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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
21-26.6.17
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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
Report: Western Balkans route not closed, just diverted via Bulgaria (euractiv. link):

"A report by a German think-tank reveals the deficiencies of the deal with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees to Europe. Migration is on the menu of the two-day summit starting today (22 June).

Migration will be discussed on Friday (23 June), the second day of the summit. According to diplomats decisions are not expected at this stage, but a frank discussion “on the external aspects” is very likely to take place.

On Wednesday (21 June), the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung released a 26-page report, pointing out at the fragility of the situation since the EU-Turkey deal, which in theory closed the Western Balkans route."

See: The EU-Turkey Refugee Deal and the Not Quite Closed Balkan Route (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, pdf) by Bodo Weber

EU should stop cooperating with Libyan coastguard, to avoid abuse of refugees: Amnesty International (New Europe, link)::

"Ahead of the European Council on 22-23 June, Amnesty International is calling on EU leaders to step up efforts to save lives in the Mediterranean, and stop cooperating in returns to Libya, before more drown as crossings increase during the summer months.

“The EU is allowing the Libyan coastguard to return refugees and migrants to a country where unlawful detention, torture and rape are the norm. They are increasing the capacity of the Libyan coastguard while turning a blind eye to the inherent, grave, risks of such cooperation,” said Iverna McGowan, Director of the Amnesty International, European Institutions Office."

FRANCE: Petition calls on French president to end the detention of migrant children

La Cimade, with Réseau Education sans frontières (RESF), Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH), Anafé, MRAP, Syndicat des avocats de France (SAF), France terre d’asile and ASSFAM has launched a petition calling on the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, to put an end to child migrants' detention.

EU: Border management going virtual (EUobserver, link):

"Internal security and migration are merging under the guise of border management as the EU seeks to tighten controls on who leaves and enters the bloc.

Krum Garkov, who heads the Tallinn-based EU agency that oversees large-scale IT systems, described the merger as a fundamental shift that will also make border controls virtual.

"Border management today is going through a very fundamental transformation," he said earlier this week at a conference organised by Forum Europe in Brussels.

His agency, known as eu-Lisa, is also set for an overhaul, with the European Commission floating a bill next week to beef up its mandate."

EU: European Council meeting (22 and 23 June 2017) – Conclusions (EUCO 8/17, pdf):

"Today the European Council focused on strengthening Europe and protecting its citizens through effective measures to fight terrorism and develop its common security and defence, to ensure its economic development in a globalised world, to tackle migration and to protect its external borders. A strong and determined Union is the best way to promote our values and interests, support a rules-based multilateral system and mobilise partners for a positive climate policy. It will also help shape globalisation in order to reap the benefits of open markets while protecting against unfair practices and promoting the social, environmental, health and consumer standards that are central to the European way of life. The European Council paid tribute to Helmut Kohl, Honorary Citizen of Europe, who passed away on 16 June 2017."

And see: EU: European Council wants industry to develop automated censorship tools and "address the challenge" of encryption

EU: “E-smuggling”: Europol steps up efforts against online-assisted migrant crossings (Matthias Monroy, link):

"According to the EU police agency, in the past year 17,459 people operated as “human traffickers”. In the majority of cases, refugees and their facilitators communicate using Facebook or Telegram. Seizing of electronic evidence is thus to take on a greater role in investigations.

Last year, the EU police agency Europol received reports of 1,150 social media accounts apparently used by refugees to facilitate their entry into or travel through the European Union. This information is based on figures (PDF) published by the European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC) at Europol for 2016. The number of incriminated accounts in 2015 was just 148."

And see: Statewatch Analysis: Policing the internet: from terrorism and extremism to “content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees” (pdf, March 2016) by Chris Jones

ITALY: Rome’s mayor adopts anti-migrant stance (New Europe, link):

"Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has warned that the Italian capital is facing a new migrant emergency.

“We can’t afford new arrivals,” she wrote in a letter sent to Italy’s Interior Ministry. “Rome’s reception capacity is on its knee” and new arrivals would have “devastating social costs”.

As reported by local and international media, this was not Raggi’s view in December when she spoke at an event hosted by the Roman Catholic Church to showcase positive responses to refugees in European cities."

EU: Rescue organizations in Italy under pressure (Deutsche Welle, link):

Video: "There are over ten NGO-run boats patrolling the coast of Libya to help thousands of refugees. But Frontex, the European border control and coast guard agency, thinks they are playing into the hands of smugglers."

EU: Arrival of migrants in May: Numbers in Italy and Greece higher than month ago (Frontex, link):

"There were around 27 000 detections of illegal border crossings on the four main migratory routes into the EU in May. The total number of detections in the first five months of 2017 fell 75% from the same period of last year to 84 000, although the number of migrants arriving in Italy remained above the figures from a year ago."

EU-HUNGARY: Hungary is Taking European Values for a Ride (Human Rights Watch, link):

"Under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the Fidesz government has repeatedly undermined the rule of law, as well as checks and balances of the executive through the courts, media, and civil society. This year those attacks have intensified, with a law aimed at shutting down a reputable academic institution, the Central European University, another to curb the work of foreign-funded nongovernmental groups inspired by Russia’s foreign agents law, and a third that doubles down on the country’s abusive border regime for asylum seekers.

