Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 8..3.16


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 EU-Turkey deal could see Syrian refugees back in war zones, says UN (Guardian, link):


"Refugees chief questions legality of agreement to send people back to Turkey without guarantees for their protection. A senior UN official says he is very concerned that a hasty EU deal with Turkey could leave Syrian refugees unprotected and at risk of being sent back to a war zone.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees , questioned the legality of an outline deal struck by the EU and Turkey. “As a first reaction I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another, without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law,” he said on Tuesday....

Speaking to the European parliament in Strasbourg, Grandi said asylum seekers should only be returned to other states if there was a guarantee that that they would not then be sent back to the place they had fled."

 UNHCR's reaction to Statement of the EU Heads of State and Government of Turkey, 7 March (pdf):

"As for the statement released yesterday after the meeting between EU and Turkey, UNHCR is not a party to it nor privy to all the details and modalities of implementation.

On the face of what appears to have been agreed, we are, however, concerned about any arrangement that involves the blanket return of all individuals from one country to another without sufficiently spelt out refugee protection safeguards in keeping with international obligations.

An asylum-seeker should only be returned to a third state, if (a) responsibility for assessing the particular asylum application in substance is assumed by the third country; (b) the asylum-seeker will be protected from refoulement; (c) the individual will be able to seek and, if recognized, enjoy asylum in accordance with accepted international standards, and have full and effective access to education, work, health care and, as necessary, social assistance.

Legal safeguards would need to govern any mechanism under which responsibility would be transferred for assessing an asylum claim. Pre-departure screening would also need to be in place to identify heightened risk categories that may not be appropriate for return even if the above conditions are met.

Details of all these safeguards should be clarified before the next meeting of the EU Council on 17 March." [emphasis added]

 UNHCR: 7.3.16: 141,930 arrivals in the EU: 132,177 in Greece, 9.295 in Italy. 410 dead/missing. 48% from Sytria, 25% from Afghanistan and 15% from Iraq - 88% of arrivals.

EU-TURKEY: Is the EU-Turkey deal even legal? Probably not, but who cares anymore!: Berlin/Ankara migration pact — wrecking ball or silver bullet? (FT blog, link):

"Big legal doubts hang over this scheme. Rules on asylum are quite clear: all applications have to be properly considered, and an asylum seeker cannot be returned to a country that does not offer proper protection.

Returns to a country that is not a full member of the Geneva Convention, such as Turkey, would likely be illegal argue refugee groups.

Only Syrians have the right to claim some form of international protection in Turkey — and even that does not equate to full refugee status. But others — even those fleeing desperate circumstances in Iraq, Afghanistan or Eritrea — have no such luck.

The EU will try to get around this obstacle by declaring that Turkey is a safe third country, which — given the state of its asylum system — is highly debatable, and appears to contradict the bloc’s own rules. Despite its legal fragility, this proposal would only give the EU a legal basis to return Syrians to Turkey: it would not cover non-Syrian asylum seekers." [emphasis added]

EU-TURKEY SUMMIT: Statement of the EU Heads of State or Government: 07/03/2016 (pdf):

"Turkey confirmed its commitment in implementing the bilateral Greek-Turkish readmission agreement to accept the rapid return of all migrants not in need of international protection crossing from Turkey into Greece and to take back all irregular migrants apprehended on Turkish waters."

assistance to Greece in managing the external borders, including those with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania, and ensuring the proper functioning of hotspots, with 100% identification, registration and security checks, and the provision of sufficient reception capacities..

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;" [emphasis added]

Comment: The last two statements appear to mean that refugees will be brought ashore into Greece and not immediately returned without due process as some statements to the media have suggesred.

 EU-TURKEY SUMMIT: Merkel-Davutoglu wheeling-dealing wrecks EU summit (euractiv, link):

"The EU summit which ended this morning (8 March) failed to reach a deal with Turkey to stem the unprecedented migrant crisis, as many heads of state and government opposed German Chancellor Merkel’s attempt to impose her own deal with Ankara... the EU ambassadors had drafted a declaration that was expected to be adopted at the summit on 7 March. European leaders were expected to declare on Monday that they will “close the Balkans route in the coming days,” ending the “wave-through approach” to refugees that has caused chaos and tension in Europe....

