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With some 80% of new EU laws passed in secret, citizens are in the dark about what is being done in their name and are unable to participate in the democratic procedure. A new campaign by German transparency site FragDenStaat aims to change the situation. The organisation has set up a platform to facilitate public requests for access to the documents discussed in "trilogues", and is calling on people to participate.
In November 2015 European and African heads of state met at a summit in Valletta, Malta, "to discuss a coordinated answer to the crisis of migration and refugee governance in Europe." Since then joint activities on migration and asylum have increased significantly, according to documents published here by Statewatch. The Council is now examining an update to the 'Joint Valletta Action Plan' (JVAP) and considering how to give it "a renewed sense of purpose".
On 6 February the eighth annual march to commemorate the deaths of at least 14 people trying to cross the border at Tarajal beach, in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, took place. Demonstrations were held in Ceuta and Melilla, cities across the Spanish mainland, as well as in Frankfurt and Dakar. A manifesto published on the day of the protests calls for "a Europe that is open to diversity, which invests resources into receiving and regulating instead of controlling, arresting and deporting."
A group of human rights organisations have initiated legal proceedings against the French state for its failure to halt police racism, in particular as manifested through the long-standing practice of ethnic profiling by police officers.
A new report by Legal Centre Lesvos accuses the Greek state of committing crimes against humanity at its borders, given the "widespread, systematic and violent" nature of the ongoing collective expulsions of people trying to reach EU territory. The report is based on testimonies from more than 50 people subjected to collective expulsions; it analyses their experiences and the practices of the Greek authorities in light of the statute of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Patrick Breyer MEP is seeking the release of documents produced by the EU-funded iBorderCtrl research project, which sought to produce an automated 'lie detector' to assess the trusworthiness of travellers at the EU's borders. His efforts have taken him to the Court of Justice of the EU, where today the arguments of the parties in the case - Breyer and the EU's Research Executive Agency - were heard.
Statewatch is publishing the preliminary report of the working group set up by the agency's Management Board following allegations of involvement in pushbacks from Turkey to Greece. Amongst other things, the report indicates that Frontex has proposed labelling Serious Incident Reports as EU Classified Information, which would reduce transparency and, in turn, accountability.
The establishment of a new "standing corps" of border guards directly employed by Frontex was revered by the agency as a “game changer” when it was introduced in the 2019 recast of the agency’s legislation. Since then, it has been scrambling to fulfil the new staffing obligations, and the Management Board is not happy with the agency's efforts.
The Council of the EU and the European Parliament will soon begin negotiations on "e-evidence" legislation, the aim of which is to simplify law enforcement authorities' ability to access data held by digital service providers in another national jurisdiction. A preparatory document produced by the Council, published here by Statewatch, shows the differences between the two institutions' positions.
A renewed 'Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation between Afghanistan and the EU' is heading for approval by the Council of the EU. The Declaration is an informal agreement that facilitates forced removals from EU member states to Afghanistan, a country still facing conflict, violence and instability.
The EU's proposed 'Screening Regulation', published as part of the Pact on Migration and Asylum, foresees "pre-entry screening that should be applicable to all third-country nationals who are present at the external border without fulfilling the entry conditions or after disembarkation, following a search and rescue operation." Many of the provisions correspond to those introduced in Greek law in recent years, say a group of NGOs. They argue that understanding these similarities is essential for "preventing the entrenchment of failed and violent border policies in the ‘new‘ EU Pact on Migration and Asylum."
In an article for Newsweek, former Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Salahi argues that the administration of new US president Joe Biden must do what the Obama administration promised, but failed to do: close Guantanamo Bay. Forty people are still held at the facility and continue to have their human rights violated, as detailed in a new report by Amnesty International. Salahi was held in the military prison for 14 years and was eventually released in 2016. He was never charged with any crime.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is examining living conditions in four of the five "hotspots" in Greece, in which migrants and refugees are 'housed' in appalling conditions. The ECHR recently asked the Greek government a number of questions in relation to the cases, and HIAS Greece and Equal Rights Beyond Borders - representing four of the individuals with cases before the court - say they "demonstrate the structural illegality and impossibility to implement the hotspot approach and border procedures in a way that does not violate human rights," with serious implications for the ongoing attempt to introduce new EU legislation on border procedures for assessing asylum applications.
The 'Five Eyes' countries - Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA - are perhaps best known for their role in global spying and surveillance for the purposes of "national security". However, this is not the only way in which they cooperate. A report for Radio New Zealand looks at how and why they share immigration data.
In a press release, the UNHCR calls on European states to "investigate and halt" pushbacks and violence against refugees, about which it has received a "continuous stream" of reports.
A report for the EU's European Website on Integration notes that Denmark appears to be rapidly approaching its goal of receiving no asylum-seekers whatsoever. In 2020 just over 1,500 people sought asylum in the country, the lowest number since the country's current statistical methods were introduced in 1998. The Immigration and Integration Minister cited coronavirus as one reason for this drop in numbers, but said "we can also thank our strict policy on foreigners for this."
Border Violence Monitoring Network has published its submission to a recent UN Special Rapporteur inquiry on race, borders and digital technologies. The submission highlights how "drones, thermal imaging cameras, and vehicle scanners have been weaponised against people-on-the-move, making them easier to detect and thus compounding their vulnerability and the dangers they face."
Frontex’s Management Board met on 20-21 January 2021 to discuss the preliminary report of its ‘Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal Operational Aspects of Operations in the Aegean Sea’. Its conclusions express concern over the agency’s compliance with the investigation.
In October 2013 more than 200 people died in a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa. Some of those who survived ended up coming ashore in Libya. They subsequently filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee, which has now ruled that Italy failed to uphold the right to life of those involved in the shipwreck.
Fabrice Leggeri, director of the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency, recently defended the continued pursuit of five-figure legal fees from two transparency activists, despite heavy criticism from MEPs.
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