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EU: Council of the European Union: "Blue Card", Qualifications and Resettlement
"BLUE CARD" - Legal migration: Proposal for a Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment (LIMITE doc no: 8544-17, pdf): The Council developing its negotiating position - with 138 Footnotes giving Member State positions:
"the Presidency has introduced modifications in the text to be discussed at the meeting of JHA Counsellors on 3 May. These modifications are indicated in bold and the deleted text is marked with strikethrough."
QUALIFICATIONS of REFUGEES: Proposal for a Regulation on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection and for the content of the protection granted and amending Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents (LIMITE doc no: 8302-17, pdf):
The Council developing its negotiating position - with 177 Footnotes giving Member State positions.
"Suggested modifications are indicated as follows:
- new text compared to the Commission proposal is in bold;
- new text compared to the previous version of this document is in bold underlined;
- deleted text compared to the Commission proposal is marked with [ ]."
Resettlement: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council (First reading) (LIMITE doc no: 8382-17, pdf): The Council developing its negotiating position - with 173 Footnotes giving Member State positions.
"In order to help reduce the risk of a large-scale irregular inflow of third-country nationals and stateless persons to the territory of the Member States, show solidarity with countries in regions to which or within which a large number of persons in need of international protection has been displaced by helping to alleviate the pressure on those countries, and help achieve the Union's foreign policy objectives, the regions or third countries from which resettlement is to occur should fit in a tailored engagement with third countries to better manage migration...."
EU-UK BREXIT: European Council (Art. 50) guidelines for Brexit negotiations: European Council (Art. 50) guidelines following the United Kingdom's notification under Article 50 TEU (Press release, pdf) and Guidelines official document: Special meeting of the European Council (Art. 50) (29 April 2017) - Guidelines (Doc no: EUCO XT 20004/17, pdf)
See also: EU Brexit guidelines: What's in the document, and what it really means (Telegraph, link)
EU: "Hotspots": Court of European Auditors: Migration hotspots are working, but critical issues remain, say EU Auditors (Press release, pdf):
"The EUs so-called hotspot approach for irregular migrants arriving in Italy and Greece has helped to significantly improve the registration, identification and security checking of migrants. But more needs to be done as thousands of migrants are still stranded on the Greek islands after their arrival, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. Many of those affected are unaccompanied minors, say the auditors, and more should be done to help them.....
relocation is no longer an option, and returns are slow. As a result, there are still more migrants arriving at the hotspots than leaving, and they are seriously overcrowded." [emphasis added]
See: Full report (pdf)
DENMARK: EUROPOL: Commission welcomes Europol's new mandate and cooperation agreement with Denmark (Press release, pdf):
"Following the Joint Declaration of the Presidents of the European Council and the Commission and the Danish Prime Minister, utmost efforts were made to agree on operational arrangements minimising the negative impact of Denmark's departure from Europol on 1 May 2017."
See also: Text of Declaratuon (pdf)
International Commission of Jurists: Briefing: Common Asylum Procedure Regulation ICJ comments on the current proposal of the Regulation (pdf):
"The areas most impacted include access to legal information; legal assistance, representation and legal aid; accelerated and border procedures; and access to an effective remedy.
The proposed Regulation is one of the instruments of the Common European Asylum System4 of the EU. It is intended to replace the current Asylum Procedures Directive with a Regulation and thereby aims to reduce the scope of discretion enjoyed by Member States in the implementation of matters covered under its provisions."
EU summit to mull post-Brexit membership for a united Ireland (euractiv, link):
"EU leaders will discuss whether to back automatic membership for Northern Ireland after Brexit if it ever reunifies with Ireland, sources said yesterday (27 April).
Ireland is expected to ask the 27 European Union leaders to endorse the idea when they meet in Brussels on Saturday (1 May) without Britain to adopt guidelines for Brexit negotiations.
We expect Ireland to ask on Saturday for a statement to be added to the minutes of the European Council, which states that in case of a unification of the island in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement, the united Ireland would be a member of the EU, an EU Council source told AFP."
President Tusk, Invitation Letter to Article 50 European Council: "in order to protect the peace and reconciliation process described by the Good Friday Agreement, we should aim to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. "
Freedom of the Press 2017 - Press Freedom's Dark Horizon (link to report)
"Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 13 years in 2016 amid unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies and new moves by authoritarian states to control the media, including beyond their borders.
Only 13 percent of the worlds population enjoys a Free pressthat is, a media environment where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures."
EU: Council of the European Union: Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2010/13/EU on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the provision of audiovisual media services in view of changing market realities - Guidance for future work (LIMITE doc no: 8242-17, pdf): The Council working out it negotiating poistion and 55 Footnotes with Member State positions.
"The Presidency text introduced a number of changes to the definition of VSP services in Article 1(1)(aa) with the intention of clarifying the definition and extending its scope to cover more types of services, including the audiovisual content on 'social media ' services."
See also:European Parliament Briefing: The Audiovisual Media Services Directive (pdf)
CoE: Parliamentary:Assembly: PACE calls on Hungary to stop work on NGO funding and university laws (link):
"The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called on Hungary to suspend the parliamentary debate on the draft law on the Transparency of Organisations receiving Foreign Funding and the implementation of the Act amending the National Higher Education Act, pending the opinion of experts from the Council of Europes Venice Commission."
Military chiefs call for better data-sharing against terrorism (euractiv, link);
"Top military officials from the United States and Europe called on Wednesday (26 April) for better information-sharing to fight terrorism and regular coordinating meetings for justice officials."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.4.17) including: Libyan military to be linked up to European surveillance systems
EU: Law enforcement and forensics: Member States seek improved facial recognition, handwriting analysis, mobile device examination
Member States' responses to a Council questionnaire on law enforcement agencies' training needs with regard to forensics show that there is interest in improving facial recognition, handwriting analysis, speech and audio analysis, digital forensics and the examination of mobile devices, amongst other things.
UK-EU: BREXIT: Information on EU rights of residence and issues affecting EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK
"ILPA has produced a series of information sheets, each providing a short (two-page) and accessible overview of EU rights of residence and the issues affecting citizens from European Economic Area (EEA) and from Switzerland and their family members living in the UK in the context of Brexit. More detailed resources are referenced within the information sheets and included below."
See: Brexit Information (ILPA, link)
EU: EDPS calls for strong and smart new rules to protect confidentiality of communications (press release, pdf):
"The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) represents one of the EUs greatest achievements in recent years, but without a complementary and effective legal tool to protect the fundamental right to private life, of which the confidentiality of our communications is a vital component, the EU privacy and data protection framework remains incomplete, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said today, as he published his Opinion on the ePrivacy Regulation."
See: EDPS Opinion on the Proposal for a Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications (ePrivacy Regulation) (pdf)
UK-IRELAND: Full investigation needed on undercover policing in Ireland (Police Spies Out of Lives, link):
"Today, four women deceived into relationships with undercover police in the UK have written to the Irish Prime minister, Minister for Justice and Equality, and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade.
Their letters ask why they were targeted in Ireland for abusive relationships by UK undercover officers, and demand a full Inquiry into the activity of UK undercover officers in Ireland.
These letters are in response to the secret report prepared by the An Garda Síochána in 2011 attempting to justify the activities of undercover police officers from the UK in Ireland.
They highlight the fact that the relationships they had with these officers, which took place in part on Irish soil, have been admitted to be human rights violations. This means the reports claims that police activities in Ireland were limited to tracking external activists with a track record for violence are false.
...The women are demanding a full and public investigation into the activities of these officers, detailing any offenses they committed in Ireland."
And see: Letter demanding full Irish Inquiry (link)
ROMANIA-ECHR: Detention conditions in Romanian prisons are in breach of the Convention and point to a structural deficiency requiring the adoption of general measures by the State (press release, pdf):
"In todays Chamber judgment1 in the case of Rezmive. and Others v. Romania (applications nos. 61467/12, 39516/13, 48213/13 and 68191/13) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights."
See the judgment: AFFAIRE REZMIVE. ET AUTRES c. ROUMANIE (Requêtes nos 61467/12, 39516/13, 48231/13 et 68191/13) (French only, pdf)
CoE: Journalists suffer violence, intimidation and self-censorship in Europe, says a Council of Europe study (Council of Europe, link):
"A survey published today by the Council of Europe, based on a sample of 940 journalists reporting from the 47 Council of Europe member states and Belarus, shows that journalists in Europe are often exposed to serious unwarranted interference in their work, including intimidation and violence. As a consequence, many also suffer from fear, which frequently leads to self-censorship."
See: JOURNALISTS UNDER PRESSURE: Unwarranted interference, fear and self-censorship in Europe: extracts (pdf) and the full report, published as a book (CoE, link).
EU: DEBATE: Constitutional Courts and Populism (Verfassungsblog, link):
"How to react to the rise of populism seems to be the question of the moment and it is not a question public lawyers or judges can comfortably ignore. Yet, too often our understanding remains mired in particular domestic perspectives and our only reference point is National Socialism. Unsurprisingly then, the public expectation is generally that lawyers and judges must stand in fiercely for human rights and democracy and thats it. Yet, what does that mean exactly and are things really that simple? These are some the questions our symposium on Courts and Populism seeks to address, drawing on comparative examples from a wide range of countries and a range of disciplinary perspectives."
GERMANY-EGYPT: Agreement Risks Complicity in Abuses - Pact Could Tie Berlins Agents to Torture, Disappearances (Human Rights Watch, link):
"The German parliament should reject a proposed security agreement with the Egyptian Interior Ministry, Human Rights Watch said today. The agreement, which is scheduled for a vote on April 28, 2017, lacks human rights protections and would be with a security agency whose officers have committed torture, enforced disappearances, and most likely extrajudicial killings. As a result, it could make German officials complicit in serious human rights violations."
GREECE: Refugees drown off Greek coast, others start hunger strike in Lesbos camp (Deutsche Welle, link):
"At least 15 bodies were recovered by vessels from Greece's navy and the EU's Frontex agency on Monday. The Greek coastguard said one of its patrol vessels rescued two women, including one who was pregnant.
Authorities said the dead comprised two children, four women and nine men.
On Saturday in Rome, Pope Francis described Lesbos arrival centers he visited last year as "concentration camps," and urged European nations to provide relief by receiving those "left there inside."
At Moria, one of the camps on Lesbos, where the statuses of 13,800 refugees remain unresolved, 14 Kurds from Syria remain on hunger strike.
They began their protest against the slow processing of their appeals on Friday, sitting in blankets in front of the camp's asylum bureau."
UK: Behave or get deported, says G4S (OpenDemocracy, link):
"EXCLUSIVE: The worlds biggest security company, landlord to asylum-seekers, threatens tenants with expulsion from the UK.
About 900 people who are seeking asylum live in the city of Sheffield, in South Yorkshire. For five years G4S, the worlds largest security company, has held the government contract to accommodate them whilst they await the outcome of their claims for asylum."
EU: International Commission of Jurists: comments on the new Asylum Procedures Regulation and Reception Conditions Directive
The International Commission of Jurists has published two new notes offering critical observations on the EU's proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation and Reception Conditions Directive, noting with regular to the former that "the areas most impacted include access to legal information; legal assistance, representation and legal aid; accelerated and border procedures; and access to an effective remedy."
