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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
20.2.17
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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
SPAIN:
Massive demonstration in Barcelona in support of migrants and refugees

The organisers of a huge demonstration in Barcelona on Saturday 18 February have said it was the largest protest seen in Europe so far in support of migrants and refugees and estimated that half a million people attended. The police put the number of attendees far lower, at 160,000, but in either case it was the largest protest seen in the city since those against the Iraq war in 2003.

EU: New Asylum Information Database reports on France and Switzerland

Two new reports have been produced by the Asylum Information Database examining the situation in France and Switzerland.

For an overview see: New AIDA report: France and New AIDA report: Switzerland (ECRE, links)

The reports: France and Switerland (links to pdfs)

BELGIUM: Aliens’ Office Chief wants checks on migrants’ phones (Expatica, link):

"The Head of the Aliens’ Office (DVZ) Freddie Roosemont is in favour of measures that would see asylum seekers’ mobiles, smartphones, tablets and laptops be subject to screening for possible threats to national security.

Mr Roosemont was speaking during a session of the Parliamentary Investigative Commission into the terrorist attacks on the 22 March 2016.

Last summer the Federal Secretary of State Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist) took a similar line after returning from a visit to Denmark.

"Between 60% and 70% of asylum seekers lie about their identity, whether it’s their name, their country of origin, their age, the route they took to get here or what they had done with their life prior to coming here. Indications can be found on a mobile phone or laptop that can help corroborate or dispel an asylum-seeker’s story”, Mr Francken said."

Italy curtails appeal rights and expands rebranded detention centres (ECRE, link):

"On 10 February, the Italian Council of Ministers adopted a law that foresees the acceleration of asylum procedures and returns, following heavily criticised plans set out in the second half of 2016. The Decree Law is only provisionally binding until it is voted on in the Parliament.

The new law creates specialised immigration chambers to hear asylum appeals. These chambers are established in 14 courts (Bari, Bologna, Brescia, Cagliari, Catania, Catanzaro, Florence, Lecce, Milan, Palermo, Rome, Naples, Torino and Venice), and are competent to decide on asylum appeal cases under a single judge. The reform also limits the possibility to be heard in such appeals: asylum appeal procedures are to be accelerated, as a decision by the specialised chamber must be taken within four months instead of six, and the decision can no longer be appealed to the Court of Appeal."

IRELAND: Government warned asylum seekers 'in distress' after changes to application process (Irish Examiner, link):

"The Government is being warned that hundreds of asylum seekers are facing extreme distress this weekend following changes to the application process.

They are struggling to complete a 60 page application form, with a deadline to submit it, and a shortage of legal advisers to help."

And see: Information note on the new single procedure process for international protection applicants (Irish Refugee Council, link)

BELGIUM-EU: ECJ to rule on humanitarian visas on March 7th (The Brussels Times, link):

"The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will rule in the Belgian case regarding visas for a Syrian family on Tuesday March 7th.

...This is a high profile case, relating to a family of four who wish to seek asylum in Belgium by means of a humanitarian visa initally requested from the Belgian embassy in Beirut (in the Lebanon).

Theo Francken is refusing to issue the humanitarian visa, despite several court judgments on penalties in such cases. The CCE is requesting that the Court rule on how the Visa Code should be interpreted.

On February 7th, the Advocate General, Paolo Mengozzi, opposed the Secretary of State's reasoning. Mr Mengozzi maintains the following. Member states should issue a visa “when there are substantial grounds for believing that refusing it will risk those seeking international protection being subject to torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.”"

See: ECJ press release: According to Advocate General Mengozzi, Members States must issue a visa on humanitarian grounds where substantial grounds have been shown for believing that a refusal would place persons seeking international protection at risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment (pdf)

In a seperate but related story, four Member States (Austria, France, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) recently demanded that it be made clear, in negotiations with the European Parliament on the EU's Visa Code, that the EP's demands for humanitarian visas were a "red line" that the Council would not cross. The minutes record that: "The Chair took note of the comments and said that the Presidency would inform delegations on further contacts with the EP." See: Visa Working Party: Summary of discussions on 17 January 2017 (5668/17, pdf)

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