Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.3.16): reactions to and consequences of the EU-Turkey deal

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- Greece: ECHR complaint on Afghan minors in Greece communicated to Greek government: See: Electra (link)

I have just been informed that the European Court Of Human Rights (ECHR) decided to communicate the Afghan unaccompanied minors' application to the Greek Government and to officially grant them anonymity throughout the procedure.

As for the interim measures' request, the Court decided to count on the assurances of the Greek Government that once these applicants approach the national Asylum Service, they will IMMEDIATELY receive the apropriate protection, including guardianship and representation, access to the asylum procedure and care on reunification with family members abroad, the satisfaction of the children's needs concerning "accomodation with adult relatives. a foster family, accomodations with special infrastructures suitable for minors, protection against the danger of trafficking or abuse. The greek authorities also committed to the Court that "they will try to locate, as soon as possible, the members of the minors family, taking other protective measures (long list) and generally complying with the obligatins towards them, "according to the best inerest of the child".

The Court underlined that "if the assurances given are not complied with, besides the cooperation of the applicant minors, they can ask the Court for interim protection".
The communication of an application usually takes years. This one was communicated about 10 days after it was lodged.

It is now open for third party interventions. Those NGOs wishing to intervene and provide amicus curiae, are invited to do so. There already has been expressed an interest for intervention by the French Union of Immigration Lawyers."

- European Commission "state of play" report: 22.3.16 (previous report 1.2.16)

After a gap of almost two months the European Commission has just published the latest state of play statistics (dated 21 and 22 March 2016). However, the Press release is dated: 29 January 2016 (which means it is listed on p10 of the Commission Press release site) making it very difficult for journalists and civil society to find - are they try to hide "bad news"?

European Commission: State of Play: Measures to Address the Refugee Crisis (dated 29 January 2016, pdf but containing statistics dated 22 March)

Overall: very little change except Hotspots.

Relocation: Member States' Support to Emergency Relocation Mechanism (pdf)

Greece up from 202 to 569 relocated. Italy: up from 240 to 384. Was 17 Member States offering only 4,237 places now up slightly with 22 Member States’ offering 7,015 places out of a total of 160,000 places they are supposed to have made available. Pitifully slow progress.

Also includes the responses of just 9 Member States (although all have been notified) responses to calls for: 374 EASO experts - 201 forthcoming; Poseidon Rapid Intervention 759 towards 1,112; response to Frontex call for ongoing Joint Operations for 1,412 border guards only 356 forthcoming.

Hotspots: State of Play of Hotspot capacity (dated 21 March 2016, pdf)

Greece: Lesvos had a "reception" capacity of 2,709 (1.2.16) now 1,500. Number of Frontex officers was 184, now 303. Chios: had 2,250 "reception" places, now 1,000 - was 99 Frontex officers, now 105. Samos had "reception" capacity of 650, now 850 with 69 Frontex official up from 53. Leros had a "reception" capacity of 330, now 1,000 with 37 Frontex officials up from 31. Kos had a "reception" capacity of 290 now 1,000 with 45 Frontex officials down from 54.

Figures for Italy unchanged except for Frontex officials up slightly in Lampedusa and Pozzallo.

Returns: Returns since September 2015 (pdf)

The number of "returns" from Italy since September last year was 153, now 175. For Greece was nil, still nil.

The total number of "Joint Frontex Return Flights" was 683 since September last year and is now 824.

Financial pledges: Member States' financial pledges since 23 September 2015 (pdf)

The shortfall for the Africa Trust was 1,718.59 (million euro) and is now the same. The shortfall for the Syria Trust Fund was 447.94 (million euro) and is now 439.95 (million euro).

Unlike the 1.2.16 pledges statistics the ones for 21 March do not mention pledged humanitarian aid (inc to UNHCR).

Aid: Member States' Support to Civil Protection Mechanism - no data provided.

European Commission "State of Play" reports since September 2015 now here

- Samos Island Greece: March 21: Day 2 of the EU/Turkey Pact: Glimpsing the Nightmares to Come (link):

"Then a man stood up holding a child and a fuel can and began to throw the contents over himself and the people around him. Then with a cigarette lighter in his hand shouted that if the rescue boat came any nearer he would use the lighter. The German boat backed off with the crew trying to re-assure the refugees that they were there to help them and not to return them to Turkey. Then the patrol boat lowered a very small inflatable with 2 policemen and they slowly approached the refugee boat and eventually passed a rope. With this the inflatable towed the refugees to the shore. There were 52 Syrian refugees in the boat of whom about a third were young children...."

- Chios, Greece: You are not supposed to be here (refugeetrail, link):

"Last night, two groups of independent activists got apprehended and interrogated for hours by police for standing on a public street outside the Vial hotspot in Chios. They have been visiting the hotspot to keep an independent eye on what is happening there. Inmates told us the food and water there were insufficient, so we have tried bringing them some.

