Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 11.1.16

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 EU-TURKEY: Implementing the joint October 2015 "action plan" on refugees: visa restrictions and work permits


VISA RESTRICTIONS: Turkey’s new visa law for Syrians enters into force (Hurriyet Daily News, link): "Turkey has started implementing visa restrictions for Syrians entering the country by air or by sea as part of its efforts to stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

As Ankara has reversed a six-year agreement that allows visa-free entry to citizens of both Syria and Turkey, Syrians arriving in Turkey by air and sea from other countries need visas as of Jan. 8, 2016.

The visa restrictions won’t apply to Syrian refugees who cross the Syrian-Turkish border by land to flee the conflict in Syria. The move aims to stop Syrians from flying into Turkey from other countries and illegally trying to reach Greece and other European nations."

See: Hundreds of Syrians Are Turned Back at Beirut Airport (The New York Times, link): " Four hundred Syrians who were trying to fly to Turkey were stopped at the Beirut airport on Friday and were being forced to return to Damascus instead, in a chaotic episode that illustrated how options are narrowing for those trying to flee the war in Syria."

WORK PERMITS: Turkey plans to introduce work permits for Syrian refugees, minister says (Reuters, link): "Turkey plans to offer Syrian refugees work permits in order to encourage fewer of them to migrate, Volkan Bozkir, Turkey's minister for European Affairs, said on Monday, amid EU pressure to reduce the flow of migrants.

Bozkir was speaking after meeting European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who last week said the European Union was far from satisfied with Turkey's efforts to prevent migrants from crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece."

And: overview: The EU and Turkey’s ‘Action Plan’: a bad deal for the world’s most desperate (Rory O'Keeffe, link): "On 29th November, when the EU was just eleven months into its year of failure, it struck a deal with Turkey in an attempt to address part of the international refugee crisis.

It is remarkable – and flawed."


Agreed in October 2015: EU-Turkey joint action plan (pdf): Part II deals with "strengthening cooperation to prevent irregular migration" with Turkey committing to: "the progressive alignment of Turkish visa policy, legislation and administrative capacities notably vis-à-vis the countries representing an important source of illegal migration for Turkey and the EU." (emphasis added)

December 2015: Turkey to overhaul its visa policy to align with EU acquis (Hurriyet Daily News, link): "A senior government official has signaled a change in Turkey’s long-standing visa policy that envisages the removal of visas with as many countries as possible in a bid to align with the EU’s policy, as part of ongoing talks over visa liberalization for Turkish citizens starting from late 2016."

This is all to be done according to the Visa Roadmap (2013, pdf): "The Roadmap identifies the areas where Turkey will have to undertake legislative and administrative reforms with a view to establishing a secure environment for visa-free travel." (emphasis added)

Amongst other things, Turkey must:

  • "Abolish issuance of visas at the borders as an ordinary procedure for the national of certain non-EU countries, and especially for countries representing a high migratory and security risk to the EU"
  • "Amend the rules on the basis of which Turkey allows the entry into its territory to the nationals of the main countries representing important sources of illegal migration for the EU, in the aim of making the access more difficult for those willing to enter the Turkish territory with the purpose to subsequently attempt to illegally cross the external borders of the EU"
  • "Pursue the alignment Turkish visa policy, legislation and administrative capacities towards the EU acquis, notably vis-à-vis the main countries representing important sources of illegal migration for the EU."

See also: European Commission: November 2015 enlargement progress report (pdf) says Turkey must: "align itself further with the EU visa requirements and exemptions and to harmonise its visa policy towards EU Member States."

And: EU Action on Migratory Pressures - targeted update and the outcome of discussion on Turkey (Statewatch News Online, October 2015)

 EU: European Commission: Progress following Western Balkans Route Leaders' Meeting: Eleventh Contact Points Video Conference (press release, 8.1.16, pdf): "Today, an eleventh video conference was held between the contact points nominated after the Western Balkans Route Leaders' Meeting held on 25 October. The objective was to follow up on the agreement reached at the meeting and set out in the Leaders' Statement."

