwing political motive rose more than 40% in Germany last year accompanying a large influx of migrants into the country, the government has said. The number of crimes committed by foreigners was also up more than 10%.

German authorities recorded 1,485 violent far-right crimes last year, up from 1,029 the previous year, according to annual crime statistics. As the number of homes for asylum seekers grew, so too did attacks on them, which more than quadrupled to 923. Acts of violence against those homes increased to 177 from 26 the previous year."

SPAIN: 100 organizaciones acusan al Ministro Fernández de promover actos inmorales contra los Derechos Humanos [100 organisations accuse the Fernansez Ministry of promoting immoral acts contrary to human rights] (Periodismo Humano, link): "According to the 115 signatory organisations, the awarding of medals to Guardia Civil officers, accused and absolved of beating and illegally deporting migrants and refugees, not only exceeds the powers of the caretaker government, but also means awarding and promoting illegal actions that gravely infringe human rights, about which the United Nations has recently shown its grave concern and which is also the theme of several cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21-22.5.16)
Syrian refugee wins appeal against forced return to Turkey (Guardian, link):

"Decision by Greek independent asylum service to overturn deportation order throws EU-Turkey migration deal into chaos

The EU-Turkey migration deal has been thrown further into chaos after an independent authority examining appeals claims in Greece ruled against sending a Syrian refugee back to Turkey, potentially creating a precedent for thousands of other similar cases.

In a landmark case, the appeals committee upheld the appeal of an asylum seeker who had been one of the first Syrians listed for deportation under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal.

In a document seen by the Guardian, a three-person appeals tribunal in Lesbos said Turkey would not give Syrian refugees the rights they were owed under international treaties and therefore overturned the applicant’s deportation order by a verdict of two to one. The case will now be re-assessed from scratch.

The committee’s conclusion stated: “The committee has judged that the temporary protection which could be offered by Turkey to the applicant, as a Syrian citizen, does not offer him rights equivalent to those required by the Geneva convention.".....

Greek media said it would be only a matter of time before the “bombshell” decision had the snowball effect of triggering an avalanche of similar asylum requests by other refugees, especially Syrians, detained on far-flung Aegean islands. Some 174 claims have been examined by appeals committees made up of asylum experts, lawyers and officials in Lesbos so far, with 100 being upheld, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini."

and see: Migrant deal at risk as Turkey deemed unsafe by Greek court (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The committee of judges on Lesvos refused to reject an asylum application by a Syrian refugee and send him back to Turkey, because it ruled it unsafe and said that the case should be examined further – meaning the implementation of the deal will face even further delays as it will take more time to process thousands of applications of stranded migrants.

The decision could form a precedent and deal a devastating blow to the agreement signed in late March, as it could put on hold the return of Syrian refugees to Turkey and, essentially, render the agreement toothless.

The asylum court on Lesvos has so far examined 174 applications by Syrians, of whom 100 have been granted asylum. The remaining applicants, who were rejected, have lodged appeals requesting the re-examination of their cases."

Meanwhile, people are still dying – Refugee and migrant communities call to all European citizens (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, link):

"BHC is joining the Greek Forum of Refugees in its call for support, by sharing their open letter regarding the current situation of refugees in Greece. Refugee and migrant communities call to all European citizens.....

We, people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, workers, parents, students, soon-to-be or already European citizens, are joining our voices to all those ashamed of how Europe is treating refugees and migrants. What’s wrong?""

EU Budgetary Responses to the ‘Refugee Crisis’ Reconfiguring the Funding Landscape (CEPS, link):

"EU funding for cooperation with third countries to prevent the inflow of refugees and asylum seekers has monetise questions over the responsibility for these individuals. As the EU – Turkey agreement shows , this has created a self - imposed dependence on third countries, with the risk of potentially insatiable demands for EU funding."

How Europe is punishing migrants (Washington Post, link): "As hundreds of thousands of refugees have poured into Europe, some countries and regions have tried to pass legislation that specifically targets refugees and migrants. Here's a look at some of those policies that have been introduced in the last year.

MSF calls for immediate opening of hotspots (link):

"Two months after the signing of the deal by the European Union and Turkey, the situation continues to deteriorate for migrants incarcerated on the Greek islands. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reiterates the abject conditions of these incarcerations and calls for the immediate opening of hotspots.

Since 20 March, refugees landing on the islands are sent to lock-down centres. Among them are women and infants and dozens of unaccompanied minors for whom no specific protection measures have been instituted. "

UK: Refugee Council: England’s forgotten refugees: Out of the fire and into the frying pan (link):

"The research explores the experience of newly recognised refugees within their first year of being granted asylum by the UK Government. When an asylum seeker is granted refugee status, those who are receiving accommodation and subsistence payments from the Home Office are informed that it will cease in 28 days. This is known as the ‘grace’ or ‘move on’ period and it is expected that the newly recognised refugee will be able to secure housing and income in this timeframe."

Are You Syrious (21.5.16)

Translators, lawyers urgently needed on Chios

"Situation on the overcrowded island is still very bad due to mistreatment of the refugees and significant lack of relevant information about their legal possibilities. In order to tackle this, Kurdish, Farsi, Arabic and Dari translators are urgently needed, as well as migration law experts. Kurdish interpreters and legal experts should contact Gabrielle Tan of Action from Switzerland directly, while Farsi, Arabic and Dari translators are invited to contact Chios Eastern Shore Response Team. If you are willing to sponsor a skilled translator or legal volunteer, feel free to contact Gabrielle or CESRT as well."

ITALY: Only one Sicilian hotspot working properly, fears of mafia infiltration rising

"Delegation of the parliamentary committee for the refugees has visited the hotspot of Milo in the province of Trapani, Sicily, witnessing the boat landing of 435 refugees (143 of them minors) from the MSF ship Dignity. Trapani was singled out as a good example of NGO’s and authorities working together to ensure fast transfer of the new arrivals, as opposed to other two Sicilian hotspots Lampedusa and Pozzallo where refugees are detained for longer periods of time, waiting for their placement in reception centers.

Hotspots must remain centers of identification and not turn into detention centers. Otherwise we won’t be able to absorb the flow of migrants which is expected to increase in the coming months?—?said Federico Gelli of Democratic party after visiting Trapani today

The delegation also warned about the possibility of mafia infiltration in the hotspots, which could lead to further endangering refugees."

UNHCR: Daily Report (19.5.16)

"According to the Turkish Coast Guard, the number of people attempting to irregularly cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece has dropped significantly in April. 400 people were intercepted on the Aegean in the first half of May, compared to 800 in the first half of April, representing a 50% decrease. The number of interceptions in April had already fallen by 80% in comparison to those of March.

Of the 24,500 refugees intercepted so far this year, 5,506 took place in January, 8,747 in February, 8,530 in March, and 1,717 in April. Also according to Turkish Coast Guard figures, no casualties occurred in Turkish waters this April."

and see UNHCR: detention centres in Greece: Capacity and actual number of refugees (pdf)

35 refugees arrived in Lesvos on 20 May.

Hungary: Where have all the deported asylum seekers gone? (Budapest Beacon, link):

"Between 15 September 2015 and 11 May 2016, Hungarian immigration authorities ordered the expulsion of 2,639 individuals from Hungary. These individuals were put through the expedited expulsion process as a result of the new crime of engaging in restricted border crossing. This is the process that has been criticized by many international human rights organizations, foreign governments and the UN Refugee Agency as a violation of international agreements....

The big question here is what happened to individuals who were expelled on paper but were not taken back by Serbia."

Ai Weiwei says EU's refugee deal with Turkey is immoral - Unveiling work documenting his time on Lesbos, Chinese artist describes getting caught up in ‘shameful humanitarian crisis’ (Guardian, link)

"The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei described the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey as shameful and immoral as he unveiled the artistic results of his stay on the Greek island of Lesbos....

Of the agreement, Ai said: “It is not legal or moral, it is shameful and it is not a solution. It will cause problems later.” "

Amnesty International: Urgent Action: Syrians returned from Greece, arbitrarily held (pdf):

"A group of 12 Syrian refugees, including four children, have been arbitrarily detained at the Düziçi camp since 27 April. They were some of the first Syrians voluntarily returned to Turkey from Greece since the signing of the EU-Turkey deal. Some have medical conditions for which they have not been receiving adequate treatment."

Bulgaria, still going to be a poor guardian of European’s External Borders (Border Monitoring Bulgaria, link):

"At the beginning of May 2016, Sofia and Ankara signed a protocol about returning migrants from Bulgaria back to Turkey from June the 1st, who crossed the border in an “illegal“ way. It is not clear what means this for the estimated 50 migrants, which are still arriving in Bulgaria on a daily basis to transit the country to Western Europe. The Signing was accelerated after the EU and Turkey sealed their controversial deal on returning refugees (on March 18 this year), which forced Brussels to make serious concessions to Ankara in an attempt to halt the migrant flow.".

News (21-22.5.16)

Vote Leave embroiled in race row over Turkey security threat claims - Brexit group ‘appealing to prejudice’ with argument that Turkey’s accession to EU would put Britons at greater risk of crime (Guardian, link)

Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans (Daily Sabah, link): "Dreaming of reaching Western European countries, desperate refugees said they are being pushed back into Greece by some Balkan countries even though their papers are complete. Some have been stuck in no-man's land for days"

Turkey wants withdrawal of NATO Refugees Surveillance Mission in the Aegean Sea (Keep Talking Greece, link): "Daily Eleftheros Typos that obtained the report Greek diplomats sent to the political and military leadership in Athens, writes that “Turkey expressed its wish to have ending of the NATO action in the Aegean Sea and the Alliance is expected to take up the issue in near future even before the NATO Summit in Warsaw.”"

Turkey refuses EU travel to highly skilled Syrian refugees: report (DW, link): "German media has reported that Ankara is banning Syrian academics from leaving Turkey. Turkey has already threatened to end a migration deal with the EU amid the ongoing dispute over visa-free travel for its citizens."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20.5.16)
African Civil Society condemns the hunt for migrants on the continent (pdf):

"African civil society condemns these hunting policies for migrants that grow everywhere on the African continent with the support of the European institutions under the guise of the fight against "irregular" migration. The current situation in Libya is a sad illustration with anti-immigration brigade heavily armed, with the support of the European Union, which tracks day and night the sub-Saharan migrant workers cram in detention centers instead of effectively combating traffickers and Libyan smugglers...

The lure of European financial aid to fight against migration transforms the African political authorities in real persecutors of their brothers and sisters who are looking for work to live and feed their families. This could recall the time of slavery abolished there only two centuries. The European Union, at the expense of its humanist values, and shamelessly, in African countries outsources its security migration policy.

African civil society calls for the African Union commission, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and all African heads of state to listen to the voice of their people and engage resolutely in a real regional integration process. Only a true African integration could prevent our countries to always be the instrument of European policy and will prevent brave young hope of tomorrow's Africa, being killed in other countries on the continent seeking win their daily bread."

Signed by: The West African Observatory on Migrations (WAOM), The Pan African Network for the Defense of Migrants' Rights (PANiDMR), Caritas - Migration and Development Network (MADE) – Africa, Moroccan Transnational Network on Migration and Development (RMTMD), Samir ABI, Visions Solidaires.

CYPRUS: Recent conflicts at Kofinou constitute a manifestation of the Center’s Abandonment by the Government (pdf) and: Greek (pdf)

"During Saturday night (14.05.16), a number of serious incidents were noted between residents of the Kofinou Center for Asylum Seekers, which resulted in the injury of certain individuals and became the cause for great turbulence.i KISA condemns in the most unreserved manner any act of violence, no matter its source. At the same time however, we consider the particular incident to constitute an expression of the chronic and structural problems which are present at Kofinou and which have been exacerbated due to the Ministry of Interior’s continued delay in deciding upon the Center’s new supervision body. As a result of the above, the Kofinou Reception Center for Asylum Seekers continues to remain without any Administration Unit for the past eight months."

Greece: Campaign for Access to Asylum: Open Letter to the Asylum Service (pdf)

"The great difficulty in access to the asylum procedure was the reason why our campaign was founded in 2012. Today, four years later, not only hasn’t this problem been solved but it has greatly deteriorated....

The problem has now reached alarming levels, given that:

- the refugee population is a much-afflicted population (because of the sufferings from the war and persecutions, the difficult journey towards our country and also the severe deficiencies of our country regarding their reception) which is in a state of great uncertainty.

- a great number of those people belong to particularly vulnerable groups (40% chlidren, a great number of sick people and people with disabilities).

- the documents of a large number of those people have already expired and as a result they are in risk of arrest, detention and deportation, as they are in state of legal uncertainty."

The DCR/ECRE desk research on application of a safe third country and a first country of asylum concepts to Turkey (link)

"There is currently no meaningful capacity in Turkey for permanent independent monitoring of migration and border control management practices of Turkish authorities. In particular with regard to Turkey’s extensive land borders in the south and east and the increasing number of detention centres that are being used and established by the Turkish authorities. This means that present practices of immigration and border authorities remain outside any meaningful and independent scrutiny....

The present analysis of the current legal framework for international protection in Turkey and the available evidence of gaps in asylum seekers’ and refugees’ access to human rights, absence of effective access to procedural guarantees during the asylum procedure, and documented cases of refoulement, does not allow for the conclusion that Turkey meets the criteria laid down in Article 38(1) and Article 35 recast Asylum Procedures Directive."

See: Final version (pdf)

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 20 May 2016: Final press release (pdf): including: "Council expressed support for Greece's designation of Turkey as a safe country for return of irregular migrants"

"B" Points Agenda (for discussion, pdf), "A" Points (legislative, adopted without discussion) and "A" Points (non-legislative, adopted without discussion). See Background Note (pdf)

Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans (ekathimerini.com, link):

"IDOMENI - Anwar Ismail Murad passed almost effortlessly along what has become known as the Balkan route, heading north from Greece to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, through Serbia, Croatia and on to Slovenia. He reached there on February 14, when the border was still open, but that’s where his dream abruptly died....

From then on, against all expectations — and against official policy — Murad found himself kicked back across nearly all the borders he had passed through...

Balkan countries along the route say they do not force potential asylum-seekers back across the border they just came from. But Murad’s case is by no means the only one."

Turkish minister: Anti-terror law amendment ‘not on the agenda’ (euractiv, link):

"The granting of visa liberalisation, and to a lesser extent the German parliament’s expected recognition of the Armenian genocide, could threaten to derail the EU’s refugee pact with Turkey. EurActiv’s partner Der Tagesspiegel spoke with the Turkish Minister of Youth and Sport, Çagatay Kiliç....

The EU needs Ankara to change its anti-terror laws if it is to grant visa liberalisation to its citizens. Will Turkey follow through on this?

We have to make it clear what we mean when we talk about anti-terror legislation. The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) is a terrorist organisation, it is classed as such by Germany and the EU. We are fighting a war on terror, so we have to stand together. It’s the EU that is going to have to move when it comes to defining the fight against terror...

So an amendment will not be made to the anti-terror law?

It’s not on the agenda."

Are You Syrious (link)

Bulgaria: Bigger and stronger wall

"The Bulgarian government plans to fill the gaps at its borders with Greece and Turkey in order to stop refugees and migrants from entering the country, German newspaper Bildt reports. The government would, according to the report, consider establishing a fence along certain parts of the country’s the border with Greece. It also planned to extend the fences along the Turkish border by another 160 kilometers over summer. The report says that action in the Aegean to tackle smuggling has shifted the migrant route to Western Europe from Turkey through Bulgaria."

Serbia: Up to 600 people daily in Belgrade

"According to Info Park and other organizations working with refugees in Serbia, a number of refugees going through Serbia is still high. They estimate that at any moment, there are at least 500–600 people in transit in Belgrade.

The refugees over the last couple of days are predominantly composed of Afghani citizens along with a smaller number of Syrian and Iraqi families with children. They are mainly coming from Macedonia, via Preshevo, while smaller part comes from Bulgaria, via Stara planina, according to Info Park."

And see: Guide to Asylum, reunification, and relocation in Greece is now available in Urdu, Arabic and Kurdish

Exclusive Video: Worst Riots Ever Break Out at Idomeni Refugee Camp (Greek Reporter, link)

Hungary: Updates on the asylum and migration situation in Hungary: May 6th - May 18th (migszol.com, link)

"As mentioned in our first situation update, one of the ways we at MigSzol can influence the current situation is through documentation. Many people are still passing through Hungary every day, and recently the importance of Hungary as a transit country has been increasing again: there are many things happening at both the Serbian and the Austrian borders and the situation is changing quickly. Even though most of the camps are full (and often overcrowded), there is very little information about the conditions there available.

Most importantly, see here for the information leaflet prepared by the Hungarian Helsinki committee."

See also: UNHCR: Hungary: As a Country of Asylum (pdf)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.5.16)
How real is the new irregular migration threat from Libya and what do the figures exactly say? (New Europe link):

"Recent reports and data available paint a mixed, if not confusing picture.

According to a leaked document by the Dutch Presidency of the EU to the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum of 3 May, during the first four months of 2016 there have been 27,810 arrivals from Libya, compared with approximately 26,000 in both 2014 and 2015 in the same period. In April 2016, there have been 9,116 arrivals, compared with 15,679 in April 2015 and 16,061 in April 2014."

Greeks rally to help as EU-Turkey deal leaves migrants locked up in limbo (The Conversation, link):

"After visiting refugee settlements in Lesbos and Piraeus and speaking to people helping the refugees, it is clear to me that the EU and Greek government are failing to provide even basic necessities to the thousands of people who have been used to deter further arrivals from Turkey.

The young refugees in Moria have been protesting against being imprisoned in a former military garrison for almost two months now, living in poor conditions but facing uncertainty about their future. There are 3,000 people living in facilities designed to accommodate a third of that number. I witnessed people fighting for food in queues."

Greece: Refugee “Hotspots” Unsafe, Unsanitary (HRW, link):

"(Athens) – Police are failing to protect people during frequent incidents of violence in closed centers on the Greek islands known as “hotspots,” Human Rights Watch said today. The centers were established for the reception, identification, and processing of asylum seekers and migrants. None of the three centers Human Rights Watch visited on Samos, Lesbos, and Chios in mid-May 2016, separate single women from unrelated adult men, and all three are unsanitary and severely overcrowded.

“In Europe’s version of refugee camps, women and children who fled war face daily violence and live in fear,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Lack of police protection, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions create an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity in Greece’s razor wire-fenced island camps.”"

UNHCR: Daily report (18.5.16): 190,647 arrivals in the EU this year: 155,837 in Greece, 33,907 in Italy. 1,361 deaths/missing and:

"On 10 May, the Hungarian Parliament approved amendment package submitted by the Ministry of Interior last February. The legislative amendments will enter into force as of 1 June 2016. The amendments will, inter alia, terminate measures aiming to facilitate integration of beneficiaries, introduce mandatory and automatic revision of refugee status at least every three years; reduce the maximum period of stay in open reception centres after recognition from sixty to thirty days, and reduce the eligibility period for free of charge access to basic health care services following recognition from one year to six months."

"In Hungary, between 9 and 15 May, 255 people were admitted into the transit zones (122 in Röszke and 133 in Tompa). Further limits have been placed on the number of asylum-seekers admitted in each transit zone, reducing it from 30 people per day to 15 due to new procedures at the border including the activation of EURODAC checks, comprehensive interviews and national security screening conducted by the Constitution Protection Office (CPO). This has prolonged the waiting time for some 300 people awaiting admission without shelter, sanitation and hygiene facilities, exposed to protection and health risks. As of the beginning of May, for people previously registered though the EURODAC system the asylum procedure at the border is suspended until the European Union Member State responsible to process the asylum application claim is determined, as according to Dublin III regulation.

Europe helped Greece in its migration hour of need. Now Italy needs help (Politico, link):

"Record numbers of migrants are likely to arrive on Lampedusa. The EU can’t leave Rome to deal with problem on its own....

The Turkish model is not much help. Turkey is a NATO member and an EU candidate. In the best case scenario in Libya’s stabilization process it will take years for the internationally backed Fayez al-Sarraj government to be in control of its territory and to re-establish a functioning state to which migrants could be “returned.” The prospect of any immigration accord, let alone of a Turkish-like trade-off, with Libya is a medium-long term prospect at best.".

Turkey summons EU ambassador over refugee deal comment( (euractiv, link):

"Turkey summoned the top European Union envoy in the country on Tuesday (17 May) to complain about comments he made last week on the refugee deal between Ankara and the EU, Turkish foreign ministry sources said yesterday (18 May).....

But progress halted when Brussels insisted that Ankara must also reform its tough anti-terror laws for another part of the deal – further talks on EU membership for Turkey – to resume. Turkey said that was out of the question."

NATO summit to mull presence in central Mediterranean after Aegean ‘success’ (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The case for possible NATO cooperation with the European Union’s border managing agency Frontex to detect and stop human trafficking in the central Mediterranean will be discussed, among other pressing issues, at Thursday’s NATO summit of foreign ministers in Brussels."

News (19.5.16):

EU resettled fewer than 200 Syrians under Turkey deal (euobserver, link): "Only 177 Syrians have been resettled in EU states under a March deal with Turkey to stem the flow of people seeking international protection in Greece, according to figures presented on Wednesday (18 May) by the EU commission."

NGO workers denounce Italian hotspot system (DW, link): "Humanitarian groups are questioning Italy's ability to handle minors and victims of torture, as irregular migration from North African continues. Diego Cupolo reports from Pozzallo, Sicily."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18.5.16)
European Commission: 18.5.16.

- Third report on relocation and resettlement (COM 360, pdf):

"Overall, progress on relocation since the Second Report on Relocation and Resettlement has been unsatisfactory. The Commission had set a target to relocate at least 20,000 persons by mid-May in its First Report on Relocation and Resettlement. The reality falls well short of this target. Only 355 additional persons have been relocated during the reporting period bringing the total number of persons relocated so far to 1,500 (909 from Greece and 591 from Italy)......

Austria,13 Hungary and Slovakia have still not submitted any pledge. In addition, a number of Member States (Germany and Poland) are not yet respecting the obligation under the Council Decision to indicate, every three months....

Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis that requires a quick and full implementation of the obligations assumed by Member States in the Council Decisions on relocation. As for Italy, although the numbers of people available for relocation has not yet seen a rapid increase, established seasonal patterns of migration point to the strong likelihood of an increase in the number of arrivals."

- Annex 1: Greece (pdf) Of the 63.302 pledges of relocation needed for Greece only 909 have been carried out.

- Annex 2: Italy (pdf) Of the 34,953 pledges of relocation need for Italy only 591 have been carried out.

- Annex 3: resettlement (pdf) 6.231 refugees have been resettled in the EU.

- Relocation and resettlement: State of Play (pdf)

See: Big Fail: The EU’s Relocation & Resettlement scheme (Keep Talking Greece, link): "The Relocation and Resettlement scheme for asylum seekers falls short and thus far beyond EU’s expectations. Apparently, the EU member-states are happy to have gotten rid of the problem and have 54,000 refugees stuck in Greece. "

Greece-Turkey deal: Plenary highlights: Europol, asylum reform, Turkey visa liberalisation (pdf):

"Aslym reform

Any
reform of the EU's asylum system should be based on solidarity among member states as this will ensure the effective management of asylum applications, MEPs said in a debate on Wednesday with commissioners Frans Timmermans and Dimitris
Avramopoulos. Currently asylum demands need to be dealt with by the first EU country the applicant entered."

"Turkey visa liberalisation

MEPs voiced serious concerns about Turkey's lack of progress in meeting the EU’s conditions for liberalising its
visa regime for Turkish nationals in a debate on Wednesday."

A programme about British volunteers helping some of Europe's most vulnerable refugees (ITV, link): "25 days left"

Greek asylum system reaches breaking point (IRIN, link):

"As Greece prepares to deport an initial 500 migrants and refugees on Monday under a controversial agreement between the EU and Turkey, senior Greek officials say the pressure to process applications quickly has become too great, at the expense of legal and ethical standards.

“Insufferable pressure is being put on us to reduce our standards and minimise the guarantees of the asylum process,” Maria Stavropoulou, who heads the Greek Asylum Service, told IRIN.[We’re asked] to change our laws, to change our standards to the lowest possible under the EU directive [on asylum procedures].” [emphasis added]

Statewatch comments:

The EU demands in March 2016 to lower Greek asylum law standards were themselves based on the "lowest common" denominators already built into the EU Asylum Directive.

These lower than low standards are built into the: Letter from Mathias Ruete, Director-General of European Commission Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs, to Vasileios Papadopoulos, Secretary-General, General Secretariat for Population and Social Cohesion, 5 May 2016 (pdf) and response: Hellenic Action for Human Rights: Pleiades Rejects European Commission Letter Regarding the Application of the Safe Third Country Concept to Turkey (Pleiades, link)

Interpol: increased border protection forces migrants to use people smugglers (Guardian, link):

"Deals such as EU-Turkey agreement in spotlight as report says 90% of irregular journeys to Europe facilitated by smugglers

Attempts to deter migrants from reaching Europe such as the EU-Turkey deal are likely to force people into the arms of smugglers, Interpol has said in a joint statement with the EU’s law enforcement agency.

More than 90% of recent irregular journeys to Europe were facilitated by smugglers, a figure that is likely to rise due to increased border protection, Interpol and Europol have concluded in a report on people smuggling.

“These numbers are expected to increase in the future in response to control measures taken by countries along the migratory routes,” the report says..."

See: MIGRANT SMUGGLING NETWORKS Joint Europol-INTERPOL Report (pdf)

EU plans for Libya risk crossing migration 'red lines' (euobserver, link):

"Italian officials and even German chancellor Angela Merkel have gone so far as to suggest that the EU should strike a deal with Libya similar to the one with Turkey, which allows the return of asylum seekers on the presumption that they are “safe” there.

The assessment that Turkey is safe for refugees and asylum seekers is wrong.

But the idea that Libya, riven by warring factions and with a fledgling and contested government of national unity that the EU is desperate to legitimise, can provide a safe haven is positively mind-boggling. "

Are You Syrious (link)

Syrians returned to Turkey under EU deal report being detained indefinitely in poor conditions and not being allowed to rejoin family members in Turkey:

"A group of 12 Syrians returned by plane on the 27th of April who were contacted by telephone said they had simply been detained without clear legal recourse since they arrived in a remote detention center in southern Turkey called Düziçi. The fate of two other Syrians deported along with hundreds of non-Syrians earlier in April is unknown.

“You can’t imagine how bad a situation we are in right now,” said one Syrian mother detained with her children, who now wants to return to Syria because she sees no alternative. “My children and I are suffering, the food is not edible. I’m forcing my children to eat because I don’t have any money to buy anything, but they refuse because there are bugs in it.”"

Violence erupts in Samos as a direct result of failings in the EU/Turkey deal

"Operators on the ground in Samos are witnessing first hand the failings of the EU/Turkey deal. The ‘1 in 1 out’ theory is not working in practice, with disastrous effects.

In Samos there are 1,000 refugees detained in a closed camp built to house just 300 people. 300 of those detained are children, including some with special needs & disabilities. Less than 20 people have been transferred off Samos since the deal was signed in March and despite the ‘crack down’ refugees have continued to arrive every day to the shores of Samos, sometimes 50 a day. As the numbers detained have been swelling, inevitably tensions have been building too".

News (18.5.16)

Refugees, migrants reach 54,574 in Greece on Wednesday (ekathimerini.com, link): "The number of identified refugees and migrants across Greece reached 54,574 on Wednesday, according to figures released by the country's Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration. According to the coordinating body, 8,549 refugees and migrants were staying on Greece's eastern Aegean islands – including 30 people who had arrived over the last 24 hours – while 14,510 were located in areas across Attica."

Borderless: Undercover with the People Smugglers - Inside the people-smuggling rings specialising in getting refugees into Europe (aljazeera.com, link)

Refugees will repay EU spending almost twice over in five years - report (Guardian, link): "Investigation into impact of refugees in Europe finds rising public debt will be offset by a much greater rise in GDP"

Cyprus, KISA: Recent conflicts at Kofinou constitute a manifestation of the Center’s Abandonment by the Government (link): "During Saturday night (14.05.16), a number of serious incidents were noted between residents of the Kofinou Center for Asylum Seekers, which resulted in the injury of certain individuals and became the cause for great turbulence. KISA condemns in the most unreserved manner any act of violence, no matter its source. At the same time however, we consider the particular incident to constitute an expression of the chronic and structural problems which are present at Kofinou and which have been exacerbated due to the Ministry of Interior’s continued delay in deciding upon the Center’s new supervision body. As a result of the above, the Kofinou Reception Center for Asylum Seekers continues to remain without any Administration Unit for the past eight months."

Italy: More than 1,100 migrants rescued off Italian coasts (Daily Sabah, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.5.16)
UN Human Rights: Greece: UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants concludes his follow up country visit to Greece (pdf): Fourteen Preliminary Recommendations on Greece:

"The unfortunate use of mandatory detention: The law limits administrative detention upon arrival to twenty-five days. However in practice detention at times lasts longer. I deeply regret the Greek government’s policy of increasing the use of detention of persons irregularly entering the Greek territory, including unaccompanied children and families."

"Establish a roster of lawyers and interpreters for easy access of the Asylum Service, First Reception Service and other authorities. Appoint immediately camp management for every hotspot and every open camp, in charge of coordinating activities of all actors and protecting the human rights of migrants; provide clear and public information with regards to the authority of the management at central level."

And nine Recommendations addressed to the EU, including:

"Ensure an independent and thorough human rights impact assessment to overview how the EU-migration agenda, the EU-Turkey statement and all future agreements on mobility and migration are carried out.

Examine the EU's accountability under an agreement such as the EU-Turkey statement.".

Greek journalists draft ethical code to fight racism on refugees coverage (European federation of Journalists, link):

"The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is strongly supporting the initiative of its affiliate in Greece the Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH) – who drafted a proposal for the adoption of the Anti-racism Ethics Code of the Greek journalists called The Charter of Idomeni, in the name of the border control village where thousands of refugees are passing through to reach Northern European countries."

Report Launched for "Mapping Refugee Media Journeys" project (Open University, link):

"The Open University has released a ground–breaking research report on how refugees use smartphones. It was led by Prof. Marie Gillespie and was carried out in partnership with France Medias Monde....

The report, “Mapping Refugee Media Journeys: Smart Phones and Social Media Networks” explores the benefits and risks of mobile phones for refugees. It calls for action from the European Commission and Member States to fulfill their responsibilities under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to provide relevant, reliable and timely information and news for refugees."

See report: Mapping Refugee Media Journeys Smartphones and Social Media Networks (pdf) and Website (link)

The Lampedusa Hotspot Failure: Refugees Demand Dignity (Liberties.eu, link):

"Having been held as prisoners on the island of Lampedusa for months now, a number of refugees started a hunger strike to demand to be enabled to leave the island. Besides the desperate living conditions in the island's former reception center and first European hotspot, refugees expressed their opposition to identifications that would force them to stay in Italy, even though they wish to settle in another European country. They are roughly 550 migrants living in these conditions, a figure that is set to increase since multiple new landings took place in the last few days. "

Samos: Greece: Revealing Truths: Talking with Refugees in Samos (Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones, link):

"The term ‘the system’ is one we have come across many times when talking with refugees and with poor people in many places and in various countries. It refers to the ways in which people understand the world and their place in it. It is also a description of the world in which they live under the gaze of teachers, police, social workers, border guards, prison officers, NGOs, bosses and supervisors and so on. It is the system that watches and humiliates and as one young Syrian refugee told us, it celebrates and feeds on wars. “Always war“ he said. “If it is not shooting you in your body, it is trying to destroy your brain and always shoots at our pockets.”"

Syrians returned to Turkey under EU deal 'have had no access to lawyers' (Guardian, link):

"Refugees report being detained indefinitely in poor conditions and not being allowed to rejoin family members in Turkey...

The first Syrians to be returned by plane under the EU-Turkey deal have been detained in a remote camp for the past three weeks with no access to lawyers, casting further doubts over EU claims that they are being sent back to a safe third country.

With hundreds more likely to be expelled in similar fashion in the coming weeks, the returnees have warned that those following in their wake face arbitrary detention, an inscrutable asylum process, and substandard living conditions. Their claims undermine the legitimacy of the EU-Turkey migration deal,...."

UN proposal would ask EU ships to enforce Libya arms embargo (euractiv, link): "The European Union’s Operation Sophia would be tasked with enforcing a UN arms embargo that was imposed on Libya in 2011, during the uprising against Moamer Kadhafi. European powers are also looking at building up Libya’s coast guards to ramp up operations against migrant smugglers operating off the coast of the north African country." and:

Libya to be military equipped in fight against ISIL - The US and other world powers agree to help unity government in the fight against ISIL threat in Libya.(aljazeera.com)

EU struggles to save Turkey agreement (New Europe, link):

"Tensions continue to rise over a deal to grant Turks visa-free travel rights within the European Union. Controversy hit a peak when the European Commission’s third report on Turkey’s progress in fulfilling the requirements of the visa liberalisation roadmap found that Turkey is still short several benchmarks. Five of them, including one of the most important benchmarks, have yet to be addressed.