Yet Fidesz’ membership of the EPP [European People's Party] has helped shield Hungary from meaningful European Union action by blocking resolutions in the parliament aiming to address serious rule of law and human rights concerns, despite the fact that the government’s actions breach not only European values, but those of the EPP itself. Those values include respect for rule of law and human rights and encouraging a vibrant civil society.

(...)

By letting Fidesz take the country down an authoritarian path without any tangible consequences, the EU has signalled that other EU states can do the same.

If [Manfred] Weber [chair of the EPP] really wants to bring about positive changes both in Hungary and Poland he should urge EPP to reassess Fidesz’s membership in EPP, and consider expelling the party."

CoE: Anti-racism and discrimination experts publish annual Europe survey (Human Rights Europe, link):

"Surging nationalist populism, the integration of migrants and the response of European governments to Islamist terrorism, are key developments confirmed in the 2016 annual report of the european Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

“The rise of populist politics in today’s Europe is deeply worrying, especially when directed against the minorities, including migrants and refugees,” said Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. “I call on all responsible politicians to do everything they can to stop this dangerous trend and to work towards creating inclusive societies.”

The Chairperson of the ECRI, Christian Åhlund, noted the rise of hate speech in political and media discourse: “It is not enough to criminalize hate speech and monitor it; we need to actively counteract it. Internal codes of ethics for media and parliamentarians should foresee sanctions for its use. Political, religious, cultural elites, artists and sports celebrities must actively engage in counter-speech.”"

See: European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI): Annual report on ECRI's activities covering the period from 1 January to 31 December 2016 (pdf)

Is Greece ready to receive asylum seekers under the Dublin system? (Human Rights Centre Blog, link)

"On the occasion of Refugee Week, this blog entry aims to provide an overview of the reception conditions for asylum seekers in Greece under the prism of the so-called Dublin system. The Dublin system consists of regulations which purport to streamline the handling of asylum claims amongst most European Union (EU) member states and a small number of other non-member states. With a few exemptions, the core principle of these rules is simple: the member state responsible for an asylum claim will be the state through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU.

(...)

In light of these developments, asylum seekers in Greece are in need of receiving legal assistance during the prolonged and stressful stages of their claim for asylum. The systemic failures they face are barely addressed by NGOs, legal practitioners and grassroots solidarity movements. In response to that need, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association set up the Athens Legal Support Project on 10 April 2017. The Project brings together a diverse pool of UK-based lawyers with the aim of working closely with a Community Centre in Athens and Greek lawyers to advise asylum seekers in relation to the Greek asylum process, relocation, family reunification and other issues arising from the Dublin system."

EU: Immigrants stuck between rhetoric and reality (New Europe, link):

"Migration will continue to be rein among the most favourite topics of any kind of populist in Europe. Based on sentimental grounds, it’s an issue used strictly for national electoral gains, ignoring the fact that Europe’s population is aging and EU economies need to renew their labour forces.

While politicians find it convenient and easy to hide behind alarming slogans concerning the Islamisation of Europe and the potential threat of immigration to national values, the economic world holds a different view.

Finance ministers, bankers and industry leaders constantly express concern about looming worker shortages in EU economies. They started sounding the alarm bells several years ago."

Are You Syrious (21.6.17)

EU

"Six countries in the European Union - Chech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia — are currently working on a military pact in order to be able to unite and coordinate their military forces in case another wave of refugees hit the EU. More details is hopefully, if not to say not hopefully, to come about this extremely terrible and mean idea. At this point it is known that the defense ministers from the six Central European countries promised closer cooperation over the migration crisis, including using armed forces where necessary.

The group, which includes two countries, currently being sued by the European Commission for refusing to participate in the E.U.’s internal resettlement mechanism, said this would allow countries to have control over who is entering their borders. Control and alienation, again, instead of understanding and solidarity towards people who’s homes aren’t as safe places as their own."

Lesvos

"A terrible incident has been reported from Moria detention center. A resident in the camp was today beaten up by police, and after that the police tried to delete everyone’s photos from the incident. Fortunately, they didn’t succeed in doing so."

Germany

"Since the EU Commission advised the member states to resume with the Dublin III transfers to Greece, Germany has sent them 50 cases to deport back. But the Greek ministry hasn’t answered yet, which means that Germany can’t transfer the people.

The situation is similar for returning people back to Italy during the same legislation, of the more than 6700 requests made by Germany only 370 people have been sent back. This has various reasons like courts blocking the deportation or there’s no EURODAC hit for the persons. Further Germany is not sending requests for families with children under three years. Tweets to follow in German."

Greece urged by European Court of Human Rights stop deportation (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The European Court of Human Rights is urging Greek authorities to hold off on deporting a Pakistani national who was due to be sent back to Turkey, from where he had traveled to Greece.

The man, whose name has not been publicized for his own protection, is being held at a migrant detention center on the island of Lesvos."

