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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (24-30.12.16)

Greece: Two arrested and charged with "facilitating illegal immigration" for refugee transport effort denouncing EU policies

Two activists exercised their "right to disobey unjust laws"
Petition calls on Greek authorities to release them without charge

Two political activists from the Basque Country have been detained in Greece and charged with "facilitating illegal immigration" after attempting to transport eight refugees out of the country, in an "initiative of solidarity in denunciation of unjust European migration policies and in defence of human rights."

Secretive High Level Working Group hides EU's push for the return of refugees and quasi-readmission agreements

The Council of the European Union's High Level Working Group (HLWG) on Asylum and Migration (HLWG) is a highly secretive group. The "Outcomes" (Minutes of its meeting) are not only "Partially accessible" (censored) they do not include documents references to the matters discussed.

So for example, the publicly available Outcomes of the HLWG meeting on 6 December: Summary of discussions (15407-16, pdf) which is only 4 pages long because the document is: "DOCUMENT PARTIALLY ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC (20.12.2016)." and the full version: Summary of discussions (LIMITE doc on: 15407-16, pdf) which is 27 pages. The missing 23 pages are in the deleted Annex to the Outcomes.

Mali sends back migrants deported by France (BBC News, link):

"Mali has sent back two people who were deported from France on the same planes they arrived on, questioning whether they were even Malian citizens.

The pair were flown to Bamako using European travel permits or "laissez-passer", not passports or other Malian papers, the government said. The government said it could not accept people "simply assumed to be Malian".

Recent reports of a deal with the EU to repatriate failed Malian asylum seekers have sparked protests.

In a statement, the Malian government condemned the use of the European "laissez-passez" in cases of expulsion, describing it as "against international conventions". It also warned airlines not to let people using the document fly to Mali."

See also: EU-Mali: EEAS statement on the signing of the common communiqué

Are You Syrious (29-30.12.16, link)


"Austria’s foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, has called for drastic consequences for countries which fail to take back their asylum-seeking citizens following the recent Berlin attack, as well as calling for tighter borders. The Austrian minister said severe measures are necessary in order to address the number of failed deportations of rejected asylum-seekers or those who have committed a criminal offense.

According to plans from Vienna, countries that refuse to take back their citizens are expected to receive noticeably less development aid from Europe.

The EU therefore has to act according to the “less-for-less principle,” Kurz said?—?meaning that those who do less will receive less financially."


"The 18 men, 6 women and 7 children, all Syrian, who arrived today at the island of Kastellorizo were arrested for illegal entrance."

ITALY: More than 181,000 migrants arrived in Italy by boat in 2016, the ministry said, an increase of almost 18 percent compared with 2015.

"In 2015, EU member states promised to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy to other countries over two years, but only 2,654 have so far been moved. Several states have refused to take any. After an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to curb the flow of migrants sailing for Greece, Italy became the focus of people smugglers based mostly in Libya, who pack men, women and children onto unsafe boats for the crossing, Reuters reports."

GERMANY-AFRICA: German politicians want to return refugee boats to Africa

"As security and refugee debates heat up in Germany ahead of federal elections in 2017, politicians in the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), are looking to propose a drastic shift in how Germany, and Europe, handle migrant arrivals, according to a new position paper set to be unveiled next week.

The CSU will hold a party convention next week and are set to call for tens of thousands of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea to be sent back to North Africa, according to an internal policy paper obtained by the "Rheinische Post" newspaper."

2016: The year the world stopped caring about refugees - Refugees, rights groups, aid organisations say empathy towards refugees is fading even as deaths in Mediterranean soar (, link):

"the refugee crisis is now often spoken of in terms of economics and security - especially during election season - as opposed to empathy.

Al Jazeera asked refugees, human rights organisations, experts working with refugees, and those who attempt to make dangerous passages a little safer, what the year 2016 meant for refugees around the world and what they should expect from 2017."

EU-LIBYA: Deadly incident on the Mediterranean sea: Rescue organisation accuses Libyan coast guard

The private rescue organisation Sea Watch e.V. is pressing charges against the Libyan coast guard because of an attack during a rescue operation on the Mediterranean Sea. According to the organisation 30 refugees died after their dinghy was damaged by a patrol boat on 21 October 2016. The rescue team rates this incident as an attack on maritime transport.

The coast guard's patrol boat with the registration mark '267' interfered with the rescue operation of the 'Sea-Watch 2', which was instructed by the sea rescue control centre in Rome. Pictures of the photographer Christan Ditsch, who was on board, show the coast guard pushing between a speed boat of the 'Sea-Watch 2' and the dinghy. The crew was prevented from providing the refugees with life jackets. A person in uniform then came on board of the dinghy and started hitting the passengers. According to the Sea Watch organisation he tried to take away the outboard engine.

Greece: Asylum applications skyrocketed 593% in November (,link)

Greek fishing village welcomes migrants, while others turn them away (PBS, link): Interviews, worth reading:

"Eighteen months into Europe’s refugee crisis, tensions have surfaced on the Greek island of Lesbos.

It wasn’t so long ago that the islanders there were being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize for their welcoming of refugees. But income from tourism, on which many islanders depend, has plummeted this year, and hostility towards refugees, and to the volunteers helping them, has only grown. From Lesbos, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports."

Greece vows to improve migrant reception centers (, link):

"“We are planning to have new, small venues on the islands, either by setting up small, two-story houses, in order to empty the tents, or by finding other places ... to improve conditions,” Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas told reporters. “It will take time but we will do it.”

He said authorities would also set up small detention centers and boost policing."

Rumour: Returns to Greece in 2017 (News That Moves, link):

"The Rumour: “We have heard that from March of 2017 the refugees that left Greece with smugglers will come back to Greece. The European community is taking this measure to discourage people [from coming to Greece] in 2017.”

In Fact: The European Commission has recommended that people who leave Greece illegally to go to another European country after March 2017 should be returned to Greece. "

The Manufacture of Hatred: Scapegoating Refugees in Central Europe (Refugees Deeply, link):

"Our in-depth investigation uncovers the anti-refugee propaganda machine that fostered xenophobia in Hungary, derailed the E.U. response to the refugee crisis and is spreading to the Czech Republic and beyond....

In contrast to the conventional wisdom of economic development as a cure for the root causes of migration, our research suggests that political instability, corruption, repression and under-representation are root causes of emigration and that support for governance is the solution. Critics of aid-based migration policy are overlooking an important mechanism by which aid can mitigate migration, as the deterrent effects of aid flow through political channels, not economic ones."

