Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22-28.1.19)


Including: Forced evictions of centre for refugees and asylum-seekers in Italy - UK-France action plan on small boats crossing the Channel - Council of the EU discussion documents on Frontex, Returns Directive, and Qualification and Resettlement Regulations

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Forced Evictions Underway, Italy’s Closure of Refugee Centre Meets Widespread Criticism (ECRE, link):

"Evictions from Italy’s second- largest centre for refugees and asylum seekers began abruptly on Wednesday. The move comes as part of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s Immigration Decree which was approved in November – critics are saying the action will only amplify social problems.

Evictions began with 30 people removed from the Castelnuovo di Porto reception centre near Rome on Tuesday, followed by 75 on Wednesday, with some 500 people expected to have been forcibly removed by January 31. The centre was currently hosting about 540 people, but had supported at least 8000 over the last 8 years."

Germany pulls out of Mediterranean migrant mission Sophia (Deutsche Welle, link):

"Germany will not be sending any more ships to take part in the anti-people smuggling operation Sophia in the Mediterranean Sea, according to a senior military officer.

The decision means frigate Augsburg, currently stationed off the coast of Libya, will not be replaced early next month, Bundeswehr Inspector General Eberhard Zorn told members of the defense and foreign affairs committees in the German parliament.

The 10 German soldiers currently working at the operation's headquarters will, however, remain until at least the end of March."

GREECE: On the edge of a collective trauma: the forgotten hotspot of Moria (Pressenza, link):

"The hotspot of Moria, on the island of Lesbos. A year has passed since I was on Lesbos – a beautiful island, but a paradise that disguises a hell. With the support of Doctors without Borders, I was there to document the living conditions of the migrants who had arrived on this small strip of land opposite Turkey.

The hell on the island is the Moria refugee camp. A former military base, it has been converted into a reception and identification centre for the migrants who arrive here, on the northern shores of Lesbos, with dinghies and rafts from the Turkish coast. Around 6,000 people currently live in the camp, of which approximately 2,000 are minors."

UK-France: Action plan on small boats crossing the Channel published: more information-sharing, €3.6 million for new security equipment, joint return operations

The interior ministers of the UK and France have declared their determination "to stop this trend of illegal migrants seeking to cross the Channel in small boats", with a new action plan setting out a series of measures.

Turkey Planning Safe Zone in Syria to Help Return of Refugees: Erdogan (Bas News, link):

"ERBIL — Turkey is planning to create a safe zone in northern Syria so to allow millions of Syrian refugees’ return, Turkish President Recep President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

The creation of a safe zone in northern Syria was first put forward by US President Donald Trump, but the sides involved in the project remains a controversial topic between Turkey, US, the Syrian regime and the Syrian Kurdish forces who are in control of the region.

Erdogan said that over 4 million Syrian refugees are remaining in Turkey and Ankara hopes the creation of a safe zone would encourage them to return to their home country while protected against any possible threat."

EU: Frontex proposal: Presidency attempts to "accommodate Member States' concerns" over "standing corps" and executive powers

The Council of the EU is pressing ahead with negotiations on the new Frontex proposals, which were announced by the Commission last September. Recent Council documents show that the proposal to introduce a "standing corps" of 10,000 border guards at the disposal of Frontex (now formally known as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) has caused some consternation amongst Member States, as have proposals to provide Frontex staff and members of "teams" with executive powers.

EU: Returns Directive: latest Council Presidency compromise proposal

"Delegations will find attached a revised Presidency compromise proposal as regards the draft Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (recast), prepared taking into account delegations' comments provided at and after the IMEX meeting on 3 December and JHA counsellors' meeting on 12 December 2018."

