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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
23-24.7.16.16
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Council of the European Union: New EU "returns" document & Turkey visa "benchmarks"

- EU Returns document: Draft Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European travel document for the return of illegally staying third-country nationals (first reading) - Confirmation of the final compromise text with a view to agreement (LIMITE doc no: 10638-16, pdf)

This draft Regulation replaces the Maastricht era Council Recommendation of 30 November 1994. The Council reached its negotiating position on 23 May 2016 and the European Parliament did the same on 30 May. At the trilogue meeting on 23 June a "compromise" text was agreed. The parliament will formally adopt the measure at its plenary session of 12-15 September.

The document will be valid for a single journey to the country of origin or transit for refugees and migrants who have been found to be "illegally staying" in the EU and is "essential for increasing rates of return, which are unsatisfactory."

The Regulation states that the 1994 Recommendation is not widely accepted by authorities of third countries, for reasons including its inadequate security standards - the unstated primary reason is that third countries do not accept the idea of the return by the EU of maybe thousands of its people who fled the country or who have transited through it - and there is an understandable fear that most refugees do not want to be returned to the country they have fled from. It does not apply to the UK or Ireland.

- TURKEY: Visa Working Party/Mixed Committee (EU/Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, Liechtenstein): Summary of discussions: (LIMITE doc no: 11065-16. pdf)

Minutes from a meeting held on 14 June 2016. For visa waivers with Turkey to be agreed:

"COM confirmed that there are still seven benchmarks to be fulfilled, and gave a brief update on the ongoing discussions. This file would be followed up at the next meeting, depending on the progress achieved." [emphasis added]

No doubt there will be a few more after the Turkish government's reaction to the coup.

Lesvos, Greece: Numbers arriving start to rise: In the last week UNHCR reports that in the last week (17-23 July) a total of 390 refugees arrived on the island.

Average daily arrivals during July 2016: 36 and Average daily arrivals during June 2016: 16.

Early Sunday morning (24.7.16):
Eric Kempson (link) reports: "2 boats one north east of Lesvos one in the south, 46 people in total every one OK."

Are You Syrious (link):

Refugee protest march from Belgrade to Hungary

"About 300 people took part in protest in Belgrade, while some of them started marching toward Hungary asking for border to be open. While the Europe is not ready to admit that the deal with Turkey was never really alive, more and more people are arriving to the continent every day, risking their lives and hoping to be safe. New route is created at the north of Italy."

100 new arrivals to Greece

"Two boats with approximately 100 people were intercepted today (22.7.16) in the south of Lesvos by Frontex and brought into Mytilene harbour."

Serbia / Hungary: Serious harm on the physical and mental health of refugees

"In their latest report, MSF warns that restrictive policies at the Serbia/Hungarian border having a serious impact on the physical and mental health of already vulnerable refugee communities

MSF teams at the ex so called Balkan route have seen an increase in the level of violence against migrants since the route was “closed”."

UNHCR Weekly Report: Euro/pe (20.7.16):

Trends of Sea Arrivals

"Between 11 and 17 July, 453 refugees and migrants crossed the sea to Greece, a slight increase from the 258 that crossed the previous week. Thus far in 2016, 158,937 have arrived to Greece by sea, contributing to a total of 241,263 arrivals that crossed the Mediterranean.The primary landing places of sea arrivals in Greece continues to be on the islands of Lesvos, Samos and Chios. However, during this reporting period there were spontaneous arrivals to Kos and Leros as well. Until 14 July, the countries of origin of those who arrived in Greece are mainly from the Syrian Arab Republic (48%), Afghanistan (25%) and Iraq (15%).

During the same period in Italy, 2,143 refugees and migrants reached the country by sea, which is a decrease in arrivals from the 6,437 who arrived the previous week. As of 17 July, 79,851 persons arrived by sea in Italy in 2016, compared to 93,540 persons whom disembarked at the end of July 2015. Overall, sea arrivals in 2016 are in line with 2014 and 2015 trends. The top nationalities of origin among arrivals include, Nigeria, Eritrea, Gambia, and Sudan."

Situation in Greece

"The pre-registration exercise conducted by the Greek Asylum Service, with support by UNHCR and EASO, continued smoothly. Since 8 June 2016, a total of 25,202 people have been pre-registered and 25,700 have been provided with a wristband to prepare for their pre-registration, seeing an increase from the previous week. In addition, a total of 571 unaccompanied children and 471 separated children were identified and directed to UNHCR along with other child protection partners."

Situation at the Serbia-Hungary border:

"On 15 July, UNHCR in Geneva issued a statement about its concern of the new Hungarian restrictive law, increased reports of violence, and the deterioration of the situation at Serbia-Hungary border. The number of refugees and migrants at the Serbia-Hungary border has reached over 1,400, including people waiting to enter the transit zones, as well as those at the Refugee Aid Point at Subotica, 42% of which were children, 35 % men and 23% women. The majority are Afghans (65%) and Syrians (21%), followed by Iranians (8%) and Iraqi (5%)."

Italy/Switzerland: New refugee route

"Italy is struggling to deal with the thousands of refugees who are rescued in the Mediterranean each week and brought to ports in Sicily and elsewhere in the south.

So far this year, around 84,000 have been intercepted in rubber dinghies and ex-fishing boats and brought to the safety of dry land. Many have later continued towards Switzerland. But Switzerland is now beefing up its border security, deploying border guards and a drone to fly over the region in an attempt to catch the migrants, Telegraph reports."

Thousands of refugee children alone in Germany

"According to the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees, at the end of January 2016 there were more than 60,000 children and adolescents in Germany who entered the country as a refugee without a parent or guardian."

News (23-24.7.16)

Greece Fears Wave of Political Asylum Seekers from Turkey (Greek Reporter, link): "The Greek army across the border with Turkey is on high alert after recent developments in the neighboring country, following the failed coup and the Turkish government’s punitive tendencies."

Serbia Braces For Rise in Refugee Numbers - Serbian authorities are expanding capacities in refugee camps following reports that the number of migrants and refugees could rise.(Balkan Insight, link): "The number of refugees in Serbia has been increasing steadily since Hungary tightened security on its border with Serbia early in July."

Refugees: Sharp increase in violence against migrants since border closures in the Balkans (ReiefWeb, link): "MSF consultations for violent trauma doubled since March."

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