AIDA reports on Greece and Turkey (30.3.18):
"Key developments in Greece
Cases of alleged push backs at the Greek-Turkish land border of Evros have been systematically reported. According to these allegations, the Greek authorities follow a pattern of arbitrary arrest, de facto detention in police stations close to the borders, and transfer to the border, accompanied by the police, where the push backs occur."
See: Full report: Greece (pdf)
"Key developments in Turkey
Unlawful push backs along the Turkey-Syria border, as well as allegations of unlawful returns at other land borders, have continued throughout 2017. Incidents refer to the use of violence and shootings against people entering the territory."
See: Full report: Turkey (pdf)
EU: Fundamental Rights Agency: Under watchful eyes: biometrics, EU IT systems and fundamental rights (pdf)
"Sharing data with third countries infringes on the privacy of the person concerned. In the case of persons in need of international protection, it may endanger their safety or the safety of their family members. Interoperability will make access to data easier and therefore increase the risk that data are unlawfully shared with third countries."
And see: It would totally help, EU told, if data we held on migrants was accurate (The Register, link): "The European Union has been warned to sort out data quality in its IT systems that manage asylum and migration, and improve efforts to ensure people know how to exercise their personal data rights."
"EXCLUSIVE / Messaging apps and other digital services will be forced to give their users’ data to law enforcement authorities within ten days of receiving requests, or six hours in emergencies, according to a leaked draft of an upcoming EU legal overhaul.
The European Commission will crack down on technology companies that collect so-called electronic evidence that is needed for criminal investigations, regardless of where companies are located or user data is stored, according to proposals obtained by EURACTIV."
USA: State Department proposes more surveillance of social media, communications, and travel (Papers, Please!. link):
"Today the US Department of State published proposals in the Federal Register to expand its ongoing surveillance of social media, e-mail, and travel by applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant (tourism and other temporary visits) visas."
USA: President signs overseas data access bill into law (endgadget, link) and see: Clarifying Lawful 5 Overseas Use of Data Act (pdf)
"Today the Commissioner published updated written observations that he submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in two cases concerning returns of migrants from the Spanish city of Melilla to Morocco. The cases were referred to the Grand Chamber last January.
The present new observations reiterate the conclusions contained in the Commissioner’s initial submission of November 2015, but also take account of the Commissioner’s subsequent country monitoring work on the subject matter.
The Commissioner underscores that all the information available points to the existence of an established practice whereby Spain’s border guards summarily return to Morocco migrants who attempt to enter Melilla by climbing the fence which surrounds the city. “Such returns take place outside of any formal procedure and without identification of the persons concerned or assessment of their individual situation”, he writes. “This practice, to which the legal amendments adopted in Spain in March 2015 aim at providing legal underpinning, prevents the persons concerned from effectively exercising their right to seek international protection.”
UK: This Is What A Forced Deportation Sounds Like When It Goes Wrong (Huffpost, link) with a very distressing video:
"An audio recorded by HuffPost UK reveals the grim reality of that attempted forced deportation. It is a 20-minute recording of the incident, between a man, who was referred to as Abdul, and at least five border police officers."
The prosecutor’s case against the rescue ship Open Arms (openmigration.org, link):
"The rescue ship Open Arms has been seized after failing to turn over 218 migrants rescued at sea to the Libyan Coast Guard. The ship’s captain, the mission leader, and the director of the Spanish NGO have been accused of criminal conspiracy and aiding illegal immigration by the same prosecutor who had accused NGOs before the seizure of the Iuventa. We are at a critical point in the tug of war between the Italian Ministry of the Interior and those NGOs rescuing migrants out at sea. Here is what the document says, what the prosecution says, and what the NGO says." (see more)
"Italy should cease its policy of promoting, directing and enforcing returns to Libya with immediate effect, and should cease prosecuting actors who deliver people rescued at sea to a place of safety; In case Italy fails to do so:
1. The UN Security Council should be seized to consider Italy’s actions a threat to international peace and security; to call upon Italy to cease its violations of international law; and to promote a coordinated approach to SAR in the Mediterranean which does not include exposing rescued persons to the risk of grave human rights violations;
2. Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Ethiopia – being the the African Union Member States that are currently members of the UN Security Council – whose citizens are directly affected by Italy’s violations of international law, should propose an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council to this end;
3. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should proprio motu open an investigation concerning high-ranking Italian authorities as to their complicity in crimes against humanity taking place in Libya;
4. Each Member State of the Council of Europe should consider filing an inter-state complaint against Italy at the European Court of Human Rights."
EU: Commission: Action Plan on military mobility: EU takes steps towards a Defence Union (Press release, pdf):
"In line with President Juncker's commitment to a fully-fledged Defence Union by 2025, the Commission and the High Representative are presenting an Action Plan to improve military mobility within and beyond the European Union."
With the UK - a strong opponent of Defence Union - leaving the EU moves for its creation are moving swiftly.
See also: Action Plan on Military Mobility (COM JOIN 5-2018, pdf)
Greece: Concern on islands as hundreds reach Lesvos (ekathimerini.com, link):
"Authorities on the Aegean islands were on standby on Wednesday after nearly 300 migrants reached Lesvos on eight boats following several days without new arrivals from neighboring Turkey.
Apart from the 295 people who landed on Lesvos, another 50 migrants arrived on Kos."
And The Hope Project report from Lesvos: "Busy Day -Spring is starting; 34 people arrived this evening in Eftalou, everyone is safe and well. That's the 9th boat since last night!! over 350 people in 24 hours!"
European Parliament Study: Equality and the Fight against Racism and Xenophobia (pdf):
"Despite extensive international and EU action and cooperation to tackle discrimination, racism and xenophobia, insufficient progress has been achieved. Approximately two-thirds of the EU population is at risk of discrimination. One-third of all women in the EU have experienced physical or sexual acts of violence. The gender pay gap remains significant. People with disabilities are not provided with the tools to fully exercise their right to independent living. In other areas social progress is under threat of reversal. Certain actors fan the flames of racism and xenophobia, exploiting public anxiety in the wake of the refugee crisis and recent terrorist attacks. In addition, LGTBI people encounter new waves of discrimination and hate crimes."
UK nationals and EU citizenship: References to the European Court of Justice and the February 2018 decisions of the District Court, Amsterdam (EU Law Analysis. link) by Professor Steve Peers:
"The interim decision of the District Court, Amsterdam, of 7 February 2018 caused quite a stir among Brexit-watchers. The case concerned promised not only to be the first reference to the Court of Justice on Brexit but also to raise one of the most fundamental questions posed by the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU: whether, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, withdrawal would necessarily mean that UK nationals would lose their EU citizenship and the rights that status gave them."
Europe to extend qualifications ‘passports’ for refugees (euractiv, link):
"A Council of Europe project to help refugees to have their qualifications recognised abroad was extended to include more countries on Wednesday (28 March).
France, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and Armenia will participate in the second phase of the three-year project, joining Greece, Norway, Italy and the United Kingdom from the first phase, the project’s chief, Sjur Bergan, announced at a news conference.
“When you flee your country, do you think of taking your diploma with you?” Bergan asked."
A Reply to Pragmatists on Mediterranean Migration: Be More Realistic (Regugees Deeply, link):
"In response to a recent proposal on how Italy can combine effective migration control with human rights, policy expert Giulia Lagana argues that the plan lacks the very political realism that it accuses the human rights community of neglecting."
Court of auditors to assess EU funds for refugees in Turkey (euobserver, link);
"The EU Court of Auditors is conducting an audit of the EU facility for refugees in Turkey, it announced Tuesday. The €3bn fund was established in January 2016 to support humanitarian and non-humanitarian activities for refugees, mainly Syrians, in Turkey. The European Commission said earlier this month that a new fund was needed at the end of the current one. Auditors will assess whether the fund is providing "effective support".
Spanish NGO boat bosses face jail for rescuing Libya refugees (euobserver, link):
"Gerard Canals, operation officer at the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, is not afraid of jail. Earlier this month, the NGO helped save more than 200 people from drowning in the central Mediterranean.
"I may go to prison but I am not really worried because we did nothing wrong," he told EUobserver on Tuesday (27 March) in Brussels.
Canals, along with the captain of the NGO rescue ship, as well as the head of the mission, face 15 year prison sentences and millions of euros in fines for their actions, according to the NGO.
The chief prosecutor of Catania, Carmelo Zuccaro, has accused them of trafficking for having refused to hand people rescued over to the Libyans."
Greece: Migrants set fires to protest transfer to reception center from hotels (ekathimerini.com, link):
"Migrants rioted at a reception center in Oinofyta, north of Attica, on Monday night, setting fires to protest their transfer there from temporary accommodation in Attica hotels."
"On 26 February 2018 the European Union (EU) adopted its latest Council Conclusions on Climate Diplomacy following a Council Meeting of Foreign Ministers in Brussels. These Council Conclusions are much more action-oriented than those adopted previously. They illustrate not only that the EU is stepping up its efforts to become a leading global actor when it comes to fulfilling the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, but also that the EU is now placing far greater emphasis on the need to address and mitigate security risks posed by climate change. This essay discusses what is new in the recent Council Conclusions and puts these updates into context. It also discusses the key steps required for the EU to strengthen its work to mitigate climate-related security risks."
Brexit talks on Irish border to begin in Brussels (BBC News, link):
"In December, the EU and UK agreed that the border could be kept frictionless in three possible ways:
A comprehensive trade deal
A special arrangement for Northern Ireland which could involve technology or unique customs arrangements
A so-called backstop which could mean Northern Ireland or the UK as whole continuing to follow many EU rules
In February, the EU proposed the backstop which would mean Northern Ireland staying in the customs union or single market if there is no other way to maintain a soft border."
EU-Turkey Summit: Migration Agenda: EU, it’s time to act! (Euromed Rights, link):
"Ahead of this Monday’s EU-Turkey summit in Varna (Bulgaria), EuroMed Rights calls on the European leaders to reconsider the “EU-Turkey deal” on migration.
Commenting on the issue, EuroMed Rights’ President, Michel Tubiana, says:
“We are very worried on the manner the cooperation with Turkey is being hailed as a success over those last two years when it is widely known that the decline in the number of irregular EU arrivals from Turkey doesn’t mean that lives are saved but that people wishing to leave Turkey are prevented from doing so. European funding is contributing to deny people the right to access the EU through legal channels, if not supporting the running of detention sites.
We have warned against the detrimental effect of the externalisation of EU’s migration and asylum policies over the past two years. The adoption of the EU-Turkey declaration, a real ‘pact of shame’,...
Pakistanis among top failed asylum seekers in Germany (geo.tv, link):
"The largest numbers of failed applicants who could not be repatriated because they had no papers were from India (5,743), Pakistan (4,943), Afghanistan (3,915) and Russia (3,828), publishing group Funke Mediengruppe reported, citing an interior ministry internal report.
The nationalities of nearly 3,800 applicants were registered as “unclear”, including people such as Palestinians and Kurds who did not have a country to which they could be deported, the report said."
Greece: Dead migrants found in Alexandroupoli village (ekathimerini.com, link):
"The decomposed bodies of a man and a woman were found in a building in the abandoned village of Potamos in the region of Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, on Monday morning.
Initial reports said that authorities are working on the assumption that the two people were undocumented migrants, aged between 35 and 40, and were the victims of a criminal act as investigators found signs of a struggle."
"The number of migrants who cannot be deported rose in Germany in 2017. Authorities often struggle to obtain the relevant travel documents from their countries of origin, according to a report."
UK-BREXIT: A Bridge to Nowhere? The Brexit transition period: analysis and annotation (EU Law Analysis,link), by Professor Steve Peers:
"ast week saw significant developments in the Brexit talks. On Monday March 19th, the EU27 and the UK agreed on a large part of the proposed withdrawal agreement, most notably the details of a transition period (lasting from Brexit day in March 2019 to the end of 2020) which the UK was particularly concerned to agree. (There were earlier drafts of the entire agreement on February 28 and March 15). Subsequently, on Friday March 23rd, the EU27 decided that there was sufficient progress in the talks to move to adopt its guidelines for the future relationship with the UK, which will take the form (for now) of a declaration linked to the withdrawal agreement. Ultimately, that future relationship will be regulated by separate treaties ratified after Brexit day.
