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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
25.2.16
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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: European Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos following the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 25 February 2016 (pdf). The Commissioner said:

"In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down."

He goes on to say, in apparent denial of the humanitarian crisis that existed in the Med and the EU for most of last year: "the pressing situation in our neighbourhood: the route along the Western Balkans. The situation is very critical. The possibility of a humanitarian crisis is very real and very near."

And he finishes by yet again urging EU Member States to meet their commitments so that the EU can: "return back to the normal situation as soon as possible" - when the EU has never been more divided.

EU: Council of the European Union: Redrafted EU border guard proposal drops reference to rescue of refugees: see: European Border and Coast Guard: Re-draft (LIMITE doc no: 6319-16, pdf):

The new Article 14.5 says:

"The objectives of a joint operation or rapid border intervention may be achieved as part of a multipurpose operation which may involve coast guard functions including (the rescue of persons in) distress at sea (or other coast guard functions), cross border crime prevention including the fight against migrant smuggling or trafficking in human beings, (drug trafficking control operations), and migration management including identification, registration, debriefing and return" [added in bold, deletions underline in brackets]

"RESCUING" OR RETURNING REFUGEES? NATO overcomes Greek-Turkish tensions to agree Aegean mission (ekathimerini.com, link): "NATO allies have agreed to a plan for their ships in the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece counter criminal networks smuggling refugees into Europe, NATO's chief said on Thursday, overcoming territorial sensitivities between Greece and Turkey....

“Greek and Turkish forces will not operate in each other's territorial waters and airspace,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement...

Stoltenberg said other NATO vessels will be able to sail in the territorial waters of Greece and Turkey.... Germany hopes that unlike the EU's mission off the Italian coast, which brings rescued migrants to Europe's shores, NATO will return migrants to Turkey even if they are picked up in Greek waters, effectively sealing the border. “In case of rescue of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey,” Stoltenberg said."

And: NATO agrees on guidelines for refugee mission in Aegean Sea (DW, link): NATO allies have settled on a maritime plan to help tackle crime rings smuggling refugees into Europe. NATO has also said they will return all rescued refugees to Turkey, a move which has been strongly criticized...."In case of rescue of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey," Stoltenberg said without mentioning the particulars if refugees are rescued in Greek waters.... Human rights organizations and the German opposition have criticized NATO involvement in the refugee crisis. Left Party MP Annette Groth said the planned NATO "deportations" back to Turkey "break international law.... The NATO mission is set to start on March 7." Also see the "Sea-watch" video.

EU: Council of the European Union: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 25 February 2015: Press release (pdf) "B" Points Agenda (for discussion,pdf):

Documents under discussion: 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: Re-draft (LIMITE doc no: 6319-16, pdf)

Adopted version of Council doc no:6310-REV-1-16 (pdf) - previous doocument: 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." [emphasis added]

See previous docunments: LIMITE doc no: 6181-16 (pdf) and LIMITE doc no: 5808-16 (pdf) also Commission Proposal (pdf)

Greece/Balkans: Thousands stranded as new arbitrary border restrictions expose refugees to violence (MSF, link)

"On Tuesday MSF teams witnessed Greek police in Polykastro kicking Afghan refugees, including women and children, for refusing to board a bus that would forcibly take them back to Athens....

Thousands of men, women and children are stranded between Greece and the Balkans after the sudden imposition of new border restrictions for Afghan refugees on the Western Balkans route this week. Refugees are being provided with no information, little-to-no humanitarian assistance and are at risk of violence and abuse.

“We have denounced the humanitarian consequences of this domino effect time and again, but European governments on this route continue to invent new and arbitrary criteria, with the sole goal of reducing the flow of people – at any cost, and in complete disregard of humanitarian needs” says Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF’s humanitarian advisor on displacement. “The failure of European governments to find collective and humane answers is only producing chaos, arbitrariness and discrimination.” "

A Drop in the Ocean By Simon Book and Regina Krieger (global.handelsblatt.com, link): "The European Union is banking on so-called “hotspots”: Reception centers for asylum seekers located on the islands along its external borders. But are these camps the solution to the refugee crisis? A visit to Lesbos and Lampedusa."

News (25.2.16)

Merkel Increasingly Isolated on Refugees (global.handelsblatt.com, link): "Germany’s efforts for an E.U.-wide refugee solution are less popular than ever: Austria and many Balkan states have cut a new deal to keep migrants out, and Hungary is planning a referendum on the refugee question."

Greece-EU: Tsipras threatens to block future agreements if migrant burden is not shared (euractiv, link): "Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged European Union countries to honour the bloc’s decisions on sharing the burden of the migrant crisis, saying that if they did not, Athens would block future agreements." and Greek PM threatens to block EU decisions (euobserver, link)

Austria criticises Germany on migrants, piles 'pressure' on EU (euobserver, link): "Austria has said Germany should stop sending mixed messages on migration at a meeting with Western Balkan states in Vienna on Wednesday (24 February). "Germany has to decide what signals Germany wants to send," Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told press after talks with her counterparts from Western Balkan countries, where most migrants cross on their way from Greece to Germany.

"Currently they [Germany] are sending the following signals: that they are allowing Greece to agree to the open-door policy, and on the other hand they are demanding that Austria stop all those who want to travel to Germany," she said, according to the Reuters news agency. "One must choose one of those strategies," " she said."

German parliament approves stricter asylum regulations (DW, link): "A set of new regulations pertaining to asylum in Germany has been passed by parliament. Several aspects of the package have been strongly criticized by opposition parties "

Germany sends Afghan refugees home in effort to deter new arrivals (DW, link): "Germany's interior minister has confirmed that the country has flown refugees back to Afghanistan. The move comes as Berlin seeks to stem the flow of asylum seekers into the country.... Berlin has also put pressure on other African countries, including Benin, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan, to accept their nationals whose claims for asylum Germany rejects.Meanwhile, refugee organizations have condemned the move to deport refugees back to their homelands, noting the often fragile security situations in these countries.." "

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