Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 11..2.16

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 AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE: TURKEY-GREECE-GERMANY-NATO: NATO Defence Ministers agree NATO support to assist with the refugee and migrants crisis (NATO Press release, pdf):


"to stem the illegal trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean" Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said...The Secretary General stressed that this mission is “not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats,” but about contributing “critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks.”"

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "Has noone told him that the great majority of arrivals come over through smuggling not trafficking or that there is no such things as "illegal" migration? And to say that the operation is "not about stopping or pushing back boats" is economical with the truth"

and: NATO launches sea mission against migrant traffickers (Reuters, link): "Unlike the EU's maritime mission off the Italian coast, which brings rescued migrants to Europe's shores, NATO will return migrants to Turkey even if they are picked up in Greek waters."

MASS REFOULEMENT?: Migrant crisis: Nato deploys Aegean people-smuggling patrols (BBC News, link):

"German Defence Minister Ursula Von der Leyen said several Nato members had pledged warships and that any refugees rescued would be returned to Turkey, a fellow Nato ally....

"Nato ships are being deployed to the Aegean sea to deter people-smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece.. The announcement followed a request from Turkey, Germany and Greece at a defence ministers' meeting in Brussels.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said the mission would not be about "stopping or pushing back refugee boats". Nato, he said, will contribute "critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks"."

and: Defence Minister Kammenos on NATO's involvement in refugee crisis (ANAmpa, link):

"Kammenos noted that Greece in cooperation with Germany as well as other members of the NATO managed to reach an agreement that "will finally solve that migration issue."

"Greece has paid an extremely heavy price for the migration and in the midst of an economic crisis disproportianetly with the other state members of EU and NATO," stated Kammenos.

He also said that today's decision safeguards that NATO forces operating in the Aegean will ensure that the migrants to be arrested will directly return to Turkey. 

The second very important fact is according to the Greek Defence Minister that "it is totally clear that in the forces that will participate in the NATO group, Turkey will only operate inside its territorial waters and airspace and Greece accordingly." [emphasis added]

 EU-GREECE: 50 DEMANDS: Council of the European Union: Draft Council Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation of the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external borders by Greece (LIMITE doc no: 5876-15, pdf): Detailed instructions.

 MASS TRANSFER OF ASYLUM-SEEKERS TO GREECE?: European Commission adopted the following: Recommendation of 10.2.2016 addressed to the Hellenic Republic on the urgent measures to be taken by Greece in view of the resumption of transfers under Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013 (pdf): This Recommendation could mean that asylum seekers - who should under Dublin have been first registered in Greece could be transferred back there by other EU Member States:

"(25) Regular reporting by Greece on the progress being made in implementing these actions, as well as other relevant elements including any forthcoming reports from UNCHR and other relevant organisations, should clarify the assessment of whether the conditions are such as to allow for Member States to resume individual transfers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, bearing in mind that the volume of transfers and the categories of persons to be transferred should correspond to the specific progress made.

(26) Any resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece should also take into account that Greece still receives a large number of potential asylum seekers on a daily basis, and it should be avoided that an unsustainable burden is placed on Greece.

(27) The responsibility for deciding on such resumption of transfers lies exclusively with Member States' authorities under the control of the courts, which may make preliminary references to the European Court of Justice on the interpretation of the Dublin Regulation."

And: "Many asylum-seekers are currently not provided with the necessary free legal aid to enable them to pursue an appeal against a first instance asylum decision, in accordance with the EU rules. The relevant provisions of Council Directive 2013/32/EU have not yet been transposed into national law or implemented." [emphasis added]

 The Commission is being dishonest: In the Communication State of Play of Implementation of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration, under the heading "Safe third countries" it says under the heading "Safe third countries"::

"Asylum Procedures Directive requires that the possibility exists to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention" (page 18, COM 85-2016)

The full text of the clause in the procedures directive is of course 'the possibility exists to request refugee status and, if found to be a refugee, to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention...'"

They have deliberately omitted the part in bold, with the words 'refugee status' and 'refugee', referring to receiving protection only.

Steve Peers, Professor of Law, University of Essex, comments:

"How is it possible for Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and many others to 'request refugee status', to be 'found to be a refugee' and to 'receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention' in a country which (like Turkey) only applies the Geneva Convention to refugees from Europe? The Commission's selective and misleading quotation from the text of the EU Directive suggests that it knows its argument is weak."

