EU: Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6-14-18

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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
1. News
2. Analysis and campaigns
3. Official documentation

1. News

Italy: Severe Human Rights Violations Found at Lampedusa Hotspot (, 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. "

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)

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: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."

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."

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."

HUNGARY: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reaffirms his view that Viktor Orban is "a racist and xenophobe"

"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.”

Are You Syrious (5.3.18, link):

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."

GEORGIA: Government Tightens Regulations to Curb Illegal Migration to EU (, 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)

Crete court reverses ruling on Baris migrant smuggling ship, acquits defendants (,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."

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."

2. Analysis and campaigns

Greece: 13,000 Still Trapped on Islands As EU-Turkey Anniversary Nears, Move Asylum Seekers to Mainland Safety (HRW, link):

" 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.”"

GREECE: Individual testimonies highlight "systematic pushbacks" of refugees in the Evros region

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: 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?"

EU: Joint statement: Coercion of children to obtain fingerprints and facial images is never acceptable

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.

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-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)

3. Official documentation

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)

EU: Asylum Procedures Regulation: Documentation

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.

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 8-9 March 2018

UPDATE 11.3.18:

- Final press release (pdf)
- B Points Agenda (discussed, pdf)
- A Points Agenda (adopted without discussion, pdf)

Also under discussion is: Migration - overview of implementation and way forward (LIMITE doc no: 6283-REV-1-18, pdf).

EU: Frontex documents: Risk Analysis for 2018 and report on functioning of Eurosur in 2017

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: 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)

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