For now, though, I will focus on the core issue of the transition period,..."
"Occupancy in refugee centres in Bulgaria is 17 per cent, with about 850 people accommodated, the head of the State Agency for Refugees Petya Purvanova said on March 26, 2018.
Since the beginning of 2018, about 270 people have sought protection, Purvanova said in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.
Purvanova said that since 2013, about 62 000 foreigners seeking international protection had passed through the State Agency for Refugees' centres".
EU-TURKEY:: Appeasement will not work with Erdogan (euobserver, link):
"The European Union's top leaders are meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this Monday (26 March) in the Bulgarian city of Varna.
This is the second mini-summit with the Turkish president in less than a year - and when Turkey is reaching new lows in violating basic human rights and fundamental freedoms as an EU 'acceding candidate country'. (...)
most condemning of all was the United Nations report on human rights in Turkey.
The report, which was quickly dismissed and condemned by the Turkish authorities as full of "unfounded allegations of terrorist organisations", showed in detail how torture, ill-treatment, sexual assault and electric shocks have made a comeback in 'EU candidate' Turkey. "
And see full report: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Report on the impact of the state of emergency on human rights in Turkey, including an update on the South-East January – December 2017 (link)
UK: Exclusive: The Met spychief who infiltrated Freedom Press (Undercover Research, link):
"After an investigation tracking his articles through the paper and talking to old comrades, Freedom can today reveal at least some of the story of former spycop Roger Pearce as he used our paper to worm his way into Northern Ireland.
Earlier this week it was disclosed that Freedom Press would now be considered a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry, following official confirmation that Pearce had operated as “Roger Thorley,” a former writer for Freedom in the 1970s and ’80s."
Migrants take new Balkan route through Bosnia (euractiv, link)
Statewatch Briefing:Another step towards ending EU law-making through secret trilogue meetings (pdf):
Emilio de Capitani’s successful case in the ECJ follows a long line of similar cases - Carvel, Turco, Hautala, Access Info and others – and marks a very important win.
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:
“The parliament discusses and adopts its negotiating position in the open – but as the court noted – it needs to formalise proper procedures for reporting back on the progress of measures.
On the other hand the Council’s discussions on reaching its negotiating position are held in secret working parties – with most documents marked “LIMITE” (not publicly accessible). Many of the arguments for democratic accountability to citizens emphasised by the court also apply to the positions taken by Members States in these closed fora.
And finally, secret trilogues should be open to the public so that we can all see democracy in action.”
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20-25.3.18)
Are You Syrious (23.3.18, link):
"In Calais, police again destroyed refugees’ tents near the rue des Verrotieres, blocking access roads to prevent refugees from entering the woods. Several refugees were prevented from getting their personal belongings.
This comes as Refugee Info Bus reports on refugees across Calais boycotting government-funded food distributions until the police stops taking away their clothes and shelters: “The government gives us food with one hand, and takes our tents with the other.”, 17 year-old boy from Eritrea."
Subsidiary protection granted to Afghan over intensity of violence in Kabul
"The Cour nationale du droit d’asile (CNDA), which reviews asylum appeals, has said subsidiary protection can be granted to a resident of Kaboul, given the “high intensity violence resulting from an internal armed conflict” in the city. This comes after an appeal from an Afghan originally from Kaboul, who said he feared religious persecution due to the clandestine alcohol trade of his father. The court ruled that neither this activity, nor consequent threats could be established, but argued he would be at risk in case of a deportation to Kaboul, given the level of violence in the city. To establish this level of violence, the court took into account three Taliban attacks in the city in January 2018, as well as two reports: EASO’s “Country Of Origin Information Report : Afghanistan Security Situation” and UNAMA’s “Afghanistan""
Greece: Right-wing group claims responsibility for arson attack
"Ekathimerini reports an extreme right-wing group has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s arson attack on an Afghan community center in central Athens. UNHCR condemned the attack, saying the center had been “full of people, including children, not long before” the arson."
UK: Anti Apartheid Movement – story (Special Branch Files, link):
"When Nelson Mandela passed away in 2013, British politicians were queueing up to pay tribute. However, it should not be forgotten that the British police went to enormous lengths to infiltrate and disrupt the campaign in this country to help sweep away apartheid. Margaret Thatcher denounced the African National Congress as a typical terrorist organisation.
Previously confidential official files released under the Freedom of Information Act show how Special Branch penetrated the Anti-Apartheid Movement from top to bottom over 25 years – at least from 1969 to 1995. The files presented here come from two different sources. One set was unearthed in 2005 by BBC journalist Martin Rosenbaum, who kindly agreed to share them with the Special Branch Files Project. An additional batch covering 1969-1970 are Special Branch files from the National Archive, photographed by The Guardian journalist Rob Evans. The collection includes files on the policing of the Stop The Seventy Tour (STST) and the protection of the Springboks, the South African Rugby team, touring the UK."
EU: A victory for openness and transparency: The European Parliament must in principle grant access, on specific request, to documents relating to ongoing trilogues - The work of the trilogues constitutes a decisive stage in the legislative process (Press release, pdf):
"In today’s judgment, the General Court finds, first of all, that even after the making available to the public of the documents at issue, Mr De Capitani did not lose his interest in bringing proceedings, since the alleged unlawfulness is liable to recur in the future independently of the circumstances which gave rise to the action brought.
Next, as regards access to the fourth column of trilogue tables concerning an ongoing legislative procedure and emphasising that the principles of publicity and transparency are inherent to the EU legislative process, the General Court finds that no general presumption of non-disclosure can be upheld on the basis of the nature of a legislative procedure. (...)
“It is in fact rather a lack of information and debate which is capable of giving rise to doubts in the minds of citizens, not only as regards the lawfulness of an isolated act, but also as regards the legitimacy of the decision-making process as a whole."
See: Judgment - full-text (pdf)
And see: Publish secret law files, demands EU Court in transparency ruling (euractiv, link) and Statewatch Observatory: FOI in the EU
Dutch referendum: Spy tapping powers 'rejected' (BBC News, link):
"Voters in the Netherlands appear to have narrowly rejected new online data collection powers for intelligence agencies in a referendum.
With about 90% of votes counted, 48.8% have rejected the powers, with 47.3% in favour.
An exit poll by the national broadcaster had earlier suggested a victory for "yes". Supporters say the powers could help fight terrorism, while opponents say the law could be invasion of privacy.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte promised to take the vote seriously. Although the result is non-binding a no-vote would need to be taken into account by the government."
"The updated AIDA Country Report on Italy documents developments in the asylum procedure, reception conditions, detention of asylum seekers and content of international protection throughout 2017.
The year 2017 has been chatacterised by media, political and judicial crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) saving lives at sea, and by the implementation of cooperation agreements with African countries such as Libya, while barriers to access to the territory have also been witnessed at the northern borders of the country, against the backdrop of increasing arrivals from Austria."
"The head of Comic Relief has halted its use of celebrities for appeals described by an aid watchdog as “poverty tourism” that reinforce white saviour stereotypes.
The departure from having white celebrities front fundraising films from Africa for Sports Relief and Red Nose Day, follows another scathing attack on Comic Relief last week."
"After a tense altercation between the Libyan coastguard and the vessel of a Spanish NGO during a rescue operation involving 218 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea on Friday, the ship concerned has been impounded in a Sicilian port, with the crew under investigation by the Italian authorities for “conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration”.
The captain of the ship, which belongs to Barcelona-based NGO Proactiva Open Arms, described how the rescue operation began in international waters 73 miles from the Libyan coast, after a general call from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre."
EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints (euobserver, link):
"Children aged 14 or over may be forced with coercion into giving up their fingerprints, under EU reforms currently being discussed. But resistance against using such force appears to be mounting within the EU parliament.(...)
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, a centre-right Swedish MEP, told EUobserver she is trying to amend the legislative to remove coercion from the text because "violence should not be used against minors from any law enforcement authority in Europe."
See: Council position (LIMITE doc no: 6106-18 pdf) which includes: "Where a Member State's national law allows for the taking of fingerprints by force or coercion as a last resort" and the Regulation includes giving Member States the power:
"Member States shall […] introduce administrative sanctions including the possibility to use means of coercion, in accordance with their national law, for non-compliance with providing biometric data" and:
"Third-country nationals or stateless persons who are deemed to be vulnerable persons and minors should not be coerced into giving their fingerprints or facial image, except in duly justified circumstances that are permitted under national law."..[emphasis added throughout]
See earlier document (LIMITE doc no: 5801-18,pdf) and Eurodac: Austria dismisses fundamental concerns over coercive fingerprinting of six-year-olds (Statewatch News) and Joint statement: Coercion of children to obtain fingerprints and facial images is never acceptable (Statewatch News)
Fight Against Terrorism Cannot Justify Restricting Free Speech, Belgian Court Rules (LIberties.eu,link):
"The fight against terrorism cannot justify restricting the freedom of speech, according to a ruling by Belgium's Constitutional Court. The court agreed with Liberties member the Belgian League of Human Rights (LDH), which lodged an appeal in February 2017 against the amendment of Article 140a of the Belgian criminal code. In its ruling, the court found this amendment to be unconstitutional. "
UPDATED: UK: Undercover policing victims walk out of inquiry, demanding resignation of chair
"The core participants, the non-state, non-police core participants, do not want this important Inquiry, something that they so richly deserve to have conducted in an efficacious way, to be presided over by someone who is both naive and old-fashioned and does not understand the world that they or the police inhabit" - Philipa Kaufmann QC
UK: House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee: Brexit negotiations must increase focus on security and policing cooperation to avoid sleepwalking into a crisis (pdf)
"A report published... by the Home Affairs Committee warns of serious legal, constitutional and political obstacles in the way of achieving continued close policing and security cooperation after Brexit. It cautions that these issues need urgently to be resolved, or the UK’s future policing and security capabilities will be seriously undermined."
"The first three months of 2017 will be remembered as the high point of an extraordinary period during which NGOs like Youth Rescue took the lead in saving the lives of migrants in the central Mediterranean. Of the nearly 180,000 people rescued between north Africa and Europe during 2016, more than a quarter were saved by NGOs: 10,000 more than either the Italian navy or coastguard. At the peak, nine humanitarian groups were operating more than a dozen search and rescue vessels of varying sizes, plus two spotter planes."
"This story has been updated on Wednesday (21 March) to include a statement from Andrea Jelinek, the chair of the umbrella group of EU data protection authorities*
Privacy regulators across the EU should join together to investigate allegations that London-based firm Cambridge Analytica illegally analysed millions of Facebook users’ data, the EU’s top data protection watchdog has said.
National authorities from across the EU should form a joint taskforce to determine whether the social media giant and Cambridge Analytica broke the bloc’s strict data protection laws.
“None of us may succeed alone. A joint action is needed,” Giovanni Buttarelli, the EU data protection supervisor, told reporters on Tuesday"
EU-SIS: Secret alerts are increasing rapidly. Why? (link):
"“I view the growing number of Schengen Information System secret alerts with concern: compared with 2016, the issuing of such alerts has increased from around 96,000 (as of: 1 January 2017) to almost 130,000 (as of: 1 January 2018). The reason for secret alerts being issued for an additional 34,000 people must be made clear”, demanded Andrej Hunko, European policy spokesman for the Left Party parliamentary group in the German Bundestag."
"European prisons are on average close to full capacity, with inmates occupying over 9 out of ten available places, according to the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics (SPACE) for 2016, published today.
The survey shows that the incarceration rate grew from 115.7 to 117.1 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants from 2015 to 2016. This rate had previously fallen every year since 2012, when it reached 125.6 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.(...)
The countries where the incarceration rate grew the most were Bulgaria (+10.8%), Turkey (+9.5%), the Czech Republic (+7.6%), Serbia (+6.6%) and Denmark (+5.5%)."
