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The solidarity is voluntary, and there’s not enough of it to go around. Six months ago the EU established a “voluntary solidarity mechanism” for relocating refugees from states such as Italy, Greece and Malta. Now an internal Commission paper states that the entire scheme could be in jeopardy due to a failure by other EU member states to actually accept people for relocation. So far, only 207 people have benefited from the scheme.
On 9 and 10 February the European Council will meet to approve conclusions on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the economy and migration. A draft version of the conclusions, published here, reinforces longstanding calls to increase the externalisation of migration controls.
Frank van der Linde is a Dutch political activist who has spent five years trying to find out exactly what information the police hold on him and why. On 30 March, he will ask the Court of Amsterdam to order an external independent institution to carry out a forensic examination of the Dutch police database, with the aim of guaranteeing his right to access his personal data. The ruling will have an impact not just in the Netherlands but across the EU.
The UK government's proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is being rushed through parliament. It will allow the government to force employees in certain public roles to go to work through the imposition of "work notices" when faced with strike action. A letter to the Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Grant Schapps, calls for a halt to the "plans for an unwarranted curtailment of freedom of assembly and association." Coordinated by Liberty, it has been signed by 50 organisations, including Statewatch.
The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill will degrade privacy and data protection safeguards in policing. Under certain conditions, law enforcement agencies (LEAs) will be able to circumvent rights protections by acting with the same powers as intelligence agencies. Laws safeguarding personal data during transfers will be diluted and the means for oversight will be significantly reduced.
Last June the EU's Court of Justice massively restricted the scope of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive, which allows the mass surveillance and profiling of air passengers. According to the ruling, member states should make substantial changes to their practices in order to uphold fundamental rights. Instead, they would like to find ways to maintain maximum data collection to continue the hunt for "persons of interest" - yet such practices are incompatible with the rule of law.
The Council of Europe is working on a Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law. Drafting is ongoing on what will be the first international convention on the issue of AI. Civil society organisations have been excluded from the process at the behest of the USA. We are publishing the “zero draft” of the Convention, the draft risk assessment methodology and comments on the draft from a number of member states, Council of Europe committees, corporations and civil society groups.
Having failed to get through a number of anti-protest measures in last year's Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act, the government is now seeking to put them on the books through the Public Order Bill, which is being discussed in the House of Lords. A new briefing drafted by Liberty and signed by 74 civil society organisations, including Statewatch, calls on peers "to defend protest rights and support amendments to mitigate the Public Order Bill’s worst effects." These include "Serious Disruption Prevention Orders" that would make it possible "to ban named individuals from protesting, associating with certain people at certain times, and even using the internet in certain ways."
The latest Council draft of the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation (AMMR) includes a substantial number of changes, including the introduction of the concept of "adaptable responsibility" and an array of new bodies dominated by the member states intended to govern the implementation of EU migration policy.
As part of the controversial package of reforms in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, the UK government plans to toughen up penalties in the Clandestine Entrant Civil Penalty Scheme, with one type of fine set to increase by up to 500%.
Press release published by Tous Migrants, 18 January 2023. A new report exposes and denounces abusive practices by border police in the Briançon area.
The European Police College is to train a host of states with miserable human rights records on the use of “covert techniques in forensics and mobile telecommunications” and will provide “training activities related to cyber-attacks in order to build capacities for law enforcement, judicial authorities and other relevant bodies.”
In a "non-paper" circulated last April, the European Commission admitted that informal readmission arrangements are preferred to formal readmission agreements for a number of reasons - including the "possibility to keep the arrangement confidential."
In early December the Czech Presidency of the Council circulated a note on the "state of play" of the EU's various asylum and migration initiatives, intended to inform member state delegations in the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). It is essentially a brief summary of work under the outgoing Czech Presidency. According to the note, this included the exploration of possible civil-military "synergies" in externalised migration control, through a meeting of the Council's External Migration Working Party with representatives of EUCAP Sahel Niger and EUBAM Libya.
The text for the Regulation on digital information exchange in terrorism cases, as provisionally agreed during secret trilogues in December, and an associated note.
The text for the Regulation establishing a collaboration platform to support the functioning of Joint Investigation Teams, as provisionally-agreed during secret trilogues in December, and associated documents.
A note circulated by the Czech Presidency to the Council's Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) at the end of November.
A letter from Stella Assange and members of the European Parliament, co-signed by a number of other individuals and human rights organisations, including Statewatch, calls on Joe Biden to grant a pardon to Julian Assange to "demonstrate that the United States values fundamental rights, truth, accountability, and the protection of those who speak out against injustice."
The Council of the EU is calling upon member state representatives in COREPER to approve a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the Qualification Regulation, which sets out the standards that must be met for an individual to receive formal refugee or subsidiary protection status. The text is based on a provisional agreement reached by the Council and Parliament in 2018, that was not approved by COREPER at the time.
The Council is set to approve a decision that will allow the UK's continued derogation from safeguards for the automated surveillance and profiling of all air passengers arriving from the EU. The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement allows the UK to derogate from applying those safeguards while it tries to align its systems with the requirements of Court of Justice jurisprudence. This is the final derogation permitted; it will expire on 31 December 2023.
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