Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 5.5.16

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 MSF to pull out of World Humanitarian Summit (link):


"with regret, we have come to the decision to pull out of the summit. We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations. Instead, the WHS’s focus would seem to be an incorporation of humanitarian assistance into a broader development and resilience agenda. Further, the summit neglects to reinforce the obligations of states to uphold and implement the humanitarian and refugee laws which they have signed up to.

As shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights continue on a daily basis, WHS participants will be pressed to a consensus on non-specific, good intentions to ‘uphold norms’ and ‘end needs’. The summit has become a fig-leaf of good intentions, allowing these systematic violations, by states above all, to be ignored."

 EU opens the door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy-deal" with Turkey and plans for Dublin III

1. DUBLIN REVISION: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast) (COM 270-16. pdf)

Questions & Answers: Reforming the Common European Asylum System: Reforming the Dublin system (pdf)

2. EU-Turkey "Statement": Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (COM 278-16, pdf). Seven of the 72 requirements to allow visa "liberalisation" to go ahead have not been met. These are pretty fundamental:

- "upgrading the existing biometric passports so as to include security features in line with the latest EU standards;

- fully implementing the provisions of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement, including those related to the readmission of third country nationals." [emphasis added]

Apparently this is OK because:

"The Commission and the Turkish authorities have agreed on practical ways of implementing these benchmarks before their complete fulfilment." [emphasis added]

Comment: This is a massive Commission "fudge" or put another way, this statement is economical with the truth.

Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Third Report on progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (SWD(2016) 161 final, pdf): Detailed overview of the 72 requirements and progress made.

See also: Overview: Turkey meets 65 of 72 requirements for visa liberalisation (pdf)

Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement – Questions and Answers (pdf) Sets out details of action by Turkey, Greece and the EU.

REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Turkey) (COM 279, pdf)

Questions & Answers: Third Report on Progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap (pdf):

"on 7 and 18 March 2016, meetings of Heads of State or Government of the EU and Turkey took place. The Summit concluded with an EU-Turkey Statement which stipulates that "the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated vis-à-vis all participating Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met."

3. Border controls: Schengen: COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING DECISION setting out a recommendation for temporary internal border control in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk (COM 275, pdf)

Questions & Answers: A coordinated EU approach for temporary internal border controls (pdf)

4. Eurodac: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the establishment of 'Eurodac' for the comparison of fingerprints for the effective application of [Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person] , for identifying an illegally staying third-country national or stateless person and on requests for the comparison with Eurodac data by Member States' law enforcement authorities and Europol for law enforcement purposes (recast) (COM 272-16, pdf)

5. EU Agency for Asylum: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the European Union Agency for Asylum and repealing Regulation (EU) No 439/2010 (pdf) and Annex (pdf)

 CIMADE: France & EU: What are we talking about? (pdf):

"La Cimade issued a press statement on 20 April 2016 in which it announced a suspension of its activities in Rennes detention centre from 18 to 20 April as a result of witnessing a system to deal with the refugee crisis in northern France involving sequences of unlawful practices. Eventually, their unlawfulness is predictably certified by courts or the prefectures which enacted them, but they nonetheless fulfil their purpose, described as removing people from the Calais region and port areas and attempting to dissuade them from returning there. In the meantime, the number unlawful detentions, denials of access to asylum procedures and violations of the rights of minors are rising, and migrants and refugees who are released subsequently return to a state of vagrancy as they await their opportunity to attempt the crossing."

 Are You Syrious (4-5-16, link):

Serious concerns about health and protection of refugees

"Lawyers and human rights activists in Izmir express their concern over the protection and health of refugees in Turkey. The president of the NGO Halklarin Korprusu says concerns with human rights are not within the scope of the EU-Turkey deal, while the lawyers in charge of specific asylum cases express their difficulty in meeting with refugees in detention centres."

Strike in Chios

"In Chios, refugees in the Viale detention center sewed their mouths shut and started a hunger strike on Tuesday, to protest living conditions and the indifference of authorities. They protest the lack of attention to people with disabilities in particular."

Police clamping down on volunteers in Athens

"The Iokasti’s Kitchen in Athens will suspend cooking activities until further notice as recent legislation has made it impossible to distribute food in public places?—?police is clamping down on volunteers at Victoria Square and at Piraeus. The Kitchen will continue to provide ingredients to 3 self managed locations, currently cooking 1200 meals a day."

 Italy: Volunteers are helping in the sea

"Le Monde reports on the volunteer boat ‘Aquarius’ that has saved 917 migrants in the Mediterranean within two months. It’s funded mostly through crowdfunding and plans to operate between Sicily and Libya over the summer."

 European commission faces challenge to grant visa-free travel to Turks (Guardian, link):

"EU executive gives provisional blessing to key scheme in deal with Ankara, as asylum rules overhaul also hits trouble...

In another important caveat, visa-free travel would only be available to those Turks with biometric passports that include fingerprint recognition chips. Such passports do not exist in Turkey, although the government plans to introduce them from 1 June....

The final decision on whether Turkish citizens will get visa-free access to the Schengen Area for stays of up to three months rests with the EU’s 28 member states and the European parliament....

But five conditions still need to be cleared, including passing anti-corruption laws, rewriting domestic law on terrorism to avoid conflicts with freedom of expression, and bringing data protection rules in line with EU standards."

EU-Turkey: Commission admits visa-free travel for Turks depends on national parliaments (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission today (4 May) proposed that Turkish nationals would enjoy visa-free travel to the EU’s Schengen zone by the end of June, praising Ankara for its fast delivery on meeting the necessary conditions. But Commission experts admit that national parliaments could upturn the deal....

