Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 29.2.16


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 Greece bans media scrutiny: Media not allowed into Greek migrant camps (, link):


"Greek authorities have suspended media access to all migrant registration and transit camps in the country, citing overcrowding in the facilities.

An immigration policy ministry announcement Monday said no permits would be issued for members of the media to visit mainland or island migrant facilities "until further notice."

This comes on top of MEP asks the Commission to clarify the legal position of NGOs and volunteers who give humanitarian assistance to refugees

 Statement: by the NATO Secretary General on NATO support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis (25.2.16, NATO link):

"NATO’s task is not to turn back the boats. We will provide critical information. To enable the Greek and Turkish coastguards, as well as Frontex, to do their job even more effectively....

Let me also address the issue of Search and Rescue. The obligation to help people in distress at sea is a general, universal responsibility. It applies to all vessels. Regardless of whether they are part of a NATO or national mission. If Allied vessels encounter people in distress at sea, they have to live up to their national responsibility to assist.

In case of rescue of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey. In carrying out their tasks, our nations will abide by national and international law."

This statement begs the question: If the sea is calm and a refugee boat is clearly not "in distress" will they be "rescued" and returned en masse to Turkey by NATO?

See: Excellent article: The NATO pushbacks in the Aegean and international law (link) by Thomas Spijkerboer, Professor of Migration Law: "The most directly applicable case is the 2012 Hirsi Jamaa judgment, in which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights passed judgment on the Italian pushbacks, which consisted of transferring migrants from vessels onto Italian navy vessels and returning to Libya without any procedure. The Court held that a state exercises de jure jurisdiction over vessels flying its flag, and therefore the migrants were under Italian jurisdiction. It added that Italy could not evade the exercise of jurisdiction by arguing that its activities constitute a search and rescue action – just like NATO is doing at present....

The conclusion has to be that the NATO actions are in violation of international law; and that the relevant parts of international law are binding on NATO states because they exercise jurisdiction over migrants. Returning migrants to Turkey as envisioned violates the prohibition of refoulement, also when it happens in the form of search and rescue." [emphasis added]

 Greece: How the City of Kozani Responded When 400 Refugees Showed Up (, link):

"Lefteris Ioannides, the mayor of Kozani in northern Greece didn’t blink, when he was informed by police that there were hundreds of stranded refugees at the Greek border town of Idomeni and there were busloads heading towards his city.

Within a matter of three hours he mobilized the entire city, but not without a bit of resistance, that he worked to overcome without issues.

A site was located to house 400 people comfortably— the gymnasium of one of the local schools after the initial proposed site at another gymnasium, owned by one of the local Greek Orthodox monasteries in the region refused to allow the facility’s use for refugees.

A team of journalists were in charge of laying down blankets and making the cavernous room more welcoming, while a team of university students helped clean the welcome center."

 Greek islands faced with a ‘creepy’ humanitarian crisis (euractiv, link): "The non-implementation of the decisions made at the latest EU summit has led the refugee crisis-hit Greek islands to an unprecedented situation.

[In Leros] “Due to the lack of large morgues on the island, many corpses [of immigrants] were placed in ice cream freezers,” the source stressed, adding:

“When in one week you have to manage a big number of corpses what are you doing? We are trying to handle the situation but we lack equipment […] the assistance from the European Civil Protection Mechanism is poor,” [a source] underlined."

 Greek General calls for activation of NATO Article 4 as relations with Austria reach Cold-War level (keeptalkinggreece.comm link): "The Activation of Article 4 of the NATO can force Austria and FYROM to consultation on refugees, migration and closed borders. This proposal comes from General Christos Manolas, until February 2015 Chief of Staff for Greek Land Forces.

In a statement submitted to Greek website for military affairs OnAlert, , Manolas argues that the activation of Article 4 would get Austria and FYROM on the table for consultations and would give Greece a tool to exert pressure to these two countries with regards to closure of the borders to refugees and migrants.

Austria and FYROM are not NATO members but members of “Partnership For Peace”. The PFP is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) program aimed at creating trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union."

FYROM tear-gasses refugees awaiting to cross, Austria, Czech Rep sent police units (keeptalkinggreece.comm link):

"The refugees have become very angry after the long delays of border crossing as Skopje open the gates only on and off. On Sunday, borders opened from 9 pm until 4 am and only 305 people went through – and not 500 per day as it was supposedly to happen. On Monday, borders opened 11:30-12 and only 10 people went through. No wonder that the thousands awaiting got angry. They threw stones at the FYROM police and were changing “Open the border!” and see: EU’s evil Plan B: Cutting the Balkan Route, Bottling up thousands of Refugees and Migrants in Greece (keeptalkinggreece.comm link): "he closure of borders in the north of Greece has created chaos: thousands of refugees and migrants wandering from Athens to Idomeni without knowing where to sleep and what to eat, where to lay their kids and elderly to sleep. FYROM, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria has closed their border today. "