See also: Full Press release (link)
Migrant rights increasingly flouted in Europe, report says (euractiv, link);
"The European Agency for Fundamental Rights points out in a report five persistent challenges for migration to the EU, from access to territory to asylum procedures and unaccompanied children."
EU-US: Law enforcement access to data: CLOUD Act: Civil society urges US Congress to consider global implications (EDRi, link):
"On 19 March 2018, European Digital Rights (EDRi) co-signed a letter with three other civil society organisations, asking the US Congress to ensure that the “Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act” (the US “CLOUD Act”) is not attached to the omnibus bill.
If the CLOUD Act is attached to the omnibus bill, it would mean it would be passed without discussion or modification of very problematic provisions that will impact individuals’ rights worldwide. The US legislator would give up its power to the executive branch of government. The CLOUD Act would authorise the US Government to unilaterally issue executive agreements with a “qualifying foreign government”, such as the European Union and/or its Member States, without “following each other’s privacy laws” and without review by Congress. This decision would have global implications that we urge the US Congress to consider.
First, executive decisions of this kind would facilitate law enforcement access to individuals’ data directly from companies. They, however, would seriously weaken and erode privacy and other rights of citizens around the world, including Europeans." [emphasis added]
GENEVA (20 March 2018) – Routine extensions of the state of emergency in Turkey have led to profound human rights violations against hundreds of thousands of people – from arbitrary deprivation of the right to work and to freedom of movement, to torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions and infringements of the rights to freedom of association and expression, according to a report* issued by the UN Human Rights Office on Tuesday.
UK-FRANCE: The secret transcripts of Britain’s most notorious ‘spycop’ that could affect a current French trial (The Canary, link):
"Eight environmental and anti-capitalist activists are on trial in France, thanks partly to the interventions of a discredited British ‘spycop’ (undercover police officer). But a secret ‘dossier’ that reveals his precise role in the ‘Tarnac Affair’ has never been published in full. Until now."
See: National Public Order Intelligence Unit: Review for use and conduct of undercover [officer] and participating status (pdf, with text recognition, 18 July 2008):
"This review ·is submitted in order to update the authorising Officer on the progress of the operation to date and to add Sandra Gobels and Julien Coupat to the subjects authorised for·specific infiltration by the UCO and Operation Pegasus."
And: Shadow of British undercover police officer hangs over French "anarchist cell" trial (Statewatch News, 14 March 2018)
UK: Undercover officers need protection from Greenpeace? You’re joking (The Guardian, link) by Neil Woods:
"I’m increasingly disturbed by the “spycops” public inquiry into the undercover policing of political protest groups, which is having yet another hearing on Wednesday to decide whether or not individual officers should be identified. The Metropolitan police is dictating the terms of this public inquiry and, even to a former undercover police officer like me, it has begun to look like a whitewash.
In 2015, in the spirit of transparency, police misconduct hearings were made public. This means that any constable accused of wrongdoing now features in local newspapers or the national press. So why isn’t the behaviour of the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit – at the centre of this inquiry – being examined with the same transparency?"
Following an incident in international waters 73 miles off the Libyan coast in which the Spanish NGO Proactive Open Arms rescued 218 people and refused to hand them over to the Libyan Coast Guard - which allegedly made death threats to the crew of the boat, the Open Arms - the rescue ship has been impounded in the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, as part of an investigation into potential "criminal cospiracy to promote illegal immigration".
Proactive Open Arms have issued a statement by Marc Reig, the captain of the boat, offering his version of events at sea. Statements denouncing the actions of the Italian authorities have also come from Amnesty International; Migreurop, EuroMed Rights and FIDH; and Human Rights Watch.
- Phillipa Whitford, SNP has pointed out: “simply having a camera on a pole ends up being a defended camera on a pole, which could end up being a patrolled defended camera on a pole”.
See also: latest text of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement (pdf)
European Court of Human Rights: ECHR rejects Irish request to find torture in 1978 judgment against UK (pdf):
"– The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a request by Ireland to revise a 1978 judgment and find that men detained by the United Kingdom during Northern Ireland’s civil strife suffered torture, not just inhuman and degrading treatment.
– Ireland made the revision request in the case (application no. 5310/71) on the grounds that new evidence had emerged, which showed, in particular, that the effects of the ill-treatment had been long-term and severe.
– The Court found that the Government of Ireland had not demonstrated the existence of facts that were unknown to the Court at the time or which would have had a decisive influence on the original judgment. There was therefore no justification to revise the judgment.
– The revision request was dismissed by six votes to one by a Chamber. The judge elected in respect of Ireland issued a dissenting opinion.
– The men involved in the case were detained in 1971. They had had to spread-eagle themselves against the wall in a strained position, were hooded, deprived of food and sleep and subjected to a continuous, loud hissing noise. The methods were known as the “five techniques” in the original judgment." [emphasis added]
And see; Full-text of Judgment (pdf)
European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS): EDPS advocates an extension of the scope of protection afforded to individuals’ interests in the digital society (Press release, pdf):
"Difficulty in discerning the true from the ‘fake’ has resulted in what the EDPS refers to as a ‘crisis of confidence’ in the digital ecosystem, something which embodies the mutual dependency of privacy and freedom of expression. With the persistent and relentless invasion into our personal lives and the harnassing of intimate data which is sometimes stored indefinitely, people’s willingness to freey and honestly express themselves has been eroded with grave consequences to democracy.
Giovanni Buttarelli, EDPS, said: “The solution is to be found beyond content management and transparency, though they may help where appropriate. What we also need is better enforcement of the rules on data processing, especially sensitive information like on health, political and religious views, and accountability. Antitrust and merger control – with the support of DPAs - has a central role in addressing structural issues of concentrated markets. But with the threat posed to social norms and democracy we now need to expand collaboration to include electoral regulators and audio visial media regulators. We also have to change the incentives in the market. That is why new ePrivacy rules are essential.”
Lesvos, Greece: Moria refugee camp is no place for people (euobserver, link):
"Lesbos is a beautiful Greek island, but the camp is hell. I invite all European politicians to visit us, to witness our hardship and our hunger; to see what it feels like when your fate is in the hands of others.
But you will also see that this situation can change: more humane migration policies can help us, they can give people here the protection and support they need and deserve.
My story is similar to those of millions of other refugees from Syria and other countries. Conflict and persecution has torn our families apart, we had to leave our belongings behind, and our beautiful cities are no longer recognisable. We fled to survive and when we reached safety we were stopped and told to wait in inhumane conditions.
That waiting has become living."
"(Milan) – Italy has impounded a rescue ship and threatened criminal charges against two members of its crew and the coordinator of the organization after they refused to turn migrants over to Libyan forces, fearing that they would be abused.
On March 18, 2018, an Italian prosecutor in Catania, Sicily, impounded the Spanish rescue group Proactiva’s ship Open Arms and is considering levelling charges of criminal association for the purposes of facilitating irregular migration after Proactiva refused to transfer people rescued in international waters to a Libyan patrol boat. Everyone intercepted by Libyan forces or handed over to them is taken to Libya and placed in detention"
"The founder of the German far-right group Pegida has been denied entry to the UK and deported, officials have confirmed.
Lutz Bachmann, who was once pictured styled as Hitler, is the fourth foreign figure in the extreme right wing to be turned away at the UK border in the space of a fortnight.
The Home Office said it had stopped the chair of the anti-Islam, anti-immigration group at Stansted airport on Saturday and deported him the next day, adding that his presence in the UK was “not conducive to the public good”.
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15-19.3.18) including: Lampedusa hotspot closed, refugee conviction in Hungary "a travesty of justice" and irregular migration to Spain: a state of exception
"The most effective and economically viable way to assessing the impact and enforcement of anti-discrimination law and policy in the fields covered by the RED [Racial Equality Directive] would be to collect and analyse straightforward racial and ethnic origin data in the national census, surveys and administrative registries. This can and is being done across the world. The size as well as the racial and ethnic diversity of the European continent may pose challenges, but the debate has not yet advanced this far. Instead, data on inequalities - inclusion and integration - is collected about migrants and is planned to be collected on the Roma. This report has demonstrated the shortcomings of such data collection at the national level, including the stigmatizing effect of the use of migrant categories, as well as their inability to capture the population whose situation they seek to measure."
In today’s Grand Chamber judgment1 in the case of Nait-Liman v. Switzerland (application no. 51357/07) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority (fifteen votes to two), that there had been: no violation of Article 6 § 1 (right of access to a court) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned the refusal by the Swiss courts to examine Mr Naït-Liman’s civil claim for compensation for the non-pecuniary damage arising from acts of torture allegedly inflicted on him in Tunisia.
SPAIN: SRSG on migration and refugees: fact-finding mission to Spain (Council of Europe, link):
"The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees (SRSG), Ambassador Tomáš Bocek, will be conducting a fact-finding mission to Spain from 18 to 24 March 2018.
The Special Representative will visit migrant temporary stay facilities and centres for children in the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla. He will also visit migrant detention facilities and reception centres for refugees in Murcia, Valencia and the Madrid area. The SRSG will have meetings with Spanish government officials, regional and local authorities, the Ombudsman and the Mayor of Madrid. In addition, he will meet relevant international organisations and NGOs.
While arrivals of migrants and refugees in Italy and Greece decreased in 2017 compared to the year before, the arrivals and asylum claims in Spain doubled in 2017. The challenges are important, especially in Ceuta and Melilla, where a number of children are living on the streets.
The purpose of the mission is to gather information on the situation of migrants and refugees and to elaborate proposals for concrete Council of Europe action on how to assist Spain to face the increasing migratory flows, while respecting its human rights commitments. The protection of the most vulnerable groups, in particular unaccompanied children, is one of the Special Representative’s priorities."
And see: Statewatch Analysis: Irregular migration to Spain: a state of exception (pdf) by Chris Jones
POLAND: "Iustitia" Association (Polish Judges Association): Response to the white paper on the reform of the Polish justice system, presented by the government of the Republic of Poland to the European Commission (pdf):
"This response to the White Paper compendium presented by the Government of the Republic of Poland to the European Commission was prepared by the Polish Judges Association “Iustitia”, together with a team of experts, in order to present a realistic picture of the reforms of the Polish justice system, which have been made in Poland over the last two years.
The response is designed in the following manner: the argument contained in the document prepared by the Government of the Republic of Poland (written in italics and presented within inverted commas) is first cited and this is followed by a response to this argument presented by the “Iustitia” Association. The “Iustitia” Association will present a comprehensive response to the White Paper in a separate document."
And see: The Chancellery of the Prime Minister: White Paper on the Reform of the Polish Judiciary (pdf)
EU: Europe's New Privacy Law Will Change the Web, and More (Wired, link):
"Consumers have long wondered just what Google and Facebook know about them, and who else can access their personal data. But internet giants have little incentive to give straight answers — even to simple questions like, “Why am I being shown this ad?”
On May 25, however, the power balance will shift towards consumers, thanks to a European privacy law that restricts how personal data is collected and handled. The rule, called General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, focuses on ensuring that users know, understand, and consent to the data collected about them. Under GDPR, pages of fine print won’t suffice. Neither will forcing users to click yes in order to sign up.
Instead, companies must be clear and concise about their collection and use of personal data like full name, home address, location data, IP address, or the identifier that tracks web and app use on smartphones. Companies have to spell out why the data is being collected and whether it will be used to create profiles of people’s actions and habits. Moreover, consumers will gain the right to access data companies store about them, the right to correct inaccurate information, and the right to limit the use of decisions made by algorithms, among others."
POLAND: The Holocaust Law Triggers Unanticipated Consequences (I-CONnect, link):
"At the end of January, the Polish parliament enacted a law amending the statute on the Institute of National Remembrance (Polish acronym: IPN) – an Orwellian named office the mission of which combines historical research with prosecutorial powers. The new law established an offence, punishable by up to 3 years in jail, of publicly and falsely attributing responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or the state for crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis during the Second World War. The same law also provides civil sanctions for statements damaging the reputation of Poland or the Polish nation. According to the law, the Institute of National Remembrance as well as selected NGOs would be empowered to bring civil law actions in order to protect the good name of the Republic of Poland or the Polish Nation.
