Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 15.3.16


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 Stop Your Backsliding, Europe (INYT, link) by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Refugees: Nils Muižnieks:


"Some union officials are portraying this deal as a good solution to the crisis. In reality, the automatic forced return that the deal allows is illegal and will be ineffective.

It is illegal because forced returns run contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the collective expulsions of aliens. They also violate the right to seek asylum that was established in 1948 by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and contravene guarantees established by the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which recognizes that seeking asylum can require refugees to breach immigration rules..."

 EU-TURKEY SUMMIT: European Council (17-18 March 2016) - Draft conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 5862-16, pdf)

"Following the decisions of the Heads of State or Government of 7 March, and in the context of the Joint Action Plan with Turkey and its possible expansion...

the use of all means to support the capacity of Greece for the return of irregular migrants to Turkey...

speeding up relocation from Greece, which includes conducting the necessary security checks; the number of applications now being larger than the number of offers, [as shown in the Commission report of 16 March], Member States should swiftly offer more places..."

 Greece: Macedonia-Greece: March of Hope - the aftermath

"Last night, a pregnant 27-year-old Afghan woman, her 17-year-old sister and their cousin drowned while attempting to cross the river between Greece and Macedonia near Idomen camp, where up to 12,000 refugees are staying in inhumane conditions, sleeping in flooded tents, hoping the border would miraculously reopen. Today, a big group of around 3,000 refugees from the camp attempted to make a collective crossing on the same spot where drownings took place. They have started marching from Idomeni camp to Suha Reka river in the morning, with many volunteers and journalists following them on what they called The March of Hope."

 EU: Turkey Mass-Return Deal Threatens Rights - Would Harm Refugees, Undermine EU’s Principles (HRW, link)

"The European Union’s proposed deal with Turkey, announced on March 8, 2016, represents “a disturbing disregard for international law covering the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants,” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said in a letter to EU heads of state. Roth urged European leaders to reject the new elements of the EU’s Joint Action Plan with Turkey at the European Council on March 17-18....

The breach of the right to seek asylum is not mitigated by the fiction that Turkey is a “safe” country for all refugees. Turkey has granted “temporary protection” to more than two million Syrians but it refuses full refugee status for any non-Europeans. That selective reading of its refugee obligations partly explains why Turkey has repeatedly pushed Syrians back into the war zone and closed borders to others seeking to flee.

And the Syrians are the lucky ones: Afghans, Iraqis, and other refugees are not even given temporary protection by the Turkish government. Meanwhile, all refugees in Turkey are struggling to find work, educate their children, and build dignified lives—essential elements of a “safe” refuge. ""

 EU wrestles with rights, Cyprus to seal Turkey migrant deal (, link):

"EU officials are racing to overcome legal concerns on human rights and tensions between Turkey and Cyprus in order to complete a deal they hope can stem the migrant crisis when leaders meet later this week....Following criticism from the United Nations and other human rights bodies, as well as many European politicians, EU lawyers are working to ensure the plan can be presented as conforming to international law, diplomats and officials said on Monday.

Negotiators are seeking legal moves from Turkey to ensure that EU states can consider its treatment of asylum seekers as being in line with international standards, officials said.

From Greece, Brussels is seeking assurances that it will provide facilities on its islands off the Turkish coast to ensure that every person arriving can have a hearing, including an individual judicial appeal, against deportation to Turkey. On Monday, the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe echoed a senior U.N. official in warning of illegal mass expulsions. He urged the EU to scrap the proposals with Turkey."

See: Statewatch Analysis: Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country” (pdf)

 EU-Turkey migration deal on life support - Countries have attacked nearly every aspect of the agreement leaders hope to finalize at this week’s summit. (politico, link): " first they will have to address the concerns of several countries that have raised red flags, including: Cyprus, which opposes any deal to move forward on EU membership for Turkey until Ankara fully respects all the commitments made with Nicosia; Bulgaria, which wants the agreement to also focus on the migration route on its border with Turkey; and France and Spain, which have raised humanitarian concerns. Spain was the most recent country to signal its opposition to Turkey’s demands. The country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, called the proposed agreement with Ankara “unacceptable” in remarks to reporters Monday."