Hungary's long summer of migration – irresponsible governance fails people seeking international protection (link)

"In the summer of 2015, tens of thousands of people from violence- and poverty-torn countries crossed the border between Serbia and Hungary seeking international protection. In this report, we show that the so-called “refugee crisis” that ensued was the direct result of the inability and unwillingness of the Hungarian government under the nationalist-conservative Fidesz-party and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to provide effective support to those affected. To this end, we documented the experiences of people seeking international protection and then related those experiences to the increasingly restrictive political and legal context in Hungary."

See New Report (link to pdf)

Spaniards held in Greece for refugee smuggling attempt (, link):

"Two Spanish activists were detained Wednesday in Greece after trying to smuggle eight refugees, including a Pakistani transsexual woman, out of the country, the coastguard and a fellow activist said.

Mikel Zuloaga and Begona Huarte, of the Ongi etorri Errefuxiatuak (Refugees Welcome) platform, were stopped at Igoumenitsa harbor in northwestern Greece as they were about to board a ferry to Italy.

Faced with what they say is government inaction on migrants and refugees, they tried to bring the eight youngsters back to Spain, said Andoni Louzao, another member of the pressure group.

“They were driving a camper van with eight people from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran hidden inside,” a Greek coastguard source told AFP. “They are currently held at the Igoumenitsa coastguard office and will appear before a prosecutor on Friday.”"

Calais child asylum seekers launch legal action against UK government - Thirty-six teenagers accuse home secretary of reneging on promise to bring vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children to Britain (Guardian, link):

"Thirty-six child asylum seekers who previously lived in the Calais refugee camp have issued a legal challenge to the home secretary.

They claim Amber Rudd acted unlawfully in the way she handled their applications. It is the first time children from the camp have taken individual legal action against the government.

The children were dispersed across France after the site was dismantled on 31 October. Twenty-eight of those bringing the legal action have had their applications refused, while another eight are awaiting decisions from the Home Office."

Greece: Conditions in Greek refugee camps: Winter has come (long ago) (Enough is Enough, link):

"With the end of 2016 approaching, Greece is currently hosting more than 62,000 people, 33,650 of whom live in camps on the mainland. Most of the people are fleeing from war and persecution and a substantial number are particularly vulnerable: more than 1200 unaccompanied minors were identified during the pre-registration process and nearly 3500 refugees present various vulnerabilities.

Most of these people are currently trapped in Greece due to overly time-consuming procedures and there are many cases of people being misinformed about how long these will last, adding to their psychological frustration. It is difficult to access the Asylum Service to make an asylum claim through the current Skype system and then it takes too long to register and process requests, meaning many cases seeking relocation or family reunification must spend one to two years in Greece. The process for people opting for asylum in Greece is similarly lengthy."

The “unaccompanied” minor brides: Greece’s Migration Minister reveals new phenomenon in Migration Crisis tagged: detention centers, Greece, housing, integration, migrants, Mouzalas, new arrivals, plans, refugees (Keep Talking Greece, link)

"Greece’s Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas vowed to improve living conditions in the overcrowded migrants camps especially on the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Yannis Mouzalas revealed a new phenomenon in the Migration..."

Refugee crisis, the vain search for solidarity (euobserver, link):

"More people died crossing the Mediterranean to seek better lives in the EU in 2016 than ever before. Despite widespread search and rescue efforts, over 4,600 people perished after leaving from north Africa and Turkey....

Instead, EU policies on migration, asylum, border control and security have exposed deep political rifts among member states, as the concept of solidarity becomes ever more elusive.

Populist groups in Austria, Denmark, Germany, France and the Netherlands have used the crisis to weaken the EU and inflame tensions against immigrants.

They are following in the footsteps of established government figures in central Europe. In August, leaders from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland reiterated their opposition to refugees and asylum seekers with Muslim backgrounds."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.12.16)

Two new shipwrecks may bring annual Mediterranean death toll to over 5,000, says IOM


"IOM reports that 358,403 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 21 December, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy.

Deaths in the Mediterranean this year reached 4,913, according to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, with 13 new fatalities reported since its last report on December 20.

Six of those deaths occurred on the route between Turkey and Greece late Tuesday, with another seven corpses reportedly discovered during a high seas rescue on the Libya-Italy route early Thursday.

The 4,913 deaths in the Mediterranean through December 21 indicate a 2016 average daily death toll of nearly 14 men, women and children per day.

IOM believes many more deaths at sea may have gone unreported this year – in the Mediterranean and elsewhere – particularly between North Africa to Spain, where data collection this year has been sporadic and many smaller vessels are believed to have been lost without detection.

Moreover these data do not reflect new information received by IOM Rome earlier today. IOM has learned that on Thursday night at least two new shipwrecks occurred, resulting in fatalities that – if confirmed – would bring this year’s death toll to over 5,000 men, women and children." (emphasis added)

See: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 358,403; Official Deaths at Sea: 4,913 (IOM, link)

Refugees fall victim to people “ping pong” in the Balkans (IRIN, link):

"In an abandoned warehouse at the back of a bus station in Belgrade, several hundred migrants and refugees, most of them young men from Afghanistan, spend their days trying to keep warm and talking about how they will leave Serbia and continue their journeys towards Western Europe.

Officially, since March, there has been no way for migrants and asylum seekers to travel north from Greece other than by successfully applying for family reunification or relocation. But there are options for those who can afford it. Smugglers are charging 1,500 euros to move people from Greece (usually Thessaloniki) to Belgrade, and the same amount again to get them to Western Europe.

But many only get as far as the Balkans before running out of money or encountering draconian government policies. Push-backs, detentions, and deportations are common throughout the region, with some activists describing a “ping-pong situation” in which people are endlessly pushed back and forth."

EU-ITALY: The ongoing failure of the relocation scheme

"Since September 2015, 1,950 asylum-seekers (5% of the 39,600 target) were relocated from Italy to 18 European countries."

UK-FRANCE: Declaration granted in Help Refugees Legal Challenge (Doughty Street Chambers, link):

"Help Refugees has won a significant victory in its judicial review of the Government's approach to s.67 Immigration Act 2016 (the Dubs Amendment). The refugee NGO, represented by Laura Dubinsky, Alex Gask and Rowena Moffatt, instructed by Leigh Day, has been granted a declaration in the Administrative Court concerning the correct interpretation of s.67. The provision requires the Home Secretary, 'as soon as possible' to relocate and support a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other European countries. Help Refugees argued, successfully, that the Government was wrong to treat its new s.67 duties as principally met by compliance with its pre-existing obligations under European law (the Dublin III Regulation). The AIRE Centre acts as intervener, represented by Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Katie O' Byrne, instructed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Other parts of the claim continue and will be heard in the new year."