German deportations to Afghanistan to restart next week: reports (DW, link)

"Just weeks after a spate of attacks in Kabul forced Germany to halt deportations to Afghanistan, plans for more flights are reportedly afoot. Failed Afghan asylum-seekers could be forced home as early as next week."

Refugee campaigners launch legal challenge over Home Office 'failure' to implement Dubs scheme (Independent, link): "Help Refugees accuse Government of adopting 'seriously defective' process of measuring local councils' capacity to take in child refugees."

The way asylum seekers are treated in the UK is a silent scandal (Guardian, link):

"We may be on different sides of the table, but legal aid lawyers like me feel the anxiety of the Home Office caseworkers who lose sleep over a failing system."

EU: European Council wants industry to develop automated censorship tools and "address the challenge" of encryption

- Draft conclusions for 22-23 June meeting also back multi-billion euro military reserach programme
- Migration: "Training and equipping the Libyan Coast Guard is a key component of the EU approach and should be speeded up"

EU: Say yes to human mobility and no to Fortress Europe (EurActiv, link):

"EU leaders will this week meet to agree, once more, on ways to keep migrants out of the EU. Out of sight may be out of mind but such a policy is only encouraging the deaths and suffering of tens of thousands of people, warns Leila Bodeux.(...)

No walls, no human rights abuses, no coast guards or threat of return will stop desperate people from searching for a dignified life in Europe, no matter how deadly the attempt may be.(...)

The time is ripe to anchor policies in facts and evidence, rather than in fear and quick fixes.

Europe has the moral duty and the material means to welcome, protect, promote and integrate people in need. There are plenty of tools to open efficient, safe and legal pathways to Europe, such as humanitarian visas, resettlement, community sponsorship, humanitarian corridors, and family reunification.

In these unsettling times, Europe can take strong global leadership and promote a fair and humane world by dismantling old, stiff Fortress Europe and by investing in a modern and dynamic, welcoming Europe that fosters human mobility.

This is the future."

EU: The EU-Turkey Refugee Deal and the Not Quite Closed Balkan Route (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, pdf) by Bodo Weber:

"The effect of the two measures [the closure of the Balkan route and the EU-Turkey deal] on the Balkan route has been threefold: First, the number of refugees and migrants moving along the route has dropped dramatically, but tens of thousands still succeed to transit; second, the route has been redirected, with the southern entry point shifting from the Greek islands to Bulgaria’s land border with Turkey; and third, the form of transit has shifted back to the use of smugglers. The three EU member states located at the southern entry (Bulgaria) and northern exit (Hungary, Croatia) of the Balkan route have reacted to the inability to completely close the route with intensified efforts of systematic push-backs of refugees and migrants. Bulgaria has done so with limited success, the other two have been more successful. The attempts to physically close the Balkan route, especially in the case of Hungary, have included changes to asylum legislation that, taken together with the physical push-backs, amount to the systematic violation of human rights and the systematic violation of domestic, EU and international laws and conventions and constitutes a departure from core EU values."

UK: 28 Days Later… The Rule that Leaves New Refugees in the UK Destitute (one small window, link):

"For the lucky few, being granted refugee status should come as a relief. Instead, it is often the start of a new ordeal. The challenges that lie ahead for new refugees include integration, finding work, learning English, homelessness, medical care and racism. Yet these problems are exacerbated by the growing destitution among new refugees, who have not been granted this status under a special government resettlement scheme, such as that for some Syrian refugees.

In early 2017, the Red Cross reported a 10% increase in the number of destitute asylum seekers and refugees they helped in 2016, compared to 2015: 21% had been granted refugee status. The number of hungry refugees sleeping rough across the country is growing."

And see: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees: Refugees Welcome? The Experience of New Refugees in the UK (April 2017, pdf)

SERBIA: Welcome to refugee purgatory on the Hungary border (IRIN, link):

"Thousands of migrants and refugees trying to reach northern Europe have become trapped in Serbia since neighbouring countries sealed their borders in early 2016. After months of living in squalid conditions in abandoned buildings or overcrowded reception centres, many attempt to cross into Hungary. Few succeed.

Filmmaker Jaime Alekos spent two months earlier this year interviewing dozens of migrants, many of them unaccompanied minors, who described being caught near the border by Hungarian police, beaten brutally, and forced back into Serbia. Their accounts are consistent with reports from Médecins Sans Frontières teams working in Serbia who regularly treat migrants for injuries inflicted by Hungarian border patrols. The abuse and pushbacks appear to be systematic and ongoing. This atmospheric film captures the migrants’ testimonies as well as their grim living conditions in Serbia."

European Court of Justice: Advocate General Sharpston considers that an applicant for international protection can challenge a Member State's decision to transfer him to another Member State on the basis that the 'take charge request' sent by the first Member State was not made within the time limits set out under EU law (press release, pdf):

"In the Advocate General's opinion, the Dublin III Regulation, the relevant legislation, is no longer a purely inter-State mechanism and the operation of time limits has substantive implications for the applicants and the Member States concerned."

See: Opinion in Case C-670/16 (pdf)

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