Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 7.3.16


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 EU-TURKEY: Meeting of the EU Heads of State or Government (Brussels, 7 March 2016) - Draft statement (6 March 2016, SN26/16, pdf): "Action is required along the following lines:


a) provide an immediate and effective response to the very difficult humanitarian situation which is rapidly developing on the ground...
b) provide further assistance to Greece in managing the external borders, including those with fYROM and Albania, and ensuring the proper functioning of hotspots, with 100% identification, registration and security checks, and the provision of sufficient reception capacities...
c) assist Greece in ensuring comprehensive, large scale and fast-track returns to Turkey of all irregular migrants not in need of international protection, building on the Greece-Turkey readmission agreement and, from 1 June, the EU-Turkey readmission agreement;
d) accelerate the implementation of relocation to alleviate the heavy burden that presently weighs
on Greece...
e) continue to cooperate closely with the non-EU countries of the Western Balkans and provide any necessary assistance...
f) implement the existing resettlement commitments and continue work on a credible voluntary humanitarian admission programme with Turkey...
g) take any necessary measures immediately in respect of any new routes opening up, and step up the fight against smugglers;
h) take forward, as a matter of priority, all the elements of the Commission roadmap on getting "back to Schengen", so as to end temporary internal border controls and re-establish the normal functioning of the Schengen area before the end of the year."

 Afghanistan: EU shuts the door despite asylum recognition rates rising from 43% to 60%

EU policy on which refugees should be given international protection and relocation within the EU has changed numerous times since last year. In autumn 2015, the agreed policy was to recognise people coming from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea - based, then, on a 75% recognition rate in Eurostat statistics. This changed in practice in January to offering relocation to refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - countries where there are ongoing conflicts. Then in February, under pressure from Germany and Austria, Macedonia and Serbia only accepted refugees from Syria and Iraq - turning back those from Afghanistan. Yet EU institutions and Member States "are aware of the worsening security situation and threats to which people are exposed," as a leaked document from the European Commission and European External Action Service (EEAS) reveals.

See: Joint Commission-EEAS non-paper on enhancing cooperation on migration, mobility and readmission with Afghanistan - Country Fiche proposing possible leverages across Commission-EEAS policy areas to enhance returns and effectively implement readmission commitments (Doc no: 6738-16, 3 March 2016, pdf)

 Guardian as it happens reporting on the EU-Turkey: Summit (link)

"As if by magic, Tusk and his allies seek to end the European refugee crisis in two clean movements.

First: by rubber-stamping the closure of the Macedonian-Greek border, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed in the past year in their march northwards towards northern Europe. Second: by strong-arming Turkey into readmitting most if not all of the asylum-seekers who continue to land on the Greek islands in their thousands every day.

Tusk’s logic is straightforward. If the Macedonian border can be shut, then the crisis can be contained in Greece. And if refugees can be returned to Turkey, then the damage wrought on cash-strapped Greece will in turn become manageable. Even if Tusk’s plan has obvious moral implications – it risks undermining the 1951 refugee convention, which was one of the seminal human achievements of the post-Holocaust era – one can understand its practical appeal for European politicians.

But as has become familiar throughout this migration crisis, the logic of Europe’s leadership does not acknowledge the reality on the ground.

and: "Germany is the other key wrinkle in the summit agreement.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is resisting a push to declare the refugee route across the Balkans “closed”, endorsing the policy of border closures by Austria and Greece’s Balkan neighbours.

“For all countries, including Greece, closing anything is not an option,” Merkel said as she arrived at the summit.

Summit chairman Donald Tusk had proposed an EU endorsement of border closures on the route north from Greece, with a draft EU statement saying: “Irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route are coming to an end; this route is now closed.”

 EU: Refugee crisis: NATO Secretary General welcomes expansion of NATO deployment in the Aegean Sea (NATO, link): " NATO took swift decisions to deploy ships to the Aegean Sea to support our Allies Greece and Turkey, as well as the EU's border agency FRONTEX, in their efforts to tackle the migrant and refugee crisis. NATO ships are already collecting information and conducting monitoring in the Aegean Sea. Their activity will now be expanded to take place also in territorial waters."

Some critical comments: NATO Expands Aegean Sea Migrant Patrols Into Turkish and Greek Territorial Waters – Rescued Migrants to Be Automatically Returned to Turkey (Migrants at Sea, link)

 News (7.3.16)

ECRE urges the EU and Member States not to resume Dublin transfers to Greece (ECRE, link): "As a response to the European Commission’s Recommendation on urgent measures to be taken by Greece to resume transfers of asylum seekers under the Dublin Regulation there, ECRE published comments expressing concerns about ongoing shortcomings in the Greek asylum system and urged Member States not to resume transfers to Greece.

Transfers to Greece under Dublin have been suspended since 2011, following judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union. ECRE states that ongoing problems with access to the asylum procedure, risk of detention and a lack of adequate reception mean that this suspension is still justified."

Migrants: la Bulgarie sécurise sa frontière avec la Grèce (Le Monde, link): Four hundred Bulgarian police officers, soldiers and gendarmerie officers are to be sent to the Bulgarian-Greek border: "Le premier ministre bulgare a annoncé samedi 5 mars le déploiement de plus de quatre cents hommes venant des rangs de l’armée, de la police et de la gendarmerie, à la frontière avec la Grèce. En sus, « quelque cinq cents hommes supplémentaires peuvent être mobilisés en quelques heures à la frontière, en cas de besoin », en cas de pression migratoire accrue, a-t-il ajouté."

Turkish guards 'attacking' Syrian refugees and 'pushing them into the arms of smugglers' (The Independent, link): "Families fleeing the carnage in Aleppo are being greeted at the border with bullets and beatings. Laura Pitel reports from Kilis on Ankara’s increasingly inhumane efforts to put up the barricades"

With Turkey Closing, Refugees Seek New Routes (Handelsblatt, link): "In the run-up to Monday's summit between the European Union and Turkey, Brussels is sending strong signals about the need to reduce the flow of Syrian refugees. Migrants faced with rising borders are seeking new ways into Europe."

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