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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
8-10.3.17
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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
EU: Hotspots for refugees in Italy and Greece have led to "serious fundamental rights violations"

A major study on current EU policies and practices regarding refugees warns that the "hotspot" system of detaining, registering and processing migrants "has led to instances of serious fundamental rights violations in both Italy and Greece," and that the failure of EU Member States to meet their commitments under the relocation scheme should "be taken seriously as a threat to the rule of law at the EU level, which may warrant exploration, as well as formal enforcement action."

EU: Eurodac: over four million sets of fingerprints now held

The EU Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems recently published the annual report on the use of Eurodac, the EU database that holds the fingerprints of asylum-seekers in order to enforce the Dublin Regulation on responsibility for asylum applications. The number of fingerprint sets stored in the system has increased massively, by some 51%, growing from over 2.7 million at the end of 2014 to almost 4.1 million at the end of 2015.

EU: Council adopts child rights guidelines days after Commission recommends more child detention

On 6 March the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted a revised set of Guidelines on protecting and promoting the rights of children just days after the Commission adopted a Recommendation on returns policy that called for, amongst other things, stepping up the detention of children.

EU: New Statewatch briefing on cooperation between Frontex, non-EU states and international organisations

The purpose of cooperation between Frontex and third countries is principally to try to minimise the number of people arriving at the EU’s borders by extending the use of EU “border management” policies, techniques and technologies to those countries. Indeed, “measures in third countries” make up the first step of the “four-tier access control model” that was part of the EU’s original concept of ‘Integrated Border Management’. The other three were “border control, control measures within the area of free movement, including return)”.

This briefing provides a comparative overview of current agreements between Frontex and non-EU states and international organisations. It examines the overall framework for concluding such agreements, the types of agreements currently in force and their content, coordination and management of the agreements and other related issues such as forthcoming agreements.

Council of Europe: Italy should improve its asylum reception-capacity, prevent human trafficking and strengthen its child-protection system (CoE, link):

"“Italy should improve its asylum reception-capacity and integration policies, prevent human trafficking and combat corruption in the migration-related services sector” are the main recommendations in a report published today by the Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees, Ambassador Tomáš Bocek.

The Special Representative also stressed the need to strengthen the protection of refugee and migrant children; called upon the Italian authorities and the EU to expedite the examination of asylum claims and of relocation and family-reunification requests; and pointed to the risk that weaknesses in the system for voluntary and forced removals might be encouraging the arrival of more irregular economic migrants."

See: Report of the fact-finding mission to Italy by Ambassador Tomáš Bocek, Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees, 16-21 October 2016 (pdf)

EU: Council of the European Union: Resettlement, "Blue Card" (Legal migration) and Refugee rights

• Massive re-draft of Council position: Resettlement: Proposal for a Regulationl establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 (LIMITE doc no: 5332-17, pdf): With 150 Footnotes on Member State positions.

• "Blue Card": Proposal for a Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment (LIMITE doc no: 6633-17, pdf): With 150 Member State positions in Footnotes. Council developing its negotiating position.

• Social rights of refugees: Theme: Socio-Economic Rights of Asylum Seekers and Beneficiaries of International Protection (LIMITE doc no: 5405-17,pdf). Highly detailed Member State objections in Footnotes.

This affects the Reception Conditions Directive, Recast Dublin Regulation and Qualification Regulation.

Further restrictions on rights in Austria’s asylum reform streak (ECRE, link):

"A new reform proposal aiming to exclude asylum seekers from reception conditions (Basic Care) as soon as their application is rejected reaffirms Austria’s restrictive policy. The proposed measures reflect a continued effort of diminishing the rights of asylum seekers in Austria, following on from a recent Aliens Law reform proposal (FrÄG 2017).

“Politcians create the impression that in the area of asylum there is a permanent need for reform”, states Asylkoordination Österreich in its assessment of the latest legislative proposal affecting asylum seekers in Austria."

Poland: Draft amendment to the law on protection of foreigners – another step to seal Europe’s border (ECRE, link):

"In January Polish Minister of Interior Mariusz Blaszczak presented draft amendment to the law on protection of foreigners on the territory of Poland. He claimed that there is a need to response to the growing migration flow in Poland and to ensure public security. However, he failed to explain what kind of danger to public security asylum seekers create amid lacking evidence that the number of crimes perpetrated by foreigners in Poland has increased. Moreover, official statistics show that, for the past years the number of asylum applications lodged in Poland has not exceed 15 000 yearly and neither has it increased recently. Taking this into consideration, it seems that the draft amendment reflects the national and regional trend of portraying foreigners as security threat and closing borders to persons seeking protection rather than the actual response to some changed situation."

GERMANY: Parliament rejects government attempt to classify Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria as safe countries

"In the end, the vote wasn't even close. Led by federal states with left-leaning governing coalitions, a wide majority the Bundesrat shot down a law written by the government and passed by Germany's lower parliamentary chamber, the Bundestag. It would have declared the Maghreb states - Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria - "safe countries of origin" and thus allowed for expedited deportations of failed asylum seekers there.

Representatives of the federal government and the conservative-led state of Bavaria argued that the law was needed to prevent people wishing to migrate to Germany for economic reasons from misusing Germany's asylum legislation. They said only a tiny fraction of asylum applications by people from the three Maghreb states have been approved."

