EU: Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe: 26-2-18

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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
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Keep in touch: Statewatch Observatory: Refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: Daily news (updated through the day), commentaries and official documents
CoE: Special Representative on Migration and Refugees Tomáš Bocek publishes first activity report (link);

"Migration in Europe: Call for united political will, commitment to Council of Europe standards and durable solutions.

In order to successfully tackle the challenges linked to migration, there needs to be “a clear, principled and holistic approach by the Organisation covering all areas of migration management”, said the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees, Tomáš Bocek, in his first activity report, published today."

See: 1st report (pdf)

European Commission: Delivering on commitments: new programmes to protect migrants and support return and reintegration in Africa worth €150 million adopted (Press release, pdf):

"The European Union is adopting today three new programmes worth over €150 million under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, directly following up on the commitments made by the Joint African Union – European Union – United Nations Task Force to address the migrant situation in Libya."

And see EEAS Press release: High level mission of the AU, EU and the UN visits Tripoli to enhance co-operation on migration and protection issues in Libya (pdf):

"The Joint Mission also underlined the need to implement a comprehensive and systematic registration at disembarkation points and in detention centres by Libyan authorities, with the support of IOM and UNHCR. This is to ensure the safety and traceability of all refugees and migrants." [emphasis added]

UK: Right to Remain: “The mounting list of scandals must be seen as systemic failings by the government, not one-off incidents”: BID hold G4S to account:"BID (Bail for Immigration Detainees) have launched a legal action which they hope will mean multinational security firm G4S is finally held to account."

ECCHR & Pro Asyl: Two Years after the “March of Hope” from Idomeni: Interventions against Push-Backs along the Balkan Route(s) (pdf):

"On 14 March 2016, more than 1500 people started walking from Idomeni in Greece across the border to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), seeking to move on and escape the inhuman conditions in Greece. However, they were apprehended by the Macedonian military, threatened, returned to the border in army vehicles, and ordered to crawl under the fence from FYROM back to the Greek side. Such large-scale push-backs form part of a pattern of systematic expulsions at the Greek-Macedonian border. It shows that the enforcement of border closures - following the EU leaders’ decision on 7 March of the same year to stop migratory movements along the former Balkan corridor - engenders predictable human rights violations."

EU: Fundamental Rights Agency: Migration to the EU: five persistent challenges (pdf)

UK: It’s time to separate EU migration fact from Brexit fantasy (Guardian, link):

"The government’s failure to limit non-EU migration exposes the idiocy of its arbitrary cap.

The net number of EU migrants coming to Britain has fallen to 90,000. That of non-EU migrants has risen to 205,000. These are the main takeaways from the latest set of immigration figures."

Five injured in far-right attack on leftist hangout in Piraeus (, link):

"Five people were injured on Sunday evening when a group of men believed to be far-right supporters smashed their way into a leftist community center in the port city of Piraeus.

The attackers were wielding tire irons and lit smoke bombs when the barged into the premises shortly after 7 p.m., attacking the people who were gathered there at the time and smashing windows and furniture.

According to reports on an anarchist website, the attackers shouted the slogan “blood, honor, Golden Dawn,” which is used by the far-right party that is currently on trial for a string of attacks, some deadly, on migrants and opponents,"

Thousands slam government refugee policy in Belgian capital (link):

"Thousands have taken to the streets of Brussels, the heart of the European Union, in protest at the Belgian government’s refugee policy, calling on authorities to adopt a more “humane” approach in dealing with “those without papers.”

Some 10,000 protesters attended the rally on Sunday at Brussels’ Maximilien Park in close proximity to Belgium’s Immigration Department, where those seeking refugee status have been sleeping in camps since 2015.

The demonstration was organized by the activist group 'Citizen’s Platform for Refugee Support' and dubbed 'Human Wave for Solidarity and Humanity.'"

Council of the European Union: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a common procedure for international protection in the Union and repealing Directive 2013/32/EU (First reading) (LIMITE doc no: 6238-18, pdf): Council developing its negotiating position prior to trilogues. Contains extensive Footnotes on Member State positions.

Agence Europe reported on 22 February 2018 that the Greek Parliament is investigating allegations of corruption against Dimitris Avramopoulos EU Migration Commissioner:

"The parliament has decided to set up a committee of inquiry into the allegations of bribes from the Swiss-based pharmaceutical group Novartis to ten or so political leaders when they were in office, including European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos when he was serving as Greece's health minister between 2006 and 2009."

Anti-fraud office investigates EU asylum agency director - The probe relates to alleged misconduct in procurement and recruitment. (politico, link):

"The executive director of the EU asylum agency is under investigation by the bloc’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, a document obtained by POLITICO shows.

It states that José Carreira is being investigated for alleged misconduct in procurement procedures, irregularities in management of human resources and possible breaches of data protection at the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office (EASO)."

Bundestag study: Cooperation with Libyan coastguard infringes international conventions (link):

"“Libya is unable to nominate a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), and so rescue missions outside its territorial waters are coordinated by the Italian MRCC in Rome. More and more often the Libyan coastguard is being tasked to lead these missions as on-scene-commander. Since refugees are subsequently brought to Libya, the MRCC in Rome may be infringing the prohibition of refoulement contained in the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This, indeed, was also the conclusion reached in a study produced by the Bundestag Research Service. The European Union and its member states must therefore press for an immediate end to this cooperation with the Libyan coastguard”, says Andrej Hunko, European policy spokesman for the Left Party."

