Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 23.5.16


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 EU: External aspects of migration - Council conclusions (23 May 2016) (9111/16, pdf)


"The Council stresses the need to further strengthen the work on the external dimension of migration policy and reaffirms its commitment to a comprehensive and geographically balanced approach on migration on the basis of the European Agenda on Migration, European Council conclusions and Council conclusions of 12 October 2015 and 12 May 2016 in full respect of international law and human rights. The Council recalls the steps taken by the EU and its Member States in integrating migration as a permanent and structural component of EU foreign policy. While implementation of agreed actions should form the core of the EU approach, the Council welcomes Member States' calls and initiatives for further, collective strengthened EU action towards third countries."

The conclusions say that the EU will continue with various efforts at stemming migration to Europe, for example through High-Level Dialogues and the Valletta Action Plan, and the Council is to "continue to look into the proposal by Hungary on "Schengen 2.0"."

There is also affirmation "of the importance of the security-development nexus"; the "need for full and effective implementation of existing readmission agreements," as well as the completion of negotiations on new agreements; and "the need for cooperation on migration with all third countries, such as Iraq, that are key in managing the current irregular migration flows".

Increased involvement in Libya is also noted:

"Work will be carried forward to this end to amend the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia as well as the possible setting up of an increased civilian CSDP presence in Libya, including on border management assistance, in addition to existing EU funded capacity building projects."


"The management of mixed migratory flows is not only a European, but a global responsibility, which calls for collective commitments and solutions. It requires countries of origin, transit and destination to forge genuine partnerships, on the basis of enhanced mutual support and solidarity, and an equitable and balanced responsibility-sharing within the international community. The EU will continue to advocate strongly for the respect of international law, including international humanitarian law, refugee law, notably the principle of non-refoulement, and international human rights law."

 EU: Commission statistics on hotspots, relocation, financial pledges, civil protection and returns: updated 23 May with figures published 20 May. See: Refugee crisis: Statistics: September 2015-ongoing

 GREECE: Camp at Idomeni to be evacuated

Refugee Crisis: Evacuation of Idomeni Begins Tomorrow (The Press Project, link): "Mr.Kiritsis estimated that the entire camp will have been evacuated within the next 10 days. He clarified that this is not a brutal police evacuation but, rather, a smooth operation aiming to help the refugees relocate in a civilized non violent manner. "This is not a primarily police, or police centred, operation" were the words of Kiristis.

It has been reported that squads of riot police have been assembling close to the camp but the authorities assure that their work will only be to aid and facilitate.

The representative stated that the refugees will be mostly relocated to Thessaloniki where 6 ex-industrial spaces have been altered in order to host 6500-7000 people."

And: Police poised to evacuate Idomeni refugee camp (Ekathemerini, link): "It appears that Greek authorities are poised to put into action a plan to evacuate the refugee camp in Idomeni, on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

According to sources, nine squads of riot police received orders on Monday to travel from Athens to Kilkis so they can take part in the operation if their contribution is needed. Authorities will attempt to move the refugees from the unofficial camp to other sites that have been made ready in various parts of northern Greece."

 Migreurop press release: close the camps

"On 18 June 2010, the Migreurop network decided to make a stand against the detention of foreigners.

Launched in 2011, the ‘Open Access Now’ campaign aimed to publicise the unseen realities of immigration detention, its excesses and the rights violations that flow from it. The campaign demanded total transparency and unconditional access to information and to locations where people are deprived of their liberty, for journalists and for civil society.


In the face of the increase in immigration detention, following the ‘Open Access Now’ campaign, in the years ahead Migreurop will give priority to campaigning for the closure of all the detention camps for foreigners in Europe and beyond, under the slogan ‘Close the Camps’.

The ‘Close the Camps’ mobilisation will aim to better expose detention centres including their new forms, to familiarise the public with them, in order to demand different policies."

See: After the 'Open Access Now' campaign: mobilisation (pdf)

 EU: Migration and border security top INTERPOL European meeting agenda (INTERPOL press release, link): "Addressing the border security challenges posed by an unprecedented number of migrants travelling to Europe is a key issue for senior law enforcement officials gathered at the 44th INTERPOL European Regional Conference.

Following the publication of the joint Europol-INTERPOL Report on Migrant Smuggling Networks earlier this week, delegates at the conference will hear from countries including Austria, Germany, Slovenia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as well as from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on their experiences in tackling this phenomenon.

With the report highlighting that border controls influence key routes for migrant smuggling, ensuring frontline officers have access to INTERPOL’s capabilities in order to access vital policing information, particularly within the Schengen area, is an essential part of enhancing national, regional and global security."

