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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
8-10.1.18
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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
EU: Common European Asylum System (CEAS): Qualification Regulation trilogue document

Four-column document outlining the institutions' positions and potential compromise text, for discussion in a secret trilogue meeting today (10 January 2017).

See: Qualification Regulation (pdf)

Council of the EU: READMISSION: Admission procedures for the return of Ethiopians from European Union Member States (LIMIITE doc no: 15762-17, pdf):

Note this is not a readmission agreement (to which the European Parliament would have to agree).

Hungary: Release Ahmed H and stop abusing terrorism laws (Amnesty, link):

"Ahmed has been labelled a terrorist and jailed for 10 years after using a megaphone to call for calm during clashes at the Hungarian border.

In August 2015, Ahmed left his family home in Cyprus to go and help his elderly parents and six other family members flee Syria and find safety in Europe. One month later, they found themselves among hundreds of refugees stranded at the Hungarian border after police fenced off the crossing with Serbia.

Clashes broke out as some refugees attempted to get through. Hungary’s police responded with tear gas and water cannon, injuring dozens. Some people threw stones, including Ahmed. But news footage also clearly shows Ahmed using a megaphone to call on both sides to remain calm.

For this, a Hungarian court found him guilty of an “act of terror”, under Hungary’s extremely vague counter-terrorism laws, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Does this sound like terrorism to you?"

EU: Eurodac: Austria dismisses fundamental concerns over coercive fingerprinting of six-year-olds

The European Commission's May 2016 proposal to revamp the Eurodac database includes provisions that would lower the age of fingerprinting for children from 14 to six and permit the use of coercion by national officials to take fingerprints or facial images "in duly justified circumstances that are permitted under national law."

In December 2017 the presidents of civil society organisations EuroMed Rights the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) wrote to Member States' representatives in the Council of the EU calling on them to oppose the lowered age for fingerprinting and the provisions on taking fingerprints and photos by force, arguing that "oercion of children in any kind of form is never acceptable."

Are You Syrious (8.1.18, link)

Feature

"The retrial for Ahmed H. began on Monday at the court in Szeged, Hungary. The second trial day is due on Wednesday this week, while the verdict should be delivered already on Friday.

At the first instance, Ahmed was found guilty for an “act of terror” committed during the clashes with Hungarian police at the border on September 15, 2015, and sentenced for 10 years in prison. Nevertheless, after his lawyers filed the complaint, the second instance court referred it back to the first level for “lack of consideration of contradictions in the evidence”.

What Ahmed was doing is protesting the policy of closed borders, with many others. The protest was held just a few hours before Hungary had closed the border and had made any crossing a criminal offense.(...)"

Greece

"People keep coming to Greece. On Monday evening, one boat with 62 people arrived in North Lesvos. Earlier, one boat arrived at Samos with 47 people on board."

Austria

"Part of the politicians in Austria, those from the left and center, are strongly opposing the idea of restrictions on refugees proposed by the far right leader who are now part of the government.

“It’s a sign of political failure when you’re not even trying to help people who come here achieve independence, but simply lock them up instead,” Social Democrat Jürgen Czernohorszky, Vienna’s city commissioner for integration, said in a statement. He also called current Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, as DW reports, “to distance himself from Strache’s ideas and get his coalition partner back in line.” (...)"

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reached 171,635 in 2017; Deaths Reach 3,116 (IOM, link):

"Geneva – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 171,635 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea during 2017, with just under 70 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. This compares with 363,504 arrivals across the region through the same period last year."

UNHCR figures for 2017 (1.1.18)

Total in 2017: 171,332: Arrivals in Italy: 119,249; Arrivals in Greece: 29,716; Arrivals in Spain: 23,253; Arrivals in Cyprus: 1,111. Dead/missing 3,061.

Libyan Coast Guard saves 270 migrants and recovers two dead (ANSA, link):

"The Libyan Coast Guard on Monday announced in a statement that it saved 270 migrants of "various African nationalities" aboard two boats, and recovered the bodies of two women in an area of sea off the coast of Gasr Garabulli (Castelverde), east of Tripoli.

The statement, posted on Facebook, said the operation was conducted Sunday by the patrol boat "Sabrata".

The migrants were taken to the Tripoli naval base "where they were provided with medical assistance and food under the supervision of the international medical organism, the International Organization for Migrants, and the High Commissioner for Refugees," the statement said, making an implicit reference to IOM and UNHCR."

