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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
24-30.12.16
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Keep in touch: Statewatch Observatory: Refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: Daily news (updated through the day), commentaries and official documents
Greece: Two arrested and charged with "facilitating illegal immigration" for refugee transport effort denouncing EU policies

Two activists exercised their "right to disobey unjust laws"
Petition calls on Greek authorities to release them without charge

Two political activists from the Basque Country have been detained in Greece and charged with "facilitating illegal immigration" after attempting to transport eight refugees out of the country, in an "initiative of solidarity in denunciation of unjust European migration policies and in defence of human rights."

Secretive High Level Working Group hides EU's push for the return of refugees and quasi-readmission agreements

The Council of the European Union's High Level Working Group (HLWG) on Asylum and Migration (HLWG) is a highly secretive group. The "Outcomes" (Minutes of its meeting) are not only "Partially accessible" (censored) they do not include documents references to the matters discussed.

So for example, the publicly available Outcomes of the HLWG meeting on 6 December: Summary of discussions (15407-16, pdf) which is only 4 pages long because the document is: "DOCUMENT PARTIALLY ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC (20.12.2016)." and the full version: Summary of discussions (LIMITE doc on: 15407-16, pdf) which is 27 pages. The missing 23 pages are in the deleted Annex to the Outcomes.

Mali sends back migrants deported by France (BBC News, link):

"Mali has sent back two people who were deported from France on the same planes they arrived on, questioning whether they were even Malian citizens.

The pair were flown to Bamako using European travel permits or "laissez-passer", not passports or other Malian papers, the government said. The government said it could not accept people "simply assumed to be Malian".

Recent reports of a deal with the EU to repatriate failed Malian asylum seekers have sparked protests.

In a statement, the Malian government condemned the use of the European "laissez-passez" in cases of expulsion, describing it as "against international conventions". It also warned airlines not to let people using the document fly to Mali."

See also: EU-Mali: EEAS statement on the signing of the common communiqué

Are You Syrious (29-30.12.16, link)

Austria

"Austria’s foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, has called for drastic consequences for countries which fail to take back their asylum-seeking citizens following the recent Berlin attack, as well as calling for tighter borders. The Austrian minister said severe measures are necessary in order to address the number of failed deportations of rejected asylum-seekers or those who have committed a criminal offense.

According to plans from Vienna, countries that refuse to take back their citizens are expected to receive noticeably less development aid from Europe.

The EU therefore has to act according to the “less-for-less principle,” Kurz said - eaning that those who do less will receive less financially."

GREECE

"The 18 men, 6 women and 7 children, all Syrian, who arrived today at the island of Kastellorizo were arrested for illegal entrance."

ITALY: More than 181,000 migrants arrived in Italy by boat in 2016, the ministry said, an increase of almost 18 percent compared with 2015.

"In 2015, EU member states promised to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy to other countries over two years, but only 2,654 have so far been moved. Several states have refused to take any. After an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to curb the flow of migrants sailing for Greece, Italy became the focus of people smugglers based mostly in Libya, who pack men, women and children onto unsafe boats for the crossing, Reuters reports."

GERMANY-AFRICA: German politicians want to return refugee boats to Africa

"As security and refugee debates heat up in Germany ahead of federal elections in 2017, politicians in the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), are looking to propose a drastic shift in how Germany, and Europe, handle migrant arrivals, according to a new position paper set to be unveiled next week.

The CSU will hold a party convention next week and are set to call for tens of thousands of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea to be sent back to North Africa, according to an internal policy paper obtained by the "Rheinische Post" newspaper."

2016: The year the world stopped caring about refugees - Refugees, rights groups, aid organisations say empathy towards refugees is fading even as deaths in Mediterranean soar (aljazeera.com/, link):

"the refugee crisis is now often spoken of in terms of economics and security - especially during election season - as opposed to empathy.

Al Jazeera asked refugees, human rights organisations, experts working with refugees, and those who attempt to make dangerous passages a little safer, what the year 2016 meant for refugees around the world and what they should expect from 2017."

EU-LIBYA: Deadly incident on the Mediterranean sea: Rescue organisation accuses Libyan coast guard

The private rescue organisation Sea Watch e.V. is pressing charges against the Libyan coast guard because of an attack during a rescue operation on the Mediterranean Sea. According to the organisation 30 refugees died after their dinghy was damaged by a patrol boat on 21 October 2016. The rescue team rates this incident as an attack on maritime transport.

The coast guard's patrol boat with the registration mark '267' interfered with the rescue operation of the 'Sea-Watch 2', which was instructed by the sea rescue control centre in Rome. Pictures of the photographer Christan Ditsch, who was on board, show the coast guard pushing between a speed boat of the 'Sea-Watch 2' and the dinghy. The crew was prevented from providing the refugees with life jackets. A person in uniform then came on board of the dinghy and started hitting the passengers. According to the Sea Watch organisation he tried to take away the outboard engine.

Greece: Asylum applications skyrocketed 593% in November (ekathimerini.com,link)

Greek fishing village welcomes migrants, while others turn them away (PBS, link): Interviews, worth reading:

"Eighteen months into Europe’s refugee crisis, tensions have surfaced on the Greek island of Lesbos.