More specifically, under the fundamental rights block, Turkey still needs to “revise – in line with the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) and with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) case law, the EU acquis and EU Member States practices – the legal framework as regards organised crime and terrorism, as well as its interpretation by the courts and by the security forces and the law enforcement agencies, so as to ensure the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, of assembly and association in practice”."

UNHCR (17.5.16)

"On 13 May, 1,034 people arrived to Italy following several search and rescue operations. They were disembarked in Augusta (344), Catania (286), Crotone
(231) and Palermo (173). Despite the Coast Guard’s initial communication regarding the nationality of arrivals, following disembarkation, UNHCR did not observe large groups of people originating from Syria. Boats disembarked from Egypt carried people mainly from Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Comoros Islands. Boats departed from Libya carried mainly people originating from various Sub Sahara countries."

"On 13 May, the Austrian Minister of the Interior announced that for the time being, border controls will not be introduced at the Austrian-Italian Brennero crossing. He said that currently numbers of asylumseekers and migrants have dropped significantly and linked this to tightened controls on trains taking place in Italy prior to reaching Austria through Brennero.."

News (17.5.16)

Stop jailing refugee children, UN adviser tells Greece (euobserver, link)

World must tackle 'once-in-a-generation' refugee crisis: Angelina Jolie (Reuters, link): "Global leaders must come together to tackle a 'once-in-a-generation' migrant crisis, said U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie, or risk greater instability that could drive more refugees to Europe. The United Nations and the declaration of human rights were among the world-changing outcomes of the global refugee crisis after World War Two, Jolie said, adding that the international community is now at a similar pivotal moment. "I believe this is again that once-in-a-generation moment when nations have to pull together," the Hollywood actress and director told the BBC."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16.5.16)
EU: European Commission statistics on the refugee crisis: updated with new figures from 12 May.

European Commission letter to Greek asylum authorities: all is well in Turkey

A letter from the European Commission to the Greek authorities setting out why Turkey should be considered a safe third country has been condemned by a Greek human rights group as an attempt "to establish standardized reasoning for systematically denying the asylum claims of Syrian and non-Syrian nationals as inadmissible in Greece."

Key documents:
Letter from Mathias Ruete, Director-General of European Commission Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs, to Vasileios Papadopoulos, Secretary-General, General Secretariat for Population and Social Cohesion, 5 May 2016 (pdf)

and Hellenic Action for Human Rights: Pleiades Rejects European Commission Letter Regarding the Application of the Safe Third Country Concept to Turkey (Pleiades, link)

To Deal with the Refugee Crisis, Europe Needs to Confront the Demons From Its History (Vice, link): "In 2012 I flew to Budapest for the BBC to cover the right–wing political car-crash that is Hungary.

In the parliament, right by the Danube, I interviewed one of the leaders of Jobbik, a thinly disguised fascist movement who had only just given up having a uniformed militia.

Off camera I asked one member of the party, "What's your attitude to the British National Party?" He answered: "Well, they are against Muslims whereas the people we have the problem with is Jews.""

Why is the cost of hosting refugees falling on the world's poorest states? (The Guardian, link): "Whether or not a similar scenario will play out in Kenya is hard to tell. Certainly, one of the great challenges in advocating for a rights-respecting outcome is that European states hardly have a moral leg to stand on in all of this. While Kenya has been hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees for decades (albeit begrudgingly, and often at the expense of refugees’ quality of life), most European governments have shown a shocking lack of willingness to take in any more than a token number of refugees.

For decades, the default response to refugee crises has been to set up camps or settlements and coerce refugees into them. The UNHCR launched an Alternatives to Camps policy in 2014, but no viable alternatives were found to camps such as Dadaab and Kakuma."

News (16.5.16)

Austria backs down on Brenner Pass border checks (The Local, link): "Austria said Friday it would no longer seek to resume controversial checks on its frontier with Italy after tougher measures by Rome have led to a huge drop in migrant numbers.

Vienna had threatened to re-impose controls on the Brenner Pass in the Alps as part of a string of anti-migrant measures if Italy failed to reduce the number of new arrivals heading to Austria.

"The number of illegal migrants has dropped to almost zero in the past weeks," Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano at the pass, a key north-south route.

"That's why it is not necessary to carry out border controls at the Brenner pass for now," Sobotka said."

EU-Turkey deal: MEPs to go to Greece to check on refugees and implementation of EU-Turkey deal (press release, pdf): "A Civil Liberties Committee delegation will travel to Greece from 18 to 20 May to check the situation of refugees at the external borders of the EU and assess how the EU-Turkey deal to manage migrant and asylum-seekers flows into the EU is being implemented. MEPs will visit the Greece/FYROM border, the island of Lesvos and Athens. They will also meet representatives of the Greek Government, and EU and international bodies, as well as NGOs."

Macedonia: More than 11,000 migrants sent back to Greece (Anadolu Agency, link): "Macedonian authorities have sent more than 11,000 migrants back to Greece since it closed its borders to migrants in early March.

Director of the Macedonian Interior Ministry of Strategic Affairs Department Nataliya Spirova told Anadolu Agency that, in total, 11,803 migrants had been apprehended and returned to Greece since the country sealed its borders on March 8.

She added the border patrols were done by Greek, foreign and Macedonian police and military forces."

NETHERLANDS: Mayor admits helping Syrian refugees go into hiding (update) (Dutch News, link): "A Dutch mayor has been accused of putting himself above the law for helping a family of Syrian refugees avoid deportation.

Jos Heijmans told a council meeting in Weert, Limburg, that he acted to prevent the family, consisting of a mother and her four children, being separated from her younger brother. Only the brother, who is 18, had permission to stay in the Netherlands.

After two failed attempts to keep the family in the Netherlands legally – first through the courts and then by writing to junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff – Heijmans helped to shelter the mother and her children, 1Limburg reported."

UN envoy blasts EU's 'lack of vision' on migration (Ekathimerini, link): "A United Nations envoy for human rights has criticized the European Union's response to the refugee crisis as showing a "lack of vision," operating under legal ambiguity, and backing the detention of newly arrived migrants in Greece.

The envoy, Francois Crepeau, said the March agreement between the EU and Turkey to send back migrants reaching Europe required "much stronger legal instruments to ensure legal accountability.""

UN says turning migrants away 'won't work' (BBC News, link): "The UN high commissioner for refugees says the migrants crisis is now a global phenomenon and that simply turning them away "won't work".

Filippo Grandi told the BBC that more nations had to help the "few countries" shouldering the burden, by increasing both funding and resettlement.

He said that, last year, fewer than 1% of 20 million refugees had been resettled in another nation.

More are fleeing conflict and hardship than at any other time in history."

U.N. urges Greece to stop detaining migrant children (Reuters, link): "A top United Nations official urged Greece on Monday to stop detaining refugee and migrant children, some of whom are locked up in police cells for weeks, and to develop child protection services instead.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, said he had met unaccompanied children held in police stations for more than two weeks without access to the outdoors, and "traumatised and distressed" by the experience.

Others were with their families in overcrowded detention centres, where inter-communal frictions and contradictory information created "an unacceptable level of confusion, frustration, violence and fear", he said.

"Children should not be detained - period," said Crepeau, on a fact-finding mission in Greece from May 12 to 16."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-15.5.16)
David Miliband's refugee aid group in corruption probe (Daily Telegraph, link):

"The United States is investigating an international aid group headed by David Miliband over allegations of corruption in projects intended to help Syrian civilians and refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of three international groups to have had millions of pounds in funding withdrawn over alleged bid-rigging and bribery....

Allegations relate to the organisations systematically overpaying for goods in Turkey. A senior USAID official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said private Turkish companies had sold cut-rate blankets and other basic materials at vastly inflated prices and pocketed the difference...."

Refugees: German police chief concerned at growing anti-refugee violence (DW, link):

"Germany's federal police chief says there have been 45 arson ttacks on refugee shelters so far this year. He warned of the potential threat posed by organized right-wing extremist crime....

Speaking to newspapers of the Funke media group, Münch said the "increasing level of violence was especially of concern," adding that 45 arson attacks had been carried out on refugee shelters so far this year.."

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF): Europe, don't turn your back on asylum: #TakePeopleIn (link)

"Meanwhile the welcome offered by Europe to those in Greece often erases what little hope people had left. In island ‘hotspots’ there are virtually no safeguards in place. Women fear to go to the toilet once darkness falls, mothers beg for formula milk to feed their babies, and men of all ages lose their dignity fighting over scraps of food or who is next in line.

European countries, people are in need of your help and protection – not just your money. Is World War II so long ago that you no longer recall the basic human need to flee from violence and persecution when left with no other choice? We understand that meeting the huge challenges of the global displacement crisis has become a controversial political issue, but for us it is first and foremost a humanitarian one, and it should be for you too.

"Many of your citizens have risen to this challenge by volunteering to help others, but your leadership has lagged behind for fear of potential political consequences. We appeal to you, the leaders of Europe, to rise to the challenge: use your substantial resources to welcome and offer protection to those who need your help."

Greece: Is The Relocation Program Real? (News that Moves, link): "There is a lot of scepticism among the refugee population regarding the legitimacy of the relocation program. Our team reports that almost everyone they talk to seems to believe that the program is not a real program. It seems this opinion is informed by the extreme difficulties and frustrations that many people have had in accessing the Greek Asylum Service Skype line."

and see: Statistical Data of the Greek Asylum Service – Relocation Procedures (Minister of the Interior, pdf)

Greece-Turkey: Migrant influx is down but deal spat fuels fears (ekathimerini.com/, link):

"The number of migrants arriving in Greece dropped 90 percent in April, the European Union border agency Frontex said Friday, a sign that an agreement between Turkey and the EU to curb migration has had an impact, though tensions between Ankara and Brussels over Turkey’s reluctance to amend its anti-terrorism laws have fueled fears that the deal will collapse.....

In Athens, however, there are fears that the sharp drop in numbers may reverse soon as a deal between the EU and Turkey to curb migration is wobbling following Ankara’s insistence on its citizens being granted visa-free travel to Europe while it refuses to satisfy EU demands for it to reform its anti-terrorism legislation. The deal involves Turkey taking back the majority of migrants that reach Greece. If it collapses, a lull in arrivals may be reversed. Already the virtually zero influx before Orthodox Easter has picked up, with dozens of migrants now arriving on the islands every day." [emphasis added]

Are You Syrious (link)

The Charter of Idomeni receives support among journalist groups.

"The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) “strongly supports” the initiative of its affiliate in Greece the Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH)?—?who drafted a proposal for the adoption of the Anti-racism Ethics Code of the Greek journalists called The Charter of Idomeni, named after the location at northern border. The Charter explains that it aims at preserving “the social role of journalists in the conditions created by the presence of refugees, migrants, minorities and socially vulnerable groups in Greece, discourage and denounce climates of intolerance, guarantee the right to freedom of expression and press freedom and the rights of refugees and provide journalists with conditions of voluntary commitment in performing their duties”. The draft has 11 articles and is described as a practical guide for local and foreign journalists covering the migrant issues. The draft has also received the support of the Italian NGO Carta di Roma."

Increasing number of people caught while trying to cross the Greek-FYROM border

"Macedonian authorities report that an increasing number of people have been caught while trying to irregularly cross the Greek-FYROM border. Most of them are from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Iraq.

According to News That Moves, people crossing irregularly into FYROM will first be transferred to the camp in Gevgelija, and then returned to Greece. According to the FYROM Asylum Law, amended on April 4th, claims submitted by persons who crossed irregularly from a “safe third country” like Greece will be considered unfounded. Only ill and injured refugees can be transferred to the Asylum center in Gazi Baba in Skopje."

Italy deploys 110 more guards to patrol Alpine pass after warning from Austrian officials

"Italy said on Friday it had deployed 110 more guards to patrol the Alpine crossing point between the two countries, in order to keep refugees from traveling into Austria, after Vienna threatened to introduce tighter border controls that could have hurt trade routes by slowing down traffic. "Migrants who arrive here thinking to go to Austria will be taken to Italian shelters”, said Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano at the Brenner Pass."

UNHCR Daily Report (13.5.16)

"Yesterday, according to the Italian Cost Guard, some 1,000 refugees and migrants were rescued off the coast of Italy, including refugee families and unaccompanied children. In one operation, some 500 people travelling in two fishing boats that had departed several days earlier from Egypt were rescued off Sicily, south east of Cape Passero. Apart from the two fishing boats that sailed from Egypt, it is believed that there were other smaller boats that came from Libya. Disembarkation of the 1,000 people rescued yesterday is taking place today at four different locations in southern Italy: Catania, Palermo, Augusta and Crotone, and will probably last the whole day.UNHCR staff will be present and will be giving information and assistance to the persons rescued."

"A proposal was made in the German Parliament to determine the status of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria as safe countries of origin. Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, stated that there are “good reasons” for declaring these states as safe countries of origin. The government hopes that the proposal will lead to accelerated asylum procedures, faster returns for rejected asylum seekers originating from these countries and a “deterrent effect” for people from “safe counters” intending to come travel to Germany. A final decision will be made on the 10 June by the Bundesrat. Many federal states have not yet taken a final position."

Hungary to resume transfers of asylum seekers under Dublin regulation to Greece in overall climate of human rights repression (ECRE, link):

"The Hungarian Office for Immigration and Nationality has recently issued decisions ordering the transfer of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation. ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has expressed concern regarding these developments and called on Hungary to continue the suspension of transfers to Greece....

“The HHC find this recent development extremely worrisome: first it is unfair to Greece, which is already struggling to be able to handle the backlog of cases and provide shelter and protection to refugees. Second, it is clear that the situation in Greece for refugees and asylum seekers is still far from the standards required by the European Union. According to information provided by the ELENA network, there is no other Member State which orders transfers to Greece, which shows that the situation is still not assessed as satisfactory,” stated the HHC."

News (14-15.5.16)

Expert-level talks ongoing in Brussels to overcome terror impasse with Turkey: EU envoy (.hurriyetdailynews.com, link)

Germany: Munich police brace for rival protests at anti-refugee party's meeting (Guardian, link): "Right- and leftwing protesters expected at Alternative for Germany event in beer hall where Adolf Hitler once gave a speech."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13.5.16)
European Commission: Statistics on hotspots, returns, relocation, financial pledges and civil protection: updated 13.5.16

UNHCR: Hungary As a Country of Asylum: Observations on restrictive legal measures and subsequent practice implemented between July 2015 and March 2016 (pdf):

"In UNHCR’s view, legislation and related Decrees adopted by Hungary in July and September 2015, and progressively implemented between July 2015 and 31 March 2016, have had the combined effect of limiting and deterring access to asylum in the country. These include, most notably, the following.

(a) the erection of a fence along Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia, accompanied by the introduction of a procedure in which individuals arriving at the border who wish to submit an asylum application in Hungary must do so in special “transit zones” in which the asylum procedure and reception conditions are not in accordance with European Union (EU) and international standards...

(b) the application of the ‘safe third country’ concept to countries on the principal route followed by asylum-seekers to Hungary – namely Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia – without adequate procedural safeguards, and despite the fact that no other EU Member State applies a presumption of safety to those countries and that UNHCR has recommended that asylum-seekers should not be returned to them...

(c) the criminalization of irregular entry into Hungary through the border fence, punishable by actual or suspended terms of imprisonment of up to ten years – and/or the imposition of an expulsion order. Prison sentences, at variance with the EU Return Directive, are imposed following fasttracked trials of questionable fairness, and are not suspended in the event that the concerned individual submits an asylum application... (...)

In conclusion, UNHCR considers these significant aspects of Hungarian law and practice raise serious concerns as regards compatibility with international and European law, and may be at variance with the country’s international and European obligations."

And see: Hungary to resume transfers of asylum seekers under Dublin regulation to Greece in overall climate of human rights repression (ECRE, link): "The Hungarian Office for Immigration and Nationality has recently issued decisions ordering the transfer of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation. ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has expressed concern regarding these developments and called on Hungary to continue the suspension of transfers to Greece.

Transfers of asylum seekers to Greece have been suspended since 2011 following rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, on account of the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment of asylum seekers in the country."

UK-EU: House of Lords committee says EU's Operation Sophia deals with "symptoms, not causes" and "cannot deliver its mandate"

A new report from the UK House of Lords' European Union Committee has commended the EU's "anti-smuggling" military operation in the Mediterranean for its efforts at search and rescue, but notes that it is ultimately unable to meet its aims of deterring migrants, disrupting smugglers' networks and thwart smugglers' business models as it deals with "symptoms, not causes".

Key document: European External Action Service: Planning for a possible non-executive Civilian CSDP mission in Libya (LIMITE docxno: 7491/16, 1 April 2016, pdf):

Number of people arriving on Greek islands dropped dramatically in April

"The number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in April plunged by 90% compared to the previous month, reaching fewer than 2 700. The drop is a result of several factors, including The EU-Turkey agreement and stricter border policies applied by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at its border with Greece.

“The drop in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands was dramatic. The total for all of April is well below the number of people we often saw reaching just the island of Lesbos on a daily basis during last year’s peak months,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.

Syrians again accounted for the largest share of the migrants coming to the Greek islands, trailed by nationals from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq."

European External Action Service/European Commission: One year after: the impact of the EU Regional Strategy for Syria, Iraq and against Da'esh (10 May 2016, pdf):

"This paper shows that EU actions in the region are consistent with the Regional Strategy's objectives and have contributed to supporting political solutions to the Syrian and Iraqi crises, as well as the degradation of Da'esh capacities, while playing an essential role in alleviating the dramatic humanitarian consequences of the crises. Substantial coordinated efforts have been made to defeating Da'esh with a large range of internal and external measures. The scale of the Syria crisis is such that efforts will never cover all needs but the London Conference in February 2016 confirmed the priority sectors where the EU should continue focusing its support: education, job opportunities and protection. Efforts will continue to be made on livelihoods and health, supporting also host communities who bear huge socio-economic pressure. On Iraq, the active support of the EU to the reform, governance, stabilisation and reconciliation agenda is key to the peaceful and democratic future of the country, as is the political will on the part of the Iraqis to achieve those aims."

This is not a ‘migrant crisis’ - it's a crisis of inequality and war (Global Justice Now, link):

"The media is wrong to characterise the issues surrounding the thousands of people attempting to travel into Europe as a ‘migrant crisis’, according to a briefing released today by campaign group Global Justice Now. Instead, attention should be drawn to the multiple crises that are forcing people to move. The briefing argues that these include:

Inequality. Over the long term, the most important driver of migration. With 62 people having more than half the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population, more people are being forced to flee poverty.

War and conflict is raging all along Europe’s borders. People are dying and being forced to leave their homes. Countries in Europe have a degree of complicity in these conflicts through either their geo-politics or through the sales of weapons to the countries in conflict.

Climate change. Increased drought, famine, flooding and natural disasters are already forcing people to move across borders.

The briefing goes beyond the well-documented evidence of the benefits that come from migration to pose the question, what would happen if we were to get rid of borders completely?"

See: Migrant crisis or poverty crisis? Why free movement is vital in the battle for global justice (pdf)

Policing the hotspots: Europol setting up team of 200 investigators to deploy to migration hotspots (press release, 12 May 2016, pdf):

"Europol’s Management Board today approved the recruitment of up to 200 counter-terrorist and other investigators for deployment to migration hotspots in Greece and other countries. Europol will form this pool of law enforcement officers through their secondment from national services in EU Member States. Up to 50 of these ‘guest officers’ will be deployed on rotation at key points on the external border of the EU to strengthen the security checks on the inward flows of migrants, in order to identify suspected terrorists and criminals."

Anti-discrimination unit urges governments to reject irregular migrants “offence of solidarity” (Human Rights Europe, link):

"Anti-discrimination experts say governments risk human rights abuses if they establish an “offence of solidarity” in their bid to control irregular migration.

Christian Ahlund, Chair of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), warned that criminalising social and humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants could also encourage discrimination.

“It is highly counterproductive to the delivery of human rights to establish an ‘offence of solidarity’ and it discourages irregular migrants from seeking out services, including urgent medical care,” he said."

See the report: ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 16: On safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination (pdf)

News (13.5.16)

Bulgarian Cabinet Allocates BGN 6.2 M to Continuing Fence on Border with Turkey (Novinite, link): "The Bulgarian cabinet has approved additional expenditures to the budget of the Council of Ministers amounting to nearly BGN 6.5 M, the government's press service informed on Friday.

BGN 6.2 M will be allocated for continuing the construction of the temporary fence along the Bulgarian-Turkish border, in particular the section running through the territory of Burgas region.

The temporary facility plays importance role in countering the increasing migrant pressure exerted on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The fence is vital in guarding the state border and bringing under control the refugee wave."

EU should take charge of asylum, says EP negotiator (EUobserver, link): "Cecilia Wikstroem once hid a family of refugees in her house, but the Swedish liberal MEP is adamant that the best way to deal with migrants is through legislation, not the goodwill of individuals.

In 2013, she was made responsible for negotiating the European Parliament’s position on a proposed update to the Dublin regulation, which stipulates that asylum claims must be processed in the first EU country that migrants enter.

Wikstroem is taking the same role for yet another reform of Dublin, which was outlined by the European Commission on 4 May.

“We could find the political will to save our banks from collapse. We can afford to save people from drowning in the Mediterranean and give them a dignified reception when seeking asylum in the EU,” she told EUobserver in an interview."

Greece / Migrant crisis: UN expert launches follow-up visit to assess impact on human rights (UN Human Rights, link): "The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, will visit Greece from 12 to 16 May 2016 to gather information on the complex management of the Greek border, and its impact on the human rights of migrants.

“In 2015, over one million migrants arrived in Greece; its proximity to Turkey makes it a key point of entry for many migrants seeking to reach Europe,” Mr. Crépeau said. “This visit will allow me to follow up on my 2013 and 2015 reports* on the management of the external borders of the European Union, which took me to Tunisia, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Malta and the EU institutions in Brussels and Vienna.”

“Territorial sovereignty is about controlling the border, knowing who comes in and who leaves. It has never been about sealing the border to migration,” the expert reiterated. “Democratic borders are porous by nature. Providing migrants and asylum seekers with legal and safe mobility solutions will ensure such a control.”"

GREECE: On the search for our human rights - 3 people attempt to swim FROM Greece (RefuAid, link): "Yesterday 3 people were forced to flee, not because of mass human rights violations taking place in Turkey, not because of the savage and unrelenting war in Syria, not due to torture but following all of this, as human beings they had been subject to starvation, neglect and abuse… in Europe... at the hands of European governments. They risked their lives for safety and found none, how can we preach morality across the globe yet neglect our brothers and sisters in need in our backyard.

3 people chose to attempt to swim from the Greek island of Chios BACK to the Middle East, desperate to flee the inhumane conditions inflicted on them in the ‘hotspots’. Desperate for food, shelter and water."

Italy breaks up people-smuggling ring that imprisoned migrants (Midnimo, link): "Italian police arrested seven people on Wednesday for running a people-smuggling ring in which Somali boat migrants who reached Italy by boat were held prisoner until their families paid their passage further north, a statement said.

A court in Catania in eastern Sicily ordered that 13 people be detained for running the smuggling operation, but only seven were picked up. The others were thought to be living abroad."

SPAIN: Interior ministry awards medals to eight Guardia Civil officers acquitted of maltreating a migrant in Melilla [ Interior condecora a los ocho guardias civiles absueltos por maltrato a un inmigrante en Melilla] (El Diario, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12.5.16) Draft Council conclusions call on Member States to "reduce administrive burdens" that hinder expulsion of third-country nationals
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Draft Council conclusions call on Member States to "reduce administrive burdens" that hinder expulsion of third-country nationals

EU Member States will be "invited" to ease the expulsion of expelling "illegally staying third-country nationals" by reducing "administrative burdens" - such as "the suspensive effect of return and asylum decisions" and "multiple and last minute asylum applications and appeals" - if a set of draft conclusions being prepared for the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 20 May remain in their current form.

Schengen: Greece and Slovenia unhappy with continuation of internal border controls

The Council of the EU has today (12 May 2016) adopted a decision that permits the continuation of the internal border controls adopted by Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Greece and Slovenia have submitted statements disagreeing with the decision.

European Parliament study: On the frontline: the hotspot approach to managing migration (pdf): "This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee, places the new “hotspot approach” to managing migration within its policy framework. It examines the way in which EU agencies provide support to frontline Member States, with particular focus on Greece, and assesses the chief challenges identified to date in both the policy design and operational implementation of hotspots."

EU: European Investment Bank: Migration and the EU: Challenges, opportunities, the role of EIB (pdf): "This paper examines what the EIB is already doing in the EU and outside Europe - and what, in partnership with others, we might do to move from humanitarian assistance to economic development, for example through support of the private sector. But unlocking and managing the potential of migration will require a much more coordinated policy response from EU governments. The European Commission has put important building blocks in place, but we still lack a sustainable and coordinated system of migration management that also has Europe’s labour market in mind, the potential for brain-drain as well as the need to provide a humanitarian as well as an economic response."

New report on Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”: action needed to improve living conditions for migrants and refugees and to protect unaccompanied children (Council of Europe, link): "Strasbourg, 11.05.2016 - A new report addressing the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” was published today by Tomáš Bocek, the Special Representative on Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe’s Secretary General. The report is based on his fact-finding mission to the two countries from 7 to 11 March.

The Special Representative visited a shelter for unaccompanied children in Athens, a “hotspot” and reception centre on the island of Chios and camps in both countries. Some of the camps were seriously overcrowded following the build-up of refugees and migrants as a result of the closure of the western Balkan route, which occurred shortly before his visit. In these camps, living conditions were extreme and only basic needs were being catered for. The report calls for the Council of Europe to mobilise resources to enable the necessary additional capacity to be built to house migrants and refugees in decent living conditions in both countries.

An important issue addressed in the report is the treatment of refugee and migrant children, especially unaccompanied minors, in Greece. The report calls for alternatives to detention for children who are often detained while their asylum claims are being processed or on their way to shelters. It also draws attention to the importance of making some provision for education in the camps and the need to strengthen the Greek child-protection system to protect refugee and migrant children from exploitation.

The Special Representative welcomed the generally supportive response of local populations in Greece to the rising number of new arrivals and underlined the need for integration policies focusing on the fight against intolerance and discrimination.

Finally, the Special Representative was concerned at reports of push-backs and allegations of ill-treatment by those guarding the border of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". He recommended human rights training for all relevant personnel."

Report: Report of the fact-finding mission by Ambassador Tomáš Bocek Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees to Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” 7-11 March 2016 (pdf) and on the Council of Europe website (link).

EU-AFGHANISTAN: Foreign Affairs council may discuss controversial Afghan repatriation plan (EurActiv, link): "Development ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday (12 May) may discuss a controversial proposal to repatriate some 80,000 Afghans to their homeland, it emerged Tuesday (10 May).

The scheme – first disclosed by EurActiv.com last month – came in the form of a secret Commission proposal to declare the Hindu Kush a “safe region”, and thus return tens of thousands of Afghans in order to deter further migration flows from the war-torn state.

On Thursday, Afghan Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi will join development ministers and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini for lunch, as part of the day’s agenda discussing Afghanistan, migration and development.

A senior EU official told EurActiv.com that the issue of return of Afghan refugees to Hindu Kush “may be raised – one way of the other” over the lunch."

See: the European Commission-European External Action Service (EEAS) document (published by Statewatch in March): Joint Commission-EEAS non-paper on enhancing cooperation on migration, mobility and readmission with Afghanistan - Country Fiche proposing possible leverages across Commission-EEAS policy areas to enhance returns and effectively implement readmission commitments (6738/16, 3 March 2016, pdf)

And see: Europe sees rise in unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, with almost half from Afghanistan (Pew Research, link)

Irregularly present migrants: “firewalls” needed to prevent denying human rights through sharing personal data (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, link): "To prevent state and private sector actors from effectively denying migrants’ human rights, social services providers must be prohibited from sharing the personal data of irregularly present migrants with immigration authorities, says the Council of Europe’s anti-discrimination body in the new set of policy recommendations to European governments issued today.

With these recommendations, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) seeks to support states in addressing a pressing issue of discrimination against individuals – women, men and children - who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in a member State of the Council of Europe.

“All migrants, including those who are irregularly present, have fundamental human rights which must be guaranteed in law and practice, without discrimination, while these people are within the jurisdiction of member States,” said the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland. “People should be treated as human beings regardless of their legal status.” "

ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 16: On safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination (adopted 16 March 2016, pdf): "For the purposes of this General Policy Recommendation (GPR) “irregularly present migrants” should be understood as individuals – women, men and children - present in a member State that is not their country of origin, who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in that member State.

The purpose of the GPR is to address a pressing issue of discrimination which is causing grievous hardship to a substantial number of migrants who are irregularly present in member States. It deals exclusively with the question of ensuring access by all persons in this particularly vulnerable group to those human rights which are guaranteed to them in international human rights instruments, in particular as concerns education, health care, housing, social security and assistance, labour protection and justice, while they are within the jurisdiction of a member State."

EU-TURKEY: Commission confirms high level EU – Turkey visa liberalization talks postponement (New Europe, link): "The European Commission confirmed the postponement of a high level dialogue meeting on EU – Turkey for the assessment with visa liberalization, while Erdogan denies reform in anti-terror law.

The meeting that was rescheduled to a later date, was to take place on Friday. “The decision to reschedule the meeting was common,” added the Commission. Attempting to link the postponement of the visa accession meeting, with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s decision to quit, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pressure.“Those who criticise us are reduced to sidelining democracy and freedoms when bombs started to explode on their soil,” Erdogan said in last Saturday’s speech in the southeastern city of Malatya, referring to Turkey’s anti-terror reform."

See also: Erdogan says he wants visa waiver by October (EurActiv, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday (10 May) that he wanted the European Union to grant Turks visa-free travel to the passport-free Schengen area by October at the latest. The previous deadline, also cited by the Commission, was the end of June."

And: Turkey repeats threat to flood Europe with refugees (EurActiv, link): "The threat is not new, but this time it’s addressed to the European Parliament which made it clear that Turkey should not expect a visa waiver if it has not fulfilled all the requirements for the visa liberalisation deal."

1,700 years ago, the mismanagement of a migrant crisis cost Rome its empire (Quartz, link): "The trust between the abused Goths and the Romans was broken several times before Adrianople, and the Goths went from wanting to become Roman to wanting to destroy Rome.

Less than two years later, Marcellinus writes, “with rage flashing in their eyes, the barbarians pursued our men.” And they took down the empire.

The migrants trying to get to Europe right now are not about to rise up in arms, and Europe is not—thankfully—the Roman empire. But this story shows well that migration has always and will always be a part of our world. There are two ways to deal with refugees: one is to promote dialogue, and inclusion; the other is to be unwelcoming and uncaring. The second has led to disaster before—and in one way or another, is sure to do so again."

Mapped: The countries that host the most refugees (Quartz, link): "Despite the recent attention to refugees in Europe, Western countries play a relatively small part in refugee asylum. The largest refugee camps in the world are, as they have been for decades, in Africa and the Middle East, and the first exception, in terms of size, is Mae La, in Thailand (hosting nearly 50,000 refugees from Burma), and then Suruç, in Turkey. By comparison, the camps of Idomeni, in Greece, arguably Europe’s largest, hosts 13,000 people, and Calais, in France, known as “The Jungle,” houses 4,500."

News (12.5.16)

EU: World Humanitarian Summit: GUE/NGL MEP skeptical about the real outcome (press release, link): "Responding to Commission and Council statements on the "Preparation of the World Humanitarian Summit", Spanish MEP, Miguel Urbán Crespo, highlighted the inconsistency of the European Union's policies on the refugee crisis.

"Unfortunately, humanitarian crises are becoming more frequent. The causes are not just climate change and natural disasters, but often armed conflicts created by economic interests," he said.

Urbán Crespo continued: "The causes also include political decisions, such as closing borders to thousands of refugees. This policy has generated the first humanitarian crisis in the territory of the European Union."

"What good are vague commitments to humanitarian aid when policies are deepening humanitarian crises?" he asked."

EU-TURKEY: Verhofstadt outlines new plans for Syrian refugees in Turkey (The Parliament, link): "Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, the Belgian MEP outlined a dramatic two-pronged plan designed to help relieve the suffering of up to two million mostly Syrian refugees.

This includes vastly increasing financial assistance to refugees trapped in camps in Turkey.

