Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 16.5.16


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 EU: European Commission statistics on the refugee crisis: updated with new figures from 12 May.


 European Commission letter to Greek asylum authorities: all is well in Turkey

A letter from the European Commission to the Greek authorities setting out why Turkey should be considered a safe third country has been condemned by a Greek human rights group as an attempt "to establish standardized reasoning for systematically denying the asylum claims of Syrian and non-Syrian nationals as inadmissible in Greece."

 To Deal with the Refugee Crisis, Europe Needs to Confront the Demons From Its History (Vice, link): "In 2012 I flew to Budapest for the BBC to cover the right–wing political car-crash that is Hungary.

In the parliament, right by the Danube, I interviewed one of the leaders of Jobbik, a thinly disguised fascist movement who had only just given up having a uniformed militia.

Off camera I asked one member of the party, "What's your attitude to the British National Party?" He answered: "Well, they are against Muslims whereas the people we have the problem with is Jews.""

 Why is the cost of hosting refugees falling on the world's poorest states? (The Guardian, link): "Whether or not a similar scenario will play out in Kenya is hard to tell. Certainly, one of the great challenges in advocating for a rights-respecting outcome is that European states hardly have a moral leg to stand on in all of this. While Kenya has been hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees for decades (albeit begrudgingly, and often at the expense of refugees’ quality of life), most European governments have shown a shocking lack of willingness to take in any more than a token number of refugees.

For decades, the default response to refugee crises has been to set up camps or settlements and coerce refugees into them. The UNHCR launched an Alternatives to Camps policy in 2014, but no viable alternatives were found to camps such as Dadaab and Kakuma."

 News (16.5.16)

Austria backs down on Brenner Pass border checks (The Local, link): "Austria said Friday it would no longer seek to resume controversial checks on its frontier with Italy after tougher measures by Rome have led to a huge drop in migrant numbers.

Vienna had threatened to re-impose controls on the Brenner Pass in the Alps as part of a string of anti-migrant measures if Italy failed to reduce the number of new arrivals heading to Austria.

"The number of illegal migrants has dropped to almost zero in the past weeks," Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano at the pass, a key north-south route.

"That's why it is not necessary to carry out border controls at the Brenner pass for now," Sobotka said."

EU-Turkey deal: MEPs to go to Greece to check on refugees and implementation of EU-Turkey deal (press release, pdf): "A Civil Liberties Committee delegation will travel to Greece from 18 to 20 May to check the situation of refugees at the external borders of the EU and assess how the EU-Turkey deal to manage migrant and asylum-seekers flows into the EU is being implemented. MEPs will visit the Greece/FYROM border, the island of Lesvos and Athens. They will also meet representatives of the Greek Government, and EU and international bodies, as well as NGOs."

Macedonia: More than 11,000 migrants sent back to Greece (Anadolu Agency, link): "Macedonian authorities have sent more than 11,000 migrants back to Greece since it closed its borders to migrants in early March.

Director of the Macedonian Interior Ministry of Strategic Affairs Department Nataliya Spirova told Anadolu Agency that, in total, 11,803 migrants had been apprehended and returned to Greece since the country sealed its borders on March 8.

She added the border patrols were done by Greek, foreign and Macedonian police and military forces."

NETHERLANDS: Mayor admits helping Syrian refugees go into hiding (update) (Dutch News, link): "A Dutch mayor has been accused of putting himself above the law for helping a family of Syrian refugees avoid deportation.

Jos Heijmans told a council meeting in Weert, Limburg, that he acted to prevent the family, consisting of a mother and her four children, being separated from her younger brother. Only the brother, who is 18, had permission to stay in the Netherlands.

After two failed attempts to keep the family in the Netherlands legally – first through the courts and then by writing to junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff – Heijmans helped to shelter the mother and her children, 1Limburg reported."

UN envoy blasts EU's 'lack of vision' on migration (Ekathimerini, link): "A United Nations envoy for human rights has criticized the European Union's response to the refugee crisis as showing a "lack of vision," operating under legal ambiguity, and backing the detention of newly arrived migrants in Greece.

The envoy, Francois Crepeau, said the March agreement between the EU and Turkey to send back migrants reaching Europe required "much stronger legal instruments to ensure legal accountability.""

UN says turning migrants away 'won't work' (BBC News, link): "The UN high commissioner for refugees says the migrants crisis is now a global phenomenon and that simply turning them away "won't work".

Filippo Grandi told the BBC that more nations had to help the "few countries" shouldering the burden, by increasing both funding and resettlement.

He said that, last year, fewer than 1% of 20 million refugees had been resettled in another nation.

More are fleeing conflict and hardship than at any other time in history."

U.N. urges Greece to stop detaining migrant children (Reuters, link): "A top United Nations official urged Greece on Monday to stop detaining refugee and migrant children, some of whom are locked up in police cells for weeks, and to develop child protection services instead.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, said he had met unaccompanied children held in police stations for more than two weeks without access to the outdoors, and "traumatised and distressed" by the experience.

Others were with their families in overcrowded detention centres, where inter-communal frictions and contradictory information created "an unacceptable level of confusion, frustration, violence and fear", he said.

"Children should not be detained - period," said Crepeau, on a fact-finding mission in Greece from May 12 to 16."

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