It wasn’t so long ago that the islanders there were being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize for their welcoming of refugees. But income from tourism, on which many islanders depend, has plummeted this year, and hostility towards refugees, and to the volunteers helping them, has only grown. From Lesbos, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports."

Greece vows to improve migrant reception centers (ekathimerini.com, link):

"“We are planning to have new, small venues on the islands, either by setting up small, two-story houses, in order to empty the tents, or by finding other places ... to improve conditions,” Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas told reporters. “It will take time but we will do it.”

He said authorities would also set up small detention centers and boost policing."

Rumour: Returns to Greece in 2017 (News That Moves, link):

"The Rumour: “We have heard that from March of 2017 the refugees that left Greece with smugglers will come back to Greece. The European community is taking this measure to discourage people [from coming to Greece] in 2017.”

In Fact: The European Commission has recommended that people who leave Greece illegally to go to another European country after March 2017 should be returned to Greece. "

The Manufacture of Hatred: Scapegoating Refugees in Central Europe (Refugees Deeply, link):

"Our in-depth investigation uncovers the anti-refugee propaganda machine that fostered xenophobia in Hungary, derailed the E.U. response to the refugee crisis and is spreading to the Czech Republic and beyond....

In contrast to the conventional wisdom of economic development as a cure for the root causes of migration, our research suggests that political instability, corruption, repression and under-representation are root causes of emigration and that support for governance is the solution. Critics of aid-based migration policy are overlooking an important mechanism by which aid can mitigate migration, as the deterrent effects of aid flow through political channels, not economic ones."

Hungary's long summer of migration – irresponsible governance fails people seeking international protection (link)

"In the summer of 2015, tens of thousands of people from violence- and poverty-torn countries crossed the border between Serbia and Hungary seeking international protection. In this report, we show that the so-called “refugee crisis” that ensued was the direct result of the inability and unwillingness of the Hungarian government under the nationalist-conservative Fidesz-party and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to provide effective support to those affected. To this end, we documented the experiences of people seeking international protection and then related those experiences to the increasingly restrictive political and legal context in Hungary."

See New Report (link to pdf)

Spaniards held in Greece for refugee smuggling attempt (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Two Spanish activists were detained Wednesday in Greece after trying to smuggle eight refugees, including a Pakistani transsexual woman, out of the country, the coastguard and a fellow activist said.

Mikel Zuloaga and Begona Huarte, of the Ongi etorri Errefuxiatuak (Refugees Welcome) platform, were stopped at Igoumenitsa harbor in northwestern Greece as they were about to board a ferry to Italy.

Faced with what they say is government inaction on migrants and refugees, they tried to bring the eight youngsters back to Spain, said Andoni Louzao, another member of the pressure group.

“They were driving a camper van with eight people from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran hidden inside,” a Greek coastguard source told AFP. “They are currently held at the Igoumenitsa coastguard office and will appear before a prosecutor on Friday.”"

Calais child asylum seekers launch legal action against UK government - Thirty-six teenagers accuse home secretary of reneging on promise to bring vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children to Britain (Guardian, link):

"Thirty-six child asylum seekers who previously lived in the Calais refugee camp have issued a legal challenge to the home secretary.

They claim Amber Rudd acted unlawfully in the way she handled their applications. It is the first time children from the camp have taken individual legal action against the government.

The children were dispersed across France after the site was dismantled on 31 October. Twenty-eight of those bringing the legal action have had their applications refused, while another eight are awaiting decisions from the Home Office."

Greece: Conditions in Greek refugee camps: Winter has come (long ago) (Enough is Enough, link):

"With the end of 2016 approaching, Greece is currently hosting more than 62,000 people, 33,650 of whom live in camps on the mainland. Most of the people are fleeing from war and persecution and a substantial number are particularly vulnerable: more than 1200 unaccompanied minors were identified during the pre-registration process and nearly 3500 refugees present various vulnerabilities.

Most of these people are currently trapped in Greece due to overly time-consuming procedures and there are many cases of people being misinformed about how long these will last, adding to their psychological frustration. It is difficult to access the Asylum Service to make an asylum claim through the current Skype system and then it takes too long to register and process requests, meaning many cases seeking relocation or family reunification must spend one to two years in Greece. The process for people opting for asylum in Greece is similarly lengthy."

The “unaccompanied” minor brides: Greece’s Migration Minister reveals new phenomenon in Migration Crisis tagged: detention centers, Greece, housing, integration, migrants, Mouzalas, new arrivals, plans, refugees (Keep Talking Greece, link)

"Greece’s Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas vowed to improve living conditions in the overcrowded migrants camps especially on the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Yannis Mouzalas revealed a new phenomenon in the Migration..."

Refugee crisis, the vain search for solidarity (euobserver, link):

"More people died crossing the Mediterranean to seek better lives in the EU in 2016 than ever before. Despite widespread search and rescue efforts, over 4,600 people perished after leaving from north Africa and Turkey....

Instead, EU policies on migration, asylum, border control and security have exposed deep political rifts among member states, as the concept of solidarity becomes ever more elusive.

Populist groups in Austria, Denmark, Germany, France and the Netherlands have used the crisis to weaken the EU and inflame tensions against immigrants.

They are following in the footsteps of established government figures in central Europe. In August, leaders from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland reiterated their opposition to refugees and asylum seekers with Muslim backgrounds."

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