Under his plan, the monthly amount would increase from about €7 per refugee to €80.

This would come from the €3bn pledged by the EU as part of its response to the crisis.

Another key plank of Verhofstadt's proposal is the creation of a rapid reaction force, comprising up to 2000 civil servants and agents, who would be despatched to refugee hotspots at short notice."

TURKEY: Syrian refugee children forced into factory work in Turkey (CBS News, link): "In a textile factory in Istanbul, workers toil over sewing machines. But look closely, because the workers are children.

Filming with a hidden camera, we found scores of factories using child labor in Turkey. Most, perhaps all, of the children are from Syria.

Some told us they were as young as 11 -- refugees from a war now easily exploited.

A Turkish worker on the minimum wage earns around $450 a month. A Syrian child, working 12 hours a day, earns as little as $160."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.5.16)
'Risks of inaction are considerable', says Ban, urging new compact on refugees and migrants
(UN, link): " Despite bold efforts, responses to the large movements of refugees and migrants – which will continue or possibly increase due to such issues as conflict, poverty and disasters – have been largely inadequate, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a new report, calling for the adoption of a global compact on responsibility-sharing that collectively ensures the human rights, safety and dignity of all refugees and migrants.

“Away from the daily headlines and stark images, strains are quietly accumulating on refugees and migrants, as well as on countries and communities that receive them, sometimes for many years,” Mr. Ban stressed in his report to the UN General Assembly, entitled In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants.

“If one lesson can be drawn from the past few years, it is that individual countries cannot solve these issues on their own. International cooperation and action to address large movements of refugees and migrants must be strengthened,” he added.

Any approach should uphold the safety and dignity in large movements of both refugees and migrants, Mr. Ban said, urging Member States to, among other things, address the root causes of such movements, protect people en route and at borders, and prevent discrimination and promote inclusion."

Full report: Report of the Secretary-General: In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants (pdf)

EU-Turkey deal not binding, says EP legal chief (EUobserver, link): "The legal arm of the European Parliament on Monday (9 May) spoke out against the EU deal with Turkey.

It noted the statement between the two on 18 March is nothing more than a press release, which has no legal bearing.

"This statement was nothing more than a press communique," the parliament lawyer told MEPs in the civil liberties committee.

"This statement is not a binding agreement."

He noted the statement came without any signatures and was not published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

"It is very difficult to conclude that both the European Union and Turkey wanted to be legally bound under international law by this declaration," he said."

And see: Is the EU-Turkey refugee and migration deal a treaty? (EU Law Analysis, link)

EU-TURKEY: Visa liberalisation for Turkey: EU critieria must be met, say MEPs (press release, pdf): "The EU should make sure that all its requirements are met before granting Turkey visa-free access to the Schengen area, stressed Civil Liberties Committee MEPs in a debate with the EU Commission on Monday. Most MEPs criticised the Commission for proposing a visa waiver for Turkish nationals even though the country has not yet fulfilled all the criteria. Turkey should not be discriminated, but neither should it receive preferential treatment, they agreed."

And see: EP stops work on Turkey visa waiver (EUobserver, link): "MEPs have stopped work on plans to give Turks visa-free access to the EU’s Schengen zone, putting a wider migrant deal in doubt.

Group leaders in the European Parliament's “conference of presidents” quietly suspended work on the file last Wednesday. Some of the lead MEPs on the dossier, the group coordinators in the civil liberties committee (LIBE), found out about the suspension on Monday (9 May).

"They [EP group leaders] decided to stop the whole thing," the German centre-left coordinator Birgit Sippel told this website on Tuesday.

Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green MEP, said EU parliament chief Martin Schulz suspended it because Turkey had not yet met all EU visa-free criteria.

“Schulz said we will only start processing the file when the 72 criteria have been met,” she said."

Hungary imposes strict measures on refugees after border shooting (Vatican Radio, link): "Hungary's Parliament has adopted strict new measures towards asylum seekers and also approved a government referendum on whether to accept a European Union quota plan to distribute as many as 160.000 refugees among member states. The vote came amid rising tensions in the region after Slovak border guards shot at refugees near the Hungarian border.

Hungarian legislators approved tougher conditions for asylum seekers, including cutting allowed stays at reception centers from 60 days to maximum 30 days and gradually reducing their already meager social benefits and subsidies.

Human rights activists condemned the measures saying they are meant to discourage refugees from seeking asylum in Hungary and forcing them into increasingly worse and unpleasant situations.

Hungarian authorities have acknowledged that only 197 people were granted asylum or some other sort of international protection this year in the January-April period."

And: Parliaments votes to cut benefits for migrants and to issue residence permits more easily (Politics.hu, link)

See also: Hungarian parliament backs referendum challenging EU refugee quotas (Europe Online, link) and Hungary to hold anti-migrant referendum (Hungarian Free Press, link)

News (11.5.16)

Creating 'security' for Europe's new child arrivals (Christian Science Monitor, link): "It is a symbol of desperation and, they hope, of a better life to come. On the Greek island of Lesbos, which half a million refugees passed through last year, the local garbage dump has turned into a burnt-orange mountain of life jackets.

Many of them are baby-sized, some bearing the words, “Not for use in boating.” An inner tube marked with the characters from “Toy Story” lies on one of the piles. The life jackets are refuse left behind by the interminable waves of refugees from Syria and other countries making the journey across the eastern Mediterranean in their quest to push deeper into Europe.

As Sweden, Germany, and other destination countries face the daunting task of integrating new refugee children, many other minors are just starting to come, in a flow of humanity that is unprecedented in scale and whose members often fall victim to the perils of the pilgrimage. Indeed, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that on average two children have died per day since September trying to cross the Mediterranean."

DENMARK: Police Rescue Migrants From Icy Danish Waters (NDTV, link): " Two migrants were in hospital after authorities rescued them from icy waters off Denmark as they tried to reach Sweden to ask for asylum, Danish police said today.

They were part of a group of four men who attempted to cross on Monday the strait between Denmark and Sweden, where the water is around eight degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit).

"There were two who were taken to hospital after the rescue operation," police spokesman Henrik Svejstrup told local Danish broadcaster TV 2 Lorry.

"One was put on a respirator, but we expect him to be taken out of the coma" later today, he added."

Turkey readmitted 386 irregular migrants since March 20: Foreign Ministry (Hurriyet, link): "In line with a March deal with the European Union, almost 400 illegal immigrants have been readmitted to Turkey so far, the spokesperson for the Turkish Foreign Ministry has announced, noting that 125 Syrians have been resettled in five EU countries under the same deal.

“Within the framework of the agreement with the EU, 386 irregular migrants have been readmitted to Turkey from five Greek islands. Of those, 14 of them were Syrians and a vast majority was other countries’ citizens,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç told reporters at a press conference on May 9."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.5.16)
EU: What Merkel, Tusk and Timmermans should have seen during their visit to Turkey: Report from GUE/NGL Delegation to Turkey, May 2-4, 2016 (pdf):

"The key findings of the delegation are:

1. People deported from Greece have, until now, had no opportunity to ask for asylum, neither in Greece nor in Turkey;

2. Detention under a prison-style regime including for children;

3. Documented push-backs to Turkey by Bulgarian and Greek police forces;

4. Horrifying testimonials from refugees as a result of the closure of the Turkish-Syrian border.

See also: Non-Syrians denied asylum claims under EU-Turkey deal - MEPs (Guardian, link): "Politicians say interviews with refugees reveal they were not given chance to ask for asylum in Greece or Turkey. Hundreds of non-Syrian asylum seekers deported under the EU-Turkey migration deal were not allowed to claim asylum in either Greece or Turkey, a group of European politicians has claimed.... “All refugees interviewed told us they were not given the opportunity to ask for asylum, neither in Greece nor in Turkey,” Cornelia Ernst, Marina Albiol and Josu Juaristi said in a report released to journalists after they visited two detention centres in northern Turkey. “All said they did not know what will happen to them, and had received no information since they had arrived in Turkey.”

Buried without a name - The untold story of Europe's drowned migrants (BBC News, link)

"More than 1,250 unnamed men, women and children have been buried in unmarked graves in 70 sites in Turkey, Greece and Italy since 2014, a BBC investigation has found. The majority died trying to cross the Mediterranean to seek a new life in Europe. "

Greek ‘Plan B’ reported, if EU-Turkey deal collapses (euractiv, link):

"A German tabloid reported yesterday (9 May) that the EU was considering giving the billions it promised to Turkey to Greece instead, in case the deal agreed with Ankara to stem the refugee flows collapses.

On Monday, Bild reported that several Greek islands in the Aegean are being turned into central registration sites for stranded refugees, and that ships will no longer take refugees to the Greek mainland in order to stop the uncontrolled flow of migrants into the EU.

In other words, asylum seekers will be kept on the islands; those refused asylum would then be deported directly to their home countries. The €6 billion in aid promised to Turkey would be transferred to Athens instead.

The paper reported that several EU states are considering this alternative plan in the event that the EU’s refugee deal with Ankara collapses. The story included statements from unnamed high-ranking politicians. Bild is known for having excellent contacts within the German government....

the EU may be unable to move forward with the promise to offer visa-free travel to the Turks by the end of June. On 7 May, Erdogan made it clear Turkey will not change its anti-terror law, which is one of the conditions for the EU to lift the visa barrier."

Europe to Turkey: We won’t be bullied on refugees - Europe needs Erdogan’s help — but Turkey wants an EU visa waiver and its financial aid. (Poltico,link):

"European officials have argued the imperative of the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey to a skeptical public for weeks, insisting there was simply no viable alternative to the controversial pact....

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted in recent days he may just let the whole arrangement collapse, a step that could again send refugees streaming across the Aegean, Europe has quietly begun preparing a Plan B...

The EU’s contingency plan, described by senior diplomats, envisions turning Greece into what European leaders from Angela Merkel on down have vowed to avoid: a giant refugee camp."

Statewatch:comment: And the same could happen to Italy

Médecins Sans Frontières financial independence makes organisation more flexible, its general director tells ANA-MPA (link):

"The financial independence of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which is a basic principle of the organization, ensures the immediate and effective assistance to people in need," its general director Marietta Provopoulos said in an interview with ANA-MPA on Monday.

"Our choice to refuse state funding makes the organization more flexible and ready to go where it is needed," she added."

Turkey’s EU minister heads to Strasbourg for thorny visa talks with EP (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "Turkey’s EU minister has embarked on an intense lobbying visit to Strasbourg and Brussels, as the European Parliament’s plenary is scheduled on May 11 to debate last week’s proposal by the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, to lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens."

Turkey: Border Guards Kill and Injure Asylum Seekers - Border Lock-Down Puts Syrian Lives at Risk (HRW, link):

"(Istanbul) – Turkish border guards are shooting and beating Syrian asylum seekers trying to reach Turkey, resulting in deaths and serious injuries, Human Rights Watch said today. The Turkish authorities should stop pushing Syrian asylum seekers back at the border and should investigate all use of excessive force by border guards....

“While senior Turkish officials claim they are welcoming Syrian refugees with open borders and open arms, their border guards are killing and beating them,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Firing at traumatized men, women, and children fleeing fighting and indiscriminate warfare is truly appalling.”"

UNHCR Daily Report (9.5.16)

"On 5 May, Bulgaria and Turkey signed a “Protocol for the Implementation of the Agreement between the Republic of Turkey and the European Union on the Readmission of Persons Residing without Authorisation”.

Are You Syrious (9.5.16, link)

New arrivals on Greek islands.

"The number of refugees in Greece today is 54,341 with 8,352 in the islands, 14,438 in the Atika region, 1,915 in central Greece, 338 in southern Greece and 29,298 in the northern region. There were 74 new arrivals today with 37 in Lesvos and 37 in Leros."

Protests continue on Leros

"As UNHCR reports, on the island of Leros, tension and protests occurred during the last days at the hotspot / registration and identification center. Demonstration began on Wednesday, 3 May, and continued in the following days, when detained refugees and migrants protested against general living conditions. In addition, members of the local community gathered outside the center to express their anger to the Mayor. Authorities guaranteed improvement regarding food provision, and announced that those detained for 25 days will then be able to move freely on the island."

Hunger strike in Elliniko camp

"Unfortunately, the news from the mainland is not looking good, either. As reported from the #Elliniko camp in Athens, refugees started a hunger strike today: Volunteers report that people “are desperate, and this is the only way they can speak out. They say that they will leave the camp, if things won’t change.” They are asking for their voice to be heard and to be treated like human beings by closed off Europe."

HUNGARY: Hundreds of new asylum seekers reported to have arrived in Hungary during last week with 572 people apprehended for illegal border crossing

"As UNHCR reports around 800 asylum-seekers and migrants were reported to have arrived in Hungary last week. Police reported 572 individuals were apprehended after irregular entry while UNHCR observed 265 people who approached the transit zones in Roszke and Tompa. With the limited daily admission capacity (30 per zone per day) at these locations, around 200 people are waiting outside the fence without shelter, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and are exposed to protection and health risks. UNHCR is present daily in the transit zones to monitor the admission process, coordinate with UNHCR Serbia to identify people with specific needs. On the Hungarian side of the border, access to the transit zones remains limited for other organizations."

GERMANY: Useful app for asylum seekers in Germany

"There is a useful tool for asylum seekers in Germany?—?it is called Ankommen and it can help with basic information on language, previously established migrant communities, as well aswhere to get some basic necessities near you. The app for iPhones can be downloaded here and for Android here

Don’t forget about Calais: People to People Solidarity running out of supplies!

"People to People Solidarity?—?Action from UK needs your help. With the warmer weather, more refugees are making their way to Calais and Dunkirk while the volunteers are running out of supplies. Some volunteers report that every day they have new people coming with absolutely nothing and they have not been able to help them for the last couple of days since they ran out of everything.

They’ve put a list of items to help you all find what is being asked at the moment and where to go for up-to-date information so please see the following link and help if you can: http://bit.ly/1s8uDWK.

News (10.5.16)

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 187,631; Deaths: 1,357 (IOM, link)

Migrants freed from Greek detention, trapped in limbo on islands (Daily Sabah, link): "Migrants and refugees are being freed from detention centers in Greece but remain trapped on its islands until their asylum requests are processed, exposing them to dire living conditions and even the risk of people smugglers, human rights groups say. At least 1,100 people have been released from centers on three islands and more will follow as their 25-day detention limit expires, police officials said. They are forbidden from travelling to the mainland, where most state-run shelters are."

Czech extremists swap traditional topics for migrant issue (Radio Praha, link): "In its annual report on extremism in the Czech Republic in 2015, the Interior Ministry reports on a slight rise in activities both left and right and a shift from traditional topics to the migrant issue which invariably commands public attention."

Greece: Most migrants in Idomeni have expired papers, says minister (ekathimerini.com, link): "The majority of refugees stranded at the sprawling camp in Idomeni, northern Greece, do not have valid documents as most have expired, according to Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas. “The papers of 70 percent of the people at Idomeni [which they received when they were registered] have already expired,” he said, admitting that if police were to conduct checks on the more than 10,000 migrants at the camp many could be arrested as illegal migrants. “What we are saying is that if they are moved to other camps around the country their documents will be automatically validated and renewed,” he said.


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9.5.16)
Reports: Syrian woman shot at the Hungarian-Slovakian border

Via the Migreurop (link) mailing list, 9.5.16: "According to Hungarian language news sources (link), a 26-year old Syrian woman was shot this morning on the Hungarian-Slovakian border by the Slovakian authorities.

A 26-year-old Syrian was shot this morning on the Slovakian-Hungarian border. She was being smuggled in a car through the Vamosszabadi-Medve crossing. Vamosszabadi is also the location of one of the three open refugee camps in Hungary.

There were four cars, and close to Nagymegyer the Slovak customs authorities decided to stop the cars. Three of them stopped, and it turned out that they are carrying “illegal immigrants” (wording by the Slovak authorities). The driver of the fourth car decided not to stop and speeded instead. The customs authorities reacted with warning shots in the air, but when the driver did not care they shot at the car. The woman in the car was hit as well, and an ambulance had to be called. She was shot in the back and brought to the Dunajská Streda-hospital and operated, and now her situation is stable. All the people who were being transported have been handed over to the Ministry of the Interior.

At the same time, there is a huge traffic jam on the Hungarian-Austrian border as cars are being checked."

EU: New asylum proposals: reaction and analysis

EU proposes Minority Report-style facial recognition for refugees (EurActiv, link): "The EU is planning wholesale changes to the bloc’s asylum law. In addition to a “fairer” distribution system for refugees and an extension of border controls within the Schengen area, the Eurodac fingerprint database, which is currently used to identify asylum seekers and irregular migrants, is to be enlarged.

The system is set to be supplemented with facial recognition software and personal data will be stored for a longer period of time, with the aim of ensuring that irregular migrants stay on the authorities’ radar; the information of underage refugees will also be kept. The upgrade will cost some €30 million."

Association Européenne pour la défense des Droits de l’Homme: Coercion and exclusion do not make an equitable asylum policy! The Commission’s «propositions» for a reform of asylum are either unacceptable or unrealistic (press release, pdf): "For the second time in less than a year, the European Commission has presented a “plan” bringing forward reform propositions to solve the European Asylum and Migration crisis.

In a note published today, AEDH observes that the European Commission is offering to organise the regression of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, in a bid to seek the support of Member States and stem the flow of people entering the European territory with the hope of finding protection there.

How far will the European Union go in denying its fundamental values and its history?"

See the English summary of AEDH's analysis (link).

And: Commission Proposals for tougher Dublin system, more data collection under Eurodac and the birth of a new Asylum Agency

"The proposed reform of the Dublin Regulation will not revisit the responsibility criteria of the current mechanism, which in the majority of cases lead to Member States of first entry being designated as responsible for asylum seekers. The weight placed on the irregular entry criterion could be further exacerbated given that the 12-month time-limit, after which the responsibility of the country of entry ceases under the current rules, is to be removed. The proposal includes a “corrective fairness mechanism” of relocation, to be triggered in Member States facing particular pressure, similar to a reform proposed last September. Under that mechanism, asylum seekers will be subject to a relocation scheme from the country in question only after their claim has been deemed admissible, namely after the potential applicability of the “safe third country” concept has been ruled out in their case. Member States refusing to relocate asylum seekers will have to pay 250,000€ per person to the country in which he or she is relocated."

The proposal for new Eurodac legislation, along with the Commission's other proposals, can be seen here: EU opens door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy deal" with Turkey and plans Dublin III

See also: The Orbanisation of EU asylum law: the latest EU asylum proposals (EU Law Analysis, link)

Map: Refugee camps in Northern Greece (link): lists 19 different sites on the Greek mainland.

News (9.5.16)

FRANCE: Calais : un migrant pakistanais meurt percuté par une voiture sur la rocade portuaire [A Pakistani migrant dies after being hit by a car on the port bypass] (La Voix du Nord, link)

GREECE: Europe Day: 100 Refugees Tour Acropolis With Greek Minister (Greek Reporter, link): "Greek Culture Minister Aristidis Baltas will guide a hundred refugees around the ancient site of the Acropolis. The refugees – mainly families from hospitality centers of Eleonas, Athens center, and Schistos, Piraeus – will be the minister’s guests in the framework of events celebrating Europe Day (May 9)."

GREECE: Coast guard officers save 74 migrants of Lesvos, Farmakonisi (Ekathimerini, link): "Greek Coast Guard officers saved a total of 74 migrants off the islands of Lesvos and Farmakonisi over the past three days as the influx of people from neighboring Turkey ebbs.

The rescue efforts were relatively unhindered as weather conditons have been good."

MOROCCO-SPAIN: Marruecos blinda la playa de Beliones con vallas metálicas y efectivos de las Fuerzas Auxiliares [Morocco shields the Beliones beach with metal fences and troops from the Auxiliary Forces] (ceutaactualidad.com, link): "The collaboration between Spain and Morocco to halt the entry of migrants onto Spanish national territory has led the Auxiliary Forces of the neighbouring country to shield, with metal fences and barbed wire, the entire beach of Beliones."

NETHERLANDS: Former refugee boats now sail on calmer waters in Amsterdam (Dutch News, link): "A cruise around Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Graham Dockery took a different sort of tour of the city’s waterways, on a boat which had carried asylum seekers to Sicily."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7-8.5.16)

President Erdogan tells EU: “We’re going our way, you go yours” – Bye, Bye to EU Turkey Deal (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Turkish president President Tayyip Erdogan told the European Union on Friday that Turkey would not make changes to its terrorism laws required under a deal to curb migration, and declared: “we’re going our way, you go yours”.

His fiery speech will be a blow to any hope in European capitals that it might be business as usual with Turkey after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who negotiated the migration deal with Europe and had largely delivered on Turkey’s commitments so far, announced he was standing down.

The EU asked member states on Wednesday to grant visa-free travel to Turks in return for Ankara stopping migrants reaching Europe, but said Turkey still had to change some legislation, including bringing its terrorism laws in line with EU standards..."

Austria: Tear gas used at Brenner Pass protest against Austria migration policy (DW, link): "Dozens of protesters have thrown bricks and firecrackers at a police blockade, with officers using tear gas in response. Austria's plans to tighten border controls have angered many Italians."

Are You Syrious (link)

53,652 refugees are in Greece today, with 44 new arrivals to the islands

"Government statistics report a total of 53,652 refugees across the country today as of 8AM, lower than yesterday’s total of 53,901. The government reports 7,703 people at the islands, with 15 new arrivals — 14 at Samos and 1 at Chios. By 5PM today, volunteers at Lesvos reported the arrival of one boat with 29 people, which landed in the North of the island while no information is available for the South.

The greatest number of people is at the mainland—14,389 in Attiki (out of this, 2135 in the Port of Piraeus and 2880 in Skaramagas Dock), 1,954 in the Central, 338 in the Southern and 29,268 in the Northern Greece. 10,028 refugees are still in Idomeni camp."

Refugees of Viale Camp are on a hunger strike after being detained for over a month

"Refugees started a hunger strike four days ago in Viale, at Chios?—?after 47 days in Viale (from March 20) there is a little attention given to them and they have no information about what will happen to them. In order to remain visible, they started a hunger strike, and some of the people have sewn their mouths shut. (Source: Aplotaria.gr)"

ITALY: Refugees protest at Lampedusa being held for months

"“Take us away from this prison” — Migrants were protesting in the streets of Lampedusa island yesterday asking to leave the island, where they have been held for months and where more than 70 migrants have been on a hunger and thirst strike against the identification and hotspot system. Another 400 people have landed on the island in the last 24 hours. (Source: La Repubblica)"

Refugees forced to sleep on the street in Pordenone as a result of slow accommodation

According to Messaggero Veneto, the situation could be soon become critical for refugees and migrants in Pordenone, the city in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, the Italian region "at the border with Austria and Slovenia. The funds available for the Pordenone province to host refugees in 2016 are sufficient for 800 people, while according to the data by the local Nuovi Vicini organization, the number of people has already reached 770 and it is constantly growing."

Excellent summary from MSF: EU Migration Crisis Update - May 2016 (link):

"Todays’ humanitarian crisis in Europe in regards to migrants and refugees is a result of a collective catastrophically failure to respond to the urgent need for assistance and protection of over a million men, women and children. The policies and actions of European governments actively contributed to the worsening of the so-called “refugee crisis” and the health and well-being of those who fled. The lack of safe and legal options for people to flee, the razor wire fences, capriciously closed borders, squalid, inhumane reception conditions and the complicated, ever changing registration procedures aggravated the already miserable conditions imposed on thousands fleeing war, poverty and oppression, serving only to make fleeing more dangerous and increasing the suffering of those on the move."

The Orbanisation of EU asylum law: the latest EU asylum proposals (EU Law Analysis, link):

"The Commission’s proposals are not a done deal, of course. Some Member States and Members of the European Parliament have misgiving about a visa waiver for Turkey, on migration control or human rights grounds. MEPs fought for years for many of the provisions in the Dublin III Regulation (on family members and unaccompanied minors in particular) which the Commission now seeks to overturn. As I pointed out above, some of the proposed changes to the Dublin rules are highly vulnerable to challenge in the CJEU, if adopted. The red herring of a €250,000 sanction is already floating on the surface of the pond. And the whole EU/Turkey deal might anyway be overturned at the whim of Turkish President Erdogan – the only politician whose ego makes Donald Trump’s look small by comparison."

RUMOUR: Will Afghans Be Stuck In Greece?  (news that moves, link):

“They say Afghans are the third most vulnerable on the list. They will separate Afghans and spread Syrians to other EU countries. Afghans will be stuck here.”

Afghans are one of the major groups of refugees currently in Greece. Afghans are not eligible for relocation in the EU. EASO (European Asylum Support Office), the agency that manages the EU Relocation Program, uses specific criteria for the eligible nationalities and updates the criteria quarterly. Afghans are eligible for Family Reunification, in which case they may be able to live in another EU country. You can apply for family reunification if you have a core family member (spouse or minor child) who has a legal residency permit in another EU country. The process might take some time. For more information: UNHCR: Family Reunification (link)"

Erdogan says Turkey will not change terror laws for EU (aljazeera.com, link):

"Turkish president tells Europe he will not change anti-terror measures in exchange for visa-free travel for Turks in EU. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected easing anti-terror legislation in exchange for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in the European Union. Erdogan told EU states, "We'll go our way, you go yours," in a statement released on Friday, just a day after the resignation of his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu."

EU-Turkey visa deal on brink as Erdogan refuses to change terror laws (Guardian, link):

"Refugee pact appears in danger of falling apart as Turkish president tells Europe: ‘We’ll go our way, you go yours’"

When the European commission made a conditional offer of visa-free travel earlier this week, it said Ankara must rewrite its anti-terrorism laws because they were used to prosecute journalists and government critics....

MEP Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal group in the parliament, highlighted anti-terrorist laws, which “have been used in a brutal clampdown” against journalists. “As long as this remains the case, the European parliament should not support this proposal for visa liberalisation,” he said."

UNHCR: Daily Report (6.5.6)

"Last week, temporary border controls at the Hungarian- Austrian border were introduced. The Ministry of Interior also presented details for future border controls and a border management system at the Austrian-Italian crossing where refugees and migrants would be channelled through."

"A total of 1,694 third-country nationals were deported or returned to their countries of origin from Greece in April, under operational planning to combat irregular migration, Greek Police announced on Thursday. The greatest number of returns were to Albania (852), Pakistan (157), Morocco (107), Iran (61), Georgia (51), Afghanistan (45) and Bangladesh (29). A total of 6,427 third-country nationals have been returned to their country of origin since the beginning of the year, Greek Police said." [emphasis added]

Comment: A large number of people are returned by Greece to Albania each year.

Denmark wants to stay out of EU asylum distribution plan (The Local.dk, link): "The Danish government has promised to do everything it can to land an agreement with the EU that would see Denmark escaping a requirement to accept an EU-defined number of asylum seekers, while retaining its right to send asylum seekers back to other EU countries."

Italy-Austria border controls would be 'political catastrophe' (The Local.at, link):

"Austria imposing controls on its border with Italy would be a "political catastrophe" for Europe, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Saturday.

Vienna is threatening to resume checks on the Brenner Pass between the two countries as part of a package of anti-migrant measures if Italy does not do more to reduce the number of new arrivals heading to Austria."

EU ‘sacrifices’ press freedom for Turkish help - Rights groups say migration plan ignores Turkey’s worsening record on human rights (Politico, link):

" It didn’t take long for the platitudes about press freedom to fall foul of the messy political reality of Europe’s migration crisis.

A day after stressing their commitment to free speech to mark World Press Freedom Day, European commissioners were accused of abandoning those principles to win the favor of one of the region’s most repressive autocrats....

The Commission has “abandoned the many journalists, editors and writers in Turkey who face prosecution, imprisonment, harassment and even death for speaking out,” Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, a writers’ association, said.

Not only is the Commission’s pursuit of a deal with Erdogan a betrayal of the Turkish media organizations and journalists that have been victimized by his administration, the critics said, it’s also a signal to other regimes that they can act with impunity against their critics — so long as Brussels needs their support."

News (7-8.5.6)

Bulgaria: Return Migrants to Turkey from June 1 (Balkan Insight, link) "Bulgaria has become the first EU member state to sign a protocol with Ankara to set in place procedures for sending illegal migrants back to Turkey starting from next month."

The refugee children of Idomeni: alone, far from home but clinging to hope (Observer, link): "They have fled their wartorn homelands in Syria and Afghanistan. Now they are stuck in northern Greece – so close to a new life"

German NGO to fund facility for refugees in northern Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Plans are afoot for the creation of a new reception center for refugees near Thermi, east of Thessaloniki, funded by a German nongovernmental organization, Kathimerini understands."

Turkey’s visa liberalisation: An insult to the EU’s eastern neighbours (euractiv, link): "While the EU may think that remaining silent on the more challenging issues of the visa liberalisation deal might be a price worth paying for dealing with the refugee crisis, it reflects the bloc’s desperation, writes Igor Merheim-Eyre."

Austrian mosque under construction vandalized with pig heads, blood (dailysabah.com/europe, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6.5.16)

Bulgaria to Return Migrants to Turkey from June 1 (Balkan Insight, link): "Bulgaria will be able to send back migrants who have crossed its border with Turkey illegally from June 1, according to the protocol signed between Sofia and Ankara on Thursday.

The country is the first among EU member states to sign the protocol, which sets procedures for sending refugees back to Turkey.

“The most important thing is that we are sending a very strong signal to the traffickers and the refugees who plan to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border,” Bulgarian interior minister Rumyana Rachvarova said in Ankara."

EU: Commission statistics on the refugee crisis: updated 6.5.16

The latest statistics on hotspots in Italy and Greece; relocation; returns; civil protection support for Croatia, Greece and Serbia; and Member States' financial pledges.

Overview: Turkey meets 65 of 72 requirements for visa liberalisation (pdf):

"On 4 May the Commission published the ‘Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap’. The “roadmap” has 72 requirements grouped under five headings. Here we provide an overview of the requirements and information on whether or not they have been fulfilled, as set out in the working document that accompanied the Commission’s communication.

The working document provides more detail on what Turkey has done with regard to each of the individual requirements. It also contains an 11-page annex setting out an ‘assessment of the security impact of visa liberalisation’."

See also: Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Third Report on progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (SWD(2016) 161 final, pdf): Detailed overview of the 72 requirements and progress made.

Further documentation: EU opens door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy deal" with Turkey and plans Dublin III

Trapped in the new Greek archipelago with no way out (OpenDemocracy, link): "‘It’s all lies,’ Massoud (not his real name) taps angrily on his smartphone screen; there are dozens of failed calls to the Skype address of the Greek Asylum service. In Greece you register an asylum claim by Skype. Massoud is from Syria and has been in Idomeni camp for 2 months and 10 days.

People have been blockaded in Greece since Macedonia shut its border with Greece entirely for refugees on 9 March this year. At the same time many people are finding it impossible to lodge asylum applications in Greece - and therefore have no chance of ‘relocation’ to another EU country. The EU plan to relocate refugees to other EU countries appears to be bogged down.

By 17 April, UNHCR said some 46,000 refugees are stranded in Greece in an archipelago of camps from Athens to the Macedonian border in the North. Meanwhile, in the islands the deportations to Turkey under the ‘one-for-one’ deal between the EU and Turkey started on 4 April."

See also: Migration Minister: Greece Will Keep 30,000-40,000 Refugees (Greek Reporter, link): "Greek Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said that 30,000-40,000 refugees will stay in Greece for a long time.

Mouzalas headed a meeting on the migration issue in Thessaloniki. He said that the makeshift migrant camp in Idomeni, on the Greek-FYROM border, will be evacuated by May 30."

And: Greece: Police clash with refugees as they clear Idomeni train tracks (Ruptly TV, link to YouTube)

Week April 28th - May 5th 2016 - Hungarian Situation update (Migszol, link): "One of the ways we at MigSzol think we can influence the current situation is through documentation. Many might think that since the events of last year, the situation has calmed down and there is no longer anything happening in Hungary. This is far from the truth. Many people are still passing through Hungary every day and recently the importance of Hungary as a transit country has been increasing again. Every week there are many things happening at both the Serbian and the Austrian borders and the situation is often changing quickly. And even though most of the camps are full (and often overcrowded again), there is very little information about the conditions there available.

MigSzol is in a good position to have access to many sources and other groups who work in the field. We make use of this by documenting the situation in Hungary as often as possible. For this reason, we are starting a situation diary. Every other week, we will publish updates with general information about the situation at the borders and in the camps that we gather from our different sources all over the country. We hope this will provide information to other organizations elsewhere in Europe to keep up to date and serve as a reference for the conditions in Hungary."

