Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 19-20.3.16


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 Greece: Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Interior: Refugees: Rights and obligations (link)


"Rights of applicants for international protection

As an applicant for international protection in Greece:

Your deportation is prohibited until the examination of your application is completed.

You may move freely throughout the country, unless specific areas of the country where you may move freely are determined on the card that you are provided with ..."

See also: Who can apply for asylum (link)

 EU-Turkey deal fails to stem refugee flight to Greece (, link):

"They waved, cheered and smiled, elated to have made it to Europe at dawn on Sunday in a packed blue rubber motor boat.... Twelve boats had arrived on the shoreline near the airport by 6 a.m. (0400 GMT), a police official said....

The returns to Turkey are due to begin on April 4, as would resettlement of Syrian refugees in Europe. Doubts remain about whether the deal is legal or workable. It was not clear what would happen to the tens of thousands of migrants and refugees already in Greece.

Authorities in Lesbos began removing refugees and migrants from the island on Saturday to make space for new arrivals. The island has a capacity to host 3,500 people at a place set up to register arrivals."

and: Refugee crisis: Boats arrive in Greece despite EU deal (, link): "Five boats carrying Syrians arrive from Turkey hours after deal aiming to cut off refugee route to EU comes into force."

and Thousands protest in European capitals to support migrants (Yahoo News, link): " Protestors voicing their support for migrants took to the streets of European capitals Saturday, the day after the EU and Turkey sealed a deal designed to tackle the continent's biggest migration crisis since World War II. Thousands of people marched in London, Athens, Barcelona, Vienna, Amsterdam and several Swiss cities as Greece rushed to put in place the measures needed to enforce the deal sealed at a Brussels summit Friday." also: Thousands protest against refugee policies in Vienna (The, link): "Vienna's inner city ring was blocked for hours as thousands of demonstrators came out to protest against Austria's new asylum seekers policy on Saturday."

also: Swedish lawyers condemn EU-Turkey migrants deal (The, link); "Swedish group Lawyers Without Borders has expressed concern over the legailty of the deal reached between the EU and Turkey designed to curb migration to the 28-member bloc... Louise Gunvén, lawyer and board member of Lawyers Without Borders told Swedish news agency, TT. Asylum law prohibits return to a country that is unsafe, where people risk being subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment or torture. "Our extensive experience of Turkey is that people risk being exposed to such treatment. Considerable failings exist in the Turkish legal system, as well as the risk of not getting a fair trial," Gunvén said.""

 EU: Council of the European Union: Draft Council conclusions on convergence in asylum decision practices - Adoption (LIMITE doc no: 7255-16, pdf)

It is obvious that the EU is moving toward standard 'country of origin' reports that will be used in more Member States in order to ensure consistent decision-making. The important point is that the information should be transparent and accurate. It is worrying that there is no specific mention of making reports public, or of taking into account evidence supplied by human rights NGOs when drawing up the reports.

 EUROPEAN COMMISSION TAKES CHARGE OF THE REFUGEE OPERATION IN GREECE: President Juncker appoints EU Coordinator to organise operational implementation in Greece (Press release, pdf):

"President Juncker has today appointed Maarten Verwey to act as the EU Coordinator to implement the EU-Turkey statement....

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "We agreed today that the Commission will appoint an EU Coordinator on the ground to make the plan operational. I have decided that this will be Maarten Verwey, the Director General of the Structural Reforms Support Service who already is in Greece helping on a daily basis with the management of the refugee crisis. He will organise the work and coordinate the dispatching of the 4,000 staff that will be needed from Greece, Member States, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and FRONTEX. We need case workers, interpreters, judges, return officers and security officers.""

Comment: Like in the euro crisis the EU takes over control of the Greece-Turkey operation.

 Everyone who cares should watch this video: Another tragic day in Eftalou, Greece (Eric Kempson):

"This is an emotional account of what happens here on our beach almost every day, please share and let the world know the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding at the gates of Europe, these people need help and support. Just imagine if you faced this every day in your back yard!! We help where we can but it feels inadequate, more needs to be done for these people, there is only so much local volunteers can help. These people need shelter and help."

Report from Lesvos, Greece (Saturday):

"The new EU agreement is taking effect in a major way currently on Lesvos. At this moment and for the past hours all camps have started to be emptied by the bus loads. Evacuations will continue all night. Refugees are being made to buy a ticket and have been on this boat since 11 am. Cash is needed at the port to buy tickets for families now standing outside since this morning. No agencies handling this and they cannot enter the "mandatory boat " without paying. Go figure that. Some with no money for food once on the boat. It seems the plan is to have all camps emptied by tomorrow.

