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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
12-13.3.16
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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
Statewatch Analysis: The EU Border Guard takes shape (52 pages, pdf) by Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex:

"Back in December 2015, the Commission proposed the text of a Regulation creating a new EU Border Guard, which would replace the current Frontex agency. EU leaders have already asked for this law to be agreed by June. Most of the text of this proposal has already been agreed by the Council, although after that it will still have to be agreed with the European Parliament.

To aid those who are concerned about or interested in the development of this Agency, I have consolidated all of the parts agreed to date by the Council on the basis of Council documents 6359/1/16, 6884/16 and 6652/16. The state of play is set out in doc 6744/16."

Greece: Under Greece-Turkey protocol "migrants" to be returned "within 48 hours"
- 15 days mnimum providing applicant has the means to prepare appeal and the process is subject to judicial review

Minister confirms Turkish observers will be assigned to Greek refugee centers (ekathimerini.com, lnk):

"Alternate Minister for Citizens’ Protection Nikos Toskas on Saturday confirmed that Turkish officials will be posted to the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean to act as observers and oversee the relocation of migrants who are not eligible for protection from Greece back to Turkey.

Speaking on Skai TV amid media reports that Turkish officials would be allowed into refugee documentation centers, Toskas said that this is part of a protocol he signed with his Turkish counterpart during a Greek government mission to Izmir earlier in the week in order to speed up relocations.

“In this framework, it will be possible for Turkish observers to be admitted at Greek islands to speed up procedures so that migrants who are not eligible for protection are returned [to Turkey] within 48 hours,” Toskas said.

For the time being, he said, one Turkish observer will be assigned to the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"This appears to confirm that within the new EU-NATO regime refugees will be brought ashore to "hotspot" centres in Greece. There they will subject to: "Identification, Registration, Profiling, and Referral" (pdf). "Referral" would mean "channeling" into those refugees who judged to be entitled to apply for "relocation" within the EU and those said not to be entitled to international protection. The process described does not seems to recognise that all refugees have the right to apply for asylum and that those judged not to be entitled to international protection have the right to legal representation and appeal against such a decision.

It is extremely difficult to see how peoples' rights can be respected in 48 hours. If refugees are to be "processed" in Greece then the full weight of EU law and rights apply. See CJEU judgment (pdf) which found that:

!As regards the fact that the time-limit for bringing an action is 15 days in the case of an accelerated procedure, whilst it is 1 month in the case of a decision adopted under the ordinary procedure, the important point, as the Advocate General has stated in point 63 of his Opinion, is that the period prescribed must be sufficient in practical terms to enable the applicant to prepare and bring an effective action....

"the reasons which led that authority to examine the merits of the application under such a procedure can in fact be subject to judicial review in the action which may be brought against the final decision rejecting the application – a matter which falls to be determined by the referring court.""

Refugee crisis: how Greeks opened their hearts to strangers (Guarian, link):

"Despite six years of economic hardship, ordinary people have shown astonishing generosity in helping the 42,000 migrants stranded in their country.

It’s a generosity of spirit that has not been lost on recipients. With Greece’s impoverished state structure stretched to breaking point, refugees have been dependent on the kindness of strangers. “The Greek police are terrible,” says Amar Souadi, an Iraqi, standing on the bluff where he has pitched his tent in the mud fields that are now home to the refugees in Idomeni. “But the Greek people are very good,” he exclaims, breaking into a smile.""

Greece: Push-Backs: Turkish coastguard with sticks against boat full with refugees (Keep Talking Greece, link): "This is how the famous push-backs in the Turkish territorial waters look like: a vessel of the Turkish coastguard approaches a boat full of refugees and using sticks the coastguard tries to push the boat back to the shore."

and: Migrant crisis: Turkish guards hit migrant boat with sticks (BBC News, link): "The BBC has been given a video showing Turkish coastguard using sticks against a boat full of migrants as they sail to Greece in the Aegean Sea. The incident is said to have happened in Turkish waters as the migrants were on their way to the island of Lesbos."

Majority of Spanish Congress against EU refugee deal signed by acting PM - This is the first time that the lower house has opposed a European agreement (El Pais, link):

"Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will go to the European Council on March 17 to defend a position that most of Spanish Congress radically rejects.

Except for his own Popular Party (PP), all other congressional groups – 227 deputies out of a total of 350 – feel that the European Union’s deal with Turkey to expel refugees is illegal....

This is the first time that a vast majority of Congress has rejected a deal subscribed to by the EU government. Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez said the European deal with Turkey was “immoral” and possibly even “illegal.”

“We have a week to change this agreement. The European Council of March 17 and 18 cannot approve this pact of shame,” he said."

UNHCR Daily Report, 11.3.16

"Arrivals and Departures: In Greece, people are growing increasingly desperate as the border crossing with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remained closed for the past three days. The number of people arriving to the Greek islands remains high (4,986 arrivals in total over the past three days). This adds to the 41,973 refugees and migrants present in Greece as estimated by the newly-established Greek Refugees Crisis Management Coordination body.

Condition of People: While authorities make efforts to establish new emergency shelter across Greece, existing facilities remain at full capacity. There are currently 8,279 people present on the islands, some taking shelter in public spaces as existing facilities are filled beyond capacity. In Piraeus, 2,050 people are present, including many women and children, some staying in tents. In Athens, people continue to remain in Victoria Square. Some 12,000 people are currently present in Eidomeni, where the cold weather conditions, as well as muddy fields have increased people’s plight. Lack of shelter, water and sanitary facilities continue to be of high concern. UNHCR and humanitarian partners struggle to provide basic assistance such as shelter, food, blankets, jackets and medical assistance to thousands of desperate people in need.

