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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
26.3-2.4.18
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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
Italy summons ambassador in diplomatic row after French police cross border to test migrant for drugs - Foreign ministry describes behaviour as 'unacceptable' and warns future cooperation has been undermined (Independent,link):

"Italy summoned the French ambassador for consultations on Saturday after armed French border patrol agents used an Italian train station to force a Nigerian train passenger to provide a urine sample for a drug test.

France said it had a right to use the facility at the Bardonecchia train station west of Turin, citing a 1990 agreement.

But Italy shot back, saying just this month it had told French customs authorities that the station room was now off limits because a humanitarian aid group was there to provide care and counselling for migrants seeking to make the dangerous Alpine crossing into France."

And: French armed officers spark Italy migrant row (BBC News, link): "French border agents entered - armed - the clinic run in Bardonecchia, forcing a migrant to a urine test and intimidating our doctor and the mediators and lawyers," the medical organisation which operates a clinic at the premises, Rainbow for Africa, said."

Migration control must be at heart of next EU-Africa pact, says EU (EurActiv, link):

"The EU will put migration and security at the heart of its agenda in talks on a successor to the Cotonou Agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific nations (ACP), a leading EU official said on Monday (26 March).

“The EU’s new partnership with Africa must do more with migration [policy]. We must partner with Africa to fight trafficking and migrant smuggling,” said Koen Vervaeke, managing director for Africa at the European External Action Service (EEAS) at the Chatham House think-tank in London.

“However, we also want to improve mechanisms for the legal migration of Africans to come to Europe.”

Talks between the EU and ACP community will begin later this year on a successor to the Cotonou agreement, the EU’s 20-year Partnership Agreement with the 78 nations, which was signed in Cotonou, Benin, in 2000.

The new agreement will also address growing inward migration to African countries."

AIDA reports on Greece and Turkey (30.3.18):

"Key developments in Greece

Cases of alleged push backs at the Greek-Turkish land border of Evros have been systematically reported. According to these allegations, the Greek authorities follow a pattern of arbitrary arrest, de facto detention in police stations close to the borders, and transfer to the border, accompanied by the police, where the push backs occur."

See: Full report: Greece (pdf)

"Key developments in Turkey

Unlawful push backs along the Turkey-Syria border, as well as allegations of unlawful returns at other land borders, have continued throughout 2017. Incidents refer to the use of violence and shootings against people entering the territory."

See: Full report: Turkey (pdf)

EU: Fundamental Rights Agency: Under watchful eyes: biometrics, EU IT systems and fundamental rights (pdf)

"Sharing data with third countries infringes on the privacy of the person concerned. In the case of persons in need of international protection, it may endanger their safety or the safety of their family members. Interoperability will make access to data easier and therefore increase the risk that data are unlawfully shared with third countries."

And see: It would totally help, EU told, if data we held on migrants was accurate (The Register, link): "The European Union has been warned to sort out data quality in its IT systems that manage asylum and migration, and improve efforts to ensure people know how to exercise their personal data rights."

Are You Syrious (31.3.18, link):

FEATURE

A Change.org petition on behalf of Italian photojournalist Mauro Donato to be released from his detainment in Serbia is underway. Although the efficacy of such crowdfunded petitions is still up in the air, it is a good initiative to keep people informed about the peculiar and suspicious circumstances under which Mr. Donato was put into jail. As a reminder, the photojournalist had been near Šid, documenting and learning about the situation of people waiting there. Several weeks ago, he was arrested on the basis of robbing several refugees of the equivalent of 2.50 euro.(...)

GREECE

"According to the Aegean Boat Report,

“One boat picked up outside Mytilíni, Lesvos south, 07.00 by British Frontex Valiant.
64 people.
26 children
17 women
21 men

Two boats arrived on Samos this morning at first light, picked up by HCG outside Samos, carrying approximately 100 people.”

Samos Volunteers report on the shameful state greeting the new arrivals (...)"

UK: This Is What A Forced Deportation Sounds Like When It Goes Wrong (Huffpost, link) with a very distressing video:

"An audio recorded by HuffPost UK reveals the grim reality of that attempted forced deportation. It is a 20-minute recording of the incident, between a man, who was referred to as Abdul, and at least five border police officers."