EU: Migration monitoring in the Mediterranean region Libyan military to be linked up to European surveillance systems (Matthias Monroy, link):
"The Mediterranean countries of the EU are establishing a network to facilitate communication between armed forces and the border police. Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia are also set to take part. This would make them, through the back door, part of the surveillance system EUROSUR. Refugees could then be seized on the open seas before being returned to Libya."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22-24.4.17)
CZECH REPUBLIC: Gov't plans tougher anti-terror protection of busy places (Prague Daily Monitor, link):
"The Czech government approved on Wednesday a plan of enhancing the protection of places with a high concentration of people against terrorist attacks, including preventive measures such as an information campaign and instruction courses, PM Bohuslav Sobotka has tweeted.
According to the concept drafted by the Interior Ministry, the state and society must prepare for a potential terrorist attack, in view of attackers' current tendency to hit easily accessible targets.
The new plan is another step the government has taken to enhance security in face of new threats, Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) wrote.
A part of the plan is the creation of a national system of soft targets protection that would enable a complex and rapid reaction to threatening attacks.
Its another goal is to make most of the soft targets capable of reacting to an attack in a way to maximally reduce the inflicted damage."
UK: Cleveland Police used surveillance powers to spy on two Press Association reporters, probe uncovers (Press Gazette, link):
"Cleveland Police used anti-terror powers to spy on two Press Association journalists, an internal review by the scandal-hit force has uncovered.
It brings the total number of journalists known to have been unwittingly snooped on by Cleveland Police to five.
Staff reporter Tom Wilkinson and photographer Owen Humphreys were both targeted after critical stories were published in July 2013 about a senior civilian officers resignation."
And see: Reporters' spy saga gives glimpse of UK surveillance culture (AP, link)
EU: 25 million for military research includes investigation into "swarming" naval drones
The European Commission recently approved the budget for the EU's 'Preparatory Action on Defence Research', seen as paving the way for a full-blown military research budget to be launched in 2020. 25 million is going towards the Preparatory Action, which will be managed by the European Defence Agency and supported by a a group made up of "governmental experts in defence". It includes a project on technology "to demonstrate that situational awareness in a naval environment can be significantly improved" through the use of unmanned vehicles, which will examine the possibility of "swarming behaviours".
NORTHERN IRELAND: 'Sponger' is slang for Catholic, says PSNI language guide (The Irish News, link):
"The newly-unearthed paper seeks to ensure officers and staff use language that is respectful and does not discriminate, stereotype or offend.
In the process, it provides a comprehensive list by religious, community and minority grouping of terms considered off-limits.
While most of the words and phrases regarded as offensive are understandable, some are unexpected.
In a list of unacceptable terms for Catholics, the word 'sponger' is included.
The others are 'Chuck/Chuckie', 'Fenian', 'Taig', 'Tim', 'Mick/Micky', 'Paddy' and 'Free Stater'.
For Protestants, the offensive words include 'Hun', 'Prod', 'Orangie', 'Jaffa', 'Snout' and 'Flag Hag'."
UK-EU: The legality of EU sanctions: government response to parliamentary inquiry (pdf)
"The Government welcomes the inquiry by the Justice Sub-Committee of the European Union Committee into the legality of EU sanctions including the evidence session on 11 October 2016 and the report published on 2 February 2017.
This paper sets out HMG's response to the Committee's conclusions and recommendations, as contained in Chapter 5 of the report. The Committee's recommendations I questions are in bold and the Government's response is in plain text. Paragraph numbers refer to the Committee's report. The response to paragraphs 102 and 103 is combined."
See: Report on the legality of the EU sanctions calls for procedural improvements and continued cooperation post-Brexit (Statewatch News Online, 3 February 2017)
EU pays for "watch towers" on the Georgia-Turkey border
The recent newsletter of the Eastern Partnership Panel on migration provides updates from the first quarter of 2017 on relations between the EU and the 'Eastern Partnership' countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. This includes events such as the EU providing 3.4 million of "communication, surveillance and detection equipment for the strengthening of Georgias capabilities of guarding the green border with Turkey," including "watch towers".
UK: Petition: Stop using NHS patients personal information for immigration enforcement (38 Degrees, link):
"The UK government and NHS Digital, the NHS body that stores patient information, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in January to give the Home Office easier access to patient information. This allows immigration officials to use NHS patients personal details, such as their addresses, to track down, arrest and deport undocumented migrants.
Patient confidentiality is essential for NHS staff to be able to do their job and yet there has been no consultation with NHS staff or the public about this deal. Concerns raised by medical organisations have been ignored and the agreement was made in secret.
The deal makes some of the UKs most vulnerable people scared of getting healthcare. The medical charity Doctors of the World regularly sees people in urgent need, including pregnant women and cancer sufferers, who are scared to see a doctor for fear that their details will be passed on. Creating a society where everyone can see a doctor easily and safely is also important for public health.
Sign the petition to demand that NHS Digital withdraws from the MOU and no longer provides information to the Home Office, so that our healthcare service is safe for everyone living in UK."
See: Crackdown on migrants forces NHS doctors to 'act as border guards' (The Guardian, link)
Migrants and refugees are "routinely abused by law enforcement officials in the Western Balkans"
Migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans who are trying to access the territory of the EU "are being routinely abused by law enforcement officials," who are "subjecting people to violence and intimidation and denying access to asylum procedures to those seeking international protection," says a new report by Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association and Oxfam.
EU-USA: Transatlantic data transfers and privacy protection: an ongoing battle (OpenDemocracy, link):
"In an era of big data and mass surveillance revelations, it appears that everything is data and data is everything.
Everyday activities, such as traveling or using different means of communication, may be accessed by law enforcement authorities, not only within the EU, but also shared with the US officials on the other side of the Atlantic.
It goes without saying that this collect-it-all mentality, as Lyon puts it, places an enormous burden on the fundamental right to privacy, as enshrined in Articles 7 EUCFR and Article 8 ECHR), which according to some skeptics is already dead anyway.
In this context, we aim to highlight two main points: the emergence of a global level-playing field on privacy through the development of transatlantic agreements; and the challenges to such developments, including US efforts to circumvent data protection provisions with a view to expanding their extraterritorial reach."
UK: Plan to opt out of rights accords in future wars dangerous, inquiry hears (The Guardian, link):
"Government plans to opt out of international human rights agreements in future conflicts would be dangerous and prevent British soldiers from obtaining justice, according to evidence submitted to a parliamentary inquiry by the Law Society and Liberty.
The proposal to temporarily suspend enforcement of the European convention on human rights (ECHR) in the next war would only protect the Ministry of Defence from scrutiny in the courts and damage the UKs international reputation, the two organisations have told the joint committee on human rights (JCHR)."
See: The Governments proposed derogation from the ECHR inquiry (www.parliament.uk, link)
EU: Fear and Trembling: Perspectives on Security in Europe (Green European Journal, link):
"The world around us seems increasingly filled with mechanisms to enhance protection and minimise risks yet, paradoxically, the level of fears and anxieties is rising across our societies, with a tendency to fixate on the most sensational, direct, and violent sources of risk. Identifying where the true threats lie is a challenging but crucial enterprise and the Green European Journal contends that progressive forces around Europe need to take the question of security seriously. This edition provides contributions that look beyond todays politics of fear, towards a politics of hope."
ITALY: Juvenile Justice System in Italy; How Effective is it for Foreign Youths? (Fair Trials, link):
"Since the implementation of this law [Presidential Decree 488 of 1988 (DPR 488/88)] incarceration really has become a last resort. In 1988 there were approximately 7,500 youths in prison facilities across Italy, in 2014 that number was approximately 1,000. Of the youth that make it to trial, judges only convict and sentence approximately 20% to prison. Furthermore, there has been an increase in the application of probation with a high level of success, 84% of cases had a positive exit.
Given the most recent available data it appears that the legislation governing the juvenile justice system is functioning well. However a closer look at the data reveals an interesting dichotomy, in fact the system works better than it appears for Italian youth however it functions poorly for foreign youth.
...Available data highlights the disproportionate incarceration of foreign youth in the Italian juvenile justice system. 20% of the youth in the system are foreign however they make up 40% of the youth in prisons. The disproportionality is worse in the north where 70% of the youth entering incarceration are foreign. Its clear that the diversion options available to Italian born youth are not being offered to foreign youth."
UK: "Double disadvantage" for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women in the criminal justice system
A new report by Agenda and Women in Prison examines the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women in the UK's criminal justice system, including their perceptions of court procedures and practices, experiences of discrimination and racism in prison from both staff and other prisoners, and the impact on their families, for example through being separated from their children.
Scottish ministers facing slap down for freedom of information failures (The Ferret, link):
"Scotlands information watchdog is threatening tough legal action against Scottish ministers for repeatedly failing to respond to information requests, The Ferret can reveal.
Rosemary Agnew, the retiring Scottish Information Commissioner, describes the performance of ministers on freedom of information as totally unacceptable and rude. They are denying citizens their legal rights and damaging public trust in government, she warns.
She has given ministers six months to make improvements, and will respond with the full force of the law if they fail. I wouldnt say Im slapping them yet, but Im definitely threatening to slap them hard, she says."
German intelligence agency spied on Interpol and news organizations: Spiegel (DW, link)
"The respected news magazine "Spiegel" has reported that Germany's BND spied both on international police agencies and media outlets for years. The latest revelations come as a result of another spy scandal in the US.
Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, spied on Interpol, the international police agency based in Lyon, France, as well as national offices in dozens of countries, including the United States, Austria and Greece, the German news magazine "Spiegel" reported on Saturday.
The magazine cited documents it had viewed, reporting that the spying had taken place over many years. It said the BND included the email addresses and phone and fax numbers of police investigators in its sector surveillance list.....
The BND also monitored the European police agency, Europol, which is based in The Hague, the report said."
See also: German intelligence BND spied on Interpol offices in dozen countries like in Greece and USA (Keep Talking Greece,link):
"Germanys BND foreign intelligence agency spied on the Interpol international police agency for years and on the groups country liaison offices in dozens of countries such as Austria, Greece. Belgium, Spain, Denmark and the United States, German magazine Der Spiegel said. The BND spied also the Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France. The spying started in year 2000 the latest and continued over several year."
We Know All About You by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones review the dangers of our surveillance society (Guardian, link); Book review:
"A readable history of snooping in Britain and US argues that private spying organisations have done as much harm as the state"
UK: Mayflower Myths (link): Concern over Mayflower 400
"Theres no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it."
(Said by Irwin in The History Boys Film 2006 (based on the play by Alan Bennett))
To date, education and history appear to have been framed to service a tourist attraction, emphasizing the details of the 1620 journey and the make-up of the passengers rather than its colonial character and context.....
To date [January 2017] neither include materials about colonialism, slavery or the dramatic losses of Indigenous and African American lives and cultures that occurred both prior to and after the landing in late 1620. Moreover, it should be noted that Indigenous American organisations are currently campaigning over water and land rights and there are also campaigns over commemorations, such as Columbus Day..."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20-21.4.17)
Biometric data exchange with the US military: Europol seconds liaison officer for Operation Gallant Phoenix (link):
"Police forces in the EU member states could be able to use fingerprints and DNA traces collected by the US military in Syria and Iraq in the near future. Intelligence services would also be granted access....
Alongside Operation Gallant Phoenix, the US Government has offered to set up a database on foreign fighters for a number of EU member states and to compare this information with the biometric data of incoming refugees. According to another paper by the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union, this is battlefield data from Syria and Iraq and other conflict zones.