EU: Let refugees help the EU (EUobserver, link) by Mohammed Alsaud:

"We, Syrian refugees and diaspora, want to be part of the solution to the refugee crisis. This includes embracing our responsibility to work alongside our hosting European communities to protect and instil the values – democracy, freedom for all and rule of law – we have sought so desperately back in Syria.

Participation is a human right and a pillar to a pluralistic and democratic society.

We are eager and ready to do our part to address this crisis. We have solutions that reflect the concerns and political objectives of those who are affected most.

Syrians are best placed to determine policy about Syrians and Syrian refugees. This crisis is our day-to-day reality and our involvement at every stage of the decision-making process as partners and experts needs to be a priority.

With no immediate end in sight for the Syrian crisis, it is of utmost importance that the EU states carefully consider what they can do to protect, educate, and empower refugees, not only from Syria but from around the world, as experts and legitimate counterparts."

EU: Restricted document gives overview of police efforts against "facilitated illegal immigration"

A recent report submitted by Europol to the Council of the EU's internal security committee (COSI) offers an overview of "the implementation of the 2015 and 2016 OAPs [operational action plans] on "Illegal Immigration". This annex was discussed during the National EMPACT [European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats] Coordinators meeting held at Europol on 22-23 November 2016."

See: EU Policy Cycle: Monitoring of the Operational Action Plans 2016 - Priority "Illegal Immigration" (15212/16, RESTREINT UE/EU RESTRICTED, 6 December 2016, pdf)

EU-Mali: EEAS statement on the signing of the common communiqué

A statement issued by a spokesperson for the EU's European External Action Service seeks to clarify what exactly has been agreed between the EU and Mali in relation to cooperation on migration. Recent reports have suggested that the EU and Mali signed a readmission agreement, something that was subsequently denied by the Malian government.

AUSTRIA-ECJ: Questions on visa in the Dublin Regulation and Schengen Borders Code sent to ECJ

"On the 14 December 2016 the Austrian Administrative High Court referred the following questions to the Court of Justice in C-646/16 Jafari on the interpretation to be given to the term “visa” under the Dublin Regulation III and Schengen Borders Code:

1. Are Articles 2 lit m, Article 12 and Article 13 of Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013, hereinafter: Dublin III-Regulation, to be interpreted in conjunction with other legal acts related to the Dublin III-Regulation or are said provisions to be interpreted independently and autonomously?
If the provisions of the Dublin III-Regulation are to be interpreted independently and autonomously from other legal acts:

2. Is the de facto tolerated entry into a MS’ territory for the sole purpose of transiting a MS and applying for international protection in another MS to be regarded as “visa” as defined by Article 2 lit m and Article 12 Dublin III-Regulation in cases – like the present – which occurred at a time when the national authorities of the involved MS are confronted with an extraordinary high number of persons demanding transit through their territory?"

See: Austrian Administrative High Court refers preliminary questions to CJEU on the definition of visa under the Dublin Regulation and Schengen Borders Code (EDAL, link)

UK: Brighton father gives up job to help refugees (The Argus, link):

"A FATHER gave up his career to help refugees.

Paul Hutchings, 49, gave up his life as a marketing consultant, has taken an unexpected direction

Paul, of Hollingbury Park Avenue, Brighton, who has two daughters and two stepsons left his job this year to give the most precious gift: his time.

He said: “I was watching the news 18 months ago and I was getting really frustrated because enough wasn’t being done to help the refugees.

“In September last year I saw an opportunity to go to Calais, so I hired a van for a long weekend and it ended that, going and coming between Calais and Brighton for about six months.

"So I got involved in an organisation there. Then, in April, someone who I was working with in Calais was really keen to do something in Greece, and I was keen to do something there as well.” "

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22.12.16)

Locking down Africa (IRR News, link) by Frances Webber:


"In the second part of her examination of EU deals with third countries to stop migration, Frances Webber examines the closure of Africa’s borders against migration, demanded by the EU as the price for development, trade and aid."

See also Part 1: Europe can no longer pretend to respect human rights (link)

EU-GREECE: NGO letter to Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, President European Commission and Mr. Ioannis Mouzalas, Minister of Migration Policy, Greece: Letter to Commission: Joint Action Plan on EU-Turkey Statement and resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece (pdf). Signed by ECRE, Greek Council for Refugees, AITIMA and Solidarity Now. Includes Annex on: Observations and concerns on the Joint Action Plan on the implementation of certain aspects of the EU-Turkey Statement and the Recommendation on the resumption of returns to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation:

"In its fourth report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, published on 8 December 2016, the European Commission has suggested a series of measures aiming at increasing the number of returns from Greece under this highly controversial and contested arrangement.

The undersigning organisations are particularly alarmed by the suggestions made in the Joint Action Plan elaborated by the EU Coordinator together with the Greek authorities on the implementation of certain aspects of the EU-Turkey Statement.

We believe that many of the proposed measures will result in depriving asylum seekers and migrants arriving on the islands from essential procedural safeguards to protect them from refoulement, from enjoying the right to family life and the right to asylum under Article 18 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and eventually undermine the rule of law."

Thousands of refugees left in cold, as UN and EU accused of mismanagement - United Nations refugee agency and EU’s Echo aid department accused of failing to properly ‘winterise’ camps (Guardian, link):

"The UN refugee agency and the EU’s aid department have been accused by other aid groups of mismanaging a multimillion-pound fund earmarked for the most vulnerable refugees in Europe, leaving thousands sleeping in freezing conditions in Greece.....

The EU aid department, known as Echo, has given UNHCR more than €14m since April to help prepare roughly 50 refugee camps for the winter in Greece, where an estimated 50,000 mainly Syrian refugees have been stranded since the adoption of new European migration policies in March. A further €24m has been given to UNHCR for other projects.

Both organisations stand accused by other aid groups of squandering this money, after failing to properly “winterise” or evacuate dozens of camps before snow fell in Greece earlier in December."