Along the Western Balkans route, 1,500 people are present in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, some 2,000 in Serbia, 319 in Croatia and 70 in Slovenia. Most remain in dire conditions awaiting a solution to be decided upon at political levels."

and

"Turkish Minister of EU Affairs, Volkan Bozkir, stated that the agreement, under which Turkish authorities are to readmit refugees and migrants from Greece does not apply to people who have already reached the Greek islands but to those who will arrive once the agreement begins to be implemented." [emphasis added]

Danish children’s rights activist fined for people trafficking (Guardian, link):

"Lisbeth Zornig says her fine for giving a lift to family of Syrians is ‘criminalising decency’ amid asylum clampdown in Denmark

A high-profile Danish campaigner for children’s rights was prosecuted on Friday under people trafficking laws, shining a spotlight once more on the country’s crackdown on asylum, as Scandinavian countries compete to make themselves unattractive destinations for refugees.

Lisbeth Zornig, the country’s former children’s ombudsman and a well-known author, was fined DKr22,500 (£2,328) – the maximum demanded by the prosecutor – by a court in Nykøbing Falster, southern Denmark, for allowing a family of Syrians to hitch a ride with her to Copenhagen.

Her husband was fined the same amount for taking the family into his home for coffee and biscuits, and then driving them to the railway station, where he bought them tickets to Sweden. “This was a political trail, using me and my husband to send a strong message: don’t try to help refugees,” Zornig said after the verdict. “I am very angry because the only thing we did was the decent thing, the same that hundreds of others did. They are criminalising decency.” Zornig has decided to appeal against the verdict."

EU: ECRE Memorandum to the European Council Meeting 17 – 18 March 2016: Time to Save the Right to Asylum (pdf):

"Ahead of the European Council Summit meeting of 17 and 18 March 2016, ECRE urges Heads of State or Government to assume political leadership and pave the way for a concerted EU response to what primarily continues to be a refugee crisis and not only a migratory phenomenon. Such a response must be based on the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility and respect for human rights. Current fragmented national approaches have added to the suffering of refugees and migrants."

And see: Letter sent to President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker and EU Heads of State or Government (link):

Legal Requirements for the EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement: A Reply to J. Hathaway (link): "Steve Peers, Fr 11 Mrz 2016 / 16:03

The third point is an assertion, not an argument. Since the ban on collective expulsion applies on the high seas, why would it not apply at the borders? If the agreement ignores the requirements set out in the case law, why would it not infringe the Convention? In any event, it also ignores the wording of the EU asylum acquis, which states that any application for asylum at the borders or on the territory must be considered by a Member State.

Like the Commission, you only partly quote the procedures Directive. It says that a possibility must exist to ‚request refugee status‘ in accordance with the Geneva Convention. How can someone request Convention refugee status in a State which does not apply the Convention to the person concerned?

And the procedures Directive does not only say that: asylum applicants must be able to make a case that Turkey is not safe in their individual case; there must not be refoulement from Turkey; and there must be decent treatment in Turkey. Even if these criteria are satisfied in many cases it is clear from NGO reports that they are not satisfied in all; that is why individuals must be able to explain why they are not safe in their particular circumstances, which is consistent with the ECHR interpretation of the prohibition of collective expulsion."

See:Excellent article: The NATO pushbacks in the Aegean and international law (link) by Thomas Spijkerboer, Professor of Migration Law: "The most directly applicable case is the 2012 Hirsi Jamaa judgment, in which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights passed judgment on the Italian pushbacks, which consisted of transferring migrants from vessels onto Italian navy vessels and returning to Libya without any procedure. The Court held that a state exercises de jure jurisdiction over vessels flying its flag, and therefore the migrants were under Italian jurisdiction. It added that Italy could not evade the exercise of jurisdiction by arguing that its activities constitute a search and rescue action – just like NATO is doing at present....

The conclusion has to be that the NATO actions are in violation of international law; and that the relevant parts of international law are binding on NATO states because they exercise jurisdiction over migrants. Returning migrants to Turkey as envisioned violates the prohibition of refoulement, also when it happens in the form of search and rescue." [emphasis added]

Also: Statewatch Analysis: Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country” (pdf) and: Executive Summary (pdf)

News (12-13.3.16)

Greece returns 90 migrants, Turkish authorities say (.ekathimerini.com, link): "Turkish officials say Greece has returned 90 migrants from Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey who had crossed into the country from Turkey."

Greece: Minister sees refugee crisis easing by week’s end (.ekathimerini.com, link): "“There is no plan for police to evacuate Idomeni. Fifty percent of the people there are children,” he said, adding that in the long run Greece will have 20,000 refugees. According to the latest figures, there are currently 42,253 refugees and migrants scattered around Greece. At the moment, Greece has a capacity to accommodate 30,000."

Slovenia says ready to comply with EU migrant quota scheme (euractiv, link): "Slovenia, which this week closed its borders to migrants, will begin accepting refugees shared out among the European Union in April, under its troubled quota scheme, the government said Thursday"

EU-Turkey: Hollande vows ‘no concessions’ to Turkey on rights, visas in migrant deal (ekathimerini.com, link): "French President Francois Hollande said Saturday that the EU must not grant Turkey any concessions on human rights or visas in exchange for guarantees to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. “There cannot be any concessions on the matter of human rights or the criteria for visa liberalization,” Hollande told reporters ahead of the resumption next week of tough negotiations between Turkey and the EU in Brussels."

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