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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
4.7.17
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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
European Border and Coast Guard report

- 72% of returns inside Europe: 101 return flights to the West Balkans and only 41 outside the EU
- Deploying
"assets" to frontline Member States: thermo-vision vehicles, dog teams, CO2 detectors and smartdeck cameras

The Commission Press release of 14 June (pdf) concerning the Fourth report concerning the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) stated on the question of "returns" that:

"The pace of return operations organised by the European Border and Coast Guard has continued to grow, with 6,799 irregularly staying migrants returned in 2017 so far, representing an increase of over 157% compared to the same period of last year." [emphasis added]

However, the Fourth Report on EBCG (COM 325-17, pdf) says that:

"Between 1 January and 9 June 2017, the Agency provided support to 144 return operations of third-country nationals during which 6,799 illegally staying third-country nationals were returned, with further 43 operations under preparation. This represents an increase of over 157% compared to the same period of last year. The majority of these operations (101 out of 144) concerned flights to the Western Balkans."

Thus 101 return flights concerned returns inside Europe to the West Balkans and only 41 outside the EU. There were an average of 42 people per flight.

A tragedy unfolding in Italy as migrant influx spikes (New Europe, link): "“What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy,” stated Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, remembering the estimated 2.030 migrants who died in the Mediterranean sea since the beginning of the year..... Italy’s Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, repeated his call for help stating that “it is necessary if Europe wants to stay true to it’s own principles, history and civilization”.

France, Germany pledge more support for Italy on migrants, offer vague (euractiv, link): "France, Germany and the EU executive on Monday (3 July) promised Italy more support in handling the influx of migrants arriving by boat from Africa, agreeing to bolster training and funding for Libya’s coastguard and to relocate asylum seekers more swiftly. But they made no direct reference to Rome’s appeal for European Union nations to ease the pressure by allowing rescue boats carrying migrants to dock in their ports."

Italian plan to curb Mediterranean rescue boat charities 'threatens lives' (Guardian, link): "New rules drawn up by Italy likely to bring NGOs under coast guard control, which they fear will hamper rescue attempts..... Charities that rescue migrants and refugees from the Mediterranean have reacted angrily to plans to make them subject to a new code of conduct drawn up by Italy and endorsed by other EU countries. The move is likely to bring them under the control of the Libyan and Italian coast guards, which might constrain their ability to save passengers from overcrowded and unseaworthy smuggling boats..... But a proposal by Italy to unilaterally close its ports to ships containing migrants is expected to be shelved because it is in clear breach of international maritime law."."

Caritas Europa: EU member states must help Italy (New Europe, link): "The European Union member states are showing a lack of solidarity towards Italy, according to Caritas Europa, a European confederation of Catholic relief, development and social service organisations operating in Europe. According to Caritas, Italy is delivering humanitarian assistance to children, women and men in desperate need who have been forced to leave their home countries. “But the heroic task of coping alone with 75% of all arrivals to Europe is becoming too difficult to fulfil without the support of all the other member states.”

Austrian military set to stop Italy migrants (euobserver, link): "The Austrian military is preparing to stop migrants coming from Italy amid sharpening rhetoric ahead of elections. Seven hundred and fifty soldiers, including Pandur armoured vehicles, stand ready to go to the Austrian-Italian border at 72 hours notice, Austria’s defence minister, Hanspeter Doskozil, told the Krone newspaper, an Austrian daily, on Monday (3 July)."

Italy imposing new rules on NGO sea rescues (euobserver, link): "The Forensic Oceanography branch at the University of London had also produced an extensive study that debunks arguments that NGOs operating near the Libyan coast lure people to take boats towards Italy."

UNHCR: MIXED MIGRATION: TRENDS IN LIBYA: Changing Dynamics and Protection Challenges (pdf):

"This report sheds light on the constantly changing flow of refugees and migrants into Libya and identifies their principal vulnerabilities and needs. It builds on previous studies that indicate that of the three main routes to Europe used by refugees and migrants - the Western Mediterranean Route, the Central Mediterranean Route and the Eastern Mediterranean Route – Libya has become the preferred gateway for irregular movement, despite also being the deadliest."

EU: Commission, France, Germany and Italy - Joint "Declaration": Italy to draw up a "Code of Conduct" to bring NGOs operating in the Med under state control: Press release, pdf):

The measures proposed contains many previous ideas: increasing "relocation" in the EU (which has failed miserably), increasing "returns" (which are low), helping Libyan Coast Guards and enhancing "readmission rates" to Africa.