Greece: Controversy surrounds ‘racist’ driver of European official on Chios (, link): "A controversy has emerged on the eastern Aegean island of Chios in the wake of claims that a man hired as a driver for a European Commission official for migration is linked to racist attacks."

and see: Chios: Far-right extremist works as driver to EU “Commissioner” for Refugees (Keep Talking Greece, link)

Are You Syrious (21.12.16, link)

Greece: Protection of women’s health and rights remains an issue

A new report on the situation of refugee women in Greece says “inadequate protection and promotion of women’s health, safety, and rights has been a concerning feature of the crisis” and mentions gender-based violence, access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as women’s participation and empowerment in local communities as the most pressing issues..."

101 refugees arrive in Greece

"101 refugees arrived in Greece in the past 24 hours until 7:30AM according to official numbers, including 81 on Lesvos."

Bulgaria: 1,647 refugees have left Bulgarian refugee camps in November and close to 600 people left in the two first weeks of December, according to BalkanEu

"In recent weeks, the situation has deteriorated for refugees in Bulgaria, with police storming the Harmanli camp after riots, severely beating men and teenage boys. Bordermonitoring Bulgaria says all closed and open centres are still overcrowded, while the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee also reports on serious human rights violations by police as well as on pushbacks to Turkey."

Italy: 7 bodies recovered in the Mediterranean

"France 24 says seven bodies were recovered from or around stricken migrants boats in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, while 300 people were saved during rescue efforts for three rubber dinghies and a small wooden boat."

Report: Lack of EU coordination puts lone migrant children at serious risk (euractiv, link):

"Children who flee to Europe from war-torn regions without their parents have no clear way of escaping abusive or exploitative adults as there are no unified policies in place to protect them, a European Union agency said yesterday (21 December).

Conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has forced some 1.4 million people to head to Europe, fuelling the region’s largest migrant crisis since World War Two. According to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, nearly one in 200 children in the world is a refugee."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.12.16)

Statewatch Viewpoint: Migration, EU Cooperation and Authoritarianism (pdf) by Theodore Baird

"The EU is actively cooperating with authoritarian regimes to control international movement while ignoring the disastrous human rights records of these regimes....


Nowhere in the new Partnership Framework is there recognition that the main countries of cooperation are ruled by authoritarian or hybrid governments actively undermining human rights. The main countries of cooperation – Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia – have either authoritarian or hybrid regimes according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2015 (with the exceptions of Senegal and Tunisia, which are flawed democracies)."

EU: European Commission: "SIS" Package:

Security Union: Commission proposes to reinforce the Schengen Information System to better fight terrorism and cross-border crime (Press release, pdf):

"Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: "With today's proposals, we extend the scope of the Schengen Information System to close information gaps and improve information exchange on terrorism, cross-border crime and irregular migration – contributing to a stronger control of our external borders and an effective and sustainable EU Security Union. In the future, no critical information should ever be lost on potential terrorist suspects or irregular migrants crossing our external borders."

Report on the evaluation of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) (COM 880, pdf)

• Proposed: Regulation on the use of the Schengen Information System for the return of illegally staying thirdcountry nationals (COM 881, pdf)

• Proposed: Regulation on the establishment, operation and use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in the field of border checks (COM 882, pdf)
• Proposed: Regulation on the establishment, operation and use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (pdf)

Technical and operational updates of the Schengen Information System – Questions & Answers (pdf)

Refugees in Greece face traumatic births (DW, link):

"Giving birth in a Greek hospital is a worrying prospect for many refugees. With doctors performing caesareans on women left in the dark as to what is being done, they have good reason to be uneasy, reports Omaira Gill."

Turkey’s coast guard: 5 migrants found dead, 9 rescued (Washington Post, link):

"Turkey’s coast guard says it has retrieved the bodies of five migrants, including a child, off the Turkish coast.

The Turkish Coast Guard says in a statement it responded to an accident report early Tuesday near the Ayvalik district in western Turkey and recovered a half-sunk boat carrying migrants. It says seven adults and one child were saved from the sea and one person was rescued from an island. A photo of the operation shows a man being pulled out of the water in the dark."

Mali denies agreement on failed EU asylum seekers (Modern Ghana, link):

"Mali's foreign minister on Monday denied an agreement had been reached with the European Union to take back migrants failing to get asylum.

The Dutch foreign ministry signed a joint declaration on the EU's behalf on December 11 which it said would tackle "the root causes of illegal migration" and "enable the return from Europe of Malian migrants".

But Abdoulaye Diop told a press conference: "At no point was there any question of signing an agreement that would allow the expulsion of countrymen (living) in Europe illegally."

Mali "does not intend to put a price on its dignity even if the EU is a development partner."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20.12.16) including "Zero immigration has never existed and never will" (MEP) and Kos baker wins award for helping refugees.

Landmark Judgment: Khlaifia and Others v. Italy: European Court of Human Rights (ECHR): Holding of irregular migrants on Lampedusa and on ships in Palermo harbour (Press release, pdf):


"In today’s Grand Chamber judgment1 in the case of Khlaifia and Others v. Italy (application no. 16483/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights;
a violation of Article 5 § 2 (right to be informed promptly of the reasons for deprivation of liberty) of the Convention;
a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention);
no violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) as regards the conditions in the Lampedusa reception centre);
no violation of Article 3 as regards the conditions on the ships in Palermo harbour; and
by sixteen votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention (prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens);
unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 3;
by sixteen votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 13 taken together with Article 4 of Protocol No. 4.

The case concerns the holding, in a reception centre on the island of Lampedusa then on ships in Palermo harbour (Sicily), of irregular migrants who arrived in Italy in 2011 following the “Arab Spring” events in their country, and their subsequent removal to Tunisia."

See: Full-text of judgment (pdf)

And see: Statewatch Analysis: ECtHR/Italy: Khlaifa judgment reveals illegal detention and collective expulsion practices in Italy’s treatment of Tunisians in 2011 (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico.

Are You Syrious (19.12.16, link)


"Frontex found 9 people on board a boat that reached the north coast of Lesvos this morning. Locals report that everyone is safe. 87 people were officially registered on Lesvos today. 26,000 people have been registered on the Greek islands since the EU-Turkey deal was signed."

Italy: Como demands a welcome

"Volunteers from the Italian organization Como senza frontiere and the local branch of Caritas have sent an open letter to the mayor demanding a change in the way new arrivals are treated. The letter explains that the number of people denied access to the Via Regina Teodolinda centre has been growing, even when free places are available. As a direct consequence, there are now more than 100 people sleeping rough on the streets and being held by police."