See: Research Services: Maritime rescue in the Mediterranean Rights and obligations of vessels under the SAR Convention and mani-festations of the principle of non-refoulement on the high seas: Overview (pdf)

Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency? (euobserver, link):

"When the EU border and coast guard agency known as Frontex started in 2005, it had a €6m budget. Today it pulls in €320m and employs over 530 people, a staff number set to more than double in the next few years.

But its biggest change is elsewhere. Frontex has effectively become a law enforcement agency. Focus on migration has morphed into drug smuggling, document fraud, terrorism, and cigarette smuggling. It has even seized arms.

"I would not object if you define us as a law enforcement agency at EU level," Fabrice Leggeri, the agency's chief, told EUobserver on Tuesday (20 February)."

Greek Clouncil for Refugees: Legal Aid for Migrants, Asylum seekers and refugees in Greece: challenges and barriers (link):

"Greece has been the second refugee population receiving country in the EU since September 2015. More than 51.000 people are stranded around Greece (according to data published by the Greek Government1). The majority have applied for asylum while others wait for relocation or family reunification applications to be decided so that they can move on to other member states. Applicants for all processes require legal assistance: to ensure the appropriate asylum procedure is pursued, vulnerabilities are detected, deadlines met, the process is fair and that basic human needs are fulfilled, and rights are respected."

Nationalism in heart of Europe needles EU (BBC News, link):

"Not far away, at Hungary's southern border, the wind whips across the steppe, flattens the grass and whistles right up against the vast metal intricacy of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's border fence.

Few try to cross it these days. Even so a security patrol crawls, rather menacingly, along its barbed perimeter.

What is, for some, all about internal security, also represents this country's decision to prioritise national interest above that of the EU. It's a symbol of defiance.

It's also a vote winner."

Italy's Northern League pledges mass migrant deportations (Guardian, link): "Analysts doubt viability of far-right plan but it highlights nature of pre-election debate"

Macron's migrant law faces rough ride in parliament (, link):

"French President Emmanuel Macron faces a difficult week as lawmakers weigh up a controversial bill that toughens France's stance on migrants, with even some of his own party reluctant to back it.

After France processed a record 100,000 asylum applications last year, Macron vowed to grant asylum faster but also to deport economic migrants more swiftly, while better integrating those who stay. The new law will be presented to his cabinet Wednesday ahead of parliamentary debates that promise to be stormy, with migrant charities and left-wingers blasting the bill as repressive.

Staff at France's asylum court and the Ofpra refugee protection office are even set to strike Wednesday over a law that unions have blasted as "an unquestionable break with France's tradition of asylum"

How the E.U.’s Migrant Crisis Reached the Streets of Brussels (NYT, link):

" The city is freezing. At night, Hamza Khater eats and sleeps at a volunteer-run shelter. He spends his days hanging around the international bus stop next to the Gare du Nord.

“What am I looking for? I am looking for a life,” said Mr. Khater, 31, who fled the violence-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur a year ago. Specifically, he is looking for a chance to reach Britain. He has been for months."

New Council returns and readmission strategy to target African countries

- By-passing formal readmission agreements: "a number of non-legally binding informal arrangements aimed at reinforcing cooperation in the area of return policy have been concluded with a number of relevant third countries."

- "The gap between the orders to leave the territory and the effectively implemented returns remains significant. In particular, cooperation with relevant African countries is still totally unsatisfactory."

- "Partnership Framework" in Africa: Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "This policy is best seen as asking EU Member States to use their histories of imperialism, oppression and exploitation to get African states to sort out the EU’s problem."

See: Bulgarian Council Presidency "Draft" Note to Member States on: "Enhancing the returns from the European Union" (LIMITE doc no: 6047-18, pdf)

Orbán calls for global anti-migrant alliance with eye on April elections (euractiv, link):

"Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán called yesterday (18 February) for a global alliance against migration as his right-wing populist Fidesz party began campaigning for an 8 April election in which it is expected to win a third consecutive landslide victory.

Popular at home but increasingly at odds politically and economically with mainstream European Union peers, Orbán has thrived on external controversy, including repeated clashes with Brussels and lately the United Nations."

Italy used to be a tolerant country, but now racism is rising (Guardian, link):

"The upcoming election has unleashed a tide of anti-migrant action, whose roots can be traced to the financial crisis and the country’s weakened leftwing ."

EU will not lift visas unless Turkey eases terrorism laws (euractiv, link):

"The European Union told Turkey today (16 February) it would not ease travel requirements for its citizens unless Ankara softens counter-terrorism laws that the bloc says are excessive.

The EU has been taken aback by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security crackdown following a botched coup in 2016 that saw some 50,000 people, including journalists, arrested and 150,000 more, from teachers to judges to soldiers, sacked or suspended from their jobs.

That has soured the bloc’s relations with its NATO ally that is also instrumental in keeping a lid on Middle East immigration to Europe."

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