UN raises probable death toll in migrant boat sinking to 64 (The Guardian, link):

"The UN migration agency now says 64 people likely lost their lives when a boat carrying migrants sank off Libya on Saturday. Initial reports had put the death toll much lower in what was the first such incident in 2018."

Sixty-four dead after dinghy sinks in Mediterranean (Guardian, link):

"Italian coastguard rescues 86 people from boat launched from Libya, including three-year-old girl whose mother drowned"

Greece: Patra port security an uphill battle as migrants eye ferries to Italy (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The situation in Patra, where hundreds of migrants and refugees are awaiting the opportunity to sneak onto a ferry to Italy, is “barely manageable,” a coast guard officer in the western port city has told Kathimerini.

“Safeguarding the port’s security is a battle,” he said, voicing concerns that the number of potential stowaways squatting in abandoned buildings around the port is growing."

France: Police attack migrant camp // La police attaque un camp de migrant-e-s (Calais Migrant Solidarity, link):

"In the afternoon of 7 January, police raided a small migrant camp near an old Lidl. Friends who were there wrote about the event from their experience:

Autonomous medics and other allies to migrant communities in the various fractional encampment jungles of Calais rushed to the site of the old Lidl camp on reports of a CRS police raid. Upon arrival, a mass of CRS police had situated in a line facing off against a crowd of migrants and allies, including a man they had injured in the attack who was found lying on the ground." (...)

FRANCE: Refugees still sleeping rough in Paris despite Macron’s promises (France 24, link):

"In his first six months as president, Macron stressed that France was a land of welcome for refugees, saying he wanted all of them off the streets by the end of 2017. But in January 2018 hundreds of refugees are still sleeping rough in Paris.

In July 2017 a freshly elected Emmanuel Macron said he wanted refugees “off the streets, out of the woods” by the end of the year. On the campaign trail he said France was honoured to welcome refugees. But six months later in Porte de la Chapelle in the northeast of Paris, under bridges and underpasses and all along Avenue President Wilson, small groups of refugees are sheltering from the rain and the cold. Three friends from Afghanistan huddled around a fire, a Yemeni engineer from Sanaa, and a student from Sudan are among the 1,000 refugees that Médécins sans Frontières (MSF) say are still sleeping rough in the French capital."

Belgian government at risk of collapse over Sudan migrants scandal (The Guardian, link):

"Belgium’s coalition government is at risk of collapse over a scandal involving the forced repatriation of 100 people to war-torn Sudan.

The Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, appeared on TV on Monday to insist he would not be intimidated by “blackmail or threats” after the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA), a Flemish nationalist party that is one of his three coalition partners, warned that it could withdraw support for his administration over the affair.

The consequences of decisions taken by Theo Francken, a member of the N-VA and the minister for asylum and migration, are being examined following claims that some Sudanese migrants came to harm after he allowed three of the country’s officials to inspect their cases before they returned.

Fears have been raised that Sudan’s government, led by Omar al-Bashir, was in effect allowed to handpick political opponents for repatriation from Europe. Bashir, who came to power in 1989 after a military coup, is wanted in The Hague over allegations of crimes against humanity."

And see: Belgium teamed up with Sudan on deportations. Then, allegedly, there was torture (The Washington Post, link):

"The Sudanese citizens’ expulsions highlight new measures that might once have been seen as politically toxic. The men were repatriated after being identified by a delegation of Sudanese officials who had been invited to Belgium to screen migrants accused of being in the country illegally and to authorize the deportation of people from Sudan. Migrant advocates condemned the collaboration with Sudan, whose president, Omar al-Bashir, has been accused of war crimes and genocide."

Europe sends Afghans back to danger (IRIN, link):

"In a cafe in Kabul, Mohammad Elham’s eyes dart back and forth between a steaming cup of tea and the front entrance: the months since his return to Afghanistan have been spent in a state of constant fear.

Elham left Afghanistan on a cold night in 2010, he says, after the Taliban killed his wife and two children. Last year, he returned to the country he fled — this time, in handcuffs, one of a surging number of Afghan deportees ousted from Europe.

“It was hurtful and humiliating,” Elham said of his journey from Germany, where his asylum application was rejected, to Afghanistan, where he says his presence may again jeopardise his family’s safety.

As European countries tighten borders and asylum policies, the number of Afghan asylum seekers pushed out of Europe has soared. But returnees like Elham are being forced back to a volatile country, where conflict has uprooted more than one million people over the last two years and civilian casualties are at near-record levels."