While the activists enjoyed their five-hour police station hangout, the cops pleaded with them to just register, go by protocol, and work under the camp command. They refused.

Refusing to work in a refugee prison under the command of the prison guards is a principled and practical decision. It’s the official line of Doctors without borders, it’s the line the UN refugee agency is taking in the Greek hotspots. “We refuse to facilitate this cruelty,” MSF said. It’s a way to prevent your work being perverted. It’s also a way to put pressure on the authorities to stop mass incarceration...."

- Greece: Government to submit bill for implementation of the EU-Turkey deal next Wed (ANAmna, link):

"The government will table in parliament on March 30 a draft bill that will address issues relating the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, the head of Greece’s coordinating body for the management of the refugee crisis said on Thursday. ...

Responding to a question whether any EU officials have arrived to staff asylum services, Kyritsis said they are expected to arrive by March 28, but that nobody has arrived yet.

Asked to whether Greece plans to adopt any legislative directives proclaiming Turkey as a safe third country, he referred to a comment by government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili who had said that “the Greek side doesn’t find it necessary to legislate on this.”

Kyritsis also announced that the government is preparing 30,000 more spots in the next six months, adding that the locations are “more or less delimited”, but noted that any announcements cannot be made by him because the issue is still being discussed with local authorities.

Responding to a critical comment on the hotspots being turned into detention centers, Kyritsis said they are not detention centers but “closed centers, in the sense that refugees must be under some restrictions and be available to Greek authorities.”
[emphasis added]

- Lesvos, Greece: The Hope Centre, Elpis (link)

"Hi All, you will all be aware/have read or heard via the many Facebook posts and the news in general, the whole situation has changed dramatically on Lesvos over the past week and is increasingly becoming worse all over, especially on the Greek mainland and on the borders. The situation is just heartbreaking and horrendous with so many people having to endure the most horrific conditions, as well as complete violation of their human rights, and with no one really knowing what is going to happen next.

What we do know is that people are still needing much support, and will be needing a lot more support, especially in the way of safe accommodation. And what we also believe is that this barbaric EU/Turkey agreement is not going to stop people attempting to reach Lesvos/Europe, but will just increase the danger risk to them. So as far as The Hope Centre goes, we are very much continuing to work hard and going ahead with developing the centre into an open hearted, safe and warm welcoming space to support those who will maybe be seeking asylum in Greece, or those who continue to arrive and are in need of support, in any way we are able to provide it. We are still very much needing more volunteers to work at The Hope Centre and the tasks are many and varied. The work is mainly repairs/renovation work, skilled and unskilled (though we prefer to call that 'creative') such as painting, plastering, building, carpentry, electrical, fencing, welding, and much garden landscape work/permaculture. If you are able to help in any way or know others who would be interested, that would be just wonderful....just turn up and you will be warmly welcomed with much gratitude

Thank you again so much for all your love and support

Much love and many Hugs to all, Cookie xxx - on behalf of The Hope Centre Elpis"

- The Paradox of the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal (MPI, link):

"UNHCR, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Save the Children, among others, have all withdrawn services out of concern for the conditions and rights violations that will ensue. Without their support, the process loses both legitimacy and resources.

This, in turn, raises a more significant question about the evident ad hoc implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. Much of the process is being worked out on the ground by officials who are still unclear about the legal ramifications of their decisions. This may be deliberate: to increase the numbers returned, policymakers may have to feign a reality that does not currently exist, not just with regard to conditions in Turkey, but also with respect to offering arrivals a real and informed opportunity to make an asylum claim.

In doing so EU leaders would be making a calculated risk. It will take time for a case to reach either the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) or the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to find the processes unlawful. The scheme has already been declared "extraordinary" and "temporary," and individuals summarily returned are unlikely to have legal recourse."
[emphasis added]

- Greece: Q&A: Relocation Program To EU Countries (News that moves, link): "Some people currently in Greece can apply for the EU Relocation Program (EASO). The program allows asylum seekers to be legally relocated from Greece and Italy to another EU country, without cost, where the asylum application will be considered." and What Is The Situation With Camps in Northern Greece? (link): "Where are the camps?"

News (25.3.16)

Greece pledges to provide shelters for 50,000 refugees within 20 days (, link): "Kyritsis also announced the creation of a monitoring mechanism under the general secretary of the Defense Ministry, Yiannis Tafyllis.."

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)

EU readies for massive migration flows from Libya (euractiv, link): "EU leaders will discuss the critical situation in Libya and potential waves of immigrants trying to reach Europe on 18 April, EurActiv Greece has been informed."

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