Greece: Breathing troubles due to ‘winterisation’ solutions

"The NGOs responsible for site management at Oraiokastro were “given a directive” by the Ministry that they should implement a plan for ‘winterisation.’ Refugees living in the camp are complaining about the poor solution that has been imposed. Many people are now unable to breathe properly due to the insulation material that has been installed on top of the tents in the cold, dark halls. NGO representatives claim that a lack of funds is preventing them from making good on their earlier promise to prepare the place for winter. NRC stated they can “carry out maintenance and repairs only.”"

Greece: Souda camp: An insight (News That Moves, link):

"News That Moves visited the Greek island of Chios recently to see the living conditions of the migrants and refugees hosted there.

The official data from Greek government show that almost 4,000 people are currently residing in official structures and other facilities on the island. One of them is the ‘open camp’ of Souda, with approximately 1,500 people living there.

Residents in Souda are hosted in prefab plastic shelters, housing mostly families or groups of single men. Prefab plastic shelters have a slightly raised floor but there is no insulation on hard plastic sheet walls. Others are hosted in large tents, even in winter."

Baker Arvanitakis receives EESC Prize for helping refugees & migrants on Kos (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Dionysis Arvanitakis, a 77-year-old baker from the island of Kos, is the second winner of the Civil Society Prize with which the EESC rewards the most outstanding examples of solidarity with migrants.

Dionysis Arvanitakis is a 77-year-old Greek baker who at the height of the refugee crisis was baking over 100 kg of bread for the desperate refugees who landed on the island of Kos, just off the coast of Turkey."

Migrants spooked by rumors of mass returns to Turkey (, link): "

"As the living conditions of migrants at camps on the eastern Aegean islands continue deteriorate due to overcrowding and cold weather, residents at hot spots on Chios and Kos were clamoring for answers on Monday after a rumor spread that there are plans afoot for mass returns to Turkey.

However, citing the European Union, the Citizens’ Protection Ministry said on Monday that migrants will not be leaving the islands even if conditions do become more difficult in order to discourage further migrants from making the perilous sea journey from Turkey....

According to the latest data from the European Statistical Agency (Eurostat), in the third quarter of 2016, a total of 358,310 refugees submitted asylum requests to EU countries. Of these, 25 percent (87,915) were from Syria, 17 percent (62,070) from Afghanistan, 10 percent (36,430) from Iraq and 27 percent from other countries. Greece has so far received 12,425 asylum requests."

Eric Kempson (north Lesvos, link)

"A busy morning again.
Boat intercepted by Frontex close to Eftarlou, 32 people taken on the Frontex boat to skala.
Despite the cold everyone was in good spirits, 3 medical cases. Fantastic team work again!! Well done to all the amazing teams!"

5 die as refugee boat sinks off Turkish coast - 8 people were rescued when the boat sank near Maden Island. (MEM, link):

"Speaking to the Anadolu Agency, Namik Kemal Nazli, the governor of the Ayvalik district of Balikesir province in western Turkey, said eight people were rescued when the boat sank near Maden Island. Thirteen people were thought to be on the vessel. “Four children and a woman died and eight others were rescued. There is a three-year-old child among the rescued,” he said. He added that the child was in a critical condition at Ayvalik State Hospital."

European Parliament: ACP-EU :"Zero immigration has never existed and never will" (Press release, pdf):

Louis Michel (ALDE, BE), EU Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) said at the opening of its 32nd session, in Nairobi (Kenya) on Monday:

"We must manage migration flows in a human way, in line with our values. Fortress Europe is not working", said Louis Michel. "The history of humanity is the history of migrations. Zero immigration has never existed and never will (…) because no coercive, repressive or security measure will ever be able to prevent a human being from trying his luck wherever he thinks he will be able to give his destiny the basic dignity to which any human being has a right.”

No quotas in 'compromise' Swiss immigration bill (BBC News, link):

"Swiss MPs have backed a bill giving jobseekers already in the country priority over applicants from EU member states in times of high unemployment.

It follows a referendum in 2014 in which voters narrowly backed introducing quotas on workers from EU countries.

The measure makes no mention of quotas but sets out guidelines for employers. The new law was a compromise which sought not to antagonise the EU, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it enjoys access to the free trade area. "

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.12.16) including EU-Mali migration deal text; CoE urges Belgium not to resume detention of migration children; Keep squatted Athens refugee "hotel" open; and more.

EU-Mali migration declaration: text of the "common communique" signed on 11 December; Standard Operating Procedures for return


The EU's approach towards making "deals" on migration with non-EU states continued with the signing of a "common communique" with the government of Mali on 11 December in Bamako. In the communique, the EU and Mali commit to drafting a 'Joint Roadmap' that will focus on the creation of employment for young people; the "reinforcement of coherent and robust civil registration systems"; the introduction of biometric passports; border "management" procedures and "better control of the territory"; countering trafficking and smuggling and returns from Europe to Mali.

See: Communiqué commun Mali – EU - À la suite du Dialogue de Haut Niveau sur la Migration- Bamako, le 11 Décembre 2016 (French only, pdf)

Belgium urged not to resume detention of migrant children and to expand alternatives to immigration detention for families with children (Council of Europe, link):

"In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum of Belgium, Mr Theo Francken, published today, Commissioner Muižnieks warns against resuming the practice of detaining migrant families with children.

Referring to the Secretary of State’s recent general policy statement, the Commissioner considers that the intention to open closed family units near Brussels airport would go against the best interests of the child.

“Immigration detention, even as a measure of last resort and for a short period of time, should never apply to children because it is a disproportionate measure which may have serious detrimental effects on them” says the Commissioner."

See: Letter from the Commissioner (pdf) and: Belgian government response (French, pdf)

EU: The deadly consequences of Europe’s border militarization (OpenDemocracy, link):

"2016 now holds the sad record of the highest recorded death toll for refugees on route to Europe.

