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GREECE: Serious problems in Greek asylum system persist, says NGO report

The Greek NGO AITIMA has published a mid-term report setting out the findings of its project monitoring the Greek asylum procedure, noting a number of serious issues including limited access to the procedure, delays in processing, lack of information for applicants and the "legally debatable establishment of Independent Appeals Committees.

See: Pilot Project on monitoring the asylum procedure (September 2016-March 2017) (pdf)

No more EU deals to keep migrants out (EurActiv, link):

"It has only been a year since 193 of the world’s leaders agreed on the 2030 Agenda, where they agreed to facilitate safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility and ensure full respect for human rights and humane treatment of migrants regardless of migration status, write Jessica Poh-Janrell and Andrea Stocchiero of CONCORD.

Since then, more people than ever have been forced to leave their homes. At the same time, right-wing anti-immigration rhetoric has whipped up xenophobia and fear of refugees and migrants, for example ahead of the Brexit vote and now in the run up to the French election. With a world in turmoil, it is more important than ever that the leaders of Europe step up and show the world their real commitment to achieve the 2030 Agenda and to stand up for international solidarity and everyone’s human rights.

The [European Council] summit this week (15 December) is the opportunity for our leaders to change direction, but instead the EU, together with its member states, are making one deal after another with countries many of whom have very bad human rights records. The intentions are all the same: keeping people out or sending them back. Along the way, peoples’ human rights and right to protection are being ignored."

EU: European Council, 15 December 2016: latest text of the draft conclusions

Statewatch has obtained the text of a copy of the draft conclusions being put together for the European Council meeting on 15 December, covering amongst other things: migration (reiteration of commitment to the EU-Turkey deal, need for financing for the Valletta Action Plan); internal security ("the European Council calls for effective cooperation with electronic service providers based inside and outside the EU," for example internet service providers and telecoms firms); external security and defence (the EU needs its own military forces); "economic and social development and youth"; Ukraine; and Syria.

EU: Police crackdowns on people smuggling networks continue

Europol and Eurojust have again been advertising their efforts to dismantle networks of migrant smugglers across the continent.

See: Europol supports dismantlement of Somali migrant smuggling network in France and the Netherlands (Europol, link):

"On 6 – 7 December 2016, law enforcement and judicial authorities from France and the Netherlands, supported on-the-spot by Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre, took action against an organised crime network suspected of having smuggled some 500 migrants from Somalia to different destination countries in the EU along secondary routes. 8 suspects were arrested in France (Strasbourg, Modane, Paris) and one in the Netherlands (Geleen) as a result of this joint action.

This criminal syndicate, composed of Somali nationals residing mainly in France and Italy, was responsible for smuggling Somali migrants from Italy to different EU Member States, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Northern European countries. Some of these migrants were smuggled out of Italy by means of car, train or coach, while others were smuggled directly from Africa to Europe by flights transiting via Asian countries using fake travel documents."

On the same operation: Somali migrant smuggling network in Europe dismantled (Eurojust, link)

And: Suspected criminal network smuggling Iranian migrants into the UK tackled (Europol, link): "On 8 December, 24 people were arrested as several homes were searched in Greece as part of a joint investigation by Greece and the UK, supported by Europol."

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