Topics covered in the update: A steady number of people are transiting through Hungary every day - Nagyfa closed and new camp opening in Kormend - Hungarian and Serbian border Update - Transit zones

News (6.5.16)

EU: Central European countries resist new E.U. refugee quota proposal (Washington Post, link): "The European Union announced a new plan Wednesday to deal with asylum seekers, requiring member states to accept certain numbers under a quota system and imposing 250,000-euro-per-migrant fines if the countries do not.

The much-anticipated plan is aimed at revamping Europe’s controversial regulations on handling the continent’s migrant crisis as nations struggle to cope with the largest number of displaced people since World War II.

European leaders have been desperately seeking a solution for months. In 2015 alone, more than 1 million people poured into the continent, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa."

EU: Merkel warns of return to nationalism unless EU protects borders (EurActiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday (5 May) urged European leaders to protect EU borders or risk a “return to nationalism” as the continent battles its worst migration crisis since World War II.

As Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi kicked off two days of talks in Rome with Merkel and senior EU officials, the German leader said Europe must defend its borders “from the Mediterranean to the North Pole” or suffer the political consequences.

Support for far-right and anti-immigrant parties is on the rise in several countries on the continent, which saw more than a million people arrive on its shores last year."

FM: Cyprus has a lot of scenarios in mind as regards visa liberalization (FG News, link): "The government of Cyprus has many scenarios in mind as regards the issue concerning the liberalization of visa requirements for Turkish nationals to the EU, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides has said.

Kasoulides said that the decision will be taken by the European Council with a qualified majority, adding that Cyprus, in order to protect its national interests, could for example request exemptions, partial or total suspension, or even submit a unilateral declaration.

Kasoulides said that Nicosia will await for the completion of the process of the road map, adding that all 72 benchmarks set out for Turkey must be fulfilled and that `there remain important issues that are necessary"."

GERMANY: 'Quota refugees' from Syria adjust to life in Germany (Deutsche Welle, link): "On the coffee table is a little plate of Syrian cookies. A friend has sent them from home. The television is tuned to a Syrian channel. In front of it, on the sofa, sits Zakiah Bshara (pictured). She left her homeland at the age of 71 and fled with her husband and son to her daughter in Germany. That was almost two years ago. Today, she lives in Kiel."

GREECE: German NGO to fund facility for refugees in northern Greece (Ekathimerini, link): "Plans are afoot for the creation of a new reception center for refugees near Thermi, east of Thessaloniki, funded by a German nongovernmental organization, Kathimerini understands.

Representatives of a large German NGO recently visited Thessaloniki for talks with local officials about creating the center, which would hold up to 1,500 refugees, Kathimerini has learned. The NGO is said to be offering 5 million euros for use by local authorities."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5.5.16)
MSF to pull out of World Humanitarian Summit (link):

"with regret, we have come to the decision to pull out of the summit. We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations. Instead, the WHS’s focus would seem to be an incorporation of humanitarian assistance into a broader development and resilience agenda. Further, the summit neglects to reinforce the obligations of states to uphold and implement the humanitarian and refugee laws which they have signed up to.

As shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights continue on a daily basis, WHS participants will be pressed to a consensus on non-specific, good intentions to ‘uphold norms’ and ‘end needs’. The summit has become a fig-leaf of good intentions, allowing these systematic violations, by states above all, to be ignored."

EU opens the door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy-deal" with Turkey and plans for Dublin III

1. DUBLIN REVISION: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast) (COM 270-16. pdf)

- Questions & Answers: Reforming the Common European Asylum System: Reforming the Dublin system (pdf)

2. EU-Turkey "Statement": Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (COM 278-16, pdf). Seven of the 72 requirements to allow visa "liberalisation" to go ahead have not been met. These are pretty fundamental:

- "upgrading the existing biometric passports so as to include security features in line with the latest EU standards;

- fully implementing the provisions of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement, including those related to the readmission of third country nationals."
[emphasis added]

Apparently this is OK because:

"The Commission and the Turkish authorities have agreed on practical ways of implementing these benchmarks before their complete fulfilment." [emphasis added]

Comment: This is a massive Commission "fudge" or put another way, this statement is economical with the truth.

- Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Third Report on progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (SWD(2016) 161 final, pdf): Detailed overview of the 72 requirements and progress made.

See also: Overview: Turkey meets 65 of 72 requirements for visa liberalisation (pdf)

- Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement – Questions and Answers (pdf) Sets out details of action by Turkey, Greece and the EU.

- REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Turkey) (COM 279, pdf)

- Questions & Answers: Third Report on Progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap (pdf):

"on 7 and 18 March 2016, meetings of Heads of State or Government of the EU and Turkey took place. The Summit concluded with an EU-Turkey Statement which stipulates that "the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated vis-à-vis all participating Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met."

3. Border controls: Schengen: COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING DECISION setting out a recommendation for temporary internal border control in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk (COM 275, pdf)

- Questions & Answers: A coordinated EU approach for temporary internal border controls (pdf)

4. Eurodac: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the establishment of 'Eurodac' for the comparison of fingerprints for the effective application of [Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person] , for identifying an illegally staying third-country national or stateless person and on requests for the comparison with Eurodac data by Member States' law enforcement authorities and Europol for law enforcement purposes (recast) (COM 272-16, pdf)

5. EU Agency for Asylum: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the European Union Agency for Asylum and repealing Regulation (EU) No 439/2010 (pdf) and Annex (pdf)

CIMADE: France & EU: What are we talking about? (pdf):

"La Cimade issued a press statement on 20 April 2016 in which it announced a suspension of its activities in Rennes detention centre from 18 to 20 April as a result of witnessing a system to deal with the refugee crisis in northern France involving sequences of unlawful practices. Eventually, their unlawfulness is predictably certified by courts or the prefectures which enacted them, but they nonetheless fulfil their purpose, described as removing people from the Calais region and port areas and attempting to dissuade them from returning there. In the meantime, the number unlawful detentions, denials of access to asylum procedures and violations of the rights of minors are rising, and migrants and refugees who are released subsequently return to a state of vagrancy as they await their opportunity to attempt the crossing."

Are You Syrious (4-5-16, link):

Serious concerns about health and protection of refugees

"Lawyers and human rights activists in Izmir express their concern over the protection and health of refugees in Turkey. The president of the NGO Halklarin Korprusu says concerns with human rights are not within the scope of the EU-Turkey deal, while the lawyers in charge of specific asylum cases express their difficulty in meeting with refugees in detention centres."

Strike in Chios

"In Chios, refugees in the Viale detention center sewed their mouths shut and started a hunger strike on Tuesday, to protest living conditions and the indifference of authorities. They protest the lack of attention to people with disabilities in particular."

Police clamping down on volunteers in Athens

"The Iokasti’s Kitchen in Athens will suspend cooking activities until further notice as recent legislation has made it impossible to distribute food in public places?—?police is clamping down on volunteers at Victoria Square and at Piraeus. The Kitchen will continue to provide ingredients to 3 self managed locations, currently cooking 1200 meals a day."

Italy: Volunteers are helping in the sea

"Le Monde reports on the volunteer boat ‘Aquarius’ that has saved 917 migrants in the Mediterranean within two months. It’s funded mostly through crowdfunding and plans to operate between Sicily and Libya over the summer."

European commission faces challenge to grant visa-free travel to Turks (Guardian, link):

"EU executive gives provisional blessing to key scheme in deal with Ankara, as asylum rules overhaul also hits trouble...

In another important caveat, visa-free travel would only be available to those Turks with biometric passports that include fingerprint recognition chips. Such passports do not exist in Turkey, although the government plans to introduce them from 1 June....

The final decision on whether Turkish citizens will get visa-free access to the Schengen Area for stays of up to three months rests with the EU’s 28 member states and the European parliament....

But five conditions still need to be cleared, including passing anti-corruption laws, rewriting domestic law on terrorism to avoid conflicts with freedom of expression, and bringing data protection rules in line with EU standards."

EU-Turkey: Commission admits visa-free travel for Turks depends on national parliaments (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission today (4 May) proposed that Turkish nationals would enjoy visa-free travel to the EU’s Schengen zone by the end of June, praising Ankara for its fast delivery on meeting the necessary conditions. But Commission experts admit that national parliaments could upturn the deal....

In the short time since EU leaders agreed the deal with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last 18 March, Turkey implemented most of the EU benchmarks on the way toward lifting the visa restrictions. The five remaining benchmarks appear to be a formality, listening to EU officials who praised Turkey for an outstanding ability to deliver....

Following the Commission proposal, the decision rests with the Justice and Home Affairs Council who will examine the issue on 19 June and vote by qualified majority.

Paul said she was more concerned about what would happen in the European Parliament, who also need to endorse the decisions. “Some national parliaments also have to ratify it, including the Netherlands”, she said, mentioning Timmermans’ home country. “Let’s hope it gets through, because a lot is at stake”, she added."

EU: Commission approves extending border checks at internal Schengen borders (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission approved today (4 May) extending by six months controls at several frontiers inside the free-travel Schengen area, saying checks were justified by deficiencies in Greece’s management of the bloc’s external border.

Border controls between Schengen countries are usually not allowed, but in a situation of emergency, such as Europe’s migration crisis, checks can be reintroduced for a maximum of two years.oversial Austrian plans to introduce border controls at the Brenner Pass. “There will be no wall,” Austrian interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka said after meeting his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano on Thursday (29 April). But he added: “If and only if it is necessary will we introduce more controls by slowing traffic and trains ... but circulation will be guaranteed.” The Alpine pass connects the two countries. But Austria is concerned that migrants will turn to Italy as a gateway to Europe after it closed the Western Balkan corridor."

Norwegian Government condemns stateless children to a state of legal limbo (statelessness.eu, link):

"A new proposal by the Norwegian Government will leave children born stateless in Norway who are habitually resident without a nationality until they turn 18. The new proposal, put forward by the Ministry of Justice, clearly violates provisions in international law which safeguard every child’s right to a nationality by stipulating that a 5 year lawful residence is required for acquisition of Norwegian citizenship."

News (5.5.16)

Bulgaria, Croatia announced joint positions in the fields of migration crisis, EU enlargement and Schengen membership (focus-fen.net): "“Coordinated positions of Bulgaria and Croatia and the countries in the region of Central and Eastern Europe are of paramount importance for tackling challenges the EU faces with.” That is what Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said during a meeting with his Croatian counterpart Dr Miro Kovac, which was held within the two-day official visit of the Bulgarian first diplomat to the Republic of Croatia, the press centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced."

Avramopoulos, Schengen isn't dying, we'll revive it (ANSA, link): "BRUSSELS, MAY 3 - "Schengen isn't dying. On the contrary, the EU Commission is doing everything to restore it and go back to normalcy, as indicated by the roadmap 'Back to Schengen'," said EU Migrant and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in an interview with ANSA. "But to move ahead, intermediate steps are needed. What we want to reach can't happen in one night, that's why we have to ensure a gradual process, even if that means allowing temporary extra checks at internal borders". (ANSAmed)."

Comment: But will it ever be the same again?

Don’t want migrants? Pay for them instead - Planned relocation scheme would have financial penalties for those who don’t join in. (Politico, link): "It’s part of a planned shake-up of the bloc’s asylum rules that aims to ease the pressure on the EU countries at the bloc’s external borders. If the proposal becomes law, the EU country in which migrants first set foot would in principle have to process their asylum claims, but that country would no longer be obliged to host all of the migrants it receives."

EU Commission: Accept asylum-seekers or pay up (DW, link): "EU nations that reject asylum seekers from overburdened frontline states will face a 250,000 euro charge per refugee under a plan unveiled by the European Commission. It's drawn rapid rebuffs from Slovakia and Poland."

EU leaders in Rome to discuss migrant crisis (ekathimerini.com, link): "EU president Donald Tusk travels to Rome Thursday with fellow EU institution leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for two days of talks likely to focus on next steps in Europe’s migrant crisis. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who fears Italy becoming the new migrant frontline after the closure of the Balkan route, will host the first day of talks, followed by Pope Francis on Friday."

Visa deal for Turkey; crisis off for Greece? (Reuters, link): "A revised relocation system to reform the EU's so-called "Dublin" asylum system was proposed Wednesday by the EU's executive. Italy, with tens of thousands of new arrivals, has led the push for a "fairness mechanism" when it comes to dealing with asylum-seekers who enter the 28-member bloc.... The Commission said Wednesday any member state could opt to "temporarily not take part in the reallocation," but must then pay 250,000 euros ($288,000) per asylum seeker."

Denmark extends controls on German border, EU set to authorize more (Reuters, link): "Denmark extended temporary controls at its border with Germany on Monday, imposed to help control an influx of migrants, as the European Commission confirmed it would shortly authorize more such extensions within the passport-free Schengen zone. Seven members of the Schengen zone, including Germany and Denmark, have introduced temporary border controls after more than one million migrants entered the European Union last year, mostly via Greece. The European Commission, struggling to prevent the collapse of the Schengen accord, is expected this month to allow EU member states to retain the emergency border checks, which are due to expire in May, for a while longer."

Niger tells Europe it needs 1 billion euros to fight illegal migration (Reuters, link): "Niger, a major transit country for Africans seeking to reach the EU, told foreign ministers visiting from Europe on Tuesday it needs 1 billion euros to combat illegal migration. As many as 150,000 migrants, most coming from other West African nations, will travel through Niger this year, crossing the Sahara Desert on their way to the Mediterranean coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4.5.16)
Greece, Lesvos: A very important legal victory: Electra (link)

"This is today's Decision of Lesvos Prosecutor, making clear that the Moria Center is NOT a place where Unaccompanied Minors can possibly "reside". It can be used to effectively challenge the detention of every single youth detained in that space".

300 organisations and 11,000 individuals denounce the EU-Turkey agreement and see: CEAR denuncia junto a más 300 organizaciones el acuerdo UE-Turquía (link):

"The Spanish Refugee Aid Commission (CEAR) has today presented before the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the EU Ombudsman its complaint about the EU-Turkey deal and the infringement of the rights of refugees, with the support of 294 organisations and more than 11,000 individual signatures....

"Withdrawing the agreement with Turkey is the last opportunity for the EU to recover its decency, avoid putting at risk the lives of thousands of people who have fled war, and to prevent the treaties that it has signed on human rights and the right to asylum from becoming nothing more than wasted paper," said Estrella Galán, general secretary of CEAR."

See The list of social collectives and entities; professional organisations, networks and platforms, universtities and research centres, political organisations and trade unions that have signed the CEAR letters - including Statewatch - can be viewed: Here (link, pdf)

The petition open for individual signatures is here: Detengan las expulsiones de refugiados y retiren el acuerdo con Turquía (change.org, link)

Welcome2eu: Superb guides: Welcome to Italy:Info Guide for refugees and migrants (72 pages, great detail, English, link) and Italian (link) and Long guide (English, pdf, link) and Long guide (Italian, pdf, link)

European Commission: Proposal for a COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING DECISION setting out a recommendation for temporary internal border control in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk (COM 275-16, pdf): Applies only to AU, DE, DK, SE, NO.

and see Background: Can Schengen be suspended because of Greece? Should it be? (EU Law Analysis, link)

EU: SCHENGEN & BORDER CONTROLS: Letter to European Commission from Austria, France, Germany and Denmark: Letter (pdf):

"Our countries have reintroduced temporary border controls along the internal borders of the Schengen area to manage the migration flow and respond to the concerns of public order and security.

Even though the refugee situation at the internal borders along the Balkan route is no longer as dramatic as in the past, we are concerned about developments at the European Union's external borders. In some places persistent serious shortcomings and structural deficits have been detected by the Schengen evaluation. We do not assume that they can be permanently remedied in the very near future. Furthermore, a considerable number of migrants are still in Greece and along the Balkan route. We do not know whether and to what extent they have been registered."

Hungary to hold EU refugee quota referendum by October (euractiv, link): "Hungary will hold a referendum in September or early October, on whether to accept any future European Union quota system for resettling refugees, the prime minister’s office said yesterday (3 May)."

UNHCR Daily Report (3.5.16) Lawyers finaly allowed to enter some detention centres

"Greek Alternate Minister of Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas agreed to allow permanent presence of lawyers in two facilities in Eleonas, Attica, as well as in Moria, Lesvos, following a meeting with the head of the Athens Bar Association, Vasilis Alexandris, on 28 April. The program will be launched tentatively under the responsibility of the Greek Bar’s Committee for refugees and migrants issues, headed by Panagiotis Perakis, who was also present at the meeting. The ministry said the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has also expressed an interest in offering legal aid to refugees in Moria."

See also: Pilot Program to Allow Fixed Presence of Greek Lawyers in Two Refugee Centers (Greek Reporter, link)

Migrant flow to Greek islands ebbs but camps full (ekathimerini.com, link):

"There were no migrant and refugee landings on the shores of Lesvos for a fourth straight day Tuesday. Also no arrivals were reported on the islands of Chios and Samos between Monday and Tuesday morning.

A total of 8,190 people are being hosted at the so-called hot spots on the three islands, with more than half of those staying on Lesvos. Another 10,000 migrants and refugees are living in a makeshift camp near the border village of Idomeni in northern Greece, with thousands more in state-run venues in Attica and other parts of Greece."

UNHCR report that: 53 refugees arrived in Lesvos on 3 May.

News (4.5.16)

Racism in Austria at its highest level in years (The Local.at, link): "Racism in Austria is at its highest level for years according to an annual report released by the anti-discrimination organisation ZARA.... Two thirds of the racist remarks or acts referred to refugees, and were directed towards either asylum seekers or people supporting them. The ZARA statistics are only a guide to the extent of racism in Austria as they just reflect the number of incidents that were registered by people with the organisation." and see: The far right is weaselling into the mainstream, dressed up in suits (Guardian, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3.5.16)
Eurostat press release: Almost 90 000 unaccompanied minors among asylum seekers registered in the EU in 2015 (pdf): "In 2015, 88 300 asylum seekers applying for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU) were considered to be unaccompanied minors. While their number always stood between 11 000 and 13 000 in the EU over the period 2008-2013, it almost doubled in 2014 to reach slightly more than 23 000 persons, then nearly quadrupled in 2015.

In 2015, a substantial majority of unaccompanied minors were males (91%) and over half were aged 16 to 17 (57%, or 50 500 persons), while those aged 14 to 15 accounted for 29% (25 800 persons) and those aged less than 14 for 13% (11 800 persons). Around half (51%) of asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors in the EU in 2015 were Afghans."

And see: Italy struggles to house migrants in third year of mass arrivals (Reuters, link): "About 27,000 boat migrants have reached Italy since Jan. 1, slightly up on the same period last year and following a total 153,000 arrivals in 2015 and 170,000 in 2014.

The numbers are expected to rise this year because countries along the “Balkan route” – starting with a short boat ride from Turkey to Greece and continuing on land up to Austria – have shut their borders. That may cause more migrants to sail from Libya to Sicily, the closest part of Italy.

Many of the new arrivals move swiftly to wealthier northern Europe, although Austria has said it may shut down its main border crossing in the Alps to them. Already 113,000 are housed in Italy, some three-quarters of them in what are called “temporary” shelters.

The situation is acute for minors like Darboe, who Italian law requires be treated with extra care and be integrated quickly into the school system.

More than 2,700 unaccompanied minors arrived in Italy during the first three months of the year, the Interior Ministry says, a four-fold increase on the same period of 2015. "

Commission denies free pass to Germany and Austria on border controls (Politico, link): "The European Commission plans to let EU countries impose internal border checks for another six months — including during the summer tourist season — before insisting on a return to free travel in the Schengen zone, according to officials.

In a decision due to be published Wednesday, the Commission will recommend allowing the internal border checks in five countries until November, but Brussels will require oversight of the controls that Germany and Austria, among others, are pushing for. “The decision for Wednesday is made,” said an EU official familiar with the plans.

According to a draft of the decision, seen by POLITICO, the Commission recommends allowing “Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway to maintain proportionate temporary border controls for a maximum period of six months, starting from the day of the adoption of this Implementing Decision” at their respective shared borders."

The Commission will include proposals for regular monitoring, according to a quote from the document seen by Politico: “Border control should be targeted and limited in scope, frequency, location and time, to what is strictly necessary to respond to the serious threat and to safeguard public policy and internal security."

Such a system would not be entirely unfamiliar - Schengen states already undergo evaluations to assess their conformity with the Schengen Borders Code, as can be seen in these Council documents (pdfs): Schengen evaluation of AUSTRIA: Action plans to remedy deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation report in the field of:

And: Draft Council Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation of the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of the Schengen Information System by Austria (LIMITE doc no: 5864/1/16 REV 1, 10 February 2016) and Council Implementing Decision (6222/16, 16 February 2016)

UNHCR Daily Report (2.5.16)

German authorities announced on Thursday, 28 April, that all asylum applications will be processed by the end of 2016, according to the head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Around 400,000 asylum cases are pending and another 300,000 people are waiting for a date to be set to commence their asylum procedure.

In Austria, in 2015, 85,798 people lodged asylum claims, which constitutes an increase by almost 215% in comparison to 2014. Most were from Afghan nationals (over 25,560), followed by Syrians (almost 24,550) and Iraqis (approx. 13,630). The asylum recognition rate stood at 35% with over 80% of recognition for Syrians. In addition, 2,478 people were granted subsidiary protection.

News (3.5.16)

EU may fine countries for rejecting refugees (EUobserver, link): "The EU Commission plans to impose fines on countries that refuse to take refugees under revised EU asylum laws to be put forward on Wednesday (4 May). The commission will propose a sanction of €250,000 per refugee, according to the Financial Times.

The commission's proposal will maintain the guiding principle of the current system that the country where migrants first step into the EU must deal with asylum applications.

But it proposes that when a country at the EU’s external border is overwhelmed, asylum seekers should be distributed across the continent. "

Syrian refugees flown out by pope start new life in Rome (Reuters, link): "For Nour Essa, one of the Syrian refugees who flew out of Lesbos on Pope Francis' plane last week, it was a choice tinged with shock, joy and sadness - and it had to be made immediately.

"They asked me 'Are you ready to leave for Italy tomorrow? You will be on the same plane with the pope. You must give me your answer now'," Essa recalled as she sat on a schoolyard bench with her husband Hasan Zaheda and two-year-old son Riad.

"We were shocked," the 30-year-old said in an interview with Reuters as she and her husband prepared to start an Italian language class.

The choice was offered at about 9 p.m. last Friday evening. Less than 18 hours later they and nine other Syrian refugees, all of them Muslim, were bound for Rome on the pope's plane. For some, including Zaheda, it was their first time on an aircraft."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.4.16-2.5.16)
The Refugee Crisis Is Humanity’s Crisis (NYT, link):

"This is the third in a series of dialogues with philosophers and critical theorists on the question of violence. This conversation is with Zygmunt Bauman, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, Britain. His latest book, “Strangers at the Door” is published with Polity Press....

I don’t believe there is a shortcut solution to the current refugee problem. Humanity is in crisis —- and there is no exit from that crisis other than the solidarity of humans. The first obstacle on the road to the exit from mutual alienation is the refusal of dialogue: that silence that accompanies self-alienation, aloofness, inattention, disregard and indifference. Instead of the duo of love and hate, the dialectical process of border-drawing needs to be thought therefore in terms of the triad of love, hate and indifference or neglect that the refugee, in particular, continues to face."

Hungary: Humanitarian disaster on the transit zones, unclear plans on legislation, and climate of fear: update on the asylum policy in Hungary (migszol.com, link):

"Many are asking us about the situation in Hungary regarding the transit zones and the planned legislation that would abolish all integration contract. In this post, we have gathered some of the latest information on the situation....

The situation is particularly worrying in the so called transit zone at the southern border. While access to the actual containers where cases are handled in extreme speed is restricted, humanitarian groups are working on both sides of the border. We especially recommend this testimony from a volunteer at the humanitarian group Migration Aid, describing the situation in the transit zone this week

We are extremely concerned about the new plan of the Austrian government to push back asylum seekers to Hungary and Italy. Leaving Hungary is becoming extremely difficult - undercover policemen, quite clearly relying on racial profiling, are trying to catch people in the train stations, and the cars travelling from Hungary to Austria are being checked...

Migszol is increasingly worried about the fact that the rhetoric and language that Hungarian politicians and authorities use about refugees remains unnoticed. During the celebration of the 5th anniversary of the Fidesz-drafted Hungarian constitution, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated that “islamization” is against the constitution of Hungary that defines the country as Christian. The rhetoric of Orban, as well as other notable politicians in Hungary, increasingly relies not only on islamophobia, but an increasingly racial definition of muslims as a separate ethnic identity that needs to be separated from white, Christian Hungary."

REPORT FROM THE HUNGARIAN-SERBIAN BORDER (Migration Aid, link)

"The Hungarian online media has been steadily reporting in the past weeks on the miserable situation developing in the transit zones at Röszke and Kelebia; alleviating the humanitarian challenges is particularly difficult given the uncooperative attitude of the local authorities.

However, there is another aspect of the refugee crisis that gets little to no attention. We know that the Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationality adjudicates approximately 20 cases a day, making it possible for about 40 asylum seekers / day to enter the country “legally” at the Serbian-Hungarian border. We also know that it is practically impossible for unaccompanied men to enter the transit zone and submit their asylum claim, not even if they are fleeing from Syrian war zones...."

Are You Syrious (1.5.16, link)

Volunteers needed on multiple locations

"Volunteers are still needed to cover Team Brit day shifts at Piraeus port, where 2189 refugees were staying yesterday. Volunteers are also needed in Cherso/Kilkis, where Love in Action is looking for hard working people for distribution in the camp and work in the warehouse. Accommodation and food are covered, driving license is welcome.

Again, Idomeni is in great need of volunteers — many of the teams in the field are really struggling right now. EKO kitchen, The EKO project, Team Banana, Hot Food Idomeni, Warehouse, Nurture Project International, RefuAid and Health / Dental Point Project are in dire need of volunteers. You can find more about their specific needs in a massive post in Information Point for Idomeni Volunteers FB group, which is one of the best info groups available."

BULGARIA: Patriarch Neophyte and Bulgarian Orthodox Church against taking in more refugees

““We live in difficult times, the very foundations of the world around us are shaken. Moral values ??that were observed for centuries are being questioned and rejected. In this atmosphere of value disorientation, waves of migrants with different beliefs, world view and traditions are coming and bringing more and more challenges to us”, said Patriarch Neophyte in his address to the Bulgarian people for Easter, according to local Standart News.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has also announced it will help refugees who have arrived in Bulgaria, but has urged authorities not to let any more in."

UNHCR: (1.5.16): 1,776 refugees arrived in Lesvos in April.

EU set to drive forward visas for Turks in migrant deal (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Despite deep public misgivings in some countries, the European Union will this week drive forward a plan to grant Turks visa-free travel to Europe as a reward for having reduced a flood of refugees and migrants into Europe to a trickle.

The European Commission is set to declare on Wednesday that Turkey has broadly met the criteria for early visa liberalization in a blaze of last-minute legislation and ask EU governments and the European Parliament to approve the decision by the end of June, several EU sources said....

EU officials insist the union made no promise, and the offer applies only if Turkey meets 72 legal and technical conditions. ...

A senior EU diplomat belittled any suspense around the conditions, saying: "This is just a joke. We have already made the decision...." [emphasis added]

Are You Syrious (30.4.16, link):

162 new arrivals to the islands

"Government sources report on the presence of 53,687 refugees and migrants in the country on April 30th as of 8:00 AM. The majority of them are still on the Greek mainland, while there are 8,042 people at the islands. Government sources report on 162 new arrivals to the islands?—?67 to Samos and 95 to #Chios. Volunteers report that there were no arrivals to the Northern coast of #Lesvos by 6:00 PM today (Sat, Apr 30th), while no information is available for the South of the island."

Irish group works to provide Wi-Fi for refugees trapped on the islands, volunteers are needed.

"The Irish group Disaster Tech Lab is sending a team to the islands between Greece and Turkey to build public internet facilities which will serve as public information points as well as allowing the refugees to establish contact relatives and friends. Additionally, they will provide secure WiFi networks for other humanitarian aid workers to use. They are looking for volunteers with specific technical skills (WiFi networking, Vsat, VoIP). More information on the application process is available at: http://bit.ly/1QHQvfu."

FRANCE: Volunteers will soon open kitchens and community spaces for refugees. Volunteers needed for final touch-ups.

"Volunteers report that four out of seven of the kitchens and community spaces are due to open in the new #Dunkirk camp on Tuesday or Wednesday, with wood burning cooking stoves, kitchen consuls, hot and cold running water, lighting, floored, free shop/distribution area, tables and benches, booth platforms etc. The residents of the camp are excited by the prospect. If there are volunteers skilled with wood, general making, set building, building, tent manufacturing, or plumbing who can help to get the final three spaces finished over the next week please contact Finn Kay on Facebook by private message."

Dublin Agreement might be renegotiated with each country taking more additional refugees.

On Wednesday May 4th, The European Commission will propose to the member states an amendment to the Dublin Regulation related to the responsibility of receiving refugees and migrants from the entry countries. If the agreement is reached, the first countries receiving migrants will have the responsibility to record and identify up to 150% of the originally agreed upon number?—?beyond this percentage, other states will have to share this responsibility by receiving the exceeding number of people. The Member States which refuse to receive these people will have to pay a fee for each person refused.

EU not providing fair and safe reception system in Greece, says Oxfam (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The European Union is failing to deliver a fair and safe system for receiving people in Greece, according to charity group Oxfam.

The Greek government’s limited capacity and the pressure to meet the terms of the EU-Turkey agreement has led to refugees and migrants being kept in poor conditions, stressed the humanitarian organization in a statement on Friday.

“Europe has created this mess and it needs to fix it in a way that respects people’s rights and dignity,” said Giovanni Riccardi Candiani, Oxfam’s representative in Greece. “The EU says it champions the rights of asylum-seekers beyond its borders but these rights are not being respected within EU countries.”"

April 2016

Europe’s failure on refugees echoes the moral collapse of the 1930s (Guardian , link)

":n 1938, representatives from 32 western states gathered in the pretty resort town of Evian, southern France. Evian is now famous for its water, but back then, the delegates had something else on their minds. They were there to discuss whether to admit a growing number of Jewish refugees, fleeing persecution in Germany and Austria. After several days of negotiations, most countries, including Britain, decided to do nothing.

On Monday, I was reminded of the Evian conference when British MPs voted against welcoming just 600 child refugees a year over the next half-decade. The two moments are not exactly comparable. History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself. But it does echo, and it does remind us of the consequences of ethical failure. Looking back at their inaction at Evian, delegates could claim they were unaware of what was to come. In 2016, we no longer have that excuse."

Greece: "DOG DAYS ON SAMOS" - Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones (link, with Archives back to 2012):

"we are back to an island which is staggeringly beautiful but which has a vile tumour throbbing less than a kilometre from the centre of the main town. There are hundreds of children amongst the inmates, languishing behind a double fence topped with razor wire. On every possible ground imaginable the camp is not a safe place for children. Even though the camp has doubled its capacity the new, bottom half, has yet to open so all the refugees are crammed in the older part which was constructed for 250 people. The principled opposition of the big NGOs not to work or co-operate with closed camps makes life more difficult...."

Who are we: "Sofiane Ait Chalalet is Algerian and came to Samos in 2006. He subsequently married a Greek artist which gave him the necessary papers to live and work in Greece without fear of the daily persecution which is the plight of so many undocumented people here. Chris Jones came to Samos about the same time as Sofiane. He was a university professor in Britain.

Both Sofiane and Chris have spent their lives working with some of the most oppressed and vulnerable both in Greece, Britain and Algeria."

Are You Syrious (link)

More arrivals to the Greek islands.

"There were 68 new arrivals to Samos today, mainly from Syria and Afganistan but also from Iraq, Palestine, and a considerable group from Algeria. The camp is so busy that they can barely find a place to put up their tents. Many set them up on a steep slope which is very unconformable for sleeping, but even this “option” is not available anymore."

Italy: Refugees’ rights for seeking asylum severely violated by Italian police.

"According to the organizations Naga, Asgi and Avvocati per Niente, in Milan’s police Headquarters (Questura), refugees have to fill in a preset form from April 2016, with a list of questions about departure country, states crossed on the way, and reason for migration. Then, an officer evaluates the form and decides on a refugee’s acceptance or expulsion from Italy. There is no chance for a trial to re-evaluate the case.

The organizations claim that the practice is illegitimate, since only the Territorial Commission for Asylum is the only authority in charge of assessing requests for asylum and protection. In this situation, a policeman substitutes an expert in understanding such a critical issue....

In the last 20 days, the lawyers of the candidates are forbidden to enter the police headquarters, another practice against the law. Meanwhile, Naga offers assistance with shelters and courses of Italian language, but also information sharing. These days, they strongly discourage the migrants to apply at the police headquarters."