But the trilateral pre-summit meeting produced a completely different text, according to which Turkey would readmit all migrants crossing into the Greek islands from its territory. For every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states. This formula, called “one for one”, means that if NATO or another force intercepts a boat with, say, 50 people, among whom 10 are Syrian, all of them will be rescued and sent to Turkey. Then the EU will be obligated to take 10 Syrians (not the same people, though) from Turkey and send them by plane to EU countries."

And: Turkey and EU agree outline of 'one in, one out' deal over Syria refugee crisis (Guardian, link):

"Angela Merkel describes Turkish proposal as a ‘breakthrough’ but says time needed to agree final details....

Human rights groups say returning asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey would be illegal, but the EU is desperate to reduce the flow of migrants and refugees coming to Europe.... Speaking on Tuesday morning, the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the German-led operation would help migrant boats in distress and it would not turn back boats making the crossing to Europe.

Germany objected to an early draft of the summit communiqué that declared the closure of the western Balkan route used by ­refugees and migrants travelling from Greece to northern Europe. According to German media, Merkel thought it wrong to announce the closure of the route when Syrians and Iraqis were entitled to asylum under EU law."

Comment: Under internaional law all refugees have the right to claim asylum in the EU.

Also: Greece: Thousands left stranded in Greece as EU tries to seal deal with Turkey (, link): "About 13,000-14,000 people are stranded near the village of Idomeni, where many have been waiting for two weeks or more to be among the small numbers that have been allowed through each day. The mood Tuesday morning was visibly grim among those at the front of the queue waiting to cross."

 CoE: Commissioner for Human Rights: Human rights of refugee and migrant women and girls need to be better protected (link):

"For the first time since the beginning of the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, women and children on the move outnumber adult men. While in 2015 about 70 % of the population on the move were men, women and children now make up nearly 60% of refugees and other migrants crossing into Europe. This also means that more women and children risk and lose their lives in the Mediterranean Sea and on the land routes to Europe. Of more than 360 persons who died in the Mediterranean in January 2016, one third were women and children."

News (8.3.16)

Greece: Urgency to set up refugee shelters heightens (, link): ":As the European Union and Turkey strived on Monday in Brussels to find common ground on how to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, in Greece pressure was mounting on the government and local authorities to provide shelter for the increasing number of stranded refugees, whose numbers, according to recent estimates, have now surpassed 37,000 throughout the country and are still growing, while daily arrivals are in the hundreds." and Health experts sent to Idomeni, as gov’t says it won’t evacuate camp (link): "Disease control experts have been sent to a refugee camp at the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), but Greece’s Health Ministry says the measure is largely precautionary. The government says two mobile units from the state-run Center for Disease Control and Prevention began operating Tuesday at the border camp in Idomeni, where some 14,000 people are camped out despite Balkan border closures."

Eurojust report raises doubts about EU-Turkey migration deal (politico,link): "Eurojust document says Turkey lacks political will and infrastructure to help stem flow of migrants into Europe.... “Contrary to EU opinion, migrants leaving Turkey is a dominant idea favored by the Turkish government and people — i.e., they support smugglers getting immigrants leaving Turkey,” the Eurojust report states." and Western Balkans route far from ‘closed': map (politico, limk) "Statistics show the main migrant route to Europe is closing, but far from shut."

NATO expands anti-trafficking mission into Turkish, Greek waters (DW, link): "NATO ships have moved into Turkish and Greek territorial waters as part of an operation to stem the tide of refugees and migrants. Germany is leading the operation. ... NATO has emphasized the mission is not meant to stop or push back migrants at sea. The goal is to provide information for Turkish, Greek and EU authorities, who will then respond to migrant boats. NATO is only authorized to intervene if a migrant boat is in distress. In such a case the boat's occupants will be taken back by Turkey." [emphasis added]

Greece: Official opening of NATO operation in the Aegean (New Europe, link):"NATO also announced on Sunday, that it has agreed with FRONTEX on arrangements at the operational and tactical level. According to the press release, NATO and FRONTEX will be able to exchange liaison officers and share information in real time, to enable FRONTEX, as well as Greece and Turkey, to take action against the human traffickers in real time".

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