In the short time since EU leaders agreed the deal with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last 18 March, Turkey implemented most of the EU benchmarks on the way toward lifting the visa restrictions. The five remaining benchmarks appear to be a formality, listening to EU officials who praised Turkey for an outstanding ability to deliver....

Following the Commission proposal, the decision rests with the Justice and Home Affairs Council who will examine the issue on 19 June and vote by qualified majority.

Paul said she was more concerned about what would happen in the European Parliament, who also need to endorse the decisions. “Some national parliaments also have to ratify it, including the Netherlands”, she said, mentioning Timmermans’ home country. “Let’s hope it gets through, because a lot is at stake”, she added."

 EU: Commission approves extending border checks at internal Schengen borders (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission approved today (4 May) extending by six months controls at several frontiers inside the free-travel Schengen area, saying checks were justified by deficiencies in Greece’s management of the bloc’s external border.

Border controls between Schengen countries are usually not allowed, but in a situation of emergency, such as Europe’s migration crisis, checks can be reintroduced for a maximum of two years."

 Italy and Austria try to calm tensions on Alpine pass (EUobserver, link)

"Italy and Austria have tried to calm tensions over controversial Austrian plans to introduce border controls at the Brenner Pass.

“There will be no wall,” Austrian interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka said after meeting his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano on Thursday (29 April).

But he added: “If and only if it is necessary will we introduce more controls by slowing traffic and trains ... but circulation will be guaranteed.”

The Alpine pass connects the two countries. But Austria is concerned that migrants will turn to Italy as a gateway to Europe after it closed the Western Balkan corridor."

 Norwegian Government condemns stateless children to a state of legal limbo (, link):

"A new proposal by the Norwegian Government will leave children born stateless in Norway who are habitually resident without a nationality until they turn 18. The new proposal, put forward by the Ministry of Justice, clearly violates provisions in international law which safeguard every child’s right to a nationality by stipulating that a 5 year lawful residence is required for acquisition of Norwegian citizenship."

News (5.5.16)

Bulgaria, Croatia announced joint positions in the fields of migration crisis, EU enlargement and Schengen membership ( "Coordinated positions of Bulgaria and Croatia and the countries in the region of Central and Eastern Europe are of paramount importance for tackling challenges the EU faces with.” That is what Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said during a meeting with his Croatian counterpart Dr Miro Kovac, which was held within the two-day official visit of the Bulgarian first diplomat to the Republic of Croatia, the press centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced."

Avramopoulos, Schengen isn't dying, we'll revive it (ANSA, link): "BRUSSELS, MAY 3 - "Schengen isn't dying. On the contrary, the EU Commission is doing everything to restore it and go back to normalcy, as indicated by the roadmap 'Back to Schengen'," said EU Migrant and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in an interview with ANSA. "But to move ahead, intermediate steps are needed. What we want to reach can't happen in one night, that's why we have to ensure a gradual process, even if that means allowing temporary extra checks at internal borders". (ANSAmed)."

Comment: But will it ever be the same again?

Don’t want migrants? Pay for them instead - Planned relocation scheme would have financial penalties for those who don’t join in (Politico, link): "It’s part of a planned shake-up of the bloc’s asylum rules that aims to ease the pressure on the EU countries at the bloc’s external borders. If the proposal becomes law, the EU country in which migrants first set foot would in principle have to process their asylum claims, but that country would no longer be obliged to host all of the migrants it receives."

EU Commission: Accept asylum-seekers or pay up (DW, link): "EU nations that reject asylum seekers from overburdened frontline states will face a 250,000 euro charge per refugee under a plan unveiled by the European Commission. It's drawn rapid rebuffs from Slovakia and Poland."

EU leaders in Rome to discuss migrant crisis (, link): "EU president Donald Tusk travels to Rome Thursday with fellow EU institution leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for two days of talks likely to focus on next steps in Europe’s migrant crisis. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who fears Italy becoming the new migrant frontline after the closure of the Balkan route, will host the first day of talks, followed by Pope Francis on Friday."

Visa deal for Turkey; crisis off for Greece? (Reuters, link): "A revised relocation system to reform the EU's so-called "Dublin" asylum system was proposed Wednesday by the EU's executive. Italy, with tens of thousands of new arrivals, has led the push for a "fairness mechanism" when it comes to dealing with asylum-seekers who enter the 28-member bloc.... The Commission said Wednesday any member state could opt to "temporarily not take part in the reallocation," but must then pay 250,000 euros ($288,000) per asylum seeker."

Denmark extends controls on German border, EU set to authorize more (Reuters, link): "Denmark extended temporary controls at its border with Germany on Monday, imposed to help control an influx of migrants, as the European Commission confirmed it would shortly authorize more such extensions within the passport-free Schengen zone. Seven members of the Schengen zone, including Germany and Denmark, have introduced temporary border controls after more than one million migrants entered the European Union last year, mostly via Greece. The European Commission, struggling to prevent the collapse of the Schengen accord, is expected this month to allow EU member states to retain the emergency border checks, which are due to expire in May, for a while longer."

Niger tells Europe it needs 1 billion euros to fight illegal migration (Reuters, link): "Niger, a major transit country for Africans seeking to reach the EU, told foreign ministers visiting from Europe on Tuesday it needs 1 billion euros to combat illegal migration. As many as 150,000 migrants, most coming from other West African nations, will travel through Niger this year, crossing the Sahara Desert on their way to the Mediterranean coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)."

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