Migrants protest at Greece-Macedonia border as bottleneck builds (AFP, link):

"Idomeni (Greece) (AFP) - Stranded migrants lay with their children on rail tracks at Greece's northern border, demanding to be allowed to continue their journey, as Germany warned that Europe cannot let the country "plunge into chaos".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was speaking as Athens said that the number of migrants trapped in Greece could triple after Balkan countries announced a daily cap on migrant arrivals. Tensions between European nations worst affected by the migrant crisis are running high, with Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann accusing Greece of "behaving like a travel agency" for migrants hoping to start new lives elsewhere in Europe."

Greece-Macedonia: Turmoil at Idomeni; refugees occupy the railway tracks (ANAmpa, link): "Turmoil prevails currently at Idomeni (Greece-Fyrom buffer zone) where a number of refugees have blocked the railway track and are throwing stones against Fyrom's police officers."

and Migrants charge through Macedonia fence on Greek border (BBC News, link): "A crowd of migrants has burst through a barbed-wire fence on the Macedonia-Greece border using a steel pole as a battering ram. TV footage showed migrants pushing against the fence at Idomeni, ripping away barbed wire, as Macedonian police let off tear gas to force them away."

and also: FYROM police fire tear gas at migrants (, link): "Police said 500 people earlier pushed their way past Greek police to reach the gate used to let trains through at the border crossing.About 6,500 people are stuck on the Greek side of the border. Some have been there for up to eight days with little food or shelter as FYROM only accepts a trickle of people every day. [AP]"

 Greece Drafts EU Emergency Migrant Action (Sputnik News, link):

"Immigration Policy Alternate Minister said that Greek government drafted an EU plan of emergency action to control the number of migrants and refugees.... round 22,000 migrants and refugees have found themselves stranded in Greece after the Baltic transit route countries drastically cut entrance numbers. Mouzalas projected the figure to grow more than twofold by mid-March.

"There are plans when borders are closed…We are building emergency camps – not the usual reception centers – with tents in fields," he stressed, allaying fears that the migrants and refugees would stay in Greece indefinitely...Mouzalas further reassured that there would be "nothing wrong" with declaring a state of emergency in the southern region of Attica as a means of civil defense."

 News (29.2.16)

Europe slaps new restrictions on migrants, fails to show solidarity (, link): "Despite warnings from international organizations that restrictive measures will not stop the influx of migrants, many EU countries continue to introduce new measures, including razor wire and border checks since the beginning of the year"

Greece: More Refugees and Migrants Arrive on Islands on Monday (Greek Reporter, link): "Approximately 2,500 migrants and refugees have been identified and ready to depart from Lesvos to Piraeus or Kavala port. 1,450 refugees that arrived on Lesvos from Sunday until Monday morning have been identified at Morias hotspot while 500 persons are currently waiting to be identified."

Germany petitions North African states to take more migrants back (DW, link): "Germany's interior minister is in North Africa to propose the speeding up of repatriation for rejected asylum seekers. The development of biometric identity papers is on the agenda."

Europe’s most hostile port of entry - Bulgaria puts out its own welcome mat for migrants (politico, link): "“We tried the Bulgarian border four times and the final time we were successful but then we met the police,” said Ali. “They shot in the air, they set dogs on us and one father who tried to defend his daughter from the dogs got beaten by the police. They took our phones that we were using for GPS and €200 each. They looked everywhere, even our underwear. There was a man with disabilities who couldn’t understand what the police were telling him, but they beat him anyway. We heard these rumors about Bulgaria but there is no other way for us"

Greece: Refugees protest against new Macedonian border controls (DW, link): "About 300 migrants have staged a sit-in on railway tracks connecting Greece and Macedonia, forcing a train to turn back. Refugees say the country's entry limits are now too stringent."

Orban: EU leaders lack will to stop migrants (euobserver, link): "Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, said Sunday (28 February) EU leaders had no will to get a grip on the migration crisis, and vowed to fight pressure from Brussels to take in more refugees."

CoE: Nils Muiznieks: Europe trapped in migration “vicious circle” (link): "Human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks fears European countries are drawing themselves into “a more and more vicious circle” by closing their borders to asylum seekers.“Many states are considering or enacting counter-productive policies, such as erecting fences, reducing asylum seeker benefits, seizing their belongings, making asylum seekers pay for staying at reception centres or for time in detention, restricting family reunification, and granting only temporary, unstable forms of status. “Many of these measures not only run counter to European human rights standards, they are also harmful to social cohesion and ineffective. Instead of helping these people, European countries are engaging in a race to repel migrants, in violation of the principle of inter-state solidarity and of human rights standards."

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