The chilling effect of such penal and civil laws upon scholarly or journalistic debates regarding the darker sides of Polish history is obvious, and the laws clearly resonate with highly nationalistic governmental rhetoric, according to which Polish history is comprised entirely of heroic acts and undeserved victimhood, never of criminal actions. The proposed law is sometimes referred to as “lex Gross”, referring to Professor Jan T. Gross whose books and articles depicting Polish crimes against Jews on German-occupied territories during World War II have provoked heated public debates in Poland over recent decades."
UK terrorism arrests soar but most released without charge, figures show (Middle East Eye, link):
"The number of people arrested in the UK as part of police counter-terrorism investigations but subsequently released without charge has reached unprecedented levels, according to official figures published on Thursday.
The latest statistics, published by the Home Office, show that only 135 out of 412 people arrested in 2017 were subsequently charged, with 228 released without charge.
The latest figures show that only one person in every three people arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related offences last year was charged, a far cry from 2013 when the charge rate was 51 percent."
See: Home Office: Counter terrorism statistics (gov.uk, link) and: Terror watchdog to look into 'Anarchist Cookbook' case (MEE, link)
French anarchist sabotage trial turns to farce (RFI, link):
"Ten years after being rounded up in a well-publicised raid by anti-terror police, defendants in a trial for the alleged sabotage of a rail line did their best to ridicule the prosecution and show their lack of respect for the court this week. The case, which started out as an accusation of a terrorist plot, appears to have been sparked in part by reports from a British undercover cop who has since been exposed by environmental activists.
"Monsieur Coupat, is it really necessary to eat your snack during the proceedings?" presiding magistrate Corinne Goetzmann asked the star defendant on the first day of the "Tarnac trial" as he bit into a cereal bar."
ITALY-LIBYA: Libya issues arrest warrants for over 200 alleged traffickers (Punch, link):
"Libya has issued arrest warrants for more than 200 Libyans and foreigners suspected of involvement in a smuggling network for Europe-bound migrants, the attorney general’s office said on Thursday.
“We have 205 arrest warrants for people (involved in) organising immigration operations, human trafficking, (cases) of torture, murder and rape,” said Seddik al-Sour, the director of the attorney general’s investigations office.
Sour said investigations into smuggling networks were carried out in coordination with the Italian prosecutor’s office.
Rome and Tripoli agreed in December to form a joint unit to combat smugglers and human traffickers involved in the intelligence, coastguard and justice sectors of each country."
EU-TURKEY DEAL: Manipulating the "safe third country" concept as a way to deter refugee flows - a blow to the rule of law (Refugee Support Aegean, link):
"The implementation of the EU – Turkey Statement (the “deal”) had toxic and painful consequences not only on the lives and rights of refugees arriving on the Aegean islands, but on the rule of law itself. The launch of the “deal” on 20 March 2016, also marked the launching, for the first time at the national and European level, of an experiment on the application of the “safe third country” concept to all incoming refugees on the Greek Aegean islands, aiming at their readmission to Turkey."
Hungary sentences refugee to seven years for 'terror' (Al Jazeera, link):
"A Hungarian court has convicted a Syrian refugee of "complicity in an act of terror" and given him a sentence of seven years' imprisonment and a 10-year expulsion from Hungary.
The refugee, referred to as Ahmed H in court proceedings, was also convicted on Wednesday of "illegal entry as part of a mass riot".
The charges stem from an incident on the Hungary-Serbia border in 2015, when a group of asylum-seekers tried to enter EU territory at the Roszke crossing, near the Hungarian city of Szeged."
UK-EU: Families tell Parliament why bereaved relatives need legal aid at inquests (INQUEST, link):
"On Wednesday 7 March, families, lawyers and representatives from the charity, INQUEST, were questioned by MPs of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR). The inquiry session was part of an ongoing inquiry on attitudes to enforcement of human rights, of which the findings will be presented to government.
At the evidence session Deborah Coles, Executive Director of INQUEST, appeared alongside bereaved families who gave powerful testimonies about their experiences of the inquest process and the ‘inequality of arms’ they face in accessing legal support when state agencies are represented by teams of publicly funded legal experts."
"On Monday a group of fifteen people will appear in court in Chelmsford, charged with terrorism offences. Their crime? Blocking the take-off of a plane deporting people from Britain against their will. The maximum sentence? Life in prison."
"The UK government is currently in the process of bringing the 2016 EU directive on “trade secrets protection” into national law. The UK's draft regulations give businesses new rights to sue and extract financial damages from people who disclose companies’ internal information. But will journalists, whistle-blowers, and trade unions acting in the public interest also be caught up?"
AEGEAN: At least 16 dead as migrant boat sinks off Greek island (Reuters, link):
"Sixteen people, including at least five children, drowned on Saturday when the small boat they on capsized in the Aegean Sea, Greek coast guard officials said.
The incident occurred off Greece’s Agathonisi island, which is close to the Turkish coast. The nationality of the victims was not immediately known.
Saturday’s incident was thought to be the highest death toll of migrants trying to reach outlying Greek islands for months."
The prosecutor of Catania (Sicily) ordered on Sunday 18 March the impounding of the boat of Spanish NGO Proactive Open Arms as part of an investigation into the potential "promotion of illegal migration" by the organisation, which late last week refused to follow the orders of the Libyan Coast Guard during a rescue operation.
UK: Home Office rules mean non-British academics can be denied right to strike (The Conversation, link):
"A few weeks ago – back when we used to teach and research rather than stand at picket-lines challenging the marketisation of the university – we discovered that we share something in common. As international staff our right to strike and participate in peaceful, collective action is limited by the Home Office."
UK: Information from the Christopher Alder Campaign for Justice: 20th Anniversary Memorial on 31st March 2018 (Northern Police Monitoring Project, link):
"Christopher Alder died 20 years ago in the early hours of 1st April 1998. He was a fit and active 37-year-old black man who was born and grew up in Hull. He had served as a paratrooper in the 1980s and he was making a life for himself back in Hull when he died.
In 2000 the inquest jury in Hull gave a verdict that Christopher Alder was killed unlawfully. Still no-one has been convicted in connection with this case... the 20th anniversary of Christopher’s death will be commemorated by a protest gathering at 1pm on Saturday 31st March 2018 (Easter Saturday) at Queen Victoria Square, Hull."
SPAIN: Migrant street vendor's death sparks clashes in Madrid (France 24, link): "Migrants clashed with security forces in central Madrid on Thursday following the death of a Senegalese man whom they said was chased through the streets by police.
Riot police and firefighters were deployed to Lavapies, a district in the centre of the Spanish capital with a large immigrant population, as angry protesters set fire to dustbins and a motorbike, and threw stones at security forces.
Demonstrators told AFP they were protesting in support of Mmame Mbage, a street vendor in his mid-thirties from Senegal, who arrived in Spain by boat 12 years ago."
And: Thousands protest in Madrid over migrant death (YouTube, link): "Thousands of people held a peaceful protest in central Madrid on Friday (March 16) to demand better police treatment of street vendors, a day after the death of a Senegalese man sparked clashes with riot police."
Statewatch Analysis: Irregular migration to Spain: a state of exception (pdf) by Chris Jones
"In late 2017, a prison-to-be was converted into a detention centre by Spain’s interior ministry, and used to hold some 500 Algerian nationals travelling to the country by dinghy. One of them subsequently died, isolated in his cell. The majority of detainees have now been deported, and an official investigation into the death remains open, despite a preliminary verdict of suicide. The penitentiary centre, meanwhile, has now officially opened as a prison, but the episode highlights how the treatment of such situations as ‘emergencies’ – despite the fact that they have been ongoing for decades – leads to numerous and serious human rights violations."
Italy to temporarily close Lampedusa 'hotspot' refugee centre - Lampedusa refugee centre to be closed for 'renovation work' following protests over dire conditions and rights abuses (aljazeera.com, link):
"Rome, Italy - Italy's interior ministry decided this week to temporarily close a refugee detention centre, known as a "hotspot" in Lampedusa, a Mediterranean island between Sicily and Tunisia.
The decision follows protests and a fire that took place at the centre on March 8.
The European Union set up five hotspots each in Italy and Greece, conceived as transit centres where migrants and refugees arriving on European coasts should be formally identified, registered, and channelled on to other centres shortly afterwards - normally within 48 hours - to either wait for deportation or continue with their asylum application.(...)
"The problem is that in a place where it is inhumane to stay even for a day, people sometimes stay for months, and that includes vulnerable cases," Gennaro Santoro, a lawyer with the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD), told Al Jazeera.
Together with the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and IndieWatch, the organisation had requested the closure of the centre, which saw "dramatic living conditions and systematic human rights violations".
UK: BREXIT: IRELAND: House of Commons Select Committee on Northern Ireland report: The land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland (pdf):
"The Committee has heard numerous proposals for how the UK and the EU could ensure customs compliance without physical infrastructure at the border. This is currently the case for enforcement in relation to fuel, alcohol and tobacco. These proposals address the question of compliance through mobile patrols, risk analysis, data-sharing and enforcement measures away from the border. However, we have had no visibility of any technical solutions, anywhere in the world, beyond the aspirational, that would remove the need for physical infrastructure at the border." [para 82]
EU: Court of Auditors: Special report 07/2018: EU pre-accession assistance to Turkey: Only limited results so far (link):
"As a key foreign policy partner and candidate for EU membership, Turkey is the top beneficiary of EU aid outside the EU. We audited the effectiveness of 3.8 billion euro in pre-accession assistance in the areas of the rule of law, governance and human resources. We found that the assistance is generally well-designed and projects deliver outputs.
However, mainly due to a lack of political will and because the Commission has made little use of conditions, EU assistance has insufficiently addressed some fundamental needs and the sustainability of results is often at risk. We therefore consider the effectiveness of the funding to be only limited and make a number of recommendations for improvements, including better targeting of funds and increased conditionality."
See: CoA: Report (pdf)
European Parliament Study: The Use of Chip Implants for Workers (pdf):
"This paper briefly explains the technology of RFID chip implants; explores current applications; and considers legal, ethical, health, and security issues relating to their potential use in the workplace. Compulsory use would be likely to encounter legal and ethical challenges. Even voluntary use might be subject to challenges, for example, on data protection grounds. It seems that the risks of adverse health effects in humans might be considerably less than some have suggested, although they cannot be entirely discounted without better evidence. Contrarily, although there are indications of improvements in recent years, the benefits in terms of enhanced security might not be deliverable with the vulnerability of current RFID chip technology."
"Council of Europe member States should go beyond security measures and work with Muslim communities and other priority audiences to produce “tailored, flexible and positive” alternative narratives to terrorist propaganda and violent extremism, PACE’s Legal Affairs Committee has said."
See: Report (pdf)
"Good news! The Italian Interior Ministry announced yesterday the temporary closure of an abusive migrant processing center on Lampedusa, Italy’s tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea.
The government decision came after damning reports by the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights, the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration, and IndieWatch, which documented how some asylum seekers faced lengthy detention in the facility, known as a “hotspot,” intended only for use to house asylum seekers and other migrants for short periods while they are formally identified. It also found degrading conditions and lack of protection for women and children. One family that applied for asylum was detained in the center for seven weeks."
Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant (euobserver, link):
"Traumatised women arriving in Niger to then seek further refuge in Europe and elsewhere are demanding HIV testing after facing brutal abuse in Libyan detention centres.
"All the women that we evacuate from Libya, the first thing they ask arriving in Niamey airport is not a glass of water. It is HIV testing, that is what they are asking," said Vincent Cochetel, the UN refugee special envoy to the region."
European Commission: European Agenda on Migration: Continuous efforts needed to sustain progress
"Ahead of the March European Council, the Commission is reporting today on progress made under the European Agenda on Migration and sets out further key actions to be taken, including as set out in the Commission's roadmap from December 2017 towards a comprehensive deal on migration by June 2018."