CoE: The Commissioner intervenes before the European Court of Human Rights on cases concerning alleged pushbacks of migrants at Spain’s border (link):

"Today the Commissioner published updated written observations that he submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in two cases concerning returns of migrants from the Spanish city of Melilla to Morocco. The cases were referred to the Grand Chamber last January.

The present new observations reiterate the conclusions contained in the Commissioner’s initial submission of November 2015, but also take account of the Commissioner’s subsequent country monitoring work on the subject matter.

The Commissioner underscores that all the information available points to the existence of an established practice whereby Spain’s border guards summarily return to Morocco migrants who attempt to enter Melilla by climbing the fence which surrounds the city. “Such returns take place outside of any formal procedure and without identification of the persons concerned or assessment of their individual situation”, he writes. “This practice, to which the legal amendments adopted in Spain in March 2015 aim at providing legal underpinning, prevents the persons concerned from effectively exercising their right to seek international protection.”

And see: Third party intervention by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (pdf)

The prosecutor’s case against the rescue ship Open Arms (openmigration.org, link):

"The rescue ship Open Arms has been seized after failing to turn over 218 migrants rescued at sea to the Libyan Coast Guard. The ship’s captain, the mission leader, and the director of the Spanish NGO have been accused of criminal conspiracy and aiding illegal immigration by the same prosecutor who had accused NGOs before the seizure of the Iuventa. We are at a critical point in the tug of war between the Italian Ministry of the Interior and those NGOs rescuing migrants out at sea. Here is what the document says, what the prosecution says, and what the NGO says." (see more)

EU-MED: Statement by 29 academics on Italy seizing the rescue boat Open Arms (pdf):

"Italy should cease its policy of promoting, directing and enforcing returns to Libya with immediate effect, and should cease prosecuting actors who deliver people rescued at sea to a place of safety; In case Italy fails to do so:

1. The UN Security Council should be seized to consider Italy’s actions a threat to international peace and security; to call upon Italy to cease its violations of international law; and to promote a coordinated approach to SAR in the Mediterranean which does not include exposing rescued persons to the risk of grave human rights violations;

2. Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Ethiopia – being the the African Union Member States that are currently members of the UN Security Council – whose citizens are directly affected by Italy’s violations of international law, should propose an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council to this end;

3. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should proprio motu open an investigation concerning high-ranking Italian authorities as to their complicity in crimes against humanity taking place in Libya;

4. Each Member State of the Council of Europe should consider filing an inter-state complaint against Italy at the European Court of Human Rights."

Greece: Concern on islands as hundreds reach Lesvos (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Authorities on the Aegean islands were on standby on Wednesday after nearly 300 migrants reached Lesvos on eight boats following several days without new arrivals from neighboring Turkey.

Apart from the 295 people who landed on Lesvos, another 50 migrants arrived on Kos."

And The Hope Project report from Lesvos: "Busy Day -Spring is starting; 34 people arrived this evening in Eftalou, everyone is safe and well. That's the 9th boat since last night!! over 350 people in 24 hours!"

Europe to extend qualifications ‘passports’ for refugees (euractiv, link):

"A Council of Europe project to help refugees to have their qualifications recognised abroad was extended to include more countries on Wednesday (28 March).

France, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and Armenia will participate in the second phase of the three-year project, joining Greece, Norway, Italy and the United Kingdom from the first phase, the project’s chief, Sjur Bergan, announced at a news conference.

“When you flee your country, do you think of taking your diploma with you?” Bergan asked."

A Reply to Pragmatists on Mediterranean Migration: Be More Realistic (Regugees Deeply, link):

"In response to a recent proposal on how Italy can combine effective migration control with human rights, policy expert Giulia Lagana argues that the plan lacks the very political realism that it accuses the human rights community of neglecting."

Court of auditors to assess EU funds for refugees in Turkey (euobserver, link);

"The EU Court of Auditors is conducting an audit of the EU facility for refugees in Turkey, it announced Tuesday. The €3bn fund was established in January 2016 to support humanitarian and non-humanitarian activities for refugees, mainly Syrians, in Turkey. The European Commission said earlier this month that a new fund was needed at the end of the current one. Auditors will assess whether the fund is providing "effective support".

