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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
25.2-2.3.20

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Statewatch Observatory: The refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: a humanitarian emergency

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GREECE: Situation for migrants and refugees goes from bad to worse

The Greek government is in the midst of an unprecedented crackdown against migrants and refugees already on the Aegean islands, as well as against those who are attempting to reach Greece from Turkey. Deploying police and military forces to the land border with Turkey in an attempt to prevent crossings, Greece has also said it will suspend the possibility to request asylum, a clear breach of EU and international law.

Frontex wants to disembark refugees in Senegal (Matthias Monroy, link):

"The EU border agency Frontex wants to bring back refugees picked up in the Atlantic Ocean to Senegal. The EU Commission should therefore negotiate a so-called Status Agreement with the government in Dakar. The proposal can be found in the annual report on the implementation of the Regulation for the surveillance of external sea borders. It regulates the maritime „operational cooperation“ of Frontex with third countries.

It would be the first agreement of this kind with an African government. So far, Frontex has only concluded Status Agreements with a number of Western Balkan countries for the joint surveillance of land borders. The only operation to date in a third country was launched by the Border Agency in Albania a year ago."

See: Annual report on the practical application of Regulation (EU) No 656/2014 establishing rules for the surveillance of the external sea borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by Frontex (Council document 6294/20, pdf)

February 2020

Turkey says will not stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe after troops killed (Reuters, link):

"ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said, as Ankara responded on Friday to the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in an air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region."

Greece invokes coronavirus to halt migration (EUractiv. link):

"In an unexpected move, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis decided on Thursday (27 February) to upgrade border controls to the “maximum deterrent” level to prevent migrants affected with coronavirus from entering EU territory.

“Migration is now taking on a new dimension, as flows to Greece include people from Iran – where we have had many cases of Coronavirus – and many passing through Afghanistan. Our islands, therefore, already burdened with public health issues, need to be protected twice,” the conservative leader said at a ministerial meeting.

The Greek premier added that everything should be done in order to avoid having the coronavirus on these islands. The maximum deterrent level is the last step before closing the borders entirely."

EU experts: closing borders 'ineffective' for coronavirus (euobserver, link):

"EU experts said on Thursday (27 February) that refusing entry to an EU country of people with coronavirus symptoms would be counter-productive and "ineffective" to prevent the spread of the virus.

"Refusal of entry is not considered an appropriate preventive measure as the virus would spread further" since those potential patients would keep moving in the region without being treated, EU sources said."

Analysis: Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders (pdf) by Matthias Monroy:

Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.

Council Presidency and EU agencies want biometric databases for migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans

The EU should help introduce the biometric registration of migrants and refugees travelling on the 'Balkan Route', according to the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU, as part of a series of measures to tackle the "threats arising from an increase in migratory flows and smugglers' networks".

'I want to restart the EU's migration debate from scratch': Commissioner Ylva Johansson on sea rescues, relocations and a secret Libyan deal (Times of Malta, link):

"The European commissioner for home affairs is in Malta for discussions on Tuesday in the latest attempt to agree a deal on how to handle the migration crisis. Ahead of the mission, Ylva Johansson answered questions from Jacob Borg about sea rescues, relocations and a secret Libyan deal."

Clashes on Greek islands over new migrant camps (InfoMigrants, link):

"Riot police have clashed with residents on two Greek islands over the construction of new migrant detention centers. The government is insisting that the closed facilities must go ahead to relieve pressure on overcrowded island camps.

On Lesbos, about 500 people reportedly tried to stop heavy machinery from being unloaded on Monday night to begin construction at the site of the new facility.

Police used tear gas on protesters close to the area, some of whom wore surgical masks, news agency reports said. On the island of Chios, at least three people were treated in hospital for breathing difficulties caused by the extensive use of tear gas, according to local officials."

‘Partnerships’ to be at heart of EU-Africa strategy, leaked paper reveals (EurActiv, link):

"The EU will seek to put a series of policy-themed ‘partnerships’ at the heart of its EU-Africa strategy which will be formally launched in early March, according to a leaked draft obtained by EURACTIV.

A draft outline of the strategy states that the EU executive wants to “change the narrative: look at Africa for what it is becoming: home to the world’s youngest population; largest trade area since the creation of the WTO; appetite for regional integration; women’s empowerment; all creating huge economic opportunities.”

It also spells out the areas the EU would cover: Partners for Sustainable Growth and Jobs; for a Green Transition; for a Digital and Data Transformation; Peace, Security, Governance and Resilience; Migration and Mobility; and Multilateralism."

Dodik Stops Bosnia From Cooperating With Frontex (Balkan Insight, link):

"Amid an ongoing dispute over a Constitutional Court ruling that has angered Bosnian Serb politicians, Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of the state presidency, has stopped Bosnia from signing up to a status agreement with the European Union border agency, Frontex.

At the last session of the three-member Bosnian presidency, Dodik voted against all decisions that were on the agenda. One was the proposal of the Minister of Security, Fahrudin Radoncic, to accept an “Agreement on Status between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union on Actions Executed by the Agency for European Border and Coast Guard in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Frontex had offered to deploy its forces along the Bosnian border to prevent illegal migration – but for that to happen, it needs a so-called Status Agreement."

Analysis: Fort Vert: Nature conservation as border regime in Calais (pdf) by Hanna Rullman:

The construction of a nature reserve in Calais as a way to prevent the return of migrant encampments raises important questions over the political uses of the environment in Europe’s border regime.

Greece has to act regarding “unsustainable situation” for refugees on the islands (Brussels Times, link):

"The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, called on Greece to act regarding “the unsustainable situation” for refugees on the Greek islands on Friday.

These refugees are mainly living on the islands opposite Turkey. Grandi said Greece would have “support from Europe.”

“The living conditions on the islands are shocking and shameful,” Grandi said, adding they had gotten worse since his last visit in November."

Commissioner urges Italy to suspend co-operation activities with Libyan Coast Guard and introduce human rights safeguards in future migration co-operation (CoE, link):

"In a letter addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Luigi Di Maio, published today, the Commissioner urges the Italian government to introduce human rights safeguards in the Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and Libya.

While noting that discussions to improve human rights compliance in the future are ongoing, the Commissioner calls on Italy to acknowledge the realities currently prevailing on the ground in Libya and to suspend co-operation activities with the Libyan Coast Guard that result in the return of persons intercepted at sea to Libya."

See: Letter (pdf) and: Italian government response (pdf)

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