UNHCR appeals to Israel over forced relocations policy (UNHCR, link):

"UNHCR is again appealing to Israel to halt its policy of relocating Eritreans and Sudanese to sub-Saharan Africa. This is after some 80 cases were identified in which people relocated by Israel risked their lives by taking dangerous onward journeys to Europe via Libya.

All 80 cases involved Eritrean refugees or asylum seekers who were interviewed by UNHCR staff in Rome. Feeling they had no other choice, they travelled many hundreds of kilometers through conflict zones in South Sudan, Sudan and Libya after being relocated by Israel. Along the way they suffered abuse, torture and extortion before risking their lives once again by crossing the Mediterranean to Italy.

The interviews – all with adult males, some with family members still in Israel – took place between November 2015 and December 2017 in reception centres and informal settlements in the Rome area. All had entered Israel via the Sinai. In every case they reported torture, mistreatment and extortion before reaching Israel."

EU: Migration to dominate ‘Club Med’ summit in Rome (EurActiv, link):

"The heads of seven southern European states gather in Rome today (10 January) to tackle one of the stubbornest thorns in the EU’s side: flows of migrants from war-torn and impoverished countries.

The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, called ‘Club Med’ by the press, will meet in the Italian capital for a short meeting at 7pm (1800 GMT), followed by a joint press conference and a working dinner.

It will be the fourth meeting of the ‘Southern Seven’ since Greece’s Alexis Tsipras launched the initiative in September 2016. The group met twice last year, in Lisbon and Madrid. A ‘Club Med’ meeting due to be held last October in Spain was canceled because of the Catalan crisis."

EU: Viktor Orbán: Europe will restore ‘the will of the people’ on migration in 2018 (Politico, link):

"European leaders will be forced to bow to public opposition to migration and concern over terrorism threats in 2018, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after meeting Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies in the German region Friday afternoon.

Meeting the Christian Social Union (CSU)’s parliamentary group at a former monastery in Bavaria, the Hungarian leader told reporters that migration has become a “problem” for democracy in Europe because “leaders in many places are not doing what the people want them to.”"

Decision in case 1328/2017/EIS on the refusal by Frontex to grant access to a document concerning the vessels used in the Poseidon and Triton border control operations

"The case concerned the refusal by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to grant full public access to a document concerning the vessels used in the Poseidon and Triton operations on border control and surveillance. Frontex refused to grant access to the document on the grounds that doing so would undermine public security.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that Frontex’s position was justified, so she closed the case with a finding of no maladministration."

EU-AFRICA: New EU External Investment Plan risks sidelining development objectives (Counter Balance, link)

29 November 2017: "As EU leaders meet their African counterparts in Abidjan for the 5th European Union/African Union summit, the European External Investment Plan (EIP) is in the spotlight. It is portrayed as the perfect recipe for the EU to combine development aid with migration control and economic interests. But such a plan risks deviating from genuine development goals unless strong safeguards and control procedures are put in place, claims a new report published today by Counter Balance.

Going back to the premises of the European Commission’s initiative – to tackle „the root causes of migration“ and leverage private sector investments – the study points out that linking development and migration objectives can have dangerous consequences and end up using aid money to finance „fortress Europe“."

EU: International Organisation for Migration: Four Decades of Cross-Mediterranean Undocumented Migration to Europe: A Review of the Evidence

"The report reviews available evidence on trans-Mediterranean irregular migration to Europe along various routes going back to the 1970s, particularly on the magnitude of the flows, the evolution of sea routes to Southern Europe, the characteristics of migrants, the extent to which one can separate between economic and forced movements, and mortality during the sea journey. The report also reflects on the causes of the so-called migration crisis – a record-high number of undocumented arrivals by sea between 2014 and 2016 – and the reasons for the substantial decrease in numbers in 2017. It concludes by identifying future data and research needs."

Taking the EU-Turkey Deal to Court? (Verfassungsblog, link):

"The three orders have been appealed to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). The strict admissibility requirements laid down in the Plaumann ruling place an important constraint on the CJEU. If the case had been brought by the European Parliament, which was entirely sidestepped in the process leading to the deal, instead of dealing with issues of admissibility, the CJEU would be looking at the substance of the matter. This case illustrates how the checks and balances built into the system can be completely bypassed when the EU institutions collude with Member States to act outside the Treaty framework." [emphasis added]

See also: The EU-Turkey Statement or the ‘Refugee Deal’: The Extra-Legal Deal of Extraordinary Times? and: The EU-Turkey Deal in Front of the Court of Justice of the EU: An Unsolicited Amicus Brief (SSRN, links)

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