Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (24.3.16): Reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal

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- Greek govt’ spokeswoman: We will not legislate for “Turkey as Safe Third Country” (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"While Greece’s European partners awaiting for Greece to pass legislation to accept Turkey as “safe 3rd country” in order to accelerate sending back refugees and migrants arriving after March 20th, Athens does not seem willing to do so.

Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said so during a press briefing on Wednesday:

“There is no need for such legislation. We will not legislate for Turkey as a safe third country. There is not in this context, as you can see, and because the refugees will be considered individually and not collectively. According to each case, it will be examined also if it is safe that this specific person to return, to be returned to another country. Do not forget that countries other than Turkey, could not be a safe destination for a refugee. This will depend on the individual cases and specifically to what it will be applied for each one of the refugees."

- Report from Greece: "Lesvos - Turkey returns started. Refugees will be returned (2 return officers for each returnee, so 50 Dutch officers landed on the island) BY PLANE. It seems the newcomers were unable to stay for even a week. We demand from the Greek authorities, since UNHCR is not IN (but only around) Moria, to let the public know the way in which it ensured that the newcomers had a practicl and effective chance to seek asylum and obtain legal aid, as well as concerning the procedural safeguards applying for an effective exercise of the right to appeal.

We also would like to know the way in which UNHCR, representing the refugees in absence of specific legal representation, and being present on the island with potent personnel, welcoming and informing refugees at the shore, ensures that noone leaves the island without having effectively exercised the above"

- Germany: neo-Nazis and the market in asylum reception (IRR, link): "The German government’s use of the largely unregulated private security sector in the reception and care of asylum seekers has led to neo-Nazis having unrestricted access to the very people they want to harm."

- Oxfam suspends aid operations in Moria camp in protest to the suspension of migrants’ rights by the EU and Turkey (link):

"Oxfam has today suspended all of its operations in the Moria camp, on the Greek island of Lesvos, in response to the deteriorating treatment of migrants due to the recent deal struck between the EU and Turkey.

Over the last few days, there has been a jump in the number of people on the move arriving to Moria. In response, the Greek authorities are transforming reception facilities into detention centers, where people will be held pending their mass return to Turkey, following the deal last week. People’s freedom of movement in Moria has been severely restricted and the camp has been placed under the authority of the Interior Ministry.

Oxfam is committed to providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, but it is against Oxfam principles to work in closed centers, where the respect of fundamental rights cannot be guaranteed. Humanitarian aid should be delivered in a neutral environment, where refugees have freedom of movement."
[emphasis added]

- UN rights chief fears "collective expulsions" under EU-Turkey deal (TRF, link):

"The top United Nations human rights official voiced concern on Thursday that a deal to manage migrant flows struck by the European Union and Turkey could lead to "collective expulsions" of refugees in violation of international law" [emphasis added]

- Blind and wheelchair-bound migrants stand trial in Orban’s Hungary (FT, link):

"Hungarian authorities, Fattom Hassun and Ghazy Faisa Hamad are security threats. They were arrested under a law passed in September — in the heat of Europe’s migrant crisis — that makes it a criminal offence to interfere with the country’s border fence...

In the last seven months, Hungary’s courts have held 2,189 trials for border crimes. Prosecutions have been swift and efficient — 2,162 defendants, or 99 per cent, were convicted. In practice, judges have chosen expulsions and entry bans over prison sentences, meaning refugees found guilty can be banned from entering Schengen countries for several years."

- What Are My Rights If I Get International Protection in Greece? What Is The Difference Between Asylum And Subsidiary Protection? (News That Moves, link)

- UNHCR Daily Report (24.3.16):

"Condition of People: In Greece, frustration and tension amongst refugees and migrants are on the rise on the islands and the mainland. In Eidomeni, two people attempted to immolate themselves as a sign of protest and were transferred to the hospital for appropriate care." and

"In light of current developments, UNHCR redefined its role in Greece. The UN Agency for Refugees has until now been supporting the authorities in the so-called "hotspots" on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered. Under the new provisions, these sites have now become detention facilities. Accordingly, and in line with UNHCR’s policy on opposing mandatory detention, UNHCR has suspended some activities at all closed centres on the islands. This includes provision of transport to and from these sites. However, UNHCR will maintain a presence to carry out protection monitoring to ensure that refugee and human rights standards are upheld, and to provide information on the rights and procedures to seek asylum. UNHCR staff will also continue to be present at the shoreline and sea port to provide life-saving assistance (including transport to hospitals where needed). UNHCR is counselling new arrivals on asylum in Greece, including on family reunification and on access to services as well as identifying people with specific needs."

"MSF Sea also denounced any participation in the transportation of refugees and migrants from the island of Lesvos into detention centres. According to their Twitter posts, “continuing to work inside #Moria would make [them] complicit in a system [they] consider to be both unfair and inhumane”. However, sea rescue activities in north Lesvos will continue."