Spanish NGO boat bosses face jail for rescuing Libya refugees (euobserver, link):

"Gerard Canals, operation officer at the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, is not afraid of jail. Earlier this month, the NGO helped save more than 200 people from drowning in the central Mediterranean.

"I may go to prison but I am not really worried because we did nothing wrong," he told EUobserver on Tuesday (27 March) in Brussels.

Canals, along with the captain of the NGO rescue ship, as well as the head of the mission, face 15 year prison sentences and millions of euros in fines for their actions, according to the NGO.

The chief prosecutor of Catania, Carmelo Zuccaro, has accused them of trafficking for having refused to hand people rescued over to the Libyans."

Greece: Migrants set fires to protest transfer to reception center from hotels (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Migrants rioted at a reception center in Oinofyta, north of Attica, on Monday night, setting fires to protest their transfer there from temporary accommodation in Attica hotels."

European Union steps up its efforts to become the global leader on addressing climate-related security risks (SIPRI,link):

"On 26 February 2018 the European Union (EU) adopted its latest Council Conclusions on Climate Diplomacy following a Council Meeting of Foreign Ministers in Brussels. These Council Conclusions are much more action-oriented than those adopted previously. They illustrate not only that the EU is stepping up its efforts to become a leading global actor when it comes to fulfilling the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, but also that the EU is now placing far greater emphasis on the need to address and mitigate security risks posed by climate change. This essay discusses what is new in the recent Council Conclusions and puts these updates into context. It also discusses the key steps required for the EU to strengthen its work to mitigate climate-related security risks."

EU-Turkey Summit: Migration Agenda: EU, it’s time to act! (Euromed Rights, link):

"Ahead of this Monday’s EU-Turkey summit in Varna (Bulgaria), EuroMed Rights calls on the European leaders to reconsider the “EU-Turkey deal” on migration.

Commenting on the issue, EuroMed Rights’ President, Michel Tubiana, says:

“We are very worried on the manner the cooperation with Turkey is being hailed as a success over those last two years when it is widely known that the decline in the number of irregular EU arrivals from Turkey doesn’t mean that lives are saved but that people wishing to leave Turkey are prevented from doing so. European funding is contributing to deny people the right to access the EU through legal channels, if not supporting the running of detention sites.

We have warned against the detrimental effect of the externalisation of EU’s migration and asylum policies over the past two years. The adoption of the EU-Turkey declaration, a real ‘pact of shame’,...

Is Turkey going too far to stop migrant boats? BBC News video showing Turkish Coast Guard attacking refugees in a boat (link)

Pakistanis among top failed asylum seekers in Germany (geo.tv, link):

"The largest numbers of failed applicants who could not be repatriated because they had no papers were from India (5,743), Pakistan (4,943), Afghanistan (3,915) and Russia (3,828), publishing group Funke Mediengruppe reported, citing an interior ministry internal report.

The nationalities of nearly 3,800 applicants were registered as “unclear”, including people such as Palestinians and Kurds who did not have a country to which they could be deported, the report said."

Greece: Dead migrants found in Alexandroupoli village (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The decomposed bodies of a man and a woman were found in a building in the abandoned village of Potamos in the region of Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, on Monday morning.

Initial reports said that authorities are working on the assumption that the two people were undocumented migrants, aged between 35 and 40, and were the victims of a criminal act as investigators found signs of a struggle."

Fewer deportations from Germany due to lack of travel documents (DW, link)

"The number of migrants who cannot be deported rose in Germany in 2017. Authorities often struggle to obtain the relevant travel documents from their countries of origin, according to a report."

Refugee centres in Bulgaria have 17% occupancy - state agency head (IBNA, link):

"Occupancy in refugee centres in Bulgaria is 17 per cent, with about 850 people accommodated, the head of the State Agency for Refugees Petya Purvanova said on March 26, 2018.

Since the beginning of 2018, about 270 people have sought protection, Purvanova said in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.

Purvanova said that since 2013, about 62 000 foreigners seeking international protection had passed through the State Agency for Refugees' centres".

Migrants take new Balkan route through Bosnia (euractiv, link)

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