Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 12.5.16

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 Draft Council conclusions call on Member States to "reduce administrive burdens" that hinder expulsion of third-country nationals

EU Member States will be "invited" to ease the expulsion of expelling "illegally staying third-country nationals" by reducing "administrative burdens" - such as "the suspensive effect of return and asylum decisions" and "multiple and last minute asylum applications and appeals" - if a set of draft conclusions being prepared for the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 20 May remain in their current form.

 Schengen: Greece and Slovenia unhappy with continuation of internal border controls

The Council of the EU has today (12 May 2016) adopted a decision that permits the continuation of the internal border controls adopted by Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Greece and Slovenia have submitted statements disagreeing with the decision.

 European Parliament study: On the frontline: the hotspot approach to managing migration (pdf): "This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee, places the new “hotspot approach” to managing migration within its policy framework. It examines the way in which EU agencies provide support to frontline Member States, with particular focus on Greece, and assesses the chief challenges identified to date in both the policy design and operational implementation of hotspots."

 EU: European Investment Bank: Migration and the EU: Challenges, opportunities, the role of EIB (pdf): "This paper examines what the EIB is already doing in the EU and outside Europe - and what, in partnership with others, we might do to move from humanitarian assistance to economic development, for example through support of the private sector. But unlocking and managing the potential of migration will require a much more coordinated policy response from EU governments. The European Commission has put important building blocks in place, but we still lack a sustainable and coordinated system of migration management that also has Europe’s labour market in mind, the potential for brain-drain as well as the need to provide a humanitarian as well as an economic response."

 New report on Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”: action needed to improve living conditions for migrants and refugees and to protect unaccompanied children (Council of Europe, link): "Strasbourg, 11.05.2016 - A new report addressing the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” was published today by Tomáš Bocek, the Special Representative on Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe’s Secretary General. The report is based on his fact-finding mission to the two countries from 7 to 11 March.

The Special Representative visited a shelter for unaccompanied children in Athens, a “hotspot” and reception centre on the island of Chios and camps in both countries. Some of the camps were seriously overcrowded following the build-up of refugees and migrants as a result of the closure of the western Balkan route, which occurred shortly before his visit. In these camps, living conditions were extreme and only basic needs were being catered for. The report calls for the Council of Europe to mobilise resources to enable the necessary additional capacity to be built to house migrants and refugees in decent living conditions in both countries.

An important issue addressed in the report is the treatment of refugee and migrant children, especially unaccompanied minors, in Greece. The report calls for alternatives to detention for children who are often detained while their asylum claims are being processed or on their way to shelters. It also draws attention to the importance of making some provision for education in the camps and the need to strengthen the Greek child-protection system to protect refugee and migrant children from exploitation.

The Special Representative welcomed the generally supportive response of local populations in Greece to the rising number of new arrivals and underlined the need for integration policies focusing on the fight against intolerance and discrimination.

Finally, the Special Representative was concerned at reports of push-backs and allegations of ill-treatment by those guarding the border of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". He recommended human rights training for all relevant personnel."

Report: Report of the fact-finding mission by Ambassador Tomáš Bocek Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees to Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” 7-11 March 2016 (pdf) and on the Council of Europe website (link).

 EU-AFGHANISTAN: Foreign Affairs council may discuss controversial Afghan repatriation plan (EurActiv, link): "Development ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday (12 May) may discuss a controversial proposal to repatriate some 80,000 Afghans to their homeland, it emerged Tuesday (10 May).

The scheme – first disclosed by last month – came in the form of a secret Commission proposal to declare the Hindu Kush a “safe region”, and thus return tens of thousands of Afghans in order to deter further migration flows from the war-torn state.

On Thursday, Afghan Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi will join development ministers and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini for lunch, as part of the day’s agenda discussing Afghanistan, migration and development.

A senior EU official told that the issue of return of Afghan refugees to Hindu Kush “may be raised – one way of the other” over the lunch."

See: the European Commission-European External Action Service (EEAS) document (published by Statewatch in March): 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 (6738/16, 3 March 2016, pdf)

And see: Europe sees rise in unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, with almost half from Afghanistan (Pew Research, link)

 Irregularly present migrants: “firewalls” needed to prevent denying human rights through sharing personal data(European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, link): "To prevent state and private sector actors from effectively denying migrants’ human rights, social services providers must be prohibited from sharing the personal data of irregularly present migrants with immigration authorities, says the Council of Europe’s anti-discrimination body in the new set of policy recommendations to European governments issued today.

With these recommendations, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) seeks to support states in addressing a pressing issue of discrimination against individuals – women, men and children - who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in a member State of the Council of Europe.

“All migrants, including those who are irregularly present, have fundamental human rights which must be guaranteed in law and practice, without discrimination, while these people are within the jurisdiction of member States,” said the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland. “People should be treated as human beings regardless of their legal status.” "

ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 16: On safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination (adopted 16 March 2016, pdf): "For the purposes of this General Policy Recommendation (GPR) “irregularly present migrants” should be understood as individuals – women, men and children - present in a member State that is not their country of origin, who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in that member State.