See: Outcome of the EU US Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials Meeting, Valletta, 1-2 March 2017 (LIMITE doc no: 7163-17, pdf) and Security checks in case of irregular immigration - mapping exercise (LIMITE doc no 6717-17, pdf)
Council of the European Union: Relocations, Eurodac & Skilled migrants
Implementation of Relocation Commitments (LIMITE doc no:, 8168-17, pdf):
The Note asks: "How many applicants for international protection will you be relocating from Greece and Italy over the coming five months (May-September) and how many will you be relocating per month?"
The latest 11th Report on relocation by the Commission says that: "Right now, Malta and Finland are the only two Member States so far on track to meet their obligations in time for both Italy and Greece."
And records that since September 2015 only 11,339 refugees have been relocated out of 63,302 from Greece (just 18%) and 5,001 of 34,953 from Italy (just 14%)
Eurodac Regulation: Inclusion of colour copies of passport or ID documents in Eurodac (LIMITE doc no: 8221-17, pdf):
"Where available, a scanned colour copy of an identity or travel document, and if not available, of any other document which could facilitate the identification of the third-country national or stateless person for return purposes.... Most Member States indicated that while the document should be scanned and uploaded in Eurodac immediately, establishing the authenticity of the documents should be done at a later stage."
Proposal for a Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment (LIMITE doc no: 8280-17, 76 pages, pdf): Latest Council negotiating position with 152 Member State positions in Footnotes.
D66 MEP questions use of laws on money laundering and terrorism financing to target NGOs (link)
SPAIN: Report denounces the radicalisation of policies that violate fundamental rights at Spain's southern border
Press release published by the Andalucian Association for Human Rights (Associación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, APDHA) on 29 March 2017. Emphasis in original.
APDHA denounces the radicalisation of policies that violate fundamental rights at the southern border - During 2016 deaths increased 34% at European coasts and 125% at Spanish coasts
Council of Europe: CPT urges European states to hold persons in remand detention only as a measure of last resort and in adequate conditions (link)
"The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) urges the 47 Council of Europe member states to use remand detention only as a measure of last resort and to provide remand prisoners with adequate detention conditions. During visits to prisons throughout Europe, the CPT has often found that remand prisoners are held under very poor conditions and an impoverished regime....
In many European countries the persistent problem of overcrowding in prisons is due to a large extent to the high proportion of remand prisons among the total prison population.
In its annual report, published today, the CPT stresses the need for member states to ensure the use, to the extent possible, of alternative measures to pre-trial detention such as provisional suspension of detention, bail, house arrest, electronic monitoring, removal of passports and judicial supervision."
See: Annual report (pdf)
Pirate Bay Founder Launches Anonymous Domain Registration Service (link):
"Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde has a new privacy-oriented startup. Today he launches the domain registration service Njalla, which offers site owners full anonymity, shielding them from the prying eyes of outsiders. "Think of us as your friendly drunk (but responsibly so) straw person that takes the blame for your expressions.""
See also: Want to set up a website? The Five Eyes want your personal data (Statewatch Analysis)
UK: Why did Operation Herne publish obviously wrong dates on spycop Roger Pearce career? (Undercover Research Group, link):
"Recently the Pitchford Inquiry confirmed Roger Pearce as a former undercover police officer (as Roger Thorley); the Undercover Research Group had already exposed him last year. We had managed to identify him based on details released the first report from Operation Herne, the polices own investigation into the abuses by notorious spycop unit, the Special Demonstration Squad. And as our profile of Pearce demonstrates, he did not shy away from talking about undercover policing publicly coming forward to justify relationships and the theft of identities of dead children."
UK: CPT publishes report on its UK visit: criticism levelled at spiralling violence and lack of safety in prisons; and inadequate safeguards to protect patients in mental health settings highlighted (link):
"raises serious concerns over the lack of safety for inmates and staff in prisons in England. Causes include prison violence spiralling out of control, poor regimes and chronic overcrowding. The report also examines the treatment afforded to patients in a number of psychiatric hospitals. It notes the caring approach by staff in these institutions but is critical of the safeguards concerning forced treatment, the use of force on patients and the use of long-term segregation and night-time confinement in high secure hospitals. Treatment of detained persons by the police and the situation in immigration centres are also covered in the report."
See: Report (pdf)
European Parliament Study: Shrinking space for civil society: the EU response (pdf):
"The shrinking space phenomenon is getting worse. The global clampdown on civil society has deepened and accelerated in recent years. Over a hundred governments have introduced restrictive laws limiting the operations of civil society organisations (CSOs)...
The closing space is part of a general authoritarian pushback against democracy, but it is not only that...."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.4.17) including: Greek and Italian detention centres massively overcrowded; child refugees in France face daily violence; UK plans new express deportation system; and more.
USA: The Return of Commercial Prison Labour (Global Labour Column, link):
"Prisons are seldom mentioned under the rubric of labour market institutions such as temporary work contracts or collective bargaining agreements. Yet, prisons not only employ labour but also cast a shadow on the labour force in or out of work. The early labour movement considered the then prevalent use of prison labour for commercial purposes as unfair competition. By the 1930s, the US labour movement was strong enough to have work for commercial purposes prohibited in prisons. In the decades following, the number of prisoners decreased to a historic minimum. But with cutbacks in the welfare state, the prison population exploded from about 200 000 in 1975 to 2 300 000 in 2013 (Scherrer and Shah, 2017: 37) and prison labour for commercial purposes became legal again. Today, about 15% of the inmates in federal and state prisons perform work for companies such as Boeing, Starbucks and Victorias Secret. Migrants detained for violating immigration laws are one of the fastest growing segments of prison labour. Under the Trump administration, their numbers are most likely to increase."
EU: E-privacy: MEPs look at new rules to safeguard your personal details online (press release, pdf):
"The EU could soon have new privacy rules to take account of new practices such as internet-based messaging and allow users better control of their privacy settings, especially when it comes to cookies. Parliament's civil liberties committee discussed the plans by the European Commission on 11 April. Marju Lauristin, the MEP responsible for steering the rules through Parliament, said that if companies providing communication services wanted to be trusted they needed to ensure confidentiality."
UK: Taser statistics: weapons fired less in 2016 but are "gaining compliance of members of the public"
The Home Office recently published statistics on the use of tasers by police forces across England and Wales during 2016. Overall, there has been an increase in the number of times tasers were drawn by police - reaching an average of 30 a day - but a small decrease in the number of times they were actually fired, leading the Police Federation to argue that "by virtue of possession of a Taser, police officers are gaining compliance of members of the public," thus justifying increased deployment of the electroshock weapons.
EU-AFRICA: Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community report 2016: "an unparalleled platform for information-sharing and joint analysis"
The Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC) "has now reached an enhanced level of maturity," according to the body's annual report for 2016, and is an "unparalleled platform for information-sharing and joint analysis with African countries" which has "captured further attention from the key policy makers in Europe and Africa."
Romanian EU-funded project accused of data protection violations (EurActiv, link):
"The Romanian government has been accused of bias in its awarding of EU funding to the countrys intelligence services. The e-Governance project is also facing serious allegations that it violates European and domestic laws on personal data protection.
A group of Romanian NGOs has submitted a claim to the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) alleging that over 26 million in EU funding has been misappropriated by the Romanian Intelligence Services (SRI) and that the process launched to award the money was unfair.
More serious still, the intelligence services venture has been accused of violating the fundamental rights of Romanian citizens and the EUs 1995 directive on personal data, according to which the unambiguous consent of a person must be obtained before data is used.
The scheme is meant to bring together various data sources from the countrys tax, health and internal affairs authorities. The number of entries is estimated to be at least 35 billion and the call for tender claims that the data will be indefinitely stored. Again, the NGOs claim this violates data law."
SPAIN: How to End a War (Harper's, link)
"Some say that Arnaldo Otegi is an assassin. Others call him a peacemaker. Given his history, he might be a little of both. Otegi used to be a member of E.T.A., the armed militant group that fought in Spain for fifty years for an independent Basque state, first against the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in the 1960s and 70s and later against the countrys democratically elected government. Otegi has gone to jail on terrorism charges three times, and is now the leader of the second strongest electoral force in the Basque Country. His actions led to E.T.A. issuing a ceasefire seven years ago, but the group still hasnt disbanded."
USA: Filmmaker learns why she endured airport stops for years (AP, link):
"Laura Poitras' travel nightmare began more than a decade ago when the award-winning filmmaker started getting detained at airports every time she tried to set foot back in the United States.
She was stopped without explanation more than 50 times on foreign travel, and dozens more times on domestic trips, before the extra searches suddenly stopped in 2012. Only now is Poitras beginning to unravel the mystery, which goes back to a bloody day in Baghdad in 2004."
GREECE: Detention centres for migrants and refugees on Greek islands at 150% of capacity
The latest figures released by the Greek government show that the "strutures" and "hosting facilities" used to hold migrants and refugees on Greece's Aegean islands - principally Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos - currently have 13,003 "guests" but officially room for just 8,696 people.
See: Summary statement of refugee flows at 10:00 18.4.2017 (pdf)
EU-GREECE: Report on asylum process: delays, lack of advice and assistance, controversial involvement of EU asylum office
A new report by AITIMA details the problems faced by asylum-seekers in Greece, including a lack of access to the asylum procedure, the issues raised by restrictions on residence that confine people to islands in the Aegean, the "extremely limited" legal advice and assistance available, and the involvement of the European Asylum Support Office in the first instance asylum procedure that "raises issues of competence".
UK-IRELAND: Undercover policing: secret Garda report on Mark Kennedy's activities in Ireland: Information Commissioner's decision
On 13 April 2017 the Irish Office of the Information Commissioner published a decision ordering the Department of Justice and Equality to release a 2011 report by An Garda Síochána (Ireland's police force) on the activities of exposed undercover police officer Mark Kennedy. A subsequent article in The Times, based on the report, said that it shows "the gardaí defended having a relationship with international police forces that allowed spies to work here and defended keeping such arrangements a secret from the government."
NORTHERN IRELAND: PSNI urged to reconsider use of stop and search on under-18s (The Detail, link):
"Police in Northern Ireland have used stop and search powers on under-18s nearly 25,000 times in the last five years, the vast majority of which did not result in any further action.
A Detail Data investigation has found that between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2016 a total of 23,323 operations were conducted that did not result in arrest - including 59 incidents involving children aged 10 and under.
Although a small number of these incidents (2,070) led to some action - such as a caution, community resolution or report to PPS more than 91% resulted in no further police action."
A Cautionary Tale of Regulating Corporate Human Rights Abuses (Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, link) by Stéfanie Khoury & David Whyte:
"The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is currently developing a legally binding instrument on the human rights responsibilities of corporations. In its deliberations, the HRC can draw lessons from the record of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on this issue. Under the OECD Guidelines, member states are obliged to set up National Contact Points (NCPs) responsible for addressing issues of implementation in specific instances of human rights violations.
The Guidelines cover a wide range of standards of conduct that corporations are expected to comply with, including: human rights standards; employment and industrial relations; and environmental protection. By far the largest single category of cases reviewed by NCPs relate to human rights abuses, and almost all such complaints are made by two types of civil society organisations: NGOs and trade unions. Those organisations compile detailed data on the outcome of their cases. It is this data that we analyse here in order to understand something about the OECD process."