All Greek island camps are being evicted. Volunteers are bearing witness in the port, distributing quick lunch packs and warm clothes before the refugees board and keeping an eye on the situation. We are all in a state of deep shock at the immediacy and severity of the implementation. All we can do is stand by and watch. Keep them in your thoughts tonight, there is a hopelessness and fear settling in that I have not seen here before."

and from Pikpa centre, Lesvos (link)

"As a result of the EU-Turkey agreement, the evacuation of the two camps on Lesvos at Moria and Kara Tepe began today. Refugees are being transported to the port and removed from the island on a special ferry service to Kavala. The current situation is that as of tomorrow night (20/3); the entire population of refugees on the island will be expelled to mainland Greece. There is currently a lack of organisation and no clear information about their destination, future accommodation and the procedures to be followed in relation to applications for asylum, family reunification and relocation.

We are greatly concerned that all individuals will not have access to the right to claim asylum and that those who will claim asylum, as a result of the severe lack of legal advice and the speed with which claims will be decided, will not have their claims properly assessed. Decisions will be taken en masse, resulting in mass expulsions. The sudden movement of people means the organisational structures are not set up for such an influx of refugees, the inevitability of which can only be subhuman living conditions, as we have seen in Idomeni.

The aim is to convert Moria into a closed detention centre run by the army; where we have grave concerns about the conditions refugees will be held in. As a result the structures of solidarity are going to be excluded from helping refugees, monitoring abuses and advising people of their rights.

 EU-Turkey deal: An “army” of EU staff to move to Greece (details) (Keep talking Greece, link)::

"Staff, staff and more staff is needed for the operational implementation of the EU-Turkey deal with regards to sending back refugees and migrants to Turkey. Below is an exerpt from the European Commission/Council Questions and Answers on the issue – which, of course, leaves many answers open – with the first of them: How is it possible that foreign judges will operate in Greece!"

See: European Commission: Factsheet on the EU-Turkey Agreement (dated today, 19 March, pdf):

"When will the new agreement take effect?

The agreement will take effect from 20 March 2016. What this means in practice is that anyone arriving in the Greek islands from this date will be returned directly to Turkey if they have no right to international protection or do not claim asylum. Those who claim asylum will have their application processed, in an expedited fashion, with a view to their immediate return to Turkey if the claim is declared inadmissible.

"What operational support will Greece need in order to implement the scheme?

The implementation of the agreement will require huge operational efforts from all involved, and most of all from Greece. EU Member States agreed to provide Greece at short notice with the necessary means, including border guards, asylum experts and interpreters.

The Commission estimates that Greece will need:

Around 4,000 staff from Greece, Member States, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and FRONTEX
For the asylum process: 200 Greek asylum service case workers, 400 asylum experts from other Member States deployed by EASO and 400 interpreters
For the appeals process: 10 Appeals Committees made up of 30 members from Greece as well as 30 judges with expertise in asylum law from other Member States and 30 interpreters
For the return process: 25 Greek readmission officers, 250 Greek police officers as well as 50 return experts deployed by Frontex. 1,500 police officers seconded on the basis of bilateral police cooperation arrangements (costs covered by FRONTEX)
- Security: 1,000 security staff/army

Material assistance:

Transport: return from the islands: 8 FRONTEX vessels with a capacity of 300-400 passengers per vessel) and 28 buses
- Accommodation: 20,000 short-term capacity on the Greek islands (of which 6,000 already exist)
- Administration: 190 containers, including 130 for EASO case workers"

 EU-Turkey deal: Greece empties islands from refugees & migrants, “hot spots” turn into “detention centers” (Keep talking Greece, link):

"Thousands of refugees and migrants are to be transported from the Greek islands ot mainland in new camps as the EU-Turkey deal goes in effect on midnight tomorrow, Sunday, March 20th 2016. The hot spots on the islands Lesvos, Chios, Samors, Leros and Kos in the eastern Aegean Sea will have to be empty so that they can be turned into “detention centers” for the new arrivals of refugees and migrants as of 21. March 2016, at oo:o1 o’ clock. the new arrivals will be not allowed to travel to the mainland, but stay in the camps until they will be returned to Turkey – or not....