See: Press release (pdf)
Greece, Lesvos: Eight police officers injured during in clashes at Lesvos refugee camp (ekathimerini.com, link):
"A riot by refugees and migrants at the Moria reception center on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Wednesday night led to injury of eight policemen (...)
In the last few days, three refugees and migrants threatened to commit suicide, and one of them was hospitalized after getting electrocuted while climbing up a pole."
Hotspot politics? Or, when the EU state gets real (theslow.org, link):
"What is a hotspot? Ask a random passer-by in your average city street and the by now ubiquitous wireless internet access point will most probably come up immediately in response: the hotspot is somewhere that connects you to the internet’s everywhere. Ask most European Union officials, however, and the very same word will make them sing the praises of the EU’s blueprint for a holistic approach to the migration crisis: a very special “somewhere” that may very well be on its way to become?as this editorial wishes to warn?a new kind of “everywhere”, one that commences with the decades-long European integration finally reaching a tangible form."
UK: Police watchdog launches probe after man dies after being restrained in Lewisham (The Telegraph, link):
"The police watchdog has begun an investigation into the death of a man who died after being restrained.
Scotland Yard said they were alerted by a call at around 2.20pm on Friday from a member of the public saying that a man was trying to get into the rear gardens of homes on Polsted Road in Lewisham, south-east London.
The Metropolitan Police have reported that the 35-year-old man appeared to be having a mental health crisis and footage from body-worn cameras show he was in an agitated state, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
The man was restrained at the scene, the IOPC said.
An ambulance was called and paramedics had arrived by the time he became unwell. He was taken to Lewisham Hospital by ambulance where he died."
The UK penal system is designed by men, for men (The Guardian, link):
"Ten years after the Corston report was published, calling for a radical change to the way women are treated throughout the criminal justice system, little has changed. The need for a distinctive approach to meeting the needs of women in trouble with the law is well established; it’s a system largely designed by men, for men. Despite the harmful impact of women’s imprisonment being well known, with worrying increases in incidences of self harm and suicide, it is still happening.
There are an estimated 4,000 women in prison today. That’s less than 5% of the total prison population but many more have been affected at some point in their lives. Seven in 10 women entering prison are sent there to serve sentences of six months or less. Last year, one in four was sentenced to 30 days or less, and almost 300 women were given sentences of two weeks or less. That may sound short but can be so disruptive that women lose their jobs, homes and contact with their children. One in five women in prison is released without somewhere to live.
And for what? The vast majority of women in prison have been sent there for non-violent offences. In the year to June 2017, more women were imprisoned to serve a sentence for theft than for violence, robbery, sexual offences, fraud, drugs and motoring offences combined.
On 13 March, our group [the all-party parliamentary group on women in the penal system] will launch a major inquiry into the sentencing of women in England and Wales. We are still pushing for the recommendations of the 2007 Corston report to be implemented in full. "
The role of exposed British undercover police officer Mark Kennedy has been raised in court proceedings in France, where eight members of an alleged "anarchist cell" are on trial charged with sabotaging high-speed railway lines in 2008 in what is known as the Tarnac affair.
Frontex has recently published its Risk Analysis for 2018 and its report on the functioning of Eurosur, the European Border Surveillance System, during 2017.
UK: DATA PROTECTION BILL: This new government bill is a cynical attack on your privacy rights (Labour List, link):
"Three fundamental principles of data protection – lawfulness, fairness and transparency – have been recognised in UK law for decades. In a matter of weeks they could be scrapped. If the government gets its way, our rights over our own deeply private information will be needlessly sacrificed on the altar of immigration control.
The new data protection bill was meant to give people more control of their information. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. In a cynical attack on privacy rights, the government sneaked in a damaging and discriminatory “immigration exemption”. And the ploy is about as Orwellian as it gets.
The exemption will allow the Home Office and any other agency using information for immigration purposes to ignore their data protection obligations and our fundamental rights.
When information is processed by or passed between government departments – or scandal-ridden contractors like G4S and Serco – we will no longer have the right to know what information is held on us, who it is being given to, or why.
How would you feel knowing everything you said to your doctor, social worker or child’s school could be secretly passed on to another government department without your knowledge or consent?"
UK: Amazon Partnership with British Police Alarms Privacy Advocates (The Intercept, link):
"Police in Lancashire, a county in northwest England, have rolled out a program to broadcast crime updates, photos of wanted and missing people, and safety notifications to Amazon Echo owners. Since February, the free app has been available to those using Alexa, a cloud-based voice assistant hooked up to the Echo smart speaker. The first of its kind in the U.K., the program was developed by the police force’s innovations manager in a partnership with Amazon developers.
The program marks the latest example of third parties aiding, automating, and in some cases, replacing, the functions of law enforcement agencies — and raises privacy questions about Amazon’s role as an intermediary. Lancashire County will store citizens’ crime reports on Amazon’s servers, rather than those operated by the police. “If we can reduce demand into our call centers via the use of voice recognition or voice-enabled technology, and actually give the community the information they need without them needing to ring into police, then that’s massive,” Rob Flanagan, Lancashire Constabulary innovations manager, told the College of Policing conference, according to TechSpot."
Married Durham academics given 14 days to leave UK (Palatinate, link):
"Two Durham University academics face being deported within the next fortnight, Palatinate can reveal.
Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marín and Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago, a married couple, failed in their appeals for a visa renewal because they had spent too long out of the country conducting humanitarian fieldwork.
The anthropologist and human geographer, whose 11-year-old daughter is also being forced to leave, are both Mexicans who have lived in the UK for years.
The pair spent 270 days between June 2014 and July 2015 in Mexico, working with victims of gang related violence and building a DNA database to help locate the missing."
European arms exports on the rise (EurActiv, link):
"According to a study published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the international weapons trade has increased by 10% over the last five years compared to the 2008-2012 period.
France and Germany are among the five biggest exporters in the world, placing third and fourth with 6.7% and 5.8%, respectively, of total arms exports, behind the US and Russia.
Spain is seventh with 2.9%, a 12% increase compared to the 2008-2012 period, after exploiting export markets mainly in Australia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Once again, the US is the world’s largest arms exporter and India the world’s largest importer. But SIPRI notes an increase in arms flow to Asia, Oceania and the Middle East and a decline in Africa, America and Europe."
Official EU figures on arms exports can be explored further: European Union Arms Exports (ENAAT, link)
Brussels, February 28, 2018: We, the undersigned civil society and UN organizations, are concerned by proposals now under consideration as part of the ongoing reform of the Common European Asylum System which would allow the use of coercion to take the fingerprints and facial images of children.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday 13 March that Spain violated the freedom of expression of two men who were convicted of "incitement to hatred and violence against the king and the monarchy" after burning photographs of the king during a demonstration in Girona in September 2007.
On the same day, Amnesty International published a new report highlighting numerous cases in which Spain's anti-terrorism laws have been used to target "social media users, journalists, lawyers and musicians", breaching the country's human rights obligations and leading to "increasing self-censorship and a broader chilling effect on freedom of expression in Spain."
EAW: POLAND-IRELAND: High Court judge wants ruling over 'immense' law changes in Poland (RTE, link):
"A High Court judge has asked the European courts for a ruling on the effect of recent legislative changes in Poland because they are "so immense" the High Court has been forced to conclude that "the common value of the rule of law" has been "systematically damaged" and "democracy in Poland" has been breached.
The referral was made in the extradition case of Artur Celmer, who is wanted to face trial in his native Poland on drug trafficking charges. He was arrested in Ireland on foot of a European Arrest Warrant last May.(...)
Referring the case for a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union today, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said a number of legislative changes in Poland in the last two years were "so immense" that the High Court was forced to conclude that the rule of law in Poland has been "systematically damaged"."
See: Full-text of ruling (pdf)
EU: Only three EU Member States have tranposed the PNR Directive into national law - the deadline for the rest is 25 May 2018
The EU-PNR Directive came into force in November 2016 and has to be implemented by 25 May, which seems highly unlikely. A Council report includes the latest Commission assessment of progress: Directive (EU) 2016/681 on the use of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime - Implementation of the PNR Directive - Exchange of views (LIMITE doc no: 6017-18, pdf).
The report shows that only three Member States have transposed the Directive into national law. Six other Member States are at "an advanced stage" of doing the same,
But thirteen states are at a "intermediate stage" and five are only just starting the transposition stage.
UK: Immigration detainees 'held for excessive period' (BBC News, link):
"Immigration detainees are being held for "excessively long" periods in "prison-like" conditions, the prisons watchdog says.
It said Home Office failings were sometimes to blame for the prolonged detentions at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre, near Heathrow.
In some cases, a removal to another country failed because a lack of travel documents or a late legal challenge. "
See Report released today (pdf)
UK: Regulator takes tougher line than expected on surveillance warrants (Computer Weekly, link):
"The investigatory powers commissioner will take a critical approach to scrutinising surveillance warrants requested by government departments and intelligence agencies to spy on the public’s email, telephone and internet activities.
An advisory notice issued last week by the investigatory powers commissioner, Sir Adrian Fulford, goes further than many commentators had expected in giving judicial commissioners the right to challenge the necessity and proportionality of surveillance warrants issued by ministers.
David Anderson QC, former independent reviewer of terrorism and author of an influential report on bulk surveillance powers, said the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office (IPCO) had “planted a flag on the government’s lawn” in guidelines for approving surveillance warrants issued last week.
“IPCO appears to be rolling up its sleeves and demonstrating that in all the ways that matter, it will be holding the authorities properly to account,” he told Computer Weekly. “If this makes them feel a little uncomfortable, then the new commissioner is doing his job.”
See: Advisory Notice (pdf)
Bulgarian Presidency skips EP’s Istanbul Convention debate (euractiv, link);
"The European Parliament debated on Monday (12 March) the problems facing a landmark convention on protecting women from violence, which several member states, including Bulgaria, have yet to ratify. But Bulgaria, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, was notable in its absence.(...)
in several member states, notably in Bulgaria and Slovakia, detractors to the convention claim that the Council of Europe document is a Trojan horse aimed at introducing a “third sex” and same-sex marriage."
"An exponential increase in the number of people falling foul of a draconian law banning the “glorification of terrorism” or “humiliating victims of terrorism” is part of a sustained attack on freedom of expression in Spain, a new report from Amnesty International has found.
Tweet…if you dare: How counter-terrorism laws restrict freedom of expression in Spain reveals that scores of ordinary social media users as well as musicians, journalists and even puppeteers have been prosecuted on grounds of national security. This has had a profoundly chilling effect, creating an environment in which people are increasingly afraid to express alternative views, or make controversial jokes.
"Sending rappers to jail for song lyrics and outlawing political satire demonstrates how narrow the boundaries of acceptable online speech have become in Spain""
Italy: Severe Human Rights Violations Found at Lampedusa Hotspot (LIberties.eu, link):
"A delegation from three human rights groups has found inhuman conditions and systematic violations of human rights inside the Lampedusa hotspot.
Dramatic living conditions and systematic violations of human rights: that’s the situation discovered just days ago inside of the Lampedusa Hotspot by a delegation of lawyers, researchers and cultural mediators from Liberties member the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD), the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and Indiewatch. "
German and French spy chiefs plead for post-Brexit security cooperation (The Local.fr, link):
" The heads of key British, French and German spy agencies warned on Friday that intelligence sharing and cooperation must continue even after Britain quits the European Union.
The rare joint statement came as top government officials and experts gathered at the Munich Security Conference in Germany for the annual review of threats facing Western democracies.
"Even after the UK's exit from the EU, close cooperation and cross-border information sharing must be taken forward on themes such as international terrorism, illegal migration, proliferation and cyberattacks," according to the text.
The meeting was held by Bruno Kahl, head of Germany's BND foreign intelligence service; Bernard Emie, chief of the French security agency DGSE; and Alex Younger, head of Britain's MI6."
