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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
20-24.9.17
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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
Greece: Court decisions pave way for first forcible returns of asylum-seekers under EU-Turkey deal (AI, link):

"Two Syrian refugees are at risk of being forcibly returned to Turkey after Greece’s highest administrative court rejected their final appeals against earlier rulings declaring their asylum claims inadmissible. This could set a dangerous precedent for future returns of asylum-seekers under the EU-Turkey deal, Amnesty International said.(...)

“Today - for the first time since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal - Greece, acting on behalf of the entire EU, took a conscious decision which will result in two refugees being sent to a country which is already struggling to meet the basic needs of almost three million other refugees,” said John Dalhuisen.

“Until such time as asylum-seekers and refugees can be guaranteed effective protection in Turkey, EU countries must stop sending them there.”"

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "This judgment could lead to mass forced returns to Turkey. And could also lead to thousands of Dublin returns to Greece from other EU Member States with the country being used as a detention state."

Greece: Lesvos (Eric Kempson reports, link): "Lesvos so far this month 49 boats have arrived, total 2,122 people."

Also according to Greek Ministry figures (22.9.17): the number of refugees held in Section B, Moira, Lesvos: "pre-return detention centres" has risen from 150 (14.9.17) to 165 and in Kos has risen from 150 to 168,

Are You Syrious (23.9.17, link)

Turkey’s high tech border wall nearly completed

"LoGcal news reports that the concrete barrier between Turkey and Syria will be completed by the end of September. They have so far completed 731 kilometres and have 97 to go.

Modular walls are being erected along the Turkish-Syrian borderline with seven-ton mobile blocks, two meters wide and three meters high. The blocks have also been topped with one-meter-high razor wire.

An electronic layer consists of close-up surveillance systems, thermal cameras, land surveillance radar, remote-controlled weapons systems, command-and-control centers, line-length imaging systems and seismic and acoustic sensors.
The advanced technology layer of the project includes wide area surveillance, laser destructive fiber-optic detection, surveillance radar for drone detection, jammers and sensor-triggered short distance lighting systems."

Black Sea

The search for bodies continued today in the Black Sea and it has now been confirmed that 42 people, including children, have died. Volunteers state that better communication with rescue teams will help to prevent further catastrophes such as this. Saad Kasem of United Rescue Aid has asked the people who are travelling to maintain contact whenever possible.

We are volunteers in rescue and refugee assistance, and we will not stop a moment from our work, please contact us to help save the lives of your children. +46 8 559 253 50 Alarmphone United rescue aid."

Greece: Hot spot staff warn of strain as arrivals spike (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Amid concerns over a rise in migrant arrivals from Turkey, staff at Greece’s reception and identification centers (RICs), commonly known as “hot spots,” wrote to Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas to complain about deteriorating conditions on the island facilities.

In their letter, workers warned about shortages in medical personnel following the government’s decision to terminate cooperation with humanitarian organizations and pass on responsibility for recruitments to the Health Ministry.

“For about a month in mid-summer, the Kos RIC was left without a single nurse for a population of 850 with a high morbidity rate,”

And: Overland arrivals: Police say dozens of Syrian families crossing into Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Police say a total of 168 Syrian refugees have crossed into Greece over its land border with Turkey. Police say that while border crossings, over land or sea, are everyday occurrences what is unusual in this case is that the refugees are all families and that traffickers are not involved."

See also: European Commission - latest stats: Hotspots (pdf) and Relocation (pdf)

Greece: Almost a third of UNHCR accommodation empty while refugees and asylum-seekers continue to sleep on the streets

In Greece the current occupancy rate of UNHCR accommodation is 71.2%. This means almost a third of places are empty.This is not because there is no one to fill them.

Volunteers and workers on the ground in Greece know that there are refugees and asylum seekers sleeping on the streets and in squats who have been trying to get accommodation for months.

See: Weekly accommodation update: September 19, 2017 (pdf) from UNHCR, Norweigan Refugee Council, Terre des hommes, Care, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.

Migrant Boat Capsizes Off Libya, Leaves 5 Dead, 90 Missing (NYT, link):

"At least five migrants died and more than 90 were missing after their boat capsized off Libya's western coast, a major embarkation point for the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe, the Libyan coast guard said Thursday.(...)

At least five migrants died and more than 90 were missing after their boat capsized off Libya's western coast, a major embarkation point for the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe, the Libyan coast guard said Thursday."

Armed group ‘seeks legitimacy’ with Tripoli migrant deal (euractiv, link):

"A powerful armed group, known for smuggling people from Libya, is seeking legitimacy and state security jobs from the Tripoli government in exchange for stopping migrant boats from leaving the coast of Sabratha for Italy, a senior group member said.

The group, the Anas al-Dabbashi brigade, struck a deal with Libya’s United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) this summer to clamp down on trafficking, the senior brigade member, who gave his name as Mohamed, told Reuters."

Asylum seekers create EU 'limbo' nation (euobserver, link):

"The number of asylum seekers "in limbo" in the EU is likely to have become greater than the combined populations of Cyprus and Malta, estimates indicate.

More than 1.1 million of the 2.2 million people who sought asylum in the EU and associated countries Norway and Switzerland in 2015 and 2016 still do not know if they will get it, according to a new survey by US pollster Pew."