According to media, travel agencies on these islands have been informed to issue no more ship tickets for refugees with Piraeus as destination. The hot spot in Moria, Lesvos, will operate as detention center and not more as center were refugees can stay"

See Statewatch coverage this week: Next operational steps in EU-Turkey cooperation in the field of migration (COM 166-16, pdf): "The return of all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey"

HOTSPOTS TO BE "ADAPTED" to "implement returns to Turkey" and to exclude "relocation" to EU states of those in need of international proteaction: Hotspots to be turned from registration and refferal for trhose in need of international protection and: "adapted – with the current focus on registration and screening before swift transfer to the mainland replaced by the objective of implementing returns to Turkey. For instance, the infrastructure in the hotspots would need to be reconfigured to accommodate the readmission and asylum offices."

And: the building of secure detention centres on the Greek islands: "Another important element would be a substantial increase in reception capacity in the islands. This could include separate facilities for irregular migrants and those undergoing the longer procedure of an asylum request, and would require sufficient detention capacity to be put in place for individuals who present a risk of absconding."

 UN Special Rapporteur "concerned" about the readmission protocol between Greece and Turkey signed in 2002 - is Turkey a "safe" country?

The EU intends to use this agreement/protocol to return refugees to Turkey considered not to be in need of international protection who arrive in Greece on and after Sunday 20 March 2016.

European Commission: Factsheet on the EU-Turkey Agreement (pdf) includes:

"On what legal basis will irregular migrants be returned from the Greek islands to Turkey?

People who do not have a right to international protection will be immediately returned to Turkey. The legal framework for these returns is the bilateral readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey. From 1 June 2016, this will be succeeded by the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, following the entry into force of the provisions on readmission of third country nationals of this agreement." [emphasis added]

This "agreement" was considered by the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau (dated, 17 April 2013, pdf) who observed:

"Greece-Turkey and EU-Turkey readmission agreements

1.          A readmission protocol between Greece and Turkey was signed in 2002. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that this agreement focuses almost exclusively on combatting "illegal" migration. While it "does not affect the rights and obligations arising from other international agreements binding upon the Parties", it does not provide any specific guarantees for respecting the human rights of migrants, such as non-refoulement or the principle of the best interests of the child. Given the obstacles to access asylum procedures and to identify other vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children, victims of trafficking and victims of torture in Greece, there is a serious risk that persons returned under the readmission agreement with Turkey might indeed be in need of protection. 

2. The Special Rapporteur notes that the number of migrants returned to Turkey under the bilateral agreement is low, and that Greece expects that it will be able to readmit more migrants once the EU-Turkey readmission agreement enters into force. 

3. The Special Rapporteur strongly urges Greece to fully respect its human rights obligations in relation to all its readmission agreements, including the Greece-Italy, Greece-Turkey and EU-Turkey agreements. The non-refoulement principle must always be respected for all migrants proposed for readmission." [emphasis added]

 Is this what the EU-Turkey deal means: Friday 18 March 2016, the same day that the "deal" by the EU was done with Turkey, Channel Four carried this shocking video of a Turkish coastguard boat - openly - trying to sink a refugee motorised ribber dinghy: Shocking video appears to show the Turkish coastguard striking an inflatable dinghy carrying refugees and migrants in deep and dangerous waters(Facebook lvideo link) Shocking video appears to show the Turkish coastguard striking an inflatable dinghy carrying refugees and migrants in deep and dangerous waters. The officers are under instructions to get the boats to turn back.

"Migrant Report states that a Turkish coastguard crew has been caught on camera attacking a rubber boat with about 40 asylum seekers on board, including five women and 15 children. The incident happened at about 8 AM off the Greek island of Agathonisi. A Turkish Coast Guard Cutter started chasing the dinghy, which at this point was moving fast out of Turkish waters. Eventually the coast guard deployed their own RHIB with three men on board. The raft started zigzagging to avoid being intercepted. At this point, the coast guard officials started hitting the migrant boat apparently aiming to disable the engine. While this was taking place, the larger coastguard vessel started making a circle around the migrants’ boat creating a dangerous wave that is intended to flood the engine but could have also capsized the vessel. The chase, which lasted about 40 minutes, continued well into Greek waters with the Turkish coastguard pulling back when they were about half a nautical mile away from the shore of Agathonisi."

European Commission: President Juncker appoints EU Coordinator to organise operational implementation in Greece (Press release, pdf):

"European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "We agreed today that the Commission will appoint an EU Coordinator on the ground to make the plan operational. I have decided that this will be Maarten Verwey, the Director General of the Structural Reforms Support Service who already is in Greece helping on a daily basis with the management of the refugee crisis. He will organise the work and coordinate the dispatching of the 4,000 staff that will be needed from Greece, Member States, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and FRONTEX. We need case workers, interpreters, judges, return officers and security officers." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"The hypocrisy of the EU knows no limits. This is the first official mention of the need for "judges" to ensure that asylum application appeals can be heard. It is not mentioned in any of the Commsion Communications or its reports on Greece and Italy over the past six months - it is not on any list of "needs". It is only officially recognised now - more than a year into the refugee crisis - alongside creting "returns officers" as well.