The purpose of the GPR is to address a pressing issue of discrimination which is causing grievous hardship to a substantial number of migrants who are irregularly present in member States. It deals exclusively with the question of ensuring access by all persons in this particularly vulnerable group to those human rights which are guaranteed to them in international human rights instruments, in particular as concerns education, health care, housing, social security and assistance, labour protection and justice, while they are within the jurisdiction of a member State."

 EU-TURKEY: Commission confirms high level EU – Turkey visa liberalization talks postponement (New Europe, link): "The European Commission confirmed the postponement of a high level dialogue meeting on EU – Turkey for the assessment with visa liberalization, while Erdogan denies reform in anti-terror law.

The meeting that was rescheduled to a later date, was to take place on Friday. “The decision to reschedule the meeting was common,” added the Commission. Attempting to link the postponement of the visa accession meeting, with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s decision to quit, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pressure.“Those who criticise us are reduced to sidelining democracy and freedoms when bombs started to explode on their soil,” Erdogan said in last Saturday’s speech in the southeastern city of Malatya, referring to Turkey’s anti-terror reform."

See also: Erdogan says he wants visa waiver by October (EurActiv, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday (10 May) that he wanted the European Union to grant Turks visa-free travel to the passport-free Schengen area by October at the latest. The previous deadline, also cited by the Commission, was the end of June."

And: Turkey repeats threat to flood Europe with refugees (EurActiv, link): "The threat is not new, but this time it’s addressed to the European Parliament which made it clear that Turkey should not expect a visa waiver if it has not fulfilled all the requirements for the visa liberalisation deal."

 1,700 years ago, the mismanagement of a migrant crisis cost Rome its empire (Quartz, link): "The trust between the abused Goths and the Romans was broken several times before Adrianople, and the Goths went from wanting to become Roman to wanting to destroy Rome.

Less than two years later, Marcellinus writes, “with rage flashing in their eyes, the barbarians pursued our men.” And they took down the empire.

The migrants trying to get to Europe right now are not about to rise up in arms, and Europe is not—thankfully—the Roman empire. But this story shows well that migration has always and will always be a part of our world. There are two ways to deal with refugees: one is to promote dialogue, and inclusion; the other is to be unwelcoming and uncaring. The second has led to disaster before—and in one way or another, is sure to do so again."

 Mapped: The countries that host the most refugees (Quartz, link): "Despite the recent attention to refugees in Europe, Western countries play a relatively small part in refugee asylum. The largest refugee camps in the world are, as they have been for decades, in Africa and the Middle East, and the first exception, in terms of size, is Mae La, in Thailand (hosting nearly 50,000 refugees from Burma), and then Suruç, in Turkey. By comparison, the camps of Idomeni, in Greece, arguably Europe’s largest, hosts 13,000 people, and Calais, in France, known as “The Jungle,” houses 4,500."

 News (12.5.16)

EU: World Humanitarian Summit: GUE/NGL MEP skeptical about the real outcome (press release, link): "Responding to Commission and Council statements on the "Preparation of the World Humanitarian Summit", Spanish MEP, Miguel Urbán Crespo, highlighted the inconsistency of the European Union's policies on the refugee crisis.

"Unfortunately, humanitarian crises are becoming more frequent. The causes are not just climate change and natural disasters, but often armed conflicts created by economic interests," he said.

Urbán Crespo continued: "The causes also include political decisions, such as closing borders to thousands of refugees. This policy has generated the first humanitarian crisis in the territory of the European Union."

"What good are vague commitments to humanitarian aid when policies are deepening humanitarian crises?" he asked."

EU-TURKEY: Verhofstadt outlines new plans for Syrian refugees in Turkey (The Parliament, link): "Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, the Belgian MEP outlined a dramatic two-pronged plan designed to help relieve the suffering of up to two million mostly Syrian refugees.

This includes vastly increasing financial assistance to refugees trapped in camps in Turkey.

Under his plan, the monthly amount would increase from about €7 per refugee to €80.

This would come from the €3bn pledged by the EU as part of its response to the crisis.

Another key plank of Verhofstadt's proposal is the creation of a rapid reaction force, comprising up to 2000 civil servants and agents, who would be despatched to refugee hotspots at short notice."

TURKEY: Syrian refugee children forced into factory work in Turkey (CBS News, link): "In a textile factory in Istanbul, workers toil over sewing machines. But look closely, because the workers are children.

Filming with a hidden camera, we found scores of factories using child labor in Turkey. Most, perhaps all, of the children are from Syria.

Some told us they were as young as 11 -- refugees from a war now easily exploited.

A Turkish worker on the minimum wage earns around $450 a month. A Syrian child, working 12 hours a day, earns as little as $160."

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