Leaving refugees hungry is despicable! We are trying to help

"The Calais Kitchen would not mind your help. They need more donated food, more money to top up supplies, and volunteers to help them prepare all the food packs. Please contact them to volunteer at: Calaiskitchens@gmail.com; to drop off supplies at: Calaisdonations@gmail.com, or donate."

UNHCR: Daily Report 29.4.16:

"floating hotspots"!

"In order to address people’s reluctance to register upon arrivals to the Italian shores, the Italian government announced a plan to register people at sea. Following talks with European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, who stated that Italy should be prepared to receive more refugees and migrants, Interior Minister Angelo Alfano spoke of a proposal to convert ships into virtual floating “hotspot” reception centres as a possible method to this respect."

And see:Italy to start fingerprinting migrants at sea (The Local.it, link): "Italy is to introduce the fingerprinting of migrants crossing the Mediterranean as soon as they are picked up by rescue boats, officials say."

NATO to the rescue again

"Following a meeting of the heads of state of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy, in the context of NATO support aimed at deterring human smuggling to Europe, the American administration will source US ships to ongoing operations in international waters near the coast of Libya."

Eight EU Member States have introduced border controls

"On 26 April, the Greek government sent additional information to the European Commission (EC) regarding further measures they would implement to better manage the EU’s external borders. This information will feed into the EC’s assessment of potential deficiencies in the management of the EU’s external borders, as part of the so-called “Back To Schengen” roadmap. The outcome of this assessment will be available by 12 May. Should the EC find remaining deficiencies, it could propose to allow member states to prolong temporary border controls within the Schengen area until mid-November. Since September 2015, eight of the 26-Member Schengen area (including Austria and Germany) have introduced border control measures aimed at stemming the flow of refugees and migrants across Europe."

News (30.4-2-5-16)

Commission to give green light to extension of border controls (euractiv, link): "The European Commission wants to give Germany and other member states the option of extending internal border controls beyond the middle of May." And: Denmark pushes EU for longer border controls (The Local.dk, link): "Denmark is among six countries asking the European Commission to extend temporary controls at the internal borders of the Schengen area, as part of efforts to more closely monitor migration flows."

France: Police suspect arson after Muslim prayer hall burns in Corsica (DW, libk): "Prosecutors say the fire at the prayer hall in the capital, Ajaccio, was probably a criminal act. The French Mediterranean island experienced days of anti-Arab riots over Christmas."

Italy: 20-30 migrants drown during rescue operation - 454 arrive in Pozzallo, two bodies recovered (ANSA, link): "May 2 - Between 20 and 30 migrants are believed to have died on Friday during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean, sources said Monday. The deaths occurred after a freighter that had intercepted a migrant boat in difficulty put down a ladder to allow the passengers to climb on board.."

Refugee's Extradition to Turkey Rejected by Polish Court (Liberties.eu, link): "The man was wanted by Turkey for being a member of a terrorist group, but his status as a refugee had already been confirmed by Belgian authorities."

Italian NGOs Join Forces to Stop Forced Returns of Migrants (Liberties.eu, link) "Two Italian NGOs, Amnesty Italy and ASGI, are seeking justice for migrants who were forced by the Italian government to return to Libya, where they were imprisoned and abused... When deported back to Libya, these asylum seekers were thrown in jail and subjected to months of abuse. Some of them eventually managed to escape and reach Europe; others, however, have not been as lucky."

Greece: Underage Refugees in Lesvos to Be Moved to Separate Camp (Greek Reporter, link): "Greece’s Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas announced that the 380 unaccompanied minors at the Moria refugee registration camp in Lesvos will be transferred to a separate camp.

The decision came after the riots on Holy Tuesday, when refugees and migrants of different nationalities rioted, with most of them being unaccompanied minors.

The Greek government decided to move all unaccompanied underage refugees to a separate camp on the island under the supervision of NGOs Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and METAdrasi."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (29.4.16)
EU: After the 18 March EU-Turkey "Statement", the "Letter" of assurances from Turkey, yet another set of "letters": What is the legal basis of "non-binding" documents?

Council of the European Union: Standard Operating Procedures implementing the mechanism for resettlement from Turkey to the EU as set out in the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 - Endorsement (LIMITE doc no: 8366-16, pdf)

"Once endorsed by the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States and Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein meeting in the margins of COREPER, the Standard Operating Procedures will be formalised by way of an exchange of letters between the Commission and the Turkish authorities."

The following are excluded or NOT eligible:

"The person does not constitute a threat to public policy, internal security and public health;

A candidate who has refused admission to a particular Member State is no longer eligible;

Priority will be given to eligible persons who have not previously entered or tried to enter the EU irregularly"

After Greece: Here we go again: Germany tells Italy to stem migrant flow to north Europe (The Local.it, link):

"Germany's interior minister on Friday put the onus on Italy to halt a new mass influx of migrants to northern Europe, lending backing to Austria in a row with Rome.

"We share Austria's position that there should not be a repeat of what happened along the Balkan route last autumn on the road from the Italian border northwards," said Thomas de Maiziere after a meeting with his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka.

"We have said we want to reduce the numbers of refugees sustainably, above all at the external borders, and a policy of simply waving people through would only spur more from outside the EU to come to Europe," said the German interior minister..."

OMCT: World Organisation Against Torture: Greece: Ongoing crackdown on civil society providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers (pdf):

"The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing crackdown on civil society actors providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the Greek islands, even including judicial harassment against several groups and NGOs acting to protect migrants' rights, of Team Humanity Denmark....

on February 21, 2016 a last minute amendment was made to a Law voted by the Greek Parliament, in violation of several provisions of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedures. The new provision assigns the supervision and coordination of services provided to migrants and asylum seekers to the Greek Army and Minister of Defence, in newly established army-run facilities. This provision has led to a coordinated effort to stop civil society activities in camps that are not run by the army, through extensive threats of arrest and prosecution]. Moreover, several journalists and NGOs, including the Hellenic Action for Human Rights “Pleiades”’, are often not allowed access to army-run facilities....

The Observatory strongly condemns this crackdown on civil society actors in Greece, calls on the Greek authorities to put an end to the ongoing attempts to criminalise NGOs and volunteers working in the country in the field of humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum-seekers or otherwise prevent them from carrying out their work and urges them to lift the ban on civil society activists and journalists to enter army-run camps."

See also: Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers - Greece: NGOs and volunteers have to "register" with the police and be vetted (Statewatch) and NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control (Statewatch)

Is the EU-Turkey refugee and migration deal a treaty? (EU law Analysis, link):

"In the European Parliament, questions were asked about the legal nature of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March, pursuant to which Greece has started to return asylum seekers to Turkey this week. Apparently, the EU’s procedure for negotiating and concluding treaties with third countries, laid down in in Art. 218 TFEU, has not been followed. The European Parliament wants to know whether the Council nonetheless considers the Statement to be a treaty, and, if not, whether Turkey has been informed about the non-binding nature. Importantly, for treaties “covering fields to which the ordinary legislative procedure applies” (asylum and immigration is such a field), the Council may only conclude a treaty with a third country after obtaining consent of the European Parliament (Art. 218(6)(a)(v) TFEU)......

That the institutional role of the EP has been neglected confirms the worrying trend that intergovernmental decision-making is taking over in the Union, and that national interests increasingly often prevail over the common values of the Union. This is bad for European democracy."

Are You Syrious (link):

53,717 refugees and migrants in Greece today

"After a few quiet days, late this afternoon, 23 new arrivals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (11 adults and 12 kids) were registered by volunteers at #Samos. At the same time, 41 persons arrived in Lesvos....

380 unaccompanied minors to be sent to a separate camp at Lesvos.

At Moria, according to Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas, there are 380 unaccompanied minors who will be transferred to a separate camp. The Greek government decided to move all unaccompanied underage kids to a separate camp on the island under the supervision of NGOs Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and METAdrasi....

Solidarity is our weapon!

Around 200 refugees found a new home at the largest self-organized hospitality center in Greece, #CityPlaza, a old hotel in downtown Athens. The Facebook page they established details how the City Plaza was a hotel in downtown Athens which was abandoned by its management more than 6 years ago...

People deported to Croatia from other EU countries

Today we received information from different sources about deportations of refugees from different EU countries (as of now we know of Slovenia, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland) to Croatia. Apparently, they are sent back on the grounds of so called Dublin transfers?—?deportations in the first safe EU country of entry. Currently there are at least 20–30 persons in Croatia who were sent back in this way....

Fingerprinting of refugees to begin on rescue boats

The Italian government announced that refugees and migrants will be fingerprinted as soon as they are picked up by rescue boats. It was announced that this approach could help to reduce mounting tensions between Italy and its EU partners over the large numbers of migrants who arrive in Italy but are not registered here and then travel on to northern Europe. If they are not registered in Italy, neighboring countries like Austria and France and popular destination states like Germany and Sweden do not have the option of sending them back to Italy, which they should be able to do under the EU’s Dublin convention rules governing asylum claims....

230 people charged with a crime for helping refugees

According to a media report, the public prosecutor’s office charged 230 people for helping other people transit through the country “illegally” during the biggest wave of refugees last fall. Danish trafficking laws don’t distinguish between smuggling people for financial gain and doing it for humanitarian reasons. Some of them, as we reported earlier, are distinguished human rights activists, but many are just ordinary people who were helping other people in need."

UNHCR Daily report (28.4.16):

"In Greece, Alternate Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas has agreed to the permanent presence of lawyers in two accommodation centers (Elaionas in Athens, and Moria on Lesvos island), following a meeting with the head of the Athens Bar Association.

The Ministry said the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has also expressed an interest in offering legal aid to refugees in Moria." [emphasis added]

Comment: Does not the Ministry know that under the Asylum Procedures Directive refugees have the right to legal aid? Why is it not ensuring that it is available to all?

Pro-Nazi nostalgia flourishes under new Croatia government (euractiv, link):

“Nostalgia” for a pro-Nazi past, spurning of ethnic minorities and pressure on the press: Croatian activists say an alarming climate of intolerance is taking hold under a new conservative government.

Since the ruling coalition took power in the European Union country in January, critics say authorities have turned a blind eye – and even contributed to – concerns over a far-right right surge.

Last week, in response, angry Jewish, ethnic Serb and anti-fascist groups refused to attend a ceremony remembering tens of thousands who died at Jasenovac, the most notorious concentration camp under Croatia’s pro-Nazi Ustasha regime during World War II.

The boycott was a “brave and correct decision in the face of the wave of neo-fascist Ustasha nostalgia which is sweeping Croatia”, said Efraim Zuroff at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish rights organisation".

Fascism and the far right in Europe: country by country guide – part one (dream deferred, link)::

"Europe is witnessing a dangerous revival of fascist and racist populist parties and organisations. Over the next few weeks we are going to publish a series of articles analysing the scale of this threat.

We will focus on the countries where fascist and racist parties have made significant electoral and/or organisational breakthroughs. There are small fascist groups operating in several other countries, but with very small numbers and little impact. We intend to look separately at the situation in Russia at a later date and have not included it here."

News (29.4.16)

Italy: Border plans 'an enormous mistake' (The Local, at, link): "Italy told Austria Thursday it would prove Vienna was "wasting money" on anti-migrant measures and closing the border between the two countries would be "an enormous mistake"."

Migrants cling to trucks in bid to reach Sweden (The Local, dk, link): "Growing numbers of asylum seekers are trying to get to Sweden from Denmark by clinging to trucks, a ferry company has warned."

Mimica: Emergency Trust Fund for Africa ‘might not be a game-changer’ (euractiv, link): "In a wide-ranging interview, Commissioner Neven Mimica tells EurActiv.com’s Matthew Tempest about the executive’s master plan for legal migration, as well as the limits of development aid to African states in the rough."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (28.4.16)
European Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos to the Committee on Federal and European Affairs of the Bavarian Parliament on 26 April (pdf)

"To paraphrase an old saying information is security. We will respond to the terrorist threat effectively when we make our information systems interconnected, interoperable, and searchable..."

The Commissioner argues for a "Single Search Interface" where: "all data is searchable with just one click" - this requires major changes to laws on the book where acess is limited or prescribed. And see: Statewatch Analysis: Commission proposals on migration and internal security databases: a new list of old “needs” (pdf)

"Both the EU and Turkey need each other, as equal partners. This is a balanced partnership, one where we aim for each side to deliver on its commitments, but without renouncing our principles or conditions."

Many would argue that the EU wanted a deal at any price - even if it means tearing up all human rights and asylum law adopted since 1945.

"We must remember an element of political context: while we are working on these issues, we are witnessing the worrying rise in left and right wing violent extremism."

In context "right wing violent extremism" is carried out by extreme nationalists, racists and fascists. While what is characterised as "left wing violent extremism" is anti-racist and anti-fascist responses to the former - which is a piece of perverse logic.

EU-TURKEY "Dodgy deal": Legal concerns met?

UNHCR reports (27.4.16):

"In a letter to the European Commission sent on Tuesday, 26 April, the Turkish government pledged to bolster legal protection to non-Syrians upon return to Turkey as part of the EU-Turkey Agreement. This follows previous assurances concerning Syrians and the fact that all returned Syrians could be granted or re-avail themselves from temporary protection. These pledges aim to support the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement by addressing the remaining legal concerns hampering its full implementation." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"If this "letter" addressees legal concerns about the EU-Turkey "dodgy deal" why has it not been published? Does it commit Turkey to fully signing up to the Geneva Convention? If not it is worthless.

First we had the EU-Turkey deal in a "Statement" (18 March) and now an unpublished "letter" - neither of which are legally binding. In their desperate haste to shut the borders the EU is neglecting the basic tenets of lawful decision-making"

UN chief Ban Ki-moon hit out 'increasingly restrictive' EU refugee policies (dailysabah.com/europe, link):

""I am concerned that European countries are now adopting increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies," Ban said in a speech to the Austrian parliament.

"Such policies negatively affect the obligation of member states under international humanitarian law and European law."

His comments came a day after the Austrian parliament adopted one of Europe's toughest asylum laws, as the country's political leaders struggle to halt the surging far-right which is leading in presidential polls."

Frontex 2.0: The European Union’s armed wing - Further reinforced and still untouchable (MIgreurop, link): "

By August 2016, the European institutions aim to replace Frontex by a new coast guards and border-guards agency which will further jeopardise the rights of migrants and refugees. This new mandate reinforces the serious concerns expressed by the FRONTEXIT campaign since its establishment: deter, control and keep away men, women and children deemed undesirable while they are exerting their right to leave any country and the right to seek asylum."

European Parliament: EU-Turkey deal flouts international laws and conventions (Press release: GUE/NGL group, link):

"The agreement to return migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey, which Turkey and EU countries agreed on 18 March, sparked strong criticism from GUE/NGL MEPs during a European Parliament debate this morning, which focused on its legal aspects, implementation and democratic control.

Spanish GUE/NGL MEP, Marina Albiol, said: "The EU-Turkey agreement, which involves thousands of people remaining in Turkey, is inhuman and cruel. This agreement undermines EU standards regarding the return of refugees in the EU to their countries of origin. It undermines our legislation on refugees, the Geneva Convention, the European Charter of Human Rights and a long list of other laws and agreements."

MEP Albiol mentioned Article 263 of the TFEU which gives the Parliament the possibility to introduce an appeal to the European Court of Justice if EU legislation is not being complied with by the Council. "If we don't do this in this case, then the European Parliament will be an accomplice to the crimes being committed by our governments."

Visa roadblock threatens EU-Turkey migration deal (politico, link):

"MEPs and diplomats say that if Turkey fails to meet all of the required criteria — which include guarantees to protect civil liberties — they will exercise their legislative power to deny visa liberalization. For its part, Turkey has already said that lifting the restrictions before June is a non-negotiable part of its controversial agreement to stem the flow of refugees into the EU.

Unless somebody backs down, that means the EU’s whole deal with Ankara — pushed by Angela Merkel, hashed out in difficult negotiations with the European Commission and other EU leaders, and now vigorously defended by Council President Donald Tusk — could unravel altogether.

“The feeling of lack of trust on the visa [liberalization] and on the camps [for refugees] is widespread, no one believes in it but we cannot say it openly because there is no alternative” — An EU diplomat

A key deadline hits next Wednesday, when the Commission will issue its next report on Turkey’s progress in meeting the criteria. MEPs say they worry the Commission will try to gloss over shortcomings in that progress in order to keep Ankara happy. They promise they will insist on holding everyone to the EU rules."

UNHCR (Daily Report, 27.4.16):

"According to media, the Director of the Greek Asylum Service announced that people are now able to lodge asylum claims directly at temporary accommodation centres following difficulties in obtaining an appointment via Skype. As of 25 April, authorities will examine 50 applications per day on the islands. So far (as of 20 April), the Asylum Service registered 3,870 applications for relocation, of which 1,570 were accepted by EU Member States.

In Turkey, during the period between 22 to26 April, sources reported that some 270 people were apprehended, intercepted, or rescued at Turkey’s land and sea borders. Their countries of origin include Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine and Syria."

Austria curtails asylum rights (euractiv, link):

"Austria has passed one of Europe's toughest asylum laws, designed to stop inflows of people seeking international protection. Lawmakers passed the new bill on Wednesday (27 April) amid broader fears over migration that have helped the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) to surge in popularity, with its main candidate taking a surprise lead in presidential elections.

The law allows the federal government to declare a "state of emergency" and refuse entry to migrants if numbers suddenly rise.

The new measures will give border police the power to turn back asylum seekers including Syrians, denying them the right to have their cases heard.

Those who can convince the police that their lives are in danger or that they risk degrading treatment in a neighbouring country will be allowed to apply for asylum." [emphasis added]

Migrant crisis: Austria passes controversial new asylum law (BBC News, link) and see: MEPs urge Juncker to stand against Austria border fence (euractiv, link): "Leading MEPs have urged European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to take a position against Austria’s plans to erect a fence at its border with Italy, at the Brenner pass."

Also: Austria: Drastic, Unjustified Measures against Asylum Seekers (HRW, link): "The key feature of the package of special measures is a fast-track admissibility procedure for asylum seekers at Austrian land borders. Austrian police officers will examine applications solely for the purposes of determining whether individuals can be returned to the neighboring country from which they came. Only people who argue successfully that their lives would be in danger or that they face a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment in a neighboring country, or who have a nuclear family member already in Austria, will be allowed to formally apply for asylum. Appeals against returns will only be possible after the return has taken place. The law increases the amount of time people can be detained pending return from five to 14 days."

Contested Turkey deal 'only solution' in migrant crisis, says EU commissioner (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A highly contested EU deal with Turkey may not be ideal, but it is the only solution to stem the migration crisis, the bloc's Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides said Thursday.

The deal in which Turkey agrees to take back certain migrants fleeing to Greece in exchange for visa-free travel in the EU has angered member countries and rights activists. The accord is awash with legal and moral concerns, and critics have accused the EU of sacrificing its values and overlooking Turkey's growing crackdown on free speech in order to secure the deal."

Are you Syrious? (27.4.16, link):

New legislation makes it more difficult to seek asylum in Austria, gives the government the right to declare a state of emergency in response to refugee influx

The German website dw.com reported that the Austrian parliament passed legislation which makes it significantly harder for refugees to seek asylum in Austria. It allows the government to declare a state of emergency if the influx of migrants to the country “threatens national security,” and allows asylum seekers to be rejected directly at the border. This would include refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria.

Amnesty International condemns the new legislation, calling it a violation of international law, while Human Rights Watch calls it a “blow to the rights of asylum seekers”. Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, says “these measures constitute a legal wall to asylum just as despicable as a razor-wire fence”, adding Austria should not take “unilateral decisions to pass asylum seekers around like hot potatoes.”...

"79 new arrivals to Greece today.

Refugees are continuing to arrive to Greece, and more are making their way into other countries on the Balkan route, as well as some EU countries. According to the UNHCR data, yesterday 62 people were registered on the Greek islands, 17 on mainland Greece. At the same time, 73 people were registered in Serbia, 127 in Hungary, and 230 in Austria...

Greek authorities are struggling to find accommodations for unaccompanied minors.

Ekathimerini.com reports that 380 unaccompanied minors remain without housing due to staff shortages. According to the law, it is illegal for a minor to be housed in hotspots, but this continues to happen. The National Center of Social Solidarity is working to accommodate 200 minors by the end of May....

17 people injured during the clashes at Moria camp as people remain detained and in fear of deportation to Turkey.

According to the Greece media, 17 people have been injured during the clashes yesterday at #Moria camp. The atmosphere is still tense. One of the volunteers reported:

“I arrived after almost all people were in tents, but I witness one unnecessary shot of teargas. Police closed the area around for hours, many ambulances comes from #Mytilene collect injured refugees. #MSF doctors waiting outside if needed. Bad situation for few refugees from Cameron, Kongo seeking asylum, they stays over 1 month without access to any official information, asylum process not starting.”

Around 4000 refugees are being kept in a closed center in Moria, waiting for their decision for asylum. Many of them are afraid of being sent back to Turkey...

Refugees have launched a petition to replace the inefficient Skype system used by the Asylum Office.

People at Idomeni are petitioning for the replacement of the “failed system of only being able to make asylum appointments to the Greek Asylum Office with a Skype call that is never picked up with a face-to-face service in the refugee camps here in Greece”. Refugees in Greece have only three options to continue their lives beyond camps: to apply for asylum in Greece, to apply for family reunification or for relocation to another country in the EU if they want us. You can sign the petition here..

UK: Refugees stranded on UK military bases in Cyprus given fresh hope (Guardian, link):

"High court orders Theresa May to reconsider refusal to allow six families entry into Britain.

More than 30 refugees who have been stranded in UK sovereign military bases in Cyprus since 1998 have been given fresh hope of finding a permanent home in Britain. The high court in London has ordered the home secretary, Theresa May, to reconsider her refusal to allow the six families entry on grounds she did not consider all the relevant circumstances."

News (28.4.16)

EU Commissioner Avramopoulos inaugurates EU Regional Task Force's new building in Catania (ANAmpa, link): "Avramopoulos underlined. "With the inauguration of the new building of the EU Regional Task Force, we have taken another important step in consolidating our hotspot approach here in Italy," he added."

Czech Republic: Government condemns hate-related attacks on Prague cafes and shops (Prague Minotor, link): "The Czech cabinet condemned the authors of threatening inscriptions and Nazi symbols, which appeared at several places in Prague this weekend, at its meeting yesterday. It seems that the extremist graffiti was scrawled on cafes and shops participating in the HateFree Zone project that promotes tolerance to minorities and refugees and is supported by the Government Office."

EC concerned about Brenner Pass situation, Juncker to meet Renzi (ANSA, link): " The European Commission said Thursday that it was worried by Austria's plans to introduce controls at its border with Italy at the Brenner Pass. "The European Commission follows all the developments in Europe that go against the schedule to return (to the normal functioning of the Schengen agreement), in this case with serious concern," said EC spokesperson Mina Andreeva, adding that EC President Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Italian Premier Matteo Renzi in Rome next Thursday"

Ital;y-Austria: Tense talks as Italy fumes over Austria migrant 'slap' (The Local.at, link): ".Italy and Austria were set for showdown talks Thursday as Italian politicians and media reacted furiously to Vienna's new anti-migrant measures that could close the border between the two countries."

Refugees: Attacks on refugee homes as high as ever, German Criminal Police Office says (DW, link): "Despite decreasing numbers of refugees in Germany, the number of crimes on refugee accommodation shows no sign of waning. One of the German Criminal Police Office's (BKA) main fears is an attack by a lone wolf."

Justice: 'Oldschool Society' neo-Nazis go on trial for refugee home attacks (DW, link): "Four Germans have gone on trial on suspicion of planning to detonate nail bombs at a home for asylum seekers. The three men and one woman allegedly formed a far-right terror group, known as as the "Oldschool Society.""

Greece: Authorities scramble to find housing for child refugees (ekathimerini.com, link): "Some 380 unaccompanied minors remain in closed hot spots, detention centers and even on the streets, as a program to house them in rented apartments has yet to materialize due to staff shortages and despite increased funding by the European Union, authorities said on Wednesday."

Border checks between Italy and Austria 'inevitable', Hofer (ANSA, link): " Border checks at the Brenner Pass are inevitable, the head of Austria's far-right, anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO) Norbert Hofer has said. The FPO, which is pushing for tighter border control, won the first round of the country's presidential elections on Sunday."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27.4.16)
NATO to blockade Libyan coast this summer to stop central Mediterranean migrant flows (Independent.mt, link):

"NATO is planning a naval blockade of the Libyan coat this summer to close off the central Mediterranean migration route, as the numbers of migrants using the route, which features Malta as a central point, are expected to surge.

The military alliance is reportedly just three months away from launching the mission, according to Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, who revealed the plans as the leaders of the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy met in Hanover, Germany yesterday..

The plan will also incorporate parts of a broader Italian strategy to repatriate migrants found to have no claim for asylum, in other words, purely economic migrants, back to their home countries.... The repatriation plans have been heavily criticised by human rights groups and even Pope Francis, since they make an arbitrary distinction between genuine asylum seekers and economic migrants."

and see:Italy says NATO three months from Libya coast mission (France 24, link):

"NATO is already operating a naval force in the Aegean Sea to stop migrant boats reaching the Greek islands from Turkey.But an operation off Libya would be more complicated and potentially dangerous given the country's instability and the presence in some coastal regions of militants allied to the Islamic State group. Turning migrant boats back to Libya would also be hugely controversial given the unstable situation there."

Caritas-europa: Migrants and refugees have rights - Impact of EU policies on accessing protection (pdf):

"Caritas Europa seeks to contribute to appropriate humanitarian responses by providing evidence about the situations of migrants and asylum seekers, supported by
insight from Caritas’ staff and volunteers helping the people in need. It provides an in-depth analysis of the impact that current EU asylum and migration policies
are having on migrants in Europe....

Appropriate responses can only derive from recognising that migrants and asylum seekers are not a “flow” nor an “invasion”, but are women, men, and children,
whose human rights and needs are being jeopardised."

Syria can’t get worse? Check out the Turkish border - On the frontier with Turkey that EU leaders are afraid to visit, violence threatens the already fragile deal to keep refugees out of Europe.(politico, link):

"The border crossing where hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees entered Turkey in the first years of the war is almost deserted. It’s been closed for a year, and any Syrian hoping to be smuggled to safety in the neighboring country risks being shot.

Just across the frontier, in Syria, the situation is infinitely worse. Some 45,000 civilians were displaced by recent fighting between moderate rebels and ISIL in mid-April, and 20,000 are sleeping out in the open, aid workers say. “People are sitting on blankets, sleeping under the trees,” Ali al-Sheikh, a Syrian humanitarian volunteer, said at the Kilis border crossing Saturday. “They are short of drinking water. There are very few tents. There is sewage all around.”

This is the scene that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk didn’t see when they visited a model refugee camp 50 kilometers from the border last weekend."

Are You Syrious (26.4.16) link):

"Important information for refugees in Greece and volunteers to inform them:

The new asylum procedure is to have an interview about the admissibility of their claim for asylum in Greece first, before the substantive interview. Most people having their asylum claims rejected now are being rejected on inadmissibility by the government claiming that Turkey is a Safe Third Country for them.

Three of the absolutely key legal criteria for a Safe Third Country are-

1) that there is no risk of refoulement (forcible repatriation to their country of origin or any country or area where they have a well-founded fear of return to) and
2) that they have fully legal access to have their substantive claims for asylum examined in that third country, and
3) that they can get recognition of Refugee Status and effective protection in accordance with the Geneva Refugee Convention 1951 in that third country.

The Turkish governor of Izmir has explicitly said that non-Syrians will be detained for immediate deportation if returned from Greece, i.e. no access to asylum procedures and no chance to have their substantive claim examined or to receive effective protection.and this is in fact what has happened to all non-Syrian returnees so far."

AUSTRIA: ITALY-HUNGARY:

Demonstrators face pepper spray over Brenner pass (The Local.at, link):

"Hundreds of Italian demonstrators on Sunday faced off with similar numbers of Austrian police at the border between the two countries in the latest sign of tensions arising from Europe's migrant crisis....

The demonstration had been called to protest over Austria's preparations for a possible restoration of border controls at the Brenner pass in the Alps because of fears of a potential surge of migrant arrivals in Italy. Wielding inflatable dinghies and brandishing a "People Over Borders" banner and "Refugees Welcome" placards, the protestors marched across the border and pushed up against a police line designed to prevent them blocking the road on the Austrian side."

Brenner closure would 'seriously damage' EU, Delrio says (ANSA, link):

"The closure of the Brenner Pass on the Italy-Austria border would cause "very serious damage" to the European Union, Italian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Graziano Delrio said on Tuesday.

"The closure of the Brenner Pass would cause very serious damage to the economy and transport, but also to the European Union because the Brenner Pass is the symbol of European integration," Delrio said. Austria has begun building a barrier along its side of the Brenner Pass at the border with Italy, which it says is letting too many asylum seekers through".

Austria Re-introduces Checks on Border with Hungary (novinite.com, link):

"Austria has re-introduced checks on its border with Hungary to curb the flow of irregular migrants, AP reported on Monday.

Austrian police have said that the number of attempts to smuggle illegal migrants into the country has increased since the Western Balkan migration route was closed to migrants earlier this year. The border controls began to apply on Monday morning, according to AP. Police haven’t said how long the controls will remain in force."

Dispatches: EU Deportations Resume, Troubles Abound (HRW, link):

"With little fanfare or media attention, the European Union and Greece yesterday quietly resumed deporting “irregular migrants” from Greece to Turkey.
After a two-week pause, boats reportedly took 31 people from Kos, 13 from Lesbos, and five from Chios – among them Afghanis, Iranians, and Jordanians....

The EU and Greece insist that all of the deportees declined to seek asylum in Greece. But can we be sure?

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, among the first deportees in early April were 13 people who wished to seek protection in Greece. Our research on the Greek islands suggests that number could be higher."

UNHCR Daily Report, (26.4.16): Arrivals in the EU in 2016: 181,673: 154.491 to Greece (62 refugees arrived in Lesvos) , 26,279 to Italy. 1.261 dead/missing.

"As reported by local media, a group of 35 people currently located on the island of Lesvos are expected to be returned to Turkey on 26 April as part of the EU-Turkey agreement. Greek media reported that the majority have expressed their wish to be repatriated given the present situation, which only allows
for application to asylum in Greece."

In Slovenia, the stricter asylum legislation, which was passed a month and a half ago in the National Assembly, became effective on 24 April 2016. The legislation entails the acceleration of the processing of asylum claims, restriction for the conditions for asylum, and reduces the time frame for legal recourse. In addition, asylum applications are automatically considered inadmissible if the applicant enters Slovenia from.a safe country."

UK: Lords try again to overturn Tory refusal to help child refugees in Europe (Guardian, link):

"Peers hope to win over Conservative MPs after voting to set a quota on total unaccompanied children allowed into UK.. The plight of child refugees stranded in Europe has become the centre of a battle between the House of Commons and the Lords, after peers voted in support of a second proposal urging the government to take action.

Peers voted by 279 to 172, a majority of 107, for an amendment to the immigration bill calling on ministers to relocate and support a specified number of children in the UK.

MPs, who narrowly rejected an earlier call by Lord Dubs for 3,000 unaccompanied children to be given homes in the UK, will now be asked to consider this “softer” proposal, which some Tories say they will back.

News (27.4.16)

Greece: Protesting migrants removed from Idomeni railway tracks (ekathimerini.com., link): "Greek police on Wednesday said migrants and refugees were peacefully removed from the Idomeni railway line, near the Greek border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Migrants had been occupying the tracks demanding the opening of the border."

Eliasson: Europe needs a unified position on refugees (DW, link): "UN Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, worries about the negative view on refugees in Europe. In a DW interview, he said Europe needs to accept the necessity of migration and diversity for a vital society."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.4.16)
UNHCR Daily Report, (26.4.16)

"As reported by local media, a group of 35 people currently located on the island of Lesvos are expected to be returned to Turkey on 26 April as part of the EU-Turkey agreement. Greek media reported that the majority have expressed their wish to be repatriated given the present situation, which only allows
for application to asylum in Greece."

EU Commission: Refugees to become "displaced people" - out of sight, out of mind: Communication: Lives in Dignity: from Aid-dependence to Self-reliance (COM 234-16, pdf)

"The aim of this Communication is to put forward a policy framework to prevent forced displacement from becoming protracted and to gradually end dependence on humanitarian assistance in existing displacement situations by fostering self-reliance and enabling the displaced to live in dignity as contributors to their host societies, until voluntary return or resettlement." [emphasis added]

and Forced Displacement and Development (SWD-142-16, pdf):

"It provides an overview and assessment of the existing EU policies, instruments and practice in assisting refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and asylum seekers (together referred to as "forcibly displaced people") in third partner countries. It focuses on protracted forced displacement and its context, drivers and consequences for the displaced and their host communities and countries and presents findings and recommendations resulting from the review of past and ongoing stand-alone EU projects and interventions." [emphasis added]

Open Hotspots Again (HRW, link):

"On April 20, more than 160 asylum seekers and migrants reached Lesbos and Chios from Turkey. The police detained them in the closed facilities on those islands, Moria and VIAL, as they do everyone who has arrived on the islands since the ill-conceived EU-Turkey deal came into force a month ago.