- Greece: Refugee sets himself alight as EU's grand plan to staunch exodus of asylum seekers unravels - The UN's refugee agency suspends cooperation with EU detention and deportation plan on Greek islands (Daily Telegraph, link)

- Greece: MSF, Oxfam pull out of Lesbos hotspot in yet another blow to EU (euractiv, link):

"International aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said yesterday (23 March) it had suspended activities at a refugee centre on the Greek island of Lesbos to avoid being complicit in an “unfair and inhumane” EU deal to send newcomers back to Turkey. Oxfam did the same hours later.

The move came a day after the UN refugee agency UNHCR said it had suspended some activities in Greece, saying reception centres had become “detention facilities”."

and: Aid agencies suspending operations in Greece (euobserver, link) and Human Rights Watch: Greece: Humanitarian Crisis at Athens Port - EU, Greek Authorities Should Urgently Address Needs (link): "Thousands of asylum seekers and migrants at the Athens port of Piraeus face appalling conditions as the crisis for people trapped in Greece due to border closures intensifies, Human Rights Watch said today. The lack of government involvement, poor organization, and scarce resources, as well as lack of information, anxiety, and fear about the new European Union-Turkey deal, are contributing to insecurity and suffering."

- Greece: Lesbos Mayor Attacks EU as Refugees Continue to Arrive (,link): "Under the new agreement, they should be sent back to Turkey. However, there is no indication of when or how that will happen. Lesbos Mayor Spyros Gallinos told VOA he has had no clarity from Athens or Brussels. The new deal has been forced on Lesbos, Gallinos says, adding that EU policymakers dragged their feet for a year and a half in finding any kind of solution for the migration issue, and then overnight came up with a decision that they want to enforce immediately."

- News (24.3.16)

Greece: Humanitarian crisis growing in Athens port, charity warns - Border closures have led to about 5,000 refugees trapped in Piraeus amid ‘appalling conditions’, says Human Rights Watch (Guardian, link): "“The suffering in Piraeus is a direct consequence of Europe’s failure to respond in a legal and compassionate way to the crisis on its shores..”About 5,000 men, women and children were dependent entirely on volunteers in the absence of any visible government support, the watchdog said. Fights had erupted as tensions escalated, with aid workers often forced to intervene."

Refugee crisis: key aid agencies refuse any role in 'mass expulsion' - UNHCR and Médecins Sans Frontières say they will not be involved with EU-Turkey deal to send people back from Greece (Guardian, link): "The UN refugee agency said it was suspending most of its activities in refugee centres on the Greek islands because they were now being used as detention facilities for people due to be sent back to Turkey. UNHCR was later joined by Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children. All five said they did not want to be involved in the blanket expulsion of refugees because it contravened international law."

EU border agency has under a third of requested police (, link): "Frontex, which coordinates border patrols and collects intelligence about the bloc's frontiers, had called on European countries Friday to provide 1,500 police and 50 readmission experts "to support Greece in returning migrants to Turkey." Only 396 police officers and 47 readmission experts have been offered, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Warsaw-based agency... Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri said. Leggeri had earlier said: "It is important to stress that Frontex can only return people once the Greek authorities have thoroughly analyzed each individual case and issued a final return decision.". UPDATE: What is Happening in Moria Camp in Lesvos? (, link): "On Saturday March 19 the municipality confirmed to the humanitarian community in Lesvos that Moria registration site would become a closed centre as a direct result of the EU Turkey deal announced on Friday March 18. Since Monday March 21, Moria has been operating as a closed centre for registration of ‘irregular migration’. People coming into the centre will not be allowed to leave. Their movements within the site itself, which has a capacity of around 2500, are also restricted."

Greece deploys riot police squads near Idomeni refugees camp (, link): "The tension among the refugees and migrants stuck in Idomeni camp is growing higher and higher. It looks as if they are divided in two groups: those who insist on protesting and even go so far to enforce a hunger strike among the people, hoping that the borders will be open, and those more moderate, mostly families with children to feed. It is quite possible that those leading the protests also hinder the moderate ones to move into accommodation camps across set up Greece."

What a silly headline: NGOs abandon Greece, oppose EU-Turkey refugee plan (eurativ, link): "NGOs helping the Greek government cope with the refugee crisis have decided to cease operations for practical reasons, as well as in opposition to the “inhumane” EU-Turkey deal.." and: UNHCR refuses to play ball with EU, as ‘hotspots’ become prisons (euractiv, link): "The United Nations refugee agency has refused to get involved in the refugee returns organised by the EU under its recent deal with Turkey, claiming that the so-called “hotspots” on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants are received, assisted, and registered, have become prisons."

Greece: Armed forces running out of shelter for migrants (, link) "The Greek armed forces are beginning to run out of places to host refugees as new arrivals continue to reach the country, which prompted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to call NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday to express concern about the limited impact of naval patrols in the Aegean.": "

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