Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 23-24.1.16

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 Arrivals this year in the Med: UNHCR (23.1.16): So far this year 36,528 refugees have arrived. 35,455 in Greece (of which 26,617 have arrived in Lesvos) and : 1,073 in Italy.and 149 dead/missing.


 UNHCR: Report highlights ongoing issues 

The UNHCR Winter Operations Cell report (pdf) contains an up-to-date round-up on changing policies, practices and crises including 1) Filtering by intended destination country 2) "Bottlenecks" are created as Greece and Macedonia on let refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan cross the border to go north 3) The Mayor of Kos has set strict conditions before agreeing to the location of a "hotspot" on the island.

 EU: Informal Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, Amsterdam, 25-26 January 2015Programme (pdf) Discussion Paper European Border and Coast Guard (pdf):

"Border control is necessary to prevent illegal immigration and crossing of the borders by persons who pose a threat to the public order or security of MS or the Schengen area."

The paper puts on the table key issues in the creation of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency: a) the power of the Agency to carry out "vulnerability assessments" and require a Member State to undertake improvements - this Decision would be binding and b) "The right to intervene in case of a situation at the external border requiring urgent action".

UK: Home Affairs Select Committee: Evidence session on the migration crisis with Italian and Hungarian parliamentarians. - Tuesday 26 January 2016, Grimond Room , Portcullis House:

Witnesses: At 2.45pm: Mr Khalid Chaouki, Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and Chair of the Culture Committee, Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean At 3.30pm: Mr Gergely Gulyás, Deputy-Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly and General Director, Foundation for a Civic Hungary

 Joint Communiqué - German-Turkish intergovernmental consultations, 22nd January 2016 (link):

"On 22 January 2016, Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to the first bilateral German-Turkish intergovernmental consultations in Berlin.....

Both sides also agreed that substantially increased cooperation between the EU border agency Frontex and the Turkish authorities is in both countries’ interest. The important activities by the Turkish Coast Guard were noted, and it was agreed that further technical and financial cooperation will be required to meet the urgent need to increase capacity. "

 Swedish volunteers rescue 1000 refugees (The, link):

"A Swedish project to help rescue refugees stranded in the Mediterranean has saved 1000 lives since October, the organisation leading the initiative revealed on Friday.... The Yellow Boats project, known as Gula Båtarna in Swedish, was launched last autumn, at the height of Europe's refugee crisis.

Part-funded by media company Schibsted and run by the non-profit Swedish Sea Rescue Society (Sjöräddningssällskapet), the initiative involves trained volunteers travelling to waters around the Greek island of Samos, a popular arrival point in Europe for people fleeing violence in Syria and other war-torn nations.

 News (23-24.1.10)

Austria: Proposed cap could be reached 'by Summer' (The, link): "Austria's interior minister said Sunday that a new national cap on the number of asylum seekers it takes in this year could be reached by the summer, as Europe grapples with its worst migrant crisis since World War II."

Slovenia: Refugees in Slovenia face long waits, short-tempered police (DW, link): "For migrants coming to Europe, the arduous trek does not end after they put foot on European soil. As new border controls are introduced, each frontier is another hurdle to cross, as Alison Langley reports from Slovenia..... Last summer, migrants were greeted with applause, smiles and cheerful greetings. Now, with more than a million people passing through, the families are ushered along by border police and army personnel who shiver on the sidelines and do not smile."

Greece: Austrian minister speaks of temporary exclusion from Schengen (, link):"Greece may have to be temporarily excluded from the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone because it is not controlling the flow of migrants, Austria’s Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said on Saturday.“If the Athens government does not finally do more to secure the [EU’s] external borders then one must openly discuss Greece’s temporary exclusion from the Schengen zone,” Mikl-Leitner said in an interview with German daily Die Welt." and see: Germany scolds Austria for Greek Schengen threats (The, link): "European powerhouse Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier lashed out meanwhile at Austria's warning, branding it a "pseudo-solution"."

How the EU plans to overhaul ‘Dublin regulation’ on asylum claims (FT, link): "Brussels is set to do away with rules making the first country in which a refugee arrives responsible for any asylum claim, in a major shake-up of its refugee system."

Turkey: Seized 2.500 “monkey” life jackets (Athens Times, link): "The seizure of more than 2,500 “monkey” life rescue, which was intended for refugees and immigrants, proceeded to the Turkish police."

Norway suspends return of migrants from Russia (The, link):"Norway on Saturday announced it was temporarily suspending its controversial return of migrants from Arctic Russia, following a request from Moscow."

Greece: Greek police, EU and Frontex meeting on readmission and repatriation of migrants (, link): "Forced repatriation to third countries, financing issues and cooperation with Frontex, Erin and Eurin were also discussed"

Refugee role play stuns world leaders at WEF (The, link): "WEF participants were given a taste of the daily challenges faced by migrants, thanks to a roleplay workshop offered by Hong Kong NGO Crossroads Foundation."

EU Needs Fence on Bulgaria, Macedonia Borders with Greece to Stop Migrants, Orban Says (, link): "Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that the EU needs a fence along Greece’s borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria to cope with the ongoing migrant influx and save the bloc’s Schengen area of passport-free travel."

Greece: Echelons of the Greek Red Cross in support of the homeless and immigrants who live in the streets of Athens (Athens Times, link): "the first three days of the action (18, 19 & 20 January 2016), funds were 379 homeless (357 men, 16 women & 6 children). The beneficiaries in the majority of them were foreigners from Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Greeks."

Germany faces massive shortfall in refugee housing (euractiv, link): "Accommodation for asylum seekers is increasingly hard to come by, and the refugees who arrived last year will soon need tens of thousands of additional homes, warned experts."

Greece: Migrant crisis: Dozens drown in shipwrecks off Greece (BBC News, link) and Death toll from latest refugee shipwrecks rises to 42 (ANA-mpa, link): "The death toll from the two latest shipwrecks involving refugees in the Aegean had risen to 42 by Friday afternoon, despite the enormous efforts of the Greek coast guard to find and rescue as many as possible on board the two vessels that sank, starting at dawn."

EU: Commission mulls ‘Juncker Plan’ for the EU’s southern neighbours (euractiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission is considering a ‘Juncker Plan’ to support the Southern Mediterranean region, in order to cut the high number of refugees arriving in Europe, the First Vice-President Frans Timmermans told EurActiv."

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