And there is still no mention of the crying need for the provision of lawyers and legal advice for refugees in Greece and Italy."

 Migration: Why the EU’s deal with Turkey is no solution to the “crisis” affecting Europe - Interview with Aurélie Ponthieu, MSF Humanitarian Adviser on Displacement, Brussels (MSF, link):

"The proposed deal with Turkey shows once again how European leaders have completely lost track of reality. If this cynical agreement is implemented, for each Syrian that risks his life at sea another Syrian will have the chance to reach Europe from Turkey. This crude calculation reduces people to mere numbers, denying them humane treatment and discarding their right to seek protection in Europe. These people are not numbers, but men, women, children and families. Around 88% of those using this route are coming from refugee producing countries, and more than half of them are women and children. They should be treated humanely and in full respect of their rights and dignity....

The EU-Turkey deal and the deployment of EU humanitarian aid to Greece will be no quick fix to the need people have to find safety and protection in Europe. It is time European governments start facing reality and provide a responsible, common, humane and dignified response to people’s unstoppable search for protection and a better life for themselves and for their children, by providing a safe passage for those in need in dignity"

 UNHCR on EU-Turkey deal: Asylum safeguards must prevail in implementation (link):

"Today's agreement clarifies a number of elements. Importantly, it is explicit that any modalities of implementation of the agreement will respect international and European law. In UNHCR's understanding, in light of relevant jurisprudence, this means that people seeking international protection will have an individual interview on whether their claim can be assessed in Greece, and the right to appeal before any readmission to Turkey. This would also entail that once returned, people in need of international protection will be given the chance to seek and effectively access protection in Turkey. We now need to see how this will be worked out in practice, in keeping with the safeguards set out in the agreement – many of which at present are not in place.

How this plan is to be implemented is thus going to be crucial. Ultimately, the response must be about addressing the compelling needs of individuals fleeing war and persecution. Refugees need protection, not rejection....

people being returned to Turkey and needing international protection must have a fair and proper determination of their claims, and within a reasonable time. Assurances against refoulement, or forced return, must be in place. Reception and other arrangements need to be readied in Turkey before anyone is returned from Greece. People determined to be needing international protection need to be able to enjoy asylum, without discrimination, in accordance with accepted international standards, including effective access to work, health care, education for children, and, as necessary, social assistance." [emphasis aded]

 Statewatch Analyses

Italy: Mass discrimination based on nationality and human rights violations – Nigerian refugees and trafficking victims deported from Rome (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

Europe’s answer to the refugee crisis has so far been to intensify existing policies and practices, conveniently overlooking their role in the genesis of the problem and in demeaning the rule of law in its member states.

EU/Italy Commission requires large scale abuse of migrants for relocation to proceed (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

On 15 December 2015, the Commission’s “Progress report on the implementation of hotspots in Italy” was sent to the European Parliament and the Council, calling for further progress to be made in the fields of hotspots, relocation, returns, border management and reception capacity. Lamenting the slow progress in implementing “European Union Law” to build a “Common European Asylum System” in mid-October, the Commission called on Italy to “operationalise all hotspots”, make “full use of the existing detention capacity” while reforming norms on detention and ensuring “swift” transfers to either “second-line reception facilities” or “detention centres”.

Reinforcing the Fortress Commission’s priority actions for the refugee situation (pdf) by Zak Suffee:

The EU’s response to the refugee situation has included the deployment of warships, plans for mass refoulement and the possible introduction of “one-for-one” schemes, none of which were mentioned in the priority actions proposed by the European Commission in February 2016.

The priority actions, entitled the ‘State of Play of Implementation of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration’ [1] aims to address the refugee situation by way of a number of priority actions which can be summarised under the following headings: 1) the future of Greece; 2) securing the EU; 3) hotspot management; 4) returns and readmissions; and 5) Management of financial resources in and outside the European Union.

The final EU/Turkey refugee deal: a legal assessment (pdf) by Professor Steve Peers (University of Essex):

The EU and Turkey have now reached an agreement on refugee issues, which has aroused considerable legal and political controversy. To examine the arguments about the deal, I present here the main text with my legal assessment of each point annotated. This builds upon my comments (together with Emanuela Roman) first of all in general on the relevant points last month, and then secondly on the leaked draft text of the final deal earlier this week (I have reused here some of the latter analysis where relevant). The agreement should be read alongside the EU summit conclusions, as well as the Commission communication on the deal. It incorporates the March 7 EU/Turkey statement which addressed the same issues in less detail.