SLOVAKIA: Thousands rally against corruption in Slovakia (New Europe, link):
"Thousands of Slovakians took to the streets of the capital Bratislava to protest alleged corruption in the government of Prime Minister Robert Fico.
As reported by The Associated Press (AP), the protesters demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, who is a close ally of Ficos, police chief Tibor Gaspar and other officials they allege have prevented proper investigations of corruption scandals.
President Andrej Kiska was supporting the student-organised demonstration."
UK: A Woman Who Begged For 50p Was Sentenced To Six Months In Prison In A Hearing Where She Had No Lawyer (BuzzFeed News, link):
"A vulnerable woman who begged two strangers for 50p has been sentenced to six months in prison in a court hearing where she had no lawyer.
She could barely read or write but had to represent herself after she was unable to find public funds or a solicitor.
The case has sparked outrage from legal experts who called it a damning indictment of our criminal justice system."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-18.4.17)
EU-USA Justice and Home Affairs meeting - March 2017
- USA expresses "interest" in the EU plan for Big Brother database
- PNR, returns and readmission, Privacy Shield. Visas reciprocity, bilateral agreements on access to ISP data
The meeting of EU-USA Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials in Valletta on 1-2 March 2017 discussed a number of key issues: Outcome of the EU US Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials Meeting, Valletta, 1-2 March 2017 (LIMITE doc no: 7163-27, pdf).
Council of the European Union: Developing its position on the Asylum Procedures Regulation
Cross-cutting definitions: Qualification Regulation, Asylum Procedures Regulation, Dublin Regulation, Reception Conditions Directive (LIMITE doc no: 8044-REV-1-17, pdf): With Member States' positions in Footnotes:
"Annex modifications suggested by the Presidency for cross-cutting definitions from the Qualification Regulation, Asylum Procedures Regulation, Dublin Regulation and Reception Conditions Directive."
Theme: Guarantees for those with special needs (LIMITE doc no: 8043-17, pdf)
Theme: 'Limiting abuse and secondary movements' - Asylum Procedures Regulation (LIMITE doc no: 8045-17, pdf): Includes 51 Member Stares' positions
AI programs exhibit racial and gender biases, research reveals (Guardian, link):
"Machine learning algorithms are picking up deeply ingrained race and gender prejudices concealed within the patterns of language use, scientists say.
An artificial intelligence tool that has revolutionised the ability of computers to interpret everyday language has been shown to exhibit striking gender and racial biases.
The findings raise the spectre of existing social inequalities and prejudices being reinforced in new and unpredictable ways as an increasing number of decisions affecting our everyday lives are ceded to automatons....
However, as machines are getting closer to acquiring human-like language abilities, they are also absorbing the deeply ingrained biases concealed within the patterns of language use, the latest research reveals."
Bulgarian ultra-nationalists set to enter government (euractiv, link):
"Bulgarian ultra-nationalists look set to enter government for the first time after a new pro-Russian patriotic alliance agreed on a coalition with former Premier Boyko Borissovs party following elections on 26 March.
The United Patriots, which includes the anti-Semitic Ataka (Attack) party, stoked anti-immigration sentiment to come third in the elections while also railing against Muslims, Roma and gay people."
CIA director brands WikiLeaks a 'hostile intelligence service' (Guardian, link):
"Mike Pompeo said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange portrays himself as a crusader but in fact helps enemies of the United States, including Russia"
Slovenia says tougher EU border checks unacceptable (euractiv, link):
"Newly-introduced tougher checks on the EUs external borders aimed at stopping suspected Islamist fighters from Iraq and Syria are unacceptable and should be amended, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said."
See: Statements by Slovenia and Croatia (pdf):
Slovenia: "In Slovenia's view, checks carried out systematically on all persons crossing the external borders, including those enjoying the right of free movement under Union Law, without targeted checks as a basic principle for efficient border checks and without taking into consideration justified exemptions, is a disproportionate measure in relation to the pursued objective of the change. Additional doubts to the efficiency of the new provisions of Article 7(2) of the Code are related to the possible transitional period for border checks at air borders that are especially vulnerable part of the external borders."
Croatia: "the Republic of Croatia regrets that these measures are to be implemented not only at the European Union's external borders but also at internal borders between Member States fully applying the Schengen acquis and Member States not yet fully applying the Schengen acquis. The title of the Regulation itself implies its application at the European Union's external borders, not at Schengen borders. For that precise reason, all Member States should have been treated equally."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12-13.4.17)
EU: Council of the European Union: Qualifications Regulation: Proposal for a Regulation on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection and for the content of the protection granted and amending Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents (LIMITE doc no: 7827-17. pdf): With 150 Footnotes with Member State positions:
"JHA Counsellors examined new Presidency compromise proposals on 24 March 2017. Taking into account comments made by delegations on that occasion, this document contains compromise proposals suggested by the Presidency..
Suggested modifications are indicated as follows:
- new text compared to the Commission proposal is in bold;
- new text compared to the previous version of this document is in bold underlined;
- deleted text compared to the Commission proposal is marked with [ ]."
EU: Council of the European Union: Reflection process on data retention issues - Issues to be discussed (LIMITE doc no: 7597-17, pdf): The ongoing debate in the Council to react to the CJEU judgment of 21 December 2016 - Tele 2 and Watson and Digital Rights Ireland of 8 April 2014 - the latter found that the EU's data retention policy had been unlawful since its adoption in 2006.
"the Working party on information exchange and data protection (DAPIX) will meet in a Friends of the Presidency format to facilitate a common reflection...
Targeted data retention criteria: What limitation factors e.g. geographical, technical, or other could be considered regarding:
- categories of data
- the means of electronic communications
- persons concerned
- type of serious crime
- period of retention
Access criteria for competent authorities
What kind of measures could satisfy the Court's criteria on access to data to meet the requirement of limiting the intervention of competent authorities to what is "strictly necessary and justified within a democratic society"?
And by-passing democratic control and accountability by: "Exploring the possibility to compensate availability of data by other measures, e.g. ensuring availability of necessary data through fast track direct cooperation with ISPs.."
Refugee rescue group accuses EU border agency of conspiracy (euractiv, link):
"A Spanish NGO that has been rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean since 2016 accused the EUs border control agency Frontex on Wednesday (12 April) of plotting to discredit private aid organisations in order to put off donors.
Allegations by Frontex that donor-funded rescue vessels may have colluded with traffickers at the end of last year prompted Italian prosecutors to begin an informal investigation into their funding sources.
The declarations by Frontex and political authorities are intended to discredit our actions and erode our donors trust, said Proactiva Open Arms head Riccardo Gatti."
Bulgarian Caretaker Government Repeals Regulation on Refugee Integration (CLUE, link):
"The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee says the repeal of the regulation on the integration of refugees is illegitimate, immoral and a threat to national security.
"First and foremost, the unambiguous and direct intervention of the president in the executive powers is unconstitutional. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the president has specific representative functions, and the determination of state policy in any area is not among them."....
"The arguments for repealing the ordinance are that it doesn't suit some municipalities and settlements, where it created tension in the intake of refugees, but these arguments are unsound. Instead of taking sanctions against officials who violated the legal rights of refugees with completely regular status, the government violated the rights of refugees."
""The failure to provide minimal help for the refugees in order to integrate them into our society as active citizens, despite EU financial support, is not only illegal and immoral but also clearly foolish from every point of view.
It only leads to their eventual marginalization, isolation and encapsulation in closed societies, which is a prerequisite for radicalization."
Ireland: Ministers kept in the dark over British spy (The Times, link):
"A secret report on a British police spy has revealed that the former garda commissioner refused to deny that he gave permission for an undercover UK officer to work in Ireland.
Martin Callinan defended confidential arrangements that the gardaí could have with British police that would allow undercover agents to spy in the Republic without the Irish government being informed.
Frances Fitzgerald, the justice minister, has been urged to demand answers from the gardaí. Labour has called on the Policing Authority to question Nóirín OSullivan, the current commissioner, on whether..."
Central European Democratorship (VIsegrad Insight, link):
"Tens of thousands of protestors went to the streets of Budapest last Sunday marking the biggest demonstration current government has faced so far. Its time to accept that recent developments in Hungary and Poland, along with the alarming reports on democratic standards in the region, are not just temporary turbulence but a new type of political regime in the making."
EU scrambles meeting over border chaos (euobserver, link):
"The European Commission is scrambling experts from member states to meet in Brussels following traffic chaos and huge traveller delays over new security rules at the external borders.
"When it comes to lengthy queues we are in contact with several member states and we are going to have an expert meeting this week to address these issues," an EU commission spokesperson told reporters on Monday "
European Commission: 11th report on relocation and annexes
Relocation and Resettlement: Steady progress made but more efforts needed to meet targets - Today, the Commission adopted its eleventh progress report on the EU's emergency relocation and resettlement schemes, assessing actions taken since 2 March 2017 (Press release, pdf):
"Whereas some Member States (Luxembourg and Portugal) are steadily progressing on their obligations for Greece and Italy, others (Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia) are relocating on a very limited basis. Whilst Austria has announced it will start relocating soon, others (Hungary and Poland) are still refusing to participate in the relocation scheme at all. So far, only two Member States (Malta and Finland) are on track to meet their obligations for both Italy and Greece in time."
Eleventh report on relocation and resettlement (COM 212-17, pdf)
Annex 1: Greece (pdf): Formally pledged: 19,603, Effectively Relocated: 11,339, Commitment legally foreseen in the Council Decisions: 63,302, % of legal commitment effectively relocated: 18%
Annex 2: Italy (pdf): Formally pledged: 10,659, Effectively Relocated: 5,001, Commitment legally foreseen in the Council Decisions: 34,953 % of legal commitment effectively relocated: 14%
Annex 3: (pdf): Relocations from Italy and Greece by 10 April 2017:
Annex 4: (pdf): Resettlement State of Play as of 10 April 2017, under 20 July 2015 Conclusions and under the "1:1 mechanism" with Turkey (in application since 4 April 2016)
A European Agenda: On security: State of play: April 2017(pdf): In same press release on terrorism and organised crime...
European Parliament Study: Legal Frameworks for Hacking by Law Enforcement: Identification, Evaluation and Comparison of Practices (pdf):
"This study, commissioned by the European Parliaments Policy Department for Citizens Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee,
presents concrete policy proposals on the use of hacking techniques by law enforcement. These proposals are driven by a comparative examination of the legal frameworks for hacking by law enforcement across six EU Member States and three non-EU countries, in combination with analyses of the international and
EU-level debates on the topic and the EU legal basis for intervention in the field."
European Parliament Study: Research for CULT Committee - European Identity (pdf):
"This study seeks to examine the concept, challenges and prospects of collective identity in a European context. The text acknowledges the complex nature of collective identities in general and a common European identity in particular. On that basis, the study critically assesses the potential of cultural and political approaches to foster allegiances with a supranational body politic such as the European Union. Particular attention is paid to the role of history and historical remembrance, as well as that of bottom-up initiatives aimed at active civic engagement, in strengthening a European sense of belonging."
EU launches probe of Hungarian education law (Yahoo News, link):
"BRUSSELS (AP) The European Union's executive arm questioned Hungary's commitment to the bloc's fundamental values Wednesday as it launched an investigation of a new law which is widely seen in Europe as targeting a Bucharest university founded by billionaire George Soros.
EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said the investigation of Hungary's amended higher education law would be completed "as soon as possible" and that the commission would consider possible next steps by the end of April."
