Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 27.1.16

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 Greece targeted by Commission - Schengen suspension process started : European Commission: Commission discusses draft Schengen Evaluation Report on Greece (pdf)


Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "The draft Schengen evaluation report on Greece looks at the management of the external border during an evaluation visit of Member States and Commission experts in Greece in November. The report shows that there are serious deficiencies in the management of the external border in Greece. We know that in the meantime Greece has started undertaking efforts towards rectifying and complying with the Schengen rules. Substantial improvements are needed to ensure the proper reception, registration, relocation or return of migrants in order to bring Schengen functioning back to normal, without internal border controls...."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director comments: "Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is seeking to make a scapegoat out of Greece when nearly all the other Schengen Member States have failed to act on pledges for aid funds, pursued legally dubious reception procedures, registration, relocation or return of migrants - and the Commission has failed to act" See: Refugee crisis: Statistics: September 2015 ongoing: Latest Commission figures, published 25.1.16. Very little has changed:

The Schengen suspension process will be started if:

"If a Schengen Evaluation Report concludes that the evaluated Member State is "seriously neglecting its obligations under the Schengen rules" and if there are "serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control", the Commission can propose recommendations, to be adopted by the Council, for remedial action to address any deficiencies identified during the evaluation...

under Article 19a of the Schengen Borders Code, recommend that the evaluated Member State take certain specific measures, which may include the deployment of European border guard teams or the submission of a strategic plan setting out how the Member State will deploy its own personnel and equipment to address the concerns....

Under Article 26 of the Schengen Borders Code, if the measures under Article 19a have not been effective, the Council may, based on a proposal from Commission, recommend that one or more Member States reintroduce border controls at all or at specific parts if their internal borders as a matter of last resort, to protect the common interest of the Schengen area. The Council recommendation needs to be adopted by qualified majority. Under Article 26, and in the exceptional circumstances described above, controls can be reintroduced for a period of up to six months. This measure can be prolonged for additional six month periods up to a maximum duration of two years." [emphasis added]

Article 29 would mean that Schengen states bordering Greece could "legally" close their borders to refugees and migrants seeking to enter their country.

 EU: Human Rights Watch: European Union: Refugee Response Falls Short: Migration, Security Crisis Challenge Divided Union on Rights (link):

"The European Union struggled to develop an effective and principled response to the 1 million asylum seekers and migrants who reached Europe by sea during 2015, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016. Human Rights Watch highlights developments in 10 EU member states and union-wide developments on migration and asylum, discrimination and intolerance, and counterterrorism, a major concern during the year in light of horrific attacks in Paris.

“The disjointed beggar-thy-neighbor responses of EU governments to 1 million arrivals this year has turned a manageable challenge into a full-blown political crisis,” said Benjamin Ward, deputy Europe and Central Asia division director at Human Rights Watch. “Asylum seekers and migrants in Greece and along the Western Balkans route have paid the price of a divided EU.”"

 The EU’s core values are at stake in the migration crisis (euractiv, link): "Our governments’ failure to act on the migration crisis is destroying the European Union and undermining our core values. This is not the Europe we dreamed of, writes Madi Sharma" (Madi Sharma is a UK member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

 EU: Visegrad group calls migration mini-summit, seeks plan B (euractiv, link): "Prague will host an extraordinary summit of the Visegrad group, three days ahead of the February EU summit, to discuss the migration crisis and a possible “plan B” in case of a widening divide with the older Schengen members.

The Czech Republic will convene an extraordinary summit of the Visegrad Four (V4: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) on 15 February, in order to seek solutions to the migration crisis."

see also: Central European countries push for back-up EU border plans over migrants (Reuters, link)

 News (27.1.16)

Opinion: EU levels empty Schengen threat at Greece (DW, link): "The EU's current plan is to protect external borders and, if necessary, expel Greece - not from the eurozone, but from the Schengen Area. That will not keep people from moving to Europe, DW's Bernd Riegert writes."

Greece-European Commission: Juncker drops Greece, bets on Macedonia - Refugees should stay in Greece rather than making their way to Germany.(politico, link): "European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wants to put the EU’s southern frontier in all but name in Macedonia, not Greece. In a letter sent Monday, Juncker backed Slovenia’s proposal for EU support to reinforce the Macedonian border with Greece to stem the northward flow of migrants. Under this plan, most migrants who got to Greece would stay in place, taking pressure off transfer countries but eventually also from Austria and Germany."

Fortress Europe: Brussels shuts borders and calls for refugee camp for 300,000 to be built in Greece in last-ditch bid to stop a flood of migrants (Mail Online, link)

"- EU ministers met yesterday in a bid to get a grip on the migrant crisis
- Belgium called for 'closed facilities' to be set up in Greece 
- Commission boss Juncker backed a new 'second line of defence' for EU
- Czech president has called for troops from every country to patrol borders "

With Schengen going to pieces, EU is isolating Greece (New Europe, link): "

"The European Union nations edged closer on Monday to accepting that its Schengen open-borders area may technically be suspended for up to two years if it fails in the next few weeks to curb the influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

Article 26 of the Schengen code says that countries can re-impose controls on documents for six months, renewable three times, until May 2018. EU officials acknowledged, however, that no one knows what would happen after that if governments were not prepared to return to the status quo before last year.

EU also took a step toward isolating Greece amid acrimony over Athens’ failure to stem the flow of migrants at its Mediterranean island borders."

Italy-EU-Schengen: Only weeks to save Schengen says Alfano - Alfano urges hotspots and repatriation irregular migrants (ANSA link): "Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Tuesday that Europe "only has a few weeks" to save the Schengen accords, urging the establishment of hotspots and repatriation of illegal migrants "The Amsterdam summit allowed us to say that Schengen is saved, for today," he told Radio Capital, "but it remains under attack because of an enormous flux of of irregular refugees and the European incapacity to carry out decisions taken"."

Germany: Merkel faces court action threat over refugee policy (euobserver, link): "On Tuesday (26 January), Horst Seehofer, state premier of Bavaria and leader of Merkel's closest coalition partner, sent her a letter asking her to limit the annual intake of refugees to 200,000 per year, or face a possible legal case at the constitutional court."

Sweden: Deadly attack at Swedish refugee center, police calls for more recruits (New Europe, link): "A young man between 14 and 17 year-old, who lives in a refugee center, fatally attacked a volunteer working at the asylum accommodation."

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