How U.K. Spies Hacked a European Ally and Got Away With It (The Intercept, link):
"For a moment, it seemed the hackers had slipped up and exposed their identities. It was the summer of 2013, and European investigators were looking into an unprecedented breach of Belgium’s telecommunications infrastructure. They believed they were on the trail of the people responsible. But it would soon become clear that they were chasing ghosts – fake names that had been invented by British spies.
The hack had targeted Belgacom, Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, which serves millions of people across Europe.
"This briefing paper discusses the use of anti-social behaviour powers to ban activities often associated with rough sleeping, and concerns that an increase in the use of these powers is criminalising homelessness and is not addressing the root cause of the problem."
Two papers recently circulated to the Member States by the EU's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator set out the EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) agencies' current roles in implementing counter-terrorism policy and raise a number of suggestions for how things could develop in the future - pointing to a signigficantly increased role for EU agencies which the Coordinator says will require more money, more cooperaton between the agencies themselves and with non-EU states, a greater role for the Council's internal security committee (COSI) in decision-making on operational issues and more staff for the agencies.
EU: INTEROPERABILITY: Swiss support EU move to coordinate info systems (swissinfo.ch, link):
"Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has cautiously welcomed a proposal to link up countries’ information systems and better cooperation with the western Balkans as ways to fight terrorism.
Sommaruga made the comments at a meetingexternal link on Thursday of European Union interior ministers. Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but attends such meetings as a bilateral partner.
The EU wants to improve the searching and comparing of data available in EU information systems, known as “interoperability”. The aim is to use this search machine to help “customs and justice authorities with their work” when dealing with criminals and terrorists,” a Swiss justice ministry statementexternal link said. For example, this should make it harder for terrorists to use multiple identities."
FRANCE: Confronting the Tigers: How Young Parisians Use the Law to Expose Police Abuse (Open Society Foundations, link):
"The police unit is officially known as a neighborhood support group, a Brigade de Soutien des Quartiers. But on the streets of central Paris, its members used to call themselves the Tigers—and wore a uniform patch showing a pouncing tiger, jaws open, claws extended.
In late February, a packed courtroom in Paris heard what neighborhood support from the Tigers could mean: a young man picked up by the police and repeatedly battered in the local police station, or pushed up against a wall and assaulted; a young woman, just 14 years old, struck with a police baton and sprayed with tear gas.
Four police officers from the unit have been charged with aggravated assault against a minor over these incidents, in an unprecedented case that has brutally exposed the profound problems with France’s approach to policing minority communities."
EU-LIBYA: A ‘blind spot’ in the migration debate? International responsibility of the EU and its Member States for cooperating with the Libyan coastguard and militias (EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy, link):
"The discussion on the restrictive migration management policies of the European Union (EU) and its Member States (MS) has so far focused on the potential violation of the primary rules of international law that determine the conduct of subjects of international law. The question of applicability of the secondary rules of international responsibility that provide for the consequences of the commitment of a wrongful act has attracted less attention. The main question in the current context is whether the cooperation of the EU and its MS with the Libyan coastguard and militias with the view of stemming irregular migration flows to Europe generates international responsibility for the above actors. More specifically, it is asked whether there is an autonomous basis in the law of international responsibility for holding the EU and its the MS responsible for the violations of human rights occurring in Libya, even if they do not exercise directly jurisdiction over migrants. Three aspects of this theme will be developed here: first, the nature and scope of the cooperation of the EU and its MS, in particular Italy, with the Libyan authorities, coastguard and militias in view of restricting the access of migrants to the EU; second, the extent of human rights violations of migrants in Libya; and third, the alleged complicity and responsibility of the EU and MS for the violations of these rights."
See also: Torture in Libya and Questions of EU Member State Complicity (EJIL: Talk!) and: EU and Italian authorities accused of “system crimes” as court calls for the recognition of migrants as a “people” and as holders of rights (pdf)
UK-NORTHERN IRELAND: How many murders can a police informer get away with? (The Guardian, link):
"As the judge wound up, it was clear that most of these 500 crimes had been committed within a few miles of the semi-detached house on the Mount Vernon estate in north Belfast where [Gary] Haggarty, a 46-year-old former tyre fitter, lived with his wife and son.
Haggarty was a serial killer, sadist, kidnapper, drug dealer, racketeer: a one-man crime tsunami. He was also a member of a Protestant militia, the Ulster Volunteer Force, fighting against the IRA and other Irish republican forces to keep Northern Ireland under British rule. He got away with his crimes for so long because he was, in addition to these things, a servant of the British state. He was a police informer."
GEORGIA: Government Tightens Regulations to Curb Illegal Migration to EU (Civil.ge, link):
"The government plans to tighten procedures for changing last names as part of its efforts to reduce the growing number of Georgian asylum seekers in the Schengen countries, and to avoid triggering the so called visa suspension mechanism.
The respective amendments bill, endorsed by the Government yesterday, restricts the right to change one’s last name to one time only, and requires the applicant to submit the request personally and validate the need for such change.
Those persons, who were deported/readmitted to Georgia less than five years ago, or who changed their last names after March 28, 2017, will be unable to change their last names, according to the draft bill.
These restrictions, however, will not apply to name change requests during marriage, divorce, child adoption, and paternity determination."
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, met the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, on 8 March although the note released following the meeting made no explicit mention of changes to Georgian laws in order to support the implementation of the visa-free regime. See: Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili (European Council, link)
GREECE: New: Unemployment cards for refugees in Greece (Refugee Info, link):
"The Greek employment authority, OAED, will now issue unemployment cards to all fully registered asylum-seekers and recognized refugees in Greece.
Unemployment cards give access to free public transportation and social benefits.
Until now, OAED had blocked refugees from getting unemployment cards. Only those who had an official proof of address, such as an electricity, water or mobile phone bills or a lease for an apartment under their name, could get an unemployment card.
As a result, all refugees living in camps or shelters and all homeless people in Greece were ineligible."
NORTHERN IRELAND: Foster decision on inquests 'unlawful and flawed'
"A judge has ruled that Arlene Foster's decision to block funding for the lord chief justice's plan for legacy inquests was unlawful and flawed.
He said the former first minister was wrong to think she could postpone the decision until after political agreement on dealing with the past."
Pilot project blurs military and police lines on migration (euobserver, link):
"Migrants rescued at sea under an EU naval military operation will have their information expedited to the EU's police agency Europol.
The plan is part of a pilot project set for launch in the coming weeks, marking a further shift towards the blurring of lines between law enforcement and the military. (...)
The military is generally meant to fight the enemies of the state, while police protect the people of that state. The blurring of the two raises important legal and ethical questions.
To get around it, a small team of agents, plucked from the EU agencies like Frontex and Europol, will be dispatched onto the EU's naval flagship Operation Sophia."
And see: Documents: Operation Sophia anti-migrant smuggling mission to host "crime information cell" pilot project (Statewatch News, 29 November 2017)
Statewatch is publishing the latest four-column document from the secret trilogue negotiations between the Council, Parliament and Commission on the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which will introduce an electronic system for travel authorisation for nationals of countries who do not require a visa to visit the EU.
The document shows the text of the Commission proposal, the the European Parliament and the Council positions on the text, and compromises, where they have been reached.
The Greek Council of Refugees' latest report documents pushbacks of refugees at the Greek border in the Evros region, which the organisation says violate "basic international obligations of Greece, and more specifically the principle of non-refoulement, the right of access to asylum and constitute inhuman or degrading treatment as well as exposure to threat to life or torture according to Article 3 of the ECHR."
UK: From Mayor Azéma to Sanctuary Cities today: inspiring community leaders (Right to Remain, link):
"Lisa Fittko and her husband smuggled many refugees across the border and were only able to do so because of the assistance of the mayor of the border town Banyuls-sur-mer.
Vincent Azéma provided housing for Lisa Fittko, supplies, and most importantly shared the secret smuggler’s route that Fittko used to get people to freedom and information in order that they may use it safely. Azéma was eventually removed from office by the authorities and replaced by a supporter of Pétain, the head of collaborationist Vichy France. However, Azéma returned to office after the war was over.
Quite the hero – who, incidentally, is now immortalised in the name of retirement flats in Banyuls. But inspiring figures aren’t only needed during world wars. Leaders of community standing up to repressive and unjust policies are needed at all times, and we must celebrate this heritage of resistance."
EU: Tackling nationalist memory politics in modern Europe (European Commission, link):
"Much of the EU’s legitimacy is derived from the idea of peace and prosperity brought about by reconciliation following World War II. This is now being challenged by nationalist movements who are using the memory of war to promote confrontation-based notions of belonging.
The EU-funded UNREST project aims to counter these antagonistic forms of memory in a way that cosmopolitan forms – such as those upon which the EU is based – cannot, by developing a third way which it calls ‘agonistic memory’.
Viewing political conflict as an opportunity for emotional and ethical growth, agonistic memory aims to re-politicise memory and increase social cohesion around it. This happens by democratically channelling opposed views, political passions and social imagination through an adversarial dynamics of public contest and confrontation."
HUNGARY: Helsinki Committee Wins Lawsuit Against Cabinet Office Over Stop Soros National Consultation (Hungarian Helsinki Committee, link):
"Today the Metropolitan Court of Budapest in its first instance ruling found that in the ‘National Consultation’ questionnaire, the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister had violated the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s right to good reputation. The court found that the statements in Question 5 of the questionnaire related to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) are false and misrepresent the human rights organization. The Court called on the government to issue an apology as well as pay the HHC HUF 2 million for damages. The ruling is subject to appeal."
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are deeply concerned about the reported changes to the United States’ policy on the use of lethal force overseas, including through armed drones. According to news reports, in October 2017, President Donald Trump authorized changes to the existing policy related to the use of force in counter-terrorism operations in locations the U.S. government describes as outside “areas of active hostilities.” Several months have passed since those changes were reported, but the Trump administration has yet to release or explain its new lethal force policy.
The globalisation of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policies is the most significant development in counterterrorism policy in the last decade. What began as a rhetorical commitment from a handful of agencies has developed into a plethora of policies, deployed from Finland to the Philippines.
UK: Minister defends threats over Yarl's Wood hunger strike (The Guardian, link):
"The immigration minister has defended the “punitive action” of handing women on hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre official letters warning them they could face accelerated deportation if they continue with their protest.
Caroline Nokes confirmed that the threat of accelerated deportations was part of official Home Office policy after being challenged in the Commons by the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, who said the letters “sound like punitive deportations for women who have dared to go on hunger strike”.
The Home Office letter makes clear that a continuing refusal of food or fluids “may lead to your case being accelerated and your removal from the UK taking place sooner” and states bluntly that it will not lead to removal directions being deferred or to a detainee’s release."
UK: Surveillance watchdog investigates security risks of GCHQ IT contractors (Computer Weekly, link):
"The UK’s surveillance watchdog is investigating potential security risks for highly classified intelligence records amid GCHQ disclosures that about 100 external IT contractors have privileged, systems administrator access to its most sensitive data.
GCHQ has previously denied in court hearings that external contractors from companies that supply software and computer equipment have administrator rights to live computer systems holding some of the most sensitive data gathered through electronic interception of people’s internet and phone activity.
But Computer Weekly has learned that GCHQ has submitted new evidence to a hearing in the UK’s most secretive court revealing that about 100 IT industry contractors have “privileged user” access to the surveillance agency’s live computer systems following a policy change “a few years ago”."
"While much of the world was not paying attention, on Dec. 21 2017, the UN Security Council adopted a worrying resolution urging states to deal with foreign terrorist fighters by strengthening their efforts in three key areas; border security, information-sharing, and criminal justice in ways that could have serious consequences for civil liberties, human rights, and the rule of law worldwide.
UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2396 is a direct follow-up to the council’s 2014 resolution that mandated member states establish ways of prosecuting people attempting to become foreign terrorist fighters, UNSCR 2178 (more on this below). The latest resolution is the result of investigations by members states into the patterns in fighting, return, and location of persons who joined terrorist organizations in order to assess the threat that foreign fighters pose while in transit to and from their home countries.