See: MIGRANT SMUGGLING NETWORKS Joint Europol-INTERPOL Report (pdf) and speeches from the conference: Opening address by Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General (pdf) and Closing speech by Mr Alexander PROKOPCHUK, INTERPOL Executive Committee Delegate for Europe (pdf)

 Questionable Deal: EU to Work with African Despot to Keep Refugees Out (Der Spiegel, link): "The ambassadors of the 28 European Union member states had agreed to secrecy. "Under no circumstances" should the public learn what was said at the talks that took place on March 23rd, the European Commission warned during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee. A staff member of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini even warned that Europe's reputation could be at stake.

Under the heading "TOP 37: Country fiches," the leading diplomats that day discussed a plan that the EU member states had agreed to: They would work together with dictatorships around the Horn of Africa in order to stop the refugee flows to Europe -- under Germany's leadership.

When it comes to taking action to counter the root causes of flight in the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, "I strongly believe that we must improve peoples' living conditions." The EU's new action plan for the Horn of Africa provides the first concrete outlines: For three years, ?40 million ($45 million) is to be paid out to eight African countries from the Emergency Trust Fund, including Sudan.

Minutes from the March 23 meetings and additional classified documents obtained by SPIEGEL and the German public television station ARD show "Report Mainz" show that the focus of the project is border protection. To that end, equipment is to be provided to the countries in question."

And see: Europe’s secret deal with Africa’s dictators (New Statesman, link): "Detailed plans, copies of which have been seen by the New Statesman, lay out a programme of co-operation with some of Africa’s most notorious regimes. The aim is to curtail the exodus of African refugees, whose arrival in Europe has become such a toxic political question."

Background: EU-AFRICA: EU refugee crisis: Valletta Conference 11-12 November 2015 Update: Final texts and full documentation (Statewatch News Online, November 2015) and The 'Khartoum Process': beefing up borders in east Africa (October 2015)

 GERMANY-MAGHREB: Condemnation and denunciation statement: Stop the attack on human dignity (pdf) signed by Maghreb LGBTQ organisations Mawjoudin (Tunisia), Aswat (Morocco), Alouen (Algeria) and Quzah (Libya): "In the context of the International day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and as Human Rights activists generally and LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queer) rights activists specifically in the Region of North Africa, we address our speech to all Governments concerned and to International Organizations following the last decisions issued by the German Parliament concerning the “Safe Country” report regarding Asylum Seekers from the Greater MaghrebCountries (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria) without consideration of International Covenants and what they stipulate as to guaranteeing the right to seek protection and Freedom of movement that are clearly enshrined in the Article 13 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which includes the principle of freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State."

See: 'Safe countries': German MPs vote to block asylum applications from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria (RT, link)

 Dispatches: Dignity at Stake for Refugees with Disabilities in Greece (Human Rights Watch, link): "“Here it is very hard for me to go to the toilet. My husband helps me at the door and random women help me inside the toilet,” Nawael, a 34-year-old Syrian woman who uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed from an airstrike in Syria, told me. I met her, her three children, and husband last March at the informal refugee camp at the Athens port of Piraeus.

Nawael is among dozens of refugees with disabilities I’ve met in Greece over the past year. Like many other people with disabilities forced to flee, Nawael told me of their treacherous journey to Europe, and how her husband carried her most of the time. She spoke of the difficulties in Greece in accessing a proper place to sleep, the toilet, food, and medical assistance."

 EU-TURKEY: The saga continues

Bulgaria asks EU for ‘plan B’ if Turkey abandons refugee deal (EurActiv, link): "Bulgaria asked the European Union to develop a backup plan, in the event that Turkey refuses to implement its agreement to deal with the refugee crisis, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said on Friday (20 May).

Mitov made the comment at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers last week, at which NATO-EU cooperation to deal with refugee crisis was discussed.

“We are pushing for plan B. It must take into account many factors. You need to be aware that the agreement itself has its delicate moments. We have insisted for such a plan and now we are discussing it,” said Mitov, according to Bulgarian newspaper Sega."

See also: Erdogan approves law on Turkey-EU readmission deal (Hurriyet Daily News, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved a law on an agreement between Ankara and Brussels on the readmission of people residing in the EU without authorization."

But: Erdogan adviser warns Turkey could suspend EU agreements (Reuters, link): "Turkey could suspend all of its agreements with the European Union, including a customs union, if the bloc continues its "double standards" in talks with Ankara, an adviser to President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Speaking on state broadcaster TRT Haber, Yigit Bulut, who advises Erdogan on the economy, warned that if Europe failed to live up to its promises to Turkey, Ankara could review all of its relations with the 28-member bloc."