GREECE: Protests on Samos: demands for rights, freedom and healthcare (Pressenza, link):

"In the context of the ongoing humanitarian crisis surrounding refugee populations Samos is the Aegean island that people often forget. It exists in the shadow of Lesvos, people are familiar with the name Moria and the images it evokes. Yet until very recently the Vathy Reception Centre on Samos has been under discussed and under reported. Yet over the past 6 months the refugee population on the island has grown and over the final months of 2018 and the first few weeks of January 2019 has fluctuated between 4000 and 5000 people. The Reception Centre has an official capacity below 700 and as a result the majority of people now live outside of the centres fences within an area referred to as ‘the jungle’."

And see: a marche des réfugiés africaine à samos (You Tube, link)

UK: Far-right groups could exploit Brexit tensions - police (BBC News, link):

"The "febrile" atmosphere around Brexit could be exploited by far-right extremists, the UK's most senior counter-terrorism officer has warned.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said 18 terror plots were foiled in Britain since 2017, four of them far-right.

He said a "far-right drift into extreme right-wing terrorism" was a concern but officers were working to ensure groups did not gain a "foothold".

Mr Basu added leaving the EU with no deal would be "very bad" for policing."

European Parliament Study: Fit for purpose? The Facilitation Directive and the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants: 2018 Update (pdf):

"It takes stock of and examines the latest developments that have taken place since 2016, specifically the legislative and policy changes, along with various forms and cases of criminalisation of humanitarian actors, migrants’ family members and basic service providers.

The study uses the notion of ‘policing humanitarianism’ to describe not only cases of formal prosecution and sentencing in criminal justice procedures, but also wider dynamics of suspicion, intimidation, harassment and disciplining in five selected Member States – Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and Italy.

Policing humanitarianism negatively affects EU citizens’ rights – such as the freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. When civil society is effectively (self-)silenced and its accountability role undermined, policies to combat migrant smuggling may be overused and give rise to serious breaches of the EU’s founding values, notably the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights. Moreover, policing humanitarianism negatively affects wider societal trust and diverts the limited resources of law enforcement from investigating more serious crimes."

Council of the European Union: Common European Asylum System: Qualifications & Resettlement Regulations - latest

• Qualifications: Proposal for a Regulation on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection and for the content of the protection granted and amending Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents (First reading) - State of play and guidance for further work (LIMITE doc no 5456-19, pdf):

"These limited changes received wide support at the meeting of JHA Counsellors on 16 July 2018 and were also presented to the European Parliament both at technical and political level. At the meetings on 17 July and 26 September 2018, the Parliament informed the Presidency that, in principle, in view of the provisional agreement reached in the June trilogue meeting, it
stands by the agreement reached therein and does not intend to continue the negotiations for the time being. (...)

Against this background, and with a view to possible upcoming discussions with the European Parliament, COREPER is invited to confirm whether it can support the changes set out in the Annex to this note, merely in order to continue discussions with the European Parliament."

• Resettlement: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council (First reading) - State of play and guidance for further work (LIMITE doc no 5164, pdf):

"In the context of ongoing negotiations with the European Parliament on some outstanding technical and drafting issues, the Presidency has the intention to address also the issues set out in the Annex.(...)

Against this background, and with a view to possible upcoming discussions with the European Parliament, COREPER is invited to confirm whether it can support the changes set out in this note."

France summons Italian envoy over Di Maio Africa comments (euractiv, link):

"France has summoned Italy’s ambassador to protest against comments by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who accused Paris of continuing to colonise Africa and causing people to migrate from the continent, a government source told AFP. (...)

“The EU should sanction France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” Di Maio said."

Germany looks into ultrasound age tests on unaccompanied minor refugees (DW, link)

"Calls for mandatory X-ray age tests on unaccompanied minor refugees were rejected last year by German doctors. As an alternative, the Health Ministry is now launching a €1-million study into ultrasound testing."

Another 170 migrants disappear in shipwrecks: UN call for an end to Mediterranean tragedy (modern diplomacy, link):

"The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, stated on Saturday that “no effort should be spared” in saving lives at sea, following reports of two new shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea, in which some 170 people either died or went missing.

“The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees."

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