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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
17-18.10.15


Establishing control of refugees took precedence over providing humanitarian aid

First hotspot inaugurated on Lesvos (ekathimerini.com, link): "“If this had taken place 10 months ago, we could have avoided what we went through this summer,” Avramopoulos said. “More importantly, we would have been able to treat all those people who are seeking for a better life in Europe in a more humane manner,” he said. Additional hotspots on Chios, Samos, Kos, and Leros are expected to be fully operational by end-November."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos's statement does not hold water. His DG produced on 13 January 2015 a: "Fact Sheet: Facts and Figures on the arrivals of migrants in Europe" (pdf) predicting for what was to unfold this year - it said 276,113 refugees had arrived in 2014. The simple truth is that the EU had no plans to swiftly put in place humanitarian aid and protection from January 2015 in Italy and Greece. This aid has only come now, ten months late, with the so-called "hotspots" which ties aid to registration and fingerprinting (with "proportionate coercion" if necessary). Estabilishing control of refugees took precedence over providing a "humane" response."

EU: Greece and Italy "state of play" from the European Commission including "return flights": First groups "nationality screened" for "return"

- Greece – State of Play report from 11 October 2015 (pdf):

"Returns: What has been done so far

1. Frontex has organized a joint return flight which will leave to Nigeria on October 15, the first after the interruption of the return programme on June 30, 2015.

2. The Commission has assisted Greece in finding an agreement with the Embassy of Pakistan in Athens clarifying and streamlining the return procedures under the EU/Pakistan Readmission Agreement.

3. A call for tender for the resumption of the return programme funded by ISF will be launched by the end of this week.

4. A further joint return flight organized by Frontex has been scheduled to Pakistan. The Pakistani Embassy has committed to issue the relevant travelling documents for 26 nationals.

5. Greece has currently sufficient pre-removal detention capacity to implement a forced returns programme."

- Italy – State of Play report from 11 October 2015 (pdf)

"Return: What has been done

1. The Italian authorities have invested significant resources in the field of return and the procedure is now well established in many cases (Egyptians, Tunisians). Since the beginning of the year, 72 return flights have been organized.

2. Italy is currently negotiating with several Sub Saharan countries operational agreements to ensure swift return of third country nationals (particularly in Western Africa). An agreement has been reached already with Gambia, while others have been proposed to other Third Countries. Cooperation with Nigeria has also been enhanced.

3. Italy participates in joint flights organised by Frontex on a regular basis."

Map of the 'Hotspots' designated in Greece (pdf): Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos and Map of the 'Hotspots' designated in Italy (pdf): Lampedusa, Pozzallo, Augusta, Porto Empedode and Trapani

European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) Statement: With winter approaching ECRE urgenty calls on Europe to act (pdf)

"With the winter season approaching, European countries must ensure adequate reception conditions and treat people in need of protection with dignity and respect. The current focus on increasing border controls may have the opposite effect and deny these children, women and men fleeing war and persecution from accessing the international protection they need."

News (17-18.10.15)

Bulgaria: Amnesty International Urges Independent Probe into Bulgaria Migrant Death (.novinite.com, link): "AI's Barbora Cernušáková told the Bulgarian National Radio on Saturday it is of key importance to determine whether force had been used by police and whether its reactions with regard to the migrant groups had been "proportionate".The group of 54 people of which the dead migrant was part might have been looking for asylum and this would suggest measures taken by police were "extreme", Cernušáková warned" and UNHCR Condemns Incident with Migrant near Bulgaria's Border (UNHCR, link): ""We condemn the fact that the death of an asylum seeker from Afghanistan occurred and that it happened while he was trying to reach safety in Bulgaria and to exert his universal right to seeking asylum," Cheshirkov told the Bulgarian National Radio, also urging an "immediate, thorough, transparent, and independent" investigation into the tragic event.."

Sweden: Three Swedish refugee centres hit by fire (The Local.se, link): "An old school building in Onsala, Kungsbacka, 30kms south of Gothenburg, caught fire on Saturday evening. It was the third time this week that prospective asylum accommodation has been badly damaged by fire."

UK: Bishops in stinging rebuke to David Cameron over refugee crisis (Observer, link): "Clergy release text of private letter sent in September as it emerges that PM snubbed church’s offer of help. An extraordinary row between the Church of England and the prime minister has burst into the open as 84 bishops accuse David Cameron of ignoring their offers to help to provide housing, foster care and other support for up to 50,000 refugees." and the The bishops’ letter to David Cameron: refugee crisis ‘calls all of us to play our parts’ (Observer, link)

Slovenia calls on army to aid migration flow (DW, link): "Slovenia has called on the army to assist police as hundreds of asylum seekers arrive in the Schengen member state via Croatia. The move follows Hungary's decision to lock down its border with Croatia."

Swedish nationalists to copy Danish refugee ads (The Local.dk, link): "Sweden’s anti-immigration Sweden Democrats has announced plans to place advertisements in foreign newspapers encouraging refugees to stay away."

Italy: PM slams EU boss over Hungary comparison (The Local.it, link) : "Italian Premier Matteo Renzi reacted angrily to comments comparing Italy and Hungary's handling of the refugee crisis, made by European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday. Speaking at an EU leader's summit EU leaders summit , Tusk said Italy and Hungary were both guilty of breaking EU rules during the refugee crisis. But for Renzi, there was no comparison.The far-right government of Hungary has been steadily building defences to keep refugees out, while Italians have been working hard to accommodate as many as possible."

Croatia diverts migrants to Slovenia after Hungary border closure (Reuters, link): "Migrants streaming across the Balkans reached Slovenia on Saturday, diverted overnight by the closure of Hungary’s border with Croatia in the latest demonstration of Europe's disjointed response to the flow of people reaching its borders.Hungary’s right-wing government declared its southern frontier with Croatia off limits to migrants, blocking entry with a metal fence and razor wire just as it did a month ago on its border with Serbia."

Hungary reinstates border controls at Slovenian frontier (DW, link): "Hungary has announced that it has reactivated border controls at its Slovenian frontier. The move follows Budapest's decision to close its border with Croatia, forcing migrants to divert their route through Slovenia."

Germany ready to give Greece financial aid to tackle refugee crisis - Berlin acknowledges Greek economy too weak to cope with influx and is willing to give support in return for more robust border controls (Guardian, link): "An article in the respected economic publication Wirtschaftswoche quoted a government insider as saying: “Our highest priority right now is that more refugees stay in Greece.” The source went on to say: “Germany will bear the brunt of the costs of the refugee crisis – we must be realistic about that.”"

Just how safe is the EU ‘safe list’? (euractiv, link): "The inclusion of countries that persecute homosexuals on the “safe list” has led the German Greens to ask for infringement proceedings to be launched. EurActiv’s partner Tagesspiegel reports. The so-called 'safe list', which is due to be extended, includes countries where individuals are not at risk from political or sexual persecution. On Wednesday (14 October), the German Greens asked the EU migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, what has been done for the asylum rights of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people."

A Warm Austrian Welcome for Refugees (UNHCR Tracks, link): "A grandma, a teacher and a mayor are among thousands of volunteers from all over Austria embracing desperate refugees seeking safety in Europe."

UK: Asylum seekers face eviction four weeks after being allowed to stay in Britain (Guardian, link): "Charities predict worst winter for homelessness thanks to Home Office regulations"

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