 Greece: Refugees on Lesbos offered sanctuary thanks to Brit couple (Mirror, link):

"Rather than welcoming British tourists, Eric and Philippa Kempson have opened a hotel of hope to the hundreds of fleeing refugees... ...

Now, as Turkey and the EU agree their “one in, one out” policy in response to the migrant crisis, Philippa says: “I’m absolutely speechless about these latest measures – they’re farcical. Labels like ‘irregular migration’ are meaningless. "We need to remember these are human beings fleeing horrific circumstances.”

Hotel Elpis, on tranquil Eftalou Beach, gives desperate refugees shelter, somewhere to wash and a meal when they land on Lesbos. The 20-room hotel welcomed its first 110 residents two weeks ago."

 UNHCR: Reports that this year there have been 153,158 arrivals in the EU: 143,205 in Greece and 9,495 in Italy. 448 dead/missing

And: "The Greek Ministry of Migration Policy announced on 13 March that 44,035 refugees were in Greece with 8,904 located on the islands and 35,131 people on the mainland. Of those, an approximate 12,000 people were located at Eidomeni, near the border crossing between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." (Daily Report, 15.3.16)

 German NGO slams Turkey’s ‘illegal’ refugee proposal (euractiv, link):

"As EU leaders struggle to agree on a final action plan with Turkey, Germany’s largest immigration NGO has published a legal opinion today (15 March) questioning the legality of the proposals...

PRO ASYL, a German organisation that champions the rights of immigrants, has published a legal opinion that claims the plan is illegal, as it is based on the claim that Turkey is a “safe third country”. The NGO’s chief, Günter Burkhardt, is in no doubt that, “Turkey is not a ‘safe third country’ within the definitions of EU and international refugee law.” ...

“If the EU makes this deal, then it will be violating its own laws and international laws,” Karl Kopp, speaker from Pro Asyl on European issues and on the board of the European Refugee Council (ECRE), told “That would be a disastrous signal to send.”"

 News (15.3.16)

Greece: Refugees say they were beaten in FYROM (, link): "Refugees who bypassed a border fence to enter Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) say FYROM forces beat and gave them electric shocks before driving them back to Greece."

EU Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos during his visit to Idomeni, Greece - Brussels, 15 March 2016 (pdf)

Danes raise €20,000 to pay smuggling fines (euobserver, link): "Danes have crowdfunded some €20,000 to pay fines handed out to people caught helping refugees, reports The Copenhagen Post. The fundraisers want to award people fined "for acting decently and with humanity”. However, the Danish Fundraising Board has said the campaign is illegal because organisers did not give proper notification."

UK press is the most aggressive in reporting on Europe’s ‘migrant’ crisis (The Conversation, link)

Brussels: S&D Group in European Parliament to demonstrate against ‘walls in Europe’ (New Europe, link): "Under the slogan of “No more walls in Europe – #EUWakeUp”, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament is organising a demonstration in Brussels on March 16. The gathering will coincide with a European Council meeting."

Tusk goes to Turkey and Cyprus to finalise migrant deal (euractiv, link): "Council President Donald Tusk headed for talks today (15 March) in both Nicosia and Ankara, as part of a bid to finalise terms of an EU deal with Turkey to curb the flow of migrants to Europe, EU sources said."

FYROM returned about 600 migrants to Greece, says police (, link): "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has sent about 600 migrants who crossed the border on Monday back to Greece, a FYROM police official said on Tuesday."

and see: FYROM releases photojournalists, NGO workers (link): "Authorities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Tuesday released from custody 12 Greek photojournalists and NGO workers who had followed a group of hundreds of migrants and refugees on a crossing of Greece’s border with its northern neighbor on Monday".

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