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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
18-19.9.17
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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-AFRICA: New report says "development aid is misused and diverted through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa"

A new report by Global Health Advocates says that the EU's multi-billion euro 'Emergency Trust Fund for Africa', launched following the November 2015 Valletta Summit and designed to address "root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa", is prioritising "quick fixes driven by Europe’s short-term domestic priorities, with little involvement of local governments let alone civil society actors."

The EU’s militarisation of development aid (EurActiv, link):

"Security will be the keyword of the EU’s development policy in the near future.

On Thursday (14 September), the European Parliament gave a green light to start the discussion with other European institutions on the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP).

This program allows member states to intervene to prevent or address a crisis.

For the first time, it will be possible to use it for military purposes, especially in African countries plagued by instability. The European Commission announced it will receive €17.5 million to “address the terrorist threat in Middle East and North Africa”."

See also: The new European consensus on development: 'our world, our dignity, our future' (pdf) agreed 8 June 2016 and: European Consensus on Development (European Commission, link)

The Wrong Catch: Italy Imprisons Refugees Who Were Forced to Pilot Smuggling Boats At Gunpoint (The Intercept, link):

"When the refugees disembark at port in Sicily, those with wristbands are handed off to Italian police, who will interview them again and arrest the suspected smugglers, in an effort to break up the criminal networks that have brought over 85,000 people to Italy this year. Regardless of whether rescued by the coast guard or ships run by NGOs, every boatload of refugees that arrives in Sicily goes through a similar process.

The Italian press cheer these operations as a key part of the fight against illegal immigration, lionizing figures like Carlo Parini, a former mafia investigator who is now a top anti-human trafficking police officer in Italy. Parini leads a squad of judicial police in the province of Siracusa in eastern Sicily, one of several working under different provincial prosecutors, and his aggressive style has earned him the nickname “the smuggler hunter.”

There is only one problem: the vast majority of people arrested and convicted by these police are not smugglers. Almost 1400 people are currently being held in Italian prisons merely for driving a rubber boat or holding a compass. Most of them paid smugglers in Libya for passage to Europe and were forced to pilot the boat, often at gunpoint."

Greece: No School for Many Asylum-Seeking Kids (Human Rights Watch, link):

"Greece’s Education Ministry should move quickly to implement positive new plans for the education of asylum-seeking children on the Aegean islands and make schools accessible to all of them, Human Rights Watch said today. When the school year began on September 11, 2017, hundreds of asylum-seeking children who are being prevented from leaving the islands due to a European Union deal with Turkey remained out of school.

Greece will extend a program that provides special Greek classes and integration support for non-native speaking pupils to asylum-seeking children on the islands. But this program excludes children in the so-called refugee hotspots and other reception facilities who cannot obtain the proof of address required to enroll in school. To reach children in these facilities, the Education Ministry recently announced it would open afternoon classes at public schools on the islands."

SPAIN: €12 million more for Ceuta's border fence to "fulfil its purpose"

The Spanish interior minister, Juan Iganacio Zoido, announced on 12 September that a further €12 million will go to the border fence in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in north Africa bordering Morocco, as the fence does not currently "fulfil its purpose".

EU: Study on the treatment of tortured and traumatised asylum-seekers in eastern EU Member States

A study by the Hungarian Helsinki committee (May 2017) looks at the treatment of asylum seekers who are victims of torture or traumatised in eight EU Member States and finds that while EU legislation generally "provides sufficient guarantees", tortured or traumatised asylum-seekers are not being identified or treated because of "the lack of or improper transposition" of the EU's Reception Conditions and Asylum Procedures directives, or because of "the lack of actual implementation in practice".

BELGIUM: On the unfolding situation of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants sleeping rough in the streets of Brussels – Interview with Jolien Potemans Policy Officer at the Flemish Refugee Action who has been on location several times (ECRE, link):

"Informal refugee camps in cities – a (new) European reality? Reports of informal refugee camps and mounting police violence against the people inhabiting them are coming from all over Europe at the moment: Brussels, Paris and Rome. In an interview on the situation in Brussels, Jolien Potemans, Policy Officer at the Flemish Refugee Action, explains what is at stake for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants sleeping rough at the city’s Northern train station and how this problem is interlinked with national and European policies."

EU: Time limits for detention of asylum-seekers for the purpose of a 'Dublin transfer': judgment in Mohammad Khir Amayry case

"...a national legislation such as that in Sweden, which allows for a detention to be maintained for 3 or 12 months until the transfer is carried out, is at odds with the DRIII and the guarantees under Article 6 CFREU."

Libya's migration crisis is about more than just security (IRIN, link):

"There’s no shortage of news on Libya’s migration crisis, but there is a serious dearth of policy solutions.