4,900 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. This is 1,000 more than in 2015, despite the number of refugee arrivals in Europe going down by over 60%. At the same time, EU funding to tackle the refugee tragedy has increased. Its primary border agency’s budget increased to €238.7 million, an incredible 67.4% increase compared to the year before. So why is EU funding failing so dramatically to save human lives? "

EU-AFRICA: The European Union invests €170 million to tackle instability and irregular migration in the Horn of Africa (European Commission press release, pdf):

"The package of 11 actions for an amount of almost €170 million consists of:

- regional projects to build the capacities of countries of the Horn of Africa to manage migration, including to fight against human trafficking and smuggling of migrants and through the development of rights-based and sustainable return and reintegration policies (€30 million);
- a project in three cross-border areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan to address the drivers of instability and forced displacement, and support cross-border peaceful cooperation and sustainable economic growth (€63.5 million);
- support to refugees and host communities in northern Uganda, in response to the recent large-scale influx from South Sudan (€10 million);
- projects creating employment opportunities to address socio-economic grievances of young people in Kenya, Djibouti and Eritrea (totalling €25 million). For example, in Djibouti 3,000 people will be trained with relevant skills to access the job market; 75% are expected to have found employment within 6 months of the training;
- support to the people in Sudan, with three projects to address instability and forced displacement through resilience actions to improve access to, and quality of, primary education, benefitting 90,000 children and training 2,000 teachers country-wide (€22 million), strengthen livelihoods in Southern and Eastern regions (€9 million) and enhance nutrition of 400,000 women and children in North-Eastern Sudan (€8 million);
- a regional monitoring and learning system (€2 million) to complement the on-going Research and Evidence Facility which is expected to include (but not be limited to) information on the drivers of migration, dynamics of cross-border economies and centre/periphery relations, drivers of radicalism and violent extremism.

Italy saved record number of refugees in 2016 (EUobserver, link):

"It has been a record year for Italy's coastguard, with nearly 180,000 people rescued in the Mediterranean. Around 170,000 people were rescued from migrant boats in 2014, with another 153,000 picked up in 2015 and nearly 180,000 this year, including 4,000 just last week, despite worsening weather at sea, AFP reports. The government says rescue operations at sea cost €1.5bn this year, with an extra €2.3bn spent on reception."

GREECE: Keep City Plaza Open. Refugee Hotel Athens (Youcaring, link):


City Plaza is a refugee accommodation and solidarity space in the heart of Athens, Greece.


Following the closure of the borders when the EU trapped almost 65,000 refugees in Greece, the Greek government created more than 49 detention centers, hotspots and camps. City Plaza offers a safe and dignified alternative to these places where the conditions are wretched, unclean and inhumane.

On the 22nd of April 2016 refugees, volunteers and solidarity activists occupied City Plaza Hotel which had been closed for 7 years.

126 rooms on 7 floors. A reception, bar, dining room, kitchen, storage, play ground, health care center, roof terrace, classroom and library.

CIty Plaza is supported exclusively through political solidarity and individual donations."

All migrants have rights - Our call to respect the rights of migrants in an irregular situation (Red Cross EU Office, link):

"Ahead of International Migrants’ Day, the Red Cross EU Office urges the EU and its Member States to take decisive action to protect the dignity of migrants in an irregular situation.

Migrants in an irregular situation are among the most vulnerable people in Europe. Yet many of their needs are not addressed as they often live in the shadows of society, for fear of being apprehended. They frequently live clandestinely, and face significant difficulties in accessing basic services and vital assistance like healthcare, education, or legal support. "Although the numbers are difficult to measure, we know that this group is growing, as people fall off the grid because they are either denied asylum, or choose not to apply in transit countries. Our members are concerned by the increasing vulnerability of the migrants they encounter through their work,” underlines Denis Haveaux, Director of the Red Cross EU Office."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17-18.12.16)

Defend Europe’s Unsung Heroes (, link) Petition to: EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos:


"Petition Text

We believe that those offering humanitarian assistance to some of Europe’s most vulnerable people should be commended for their heroic actions, and not persecuted for human smuggling. It is time you put your kind words into concrete actions and propose one small word change in the Facilitation Directive to ensure Europe’s unsung heros are treated with the dignity they deserve and not criminalised for offering humanitarian assistance."

Are You Syrious (17.12.16)

Serbian government without a plan to help homeless refugees

"If a sustainable shelter plan is not found very soon, the situation could become catastrophic for almost 2,000 people who are sleeping rough in streets and different squats in Serbia. Most of them are in Belgrade and at the Northern border with Hungary.

This time of the year, temperatures in Serbia are below 0. All the existing centers and camps are overcrowded. And people are still coming. Today, only in Miksaliste center 293 persons come to ask for assistance...."

Austria: Police is checking trains from Italy

"The media are reporting about Austrian borders being even more closely watched by the police. This country closed its borders in March this year, but people on the move are still found their way in. Some of them are using trains that are traveling from Italy during the night. Police started controlling these trains.

The decision comes after man and women from Eritrea were crushed to death while hiding on a train bringing trucks from southern Italy."

Help Refugees: a lifeline for teenagers living in seedy Athens squats (Guardian, link):

"Small charity’s dedicated volunteers are helping vulnerable young people forced to seek shelter in squalid, dangerous places...

Official shelters in Athens are full and the city is overflowing with refugee children, many of whom have fled war zones without their parents and are now sleeping in squats, struggling to look after themselves and turning to desperate measures to survive. The government says there are 1,200 children on waiting lists for places in formal camps or shelters, but local charities believe there are many more whose names are on no lists, sleeping in one of the 14 vast squats that have opened up in recent months in deserted schools and empty office blocks in the city centre."

Greece: Migration minister eyes 'closed' facilities on islands (, link):

"Despite widespread opposition in the ranks of SYRIZA to such a prospect, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas has called for the creation of “closed” reception centers for migrants on Aegean islands, saying they will help minimize tensions amid local communities.

A key reason for building tensions at existing centers on the islands is the slow pace at which migrants’ asylum applications are being processed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a pointed reference to the slow pace of migrant returns from Greece to Turkey last week.... "

Lesvos, Greece: Eric Kempson (18.12.16)

"Two boats today one in the south east of Lesvos with 32 Syrian men they were dropped of by smuggler, The other boat was picked up on the north coast by the coast guard and taken into skala Sykaminia 55 people on board very cold and wet, 7 children,15women, 33 men, great job by all the teams."

Are Your Syrious (15.12.16)


"71 new refugees were officially registered in Greece today, including 24 on Lesvos, 43 on Chios and 4 on Samos."

Serbia: People sleeping rough as temperatures drop to -7° C

"Temperatures have reached -7°C in central Serbia, but many people, especially young single men, are still sleeping on the streets of Belgrade. Hot Food Idomeni is still distributing food to those who are not accommodated in the camps. MSF is also monitoring situation in the squats. Miksaliste provided services 316 people today: 31 men, 18 women and 267 children."