But this blanket and automatic detention is unjustifiable on legal, humanitarian and practical grounds.

First, authorities should not automatically detain asylum seekers more than the shortest reasonable time. When they do, and alternatives exist, it constitutes arbitrary detention under international law.

Second, the conditions in Moria and VIAL, where about 4,500 people are held, are unacceptably poor. When the facilities became prison-like detention centers, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and most nongovernmental organizations stopped providing services."

Matteo Renzi’s new proposal on migration: Building on illegality and immorality? (GUE/NGL, link):

"GUE/NGL MEPs have strongly condemned the proposal presented by the Italian Prime Minister to extend the EU-Turkey deal on refugees to all 'countries of origin and transit'

Italian MEP, Barbara Spinelli, criticised the document presented by the Italian Government: "From the outset, the proposal of the Italian Prime Minister to the European Commission and the European Council completely neglects the fact that the agreement signed by the EU and Turkey may be illegitimate under EU and international law."

"Worse, the EU-Turkey agreement is presented as a positive model for future arrangements which could be extended to the African countries which are part of the Khartoum and Rabat processes (including states ruled by dictators such as Eritrea or Sudan), and financed with EU funds."

See: 'Migration compact non-paper' (pdf)

European Parliament: Draft report: on the proposal for a regulation establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin for the purposes of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, and amending Directive 2013/32/EU (COM(2015)0452 – C8-0270/2015 – 2015/0211(COD)) Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Rapporteur: Sylvie Guillaume (pdf)

Czech police officers to help enforce EU-Turkey agreement in Greece (Radio Prague, link): "The Czech Republic is to send thirty police officers to Greece on Friday where they will help fulfill the EU’s agreement with Turkey on the return of migrants who attempt to enter the EU via Greece. The officers will be assigned to the European border agency Frontex where they will be directly involved in the process of escorting migrants back to Turkey."

Medical charity MSF restarts Mediterranean migrant rescues (Reuters, link):

"The medical relief charity Medecins sans Frontieres has relaunched rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, accusing European governments of failing to act to save migrants in peril at sea, it said on Monday....

"The absence of a global solution to the current refugee crisis, and the European states' policies of deterrence, as well their refusal to provide alternatives to the deadly sea crossing, continue to kill thousands," said Joanne Liu, president of MSF International in a statement." (emphasis added]

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 181,476: Deaths 1,232 (link): 154,491 arrivals in Greece and 25,894 in Italy.

Are You Syrious (link)

"69 new arrivals on Greek islands: "There were 69 new arrivals on Greek islands today (Monday) and the total number of refugees in Greece today numbers 45, 360 with 7,450 in the islands, 14,020 in the Attica region, 3,400 in central Greece, 300 in southern Greece and 20,190 in northern Greece...

800 in Idomeni left without water because of landlord: "No good news from #Idomeni as usual. 10,232 people still reside there. The owner of Hotel Hara has turned off all water supplies, leaving a population of over 800 including many families without water....

Austria announced temporary border control on the border with Hungary to limit the inflow of undocumented migrants: After announcing border controls on their border with Italy, Austria introduced today temporary border control on its border with Hungary to limit the inflow of undocumented migrants, local media reported. According to the Austrian newspaper Osterreich, the border controls were scheduled to apply from 8 a.m. local time. The newspaper added that the authorities plan to pay special attention to vans entering Austria from Hungary....

Norway offering money to asylum seekers to leave voluntarily: "While Germany’s policies might be questionable and cynical, Norway has gone even further. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (Utlendingsdirektoratet—UDI) is offering a 10,000 kroner bonus to asylum seekers to leave voluntarily. UDI will offer an additional 10,000 kroner to the first 500 asylum seekers who apply for a voluntary return to their home countries. Beginning on Monday, the offer will run for six weeks on a first-come, first-served basis. “We need to entice more to voluntarily travel back by giving them a bit more money on their way out. This will save us a lot of money because it is expensive to have people in the asylum centres,” Integration Minister Sylvi Listhaug told broadcaster NRK. The offer entails giving asylum seekers an additional 10,000 kroner in travel expenses on top of the 20,000 kroner already offered....

SWEDEN: Building that was to be re-purposed into a home for refugee children set on fire in a case of arson "In other integration-gone-wrong-in-Europe story, a building that was to be repurposed into a home for refugee children has been set ablaze in a second apparent arson attack in the east of Sweden in the city of Haernoesand. Firefighters managed to contain the fire, but not before it devoured the former school building. No one was injured in the incident, though the building was totally destroyed. An investigation has been launched, while the incident was classified as an arson, according to local media."

US backs NATO blockade of Libya to close refugee route (euractiv, link):

"The United States yesterday (25 April) offered its backing for a NATO naval operation off the cost of Libya, in support of a controversial Italian plan to close the Western Mediterranean refugee route to Europe....

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told reporters after meeting the US president and the leaders of Britain, France and Germany in Hanover, Germany...

Italian Minister of Defence Roberta Pinotti had earlier revealed that preparations for a naval blockade were already advanced, with approval expected when NATO leaders meet on 7 July in Warsaw. US officials confirmed that Washington is fully on board."

Clashes break out at migrant camp on Lesvos (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Clashes broke out between police and migrants held at a detention centre on the Greek island of Lesvos on Tuesday, a police spokesman said.

The spokesman said incidents started from a wing holding minors at the Moria camp and spread. Bins were set on fire, the spokesman said.

“Riot police are conducting an operation in and out of the camp at the moment,” the spokesman said."

News (26.4.16)

Berlin steps up efforts to expand its ‘safe list’ (euractiv, link):

"Critics have denounced Germany’s intention to put Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on a list of safe countries of origin in an attempt to reduce the number of asylum seekers coming from those countries...

Critics have denounced Germany’s intention to put Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on a list of safe countries of origin in an attempt to reduce the number of asylum seekers coming from those countries...

Human rights organisations have criticised the proposal and highlighted that not all refugees from those countries should be tarred with the same brush, as many would still be eligible for asylum. “It contradicts the basic principle of the asylum procedure,” the head of Pro Asyl, Günter Burkhardt, said."

Turkey to boost legal protection for migrants, easing EU returns (FT, link): "Ankara will bolster the legal protection it extends to non-Syrian refugees in a concession that paves the way for the EU to fully implement a deal to send back thousands of asylum seekers currently stranded in Greece"

Comment: Does this mean fully implementing the Geneva Conventioin - can we see the letter to the Commission?

How Turkey’s Promise to Stop the Flow of Refugees Is Creating a New Crisis (INYT, link): "Turkey is struggling to cope with the 2.7 million Syrians it hosts and honor its agreement to stop refugees from crossing into Europe. And renewed fighting in Syria last week pushed tens of thousands of Syrians closer to the border with Turkey, in a sign that the problem could still get worse."

Czech Republic: Graffitis in Prague probably motivated by hate (Prague Monitor, link):"The unknown perpetrators who scrawled threatening inscriptions or Nazi symbols at several places in Prague at the weekend are suspected of graffiti spread and hate-motivated crimes, police spokesman Tomas Hulan told CTK Saturday.
He said the police suspect them of damaging other's property with graffiti, inciting to hatred of another group of persons and restricting their rights and freedoms, and of the crime of sympathy for a movement aimed to suppress man's rights and freedoms. If found guilty, they face up to three years in prison.".


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.4.16)

Will Europe do anything to stop the drownings of migrants? (Washington Post, link): "Nothing has been done to address the causes of the exodus, however, so smugglers might shift their activities from the Turkey-Greece route to the still more dangerous passage between the North African coast and Italy. Some 6,000 mostly African refugees arrived in southern Italian ports in four days last week, according to the International Organization for Migration, bringing the total for the year to nearly 24,000. Some 800 have died along the way, the agency said , including those in the latest accident."

Europe is a moral wasteland: Countless refugees continue to die while the West turns a blind eye (Salon, link): "The European Union was “founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

It’s now clear that the moral posturing of the West is fraudulent.

This is of course not to suggest that other places are of better moral quality. Far from it: consider the Thai junta returning Chinese dissidents to China, the Egyptian military dictatorship’s complicity in Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the Gulf states’ systematic exploitation of guest workers, or the alleged abuses committed by Mexican agents, on behalf of the United States, against Central Americans fleeing gangster terror. The world is in large part run by mean, venal and greedy pfeople. But the next time the West invokes its moral superiority remember that they have already failed humanity’s most basic test."

2016 will be remembered as the EU's year of shame (Open Democracy, link): "For years, after the great Lampedusa shipwreck on 3 October 2013, the EU has tacitly allowed the deaths at sea of thousands of refugees fleeing towards the European coasts, having been unable to guarantee safe and legal access routes to the Union.

This year, in 2016, the EU has taken a further step towards barbarity: not only has it closed its internal borders by dismantling the Schengen area, but it has consciously decided to send refugees back to the war zones from which they had previously fled, and from which they are still escaping.

The agreement with Turkey signed on 20 March 2016, which enables the mass deportation of refugees who manage to reach Greece, cannot be interpreted in any other way. Thousands of these returnees are sent back by the Erdogan regime to the Syrian war zones from which they had initially escaped: a deportation that violates national, European and international laws."

This article is the foreword from the recent report Death by Rescue: the Lethal Effects of the EU's Policies of Non-Assistance (link)

News (25.4.16)

EU leaders' praise of Turkey triggers NGO anger (EUobserver, link): "”Turkey is the best example in the entire world of how to treat refugees”, European Council president Donald Tusk claimed on Saturday (23 April), drawing criticism from human rights organisations.

He spoke at a press conference in Gaziantep, southern Turkey, where he travelled together with German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

”Nobody has the right to lecture Turkey on what you should do. I am very proud you are my partner. I am absolutely sure we will succeed. We have no other way”, Tusk said.

His statement drew applause from the conference. "

Obama questions Merkel’s idea for safe zones in Syria (New Europe, link): "US President Barack Obama has openly disagreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the creation of “safe zones” for refugees in Syria. At a news conference in Hanover, however, the visiting president sought to smooth over any differences.

“As a practical matter, sadly, it is very difficult to see how it would operate short of us being willing to militarily take over a chunk of that country,” Obama told reporters in Hanover on April 24. “And that requires a big military commitment” to protect refugees from attacks.

As reported by Bloomberg, Merkel said safe zones couldn’t be imposed from outside but would have to come out of negotiations in Geneva to end the war, identifying areas where people can feel “particularly safe.” Obama said he agreed with that version of the proposal."

UK: Ministers urged to let in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees (The Guardian, link): "Opposition MPs hope to inflict an embarrassing defeat on the government on Monday over its refusal to extend help to unaccompanied child refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries who are stranded in Europe.

Charities led by Save the Children are urging MPs on both sides of the house to back an amendment to the immigration bill tabled by the Labour peer Alf Dubs and passed by the House of Lords, which would force the government to accept 3,000 unaccompanied children.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, has written to every MP urging them to support the amendment. He said: “The vote on Monday is a test of Britain’s humanity. MPs must stand up for the values and traditions that make Britain great.”"


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23-24.4.16)
Tomorrow, we have a chance to stop the death of innocents by Rowan Williams (Gurdian, link): "During the Second World War, our parents and grandparents had no doubt: refugee children had to be given succour and safety..."

Initial Austrian presidential election results show right-wing, anti-immigrant party sweeping first round (dailysabah.com/europe, link): "The law-and-order candidate of Austria's right-wing party swept the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, gathering over 35 percent of the vote and leaving the other five candidates far behind. Among the losers were the hopefuls nominated by the government coalition, reflecting significant voter dissatisfaction with the country's political status quo."

EU-TURKEY: Remarks by President Donald Tusk during his visit to Turkey (23.4.16, pdf):

"Today Turkey is the best example in the entire world of how to treat refugees."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"Why is the EU not the best example in the entire world of how to treat refugees?"

Refugee Rights: Data Project: The Long Wait: Filling data gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in the Calais camo (link):

"Contrary to many other large refugee settlements around the world, the Calais camp is not an officially recognised refugee camp. This has left it marginalised without any statistics or data available regarding the camp, its inhabitants or their living conditions. While the existence of statistics by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is the norm elsewhere, none have been gathered in Calais.

Moreover, there is no border data, and no registration process has been put in place by the authorities. This makes it impossible to gain an indepth understanding of
the realities of life in the camp. It also means that thousands of people are ‘slipping through the net’, being left outside of the system. As a result, the people in the Calais camp are rendered incredibly vulnerable - among them a significant number of unaccompanied children".

Are You Syrious (23.4.16, link)

"Solidarity center on Chios was burned down by an unknown party:

Soli Cafe, a solidarity center on #Chios that treated refugees as equals, and has been under constant police and fascist pressure and attacks recently, was set on fire last night. Culprits are still unknown. Fortunately, gas canisters had been removed from the building in time to prevent greater damage.

Meanwhile, Vial camp on Chios is still closed for independent volunteers as well as some NGO’s trying to get in. Refugees are still being detained under Greek law for up to 25 days. Volunteers have collected multiple testimonials confirming that the food provided is of poor quality, and nutritionally insufficient. There’s lack of medical support as well....

International lawyers and translators needed!

An international network of lawyers is trying to get a grip on how asylum claims in Greece are being handled. At the moment they need support of both Greek and international colleagues to review all the refugee cases in time. Translators fluent in Greek, Arabic and Farsi are needed as well. They are also looking for friendly contacts within EASO to meet with during their legal coordination meetings. If you can help with legal expertise or you know someone who could be useful, please contact ariel.ricker@gmail.com...."

UNHCR reports (22.4/16): : 180,629 arrivals in the EU in 2016: 154,268 in Greece, 25,458 in Italy. 1,261 dead/missing

Greece: Migrant flow from Turkey to Greece picking up again: IOM (ekathimerini.com, link): "The numbers of migrants landing in Greece from Turkey is starting to creep up again, showing efforts to close off the route are coming under strain, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday. Around 150 people a day had arrived over the last three days, still way off the numbers seen a month ago, the organization added, but showing an increase since an EU deal with Turkey deal to stem the flow."

UNHCR: Daily Report (22.4.16:)

"In Turkey, so far (as of 18 April), 326 people were returned boat to Dikili (Turkey) since the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, including 202 people on 4 April and 124 people on 8 April. Main nationalities include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, India, Morocco, Egypt and Palestine. Two Syrians have been returned to date.

All non-Syrians returned by sea were referred to Kirklareli removal centre, while Syrians are transferred to Duzici camp for processing. Despite written requests, UNHCR still does not have access to them, including to the 13 persons who had expressed their wish to apply for asylum. Discussions are on-going with authorities on UNHCR’s access to removal centres."

"In Greece, on 20 April, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Economic and Social Committee of Greece and the Permanent Representation of the European Commission in Athens co-chaired a conference entitled: "Human flows and the world we share: Can Europe Tackle the Refugee and Migrant Issue?". Speaking at the conference, the Greek Alternate Defence Minister, responsible for coordinating efforts to tackle the refugee crisis, said that given the fact many people will remain in the country for one, two or more years, and rights should be granted as required; in this context, the government may consider issuing a refugee passport. The Minister also said that there are 34 operating host centers across Greece, noting that Eidomeni and Piraeus are not included in the list." [emphasis added]

Are You Sryious (22.4.16, link): "An Austrian bishop refused on Thursday to allow parts of a planned anti-migrant fence on the country's southern border with Hungary to be built on Church land. The barrier near Moschendorf, one of a number of government measures meant to be completed by June, is set to be several kilometres long but crosses two Church-owned properties. A fence "would contradict the spirit of the Gospel, Pope Francis's clear message to Europe, and in particular for a diocese that was in the shadow of the Iron Curtain for decades," said Aegidius Zsifkokvics, bishop of #Eisenstadt"

Despite deal, refugees still trickling into Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Despite reduced flows from Turkey, authorities say that roughly 100 refugees are still arriving daily on the Greek islands, adding to the thousands of migrants scattered in registration and reception centers throughout the country....

According to the latest official figures, there are 53,817 migrants throughout the country: 29,298 are at camps and centers in northern Greece, while in Attica there are 14,359, of which 3,294 are at the port of Piraeus.

Authorities estimate that it will take more than a month to process all the asylum applications submitted.... Afghans have repeatedly protested what they say is preferential treatment given to Syrians."

When we mourn the passing of Prince but not 500 migrants, we have to ask: have we lost all sense of perspective? (Independent, link) by Robert Fisk: "Could not one of those dead children among the five hundred souls on the sinking Mediterranean boat become a ‘superstar’? "

News (23-24.4.16)

Angela Merkel to launch EU aid programme for Syrians on Turkey visit (Guardian link): £German chancellor will attend photocall with Ahmet Davutoglu at refugee camp in Gaziantep amid concerns over her policy....In exchange for Turkish acquiescence, Europe has promised looser visa restrictions for Turks travelling to Europe and agreed to accelerate negotiations over Turkey’s proposed accession to the EU... But Merkel and her European colleagues have been accused of pandering too much to Turkey, amid calls for stronger international criticism of the government’s crackdown on political opponents."

Rumour: Is the Relocation Program Real? (News That Moves, link)

UK: David Cameron faces knife-edge vote on child refugee policy (Observer, link): "Tory MPs join chorus of calls for UK to admit more unaccompanied young people fleeing war-torn homelands"

Babies Detained in Refugee Centers on Greek Island “Not Getting Adequate Milk” (Press Project, link): "Asylum seekers who are held in a detention center in Chios claim babies under six months old are being given only 100ml of milk a day"

Czech Republic: Migrant crisis fuelling negative sentiments towards foreigners and the EU (Radio, Praha, link)

Refugee crisis: the ugly truth behind the cynical EU-Turkey deal (FIDH< link): " March 18 2016, European Union leaders and Turkey struck a shameful deal providing for fast-track procedures aimed at returning ‘all new irregular migrants’ reaching the Greek islands after March 20 who do not have a legitimate asylum claim back to Turkey and an infamous ‘migrant swap’."

Swiss halt Muslim family's citizenship process after refusal to shake hands (Daily Sabah, link): "As anti-immigration sentiment increases across Europe, Switzerland has suspended the citizenship process of a Muslim family after brothers refused to shake female teachers' hands, saying it violates their beliefs."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22.4.16)
By being tough on migration Europe can also be humane Donald Tusk Only strong and stable states can react to this crisis. We were helpless, but the new three-pronged strategy is working (Guardian, link) and:

Donald Tusk: EU needs ‘tough’ migration policies (politico, link): "Tusk defended more recent EU actions to tighten border controls and stop the flow of refugees, saying they were necessary to stop growing “radical, populist, often nationalist sentiment” that had led to “apocalyptic prophesies and questions about the future of Europe.”"

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"The President of the Council of the European Union, demonstrates a bizarre logic. If refugees are not stopped, and denied their right to ask for asylum, this will lead to "radical, populate, often nationalistic sentiment" - so the racists and nationalist win and determine EU policy. This is a blatant abdication of responsibility to uphold and enforce the purported fundamental values of the EU as set out in the Treaty and the Charter."

Volunteer stories: 'I will never forget how cold the little boy’s body was I carried that day' (Guardian, link): "From burying the dead in Lesbos to saving desperate refugees from traffickers in Budapest, volunteers share their stories of responding to one of Europe’s worst humanitarian crises.

Across Europe, volunteers have been moved to act to help refugees seeking safety; from sea rescues, to teaching languages. Here, volunteers share stories from their involvement over the past months, revealing the emotional cost of this vast humanitarian crisis as it has unfolded"

Are You Syrious (21.4.16, link)

"Nearly 54 thousand refugees are currently located on Greek territory, according to the Greek Government. The highest concentration of refugees is still recorded in Idomeni, with 10,257 refugees inside the camp. Even though NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said today that the number of refugees crossing the Aegean Sea into Europe is significantly lower, new arrivals are still recorded on a daily basis. According to the Greek Government, 196 new arrivals were recorded on Lesvos and 18 on Samos until 7:30 AM today"

"As we reported yesterday, the “administrative restriction” process for asylum applicants on Lesvos and Chios is in theory in effect as of Monday. This means that refugees cannot be detained in registration centers after 25 days since their asylum applications take longer than that to process. However, refugees from ?#?Moria? camp on Lesvos have not heard of anyone leaving the camp so far. Similarly, volunteers from ?#?Vial? camp on Chios report that the authorities there have not opened the camp. Earlier today, refugees themselves broke free from Vial camp. For now, they are free to come and go from the inside to outside of the camp. All of the NGOs active on site are having meetings on how to handle the situation. The atmosphere is described as tense by the volunteers."

" The Supreme Administrative Court in Finland has overturned the decision to return Afghani asylum seekers to Hungary. The decision to return the asylum seekers was made by the Finnish Immigration Service and the Administrative Court of Helsinki. Before coming to Finland, the asylum seekers arrived in Hungary via Serbia and applied for asylum in Hungary in September 2014. According to the Supreme Administrative Court, there was a genuine threat that the asylum seekers would be deported from Hungary back to Serbia, if they were to be sent back."

"On the initiative of Greek Foreign Minister, a quadripartite meeting between Foreign Ministers and Interior Ministers of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia is being held in Thessaloniki, April 21-22 with the focus on border cooperation. They will discuss the main challenges of migration and regional cooperation in the field of border management, combating trafficking and terrorist networks and management of the refugee crisis."

EU: Killing by Omission (EJIL: Talk!, link): "On Monday, the Forensic Architecture team at Goldsmith College, London, published Death by Rescue. The report exposes a rather complex set of facts, but the basic argument is as simple as it is alarming.

Operation Triton, facilitated by Europe’s border security agency, Frontex, began on 1 November 2014 and is mandated to enforce Italy’s maritime border. Triton replaced an earlier and much wider Italian Navy operation, Mare Nostrum, which began in October 2013 and was mandated to save migrant lives beyond Italy’s territorial waters. When EU officials decided on the more limited scope of Triton, they knew their decision would result in the drowning of numerous migrants. As one Frontex official wryly noted, “the withdrawal of naval assets from the area, if not properly planned and announced well in advance, would likely result in a higher number of fatalities.” But the European Commission turned a blind eye – leading to a spike in migrant deaths, which the authors, Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani meticulously document.

From a legal perspective, this set of circumstances raises the question whether the migrants’ rights were violated, and if so, whether EU actors can be held legally accountable. In my view, the report exposes no illegal activity by European agents, either at the operational or at the policymaking level. Perhaps more troubling, the report raises the specter of unaccountable violence ingrained in the very structure of international law. If international law is somehow to blame for circumstances that made these utterly preventable deaths possible, then perhaps it is law itself that should be indicted."

An article examining the legal implications of the Death by Rescue reported released earlier this week. See: Summary of report: Death by Rescue - The lethal effects of the EU's policies of non-assistance at sea (pdf) and the full report (link).

Finnish court suspends Dublin returns to Hungary

"Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court recently ruled that returning an Afghan asylum seeker to Hungary was problematic because of the country’s asylum procedures.

The court declared that deporting asylum seekers via Serbia threatened the fundamental rights of people seeking international protection. As a result of the Court’s decision the Finnish Immigration Service has suspended asylum seeker returns to Hungary.

The Afghan asylum seeker had come to Finland by way of Hungary and Serbia. The Supreme Administrative Court deemed that there is a risk that the man would be deported from Hungary to Serbia and from there to Afghanistan without having any authorities assess his asylum application or his need for international protection. Hungary is the only EU country that considers Serbia to be safe for asylum seekers and returns them there.

The Court determined that there are major problems with Hungary’s asylum procedures. It pointed to large numbers of asylum applications, difficulties in providing legal guidance and other problems facing asylum seekers in Hungary. It said that these factors made it impossible to be clear if the man’s return to Serbia and other third countries would be stopped or deferred."

See: Finland suspends asylum seeker returns to Hungary following higher court ruling (YLE, link). Hungary is the second EU country to which asylum-seekers can no longer be returned from Finland. A previous court ruling saw returns to Greece suspended.

From September 2012: Serbia is "no longer a safe third country" but Commission says that readmission "functions smoothly" (Statewatch News Online)

Press release: Readmissions from Greece to Turkey: What Happens After Readmission? (Mülteci Der, link): "Mülteci-Der lawyer went to the RC [Removal Centre] in Pehlivanköy-Kirklareli and demanded to meet with the returned detainees. Although the lawyer insisted on her request for 2 days, in the end her request was refused by Kirklareli Provincial Migration Management (PDMM) based on an order given to by the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) in Ankara. The lawyer was prevented from seeing the detainees and the law was violated on the ground that “the DGMM has a working group on readmitted people and until they finalize their work, returned people shall not be allowed to meet with lawyers or anybody else”. By preventing lawyers from meeting with detainees arbitrarily and without any legal basis, the administration violated the law and once again the rule of law was not respected."

Migration Maps (Occupied Times, link): "In 2013, Group 484 invited several artists to work with asylum seekers in an asylum centre near the village of Bogovadja, near Valjevo. At that time, the number of migrants in Serbia was not nearly as large as it is today. The issue of migration, except in the narrow circles of activists and individual organisations, was neither visible nor topical. In Bogovadja we met people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Guinea, Senegal, Syria while they were spending days in the centre, reporting to the police station upon entering Serbia illegally and expressing their intention to seek asylum.

We did not want to frame people as victims, avoiding the prism of humanitarian paternalism which is often the basis of art projects, but as courageous people who, by the very fact that they had decided to set out on such a journey, made a radical change in their life – fleeing war, conflicts and poverty. We were interested when, how and where they had been travelling before we met them. We asked why they had embarked on such a journey, what troubles they had survived, how they had crossed borders, what their experiences were with police and people in the countries they had passed through.

Together we sketched maps, piecing together their routes, which in some cases had taken up to 7 years. Sometimes the maps lack detail or are unclear, and sometimes they would skip parts of the journey.

We wanted to show their routes factually, and thus draw attention to Europe’s inhumane asylum policy."

Teaming up: four-country discussions on migration and refugees

Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Macedonia to Discuss Migrant Crisis (Novinite, link): "Interior and foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Macedonia are to meet in Thessaloniki on Thursday and Friday to discuss possible measures to control the migrant inflow into Europe.

The meeting has been called by Greece's top diplomat, Nikos Kotzias. (...)

Bulgaria and other Greek neighbors for their part fear the numbers of migrants trying to enter their territories will rise this spring and summer."

And: CZECH REPUBLIC: PM rejects permanent refugee redistribution mechanism (Prague Monitor, link): "Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) told the Czech Chamber of Deputies yesterday he disagreed with the creation of a permanent mechanism redistributing refugees among EU countries and a transition of the powers relating to asylum to the European Commission.

These are efforts to federalise the asylum policy, Sobotka said. (...)

Sobotka said he wanted to prepare a joint position of the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) to the EC proposal.

"There is a big chance of our proceeding jointly," Sobotka said, adding that the Czech Republic would look for other allies, too, in support of its stand."

News (22.4.16)

New ‘European Border Guard’ system to be agreed by 30 June (euractiv, link): "EU interior ministers formally agreed yesterday (21 April) on a proposal for a new border and coastguard force that could intervene in under-pressure countries like Greece to slow the influx of migrants."

Idomeni: Syrian refugee hit by police van dies in hospital (News That Moves, link):

"The Syrian refugee who was hit by a police van on Monday, died in Papageorgiou hospital in Thessaloniki Thursday noon. The man suffered severe injuries in the head, the doctors could not save him.

Officially the Greek police says that it was an accident. According to Greek police, the man was fixing something on his tent in Idomeni camp, he lost his balance and fell on the side of the police van. The van driver was a 46-year-old policeman. The exact causes of the accident are been investigated by the Traffic Police of Kilkis..."

Merkel sees drop of refugees as an ‘opportunity’ (euractiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday (21 April) that fewer asylum seekers were now reaching European shores, giving EU nations a chance to shore up plans to protect the continent’s outer borders."

Czech Police Detain Afghan Migrants in Bulgarian-Registered Van (Novinite, link): "Czech police have detained 26 illegal migrants from Afghanistan in a Bulgarian-registered van close to the border with Germany, Czech media reported on Thursday.

The irregular migrants – 11 men, five women and 10 children – were detained near the town of Domažlice, some 20 km from the Czech Republic’s border with Germany, Radio Prague said, citing the Minister of the Interior Milan Chovanec.

The migrants had said they planned to seek asylum in Germany.

The driver of the Peugeot Boxer van and his companion, who is suspected of being the mastermind of the people trafficking, have escaped. The Czech police has launched a search for them."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Iraqi Christians return home from Czech Republic (Prague Daily Monitor, link): "A group of 16 Iraqi Christian refugees who wanted to leave the Czech Republic for Germany last week departed for Iraq this afternoon, said Kiril Christov, spokesman for the Refugee Facilities Administration of the Czech Interior Ministry.

"All of them agreed with the voluntary return and all of them boarded the plane. Everything went well," Christov told CTK."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Migrant crisis fuelling negative sentiments towards foreigners and the EU (Radio Prague, link): "The migrant crisis is making Czechs increasingly wary of foreigners. According to a recent poll conducted by the STEM agency, the number of people who think an ethnic group or minority should have the right to live in the Czech Republic according to its own traditions has dropped by almost a half to 25 percent in the past two years. Only 25 percent of respondents now say requests for Czech citizenship should be granted without regard to nationality or ethnicity. And three quarters of Czechs consider foreigners to be a security threat. For this week’s Panorama I spoke to the head of the STEM polling agency, sociologist Jan Hartl, about how the crisis has changed attitudes to foreigners and even to the country’s next door neighbours."

Two survivors from Ethiopia and Somalia tell of mystery migrant shipwreck (Deutsche Welle, link): "An Ethiopian and a Somali man say they were on two boats heading to Italy from Libya when one of the vessels sank. The UN refugee agency says up to 500 people may have drowned in the tragedy.

Visibly shaken from their ordeal, the two men - 25-year-old Muaz Mahmoud Aymo and 28-year-old Mowlid Isman - described how they were among 200 people aboard a small boat when smugglers forced them onto a larger vessel, which already had 300 people on board.

"When we moved to that boat, the big boat fell into the water and my baby (of) two months and my 21-year-old wife, and all died in the middle of the ocean," Aymo told reporters at the offices of the Greek charity Praxis.

"Only 41 made it, we swam to save our lives to the small boat. And I saved two persons," he added.

The two said although they managed to get back on board the smaller boat, the smuggler refused to wait and help others struggling in the sea."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.4.16)

EU: Legal Analysis: Migrants in Greece are denied the rights to international protection and family unity. The visit to the camps in Idomeni and government-run camps, and a legal analysis of the situation we observed. (pdf) prepared by ASGI, Italy

"A delegation of eight participants in the course of the “Advanced training school for legal operators specialised in international protection” organised by ASGI in Rome alongside legal operators from the ADL Zavidovici association, the K-Pax cooperative, the Idea Prisma 82 cooperative and the Alternata cooperative travelled to Greece within the framework of the #overthefortress caravan organised by Melting Pot and the Ambasciata dei Diritti delle Marche to observe the legal conditions of migrants in the camp in Idomeni and the government-run camps in the vicinity. The monitoring was also carried out with the help of mediators from the caravan.
On 26 and 27 March, we visited the Idomeni camp and interviewed the foreign citizens who were there, as well as some international organisations."

Translation by Statewatch. The original version (in Italian) of the report "Idomeni, un'analisi giuridica sui diritti negati ai migranti" is available on the ASGI website

Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly: Daniel Mitov: ‘Migration is not a threat to our democracies, but intolerance and hatred are (Press release, link): "

“Governments and political leaders should refrain from using xenophobic rhetoric linking migrants to social problems or security risks, thereby making the integration of the few migrants staying in the country even more problematic”, said Daniel Mitov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, addressing the Assembly today.

“Migration is not a threat to our democracies, but intolerance and hatred do represent such a threat”, he added, highlighting the responsibility of the international community to improve the difficult humanitarian situation and to protect migrants’ human rights."

European Parliament Briefing: Regulation 604/2013 (Dublin Regulation) and asylum procedures in Europe (pdf)

Council of Europe anti-torture Committee visits “hotspots” in Greece (link)

"Strasbourg, 20.04.2016 - A delegation of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out an ad hoc visit to Greece from 13 to 18 April 2016.

