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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
24.2.16
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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
EU BORDER GUARD AGENCY: Council of the European Union: 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 - State of play (LIMITE doc no: 6309-16, pdf):

and see: As above: Re-draft (LIMITE doc no: 6319-16, pdf)

New provsion include power of Commission to define details of hotspots:

"The Commission shall, in cooperation with the host Member State, the Agency and the other relevant Union Agencies and in particular the European Asylum Support Office and Europol, establish the modalities of cooperation at the hotspot area, including on the coordination of the activities of the migration management support teams."

and Member States who do not cooperate with Frontex face Schengen explusion:

"If the Member State concerned does not comply with the Council decision and does not cooperate with the Agency as provided for under paragraph 6, the Council may, as a last resort and as a measure to protect the common interests within the area without internal border control, recommend that one or more Member States decide to reintroduce border control at all or specific parts of their internal borders for a period of up to six months. That period may be prolonged, no more than three times, for a further period of up to six months if the absence of cooperation persists."

Amnesty International: EU and member states must work to end unprecedented assault on human rights at home and abroad (link)

"The European Union (EU) must act now to prevent a wholesale assault on human rights and basic freedoms both within its borders and across the globe, said Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment on human rights around the world.

Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2015-2016 warns of an insidious and creeping global trend undermining human rights as European and world governments deliberately underfund or neglect institutions set up to protect them, break or ignore international law and target and attack activists, lawyers and others who work to defend people’s basic freedoms."

European Court of Human Rights: Khlaifia and Others v. Italy (application no. 16483/12) (pdf):

"The following case has been referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. Khlaifia and Others v. Italy (application no. 16483/12): which 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”......

In its Chamber judgment of 1 September 2015, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 5 §§ 1, 2 and 4 of the Convention, finding that the applicants had been deprived of their liberty without a sufficient legal basis, that they had not been duly informed of the reasons for the measure, and that they had been unable to challenge it."

EUNAVFOR MED-Six Month Report: No Indication of Refugee Protection Plan for EU Operations within Libyan Territorial Waters and No Reports of Human Trafficking (Migrants at Sea, link):

"No Discussion of Refugee Protection Plan: First, the Report does not contain information regarding what the EU military force intends to do with migrants who are intercepted or rescued by EU vessels if and when EUNAVFOR MED patrols begin to operate within Libyan territorial waters....

No Reports of Human Trafficking: The second perhaps less significant piece of information that jumped out at me as I read the Report was the lack of any suggestion that EUNAVFOR MED patrols have discovered evidence of human trafficking. The Report makes multiple references to trafficking, but always in conjunction with human smuggling, eg, ‘smuggler and traffickers’ business model’, ‘smuggler and trafficker vessels’. The use of the trafficking term seems to be a continuation of the use of imprecise terminology (and possible ongoing confusion over the differences between human trafficking and smuggling as well?). But the Report’s ‘Smugglers’ Business Model’ section [pp 6-8] is clearly only discussing acts of smuggling."

Nato to take migrants back to Turkey, if rescued (euobserver, link):

"Nato ships will take anybody they rescue in the Aegean Sea back to Turkey instead of Greece, the head of the military alliance has said.

“When we rescue those people, what we agreed with Turkey at a ministerial level, we agreed that if those people came from Turkey then we can return them to Turkey,” Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, told the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday (23 February)."

and see: The Latest: NATO: rescued migrants can be returned to Turkey (leaderherald.com, link): "NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey and its allies have agreed that "if the people were rescued by NATO, if they come from Turkey, we can return them to Turkey."

EU: BORDER DATABASE CHECKS: Council of the European Union: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation No 562/2006 (EC) as regards the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders (LIMITE doc on: 6310-16, pdf):

"It is noted that the changes vis-à-vis the Commission proposal in the attached text are demonstrated in underline. The text in relation to a possible derogation regarding air borders is put between square brackets for further consideration...

The compromise text set out in the Annex was at the JHA Counsellors meeting acceptable to a sufficient majority of delegations, with the exception of the possible derogation from systematic checks at air borders. Article 7(2d) of the text provides for such a derogation for air borders for a maximum period of three years. Several delegations were of the view that there should be no derogation possible for air borders, and that in any case three years was too long a period. Several other delegations continued to favour this derogation.

The Presidency invites Coreper/Council to examine this last outstanding question with a view to the adoption of a general approach on the proposal at the February 2016 JHA Council."

UNHCR Survey finds Afghan and Syrian refugees arriving to Greece are fleeing conflict and violence (link): "A UNHCR survey found that some 94% of Syrians arriving in Greece in January made the perilous journey by sea to escape conflict and violence in Syria. Similarly, 71% of the Afghans surveyed cited conflict and violence as the main reason they left their country." and EU, UN criticize Balkan police crackdown on Afghan migrants (ekathimerini.com, link): "The European Union and United Nations on Tuesday criticized new police restrictions imposed on those traveling along the main migrant route through the Balkans, where hundreds of Afghans have been blocked from crossing into Macedonia."

UNHCR: In 2016: 110,257 arrivals: 101.906 to Greece, 7,893 to Italy. 406 dead/missing. And UNHCR reports:

"According to media sources, Greek authorities are taking diplomatic action to persuade their counterparts in the former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia, to allow entry to people of Afghan nationality. Greek authorities state that 5,000 people are present at the border crossing and
3,000 people are being temporarily accommodated in Athens. Authorities fear that the limits imposed at the Austrian borders will trigger similar action
across other countries along the transit route."

See also: Refugee arrivals in Greece exceed 100,000 in less than two months (Guardian. link): "Figure was not reached until end of June last year, and rate of arrivals this year expected to climb further as weather improves."

Thousands of Afghans stranded in Greece, Austria calls Balkan mini-summit (euractiv, link): "Thousands of refugees were left stranded in Greece yesterday (22 February) after Macedonia abruptly closed it border to Afghans, creating a fresh bottleneck as European countries scramble to respond to the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War II..... " and see: Vienna accused of moving to isolate Athens (New Europe, link): "Austria’s diplomatic initiative appears to be against the spirit of the October 25, 2015 agreement with Western Balkan leaders, to which Greece was a party."

And: Austria rejects Balkans migrants conference criticism (The Local.at, link): "Austria has rejected criticism from Greece that Athens has not been invited to a conference in Vienna on Wednesday among countries along the west Balkans route for migrants towards northern Europe."

News (24.2.16)

EU:Joint Statement by Dutch Minister for Migration Klaas Dijkhoff and European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos (pdf): "We understand the pressure the different countries concerned are facing. We are concerned about the developments along the Balkan route and the humanitarian crisis that might unfold in certain countries especially in Greece."

Why deportations are hard to do (IRIN, link): "As numbers of new arrivals remain stubbornly high, there is increasingly tough talk from several European countries about ramping up deportations of failed asylum seekers."

Italian navy rescues 700 migrants near Libyan coast (Guardian, link): "Four bodies also retrieved in operation undertaken by three boats"

Germany: Refugees, volunteers and authorities in Bautzen fight bad press (DW, link): "Three days after a planned refugee home was set on fire in Bautzen, refugees, helpers, and local authorities have no choice but to keep going. Ben Knight reports from the demonized German state of Saxony."

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