Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 15.2.16


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 EU: Visegrad Group: Anti-migrant force builds in Europe, hurting Merkel's quest (AP, link): "So where should the next impenetrable razor-wire border fence in Europe be built?


Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban thinks he knows the best place - on Macedonia's and Bulgaria's borders with Greece - smack along the main immigration route from the Middle East to Western Europe. He says it's necessary because "Greece can't defend Europe from the south" against the large numbers of refugees pouring in, mainly from Syria and Iraq."

See also: Merkel warns against Visegrad’s plans for a ‘reserve border system’ (EurActiv, link) and Eastern EU leaders to urge Balkan border clamp down (EUobserver, link)

 EU: European Council, 18-19 February: Updated draft conclusions (dated 15 February 2016): dealing with 1. The United Kingdom and the European Union; 2. Migration; 3. Syria - Libya; 4. European Semester.

See: European Council (18-19 February 2016) - Draft conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 5079-16, pdf)

Previous version: European Council (18-19 February 2016) - Draft conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 5078-16, pdf)

 FRANCE: A political movement is rising from the mud in Calais (The Conversation, link): "Since the official refugee reception centre in the French town of Calais closed in 2002, undocumented migrants hoping to cross the Channel to Britain have found shelter in a number of squatted migrant camps, locally known as “the jungles”.

Consisting largely of tents and self-built shacks, the two largest in Calais and Dunkirk now have some 8,000 residents between them. Many are refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan and surviving in extremely poor living conditions.

For the most part, this is a humanitarian disaster. But the jungles of Northern France are also giving rise to a new political movement, which draws in new supporters every day."

 Europe: UNHCR concerned over increasing restrictive measures, urges effective comprehensive European response (UNHCR, link): "Solutions to Europe's situation are not only eminently possible, but have already been agreed by States and urgently need to be implemented. Stabilization is essential and something for which there is also strong public demand. Within the context of the necessary reduction of dangerous sea arrivals, safe access to seek asylum, including through resettlement and humanitarian admission, is a fundamental human right that must be protected and respected.

Regular pathways to Europe and elsewhere are important for allowing refugees to reach safety without putting their lives in the hands of smugglers and making dangerous sea crossings. Avenues, such as enhanced resettlement and humanitarian admission, family reunification, private sponsorship, and humanitarian and refugee student/work visas, should be established to ensure that movements are manageable, controlled and coordinated for countries receiving these refugees."

 News (15.2.16)

Around 80,000 refugees arrive in Europe in first six weeks of 2016 (UNHCR, link): "Despite rough seas and harsh winter weather, more than 80,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by boat during the first six weeks of 2016, more than in the first four months of 2015, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, announced today.

In addition it said more than 400 people had lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean. However, despite the dangers over 2,000 people a day continue to risk their lives and the lives of their children attempting to reach Europe."

GERMANY: Cologne: Only three out of 58 men arrested in connection with mass sex attack on New Year's Eve are refugees (The Independent, link): "Just three of the 58 suspects arrested in connection with the mass sex attack on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve were refugees, it has been reported.

Refugees were blamed for more than 1,000 reports of theft, sex assault and rape of women at Cologne’s central train station - leading to a hardening of attitudes towards Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy on refugees.

But of those arrested only three - two Syrians and an Iraqi - had recently arrived in Germany."

GREECE: 'Hotspot' migrant centres to open in Greece this week (Ekathimerini, link): "Greece will open four migrant registration centres in time for an EU summit this week, a government source told AFP on Monday, as Athens comes under heavy pressure to control the massive influx to Europe.

Four of Greece's five "hotspot" centres will formally open by Wednesday on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Leros and Samos, which have been struggling to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants landing from Turkey in flimsy boats, the source said.

The centers were supposed to open late last year but have faced repeated delays."

GREECE-MACEDONIA: Shutting down FYROM border will slow refugee flow, Kurz says (Ekathimerini, link): "Closing Greece’s northern border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will stem the refugee flow into Europe, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has said.

“If the norther border is shut down leaving Greece for more than 24 hours with the refugees on its territory then its interest in accepting European help will quickly change,” Kurz said in an interview with Greek Ta Nea daily."

Greek anarchists organise for refugees as 'state fails' (Al Jazeera, link): "As thousands of refugees and migrants continued to be turned away at borders, a steady flow of new faces poured into the Notara solidarity centre in the Exarcheia neighbourhood of Athens.

Notara was founded in late September when around 20 anarchists and leftists occupied an abandoned, three-storey building belonging to the Greek Ministry of Labour. The centre provides temporary accommodation, basic medical treatment, clothing and information for up to 130 refugees and migrants each day."

SPAIN: Siete ocupantes de la patera rescatada el domingo en Canarias murieron en el mar [Seven occupants of a dinghy rescued in the Canaries died at sea] (20 Minutos, link): 49 people departed from the coast of the Western Sahara to try to reach the Canary Islands. Seven of them died. The two supposed skippers have been detained by the police along with eight people suspected of denying food to the other passengers. The 874 people who arrived in the Canary Islands in 2015 is higher than the total number for the three preceding years.

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