Taken together these resolutions contain a number of new regulatory departures at the international and domestic level. Both resolutions engage the Security Council in directing national legislative practice in expanded ways."
And see: PNR for all: UN Security Council mandates worldwide air travel surveillance and profiling, biometric collection, terrorist watchlists (Statewatch News, 8 January 2018)
After a little less than two years of intense efforts, the eu-LISA Internal Security Systems Sector successfully launched the first phase of the SIS II AFIS platform. The platform enables the identification of a person from his/her fingerprints alone. The introduction of a biometric search capability in SIS II was achieved by eu-LISA in tight cooperation with ten Member States who showed both interest and willingness to use biometric queries once deployed at the Central System level. Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia will soon be followed by more Member States.
UK: Home Office contractors ‘cuffed detained migrants’ inside coach on fire (The Guardian, link):
"Immigration detainees whose coach caught fire as it took them to a deportation flight were handcuffed by escort staff before they were allowed to get off, in breach of Home Office rules, eight of the detainees have said.
In interviews with the Guardian, the detainees said that just minutes before the vehicle exploded and as fumes filled the cabin, one of the guards started handing out handcuffs to his colleagues.
After the cuffing process, which took several minutes, staff working for the Capita-owned security firm Tascor took the detainees off the bus, they said. They were instructed to stand about 40ft away on the M25 as the vehicle exploded."
ITALY: Italy coalition talks: Far-right leader Matteo Salvini refuses to accept any prime minster other than himself (The Independent, link):
"The leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League party has said he will not support any candidate for prime minister other than himself, as horse-trading to form a governing coalition begins after indecisive elections at the weekend.
Matteo Salvini replied “no”, when asked by reporters in Milan if he would make way for another candidate – opening the possibility that Italy could emerge from coalition negotiations with a far-right head of government. The Northern League became the strongest party in a broader right-wing alliance, which itself was the largest bloc in the weekend’s elections with 37 per cent of the vote."
Norway set to deport teenager to country she's never visited (ABC News, link):
"As an Afghan refugee born in Iran, her education during those years consisted of reading children's books with her mother, and occasionally attending an informal class with other refugee children in someone's home. At the age of 12, Taibah had never seen the inside of a proper classroom.
She's now a senior at Thora Storm High School in Trondheim. Six years after setting foot inside a real school, she's staring at a future on the outside, again.
The Norwegian Immigration Board of Appeals has revoked Taibah's refugee status and residency permit. In a letter seen by ABC News, the Norwegian government has issued her immediate deportation orders to Afghanistan -- a country she has never been to. Taibah now has less than a week to leave the country or they will forcibly deport her."
GREECE: Three Spanish firefighters accused of trafficking people in Lesbos (euronews, link):
"Manuel Blanco, Julio Latorre, and Enrique Rodriguez, three firefighters from Seville, Spain, who have helped out in multiple refugee rescue missions on the Greek island of Lesbos, could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Greek authorities accuse them of smuggling refugees into the European Union.
The authorities say the firefighters “attempted to smuggle people into Greece” because “the night (they refer to) they didn’t have anyone on board,” Manuel Blanco, one of the firefighters and vice-president of the Spanish NGOs Proemaid, told Euronews."
And see: Humanitarianism: the unacceptable face of solidarity (IRR, link)
HUNGARY: Syrian’s ‘terrorism’ trial in Hungarian election spotlight (Politico, link):
"Just weeks before Hungary’s parliamentary election, a court is expected to rule on a case that has come to symbolize Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s anti-migrant agenda for both his supporters and opponents.
The court in the southern city of Szeged is due to give its verdict in the retrial of a Syrian man convicted of terrorism and jailed for 10 years for his role in a confrontation between police and asylum seekers on the border with Serbia in 2015."
"Defence ministers met in 'PESCO format' for the first time. This means that, although ministers from all member states were present, only those representing member states participating in PESCO were involved in adopting legal acts. Today they adopted a decision formally establishing the list of projects to be developed under PESCO and a recommendation on an implementation roadmap."
"So yes, I did call the increasingly authoritarian – though democratically elected – Viktor Orbán a racist and xenophobe. I did not, in point of fact, compare him to 20th century dictators, because there are plenty of examples around us today of the horrors that awake when minorities are vilified or abused. And no, I will not resign "with no delay", as a letter from his Minister demanded. Because it is time to stand up to the bullies of Mr Orbán's ilk. Hatred is a combustible force; and it will not win – not in Europe; and not today.”
Statewatch Briefing: The interoperability of Justice and Home Affairs databases (pdf) by Tony Bunyan:
The Commission’s proposal for interoperable centralised EU databases is justified on the threat posed to internal security by migration and terrorism. This conflation of threats has strong racist undertones based on fear of the “other”.
Building on the above the message is that as the plans only affect 218 million non-EU citizens, so there is no reason for EU citizens to be concerned as it will not affect them. The assumption that EU citizens are not concerned with the rights and freedoms of non-EU citizens is insulting.
The present plans would mainly affect non-EU citizens but once the centralised EU database is set up it will be extended to include Prüm (vehicle registration, DNA and fingerprint data), ECRIS (criminal records) and the EU Passenger Name Record system (PNR, which will cover internal flights as well as those in and out of the EU) – affecting millions and millions of EU citizens. It is yet another step in EU state-building.
From the late 1970s onwards each new stage of the technological revolution has been justified on the grounds that there is nothing new, it is just making life easier for law enforcement and border control agencies to get access to the information they need to do their job more efficiently. Whereas the reality is that at each stage databases become ever more intrusive as security demands cumulatively diminish freedoms and rights.
The Return of the Border? Analysis of the Irish border provisions in the Brexit withdrawal agreement (EU Law Analysis, link): by Professor Steve Peers:
" It seems hard to reconcile the UK government’s competing simultaneous objectives of avoiding border checks on the Irish border, diverging from EU product standards, and eschewing checks on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. At present, it seems possible that the talks on the whole withdrawal agreement will founder on this issue – damaging the intention of avoiding a hard border as well as the many other valuable objectives of that agreement."
The new Asylum Procedures Regulation is now being discussed by the co-legislators - the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. To aid public discussions on the issues involved we publish here the key documents in historical order.
European Parliament Study: The Future of the Schengen Area: Latest Developments and Challenges in the Schengen Governance Framework since 2016 (pdf):
"It analyses the legitimacy of a number of States’ decisions to maintain internal border controls. Also, most recent policy proposals in the field of internal police checks are assessed in light of relevant EU legal standards. The paper also questions the legality of the border walls and fences, which have been recently erected at the EU external borders and within the Schengen area. "
And see Briefing: Revision of the Visa Code (Regulation 810/2009) and Visa Information System Regulation 767/2008) (pdf)
ITALY: Court confirmed the push backs violate children’s rights
"The Tribunal in Nice ruled that the push back of 19 unaccompanied minors to Italy from France was unlawful. There is a list of associations both from Italy and France that collaborated for a while in order to build the case and ultimately to reach this decision. Solidarity wins!"
GERMANY: Criminalizing Humanitarian Aid in Europe - Talk and Discussion on Solidarity with volunteers
"Salam Aldeen came to Lesbos to save lives as a volunteer lifeguard. Now he needs help himself. Because he saved refugees from drowning, he faces ten years of imprisonment. On May 7, his trial will take place on Lesbos. Salam will share with us how the criminalization of rescuing refugees from distress at the sea has affected his life.
The example of Salam Aldeen’s case will be discussed with himself and other guests. What impact do European politics, the media and the general social climate have on possible convictions? How can we defend basic humanitarian values? How can those affected be helped?
These and other important questions will be discussed at a talk&panel discussion in Berlin, on April 10."
SPAIN: Push backs and pressure from the Spanish officials
"Foreigners who are detected at the border of the territorial demarcation of Ceuta or Melilla while trying to overcome the elements of border contention to cross the border irregularly may be rejected in order to prevent their illegal entry into Spain, the newly changed Spanish policy says, making it difficult to charge those officials responsible for firing bullets at refugees in the water and similar things that, organizations warn, occur constantly in the Spanish south.
Esteban Velazquez, the former head of the migration delegation of the archbishopric of Tangier in Nador, Morocco, says that he saw “around 20 or 40 people aged between 15 and 23 bleeding, with their feet and shoulders broken, their brains cracked open. Some had lost their eyes because the Spanish police (Guardia Civil) used rubber bullets until the Tarajal tragedy happened,” InfoMigrants reports."
Crete court reverses ruling on Baris migrant smuggling ship, acquits defendants (ekathimerini.com,link):
"A court in Iraklio, Crete, has reversed a previous decision to convict to more than 500 years in prison five crewmen of the Baris, a freighter found packed with 586 men, women and children trying to enter Europe clandestinely in 2014.
The charges against all five defendants were dropped on Monday after the court ruled that it does not have the jurisdiction to try the case since the Baris was towed to Crete after suffering engine failure in international waters on November 25, 2018.
The court said they should be tried in Kiribati, the Central Pacific island republic, whose flag the Baris was flying."
German interior ministry breaks with protocol, reports on Muslim hate crimes (New Europe, link):
"n a first for Germany’s law enforcement officials, the country’s interior ministry has released data saying that at least 950 hate crimes against Muslims or mosques took place in 2017, Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper reported on March 3.
The crimes varied from physical assault to hate speech in the form of threatening letters and graffiti sprayed on mosques. According to the data, three individuals were hurt in altercations with far-right extremists, to which most of the crimes were attributed. There was one bombing of a Mosque in Dresden.
The data was released following a request by the Left Party in the German Federal Parliament or Bundestag."
"esbian mothers of two children, born through medically assisted reproduction, who wanted to be recognised legally as jointly-responsible parents, have lost their human rights battle against France.
The European Court of Human Rights agreed with French authorities and ruled that the refusal to grant a delegation of parental responsibility within a female couple “did not disclose any difference of treatment on grounds of sexual orientation.”
In its 1 March decision in the case of Bonnaud and Lecoq v. France (application no. 6190/11) the court has unanimously declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final."
" Thousands of asylum seekers are trapped on the Aegean islands in deplorable conditions and without access to adequate protection and basic services, nine human rights and humanitarian organizations said today as part of the #OpenTheIslands campaign. The Greek government should act immediately to end the “containment policy” that traps asylum seekers in these conditions on the islands and move them to safety on the mainland.
As the two-year anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal nears on March 18, 2018, more than 13,000 men, women, and children are trapped on the islands, according to Greek government figures.
“The containment policy has turned the Greek islands, once a symbol of hope and solidarity, into open prisons that put the lives of refugees on hold for months on end, causing them additional suffering,” said Gabriel Sakellaridis, director of Amnesty International in Greece. “The Greek authorities, with the support of the EU, need to immediately bring refugees to safety on the mainland.”"
EU anti-slavery mission in Libya at risk, UN says (euobserver, link):
"International efforts to release people from Libyan detention centres to Niger have hit a deadlock, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned.
A senior official from the UN agency told MEPs in the European Parliament on Monday (5 March) that if more refugees and asylum seekers were not dispatched onwards from Niger to EU states, then the country may stop taking in people from Libya.
"We were advised that until more people leave Niger, we will no longer be able to evacuate additional cases from Libya," siad Karmen Sakhr, who oversees the North Africa unit at the UNHCR."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.2.18 - 5.3.18): extensive update including new research, press releases, news and analysis from across Europe
UK: Home Office plans to deny immigrants access to data 'are illegal' (The Guardian, link):
"Plans to deny millions of people the right to access immigration data held on them by the Home Office are illegal and will be challenged in court, the government has been told.
Organisations representing up to 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and digital rights activists have written to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, giving notice that they will take legal action if a clause in the data protection bill is enacted.
The threat is aimed at proposals in the bill to introduce an exemption for immigration information. It is claimed that the clause would prevent those facing deportation from obtaining and challenging the accuracy of personal data held on them by the government."