The purpose of the visit was to examine the situation of foreign nationals deprived of their liberty in the recently established “Reception and Identification Centres” (so-called “hotspots”). Particular attention was paid to the treatment, conditions, regime, health-care services and legal safeguards offered to them. To this end, the delegation visited the Moria “hotspot” on Lesvos and the VIAL “hotspot” on Chios and spoke in private with foreign nationals (including families, unaccompanied children and other vulnerable groups) held in both centres. It also visited Mytilini police station on Lesvos and Chios police station and the coast guard detention facility on Chios."

UNHCR reports: 196 refugees arrived in Lesvos yesterday

"In Greece, 134 people arrived on average to the islands in April. There are currently 46,333 people located on the mainland and 7,645 on the islands. Of those on the islands, 5,844 have expressed intention to apply for asylum as of the 18 April. Of the 2,671 relocation requests, 860 transfers took place so far. A total of 3,288 pledges have been made available by EU Member States as of 19 April."  The latter figure of 3,288 is down 949 on the number of pledges as 1 April 2016.

On Tuesday, a UNHCR team interviewed survivors of what could be one of the worst tragedies involving refugees and migrants in the last 12 months. If confirmed, as
many as 500 people may have lost their lives when a large ship went down in the Mediterranean Sea at an unknown location between Libya and Italy. The 41 survivors (37 men, three women and a three-year-old child) were rescued by a merchant ship and taken to Kalamata, in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece on 16 April. Those rescued include 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, 6 Egyptians and a Sudanese."

Mediterranean migrant disaster gets muted response (euobserver, link):

"Up to 500 are feared to have drowned off the Libyan coast while trying to cross to Europe, the UN’s refugee agency said on Wednesday (20 April), but a muted response to the tragedy suggests empathy is dwindling across the continent.

UNHCR said the 41 survivors, 37 men, three women and a three-year-old child were rescued by merchant ships and taken to Kalamata, Greece on 16 April. The survivors included Somalis, Ethiopians, Egyptians and Sudanese."

Council of Europe condemns EU's refugee deal with Turkey (Guardian, link):

"Human rights body says agreement at worst breaks international law and progress on integrating refugees is ‘shamefully slow’...

The EU-Turkey agreement “at best strains and at worst exceeds the limits of what is permissible under European and international law”, states the report by the Dutch parliamentarian Tineke Strik. “Even on paper, it raises many serious questions of compatibility with basic norms on refugees’ and migrants’ rights. It has so far given every indication of being even more problematic in practice.”" [emphasis added]

And see Report: The situation of refugees and migrants under the EU-Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016 (pdf): Report: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons Rapporteur: Ms Tineke STRIK, Netherlands, Socialist Group and Press release (link)

News (21.4.16)

EU-Turkey refugee pact leads to fatal Libya crossings (New Europe, link): "As reported by Bloomberg, however, the EU-Turkey deal is forcing people smugglers to switch routes. This is based on the United Nations report that 500 migrants travelling between Libya and Italy may have drowned last week."

Migrant camp near Athens poses public health risk, say five mayors (ekathimerini.com, link): "Five mayors of Athens's coastal suburbs warned Wednesday of the "enormous" health risks posed by a nearby camp housing over 4,000 migrants and refugees. "The conditions are out of control and present enormous risks to the public health," the mayors complained in a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in reference to the camp at Elliniko, the site of Athens's old airport. A total of 4,153 people, including many families, have been held there for the last month in miserable conditions."

Ankara denies entry to German journalist (euractiv, link):

"Turkish authorities at Istanbul airport denied entry yesterday (20 April) to a German public television journalist who arrived from Cairo and planned to travel to the Turkey-Syria border, the ARD broadcaster said.

ARD journalist Volker Schwenck announced his detention on Twitter and posted a picture of an entry ban letter given to him by authorities with the headline in Turkish and English: “Inadmissible Passenger Notification Report.”"

Burying drowned migrants is part of a broader Greek problem (Ecomonist, link)

EU states grow wary as Turkey presses for action on visas pledge (FT, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20.4.16)

Syrian children shot dead by Turkish border guards (Times, link):

"Eight Syrians, most of them women and children, have been killed by Turkish border guards while fleeing their war-torn homeland.

The group was trying to cross into Turkey via a mountain smuggling route at the western end of the frontier when they were pushed back by Turkish forces firing live rounds. Mobile phone footage obtained by The Times shows a man carrying his young son, who has been shot in both legs, back down the winding mountain path in the hope of reaching medical help..." and

Turkish border guards shoot DEAD eight Syrians including women and children as they try to flee their war-torn homeland (Daily Mail, link)

EU: Commission (20.4,16):

- Managing the Refugee Crisis: Commission reports on implementation of EU-Turkey Statement (Press release, pdf)

-
First Report on the progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement (COM 231-16, pdf)

-
Annex to Com 231-16: funding (pdf)

-
Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement – Questions and Answers (pdf)

- Operational implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement including number of "returns" (pdf)

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 21 April, Luxembourg: Background Note (pdf)

Includes: European Border Guard, IT systems for Security and Borders, Databases (Ministers will also discuss the systematic feeding and consistent use of European and international databases), Reform of the Common European Asylum System and Migration (Home affairs ministers will hold an exchange of views on several migration-related issues, and in particular the implementation of the 17-18 March 2016 European Council conclusions and the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March 2016).

EU to propose visa-free travel for Turks May 4 if terms met (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The European Union's executive said on Wednesday it will propose on May 4 granting Turks visa-free travel to the bloc from late June in a deal under which it is to stop uncontrolled migration into Europe - provided Ankara meets the remaining conditions....

The Commission did not say how many of the 72 benchmarks for visa liberalisation Turkey has yet to complete but it pointed to several areas where work remains to be done."

Statewatch: State of Play: Commission statistics (dated 18 April 2016): Hotspots, Returns, Pledges and Civil Protection

EU shirks refugee relocation responsibility (DW, link): "EU member states are failing to live up to their promises to ease pressure on Greece and Italy at the forefront of the refugee crisis, with asylum seekers paying the price. Pavlos Zafiropoulos reports from Athens."

Greece: Asylum Applicants No Longer Detained in Registration Centers on Greek Islands (Greek Reporter, link):

"As of Monday, the “administrative restriction” process for asylum applicants on Lesvos and Chios is in effect, meaning that they cannot be detained in registration centers after 25 days. The migrants are gradually free to leave the hotspots since their asylum applications take longer than 25 days to process.

The migrants released from the registration centers are given a specific document that says their asylum application is in process and they cannot leave the island until there is a decision on their case."

Turkey: Open Border to Displaced Syrians Shelled by Government - No Escape for Thousands Fleeing Attacks on Border Camps (HRW, link): "(Istanbul) – Syrian military attacks on armed opposition groups near the Turkish border hit two displaced persons camps on April 13 and 15, 2016, causing at least 3,000 people to flee, although they were unable to cross the border to safety, Human Rights Watch said today."

Bulgaria tries to restrain its vigilante “migrant hunters” (Economist, link): "Rights groups demand that Bulgaria’s government bring illegal border-policing groups under control."

News (20.4.16)

Fire in Greek camp burns more than a dozen tents (ekathimerini.com, link): "A fire broke out in a refugee camp in northern Greece Wednesday, burning more than a dozen tents and sparking a protest by refugees. Police said at least two people were taken to a hospital suffering from smoke inhalation."

Turkey and EU hail successes of migrant deal (euobserver, link)

PEGIDA founder dragged before German court (euractiv, link): "Lutz Bachmann, one of the founders of the German xenophobic PEGIDA movement, was put on trial in Dresden yesterday (18 April). The prosecution accuses him of having repeatedly harassed refugees and migrants on social media and inciting hatred. EurActiv Germany reports."

Turkey and EU hail successes of migrant deal (euobserver, link): "The EU commission and Turkey have praised their controversial migrant deal for breaking the business model of the people smugglers and decreasing the number of migrants travelling to Europe. EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu talked about the deal at the Council of Europe on Tuesday (19 April), a day before the EU’s executive was due to unveil its first assessment of the agreement."

Germany arrests refugee shelter fire suspects (euobserver, link): "German authorities on Tuesday arrested five people suspected of setting refugee shelters on fire. “With today’s operation, the security authorities have dealt a powerful blow to a regional right-wing terrorist group,” said interior minister Thomas de Maiziere. The early morning police raids took place in Saxony."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.4.16)

UN chief slams 'deeply worrying' attacks on refugees (ekathimerini.com. link):

"UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday denounced rising attacks on migrants and refugees, calling for “political will” to resolve the root causes of Europe’s worst migration crisis in decades.

“The continuing increase in anti-migrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and violent attacks against these communities... across all Europe is deeply worrying,” Ban told a press conference in The Hague. “These actions in divided communities sow instability and betray the values and human rights standards that underpin international solidarity.”

Are You Syrious (link)

Croatia: Criminalsing helping refugees: "Today, a public discussion panel was held in Zagreb, organized by the Center for Peace Studies and the Welcome Initiative. The panel was held with the aim of discussing the changes of the Law on foreigners. Special focus was placed on trying to make a joint effort through conversation with Ministry of Interior representatives on curbing the newly introduced provision of the law that institutes the criminalization of solidarity (referring to any category of helping the foreigner without valid permission to stay in Croatia). The changes would criminalize helping the foreigners that are in so called 'illegal' status unless they are in mortal danger. Many of the organizations, including the ombudsman office see this provision as something that should be changed in order to better work together on integration and prevention of trafficking and/or exploiting migrant workers. The changes to the law should be applied from July this year, but hopefully with many amended clauses. "

Sprious reasoning to exclude Afghans from EU relocation scheme: rights are not based on percentages: "If you were wondering why Afghans are not yet eligible for EU’s relocation program, News that moves reported today the calculations of EASO that state that the program applies to nationalities who have an average EU-wide asylum recognition rate equal to or higher than 75%, on the basis of EUROSTAT data for the previous quarter. Eligible nationalities are updated quarterly. Afghans have an asylum recognition rate lower than 75% EU-wide, therefore they are not eligible. Currently, nationals or stateless persons who are residents in of Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Burundi, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahrain, Maldives, and British overseas countries and territories are eligible to participate to the relocation programme."

Save The Children: Shortage Of Shelter For Refugee Children (News that moves, link)

"According to Save The Children, more than 1,500 refugee children in Greece have currently no safe shelter and many of them are being held in detention centres and police cells. The Independent newspaper reports that only 477 sheltered spaces are available for unaccompanied refugee children in Greece at the moment.

Spokesperson for Save the Children, Sacha Myers, said “we estimate that there are at least 2,000 unaccompanied children in Greece – we know there are hundreds, potentially thousands more.” According to the law, refugees “can only stay in a detention centre for 25 days and then need to be moved to a more permanent shelter, but because they’re full, the children are either staying in detention or being moved into police cells,” Myers said.

According to UNHCR, currently more than 22,000 refugee and migrant children are stranded in Greece. Of that total, unaccompanied and separated children represent about 10 percent of all refugee and migrant children in Greece"

Death by Rescue: THE LETHAL EFFECTS OF THE EU’S POLICIES OF NON-ASSISTANCE (full report, link) and Foreword: DEATH BY (FAILURE TO) RESCUE (link) by by Barbara Spinelli, Member of the European Parliament (European United Left/Nordic Green Left Parliamentary Group):

"Looking back—as the Forensic Oceanography report requires us to do—we have an idea of how in just two and a half years, we have passed from hypocritical declarations on Lampedusa to active indifference in front of the 350 children drowned at sea following the death of Alan Kurdi, as if this were a natural catastrophe that does not affect the political sphere. The more European institutions have talked about rights and humanity, the more they have proceeded towards a subtraction of means, personnel, financial assistance for search and rescue, engaging in agreements with Third Countries not reliable from the point of view of respect for fundamental rights (the Rabat and Karthoum processes) and in the deliberate and shameless outsourcing of refoulement culminating in the EU-Turkey agreement."

Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly: Urgent debate on the situation of refugees and migrants under the EU-Turkey Agreement (link): "The Assembly decided also to hold, on Wednesday 20, an urgent procedure debate on “The situation of refugees and migrants under the EU-Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016”

EU/Greece: First Turkey Deportations Riddled With Abuse (HRW, link):

"The first round of European Union-sanctioned deportations of 66 people from the Greek island of Chios to Turkey on April 4, 2016 was rushed, chaotic, and violated the rights of those deported, Human Rights Watch said today. In Turkey, the detained deportees lost contact with family and friends held in Greece, and Turkish authorities have not allowed visits by rights groups or the United Nations.

“In the mad dash to start the deportations deal with Turkey, the European Union and Greece tossed rights to the wind, including for people who wanted to seek asylum,” said Fred Abrahams, Human Rights Watch associate director for program. “The abusive deportations expose the fundamental flaws in the EU’s expedited mass returns to a country that cannot be considered safe.”

EU-LIBYA-MED: Council conclusions on Libya (pdf):

"The EU stands ready to offer security sector support in response to possible GNA requests. Should a Libyan request be forthcoming and following consultations with the Libyans, a possible civilian CSDP mission could support Libyan efforts inter alia through advice and capacity building in the fields of police and criminal justice including on counter-terrorism, border management, countering irregular migration and smuggling of migrants and trafficking of human beings, as part of broader Security Sector Reform support. This possible mission could draw upon the existing planning capacity of EUBAM Libya. In addition to the possible civilian mission, further consideration will also be given to support that can be provided through EUNAVFOR MED Sophia, by enhancing its capacity to disrupt the business model of human smugglers and trafficking networks and to contribute to broader security in support to the legitimate Libyan authorities, for example through potential capacity building for the Libyan Coastguard, and the implementation of international law."

EU set to upgrade naval mission in Mediterranean (FT, link): "Europe’s governments signalled they are ready to expand the role of an EU naval mission in the Mediterranean, as the bloc braces itself for an expected surge in the number of asylum seekers seeking to make the dangerous sea crossing from north Africa. The EU is under pressure to find solutions ahead of a likely influx this summer of people setting off for Europe from the coast of Libya and neighbouring countries."

and:
EU navies prepare to start work in Libyan waters (euobserver, link): "The EU is to make plans for posting security experts to Libya and for moving its naval operation into Libyan waters following initial talks with the country’s new government. "

UNHCR Daily Report (18.4.16):

"On the Greek island of Lesvos, those remaining at informal sites (Olive Grove and Tsamakis) were taken to Moria for registration by police forces. They had arrived prior to 20 March when the EU-Turkey agreement came into force. As of 15 April, of the 7,216 people present on the Greek islands, at least 5,380 expressed their intent to seek asylum....

The media reports that over 400 people drowned in the Mediterranean after several overcrowded boats capsized whilst crossing from Egypt to Italy or Greece in the past few days...

Between 11-15 April, some 287 people were apprehended at Turkey’s land borders and 130 were intercepted or rescued along the Turkey’s sea borders, according to the Turkish Coast Guard."

News (19.4.16)

Turkish PM issues EU visa ultimatum (euobserver, link): "Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu has warned the migrant swap deal with the EU risks collapse unless visa restrictions are lifted on Turkish nationals by June as planned. "I maintain my belief that, god willing, we will have the visa exemption in June. In the absence of that, then of course no-one can expect Turkey to adhere to its commitments," he said on Monday (18 April) in Ankara."

Austria’s neighbours fear more border controls (euractiv, link): "While increased people-trafficking has been recorded in eastern Austria, increased border controls in the west, specifically at the Brenner Pass, continue to be mooted. EurActiv Germany reports.

Although Hungarian authorities have made their zero-tolerance stance on migrants clear, more people are coming from that direction into Austria. Guided by smugglers, they enter Austria and Germany in minibuses and vans. This month, 24 traffickers and 520 refugees have been apprehended in Burgenland, the easternmost region of the alpine republic.."

Migrant crisis: Hundreds dead after capsize, say survivors (BBC News, link)

Migrants reoccupy border rail crossing (ekathimerini.com, link)::"An attempt by the Greek Police (ELAS) Monday to halt a month-long migrants’ protest on the railway line connecting Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was short-lived as the protesters returned to the site shortly after the police intervention. The railway line opened for a short while in the morning after police peacefully removed the migrants from the area. But the migrants did not stay away for long. They returned with their tents and rolled large stones onto the railway tracks."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18.4.16)


Greek police fails to control situation after unsuccessful Idomeni railway clearing operation (New Europe, link): "Refugees reoccupy Idomeni railway tracks shortly after being peacefully removed by near Greece – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) fence border railway tracks.

Riot police dispersed refugees and migrants from the rail track early on Monday morning, to have them hours later return and recamp at the very same site. Meanwhile, the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (KEELPNO), raises the alarm on serious health risks on Idomeni and Piraeus camps. Mange and other skin diseases have been reported, together with widespread while cases of gastroenteritis and food poisoning, as food and water are exposed to April’s rising temperatures."

UK: A safe haven? Britain's role in protecting people on the move (pdf): "Across Europe, people who have fled human rights violations, conflict, violence and hardship are living in inhumane conditions, and thousands have drowned trying to reach the continent. The current humanitarian crisis is the result of political failure. The dominant response, based on deterrence and containment, is causing enormous suffering to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. While the UK government has been a leader in providing assistance to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, it has fallen short of its moral responsibility to provide safe routes to protection for people seeking refuge in the UK, and has failed to advocate for an approach that protects the rights of all people on the move."

Press release: 13 aid and refugee agencies say UK is failing in its responsibility to protect most vulnerable people displaced by conflict (Freedom From Torture, link): "Freedom from Torture, along with Oxfam, the British Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee (IRC-UK) and ten other agencies say it’s not enough for the UK government to provide aid for refugees in countries like Lebanon and Jordan. The UK has an obligation to offer a safe haven to its fair share of refugees and do all it can to ensure protection for people on the move, whatever their legal status."

The Orban Plan: protect borders, not people

EU: PM Orbán Presents “Schengen 2.0” Plan To Protect Europe’s Borders (Hungary Today, link): "Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has presented a ten-point proposal package on the protection of the European Union’s external borders and free movement within the community at a meeting of centrist democratic parties in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Hungarian leader’s Schengen 2.0 plan aims to protect external borders, as opposed to the European Commission’s proposal on managing the migrant crisis, which is an attempt to reform the asylum system. Mr. Orbán disclosed his plan on Friday at the Centrist Democrat International (CDUI)’s meeting in the Portuguese capital on Friday. The plan is necessary because the EU is endeavouring to reform the asylum system, while Hungary’s position is that it is the borders that have to be protected, the Hungarian Prime Minister, who is also a vice chairman of the centre-right group, argued. In the coming weeks, the Hungarian government is sending the action plan to Visegrád countries and Prime Ministers of other EU member states, while Mr. Orbán will explain his proposals in person in Germany next week and in several other European countries in the upcoming period."

And see: Orban will tour EU capitals with ‘Schengen 2.0’ plan (EurActiv, link): "Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will tour EU capitals to push for a 10-point plan for the protection of EU’s external borders and free movement within the community, dubbed ‘Schengen 2.0’."

EU: Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP): migration control to take more prominence in overseas missions

A paper produced by the European External Action Service in February 2016 provides an overview of current CFSP missions and sets out possibilities for their future development. Key issues are ensuring that missions take into account the requirements of EU migration and counter-terrorism policy, and the paper notes overall that: "there will likely be needs to intensify CFSP actions in support of Third States, either via projects implemented by civilian CSDP missions or through dedicated CFSP projects. This will also require additional staffing, skills and expertise in project management." Several hundred million euros are currently available for ongoing and future CSDP missions.

See: European External Action Service, CFSP budget orientations for 2016 and 2017 (doc. 6383/16, 22 February 2016, pdf) and COR 1 (pdf)

On migration, the paper notes:

"Migration is at the heart of the political debate in the EU and, for a few years now, is one of the strategic priorities of the external relations of the Union. The ongoing refugee crisis has put discussions on refugees and irregular migration on top of political agenda of the EU. The EU has not only set up a military CSDP operation EUNAVFOR MED Sophia, but also taken significant steps together with its neighbours and partners by creating a set of measures and action plans to jointly meet the challenges. Civilian CSDP missions in the concerned regions may need to be further reinforced with migration dimension and experts, as it was the case in 2015 of EUCAP Sahel Niger."

On "radical and terrorist organizations":

"Destabilization by radical and terrorist organizations is already partly addressed through notably CSDP missions assisting with capacity building in Mali and Niger. Pending the evolution of the fragile regional environment, additional experts and assets could possibly be requested to reinforce CSDP missions."

The paper is structured by the following headings: CFSP and CSDP in the changing global security environment; Future CSDP; Conclusions; Annex I - Current CSDP missions and mid-term forecast; Annex II - Possible non-proliferation and disarmament projects.

Greece: Europe must shoulder the burden for 46,000 refugees and migrants trapped in squalor (Amnesty, link): "With all eyes focused on the implementation of the recently agreed EU-Turkey deal, the plight of more than 46,000 refugees and migrants stuck in squalid conditions across mainland Greece, is in danger of being forgotten, said Amnesty International in a report released today.

The report, Trapped in Greece: an avoidable refugee crisis, examines the situation of refugees and migrants – the majority women and children –trapped on mainland Greece, following the complete closure of the Macedonian border on 7 March."

And see: Forgotten migrants at risk in Greece, says Amnesty (EUobserver, link)

News (18.4.16)

GREECE: E.U. Politics Turn Migrants’ Dreams Into Nightmares on an Overcrowded Greek Island (Time, link): "Yasmin and her family paid smugglers to get them through Turkey, and eventually, to Chios. Like the hundreds of thousands of migrants who took the same route last year, they were hoping to use Greece as a way station into mainland Europe, and then to safety in Germany. But in the last few weeks, the situation in Europe has drastically changed. As a result of the new deal between Turkey and the E.U., which went to into effect last month, all migrants arriving in Greece after March 20 are required to either register for asylum in Greece or be sent back to Turkey. The borders with the rest of Europe have essentially been shut."

GREECE: For These Greek Grandmas, Helping Migrants Brings Back Their Own Past (NPR, link): "The migrants on rafts began landing on the rocky shores of Lesbos a year ago. In a pretty village of colorful fishing boats, one of the first people they saw was Efstratia Mavrapidou, 89, who was born here. She's fragile, her eyes clouded by cataracts. But she made her way to shore by cane.

She wanted to be there to embrace the migrants crowded onto those rafts, especially the young mothers who wept as they clasped tiny, sea-drenched babies.

Many were war refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They reminded her of her own mother, Evanthea, who fled Turkey via the Ayvalik archipelago nearly a century earlier, crossing the same stretch of the Aegean Sea on a crowded wooden fishing boat."

ITALY-EU: Moving on Up: Italy to Route Northern African Migrants to Europe (Sputnik News, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16-17.4.16)
Embargoed Press Release: "Death by Rescue": EMBARGOED until 00:01 Monday 18 April - Full report available on request

New evidence proves EU policymakers knew reduced search-and-rescue operation would cause mass migrant deaths (Press Release, pdf)

"A new investigation accuses EU policymakers of “killing by neglect” after cutting rescue missions in the Mediterranean in full knowledge of the lethal consequences of their actions. Meeting transcripts and documents unearthed in a report from Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of York show that the EU border agency Frontex’s own internal assessment of replacing Mare Nostrum with Triton predicted increased deaths at sea, but the policy was introduced anyway.

Researchers found that a previously unreported 2014 Frontex internal assessment on “tackling migrant flows” stated:

“It has to be stressed that the withdrawal of naval assets from the area, if not properly planned and announced well in advance, would likely result in a higher number of fatalities.”

The researchers from the ESRC-funded ˜Precarious Trajectories” project argue that because the decision to retreat from state-led search and rescue operations was taken in full knowledge of the risk, EU policy makers and agencies carry a strong degree of responsibility for mass deaths at sea...."

and see: For press: : Summary of report: Death by Rescue - The lethal effects of the EU's policies of non-assistance at sea (8 pages, pdf)

The report will be launched on Monday 18 April at 6pm at The Mosaic Rooms, 226 Cromwell Road, SW5 0SW London. For details and to book a ticket click here.

EU: Council of the European Union: New asylum policy, EU-Turkey resettlement and Visa Code

- Discussion paper on Commission Communication "Towards a reform of the Common European Asylum System and enhancing legal avenues to Europe" (LIMITE doc no: 7861-16, pdf): Discussion on Commission's new asylum paper.

- Draft Council Decision amending Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece (LIMITE doc no: 7500-16, pdf) Resettlement issues -EU-Turkey plan

- Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Union code on Visas (Visa Code) (recast) - mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament (LIMITE doc no: 7714-16, pdf) Council deal on visa code, no humanitarian clause. Only benefits states agreeing readmission deals

EU Eurostat: Record number of over 1.2 million first time asylum seekers registered in 2015 Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis: top citizenships (pdf)

ECHR case opened against Macedonia and Greece: Are You Sryious (link)

"European Court of Human Rights opened up the case against Macedonia and Greece for last Sunday's tergas bombing, plastic bullet shooting and torturous unannounced military exercise yesterday – all of it at Idomeni Camp. They still did not find room for indicating an urgent measure at this point. The applicants, women fleeing war alone with their children, in their majority, are invited to complete their submissions by May 9th."

Italy proposes 'migration compact' to EU (ANSA, link): " Italy has sent a wide-ranging 'migration compact' to the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, to cut migrant flows, EU sources said Friday. "

See: Italian Italian Non-Paper: MIGRATION COMPACT: Contribution to an EU strategy for external action on migration (pdf): Like current EU policy it avoids the issue of "safe countries" to use forced returns to or states where EU-funded: "reception centres" (open or closed?) are set up.

Electra (link): "European Court of Human Rights opened up the case against FYROM and Greece for last Sunday's tergasbombing and plasticbullet shooting and about torturous unannounced military exercise yesterday, all at Idomeni Camp. Still found no room for indicating an urgent measure at this point. The applicants, women fleeing war alone with their children, in their majority, are invited to complete their submissions by May 9th." and

Electra (link): "Confirmed. The "safe 3rd country" principle started applying in cases of asylum seekers detained in Moria after March 20th.

We expect from lawyers whose "clients" got such asylum claim rejections to immediately communicate with lawyers practicing in Greece so that the rejections are urgently appealed within the 5 day time limit set. The concerns are huge. HUGE."

Protection and pragmatism: EU-Turkey refugee deal in historical perspective (rightsinexile.tumblr.com, link) by Jeff Crisp:

"The EU-Turkey refugee deal is just the latest effort of EU members trying to keep refugees out. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on the future of refugee protection.

In the short time since it was announced, a great deal has been written about the EU-Turkey refugee deal, with some commentators suggesting that the proposed arrangement represents a new turn in European asylum policy. In fact, it is simply the latest episode in a longstanding effort on the part of EU members and other industrialised states to curtail and manage the arrival of asylum seekers."

Frontex launches talks on possible use of remote piloted aircraft systems (link):

"This week, Frontex launched discussions with industry representatives about a possible use of remote piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) for maritime border surveillance and the potential for industry to provide these kinds of services to Frontex.

While at the moment there is no European legislation that allows the use of remotely piloted aircraft in shared airspace, the preliminary discussions were meant to explore the feasibility of extending the pool of assets providing aerial surveillance services to include medium altitude long endurance RPAS." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"I'm sure the "industry" will be very interested in extending its markets. But is Frontex going to consult more widely on the desirability and ethics of using drones to police EU sea borders to exclude people fleeing from war, persecution, poverty and climate change or is it just a practical question of whether they can be supplied?"

Greece: The idealists of Lesbos: volunteers at the heart of the refugee crisis (Guardian, link):

"Pope Francis is to visit the island where more than 50,000 people are thought to have spent time helping those fleeing war.

More than 50,000 volunteers are thought to have passed through since men, women and children – the vast majority fleeing war in Syria – began to land on its shores in flimsy boats last summer.

At no other time in modern history have NGOs or individuals stepped in to make up for the limited resources of a near bankrupt country that has struggled to cope with the influx." [emphasis added]

This Is What a Refugee’s Funeral Looks Like in Greece (muftah.org, link):"Ahmed’s funeral took place on the top of a small Greek mountain on the island of Chios, overlooking the Aegean Sea that he died crossing.*

Standing around his four-foot-long grave on Thursday, February 25, 2016 were four members of his family, three dozen humanitarian aid workers, two EU border police, and the team of Spanish medics who had lifted Ahmed’s small body off of a boat two days earlier. He was three years old.

According to the UNHCR’s best estimates, 13,144 refugees arrived in small dinghies on Chios’ beaches and cliffs in February 2016. Ahmed’s funeral was not the only one held that month."

Greece: Understanding refugees’ repugnance of the camps (New Europe, link): "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ – Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy"

News (16-17.4.16)

Turkey 'fires live rounds to drive away Syrian refugees fleeing Islamic State' (Telegraph, link)

Swedish minister 'had dinner with Turkish fascists' (The Local.se,link): "The Swedish Minister of Housing, Mehmet Kaplan, has sparked controversy after a photograph of him emerged having dinner with members of the far-right Turkish organization, Grey Wolves, according to Swedish daily newspaper, Aftonbladet."

Europe can't take in millions: German ex-chancellor (The Local.de, link): "Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has warned that Europe can't become "a new home" for millions of migrants, in a veiled criticism of incumbent Angela Merkel's liberal asylum policies. ... Orban -- whose country has erected razorwire border fences to deter migrants -- earlier this year said that an uncontrolled influx exposes Europe to the risks of "terrorism, criminality, anti-Semitism and homophobia".."

Italy: It's a 'spike', not an invasion (The Local.at, link): "Italy insisted Friday it was not facing an "invasion" after a spike in migrant boat crossings from Libya exacerbated fears the country is on the verge of becoming the main entry point for people trying to reach Europe."

Pope in Greece: Pope brings hope to migrants, chastises leaders in Lesvos visit (ekathimerini.com, link): "Declaring “we are all migrants,” Pope Francis on Saturday brought a message of hope to thousands of people facing expulsion from Greece as he slammed the world community for failing to end the wars fueling the crisis... The vast majority have requested asylum but will likely be deported under a controversial agreement reached last month to tackle Europe’s refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey... "

Pope Francis takes refugees to Rome after Lesbos visit (Guardian, link): "Pontiff visits Greek island to highlight refugee crisis, telling crowds: ‘We hope the world will heed these scenes of tragic need’... Pope Francis has taken a dozen highly vulnerable refugees who faced deportation from the Greek island of Lesbos back to Rome, offering them refuge in a rebuke to the EU’s policy of sending migrants and refugees back to Turkey. The leader of the Roman Catholic church made the unprecedented intervention on Saturday during a trip to the island to highlight the refugee crisis unfolding across the continent. "

School For Children In Idomeni (News That Moves, link): "Greek media is reporting that a group of volunteers have set up an informal school for refugee children at the Idomeni camp, in northern Greece, near the Greece-FYROM border. According to the Greek news agency ANA-MPA, at the makeshift ‘Idomeni cultural centre’ daily classes includes maths, Kurdish and Arabic language. Courses for adults are also held. Refugees who have have studied maths, science or languages are teaching in the school."

A family reunification dilemma for the EU (Global Government Forum, link): "Many of the asylum seekers heading for Europe hope to bring their families over later – so governments are squeezing refugees’ rights to family reunification. But Yermi Brenner finds that this may hamper the integration of those who’ve already found asylum in the EU."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15.4.16)
EU Detains 29 Volunteers for Working with Refugees in Greece (Revolution News, link):

"After clashes which started when Macedonian (FYROM) police and soldiers stopped refugees from crossing the Greek/Macedonian (FYROM) border on Sunday, some of the mainstream media are blaming activists who support refugees in Idomeni for inciting refugee protests....

Not only the Greek government, but also the European Union (EU), are embarrassed because activists and volunteers from all over Europe are doing work that they should be doing – supplying refugees with basic needs like food, sanitary products, and medical help." [emphasis added]

And see; Eelectra (link):

"At least 54 volunteers were arbitrarily temporarily deprived of their freedom yesterday. ADM volunteers have suffered several breaches of their rights, intimidation, harassment by authorities, illegal searches, much of which has been for months reported to the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst and to hundreds of NGOs. Now part of the media has targeted them, in what seems a coordinated appeal to darkness."

Italy: The Small Medieval Village With a Big Heart for Refugees (Takepart, link):

"For nearly 20 years, this small Italian town has provided thousands of migrants with a safe place to call their own.

The longtime mayor first realized the potential of refugees after a boatful of Kurdish migrants arrived on Riace’s shores in 1998. With the town struggling to cope with its young residents leaving for opportunities elsewhere, Lucano—a schoolteacher at the time—decided to offer abandoned apartments and job training to those who ended up in Riace. Since that time, it has welcomed more than 6,000 migrants.