UK: Law Commission pulls back on official secrets laws plans after Reg exposes flawed report (The Register, link):
"The UK government's Law Commission, reeling from a Reg-led torrent of press, political and even judicial criticism of proposals for punitive new official secrets laws, has branded their first report "only provisional".
Launching an extra round of public consultation this month, the Commission said that "our final recommendations will be influenced by our open public consultation". The deadline to respond "has now been extended to 3 May ... due to the large amount of interest in the project", they added."
See the report: PDF
Europes exports of spy tech to authoritarian countries revealed (Information, link):
""In order to prevent dictatorships from abusing European technology to crack down on political opposition, the EU started regulating the export of surveillance technology a few years ago. But that has far from stopped the exports to problematic countries, a cross-border investigation reveals."
Italian Authorities Urged to Act Following Reports of Internet Surveillance System Being Exported to Egypt (PI, link):
"Subsequent to our letter of January 2017 to the Italian export authorities expressing our belief that the export of an internet network surveillance system to Egypt poses a clear risk to human rights, the Ministry of Economic Development has confirmed in a press release that the authorisation has been revoked.
While the decision is to be welcomed, a feature documentary broadcast yesterday on Al-Jazeera shows the severity of the surveillance industrys threat to privacy and other human rights and the urgent need for its exposure. The documentary, relying on undercover footage, shows a number of Italian and international surveillance company representatives willing to export surveillance equipment with little regard to human rights."
Schengen Borders Code: Systematic checks of EU citizens crossing external Schengen borders mandatory as of today (Commission, DG Home, link)
"Friday, 7 April, 2017: As of today, Member States are obliged to carry out systematic checks against relevant databases on EU citizens who are crossing the EU's external borders, in addition to the systematic checks already being carried out on all third-country nationals entering the Schengen zone. Proposed by the Commission in a direct response to the attacks in Paris in November 2015 and the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters, the new rules - adopted by the Council on 7 March - strengthen the management of our external borders."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.4.17) including: mounting evidence of Hungarian police violence against refugees; Frontex quibbled with distress definition to avoid search and rescue
New evidence shows Frontex "quibbled with definitions of distress" to avoid search and rescue
A report recently published by The Intercept examines Frontex's Operation Triton - introduced as a meagre follow-up to the Italian-led Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean - and suggests that the available evidence shows that the EU border agency has been "deliberately patrolling in the wrong area and quibbling with definitions of distress, meaning that its ships would almost certainly arrive late [to distress calls], if at all." An accompanying article argues that recent claims by officials and politicians that non-profit search-and-rescue operations in and around Libyan waters act as a "pull factor" are overblown.
Research paper on automatically tracking "hundreds of people in extremely crowded scenes"
"Multi-object tracking has been studied for decades. However, when it comes to tracking pedestrians in extremely crowded scenes, we are limited to only few works. This is an important problem which gives rise to several challenges. Pre-trained object detectors fail to localize targets in crowded sequences. This consequently limits the use of data-association based multi-target tracking methods which rely on the outcome of an object detector. Additionally, the small apparent target size makes it challenging to extract features to discriminate targets from their surroundings. Finally, the large number of targets greatly increases computational complexity which in turn makes it hard to extend existing multi-target tracking approaches to high-density crowd scenarios. In this paper, we propose a tracker that addresses the aforementioned problems and is capable of tracking hundreds of people efficiently... We show that the proposed formulation can track hundreds of targets efficiently and improves state-of-art results by significant margins on eleven challenging high density crowd sequences."
See: Binary Quadratic Programing for Online Tracking of Hundreds of People in Extremely Crowded Scenes (IEEE, link)
EU-BRAZIL: Today, Brazil and Europol signed an agreement to expand cooperation to combat cross-border criminal activities (Europol press release, pdf):
"Leandro Coimbra, Director-General of the Brazilian Federal Police (BFP) and Europol's Director, Rob Wainwright, today signed a strategic cooperation agreement to expand cooperation to combat cross-border criminal activities. The agreement will enable both partners to work on some key areas such as migrant smuggling, cybercrime, drug trafficking, asset recovery, money laundering, organised property crime and trafficking in human beings.
The agreement allows for the exchange of general strategic intelligence as well as strategic and technical information and operational information with the exception of personal data, and will lead to the secondment of a Brazilian Liaison Officer to Europol."
UNHCR urges suspension of transfers of asylum-seekers to Hungary under Dublin (UNHCR, link):
"UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today called for a temporary suspension of all transfers of asylum-seekers to Hungary from other European States under the Dublin Regulation. The Dublin regulation is an EU instrument that determines which European State is responsible for examining an asylum seekers application.
The situation for asylum-seekers in Hungary, which was already of deep concern to UNHCR, has only gotten worse since the new law introducing mandatory detention for asylum-seekers came into effect, said Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Given the worsening situation of asylum-seekers in Hungary, I urge States to suspend any Dublin transfer of asylum-seekers to this country until the Hungarian authorities bring their practices and policies in line with European and international law, he added."
EU scrambles meeting over border chaos (EUobserver, link):
"The European Commission is scrambling experts from member states to meet in Brussels following traffic chaos and huge traveller delays over new security rules at the external borders.
"When it comes to lengthy queues we are in contact with several member states and we are going to have an expert meeting this week to address these issues," an EU commission spokesperson told reporters on Monday (10 April).
The rules are part of a larger anti-terror effort after EU nationals that had fought alongside militant extremists in Syria then returned to launch attacks in Paris.
National authorities are required as of last week to ID check, using security databases, every EU citizen that leaves or enters the outer fringes of the Schengen area of 26 EU states."
Turkey must listen to the demands of the hunger strikers
Some 187 Kurdish political prisoners in 20 different prisons in Turkey are on hunger strike in protest over inhumane prison conditions, gross human rights violations such as solitary confinement and denial of basic rights such as a prison ban on books.
Council of Europe: Prison statistics for 2015: overcrowding still a problem
The Council of Europe recently published its annual prison statistics report, covering the year 2015. The organisation highlighted the fact that from 2014 to 2015 the number of prisoners in Europe fell by 6.8%, but prison overcrowding remains a problem in 15 countries.
UK: HMP Woodhill inmate death families in High Court bid (BBC News, link):
"Families of two men who died in prison have brought a High Court case over the "exceptionally" high rate of self-inflicted deaths there.
Ian Brown, 44, and Daniel Dunkley, 35, died following incidents in their cells at HMP Woodhill last July.
Their relatives claim Woodhill's governor has not complied fully with Prison Service Instructions (PSIs).
But the governor and the Secretary of State say the judicial review claim is "neither appropriate or necessary"."
UK: Innocent man reveals his five-year ordeal at hands of 'out of control' officers after they launched a vendetta which led to his loyal police wife being hounded out of her job (Daily Mail, link):
"It would be shocking enough to discover that Mr Gilly was charged in December 2015 with causing the policemen harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act [after overtaking a police van and being handcuffed and pepper-sprayed]. His ordeal only ended last week when Newcastle-under-Lyme magistrates found him not guilty and it emerged that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was investigating the use of the pepper spray.
But what makes this story truly alarming is that the case was the culmination of what would appear to be a five-year vendetta waged by Staffordshire Police against Mr Gilly, an entirely innocent man."
Evidence mounting for Hungarys brutal treatment of migrants (Atlatszo, link):
"There is an increasing number of reports that Hungarian authorities are extremely brutal to migrants trying to get to Western Europe. Two representatives of the Helsinki Committee human rights advocacy visited a transit site in February and told Atlatszo.hu about experiences, where defenseless refugees were tied up with barbed wire or had dogs set on them."
NGOs Are Vital to Democracy Here's Why (Liberties.eu, link):
"Anti-democratic governments dont like NGOs. They help the public keep an eye on whether politicians are misusing public money or breaking the law. They help the public get organised and make their opinions known to our representatives, for example through petitions or peaceful protests. And they take governments to court when they try to take away our rights or steal our taxes."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.4.17) including: EU funds to Sudan may worsen refugees' fates; attacks against asylum seekers' homes in Austria double; and more.
HUNGARY: Fidesz calls on govt not pay legal fees due for NGO on European Human Rights Court ruling (Politics.hu, link):
"The governing Fidesz party has called on its own government to refuse to pay the Hungarian Helsinki Committee NGO compensation that the Strasbourg court ordered in connection with the case of two Bangladeshi asylum seekers who were detained and deported in 2015. Fidesz spokesman János Halász noted the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordered Hungary to pay the NGO, which represented the two asylum seekers, 2.7 million forints (EUR 8,700) in legal fees for wrongly detaining and deporting them in 2015. It ruled that a further 6 million forints should be paid to the two asylum seekers."
UK: The Hostile Environment: turning the UK into a nation of border cops (Corporate Watch, link):
"In 2012 Theresa May, then Home Secretary, announced a new approach to immigration: to make Britain a hostile environment for people who have no right to be here.The introduction of compulsory ID checks in hospitals, due to start this month, is just one element. The plan is to make it ever tougher for people without the right immigration papers to get a job, rent a flat, use a bank, drive a car, get medical treatment, send kids to school, or otherwise live a normal life.
This report outlines 13 of the main hostile environment policies introduced so far... [there are] three basic themes across all these measures: mass information sharing, criminalisation of migrants, and widespread citizen collaboration."
UK: Ministry of Justice accepts failings in care after inquest held into death of HMP Leeds prisoner (Yorkshire Evening Post, link):
"The Ministry of Justice has accepted there were significant failings in the care given to a prisoner at HMP Leeds who took his own life while in segregation.
It follows critical findings recorded at the end of a three-week inquest into the death of Chris Beardshaw on December 30, 2013.
There have been a further 10 self-inflicted deaths at the prison since Mr Beardshaw died on December 30, 2013.
It is second highest rate in any prison in England and Wales, with only HMP Woodhill recording a higher number."
EU-SUDAN: EU funds to Sudan may worsen fate of refugees (EUobserver, link)
"These improved EU-Sudan relations may also mean EU support for Sudans notorious Janjaweed militia, rebranded the Rapid Support Force (RSF) in 2013. And just like their Janjaweed predecessors, the RSF is well-known for its extensive human rights violations within Sudan...
the very same Rapid Support Force has also been hired to curb migration via EU funds. In January, the RSF thwarted an operation to smuggle a group of illegal migrants across the desert to Libya, according to what a state official from North Darfur told The Sudan Tribune, who added that the captured migrants came from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Yemen.
The RSF also said that it had handed over 1,500 alleged illegal migrants to the interior ministry earlier that month, claiming to have captured the migrants near the Sudan-Libya border in Northern State. The RSFs involvement in anti-migration efforts was corroborated last August after RSF leader, Mohamed Hamdan Hemeti, explicitly claimed that his force had been patrolling the Sudan-Libya border on the EUs behalf."
BELARUS: Lukashenka: End of an era? (EUobserver, link):
"It is ironic that the political spring in Belarus ended just as the actual season sets in.
The break from repressions that the country had enjoyed since summer 2015 is now over. In a wry twist, it ended with mass arrests on Freedom Day on 25 March, but people are desperate enough to keep demanding changes anyway.
On the day, there was limited public transport in the city centre and slow internet.
Journalists and human rights defenders were prevented from doing their work.
Riot police massively outnumbered protestors and passers-by, with police trucks and water cannons lined up on the streets of Minsk city centre.
All of this has become normal during the soon-to-be 23 years of president Aleksander Lukashenkas rule.