Croatia: Police keeps silent about push-backs to Serbia

"Ten days ago, AYS was asked to support refugees who arrived to Zagreb, only to learn they had been swiftly returned back to Serbia. This was not the first time we’ve learned about push-backs from Zagreb or other cities in inner Croatia, in addition to countless accounts of (not officially confirmed) push-backs from border areas. However, one of the refugees who was recently pushed back to Serbia offered a detailed testimony of what happened, including a piece of paper with the address of police station where he tried to ask for asylum. Before he was brought back to the border and told to walk the rails until he reached Šid train station, Croatian police allegedly told him to sign a document, which he did, not knowing what he was signing. Both CMS and AYS have asked for official explanation of the incident, as there was no official report on police website, where every big or minor incident is usually listed. We’re still waiting for the response."

Mediterranean: Frontex denies tying NGOs to smugglers after a leaked report causes uproar in the press

"The EU’s border agency has accused charities operating in the Mediterranean of colluding with people smugglers, according to confidential reports described by the Financial Times. According to the article, Frontex put its concerns in a confidential report last month, raising the idea that refugees had been given “clear indications before departure on the precise direction to be followed in order to reach the NGOs’ boats.” The agency made the accusation explicitly in another report last week, which stated: “First reported case where the criminal networks were smuggling migrants directly on an NGO vessel.” Elsewhere in the reports, which are shared among EU officials and diplomats, Frontex says people rescued by NGO vessels were often “not willing to co-operate with debriefing experts at all” with some claiming “that they were warned [by NGOs] not to co-operate with Italian law enforcement or Frontex.” Following a well deserved uproar, Frontex retracted these claims."

Poland: Racism on the rise (DW, link):

"Muslims and Africans are the most frequent targets of racially motivated attacks. Anti-German sentiment is also playing a role...

Three students from Turkey and Bulgaria were cursed at by young men on a tram earlier this month in Bydgoszcz, a city of nearly a half-million people in northern Poland. They were told to get out of country because Poland is for Poles.

Instances like these are on the rise. Foreign exchange students in Torun, a student city also in Poland's north, have come under increasing threat. A young Turk was recently cursed at and badly beaten. Two other students were forced to their knees in a bar at the behest of the owner. They had to "apologize" for being Muslim and not Christian. Patrons encircled the students -- not to help but to laugh at their humiliating position."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16.12.16): SPAIN: Amnesty slams treatment of migrants in Spain enclaves; Statewatch Briefing: Eurodac: Member States want wider police access to biometric database despite most having never made use of it; Statewatch Analysis: The EU’s military mission against Mediterranean migration: what “deterrent effect”?; EU agencies and officials accuse NGOs of assisting people smugglers off Libyan coast

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15.12.16): Council of Europe's anti-torture committee criticises inadequate safeguards for foreign nationals returned by air from Italy and Spain; Joint NGO statement ahead of the European Council of 15 December 2016: EU leaders can save lives in winter if they change migration policies; EUTF for Africa and IOM initiative for Protection and Reintegration of returnees along the Central Mediterranean migration routes; First wave of Afghans expelled from EU states under contentious migration deal; UK to help fast-track European deportations of asylum seekers; Children and families should never be in immigration detention – UN experts; Children's rights at risk in EU hotspots; NGOs’ responsibility questioned as Italy refugee arrivals surge; Frontex On FYROM-Greece Border

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14.12.16):
Greece: An End of Year Letter from Samos; European Commission: report on "Partnership Frameworks on migration"; Refugees' lives in the balance; What the Greek Authorities Should do to Prevent Hate Crimes Directed at Migrants; Greece: Migrants Help Rescue 3 People in Drowning Car on Lesvos, 2 Minors Drown; EU to reinforce Frontex presence in Greece, says German report; Are You Syrious update; Greece: Forty-eight migrants arrive on Lesvos as weather deteriorates; Finland wants EU deals with Iraq and others on migrants

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13.12.16): GREECE: Serious problems in Greek asylum system persist, says NGO report; No more EU deals to keep migrants out; EU: European Council, 15 December 2016: latest text of the draft conclusions; EU: Police crackdowns on people smuggling networks continue

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12.12.16): EU-Mali readmission agreement marks first such deal with an African state; Commission: over €1 billion of EU-Turkey deal money contracted for 34 projects; EU met only 5% of target for relocating refugees from Greece and Italy; EU: New Asylum Agency must ensure EU countries respect common asylum rules, say MEPs; Over 900,000 Passed Through Serbia Since Refugee Crisis Began - Foreign Minister; Pale Shelter: Refugees in the UK

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10-11.12.16)

GREECE: Turkish Coast Guard in Greek waters?


"Just witnessed the Turkish Coast Guard picking up a boat full of refugees in Greek waters! While the Greek coast guard and frontex watched!! Is this a new European Commission policy to allow the Turkish authorities jurisdiction in Greek waters as a solution to the refugee situation?!!!"

See: Philippa Kempson (Efalou, northern Lesvos) on Facebook (link)

Are You Syrious (10.12.16, link)


"330 people were officially registered today: 138 on Lesvos, 67 on Chios and 125 in other places. For the first time after August this year, the number of official registrations on Greek islands reached over 300."

IRELAND: Refugee families pointing to the breach of human rights by the EC, EU and an EU member state

"Members of one of two Syrian families now in Greece who have sued in the Irish courts in a bid to prevent their transfer to Turkey are to be transferred to Germany, Irish Times reports. Both families wish to join other family members in Germany and they had initiated a case against the European Council, EU and Ireland over alleged breach of their human rights last month. The core claim of the families is the EU-Turkey deal on migration, allowing Greece to return to Turkey “all new irregular migrants”, was made outside the powers of the EC and breaches EU law. That deal, and Ireland’s sanctioning of it, is incompatible with Ireland’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and breaches various EU Treaties."

Human rights at the Serbian - Hungarian border

"Refugees at the Serbian-Hungarian border, in the Röszke transit zone, are reminding how very cold it is in the unheated tents at night, so much that they say, parents are afraid their children might have fatal injuries due to the cold they experience out there during the night. The Sirius.Help team reported that refugees, who are in a bad shape, wrote to them: "We don’t have any ingredients for cooking. And unfortunately the wood you bring us twice a week, is not enough either in this extreme cold. We have already brought every dry branches from the forest nearby."

European Commission proposes to increase numbers of returns to Turkey under EU-Turkey deal and re-start returns to Greece under Dublin (ECRE, link):

"The European Commission published its Fourth Report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal this week. The publication comes together with a Joint Action Plan of the EU Coordinator on the implementation of certain provisions of the EU-Turkey Statement that outlines several modifications to the Greek asylum procedure aiming to increase numbers of returns under the EU Turkey deal, as well as a Recommendation to EU Member States to reinstate the Dublin procedure to Greece. The proposals have been sharply criticised by a number of actors, including Amnesty International."

