Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 13.5.16


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 European Commission: Statistics on hotspots, returns, relocation, financial pledges and civil protection: updated 13.5.16


 UNHCR: Hungary As a Country of Asylum: Observations on restrictive legal measures and subsequent practice implemented between July 2015 and March 2016 (pdf): "In UNHCR’s view, legislation and related Decrees adopted by Hungary in July and September 2015, and progressively implemented between July 2015 and 31 March 2016, have had the combined effect of limiting and deterring access to asylum in the country. These include, most notably, the following.

(a) the erection of a fence along Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia, accompanied by the introduction of a procedure in which individuals arriving at the border who wish to submit an asylum application in Hungary must do so in special “transit zones” in which the asylum procedure and reception conditions are not in accordance with European Union (EU) and international standards...

(b) the application of the ‘safe third country’ concept to countries on the principal route followed by asylum-seekers to Hungary – namely Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia – without adequate procedural safeguards, and despite the fact that no other EU Member State applies a presumption of safety to those countries and that UNHCR has recommended that asylum-seekers should not be returned to them...

(c) the criminalization of irregular entry into Hungary through the border fence, punishable by actual or suspended terms of imprisonment of up to ten years – and/or the imposition of an expulsion order. Prison sentences, at variance with the EU Return Directive, are imposed following fasttracked trials of questionable fairness, and are not suspended in the event that the concerned individual submits an asylum application...


In conclusion, UNHCR considers these significant aspects of Hungarian law and practice raise serious concerns as regards compatibility with international and European law, and may be at variance with the country’s international and European obligations."

And see: Hungary to resume transfers of asylum seekers under Dublin regulation to Greece in overall climate of human rights repression (ECRE, link): "The Hungarian Office for Immigration and Nationality has recently issued decisions ordering the transfer of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation. ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has expressed concern regarding these developments and called on Hungary to continue the suspension of transfers to Greece.

Transfers of asylum seekers to Greece have been suspended since 2011 following rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, on account of the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment of asylum seekers in the country."

 UK-EU: House of Lords committee says EU's Operation Sophia deals with "symptoms, not causes" and "cannot deliver its mandate"

A new report from the UK House of Lords' European Union Committee has commended the EU's "anti-smuggling" military operation in the Mediterranean for its efforts at search and rescue, but notes that it is ultimately unable to meet its aims of deterring migrants, disrupting smugglers' networks and thwart smugglers' business models as it deals with "symptoms, not causes".

 Number of people arriving on Greek islands dropped dramatically in April

"The number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in April plunged by 90% compared to the previous month, reaching fewer than 2 700. The drop is a result of several factors, including The EU-Turkey agreement and stricter border policies applied by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at its border with Greece.

“The drop in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands was dramatic. The total for all of April is well below the number of people we often saw reaching just the island of Lesbos on a daily basis during last year’s peak months,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.

Syrians again accounted for the largest share of the migrants coming to the Greek islands, trailed by nationals from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq."

 European External Action Service/European Commission: One year after: the impact of the EU Regional Strategy for Syria, Iraq and against Da'esh (10 May 2016, pdf): "This paper shows that EU actions in the region are consistent with the Regional Strategy's objectives and have contributed to supporting political solutions to the Syrian and Iraqi crises, as well as the degradation of Da'esh capacities, while playing an essential role in alleviating the dramatic humanitarian consequences of the crises. Substantial coordinated efforts have been made to defeating Da'esh with a large range of internal and external measures. The scale of the Syria crisis is such that efforts will never cover all needs but the London Conference in February 2016 confirmed the priority sectors where the EU should continue focusing its support: education, job opportunities and protection. Efforts will continue to be made on livelihoods and health, supporting also host communities who bear huge socio-economic pressure. On Iraq, the active support of the EU to the reform, governance, stabilisation and reconciliation agenda is key to the peaceful and democratic future of the country, as is the political will on the part of the Iraqis to achieve those aims."

 This is not a ‘migrant crisis’ - it's a crisis of inequality and war (Global Justice Now, link): "The media is wrong to characterise the issues surrounding the thousands of people attempting to travel into Europe as a ‘migrant crisis’, according to a briefing released today by campaign group Global Justice Now. Instead, attention should be drawn to the multiple crises that are forcing people to move. The briefing argues that these include:

  • Inequality. Over the long term, the most important driver of migration. With 62 people having more than half the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population, more people are being forced to flee poverty.
  • War and conflict is raging all along Europe’s borders. People are dying and being forced to leave their homes. Countries in Europe have a degree of complicity in these conflicts through either their geo-politics or through the sales of weapons to the countries in conflict.
  • Climate change. Increased drought, famine, flooding and natural disasters are already forcing people to move across borders.

The briefing goes beyond the well-documented evidence of the benefits that come from migration to pose the question, what would happen if we were to get rid of borders completely?"