Berlin / Brussels, 5 March, 2018 - Today, a series of investigations published by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) have detailed how citizenship- and residence-by-investment schemes, commonly referred to as 'Golden Visa' programmes are vulnerable to abuse and undermine the fight against corruption in the European Union (EU) and neighbouring countries. The stories show how European countries are selling access to the Schengen visa-free travel area, and even EU citizenship to foreign investors with little scrutiny, transparency or due diligence.
UK: Paul Moore guilty of Leicester hate crime car attack (BBC News, link):
"A man has been convicted of the attempted murder of a Somali woman after knocking her over in his car and then going back to run her over as she lay helpless on the ground.
Mother-of-nine Zaynab Hussein suffered life-changing injuries in the attack in Leicester last September.
Her life was saved after extensive specialist surgery but she remains confined to a bed.
Paul Moore, 21, from Leicester, was found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court.
Jurors also convicted him of the attempted grievous bodily harm of a 12-year-old Somali girl, for trying to drive into her minutes after the first attack."
The UN's Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said last week that "racial profiling of people of African descent is endemic" in Spain, upon the conclusion of a fact-finding visit to the country. A host of other criticisms and shortcomings are contained in a statement issued by the group.
A series of new articles in The Intercept based on documents acquired by Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor, shed more light on the workings of the global surveillance apparatus of the USA and its international allies.
The Rule of Law in Poland: A Sorry Spectacle (Verfassungsblog, link):
"With political appointments to its National Council of the Judiciary (Krajowa Rada Sadownictwa, KRS), Poland is now seeing the next step in the dismantling the rule of law. This constitutionally enshrined body is responsible for preserving the autonomy of Poland’s courts and the independence of its judiciary; its main power is to appoint new judges and make decisions regarding the promotion of currently serving ones. The KRS is composed in a manner intended to ensure cooperation between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, in line with the principle of checks and balances provided for in the Constitution.
To conclude, the new method of making appointments to the KRS displays two characteristics familiar to those who study authoritarian systems. First, it displays a preference for mediocre appointments, the choice of second-rate actors to play starring roles. Second, the appointments represent a further step in the hollowing out of institutions responsible for protecting the rule of law. When the core of those institutions, which is independence, is removed, they become useful props for the ruling powers to move about the stage in a purely theatrical show of legitimacy."
EU: If no one is above the law, let’s talk about corporate accountability (EurActiv, link):
"“No one should be above the law.” It’s a statement we make when we want to reiterate an obvious point. Except, in relation to corporations operating worldwide this point is far from obvious. Yes, we do have legislation and a degree of enforcement when businesses engage in acts of fraud or corruption.
However, when it comes to human rights violations, particularly those outside EU boundaries, many of our governments accept and reinforce a system where corporations are not held to account for their involvement. We can no longer accept this, and must now seize a unique opportunity to make corporate impunity history.
The issue of corporate accountability has never been more pressing than today. Corporations impact on every aspect of our lives: from working conditions to land rights, and from our environment to access to medicine. To make matters worse; those seeking accountability for business-related human rights abuses not only face practical and legal challenges but also risks for their own safety."
Strasbourg, 05.03.2018 – Children in migration at all the stages of their journey to Europe should receive child-friendly and understandable information, which nevertheless must reflect the realities and difficulties they may face in the new environment, says the Council of Europe in a new report published today. The most effective way of providing the information is through personal verbal communication with professionally trained people the child trusts; leaflets and print material in clear language should be used as a complementary means; accurate peer-to-peer information should also be promoted.
UK: MI5 agents can commit crime in UK, government reveals (Guardian, link):
"Secret order on authorised criminality by spies made public after legal battle by rights groups.
MI5 agents are allowed to carry out criminal activity in the UK, the government has acknowledged for the first time.
The prime minister was on Thursday forced to publish the text of a direction to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office, the spying watchdog, on governing “security service participation in criminality”.
It instructs the IPCO to oversee the participation of MI5 agents in criminal activity, which was previously conducted by the now-defunct office of the Intelligence Services Commissioner, under a secret order referred to as the “third direction”."
The Prime Minister today published the text of a direction to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to keep under review the application of the Security Service guidelines on the use of agents who participate in criminality and the authorisations issued in accordance with them. This means that the Commissioner will in effect continue the oversight conducted by the Intelligence Services Commissioner, which since 2014 was conducted on a statutory basis under the previously SECRET 'Third Direction'"
And the 'Third Direction': Investigatory Powers Commissioner Additional Directed Oversight Functions (Security Service agent participation in criminality) (pdf)
UK: Orgreave: MIners Strike 1985: Home Affairs Select Committee: Letter to Home Secretary (pdf):
"Orgreave: information held by police forces
As I noted in my letter to you of 15 February, a number of police forces have responded to the Home Affairs Select Committee with details of information they hold on events at Orgreave, including information that has yet to be placed in the public domain. Material from five forces, which is not yet publicly available, is set out in the table."
Namely Merseyside Police, Metropolitan Police, Norfolk Constabulary, Northumbria Police and West Yorkshire Police (which covers Orgreave).
See also: Orgreave: Truth and Justice Campaign (link)
UK: Home Affairs Select Committee on BREXIT: Oral evidence: Post-Brexit migration policy (pdf)
FRANCE-NIGER: At French Outpost in African Migrant Hub, Asylum for a Select Few (New York Times, link):
"NIAMEY, Niger — In a bare suite of prefab offices, inside a compound off a dirt road, French bureaucrats are pushing France’s borders thousands of miles into Africa, hoping to head off would-be migrants.
All day long, in a grassy courtyard, they interview asylum seekers, as the African reality they want to escape swirls outside — donkey carts and dust, joblessness and poverty, and, in special cases, political persecution.
If the French answer is yes to asylum, they are given plane tickets to France and spared the risky journey through the desert and on the deadly boats across the Mediterranean that have brought millions of desperate migrants to Europe in recent years, transforming its politics and societies."
A proposal on cross-border access to data for the purpose of criminal proceedings ("e-evidence") will be published soon by the European Commission, according to a report from Reuters, while Member States have invited by the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council to present "their ideas for the way ahead" on the issue.
The Industry, Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament (ITRE) has reached a position on the proposal for a Regulation on a European Defence Industrial Development Programme which is now awaiting approval by European Parliament plenary meeting in March. The programme is designed to "foster a competitive, innovative and efficient defence industry throughout the Union" and will run from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2020 with a budget of €500 million, if agreed as proposed.
UK: State of Hate 2018: Far right terrorism on the rise (Hope Note Hate, link to pdf):
Britain is facing a growing and changing far right threat
Far right terrorism and violent extremism is on the rise, a trend that is likely to continue
Oranisationally, the British far right is crumbling. Membership and active support for far right groups is at its lowest for twenty-five years
Online far right hate, on the other hand, is growing. Three of the five far right activists with the biggest online reach in the world are British
There is a new and younger generation of young far right activists emerging who are very tech savvy, look normal and do not have the traditional nazi baggage that has hampered the British far right in the past"
UK: Humberside Police officers cleared of unauthorised spying (BBC News, link):
"Two police officers have been cleared of the unauthorised surveillance of the sister of a man who died in police custody.
Janet Alder was followed by a team from Humberside Police during the inquest into her brother's death.
Former paratrooper Christopher Alder, 37, died in Hull in 1998. An inquest found he died unlawfully.
The two officers faced gross misconduct charges at a police tribunal."
And background: Police accused of spying on sister of man who died in custody (The Guardian, link)
UK: The Data Protection Bill's Immigration Exemption must go (Open Rights Group, link):
"The Data Protection Bill is supposed to be about giving people greater control over their data. Yet it contains an Immigration Exemption that does exactly the opposite, by denying people access to their data when they need it most.
The Exemption removes individuals’ right to data protection if it is likely to prejudice “effective immigration control”, meaning victims of administrative errors will have no way to stop a typo from turning their lives upside down. This is a huge problem because according to the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Home Office has a 10 percent error rate in immigration status checks.
Open Rights Group is teaming up with campaigners for EU citizens' rights the3million to get MPs to oppose the disastrous Exemption when the DPBill is debated in the Commons on Monday 5th March. Can you take a minute to write your MP to let them know you are concerned about your rights?"
HUNGARY: Gábor Székely: They should not pretend there are independent judges here (Budapest Beacon, link):
"Embittered and cynical when it comes to the workings of the justice system, Székely emphasizes that there are many excellent judges struggling to mete out justice in a workplace culture not all that different from other workplaces where employees are subjected to intimidation and blackmail.
The way the judiciary is organized “involves a large degree of mutual obligation, cronyism, the network of favors,” he says, adding that “naturally corruption also plays a role.”
“We lie to one another about the judiciary, rule of law, and democracy, none of which have existed for some time.”"
And see: Benjamin Novak: “We are no longer bastions of the rule of law”– An interview (Hungarian Spectrum, link): "“The expectation in Hungary today from on high is not that someone be a good judge. The goal is not that they act professionally. The goal is that they be reliable,” Gipsz says"
GENEVA (26 February 2018) – Placing migrants and asylum seekers in detention should be seen as a last resort to be used only in strictly limited circumstances, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated in its position document based on international law and its own jurisprudence.
The group’s intervention comes amid concern over the increasing use of detention of migrants, a worldwide practice which has grown steadily over recent years.
EU: Trilogue - state of play - ETIAS: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and amending Regulations (EU) No 515/2014, (EU) 2016/399, (EU) 2016/794 and (EU) 2016/1624 (pdf):
Four column document with Commission proposal, European Parliament amendments, Council position and "compromise" proposals.
"European police forces and secret services use SIS II for covert surveillance of persons and property. The authorities are informed about suspects’ itineraries and persons accompanying them. The EU interior ministries are now discussing the further expansion of this surveillance method. Hits could be reported to several or all member states.(...)
Secret alerts are being issued for increasing numbers of people in the European Union. This emerged from the Federal Ministry of the Interior’s response to a written inquiry. According to that, 129,412 persons were placed under secret surveillance using the Schengen Information System (SIS II) last year. In 2016, this figure was around 80,000. No information is available regarding the reasons for this sharp increase."
The European Commission has published a draft agreement governing the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, which will be "discussed over the coming weeks with the Council (Article 50) and the Brexit Steering Group of the European Parliament before transmission to the UK authorities for negotiation."
Title V (Articles 58-61) of the draft agreement concerns 'Ongoing police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters', and sets out how measures such as the European Arrest Warrant and freezing and confiscation orders will apply during and after the "transitional period". Similar provisions are included on information exchange and cross-border surveillance measures by law enforcement authorities.
Protests expected over Danish plan to deal with 'ghettos' (euobserver, link):
"Protests are expected when Danish prime minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen and seven of his ministers appear for a press conference on Thursday in Mjoelnerparken, a Copenhagen ghetto, to present a new plan to eliminate deprived ghetto areas by the year 2030. "
Xenophobia in Italy’s Election Campaign (HRW, link):
"Italian politics are never boring, and election campaigns are always times of particularly strident debate. But the tenor of the campaign leading up to Italy’s national elections on March 4 on immigration issues is profoundly alarming.
In the wake of a drive-by shooting targeting sub-Saharan Africans in Macerata, in central Italy, on February 3, many politicians seem more concerned with blaming irregular immigrants than with forcefully condemning an act of racist violence that left five men and one woman injured. The confessed shooter, Luca Traini, a former failed candidate for the anti-immigrant party Northern League, said he was distraught over the horrific death and dismemberment of an Italian woman and wanted to “shoot black men.” Three Nigerian men have been charged with the murder."
"In Eindhoven and Utrecht smart tech is tackling traffic, noise and crime. But with privacy laws proving futile and commercial companies in on the act, are the plans as benign as they seem? (...)
“Visitors do not realise they are entering a living laboratory,” says Maša Galic, a researcher on privacy in the public space for the Tilburg Institute of Law, Technology and Society. Since the data on Stratumseind is used to profile, nudge or actively target people, this “smart city” experiment is subject to privacy law. According to the Dutch Personal Data Protection Act, people should be notified in advance of data collection and the purpose should be specified – but in Stratumseind, as in many other “smart cities”, this is not the case."
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