See: German Bundesrat says Maghreb states not safe for refugees (Deutsche Welle, link)

EU: CJEU Case C-638/16 PPU, X and X – Dashed hopes for a legal pathway to Europe (European Law Blog, link):

"On 7 March 2017, the CJEU announced its judgement in case C-638/16 PPU (X and X / Belgium) and dashed all hopes for an extensive interpretation of the EU Visa Code in the light of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. To summarize the facts of the case, X and X and their three small children are an Orthodox Christian family living in rebel-held Aleppo. In October 2016 X leaves Aleppo to apply for a visa with limited territorial validity ex Article 25(1) of the EU Visa Code at the Belgian embassy in Beirut (Lebanon). The application states that the aim of entry into Belgium is to apply for asylum...

The Court first reiterates that Regulation 810/2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code) was adopted on the basis of Art. 62 EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Council had the competence to adopt measures on visas for intended stays of no more than three months. The visa applications in question, however, were for visas with limited territorial validity with a view to a future application for asylum in Belgium. Hence, the applicants’ intended stay was not limited to 90 days – and their visa-application should not be considered under the Visa Code, but under national law. As the application thus falls outside the scope of EU law, according to the Court, the Charter of Fundamental Rights is not applicable either.

In the last sentences of its judgment, the Court also adds that allowing third country nationals to lodge applications for visas in order to apply for international protection in the Member State of their choice would undermine the Dublin system. With this remark, inserted as if it were an afterthought, the Court seems to reveal the true motivation behind the ruling in X and X: to save an already failing system…"

See: Judgment (pdf) and Press release (pdf): "Member States are not required, under EU law, to grant a humanitarian visa to persons who wish to enter their territory with a view to applying for asylum, but they remain free to do so on the basis of their national law."

UK: Home Office ends policy of automatic settlement for refugees after five years (Free Movement, link):

"The Home Office has announced a new policy of reviewing whether all refugees require protection at the end of a five year initial period of leave. The policy appears to be effective immediately for all refugee settlement applications, including for refugees already resident in the UK and who were expecting to qualify automatically for settlement.

Because refugees, employers and colleges can no longer assume a refugee will qualify for settlement, it will be harder for refugees to find work, commit to educational courses or simply settle down and rebuild their lives. Combined with the cuts to English language classes for refugees, one is left with the impression either that the Government does not want refugees to integrate or at least that there is no-one sufficiently senior at the Home Office who is responsible for thinking about integration.

Any refugees refused settlement under the new policy will in theory face detention and removal, although with the numbers of enforced removals and voluntary departures falling year on year this seems unlikely in practice. More likely they will be inducted by the Home Office into the twilight world of the “hostile environment”, unable to work, rent accommodation, drive, maintain a bank account and more."

And see: UK Home Office: Refugee Leave (pdf)

EU: European Council, 9 March: Conclusions by the President of the European Council: economy, security and defence, migration

"The European Council deliberated on the attached document. It was supported by 27 Members of the European Council, but it did not gather consensus, for reasons unrelated to its substance.

References to the European Council in the attached document should not be read as implying a formal endorsement by the European Council acting as an institution."

See: Conclusions by the President of the European Council (pdf). Poland blocked unanimous adoption of the conclusions due to its displeasure with the re-election of Donald Tusk as the President of the European Council. See: Poland reacts with fury to re-election of Donald Tusk (The Guardian, link)

And see: European Council, 9-10 March: draft conclusions including security, defence and migration plus EP study on commitments to date

EU: Austria proposes EU funding cuts for states opposing refugee distribution (New Europe, link):

"Solidarity is not a one-way street. So said Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern ahead of the EU summit in Brussels on March 9. The Social Democrat called for increased pressure on member states that continue to shirk their responsibility in the redistribution of refugees.

“In future, the money from the EU budget must be distributed more equally among the member countries,” Kern told German daily Die Welt.

“If countries continue to duck away from resolving the issue of migration, or tax dumping at the expense of their neighbours, they will no longer be able to receive net payments of billions from Brussels,” Kern said in the article."

EU: Opinion: Fortress Europe is designed to keep asylum seekers at bay (Deutsche Welle, link):

"A year ago, the European Union closed the Balkan route to migrants, then made a deal with Ankara to send newly arriving migrants and Syrian refugees in Greece to Turkey. The desired effect quickly became noticeable: the number of new arrivals sank drastically, putting a dampener on the illegal dealings of human traffickers.

The EU's southeastern external borders continue to be "protected," to use the terminology of several statements issued by heads of state. The goal is to stop "illegal migration." The land borders between Turkey and Greece, and between Serbia and Hungary had previously been sealed off with fences. The plan is working.

But "Fortress Europe" isn't working between Libya and Italy. Last year, more migrants embarked from Libya to Italy via the Mediterranean than ever before. The EU also wants to shut this route down, as stated in numerous summit declarations. Here too, the EU hopes to employ deterrent tactics. It used to be that EU marine units would save migrants from their unseaworthy boats and bring them to Italy. In future, the migrants are to be taken directly back to northern Africa, or better still, prevented from even making the journey. If that worked, then Fortress Europe would be perfect. Because then there would practically be no way for potential asylum seekers to reach EU territory - not on land, nor via sea."

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