See: Migrant crisis or poverty crisis? Why free movement is vital in the battle for global justice (pdf)

 Policing the hotspots: Europol setting up team of 200 investigators to deploy to migration hotspots (press release, 12 May 2016, pdf): "Europol’s Management Board today approved the recruitment of up to 200 counter-terrorist and other investigators for deployment to migration hotspots in Greece and other countries. Europol will form this pool of law enforcement officers through their secondment from national services in EU Member States. Up to 50 of these ‘guest officers’ will be deployed on rotation at key points on the external border of the EU to strengthen the security checks on the inward flows of migrants, in order to identify suspected terrorists and criminals."

 Anti-discrimination unit urges governments to reject irregular migrants “offence of solidarity” (Human Rights Europe, link): "Anti-discrimination experts say governments risk human rights abuses if they establish an “offence of solidarity” in their bid to control irregular migration.

Christian Ahlund, Chair of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), warned that criminalising social and humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants could also encourage discrimination.

“It is highly counterproductive to the delivery of human rights to establish an ‘offence of solidarity’ and it discourages irregular migrants from seeking out services, including urgent medical care,” he said."

See the report: ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 16: On safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination (pdf)

 News (13.5.16)

Bulgarian Cabinet Allocates BGN 6.2 M to Continuing Fence on Border with Turkey (Novinite, link): "The Bulgarian cabinet has approved additional expenditures to the budget of the Council of Ministers amounting to nearly BGN 6.5 M, the government's press service informed on Friday.

BGN 6.2 M will be allocated for continuing the construction of the temporary fence along the Bulgarian-Turkish border, in particular the section running through the territory of Burgas region.

The temporary facility plays importance role in countering the increasing migrant pressure exerted on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The fence is vital in guarding the state border and bringing under control the refugee wave."

EU should take charge of asylum, says EP negotiator (EUobserver, link): "Cecilia Wikstroem once hid a family of refugees in her house, but the Swedish liberal MEP is adamant that the best way to deal with migrants is through legislation, not the goodwill of individuals.

In 2013, she was made responsible for negotiating the European Parliament’s position on a proposed update to the Dublin regulation, which stipulates that asylum claims must be processed in the first EU country that migrants enter.

Wikstroem is taking the same role for yet another reform of Dublin, which was outlined by the European Commission on 4 May.

“We could find the political will to save our banks from collapse. We can afford to save people from drowning in the Mediterranean and give them a dignified reception when seeking asylum in the EU,” she told EUobserver in an interview."

Greece / Migrant crisis: UN expert launches follow-up visit to assess impact on human rights (UN Human Rights, link): "The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, will visit Greece from 12 to 16 May 2016 to gather information on the complex management of the Greek border, and its impact on the human rights of migrants.

“In 2015, over one million migrants arrived in Greece; its proximity to Turkey makes it a key point of entry for many migrants seeking to reach Europe,” Mr. Crépeau said. “This visit will allow me to follow up on my 2013 and 2015 reports* on the management of the external borders of the European Union, which took me to Tunisia, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Malta and the EU institutions in Brussels and Vienna.”

“Territorial sovereignty is about controlling the border, knowing who comes in and who leaves. It has never been about sealing the border to migration,” the expert reiterated. “Democratic borders are porous by nature. Providing migrants and asylum seekers with legal and safe mobility solutions will ensure such a control.”"

GREECE: On the search for our human rights - 3 people attempt to swim FROM Greece (RefuAid, link): "Yesterday 3 people were forced to flee, not because of mass human rights violations taking place in Turkey, not because of the savage and unrelenting war in Syria, not due to torture but following all of this, as human beings they had been subject to starvation, neglect and abuse… in Europe... at the hands of European governments. They risked their lives for safety and found none, how can we preach morality across the globe yet neglect our brothers and sisters in need in our backyard.

3 people chose to attempt to swim from the Greek island of Chios BACK to the Middle East, desperate to flee the inhumane conditions inflicted on them in the ‘hotspots’. Desperate for food, shelter and water."

Italy breaks up people-smuggling ring that imprisoned migrants (Midnimo, link): "Italian police arrested seven people on Wednesday for running a people-smuggling ring in which Somali boat migrants who reached Italy by boat were held prisoner until their families paid their passage further north, a statement said.

A court in Catania in eastern Sicily ordered that 13 people be detained for running the smuggling operation, but only seven were picked up. The others were thought to be living abroad."

SPAIN: Interior ministry awards medals to eight Guardia Civil officers acquitted of maltreating a migrant in Melilla [ Interior condecora a los ocho guardias civiles absueltos por maltrato a un inmigrante en Melilla] (El Diario, link)

  • The caretaker Interior minister has anounced that eight Guardia Civil agents who beat up a young Cameroonian man in Melilla - as shown in a video from the NGO Prodein - will be awarded medals
  • "They have suffered a painful incident," offered Diaz in their defence
  • The interior has awarded the Cross of Merit of the Civil Guard, which does not provide an additional pension

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