EU: Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15-19.3.18)

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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
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Keep in touch: Statewatch Observatory: Refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: Daily news (updated through the day), commentaries and official documents
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

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."

See: Syrian man’s conviction for alleged ‘complicity in an act of terror’ is travesty of justice (Amnesty, link)

UK: Anti-deportation activists face trial under terrorism-related charges

"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."

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."

ITALY: Boat of Mediterranean rescue NGO impounded in Sicily in "promotion of illegal migration" investigation

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.

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."

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."

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 (, 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"."

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 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)

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."

Italy Shuts Down ‘Worrying’ Migrant Hotspot - Temporary Closure Follows Protests About Degrading Conditions (HRW, link):

"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."

Greece, Lesvos: Eight police officers injured during in clashes at Lesvos refugee camp (, 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 (, 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."

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