Late last month, the International Organization for Migration announced what passes for good news at the moment: no deaths on the Mediterranean for 20 days. This followed reports, later denied, that Italy had been paying militias to prevent people from leaving Libya’s shores.

But the risk of drowning is far from the only danger facing migrants attempting the central Mediterranean route into Europe. Migrants are subject to arbitrary detention, arrest, harassment, bonded labour, slavery, and sexual exploitation.

And even as drowning numbers are down, IOM says there has been an increase in trafficking rather than smuggling on the central Mediterranean route – the former distinguished by the coercion and extortion that continues after arrival at the destination. This trend is partly because fewer Syrians (and migrants in general) are making the journey, so those plying the route are seeking ways to keep profits up – sub-Saharan African women appear to be paying a horrible price in this shift, finding themselves forced into the sex industry in greater numbers.

Human rights groups, humanitarians, and governments are naturally concerned, but some rights advocates feel the anti-trafficking policies of the European Union and others are more aimed at stopping migration entirely."

LIBYA: How Libya’s Fezzan Became Europe’s New Border

"European policymakers increasingly are looking at the Fezzan, Libya’s vast and scarcely populated south west, as their frontier against sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees traveling the Central Mediterranean route to Europe. In 2016, over 160,000 took this route from Libya on makeshift boats; most had entered through this region, which connects the country’s southern border with its coast. Several European countries, chiefly Italy, hope that stabilising the situation in the Fezzan and reviving its economy will help curb migrant flows."

ROMANIA: Desperate Europe-bound migrants turn to capricious Black Sea (EurActiv, link):

"While the arrival of exhausted migrants may be common on Mediterranean shores, it’s a rare sight on the Black Sea coastline. But a string of recent arrivals from Turkey suggests it may be emerging as part of a new ‘Romanian route’ to western Europe.

Shortly before dawn on Wednesday (13 September), around 150 people, a third of them children, were rescued in the Black Sea – the fifth migrant boat to be intercepted by Romanian authorities since mid-August.

The arrival of some 570 Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis in less than a month remains modest compared to the influx recorded in the Mediterranean.

In 2014, the last year of relative activity, close to 300 migrants crossed the Black Sea to reach Romania."

And: Romania braces for migrant influx (New Europe, link): "Romania police reported that 2,800 migrants were caught trying to illegally enter the country since the start of this year. This is an increase of 1,624 compared to the whole of 2016."

EU: Commission: Italy free to "lump migrants together with prisoners" in complaints system

The European Commission has said is up to the Member States to determine the national authority responsible for dealing with complaints about the activities of border guards working in Frontex operations, in response to a question from an MEP who asked whether it was right that Italy "lump migrants together with prisoners" by giving the role to the 'Italian Authority for the protection of the rights of people who are detained or deprived of liberty'.

Lampedusa migrants condemned by Mayor Salvatore Martello (Deutsche Welle, link):

"The mayor of the Italian island of Lampedusa, destination for many migrants setting off from Tunisia, complained on Sunday that his town was on the verge of societal collapse.

Groups of migrants were flouting laws, harassing women and getting drunk, Mayor Salvatore Martello said in an open letter to Italian news agency ANSA and in comments to Italian news outlets.

"Threats, harassments, thefts, Lampedusa is about to collapse," Martello wrote, calling for the closure of the "useless" migrant center on the island. "Police are powerless," he wrote.

(...)

His comments were rejected by his predecessor Nicolini, who told ANSA he was vastly overstating the problem and that there were very few thefts.

"This is an attempt to restore the climate of fear that existed on Lampedusa before my election," she was quoted as saying."

GERMANY: 2-3 October 2017, Berlin: ConAction Conference: A public platform for grassroots initiatives providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Greece and Turkey (link):

"Since 2015, more than one million people have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to the coastlines of Greece and Turkey. At present, there are still more than 60,000 refugees stranded in Greece and more than three million in Turkey, of which nearly half are children.

From the start of the current mass migration, refugees have to live under disastrous humanitarian conditions. Last winter was the second in which an alarming number of people had to survive in inadequate camps of tents - highlighting the failure to address this humanitarian crisis with European competency. Binding agreements, such as the Relocation Program and the Reunification of Separated Families Program, are only partly implemented and connected to long administrative processes. Basic humanitarian care for refugees in Turkey and Greece is mainly provided by private initiatives and small NGOs that receive little or no support from the EU or local governments.

Together with representatives of the civil society, the public and the political sphere, strategies and action plans will be developed. Participants are invited to inform themselves about the current refugee situation and receive up to date and first-hand factual information."

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