 EU elites' failures lead to desperate plans to try and stop the arrival of refugees from Turkey, to put all the responsibility on Greece, Macedonia and Serbia and threaten to send refugees in the rest of the EU back to Greece:

Turkey dismisses EU plan to resettle refugees in return for sealing sea route (Guardian, link): "Ankara’s ambassador to EU describes plan to take in refugees from Turkey only if Aegean sea route is closed as unacceptable and infeasible."

and: Athens given deadline as EU looks to send more refugees back to Greece (Guardian, link): "EU authorities want to reintroduce Greece to ‘Dublin system’, which lets governments send asylum seekers back to the first country they arrived in."

Crisis-hit Europe on cusp of tragedy like World War One, warns Tusk (euractiv, link): "European Council President Donald Tusk has warned that Europe, reeling from the migration and the possibility of the UK quitting the bloc, is on the cusp of a tragedy like World War One."

Turkey and Greece seek NATO mission in Aegean, German official says (euractiv, link): "Turkey and Greece have agreed to ask for a NATO mission to monitor refugee flows in the Aegean Sea and combat people smugglers, a senior German government official said late yesterday (10 February)".

No migrant swap deal, says Turkey (euobserver, link):

"Turkey has rejected a Dutch-led migrant swap deal, as Balkan nations threaten border clampdowns to stem the inflows of people. The Netherlands, currently chairing the EU presidency, had proposed an annual resettlement of up 250,000 people from Turkey to member states in return for Ankara stopping people from crossing into Greece.

But Turkey's ambassador to the EU Selim Yenel told the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday (10 February) the proposal would never work. "Forget it. It's unacceptable. And it's not feasible," he said."

'The Europe we wished for' (euobserver, link):

"Fundamentally, however, the refugee crisis has been a test of European values, and whether the EU can live up to the human rights goals and principles it has been advocating. One pressing question that academics face now is whether it is still a legitimate subject of inquiry to study the nitty-gritty details of the EU’s human rights advocacy when the EU’s image as a champion of human rights has been so badly tarnished by the refugee crisis....

One might easily get the impression that the EU took a cynical approach towards Turkey by re-energising the EU accession process as part of the deal on the refugee crisis at the same time as Turkey was cracking down on media freedom, on the Kurdish minority in its south-east, and briefly detaining 27 academics protesting against its Kurdish policy."

 Greece/Macedonia: Asylum Seekers Trapped at Border: Blocked Access to Asylum; Beatings by Soldiers; Poor Conditions (HRW, link):

“The failure of the European Union to tackle the refugee crisis fairly and responsibly has led to cascading restrictions at borders, with asylum seekers and migrants facing greater risks of abuse and exploitation,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Desperate people who are the wrong nationality are being denied the right to move on, beaten by border guards if they try to cross, and preyed upon by smugglers.” Greek authorities will not allow asylum seekers to cross into the no-man’s land to reach the Macedonia border post unless they are Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans who express the intention to seek asylum in Germany or Austria."

 LESVOS: A video to watch (Facebook, link): "Please. Find a spare half an hour and sit and watch this."

 News (11.2.16)

Turkey: Erdogan threatens to send refugees to the EU by plane and bus (euractiv, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today (11 February) slammed EU and UN pressure to open Turkey's borders to more refugees, threatening to send the millions already in the country to other states."

Austria looks set to construct more border fences (The, link): "Austria’s government has said it will announce new measures this week to secure its southern border crossings in Tyrol and Carinthia where migrants and refugees are likely to try and cross when faced with stricter controls at the border with Slovenia."

EU: Faster action urged on European refugee crisis (DW, link): "Not much: These words could summarize the progress made so far by the EU in the refugee crisis. With just a week to go to the next summit, the European Commission has again urged member states to do more."

NATO-GREECE: Kammenos sets out conditions for NATO to sweep Aegean (, link): "Greece has told its NATO partners that it will accept naval patrols in the Aegean, including on the Greek side of the sea, under certain conditions despite initially seeming opposed to the idea due to concerns about sovereignty issues."

Italy: EC slams Italy on migrant repatriations (ANSA, link): "But Avramopoulos says Rome needn't worry about proceedings"

Greece: Everything You Need To Know About Greece’s New Plan To Register Refugees - Not everyone's thrilled. (Huffington Post, link)

European Parliament calls for stricter Turkish inspection of human smuggling (, link): "The Turkish government recently announced it was prepared to legally treat human smuggling as a terror crime."

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