But despite the deja vu, there were differences."
The "shrinking space" for civil society: what does it mean and what are the problems with the concept?
"Individual and collective activism is facing a global pushback from states, corporations and the Far Right. The metaphor of 'shrinking space' has been widely embraced as a way of describing a new generation of restrictions on political struggle. However there is a need to deconstruct this narrative and unpack some of the problems inherent in the concept."
See: On shrinking space - a framing paper (TNI, link)
ITALY: Asylum system overhauled: "there are so many ways you can build walls: with concrete or with rules"
A new decree (the Minniti-Orlando immigration decree) has been heavily criticised by Lorenzo Trucco, president of the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (ASGI), who notes that the new rules mean "the entire asylum system will be changed, for the worse," and that "there are so many ways you can build walls: with concrete or with rules."
See: Lorenzo Trucco (Asgi) on Minniti-Orlando decree : A wall of laws that limit the right to asylum (ASGI, link)
UK: Photo of woman defying EDL protester in Birmingham goes viral (The Guardian, link):
"A photograph showing a young woman smiling bemusedly at an incensed English Defence League protester has been widely shared as a symbol of Birminghams defiance in the face of the far right.
The image, which has been shared thousands of times on social media, was captured during a demonstration by the far-right group in Birmingham city centre on Saturday. It shows a man, wearing an EDL T-shirt, staring into the eyes of the young woman, who is looking back at him unfazed. A police officer appears to be restraining the man."
UK: Court of Appeal: Cuts to legal aid for prisoners are unlawful (The Howard League, link):
"Cuts to legal aid for prisoners are unlawful because they are inherently unfair, the Court of Appeal ruled today (Monday 10 April) in its judgment on a legal challenge brought by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners Advice Service (PAS).
The ruling is an important step forward in making sure that people in prison move through the system more safely and more efficiently. This will make the public safer and ease pressure on a prison system at breaking point.
Since cuts to legal aid for prisoners came into force in December 2013, violence and self-injury in prisons have risen to record levels. Almost 300 people have lost their lives through suicide."
See the judgment: R (Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners Advice
Service) v The Lord Chancellor (pdf) and the press summary of the judgment (pdf)
SPAIN: Interior minister announces three new migration detention centres
On Tuesday 4 April the Spanish interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, announced the creation of three new migration detention centres (Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros, CIEs) in Malaga, Algeciras and Madrid.
EU-HUNGARY: Late to the party: Commission will hold its first debate on Hungary's "illiberal" drift on 12 April
The European Commission will reportedly hold its first debate "over the drift towards 'illiberal democracy' in Hungary" on 12 April after years of critiques and protests over the situation in the country from human rights groups, journalists, commentators and others. Meanwhile, MEPs within the European People's Party Group in the European Parliament - also home to MEPs from Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban's governing party, Fidesz - have said that the use of Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allows Member States' voting rights in the Council to be suspended, may be invoked "if the situation with Hungary continues".
EU: Council of the European Union: High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration (HLWG) (LIMITE doc no: 7430-17, pdf): With pages 5-32 on:
" GAMM UPDATE: 8 March 2017
This document provides an updated overview of the main external migration dialogues and processes implemented in the framework of the EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM). The document is compiled for the information of the EU High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration by the responsible European Commission services, in association with the EEAS."
This covers: Part 1 - The regional processes; (A) The Prague Process (B) The Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration and Asylum (C) The Africa-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue (D) The Rabat Process (E) The Budapest Process (F) The Khartoum Process (G) The ACP-EU Migration Dialogue (H) The EU-CELAC Migration Dialogue (I) The Valletta Summit
Part 2 - The bilateral dialogues (A) Turkey (B) Southern Mediterranean countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon) (C) Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus) (D) Russia (E) African countries (Cape Verde, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, South Africa) (F) Asian countries (China, India) (G) United States of America (H) Brazil
Part 3 - The global processes: Global Forum for Migration and Development, United Nations
And see: EU: Beyond the borders: overview of "external migration dialogues and processes" (Statewatch database)
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6-9.4.17)
Council of Europe: Commissioner for Human Rights: The Shrinking Space for Human Rights Organisations (CoE, link):
"In recent years I have noticed a clear trend of backsliding in several European countries in the area of freedom of association, particularly in respect of human rights organisations and defenders. The growing pressure and increased obstacles can take a variety of forms: legal and administrative restrictions; judicial harassment and sanctions, including criminal prosecution for failure to comply with new restrictive regulations; smear campaigns and orchestrated ostracism of independent groups; and threats, intimidation and even physical violence against their members.
In some cases, the climate is so negative that it forces human rights work to the margins or even underground."
UK: Victims of political policing demand accountability at Undercover Policing Inquiry, in London (Real News, video, link):
"Two years have passed since the establishment of the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing. Participants say that as of yet, no oral evidence has been taken and that the police are seeking to delay the process in perpetuity. TRNN Researcher Mohamed Elmaazi attended the first Hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on April 04th 2017, and interviewed participants and their supporters."
Viewpoint: Hindering humanitarianism: European Commission will not ensure protection for those supporting sans-papiers
A new European Commission evaluation of EU laws on migrant smuggling concludes there is a need to improve the situation around "the perceived risk of criminalisation of humanitarian assistance" to "irregular" migrants. The Commission argues that the answer to the problem is "effective implementation of the existing legal framework" - but it is the laws currently in place, which let Member States decide whether or not to punish humanitarian assistance, that permits the existence in some EU Member States of a very real risk of criminalisation.
See: Hindering humanitarianism: European Commission will not ensure protection for those supporting sans-papiers (pdf)
EU: Council of the European Union: Discussion on Audio-Visual Media Services (AVMS)
The Council is discussing its position on: AVMS: Definitions, hate speech and terrorism, accessibility and protection of minors - Presidency compromise proposals (LIMITE doc no: 6597-17, pdf) Audio-Visual Media Services (AVMS) is discussing an ever-widening list of types of content that should be censored by internet companies. It includes: Provisions related to HATE SPEECH AND TERRORISM: Article 6.
Why is Hungary trying to shut down a university? The attack on CEU is a reminder of the dark path the Hungarian government is on (aljazeera.com, link):
"The cabinet led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban pushed through a proposal which on the surface looks like it is to reform the regulation of international private universities working in Hungary.....
The fate of the CEU might now be in the hands of the Constitutional Court, which despite leaning strongly towards the government, will have plenty of reasons to annul the law. In rare occasions the court has already annulled some governmental decisions and if international pressure continues to grow, the government might be tempted to use the court to withdraw the measure without losing political face. However it may be, the CEU case is yet another reminder that the Hungarian government is heading down on a dark path from which there might be no return."
See also: Hungarian charities fear proposed law aims to 'discredit' them - Hungarian charities fear proposed law aims to 'discredit' themHungarian charities fear proposed law aims to 'discredit' them (politico, link)
EU starts systematic checks at external borders today (euractiv, link):
"Europeans will face systematic checks at the external borders of the EUs Schengen beginning on Friday (7 April) under legislation designed to tackle foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria.
Member states will as of tomorrow have an obligation to carry out systematic checks against relevant databases at the external borders, also on EU citizens, a European Commission spokeswoman said Thursday (6 April)."
Austrian Socialists consider ending ban on far-right alliances (euractiv, link):
"Austrias ruling Social Democrats are responding to rising anti-establishment sentiment in a way that would be unthinkable in most European nations, by moving towards lifting a self-imposed ban on coalitions with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ)."
European Parliament: Data Privacy Shield: MEPs alarmed at undermining of privacy safeguards in the US (Press release, pdf):
"New rules allowing the US National Security Agency (NSA) to share private data with other US agencies without court oversight, recent revelations about surveillance activities by a US electronic communications service provider and vacancies on US oversight bodies are among the concerns raised by MEPs in a resolution passed on Thursday.
In the resolution, adopted by 306 votes to 240, with 40 abstentions, MEPs call on the EU Commission to conduct a proper assessment and ensure that the EU-US Privacy Shield for data transferred for commercial purposes provides enough personal data protection for EU citizens to comply with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and new EU data protection rules. The first annual review of the Privacy Shield framework is expected in September...
New rules that from January 2017 allow the NSA to share vast amounts of private data, gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorisation, with 16 other agencies, including the FBI,....
the fact that neither the Privacy Shield Principles nor letters from the US administration demonstrate the existence of effective judicial redress rights for EU individuals whose data are transferred to the US." [emphasis added]
Stop feeding the beast! A review of My Country: A work in progress (IRR News Service, link) by LIz Fekete:
"A play built around seventy long interviews with leavers and remainers about their feelings after the Brexit vote, inadvertently, provides insights into the immigration debate.
The liberal consensus on immigration has broken down. Thats what Brexit has taught us, or at least thats what the establishment tells us that Brexit has taught us. The Conservative leadership risk no crisis of confidence within its ranks when it comes to pandering to anti-immigration sentiment the nastier, the more hard-line, the better its coverage in the Daily Mail and the Sun.....
Once again, a door opens to a wider perspective one in which immigration is merely a sign that stands in for something else, namely the indignities and dislocations that arise with the end of an era that promised full employment. Addressing the loss of meaning that ordinary people have experienced as their workplaces have been destroyed, and the dislocation of neighbourhoods and communities, that have been abandoned by successive governments, now that certainly is a work in progress."
Macedonia: ECHR: Publication of former communist official's details in historical collaboration investigation breached right to privacy and fair hearing
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a former high-ranking state official had his right to a fair hearing and right to privacy violated by an investigation into officials who collaborated with state security bodies during the communist regime. Press release from the ECHR: Karajanov v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (no. 2229/15)
The applicant, Petar Karajanov, is a Macedonian national who was born in 1936 and lives in Skopje. The case concerned lustration proceedings brought against him. These were proceedings aimed at exposing persons who had worked for or collaborated with the States security services during the communist period.
MEPs demand action against Hungary after law targets Soros (euractiv, link):
"A group representing a majority of European Union lawmakers said on Wednesday (5 April) that they want the Parliament to start disciplinary proceedings against Hungary after a crackdown on foreign universities by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Hungarys parliament approved a law on Tuesday (4 April) that could force out a university founded by financier George Soros the Central European University (CEU) despite international condemnation and protests by thousands of Hungarians."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4-5.4.17) including: Member States enthusiastic about Commission deportation plans; Tusk committed to keeping Balkan route "closed"; five-month detention of asylum-seekers did not infringe rights.
EU: Police attempt to change scope of undercover officers inquiry (The Guardian, link):
"Police have launched an attempt to change the scope of a judge-led public inquiry into the alleged misconduct of their undercover officers in England and Wales who spied on hundreds of political groups.
The police are arguing that the inquiry, led by Lord Justice Pitchford, should scrutinise fewer undercover officers than planned at the moment, a hearing on Wednesday heard.
They are also pushing for an extra seven months to prepare legal applications to keep secret the identities of many of their undercover officers.
In August 2016 they were given a deadline of 1 March to submit these applications but failed to submit any."
EU: Member States enthusiastic about Commission's "how low can you go?" deportation recommendations
The EU's Member States have given a warm welcome to recent proposals from the European Commission to lower human rights standards in order to increase the number of deportations, according to the secret minutes of a meeting of one of the Council's migration working parties which Statewatch is publishing here in full.