 News (19-20-3-16)

Opinion: Raise the drawbridge! EU refugee policy (DW, link): "Refugees from Syria will soon no longer be able to reach the European Union. An inhumane success for the bloc, writes Bernd Riegert."

Rising migrant tension prompts more security (, link): "Growing unrest among thousands of stranded migrants and refugees across Greece over the last few days has prompted authorities to increase security at camps and shelters.":

Migration deal: Quick start, tough implementation ((, link): "Yiannis Balafas, the deputy interior minister, said swift screening procedures in the Greek islands would require additional staff promised by the European Union. “(Migrants) will be returned after they have been swiftly processed. That is why we need the technical assistance,” Balafas told private Mega television. Greece is expecting some 2,300 European experts, including migration officers and translators, to help implement the deal....

Migrants on Lesvos and other islands in the east Aegean Sea were being taken by ferry to the mainland ports of Piraeus and Kavala where they will be placed in shelters and eligible for an EU-wide relocation program. Those who arrive on the islands from Sunday onward will be screened and their identity recorded and then sent back to Turkey."

Comment: Refugees who arrive from Sunday will have the right to claim asylym and have to be properly considered under EU asylum law - they canont be just sent back. to Turkey.

British warships to intercept migrants off Libyan shore (Daily Telegraph, link): "David Cameron urges action to destroy boats close to the Libyan shore, ahead of gruelling night of talks over Turkey's 'blackmail' deal "

Greek PM: Success of EU-Turkey deal will depend on low migration flows (ANAmpa, link): "He warned, however, that it was a "difficult agreement" to implement and that a condition for its success will be a reduction in refugee flows, as seen in recent days."

Migrant crisis: There's a deal, but implementing it won't be easy (BBC News, link):

"For starters, to be able to send tens of thousands of migrants out of Greece and back to Turkey, Athens has to change its asylum laws to recognise Turkey as a so-called safe country. To really be one, Turkey needs to change its laws to fully respect the Geneva Human Rights Convention. Something it refuses point blank to do.... Currently, Turkey only recognises European refugees. Syrians have "special status" in the country because of their brutal civil war, but Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers - who make up 40% of migrant boat arrivals in the EU - are not recognised in Turkey."

Tsipras lauds EU-Turkey deal, which requires immediate action in Greece (, link): "Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he was walking away satisfied on Friday from the summit between the European Union and Turkey, where all sides agreed on a plan that will see refugees sent back from Greece and resettled directly from its neighbor. “We have put into action what we have been trying to achieve for the last three months,” he said after yesterday’s agreement. “In other words, agreeing a common approach to the refugee crisis.”" [emphasis added]

Please note that refugees granted international protetion will be relocated in the EU, those who are not given this status will be returned to Turkey.

Migrant returns start Sunday, after EU and Turkey strike refugee swap deal (euractiv, link): "All migrants and refugees arriving in Greece from this Sunday (20 March) will be returned to Turkey, under a controversial agreement hammered out over two days between the EU and Ankara at a summit in Brussels." [emphasis added]

Please note that the statement in bold is incorrect: refugees granted international protetion will be relocated in the EU, those who are not given this status will be returned to Turkey.

Refugees will be sent back across Aegean in EU-Turkey deal (Guardian, link):

"Aid agencies criticise ‘inhumane’ Brussels deal as Saturday midnight deadline may see desperate last-minute rush to Greece... Anyone arriving after Saturday midnight can expect to be returned to Turkey in the coming weeks. The UN’s refugee agency said big questions remained about how the deal would work in practice and called for urgent improvements to Greece’s system for assessing refugees.

Aid agencies accused the EU of failing to respect the spirit of EU and international laws. “This is a dark day for the refugee convention, a dark day for Europe and a dark day for humanity,” said Kate Allen of Amnesty International. Action Aid’s Mike Noyes claimed the deal would “effectively turn the Greek islands ... into prison camps where terrified people are held against their will before being deported back to Turkey”."[emphasis added]

Please note all refugees will not be returned. Refugees who apply for asylum and are granted international protetion will be relocated in the EU, those who are not given this status will be returned to Turkey.

President Erdogan says freedom and democracy have 'no value' in Turkey amid arrests and military crackdown - Dozens of activists, politicians and academics have been detained in Turkey as discussions continue over the refugee crisis (The Independent, link): "On Monday, the President had vowed to extend the legal definition of “terrorists” to include MPs, activists and journalists."

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