Direct Provision in Ireland: the holding pen for asylum seekers (IRR News, link):

"In the first of a series, asylum campaigner John Grayson examines the Direct Provision (DP) system for asylum seekers in Ireland. Part-two will examine the private companies involved in providing services under DP."

GREECE: Migrant rescue led to tension with Turkish coast guard, sources say (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Coast guard officers on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos have said that a migrant rescue officially reported as having been carried out without incident had actually involved serious tension with Turkish counterparts on Wednesday.

Sources on the island speaking to Kathimerini said that a Hellenic Coast Guard patrol boat called out to rescue an undisclosed number of migrants and refugees on the maritime border between Greece and Turkey was harassed by Turkish counterparts when the Greek officers refused to turn the rubber boat over to them.

According to their claims, a second Turkish coast guard boat joined the first after the Greek crew refused to comply with its demand and started making dangerous and aggressive maneuvers around the Greek vessel. Its antics were such that the rope attaching the rubber dinghy to the Greek coast guard boat was severed.

The harassment reportedly continued all the way into Lesvos’s port in Mytilene, where a Hellenic Navy boat thwarted the continued advance of the Turkish vessels."

Without Good Interpreters, Refugees Are Lost in an Information Void (Refugees Deeply, link):

"Humanitarian interpreters are in short supply, undermining effective refugee response in countries like Greece, writes Julie Jalloul of Translators without Borders, which is launching a new platform to help connect interpreters and refugee support groups."

Dubs scheme refugee children left on hold for a year in Greece (Guardian, link)

"Group of up to 60 unaccompanied children expecting to come to UK have heard nothing about their applications."

EU charting the wrong course in migration policy (euobserver, link):

"European officials have faced strong criticism for prioritising security interests over the rights of vulnerable people, in their efforts to stem migration flows.

In particular, many perceive the EU, which measures the success of its efforts in the reduced number of people crossing the Mediterranean, to be guilty of hypocrisy as it claims that its efforts are informed by "strong policies to protect human rights and ensure dignified living conditions for migrants in countries of transit". (...)

The EU and its member states have been impelled to work with problematic partner governments in order to 'do something' about migration. Particularly, the main approach has been to reinforce the capacity of priority countries - like Libya, Niger and Chad - to control their borders and, as such, control Europe's.

Nevertheless, this kind of support not only overlooks the role that these regimes play in pushing people out in the first place, but also the manner in which they deal with migrants and refugees on their territory."

UN: Unlawful death of refugees and migrants (pdf): Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard:

The present report focuses on the mass casualties of refugees and migrants in the course of their flight. It addresses killings by both State and non-State actors, and denounces a quasi-generalized regime of impunity, worsened by an absence of accurate data on the dead and missing. The Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings calls urgently on States to address this human rights crisis by prioritizing the protection of the right to life in their migration and refugee policies.(...)

Other violations to the right to life result from policies of extraterritoriality amounting to aiding and assisting in the arbitrary deprivation of life, and from the failure to prevent preventable and foreseeable deaths, as well as the limited number of investigations into these unlawful deaths. The report also presents best practices in search and rescue operations and for the dignified treatment of the dead, but points out that States do not implement them as they should, and fail to resource them adequately.

"Governments around the world know that people will die attempting to cross dangerous border regions, including deserts, rivers and seas. Here, the conflict between human rights and migration control could not be clearer: migrants are supposed to be deterred from crossing a border because they might die. It is impossible to protect the right to life while simultaneously attempting to deter entry by endangering life. Nor is it acceptable to discourage exit out of countries where lives are endangered on the grounds that doing so saves lives from the dangers of border crossing: that is simply permitting a more secret death elsewhere." [emphasis added]

Greece: Lesvos mayor issues warning on refugee numbers (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos has written to the government and the European Commission asking that immediate action be taken to reduce the number of refugees on the island.

In the letter sent to European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos and Greek Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, Galinos says there are now more than 6,000 refugees and migrants on the island, which is far more than existing facilities can cope with."

Statewatch report: Greek Ministry report shows that as of morning of 19 September there were 5,916 refugees in camps on Lesvos. In the main camps there are 4,352 refugees which officially have a capacity of 2,330. 157 are being held in "Pre-return detention centres" (in Section B in Moria camp which has a capacity of 210) and 4 are held in detention at police stations.

The only other island with "Pre-return centres" is Kos with 165 refugees held (capacity 500)

A total of 13,038 refugees are on the Greek islands.

According to UNHCR 525 refugees arrived on Lesvos between 13-19 September.

Italy picks up more migrants (New Europe, link):

"Italy picked up another 2,000 migrants aiming to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the past week, while Libya’s coastguard rescued more than 3,000"

Migrants in Tunisia/Libya: MEPs to assess search and rescue operations (EP press release, link):

"A Civil Liberties Committee delegation will be in Tunisia from 18 to 22 September to assess cooperation in migration management between the EU and countries in the region.

MEPs will evaluate “search and rescue” operations in the Mediterranean and the current situation in Libya. They will discuss visa liberalisation and readmission agreements with national and local authorities, as well as representatives of the EU, other international bodies, and NGOs."

AGREEMENT WITH SUDANN ON REFUGEES: De Morgen reports the Belgian government is cooperating with the Sudanese government to identify and send home refugees via sweeps of the Brussels North train station. The International Criminal Court accuses Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir of genocide and the regime hosted Osama Bin Laden and other extremist groups. More in De Morgen.

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