BELGIUM: European Court of Human Rights: Detention of asylum-seeker at Belgian border did not infringe right to liberty and security
"In todays Chamber judgment1 in the case of Thimothawes v. Belgium (application no. 39061/11) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been:
no violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned the five-month detention of an Egyptian asylum-seeker at the Belgian border.
The Court found in particular that any measure depriving a person of his liberty had to be prescribed by law. Where the legal provision in question originated in international law, only the domestic courts, except in the case of an arbitrary or manifestly unreasonable interpretation, were empowered to interpret domestic law pursuant to the supranational provisions in question. The Court only scrutinised the conformity of the effects of that interpretation with the Convention.
In the present case, the scrutiny of lawfulness conducted by the domestic courts of the detention order had taken account of the case-law of the Court. Moreover, the issue of the applicants mental health was not, on its own, sufficient for a finding that his detention had been arbitrary. Finally, the assessment of the facts of the case supported a finding that his period of detention had not been unreasonably long."
See: press release: Detention of an asylum-seeker at the Belgian border did not infringe the right to liberty and security secured under the Convention (pdf) and judgment: AFFAIRE THIMOTHAWES c. BELGIQUE (French only, application no. 39061/11, pdf)
GREECE: Returns to be Turkey to be accelerated as Chios at "breaking point" following attempted self-immolation
"As the inflow of undocumented migrants to the islands of the eastern Aegean rises with the improving weather, the government is planning action to ease the pressure on increasingly overcrowded reception centers.
In the coming days, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas is expected to issue a circular, banning migrants who appeal against a rejection of their application for political asylum from a voluntary repatriation scheme being run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM)."
See: Greece to accelerate return of migrants to Turkey as arrivals pick up (Ekathimerini, link)
And: Mouzalas says situation on Chios has reached breaking point (Ekathimerini, link)
"Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said on Friday that the situation at migrant camps in Chios has reached breaking point.
Speaking to Parliament in the aftermath of a suicide attempt of migrant that set himself on fire, Mouzalas said the situation on Chios is exceeding its limits.
According to the minister, 2,500 refugees and migrants have been transferred to the Greek mainland, while another 1200 moved by themselves."
EU: Tusk on tour: statements from meetings in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Slovenia ignore the reality of the Balkan route
Donald Tusk, the recently re-elected President of the European Council, has recently been in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Slovenia where he emphasised the important role those countries have to play in guarding the "Balkan route" to central and northern Europe. The route has been followed by thousands of migrants and refugees and despite its official "closure" in March 2016, it remains in use and continues to be a lucrative business opportunity for people smugglers. Numerous countries have recently committed to working together more closely to try to ensure control.
UK: New report on the impact of the "right to rent" scheme requiring immigration checks from landlords and letting agents
"This report examines the impact of the 'right to rent' scheme a year on from its nationwide roll-out in England. The scheme requires landlords and agents to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants and refuse a tenancy to irregular migrants. If they fail to fully comply with the scheme they face a fine of up to £3,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years. The report builds on JCWI's independent evaluation published in 2015.
The report reveals that foreigners and British citizens without passports, particularly those from ethnic minorities, are being discriminated against in the private rental housing market.
- 51% of landlords surveyed said that the scheme would make them less likely to consider letting to foreign nationals.
- 42% of landlords stated that they were less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the scheme. This rose to 48% when explicitly asked to consider the impact of the criminal sanction.
- An enquiry from a British Black Minority Ethnic (BME) tenant without a passport was ignored or turned down by 58% of landlords, in a mystery shopping exercise.
In addition, the Government is failing to adequately monitor the scheme to measure whether or not it is working as intended, or whether it is causing discrimination, enforcement under the scheme is low and there is no evidence to suggest that the scheme is encouraging irregular migrants to leave the UK."
See the report: Passport Please (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, link)
BELGIUM: Peace activists protest at EU workshop for arms dealers (War Resisters' International, link):
"On 28th March, a group of twenty peace activists took action at the European Defence Agency (EDA) in Brussels, to protest an EU workshop designed to inform arms dealers about the financial support that Europe has to offer them. The peace activists covered themselves with red blood-like paint, preventing access to the European Defence Agency. While the Middle-East is burning, arms dealers are filling their pockets with our tax money, explained one of the activists. The EU is funding an industry which has blood on its hands.
The EU has recently started subsidising the arms industry with a military research programme. The first funding will amount to 90 million, but this is only a preparatory programme. The European Commissions long term objective is to set up a fully-fledged European Defence Research Programme worth 3.5 billion between 2021-2027."
UK: The Women Activists Who Fell In Love With Police Spies And Are Still Waiting For Justice (Huffington Post, link):
"When Alison* told her family that her partner, who had disappeared without a trace after a five year relationship, was actually a police spy, her suspicions were dismissed as those of a spurned spouse.
The pair had began their relationship in May 1995 and it wasnt long until they moved in together. It seemed like the ideal relationship, Alison recalls. But one day in 2000, she came home from work to find that Mark had disappeared, leaving only a note. Alison has not seen him since, but she wasnt alone.
Between 1968 and 2008 Scotland Yards Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) deployed undercover officers to infiltrate hundreds of political groups. In an information gathering exercise, male police officers struck up relationships with female activists, often lasting years and sometimes even resulting in children.
These officers told lies, created completely fictitious personalities and seduced scores of female activists into affairs in a bid to infiltrate groups fighting for environmental, political and social justice causes."
EU-BELARUS: Schengen visa facilitation: jeopardised by fear of migrants? (Belarus Digest, link):
"Recent statements by Belarusian officials have confirmed that the country's citizens should not expect a more liberal visa regime with Europe in the foreseeable future. Belarus's decision to introduce a conditional visa-free regime for nationals of eighty countries, many of them European, does not mean Europe has to reciprocate.
Georgia and Ukraine, Belaruss fellow inmates in the Soviet camp, will soon join Moldova in the group of countries which enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen zone. Meanwhile, Belarusians are subject to the strictest Schengen visa regime amongst all Eastern European nations.
Differences between Minsk and Brussels over the readmission procedure, concerning migrants who attempt to cross the Belarusian border into the EU, have dashed hopes for imminent visa facilitation. Does this mean citizens of Belarus will continue to be targets of expensive, complicated, and sometimes humiliating visa procedures?"
And see: New detention centres part of 7 million EU migration project in Belarus (Statwatch News Online, 1 February 2017)
UK's 'extreme' web surveillance project takes shape, but hurdles remain (ZDNet, link):
"The UK's new web snooping rules are still taking shape: while the legislation governing it -- the Investigatory Powers Act -- became law late last year, there is still much left unresolved.
The Investigatory Powers Act represents a major extension of the surveillance power of the state. It requires internet companies to keep customers' web-surfing history for 12 months.
It also gives spying agencies and police powers to conduct mass hacking of IT infrastructure, PCs, smartphones, and other devices and was described by NSA-contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden as "the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy".
...While the legislation received royal assent in November last year, it actually takes rather longer for such a significant piece of legislation to be fully in place."
UK: MI6, rendition, and cover-ups of cover-ups: in some respects "Guantanámo is a marked improvement" on the British justice system
"It... came as a salutary surprise to watch recent proceedings in courtroom 72 at the Royal Courts of Justice, where the UK government applied, for the first time in a renditions case, for a secret hearing (euphemistically referred to as a Closed Material Proceeding or CMP) under the Justice and Security Act 2013. The British judge has just granted the governments application for this CMP.
This is a case where for more than a decade ministers have been misled by MI6, and have in turn misled parliament and the people. It is a case of great significance. If such a cover-up were attempted in Guntown (a real place in north-eastern Mississippi) it would be laughed out of court. The US military would have no more success on the Guantánamo Naval Base.
Open justice has been a casualty in the post-9/11 world. Rights are being eroded at the margins, and those who care about British justice need to look around themselves."
See: Secrets and lies (The Law Society Gazette, link) by Clive Stafford-Smith.
And see: UK: High Court rules Blair-era rendition case can be heard in secret (Reprieve, link):
"The High Court has today ruled that a Blair-era renditions case should be heard in secret, following a request from the government under the controversial Justice and Security Act."
UK's need for post-Brexit trade deals will trump human rights concerns - Theresa Mays hopes for global Britain may set new standard for hypocrisy that will boost repressive regimes everywhere (Guardian,link):
"Theresa Mays argument that it is better to engage with unsavoury foreign governments who abuse human rights than stand on the sidelines, sniping has been made by British politicians since the days of South Africas white minority apartheid regime. Critics find it no more convincing today than it was then."
See also: UK: Parliament: Joint Human Rights Committee: Human Rights and Business 2017: Promoting responsibility and ensuring accountability (pdf)
UK-EU: Guide to the Brexit Negotiations (EU Law Analysis, link) by Professor Steve Peers:
" Last week the Brexit process formally got underway, as the UK formally sent the Article 50 withdrawal letter to the EU on March 29, and the EU in turn drew up a draft of its Brexit negotiating guidelines.
The following is a detailed annotation of the text of the EUs draft guidelines, which I compare throughout to the UK position which is most fully set out in Theresa Mays Chatham House speech in January (discussed here). The draft guidelines might be changed before final adoption (due for April 29), but at present it seems unlikely there will be radical changes (if any), so my analysis is based on the text as it now stands. I will update this blog post if there are significant amendments."
Trump signs repeal of U.S. broadband privacy rules (Reuters, link):
"U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed a repeal of Obama-era broadband privacy rules, the White House said, a victory for internet service providers and a blow to privacy advocates.
Republicans in Congress last week narrowly passed the repeal of the privacy rules with no Democratic support and over the strong objections of privacy advocates."
See also: First EU-US Privacy Shield annual review to take place in September - Framework continues to draw criticism from campaigners (The Register, link)
EU must make stand against Hungarys contempt for European values (euractiv, link):
"The Central European University has been a beacon of European values for over two decades but is now under threat from the Hungarian government. Budapests machinations are also completely contrary to the spirit of the Rome Declaration, warns Chrys Margaritidis."
This Map Shows the UKs Surveillance Exports (Motherboard, link):
"IMSI catchers, intrusion software, internet monitoring solutions: UK companies provide it all.
The UK is a worldwide exporter of surveillance technology. From devices that hoover up phone calls and text messages, to hardware for monitoring internet traffic, Her Majesty's Government has granted myriad licenses to ship spying gear over the past few years.
Some of the recipient countries will have legitimate uses for such products, but manyEgypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabiaalso have abhorrent human rights records, especially when it comes to abusing powerful surveillance tech. "
Rise of robotics will upend laws and lead to human job quotas, study says - Report predicts rise in robotics will usher in industrial revolution 4.0 altering working practices and legal frameworks (Guardian, link):
"Innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics could force governments to legislate for quotas of human workers, upend traditional working practices and pose novel dilemmas for insuring driverless cars, according to a report by the International Bar Association.
The survey, which suggests that a third of graduate level jobs around the world may eventually be replaced by machines or software, warns that legal frameworks regulating employment and safety are becoming rapidly outdated."
See report: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Their Impact on the Workplace (pdf)
UK: How His Majestys Secret Service spied on His Majesty and then denied it for 80 years (National Post, link):
"On the first weekend of December 1936, Thomas Robertson, a 27-year-old MI5 intelligence officer, was posted at dead of night to the deeply unglamorous undergrowth of Green Park, central London. Tar, as he was known to friends and family was, on the orders of the Home Secretary, to find the telephone junction box that served Buckingham Palace and place a wiretap on the royal phones.