But top of lathe list is a new proposal to:

"Work on a code of conduct for NGO's, to be drafted and presented by Italy, in order to improve coordination with NGO's operating in the Mediterranean Sea....

In order to allow swift progress in support of Italy, the Ministers of Interior of France, Germany and Italy and the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs call on all EU partners to consider these action points at the next EU informal Council meeting in Tallinn on 6 July."

EU: Entry-Exit system (EES): Nearing agreement - some "technical" issues still outstanding

EU: Centralised biometric database for convicted non-EU nationals also part of "interoperability" agenda

Proposals published last week by the European Commission will see the development of a new a centralised database holding the criminal records of non-EU citizens, alongside their fingerprints and photographs.

"Although it is possible to exchange information on convictions concerning third country nationals and stateless persons (hereinafter: TCN) through ECRIS [the European Criminal Records Information System] today, there is no procedure or mechanism in place to do so efficiently," says the Commission, and thus a new system is required that will simplify the process and leave the door open for future "interoperability" initiatives with other EU databases and information systems.

Historical amnesia and Europe’s migration relations with Libya
Craig Damian Smith 2 July 2017

Driven by domestic politics and the need to be seen to be doing something, Europe has locked itself in a cycle of dodgy deals (Open Democracy, link).

The detention of asylum seekers in Europe: Constructed on shaky ground? (ECRE, link):

"The detention of asylum seekers pending the examination of their application for international protection continues to provoke heated debates in Europe. While the use of immigration detention is generally on the rise in European countries as an integral part of their responses to migration flows, the detention of persons applying for international protection raises particular questions of legality and proportionality. International and European legal standards have established a clear presumption against the detention of migrants and refugees in particular."

97 migrants detained off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast (ahram.org.eg, link):

"Egypt’s navy foiled on Saturday an attempt at irregular migration by 97 people in a boat off the Alexandrian coast, the state-owned MENA news agency reported. According to a statement by the Armed Forces, the migrants included Egyptians, Eritreans, Somalis, Sudanese, Syrians, Yemenis, and Chadians."

Greek port of Patras becoming something like Calais in France (Migration News Sheet, link):

"An increasing number of migrants/asylum-seekers have been heading to the Greek port of Patras from where they hope to travel clandestinely to Italy. Patras is becoming a bit like the French port of Calais where migrants/asylum-seekers gathered and waited for an opportunity to smuggle themselves or get smuggled by traffickers to the UK."

German Plan to Deport Children to Morocco Ignores Lessons of History (Refugees Deeply, link)

"The leaked German proposal to build reception centers for unaccompanied minors in Morocco ignores the lessons from Spain’s controversial and ill-fated attempt to do the same thing 12 years ago, says researcher Lorena Gazzotti."

France: Detention still a primary instrument of migration control (ECRE, link):

"The annual report on administrative detention in France, published today by six civil society organisations present in detention centres, details the systematic use of deprivation of liberty as a primary instrument of migration control.

Last year, France detained 45,937 persons in administrative detention centres (CRA) and other places of administrative detention (LRA) scattered across the territory and overseas. The year 2016 drew a particularly strong link between detention and camp management policies, where the dismantlement of settlements in Paris, Calais and Metz, as well as unlawful evictions (décasages) in Mayotte, resulted in people being placed in detention, often to the detriment of their personal situation and in contravention of legal standards."

Refugees in Greece: Getting to grips with IT (Reliefweb, link):

"According to UNICEF, 20 000 refugee minors are currently living in Greece. Save the Children's Anna met one of them, Aarif, on her way to an education centre where refugee and migrant adolescents are given the opportunity to gain new skills. The project is run by Save the Children with funding from EU Humanitarian Aid.*

GREECE: LESBOS LEGAL CENTRE: Arbitrary Detention in Lesbos – Refugees Driven to Hunger Strike to Protest Inhumane Conditions (link):

"The Legal Centre Lesbos condemns the unlawful practice of indiscriminately detaining people who are in the process of applying for international protection. The Greek Asylum Service is currently automatically detaining applicants whose initial appeals have been rejected, and arbitrarily detaining people of certain nationalities for the entire duration of their applications.

International law forbids discrimination on the basis of nationality, and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. It also provides that detainees have the right to meaningfully challenge any deprivation of their liberty. All these rights are being systematically violated in Lesvos."

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