For every refugee there, the town receives about $40 every day in government subsidies for a year, which then goes to migrants and their housing costs. While a majority of refugees move north in search of better job opportunities once they acquire their documents, some stay, as Riace offers a safe haven for many families fleeing conflict around the world."

Migrant numbers dwindle as EU-Turkey deal proceeds (Daily Sabah TUrkey, link):

"The latest figures show that Turkish law enforcement captured more than 1,500 smuggling suspects in 2015, 400 suspects have been arrested so far in 2016 and that more than 65,000 migrants have been intercepted at sea and land by security forces since January."

And see: (IOM): Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 177, 207; Deaths: 732 (link) and UNHCR: 178,357 arrivals in the EU, 153,362 in Greece, 24.092 in Italy. 728 dead/missing.

Aid groups urge halt of Turkey returns, Greek detentions under migration deal (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Deportations of refugees and migrants to Turkey and the detention of asylum-seekers on Greek islands must stop, three aid groups said on Friday, citing fears for human rights raised by an EU-Turkey deal to curb an influx of people into Europe...

"Refugees could be returned to Turkey without having had a proper asylum hearing or without receiving the necessary information about their legal rights," international charity Oxfam, humanitarian NGO Norwegian Refugee Council and Greek group Solidarity Now warned in a joint statement...

"The increasing use of detention as a restriction of the freedom of movement of asylum-seekers on the grounds of their irregular entry is a major concern," they aid groups said.

From the onset, the EU-Turkey agreement has been fiercely criticised by United Nations refugee and human rights agencies, as well as rights groups, as immoral and a violation of international humanitarian law against blanket returns..."

Se aslo: Deportations of refugees and migrants from Greece must be halted as fears of human rights violations grow (Solidarity Now, Greece, link)

Turkey seeks readmission deals with Iraq, Iran (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "Neighboring Iran and Iraq are among the 14 countries with which Turkey has offered to sign readmission agreements in a move to enable Turkey to take back migrants rejected by the European Union more quickly.

In addition to Iran and Iraq, Turkey has proposed Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Morocco, Ghana, Myanmar, the Republic of Congo, Somali, Sudan and Tunisia conclude readmission deals, Turkish officials told Hürriyet Daily News on April 12.

“Negotiations have still been underway with these source countries,” the same officials, speaking anonymously, said."

Greece: Vial detention centre (link)

"Please read and share as much as possible, also pass on to any friends you may have in the press to see if we can get some attention on this problem...

NUTRITION OF BABIES IN VIAL DETENTION CENTER, CHIOS

As many are aware, conditions in Vial are atrocious. There is a dire shortage of drinking water and of food, and a complete dearth of most everything else. But the most vexing, appalling, devastating situation by far, the one that is calling out for immediate change, is that of young babies at Vial. There is no system whatsoever in place for distribution of baby milk (baby formula) for young babies. Patchwork semi-solutions have been brought by selfless, exhausting efforts on the part of individual volunteers (in particular Kostas Tanainis) who have occasionally been allowed in depending on the irrational whim of guards; there is no official policy in place. When donated baby milk has been delivered to the camp but volunteers were not allowed to distribute it, it has languished undistributed."

Help the Helpers in Idomeni: Greece Police - Stop arresting volunteers (change.org, link): "After clashes which started when Macedonian (FYROM) police and soldiers stopped refugees from crossing the Greek/Macedonian (FYROM) border on Sunday, some of the mainstream media are blaming activists who support refugees in Idomeni for inciting refugee protests.... We have been portrayed as being present at all the protests. This is easy to do because we are in camps every day and when we become aware of protests, we act to minimise harm.

This petition will be delivered to: Alexis Tsipras, Greece Police, EU Union, media"

Are You Syrious (link):

"Greek military are circling #Idomeni and the surrounding areas as part of a supposed drill. Soldiers deployed on ground just hundreds of meters from the main camp, 5 fighter jets and 4 military choppers all active. Kids and mothers screaming and scared in camp due to the military presence, which obviously brings back memories of the war they are fleeing from. Volunteers also being arrested regularly for frivolous offenses. 26 arrested yesterday alone. The Greek clampdown has begun, crazy scenes to witness in 21st century Europe....

Oxfam, British Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee and 10 other organisations have condemned UK government as turning a blind eye to suffering on its doorstep and needs to “accept its moral responsibility”. Although the UK pledged 7.7 billion British pounds to countries in the Middle East (Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon) in February, the organisations called for the UK to step up their efforts to create a “safe haven” within British borders along with contributing more to humanitarian aid and assistance in improving conditions for refugees trapped at borders and in transit (particularly Greece). Maurice Wren from the British Refugee Council explained that “While European leaders demonstrate a collective failure of political leadership and moral courage, people who have escaped war and tyranny are met with barbed wire and tear gas, mums are forced to bathe their infants in dirty puddles, and yet more refugee children drown on Europe’s shores.”...

Germany deported 60 percent more migrants last year than in 2014, the government said on Wednesday, with figures from January and February showing that the pace of repatriations further accelerating. Some 22,369 people were forcibly returned to their countries of origin in 2015, up from 13,851 the previous year. In the first two months of this year close to 4,500 people were repatriated - twice as many as in January and February 2015. Meanwhile, the number of asylum seekers who have voluntarily left Germany also rose sharply, from 13,573 in 2014 to 37,200 in 2015. From January to March this year, voluntary repatriations reached 14,095."

Kyrgyzstan: Protests In Bishkek Against NGO Registration Legislation (Radio Free Europe, link)

"Kyrgyz human rights activists have gathered outside of parliament in Bishkek to protest against a proposed "foreign agents" law being considered by lawmakers.

The bill would require noncommercial, nongovernmental organizations involved in political activities -- and which receive any funds from foreign sources -- to be labled as “foreign agents”."

Seems a bit similar to what's happening in Greece?: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control (Statewatch)

News (15.4.16)

Greek army exercises trigger reaction from Turkey, FYROM (ekathimerini.com, link): "The Greek armed forces on Thursday staged military exercises on the country’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and over the Aegean island of Oinousses, following several days of Turkish violations of Greek air space and tensions with FYROM. ... On Thursday, Greek police officers continued to conduct checks on volunteers and activists suspected of inciting refugees to storm across the FYROM border. Officers are attempting to prevent the activists, most of whom are foreign and aligned with anti-establishment groups, from distributing leaflets that urge the refugees to defy the advice of Greek and FYROM authorities and breach the frontier. Two Spanish men, aged 27 and 28, were detained on Thursday on several charges including disturbing the peace and putting the Greek state at risk. According to police sources, the two men were seen in a crowd of migrants trying to scale the barbed-wire border fence."

EU asylum applications from lone children quadruple (euobserver, link)

Greece: Almost Four Thousand People Still At Piraeus Port (News That Moves, link): "As of 13 April around 3,800 people were still waiting at the Piraeus port, in Athens, according to UNHCR data. Until recently, more than 5,000 people were camped there. Greek authorities announced that they are planning to fully evacuate the port by the end of April."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14.4.16)
Greece: Attacks on civil society/NGOs: See lawyer, Electra (link)

"They've made volunteers so afraid to perform their activities, which are safeguarding human rights, that even they now call the attempts of refugees to escape breaches of their right to dinity and reach safety "illegal". Crackdown against civil society is widening and intensifying in Idomeni. Volunteers must understand that if they don't jointly speak up, they're gonna be next.."

See Statement by InterVolve (International volunteers) (pdf): "Four of our volunteers were arrested today for carrying two-way radios on their way to camp of Eidomeni..We reserve our right to initiate legal action concerning false accusations made today by journalists and the media."

And see: Greek Police crack down on activists along FYROM border (ekathimerini.com, link):

"As tensions flared anew at Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Wednesday, police detained five foreign nationals – a German, a Briton and three Norwegians – who are alleged to have committed a string of offenses while acting in purported solidarity with refugees who want to cross the border.

The German woman was arrested near the Idomeni refugee camp after officers found a can of pepper spray in her possession. The other four activists were said to be carrying transistor radios that were allegedly tuned into the frequency used by the Greek Police (ELAS).

Officers have been conducting spot checks on people in and around the Idomeni camp amid fears that certain activists are exhorting refugees and migrants to break through Greece’s border with FYROM."

See: Greek Police crack down on activists along FYROM border (ekathimerini.com, link): "In a related development, the Greek Foreign Ministry lodged complaints with the governments of Austria, Croatia, Serbia and the Czech Republic following claims by FYROM authorities according to which members of those countries’ security services participated in violence against migrants during clashes at the Greek-FYROM border on Sunday." [emphasis added]

Greece Holds Activists as Migrants and Police Clash Anew at Macedonia Border (New York Times, link):

"Clashes erupted at Greece’s northern border for the second time in three days on Wednesday, with the Macedonian police firing tear gas on scores of migrants as they protested border closings that have left more than 12,000 stranded in a makeshift refugee camp.

The protests in Idomeni, a town in Greece on the border with Macedonia, came as Greek authorities arrested 14 activists there, saying that they had incited the migrants to storm the razor-wire fence dividing the two countries."

AYS NEWS DIGEST 13/4/2016 (link):

"Reporting about the refugees who have attempted the dangerous trip across Aegean, we sometimes forget to reflect on living conditions of those who couldn't afford the place on a smuggler's boat. One of our volunteer contacts, who wishes to remain anonymous, has sent us a disturbing personal testimony about refugees who are stuck in Turkey: ...

MSF issued a report about the state of the migrants and refugees at the closed facility on Samos. There are more than 700 asylum seekers, mostly from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afganistan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, on Samos currently. Many are women and children. According to MSF, most of them arrived by boat after 20 March. “Migrants were told they will be sent to a camp in Athens in accordance with the relocation mechanism set out in the Dublin Regulation. This allows refugees to choose eight countries from the list of EU states, and efforts will be made to send them to one of them. However, there appears to be no guarantee that the choice of eight countries will be respected. In general, people don’t know what even the near future holds for them..."

Watch The Med - Alarmphone: The New Aegean Deportation Regime: Mass incarcerations in hotspots and forced expulsions of Migrants and Refugees (link): "n light of the catastrophic conditions in these hotspots/detention centres, the UNHCR and Doctors without Borders refused to continue their work there. Both organisations have strongly denounced the violation of international human rights conventions, clear consequences of the EU-Turkey deal ... "

Electra (links)

"Army's helicopters, air jets and armed soldiers in coordinated activity have left Idomeni Camp. It cannot be deemed justified, under ANY respect, that a military exercise took place exactly where thousands of people having fled war have camped, without ANY concern on -at least- informing about it? These people have re-lived the terror of war attacks today. Children cannot stop crying and shaking. Who is going to treat these children who have been re-traumatized today? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO US LATELY?" and

(link) "Interim measure request just sent to the European Court of Human Rights, on behalf of several women alone with dozens of children, stranded in Idomeni, requesting authorities to stop terrorising them, and especially their children. After the recent teargas, grenades and shooting plastic bullets that Greek authorities just watched F.Y.R.O.M. authorities throw and fire, today refugees in Idomeni are surrounded by air and land by jets glying low above their heads, tanks, army with guns running around them in an acute war-like environment. No one has informed them why this is happening. For God's, Allah's, Jesus', Buddha's and Universe's sake.
These people have just fled war.

These thousands of children have escaped a war field. STOP doing this to them! Enough with inhumanity. ENOUGH!"

Ten nations seek military planes for deportations (ekathimerini.com, link): "Austria and nine East European and Balkan states are calling for an EU declaration endorsing the use of military aircraft for the deportation of migrants who have no chance for asylum, or whose request for that status have been rejected."

News (14.4.16)

Human rights group slams EU, Greece over refugee, migrant living conditions on islands (ekathimerini.com, link): "Human Rights Watch issued a statement criticizing what it said were the “deplorable conditions” in which about 4,000 people were being detained on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios.... The statement also said: “Turkey cannot be considered a safe country due to its refusal to grant effective protection to non-Europeans in need, including Afghans and Iraqis.”"

UNHCR Daily Report 13.4.16: "Regarding relocation and resettlement of persons in need of international protection, EU Member States were urged by the European Commission (EC) to urgently deliver on their political and legal commitments.

Only 208 people were relocated since 16 March, bringing the total number of relocated applicants from Greece and Italy to 1,145. The EC estimates that between 35,000 and 40,000 people in Greece would be eligible for relocation. As of 12 April, 615 people were relocated from Greece. The EC calls on EU Member States to drastically increase their relocation efforts in order to alleviate the urgent humanitarian situation in Greece and prevent the deterioration of the situation in Italy."

Daily Report 14.4.16:: "A broad majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voiced concern over the agreement and called on the Commission and Council to closely monitor the situation of human rights and freedom of speech in Turkey, as well as allegations that Syrian refugees are being pushed back to Syria by the Turkish authorities. They also questioned whether Turkey can be considered a “safe country” of return for refugees."

Refugee country ‘safe lists’ complicated by European disunity (euractiv, link): "The Geneva Convention clearly defines where can be considered a “safe country of origin”, but the refugee crisis has complicated the issue and thrust it back into the limelight.... This is particularly relevant in the current debate, where Germany wants to list Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as safe, yet Bulgaria has long included Algeria on its own list. Morocco and Tunisia are currently not listed on any national lists as safe. The matter highlights in particular how flexible international law is and how much power individual countries have over determining where is safe and where is not. Currently, 12 member states have compiled “safe lists”, yet there is not one single country that appears on all 12 lists, emphasising the bloc’s failures to coordinate on a common refugee policy...".

Greece: Tell us what it's like to live in Lesbos (The Guardian, link): "Pope Francis is set to arrive on the Greek island on Saturday to show his support and solidarity for refugees. We’d like to know what life is like in Lesbos."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13.4.16)
Greece: Independent volunteers are not responsible for violence

"We, the independent volunteers of the Shorba Crew and other groups in Idomeni have not been starting protests in the camps and strongly resent accusations by the media that we are 'fake volunteers'. Since January, The Shorba Crew have cooked over 500,000 meals and served them in and around Idomeni camp. Media and police has accused volunteers of starting the protests in camp which have been responded to with the sickening and indiscriminate violence of the FYROM border forces. As a result volunteers have been subject to intensified police harassment.

Yesterday (12/04/16) three volunteers were illegally detained while driving to the Idomeni camp. The reason given was to provide identification - something that we all do regularly on site....

A female member of the group was illegally forced to strip for a complete search, again without pretext. Phones were taken. The owner of the car was beaten then handcuffed and taken to another room by four other police and loudly threatened with more violence while his friends had to listen outside. He has since been taken to Kilkis and remains in police custody until at least tomorrow morning. No reason has been given for this violent detainment and violation."

EU Cracks Down on Independent Volunteers in Greece (Megaphone Valkyrie, link):

"2016 began with a move to have all volunteers registered with the police. In a crisis where immigration law criminalises vital humanitarian work, this is a recipe for disaster. And it is not just about elbowing out the political activists; to ‘allow authorities time to organise the registration process’, entire flights chartered for volunteers have been cancelled. Even Clowns Without Borders were barred from the camps. The same thing is now happening in France, where independent volunteers are being barred from the camps at Dunkirk and Calais, reduced to watching months of work burned to the ground by authorities branding them ‘uncaring’ and ‘dangerous’.

There’s another glaring cause for concern on the Greek front: over half their police are Golden Dawn supporters. So, fifty-fifty chance you’re registering sensitive information with an armed fascist. That wasn’t an abstract danger to any of us: we had witnessed the racism and brutality. One night, we were so afraid of the police in our building, we slept in the car....

It was the beginning of a crackdown ordered from the highest levels. The Council of the European Union is preparing plans to equate humanitarian assistance with people trafficking, criminalising those saving lives at sea and caring for survivors on land. “We feel as if we are in the resistance in World War Two,” said Lara. “We were ‘randomly’ checked for papers and passports and told not to feed the hungry. Every move we make is being watched.”

See Statewatch coverage: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control and Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers

EU-GREECE: Commission adopts assessment of Greece’s Schengen Action Plan while relocation targets are left behind (New Europe, link): "Numbers show that the EU – Turkey deal agreement implementation is still unable to reach relocation targets." and Commission gives Greece two weeks to fix its borders - Brussels also warns about missed targets on relocation of refugees.(Politico, link)

and: Greece gets two-week deadline for border plan (euobserver, link): “The commission requests that Greece provide the additional elements and clarifications by 26 April and offers its continuous support to Greece,” the EU executive’s statement said. If, however, deficiencies persist, the commission will present a proposal to allow member states to extend border controls beyond an initial six-month period"

See: Communication: Assessment of Greece's Action Plan to remedy the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border (COM 220-16, pdf)

News (13.4.16)

Greece: She thought she'd seen the worst of the refugee camps. Then she went to Idomeni (upworthy.com, link)

Europe migrants: Austria builds Brenner border centre despite criticism (BBC News, link): "Austria says it has begun work to tighten immigration controls at a key north-south European crossing point."

Did Finland kowtow to Russia’s border demands? ”Golden visas” for foreign investors, and refugees’ volunteering opportunities (link)

Greek coast guard rescues 120 migrants off Lesvos, Samos (.ekathimerini.com, link): "Greek coast guard officers rescued 120 refugees and migrants in three separate incidents off Lesvos and Samos, authorities said on Wednesday morning. Officials said that between Tuesday and Wednesday morning there had been 101 arrivals on the Aegean islands. There are currently 3,644 people at the Lesvos hotspot, 1,827 in Chios and 516 on Samos, according to authorities."

Commission defends plan to deport Afghans to ‘safe’ regions (euracttiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission has confirmed the existence of a plan that would see 80,000 Afghans deported back to their homeland and stressed that it is still in line with the spirit of European migration policy.."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12.4.16)
European Commssion: Communication: Assessment of Greece's Action Plan to remedy the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border (COM 220-16, pdf): Still no mention of the need for lawyers with access to refugees and:

"As far as information about accommodation possibilities from the Hellenic Police to migrants who are not staying in a reception/registration or detention centre is concerned, Greece is requested to implement the measures without delay."

and Report: Second report on relocation and resettlement (COM 222-16, pdf):

"From 16 March until 11 April, only 208 additional people had been relocated, 46 from Greece (to Estonia, Portugal and Finland) and 162 from Italy (to Portugal, France, Finland and Romania), bringing the total number of persons relocated to 1,145 (615 from Greece and 530 from Italy)....

The total number of formal pledges by Member States of relocation amounts to 4,516 (1,573 to Italy and 2,943 to Greece) 2.82% of total. Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia have still not submitted any pledge. Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia have not yet delivered on their pledges

Are You Syrious (link): "Greek council for Refugees voiced a strong critique of the changes in Greek laws which made possible for the provisions of the EU/Turkey deal to be carried out. The changes go against national and international law with GCR stating that "The enforcement of the measure involving deprivation of freedom without individual assessment continues "

Electra (link) On the position of lawyers in Greece

European Parliament: GUE/NGL abstention largely due to lack of criticism of recent EU-Turkey deal on refugees (link):

"Despite the positive points in the Metsola, Kyenge report on 'the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration', voted in Parliament today, the lack of criticism concerning the recent EU-Turkey agreement was among the reasons why many members of the group were unable to back the report and abstained....

MEP Spinelli continues: "The main reason I recommended our group to abstain was, however, the complete absence of criticism of the recent EU-Turkey deal: a deal deemed illegal even by the UN secretary general’s special representative for international migration and development for two fundamental reasons: it promotes collective deportations and considers Turkey as a safe third country.""

UNHCR stalling on commitments in Greece (New Europe, link): "With relocations of refugees from Greece to other EU Member States taking place at an alarmingly slow rate, and resettlements from Turkey commencing last week, governments have recognised that the refugee crisis in Greece and Europe cannot be solved without the effective participation of international organisations. The most important organisation, the UNHCR has fallen short of its commitments.

An EU source told New Europe that the European Commission could consider a partial recovery of the €80 million of EU taxpayers’ money that was provided for the cause of developing reception places in Greece, “but would rather see the UNHCR deliver on its obligations.”

In December, the European Commission agreed to provide the UNHCR with the sum of €80 million to develop 20,000 additional reception places for asylum seekers and relocation candidates in Greece through subsidies for housing in the private sector.

The UNHCR committed to use have the places ready by January this year. By March 11th, significantly past the deadline, 1,387 of the 20,000 reception places had been used through the scheme. The UNHCR capacity is currently 3,242 places; 16,758 places short."

UNHCR: (11.4.16): Arrivals in EU total 2016: 173,728. In Greece 153,156 (up 175 since 8.4.6), in Italy 19,934 (up 608). 716 dead/missing this year.

Daily Report (11.4.16): "Regarding the clashes of last Sunday, Achilleas Tzemos, of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), told Reuters that of more 30 of the 300 people treated had wounds caused by rubber bullets. A similar number had open wounds, and 200 others had respiratory problems resulting from exposure to teargas.
“Among those with breathing difficulties there were quite a few women and children,” he said."

EU asylum applications from lone children quadruple (euobserver, link): "At least 95,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe last year, four times the numbers for 2014.

The huge increase was discovered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism during an investigation into the level of migration among unaccompanied children, defined as those under 18 years old, in Europe and the stark inconsistencies in the way they are treated.

From approaching 29 different governments for statistics, the investigators found that at least 95,070 applied for asylum in Europe in 2015, up from 23,572 in 2014."

And see: Revealed: Fourfold rise as 95,000 unaccompanied children claim asylum in Europe in 2015 (BIJ, link)

Broad Bulgarian support for vigilantes ‘arresting’ refugees (euractiv, link):

"An amateur video published on social media yesterday (11 April), showing the arrest of asylum seekers by vigilantes, sparked debates at political level and among the wider public about the role of so-called “patriots” in discouraging refugees from crossing through Bulgaria.The amateur shows vigilantes arresting three refugees, tying their hands behind their backs as they lie on the ground in a wood."

And: Bulgarian vigilantes filmed tying up migrants (BBC News, link) and Bulgaria Awards Vigilante Migrant-Hunters (Balkan Insight, link): "Police have given an award to one of the voluntary ‘border patrols’ which have been gaining popularity in Bulgaria, with groups of ordinary people detaining migrants and handing them to the authorities."

Greece: Greece blasts FYROM over migrant border violence (ekathimerini.com, link): "Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Monday of “shaming” Europe by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at migrants desperately trying to break through a border fence.

Tensions were still running high after Sunday's violence, which saw 250 migrants and refugees hurt at the flashpoint Idomeni crossing as they tried to force their way into FYROM. “Faced with people who were clearly not armed and constituted no serious threat, they attacked with chemicals, with tear gas and rubber bullets,” Tsipras told reporters, blaming FYROM police.

“This is a great shame for European culture and for countries who want to be part of it,” he said, calling on the EU and the UN refugee agency UNHCR to take a stand as Europe struggles cope with its worst migration crisis since World War II."

News (12.4.16)

UNHCR Daily Report (12.4.16): "Speaking to public broadcaster ERT, Brigadier General Zacharoula Tsirigoti, head of Greece’s immigration police, stated that about 3,500 people are currently located at the detention facility in Moria on the island of Lesvos. Almost all those present have expressed interest in submitting an application to request asylum; applications are now being processed. Of those, about 700 persons with specific needs have been transferred to the municipality’s open accommodation centre in Kara Tepe. Tsirigoti also said the asylum service on Lesvos has been strengthened with an additional 46 staff and aims to examine 50 applications per day. She added that Syrian nationals who will be returned by plane to Turkey under the EU-Turkey agreement will be processed in Osmaniye Province (near Adana)." and

In Austria, UNHCR issued a press release to express concern regarding the intended amendment of the Asylum Act. The draft law foresees limited access for asylum-seekers to the asylum procedure. The majority of those seeking international protection could, on the basis of this legislation, be rejected at the border in a fasttrack procedure and be returned to Austria’s neighbouring countries unless having close family ties in Austria. UNHCR called for joint European solutions rather than unilateral measures. Furthermore, access to the territory and fair asylum procedures for all asylum-seekers, the respect for legal minimum standards, and special treatment for children and particularly vulnerable people were urged. UNHCR appeals to the Austrian Federal government to reconsider the proposed amendment and adopt measures in line with international and European refugee law." and see:

NGOs slam Austria's asylum law changes (The Local.at, link): "Austria’s biggest charities have joined forces to slam the government’s increasingly hardline approach to dealing with migrants and refugees, in what is arguably the biggest criticism of the strategy from the country’s NGO sector yet Caritas, Diakonie and the Austrian Red Cross - who all provide services to refugees as part of their work - spoke out at a press conference on Monday against a change to the country’s asylum law. As of mid-May, the government will only accept cases of refugees facing threats to their safety in a neighbouring transit country or whose relatives are already in Austria.."

Greece: Migrant inflows ease on islands of eastern Aegean (ekathimerini.com, link): "in the 24-hour period to 9 a.m. on Tuesday, a total of 80 people landed on Greece’s shores, a marked drop from the hundreds trying to enter the European Union daily before a deal with Turkey to curb inflows was put into effect at the start of the month. Of these 80, 75 landed on Lesvos, four on Chios and one on Samos. There were no Syrians among them, officials told the ANA-MPA."

Fifteen questioned as part of tighter policing of Idomeni refugee camp (ekathimerini.com, link): "Police on Tuesday remanded 13 foreign nationals and two Greeks at the makeshift refugee camp at Idomeni on Greece’s northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).... Most of the suspects are foreign nationals – from Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Portugal and the Czech Republic. They were questioned in connection with reports that Sunday’s storming of the border, as well as several similar incidents in the past, may have been incited by anti-establishment groups."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.4.16)
MSF treats hundreds after Despite the positive points in the Metsola, Kyenge report on 'the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration', voted in Parliament today, the lack of criticism concerning the recent EU-Turkey agreement was among the reasons why many members of the group were unable to back the report and abstained.Greek-FYROM border violence (MSF, link): "On 10 April, after the violent events at the border between Greece and FYROM, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams treated hundreds including around 40 people injured by rubber bullets. At least ten people have reported to MSF teams that they were beaten by FYROM police.

Two extra mobile medical teams were added to the normal activities in Idomeni camp to assist the growing number of people in the camp.

"Today, frustration and a growing feeling of anger are spread among the refugees who have been stranded in Idomeni for over one month. What we see is the inevitable result of thousands being trapped in Greece, a country unable to respond to the humanitarian and protection needs of those in search of safety in Europe,” stated Jose Hulsenbek, MSF’s Head of Mission in Greece. "What people need is to be treated with dignity, not violence or unpredictable border closures and more uncertainty. This absurd humanitarian crisis created by European states’ policies is becoming more unbearable by the day.” "

And see: Macedonian police teargas, pepper spray refugees at Greek border: Who supplied the "crowd control" equipment? (Statewatch News Online)

Joint declaration of the prime ministers of Greece and Portugal - 11 April 2016 (pdf): Statement on three themes: 1. A European response to the refugee and migration crisis; 2. European Economic and Monetary Union; 3. Peace and stability in our broader region. On refugee and migration policy it says:

"We believe that the building of walls and fences, the unilateral and uncoordinated implementation of measures or the unwillingness to participate in commonly agreed actions, such as resettlement and relocation schemes, undermine European solidarity as well as the humane and effective management of migrant flows.

Europe must remain open to hosting people in need of international protection, by replacing dangerous, irregular migration routes with legal processes of resettlement of refugees from countries neighboring Syria and by accelerating the relocation processes of refugees already in Greece and Italy. At the same time, the EU must enhance efforts to establish readmission agreements with the countries of origin of economic immigrants."

After Return: documenting the experiences of young people forcibly removed to Afghanistan (Right to Remain, link): "2,018 young men who spent their formative teenage years in the UK care system have been sent back to Afghanistan over the past 9 years, often to very precarious and dangerous situations.

Since March 2014, Refugee Support Network (RSN) has been systematically monitoring what happens to former child asylum seekers who have been forcibly removed to Afghanistan after turning 18. After Return – published on 5th April at the Institute of Education – documents their experiences and, for the first time, fills a vital evidence gap in their education, employment, health and wellbeing outcomes."

See also: Deported to persecution: The Home Office's Eritrean programme (politics.co.uk, link): " It was roughly twelve months after 31-year-old Gebre Berhane (not his real name) escaped Eritrea that the letter came through from the Home Office. He'd already lost 13 years of his life to forced military service and faced the threat of a regime which he says kidnapped his father turning on him. Berhane was sure his request for asylum would be accepted and his nightmare would come to an end."

Deported migrants call for freedom from behind barred windows (euronews, link): "Some 325 migrants have been deported to Turkey from the Greek island of Lesbos under an EU deal.

They wait to learn of their fate inside a fenced reception and removal centre in the town of Pehlivankoy. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says it has yet to gain access to the facility.

Migrants from Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq call for freedom from behind the facility’s barred windows.

They were deported from Lesbos on Friday (April 8) under the controversial EU-Turkey deal to stem mass irregular migration to Europe."

EU-AUSTRIA: How will the Austrian presidential elections influence EU's (migration) policy and TTIP? (VoteWatch Europe, pdf): "Austrians will vote for a new President on 24 April. The race is very tight, as the migration crisis is substantially impacting the national political landscape. A victory of a candidate from outside the current grand coalition would seriously undermine the government's policies. The nationalist anti-immigration and anti-EU FPÖ is on the rise and pushes hard to be part of the government."

News (4.4.16)

EU-TURKEY: The First Migrants Deported Back to Turkey Under an E.U. Deal Face an Uncertain Future (Time, link): "The men stepping off the boat carried few belongings: a backpack, a blanket, a light jacket. Escorted by uniformed officials, they walked one by one down a gangplank lined on both sides by police officers, into the control of the Turkish immigration authorities.

They were among 45 Pakistani men sent by boat to Turkey from Greece on Friday morning, making them some of the first people deported under a Turkish-European agreement intended to halt the historic wave of migrants seeking to enter Europe by sea. A reported 124 people were scheduled to be deported on Friday from Greek islands under the agreement, which calls for migrants arriving in Greece via the informal sea route to be returned to Turkey. After surviving the potentially lethal crossing from Turkey to Greece across the Aegean Sea—a journey that took the lives of hundreds of migrants last year—all of them are now back in Turkey."

EU aid an ineffective tool to end the migration crisis (EurActiv, link): "Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, the EU has announced a host of measures aimed at bringing the situation under control. Europe’s development assistance budget, the largest international aid pot in the world, has so far made up a large share of the financial shortfall. But the results of similar action in the past have not always met expectations."

Fewer than 0.1% of Syrians in Turkey in line for work permits (The Guardian, link): "Fewer than 0.1% of Syrians in Turkey currently stand to gain the right to work under much-vaunted Turkish labour laws, undermining EU claims that the legislation excuses a recent decision to deport Syrian asylum-seekers back to Turkey.

Turkish employers have allowed roughly 2,000 – or 0.074% – of Turkey’s 2.7 million Syrians to apply for work permits under new legislation enacted two months ago, according to government figures provided to aid workers at a meeting in late March. The number of permits granted has not yet been disclosed."

Greek Politician Says Closing Borders Would Keep the 'Enemy' Inside (Sputnik News, link): "The migration crisis is a test that will show the level of Europe's stability, Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili told Sputnik Express Greek-language radio program.

"Europe today is being tested for stability. There are countries that have closed the borders, believing that by doing so, they will run away from the so-called enemy. The truth is that if an enemy, whatever enemy, exists they shut [the enemy] inside by closing the borders," Gerovasili said."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9-10.4.16)
The EU and Turkey have struck a deal to trade refugees back and forth. (video, link). Speaking the blunt truth.

Macedonian police teargas, pepper spray refugees at Greek border: who supplied the "crowd control equipment"?

Idomeni: Children teargassed as FYROM goes against refugees in Greece (keeptalkinggreece.com, link) "There has never happened before: that police of one country fires teargas on the soil of another country. FYROM police made extensive use of teargas and sound flares against refugees and migrants who are on Greece’s soil."

Macedonian police use teargas on migrants at Greek border (Reuters, link): "Macedonian police used teargas to push back hundreds of migrants from a border fence on Sunday at a sprawling refugee camp on the Greek border, a Reuters witness said. Teargas was fired on a crowd of more than 500 people who had gathered at the frontier at the makeshift camp of Idomeni. A Greek police source said there was "tension" in the area but declined to comment further."

Macedonia police deploy tear gas on refugees at Idomeni (DW, link): " For the first couple of hours the protests were calm. After speaking with Greek police, five refugees even agreed to go to the border to negotiate with the Macedonian authorities. "We are not the ones who keep the borders closed," a Macedonian police officer said with the help of an English-speaking interpreter. "We are following Europe's orders. Please remain calm and peaceful and do not try to break the fence."

One of the representatives responded: "We understand, and we want to be peaceful. But behind me there are 10,000 people - refugees who are fleeing war - and they have been here for months now. We w