Shivering in the cold, with his headphones on, the Scottish spy listened in on a private call between King Edward VIII and his brother Bertie, the future George VI. Thus he became the first person beyond the immediate Windsor family to learn that the King intended to abdicate, to choose the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, and so precipitate a crisis that would threaten to sink the monarchy."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (1-3.4. 17) including: 1,600 people arrive in Greece in March; Council documents on new Eurodac proposal and resettlement scheme; brutal attack on a young asylum-seeker in London.
UK: Prediction, pre-emption and limits to dissent: Social media and big data uses for policing protests in the United Kingdom (New Media & Society, link) by Lina Dencik, Arne Hintz and Zoe Carey:
A detailed article examining the use of data extracted from social media for the policing of protests in an environment dominated by concerns over "domestic extremism". The article provides some crucial context, based on interviews with senior officers, on the role human agency plays in the interpretation and "operationalisation" of big data in a policing context.
"The collection and analysis of social media data for the purposes of policing forms part of a broader shift from reactive to proactive forms of governance in which state bodies engage in big data analysis to predict, pre-empt and respond in real time to a range of social problems...
For this article, we [interviewed] five senior members of the British police force identified at the time of interview as:
Head of Open Source and Social Media, National Counter Terrorism Police Functions Command (Interviewee A)
Head of Digital Engagement at the College of Policing (Interviewee B);
Previous Head of NDEDIU and the Chief Officer Lead for the National Police Co-ordination Centre (NPoCC) (Interviewee C);
Head of the Communications Data Investigators team (Interviewee D);
Regional Prevent Officer leading a social media taskforce (Interviewee E)."
EU: 16 Member States press ahead with European Public Prosecutor's Office
"16 member states notified the three institutions of their intention to launch an enhanced cooperation to establish a European public prosecutor's office (EPPO). The EPPO will be in charge of investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice the perpetrators of offences against the Union's financial interests.
The notification letter received today includes 16 signatories: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.
Other member states are expected to join the cooperation, which they are entitled to do at any time before or after the adoption of the EPPO regulation.
Negotiations at the Council will now resume in order to finalise the text."
See: European public prosecutor's office : 16 member states together to fight fraud against the EU budget (press release, pdf) and the most recent text of the Regulation, on which the Council will now restart negotiations: Proposal for a Regulation on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor's Office - Draft Regulation (5766/17, pdf)
FRANCE-EU: How will the new French President impact on EUs future? (VoteWatch Europe, link):
"The two major traditional political families that have structured French politics in the past few decades are in their death throes. Neither the Socialist Party (social-democratic) nor the Republicans party (centre-right) are assured of being in the run-off. This development generates high unpredictability with regard to the policies of the next French government, at a time of deep distress for the EU. This report assesses the likeliest directions in which France can lead the EU depending on who wins these unprecedented Presidential elections."
BELGIUM: Travel surveillance and profiling: from planes to buses, boats and trains
"On Friday, the Ministers council approved a royal decree that would apply the PNR law (Passenger Name Record) to airplane passenger data.
Other decrees for train, boat and bus passengers will follow.
The bill adopted on Friday will mean passengers names and other data can be recorded before they board a plane. They will be compared to black lists of terrorists names, the Home Affairs Minister Jan Jambon said on Friday. The new bill will also mean the data on the ticket can be compared to the data on the passengers identification."
See: Belgium ready to check passenger data at Airports (The Brussels Times, link)
Romania tightens border controls starting April 7 (Romania Insider, link):
"Romania will tighten the border controls starting April 7, as new regulation amending the Schengen borders code, which was adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council, enters into force.
This means that, starting this Friday, the border control authorities of EU countries, including the Romanian Border Police, will carry out systematic checks at the entry and exit points from member states. The waiting time at the borders will most likely increase.
The Border Police will check the travel documents of those who want to cross the border, and will consult the relevant databases on all persons, including those enjoying the right of free movement under EU law (i.e. EU citizens and members of their families who are not EU citizens) both at the entrance and at the exit from the country, according to a statement from the Romanian Border Police."
UK: Far-right demonstration falls flat as only 300 turn up to London march (The Guardian, link):
"At least 14 people have been arrested after rival groups clashed during protests in central London, the Metropolitan police have said.
Fewer than 300 members of the far-right groups Britain First and the English Defence League turned up for their march against terrorism, a turnout castigated by opponents as a lame attempt to whip up Islamophobia in the wake of the Westminster attack.
The anti-Islam groups had organised separate demonstrations that finished on the Victoria Embankment, close to Westminster Bridge, where a terror attack 10 days ago killed four people and injured 50. A similar number of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) demonstrators convened a short distance away chanting Racist scum, but were kept at bay by several lines of police."
UK: Five appear in court following 'brutal attack on asylum seeker in Croydon' (Evening Standard, link)
"Five people have appeared in court charged with violent disorder after an alleged hate crime left a teenage asylum seeker fighting for his life in Croydon.
Daryl Davis, 20, Danyelle Davis, 24, Barry Potts, 20, George Walder, 20, and Jack Walder, 24, spoke only to confirm their names and addresses during the short hearing at Croydon Magistrates' Court on Monday afternoon.
George Walder was also charged with racially aggravated grievous bodily harm.
Kurdish Iranian Reker Ahmed, 17, was chased and subjected to what police described as a "brutal attack" after a gang discovered he was an asylum seeker."
Afghans deported from Europe arrive home, to war and unemployment (Reuters, link):
"Two more planes carrying Afghans deported from Europe landed in Kabul this week, failed asylum seekers sent back under an agreement between the European Union and Afghan government.
The arrivals mean 248 people have been deported from Europe to Afghanistan this year, compared with 580 throughout 2016, said Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations.
The number of Afghans deported from Europe is small compared to the thousands returning voluntarily, but deportations are rising and some migration experts say expelling people to a country where the government controls less than two thirds of territory amid a Taliban insurgency is wrong.
Fifteen deportees arrived by chartered flight from Germany on Tuesday, while 19 landed on Wednesday from Austria and 10 from Sweden. Another flight, from Finland, is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday."
UK: How UK police helped unmask one of their own undercover spies (The Guardian, link):
"The police have gone to great lengths to argue that the identities of their undercover officers must be concealed forever.
However it was the police themselves who are responsible for helping to unmask the latest undercover officer whose identity has been confirmed.
The public inquiry into undercover policing confirmed last Wednesday that Roger Pearce had been an undercover officer for the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). He had used the fake identity of Roger Thorley during his deployment. "
EU: Commission visits Silicon Valley to "step up voluntary cooperation with internet companies" on counter-terrorism
A meeting between EU and Member State officials and representatives of Facebook, Google, Twitter took place in Silicon Valley in mid-March in order to "step up voluntary cooperation with the internet companies" on topics such as "the automatic detection of abusive content", access to electronic evidence and the EU's Civil Society Empowerment Programme, which was launched this year and promises to support "civil society, grass roots organisations and credible voices... to provide effective alternatives to the messages coming from violent extremists and terrorists."
OPEN ARMS: PRESS RELEASE: Common Statement from the SAR NGOs operating in the Mediterranean Brussels Badalona 31st March 2017 (pdf):
"As individual organisations, the attendees have come together in Brussels with the support of MEP Miguel Urban because of the on-going humanitarian crisis on Europes southern borders, and the Search and Rescue (SAR) NGOs ongoing essential efforts to save life at sea....
all attendees and representatives have agreed the objective and intent of the First Edition of the voluntary Code of Conduct for Search and Rescue Operations undertaken by civil society Non-Governmental Organisations in in the Mediterranean Sea on the basis that the Code aligns with the three core areas for undertaking lawful SAR operations, those being; following accepted international humanitarian principles, defending fundamental human rights and the professionalization of operational conduct."
EU: Council of the European Union: Eurodac and Posted Workers
Extending Eurodac' reach: Eurodac: Addition of persons registered for the purpose of conducting a resettlement and humanitarian admission procedure to Eurodac (LIMITE doc no: 7558-17, pdf):
"Delegations will find in Annex suggestions from the Presidency on the possible addition to Eurodac of data on persons registered for the purpose of conducting a resettlement or humanitarian admission procedure...
Purpose of "Eurodac"
(b)assist with the control of illegal immigration to and secondary movements within the Union and with the identification of illegally staying third-country nationals and stateless persons for determining the appropriate measures to be taken by Member States, including removal and returns of persons staying illegally [ ].
(c) lay down the conditions under which Member States' designated authorities and the European Police Office (Europol) may request the comparison of biometric [or alphanumeric] [ ] data with those stored in the Central System for law enforcement purposes for the prevention, detection or investigation of terrorist offences or of other serious criminal offences.
Obligation to take biometric data [ ]
1. Member States are obliged to take the biometric data [ ] of persons referred to in Article 10(1), 12a(1), 12d, 13(1) and 14(1) for the purposes of Article 1(1)(a), (aa) and (b) of this Regulation and shall impose on the data-subject the requirement to provide his or her biometric data [ ] [emphasis added]
And more powers for Eurodac? Possible inclusion of colour copies of passport or ID documents in
Eurodac (LIMITE doc no: 7549-17, pdf):
"During the discussion on the draft Eurodac Regulation under the Slovak Presidency, certain Member States requested the inclusion in the Eurodac database of coloured copies of travel or identity documents, if available, in order to facilitate the identification of third country nationals during the return process....
The inclusion of coloured copies of passports or ID documents has an impact on the capacity of the database. With todays traffic, the current Eurodac capacity of 7 million records will be enough to sustain the volume of transaction if coloured copies or ID documents are included, without considering the additions foreseen in the Proposal. On the other hand, if all proposed changes in the Eurodac Proposal are applied in parallel with the addition of coloured copies or ID documents, the system should be sized closer to 13 million records to be able to sustain the traffic of the next 5 years. Moreover, it is pertinent to note that this Assessment does not take into account the possible inputting of data on admitted persons"
Posted workers : Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 96/71/EC of The European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services (LIMITE doc no: 6933-17, pdf): Council Presidency puts forward substantial changes:
"a Presidency compromise proposal. The changes in relation to the Commission proposal are marked by bold; deletions are marked by [ ]. The changes in relation to the previous Presidency compromise proposal (doc. 6002/17) are marked by bold underline, deletion are marked by [ ].
EU: Council of the European Union: Resettlement and the SIS
Resettlement: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council (First reading) (LIMITE doc no: 7396-17, pdf): Extends its scope to include a "Humanitarian Admission Framework". With 128 Footnotes with Member States' positions.
New measures for checks at external borders and internally - so-called "police checks": Proposal for a Regulation on the establishment, operation and use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in the field of border checks
Proposal for a Regulation on the establishment, operation and use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters - Revised compromise version of articles common to both instruments (LIMITE doc no: 6158-17, pdf)
Two column chart for each aspect. A lot of Member State scrutiny reservations.
Hungary: Fideszs Attack on Central European University (LEFTEAST, link):
"On Friday evening a new legislative proposal suddenly appeared on the website of the Hungarian Parliament. The draft put forward a number of modifications to the statute regulating higher education, alterations mainly affecting the activity of foreign universities in Hungary. The step was widely interpreted as a governmental attack on Central European University (CEU), a 25-year-old Budapest institution founded by the international financier, George Soros. In effect CEU wont be able to carry on its activities if the law is passed, being the only foreign university affected "
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