And: Bulgaria to build more fences to stop migrants: media report (EurActiv, link)

 France, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands met at Eurojust and set up a task force on illegal immigrant smuggling in the North Sea region (Eurojust press release, link): "Judicial and law enforcement professionals from France, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as liaison magistrates and specialists from Europol, recently came together at Eurojust for an operational meeting on illegal immigrant smuggling in the North Sea region.

The meeting, which was chaired by the National Member for France, discussed emerging trends and new threats in the field of illegal immigrant smuggling and explored the possibilities of more efficient cooperation and information sharing in related cases.

During the meeting, the work of Eurojust’s Thematic group on Illegal immigrant smuggling (TG IIS) was presented, after which the authorities involved outlined the state of play in the fight against illegal immigrant smuggling in their respective countries. Specialists from Europol then presented the work of their team in disrupting migrant smuggling networks. The participants highlighted the complexity of the migrant smuggling phenomenon, in which national authorities are confronted with highly adaptable and mobile transnational criminal networks."

 Joint press release of the Greek Asylum Service, UNHCR and European Asylum Support Office (EASO): The registration of asylum seekers residing in open reception facilities in the mainland will begin in the next few weeks (link): "The Asylum Service will conduct a pre-registration exercise for international protection in the mainland from end of May to end of July with the financial support of the European Commission (DG Home), The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will support the Asylum Service in this exercise.

The pre-registration exercise will take several weeks to conclude, but all those who arrived in Greece before 20 March, wishing to apply for international protection in Greece and are currently residing on the mainland will be able to pre-register.

The pre-registration exercise is the first step to apply for international protection in Greece, which could eventually lead to (i) examination of the application for international protection by the Greek authorities, and potential recognition of beneficiary of international protection, or (ii) transfer to another EU Member State in the context of Dublin III provisions, or, (iii) transfer to another EU Member State in the context of the relocation scheme.

Before and during the pre-registration exercise, information will be provided on the available options to those concerned, through leaflets and information teams deployed to the open accommodation sites.

The International Organization for Migration will also participate in order to provide information on voluntary repatriation to the countries of origin to those interested.

Those wishing to be pre-registered must be physically present during this exercise, including any members of their family. A photo will be taken of each individual during this exercise. At the end of the pre-registration an asylum seeker card will be issued for each individual."

 GREECE: Humanitarian space and border management in Lesbos (OpenDemocracy, link): "The latest EU-Turkey deal is the culmination of months of attempts by the European Commission to take control of the eastern Mediterranean, a space that has recently seen the arrival of over one million people as well as unprecedented displays of solidarity by people across Europe.


The unfolding drama on the Greek islands can be read in three acts: the rise of autonomous and solidaric organisation; the emergence of a securitised humanitarian border space; and, finally, the consolidation of a de facto securitised and punitive regime. Throughout all three of these acts, actors have negotiated and renegotiated the relationship between the solidarity, humanitarianism, and securitisation agendas."

 News (23.5.16)

Migrant crisis: Child trafficking on rise in EU (BBC News, link): "The number of children trafficked to EU countries by gangs - often for prostitution - is rising and the UK is a major destination, new data show.

The European Commission says child trafficking is "one of the trends that is increasing most sharply".

In 2013-2014 there were 15,846 registered victims of trafficking in the EU, at least 15% of them children.

Three-quarters of the victims were women, and 67% were trafficked for sex. Many other victims were not detected.

According to the official Commission figures, the UK registered 1,358 victims in 2013-2014, and the Netherlands registered the most - 1,561."

GERMANY: Rightwing violence surges in Germany (The Guardian, link): "The number of violent crimes with a rightwing political motive rose more than 40% in Germany last year accompanying a large influx of migrants into the country, the government has said. The number of crimes committed by foreigners was also up more than 10%.

German authorities recorded 1,485 violent far-right crimes last year, up from 1,029 the previous year, according to annual crime statistics. As the number of homes for asylum seekers grew, so too did attacks on them, which more than quadrupled to 923. Acts of violence against those homes increased to 177 from 26 the previous year."

SPAIN: 100 organizaciones acusan al Ministro Fernández de promover actos inmorales contra los Derechos Humanos [100 organisations accuse the Fernansez Ministry of promoting immoral acts contrary to human rights] (Periodismo Humano, link): "According to the 115 signatory organisations, the awarding of medals to Guardia Civil officers, accused and absolved of beating and illegally deporting migrants and refugees, not only exceeds the powers of the caretaker government, but also means awarding and promoting illegal actions that gravely infringe human rights, about which the United Nations has recently shown its grave concern and which is also the theme of several cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights."

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