See: Leaders' Statement, 25 October 2015: Leaders' Meeting on refugee flows along the Western Balkans Route: Leaders’ Statement(pdf): Greece to build camps to hold 30,000 refugees plus 20,000 in rented homes and UNHCR a further 50,000 further north:

"Under the current circumstances, we will discourage the movement of refugees or migrants to the border of another country of the region. A policy of waving through refugees without informing a neighbouring country is not acceptable. This should apply to all countries along the route..."

 News (11.1.16)

BALKANS: Tighter Balkan borders drive migrants into smugglers’ arms (Irish Times, link): "Lamine Buasida placed his sodden shoes in the weak winter sunshine, peeled off his soaking socks and gingerly rubbed his painful feet. Their soles were a sickly white and the waterlogged skin sloughed off in his fingers.

His three fellow Algerians weren’t fairing much better, their clothes soggy and spattered with mud after another failed attempt to sneak from Greece into Macedonia and move a little closer to their dream of a future in western Europe. "

EU: The big thing missing from Europe’s solution to the refugee crisis? Refugees. (The Washington Post, link): "The solution to Hamaameen’s dilemma was also supposed to be the key to unlocking Europe’s struggle with an unparalleled flow of refugees. By taking people off the migrant trail and distributing them more evenly across the continent, the E.U. could bring order to a process marked by chaos.

But four months after European leaders agreed to the plan following long and bitter negotiations, the program has been crippled by a lack of cooperation — from countries and the refugees themselves. Out of an intended total of 160,000 asylum seekers, the E.U. has relocated a paltry 272."

FRANCE: Armoured vehicles in Calais for improved "protection of the security forces": Un véhicule blindé à Calais pour renforcer les dispositifs (Nord Littoral, link)

FRANCE: Migrant crisis: New camps to open in northern France (BBC News, link): "Plans to move thousands of migrants into more permanent camps in northern France are expected to be given the go-ahead later on Monday.

Several thousand people are staying in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk, popular spots for those seeking to cross into the United Kingdom.

The area has suffered heavy rains in recent weeks, leading one Dunkirk official to call conditions "inhumane"."

GERMANY: Oettinger: ‘Europe has more lifeguards than border guards’ (Politico, link): "Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for digital economy and society, warned on Sunday that Germany cannot handle another million refugees.

“We should help the people with dignity and keep our welcome culture, but neither the district administration nor volunteers at reception centers can cope with another million of refugees.” Oettinger said."

GERMANY: Reuniting refugee families ‘not a priority’ for Berlin (EurActiv, link): "Recognised asylum seekers face huge difficulties bringing their families to Germany, Syrian refugees included. In comparison to other EU member states, Germany has particularly high bureaucratic requirements. EurActiv's partner Tagesspiegel reports."

ITALY: The City of Milan Will Pay You 350 Euros to Host a Refugee (Vice News, link): "The second-biggest Italian city is offering a monthly payment of 350 euros ($376) to every resident willing to host a refugee, or an asylum seeker, in their home."

SLOVENIA-CROATIA: Heavy Rains in Slovenia Flood Parts of the Border Fence with Croatia (Total Croatia News, link): "Slovenian forecasters have announced that on Monday there will be an increase in heavy precipitation which will cause high water levels of Slovenian rivers. The people living in the valley of the Kupa river are afraid of the potential damage which could be done by the river if the floods begin to take away the razor wire fence which the Slovenian government has put on the left bank of the river in order to prevent migrants and refugees from entering the country, reports Vecernji List and on January 11, 2016."

SPAIN: Dozens of Migrants Abused Trying to Cross Spanish Border - Reports (Sputnik News, link): "Six migrants have been killed, three drowned and some 19 others hospitalized trying to enter the Spanish territory by sea, according to The Local, citing the Moroccan Association for the Integration of Immigrants."

TURKEY: 8 Killed As A Refugee Bus Crashes In Western Turkey (, link): "At least eight people were reported to have been killed and 42 others injured Friday when a bus carrying illegal refugees overturned in western Turkish province of Balikesir"

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