Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe 6.5.16

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 Bulgaria to Return Migrants to Turkey from June 1 (Balkan Insight, link): "Bulgaria will be able to send back migrants who have crossed its border with Turkey illegally from June 1, according to the protocol signed between Sofia and Ankara on Thursday.


The country is the first among EU member states to sign the protocol, which sets procedures for sending refugees back to Turkey.

“The most important thing is that we are sending a very strong signal to the traffickers and the refugees who plan to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border,” Bulgarian interior minister Rumyana Rachvarova said in Ankara."

 EU: Commission statistics on the refugee crisis: updated 6.5.16

The latest statistics on hotspots in Italy and Greece; relocation; returns; civil protection support for Croatia, Greece and Serbia; and Member States' financial pledges.

 Overview: Turkey meets 65 of 72 requirements for visa liberalisation (pdf): "On 4 May the Commission published the ‘Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap’.

The “roadmap” has 72 requirements grouped under five headings.

Here we provide an overview of the requirements and information on whether or not they have been fulfilled, as set out in the working document that accompanied the Commission’s communication.

The working document provides more detail on what Turkey has done with regard to each of the individual requirements. It also contains an 11-page annex setting out an ‘assessment of the security impact of visa liberalisation’."

See also: 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.

Further documentation: EU opens door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy deal" with Turkey and plans Dublin III

 Trapped in the new Greek archipelago with no way out (OpenDemocracy, link): "‘It’s all lies,’ Massoud (not his real name) taps angrily on his smartphone screen; there are dozens of failed calls to the Skype address of the Greek Asylum service. In Greece you register an asylum claim by Skype. Massoud is from Syria and has been in Idomeni camp for 2 months and 10 days.

People have been blockaded in Greece since Macedonia shut its border with Greece entirely for refugees on 9 March this year. At the same time many people are finding it impossible to lodge asylum applications in Greece - and therefore have no chance of ‘relocation’ to another EU country. The EU plan to relocate refugees to other EU countries appears to be bogged down.

By 17 April, UNHCR said some 46,000 refugees are stranded in Greece in an archipelago of camps from Athens to the Macedonian border in the North. Meanwhile, in the islands the deportations to Turkey under the ‘one-for-one’ deal between the EU and Turkey started on 4 April."

See also: Migration Minister: Greece Will Keep 30,000-40,000 Refugees (Greek Reporter, link): "Greek Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said that 30,000-40,000 refugees will stay in Greece for a long time.

Mouzalas headed a meeting on the migration issue in Thessaloniki. He said that the makeshift migrant camp in Idomeni, on the Greek-FYROM border, will be evacuated by May 30."

And: Greece: Police clash with refugees as they clear Idomeni train tracks (Ruptly TV, link to YouTube)

 Week April 28th - May 5th 2016 - Hungarian Situation update (Migszol, link): "One of the ways we at MigSzol think we can influence the current situation is through documentation. Many might think that since the events of last year, the situation has calmed down and there is no longer anything happening in Hungary. This is far from the truth. Many people are still passing through Hungary every day and recently the importance of Hungary as a transit country has been increasing again. Every week there are many things happening at both the Serbian and the Austrian borders and the situation is often changing quickly. And even though most of the camps are full (and often overcrowded again), there is very little information about the conditions there available.

MigSzol is in a good position to have access to many sources and other groups who work in the field. We make use of this by documenting the situation in Hungary as often as possible. For this reason, we are starting a situation diary. Every other week, we will publish updates with general information about the situation at the borders and in the camps that we gather from our different sources all over the country. We hope this will provide information to other organizations elsewhere in Europe to keep up to date and serve as a reference for the conditions in Hungary."

Topics covered in the update: A steady number of people are transiting through Hungary every day - Nagyfa closed and new camp opening in Kormend - Hungarian and Serbian border Update - Transit zones

 News (6.5.16)

EU: Central European countries resist new E.U. refugee quota proposal (Washington Post, link): "The European Union announced a new plan Wednesday to deal with asylum seekers, requiring member states to accept certain numbers under a quota system and imposing 250,000-euro-per-migrant fines if the countries do not.

The much-anticipated plan is aimed at revamping Europe’s controversial regulations on handling the continent’s migrant crisis as nations struggle to cope with the largest number of displaced people since World War II.

European leaders have been desperately seeking a solution for months. In 2015 alone, more than 1 million people poured into the continent, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa."

EU: Merkel warns of return to nationalism unless EU protects borders (EurActiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday (5 May) urged European leaders to protect EU borders or risk a “return to nationalism” as the continent battles its worst migration crisis since World War II.

As Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi kicked off two days of talks in Rome with Merkel and senior EU officials, the German leader said Europe must defend its borders “from the Mediterranean to the North Pole” or suffer the political consequences.

Support for far-right and anti-immigrant parties is on the rise in several countries on the continent, which saw more than a million people arrive on its shores last year."

FM: Cyprus has a lot of scenarios in mind as regards visa liberalization (FG News, link): "The government of Cyprus has many scenarios in mind as regards the issue concerning the liberalization of visa requirements for Turkish nationals to the EU, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides has said.

Kasoulides said that the decision will be taken by the European Council with a qualified majority, adding that Cyprus, in order to protect its national interests, could for example request exemptions, partial or total suspension, or even submit a unilateral declaration.

Kasoulides said that Nicosia will await for the completion of the process of the road map, adding that all 72 benchmarks set out for Turkey must be fulfilled and that `there remain important issues that are necessary"."

GERMANY: 'Quota refugees' from Syria adjust to life in Germany (Deutsche Welle, link): "On the coffee table is a little plate of Syrian cookies. A friend has sent them from home. The television is tuned to a Syrian channel. In front of it, on the sofa, sits Zakiah Bshara (pictured). She left her homeland at the age of 71 and fled with her husband and son to her daughter in Germany. That was almost two years ago. Today, she lives in Kiel."

GREECE: German NGO to fund facility for refugees in northern Greece (Ekathimerini, link): "Plans are afoot for the creation of a new reception center for refugees near Thermi, east of Thessaloniki, funded by a German nongovernmental organization, Kathimerini understands.

Representatives of a large German NGO recently visited Thessaloniki for talks with local officials about creating the center, which would hold up to 1,500 refugees, Kathimerini has learned. The NGO is said to be offering 5 million euros for use by local authorities."

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