Greece: Mouzalas requests mainland pre-removal centers (, link):

"Responding to rising tensions on eastern Aegean islands due to the growing population of migrants and asylum seekers, Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas has made a request to European authorities that individuals from countries with low asylum recognition rates be temporarily transferred to pre-removal centers on mainland Greece.

In a letter addressed to European Union interior ministers and Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos that was made public Friday, Mouzalas warned about congestion at the hot spots on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, adding that it was mostly caused by the rising number of migrants who are not covered by the relocation agreement and who must as a result be sent back to Turkey."

Spain's Ceuta enclave stormed by migrants (BBC News,link):

"At least 400 people have broken through the border fence between Morocco and the enclave of Ceuta, which is part of Spain.

The migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, stormed different points of the 6m-high (19ft) barbed-wire fence from 06:15 local time (07:15 GMT) on Friday.

It is the biggest single breach of the border in a decade, local media report."

Germany to offer 'voluntary return' incentives for asylum seekers (DW, link):

"The German government is to spend 150 million euros on incentives for asylum seekers to return home voluntarily. But refugee organizations say the plans are unrealistic - and merely a placebo for voters in Germany."

Home Office stops transfer of Calais child refugees to UK (Guardian, link):

"Minister says more than 750 children have arrived, but charities say hundreds of others have right to enter Britain."

Italy, Greece face off against easterners in EU migration feud (EurActiv, link):

"The European Union’s tug of war over how to share out the burden of caring for asylum-seekers is not over, Slovakia’s interior minister said on Friday (9 December) after six months of trying unsuccessfully to bridge differences between member states.

Central and Eastern European governments opposed to taking in refugees are at loggerheads with countries on the frontline of the crisis such as Greece and Italy. Nearly all the 350,000 migrants to reach Europe’s shores this year have arrived in those two countries."

Greece: Council for Refugees accuses police of “torturing ISIS victim” (Samos Volunteers, link):

"The police station on the island of Samos has been accused to have tortured a 25-year-old refugee from Iraq. According non-profit organization Greek Council for Refugees, the man had requested international protection in Greece and had been tortured by members of the ISIS and therefore he should have joined the program for torture victims. Instead, he was held under inhumane conditions at the police station for nineteen days."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7-9.12.16)

Greece: Erdogan’s threats come true? 200 migrants arrive within 3 hours on Lesvos (Keep Talking Greece, link):


"Four boats carrying 200 hundred migrants from African countries arrived on the island of Lesvos between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Friday, setting authorities and residents on alert. Does Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes his threats to ‘flood Europe with migrants’ come true?

According to Greek media, the migrants claimed that they were held in closed accommodation camps in north-west Turkey, camps that have been abandoned by the authorities in recent days."

Amnesty International lambasts ‘hypocritical Brussels’ as pressure mounts on Greece (Malta Today, link):

"The European Commission wants Greece to start receiving back migrants from other member states whilst speeding up migrant returns to Turkey....

Amnesty International has lambasted the “hypocritical” position adopted today by the European Commission who wants Greece to start receiving migrants from other member states, in a bid to stop asylum seekers from moving north.

The European Commission today published a fourth report on the progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal and on relocation and resettlement schemes....

“It seems that for the European Commission all roads for refugees lead to Greece. It is outrageously hypocritical of the European Commission to insinuate that Greece alone is to blame for dire conditions, when the overcrowding and insecure climate on the Greek islands are for the most part caused by the EU-Turkey deal, and compounded by the lack of solidarity from other EU countries to relocate people,” Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institution’s Office, said. "

Greece: European Union to remove existing guarantees against Turkey returns (AIDA, link):

"A Joint Action Plan of the EU Coordinator on the implementation of certain provisions of the EU-Turkey Statement outlines several legal and operational modifications to the asylum procedure with a view to stripping away some of the crucial guarantees available to persons entering the Greek islands since 20 March 2016."

See: Turkey progress report (COM 792, pdf)

EU: European Commission: Dublin returns to Greece to start for new arrivals from 15 March 2017

- Commission reports on progress made under the European Agenda on Migration (Press release, pdf):

"The Commission is today reporting on progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and on the EU's relocation and resettlement schemes...

"The Commission therefore recommends that transfers to Greece should be resumed gradually, on the basis of individual assurances from the Greek authorities for each returnee, guaranteeing they will be received in dignity. In order to avoid that an unsustainable burden is placed on Greece, the resumption of transfers will not be applied retroactively and will only concern asylum applicants who have entered Greece irregularly from 15 March 2017 onwards or for whom Greece is responsible from 15 March 2017 under other Dublin criteria." [emphasis added]

- Eighth report on relocation and resettlement (COM 791,pdf)

- Annex 1: Greece: Relocations in EU (pdf)

- Annex 2: Italy: Relocations in EU (pdf)

- Annex 3: Resettlement (pdf)

- Turkey progress report (COM 792, pdf)

- State of play: Relocation and resettlement (pdf)

- Commission Recommendation of 8.12.2016 addressed to the Member States on the resumption of transfers to Greece under Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013 (pdf)

See: Greece left alone in the refugee crisis - The envisioned resettlement of refugees around the European Union has not worked. Now more of them can be sent back to Greece. Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels (DW, link):

"More pressure will mount on Greece starting on March 15, 2017, when those who reach Austria, Slovenia, Hungary or Bulgaria through Greece and the Balkans can be returned to Greece, in accordance with the Dublin III Regulation. This has so far been suspended, given conditions in Greece are failing to meet European standards and legal norms. The European Commission now holds a different view, urging Greece to do more to expedite the asylum process. Land borders with Albania and Macedonia are to be better secured with assistance from a new EU border security group. The Dublin III provisions, fought hard for especially by Germany, Austria and Hungary, could then take effect as of March, Avramopoulos said. They would be applied only to newly-arrived adults, not to those already in the EU."

Europe can no longer pretend to respect human rights (IRR News, link) by Frances Webber:

"Anger is building at the return of refugees from Europe to war zones and the EU’s deals with dictators and torturers to prevent refugees from leaving their own countries. In the first of two articles, Frances Webber looks at the EU’s deals with Afghanistan and Turkey. The second article will examine the deals with African states."

Terrible conditions for refugees in Greece (Norwegian Refugee Service, link):

"The Norwegian Refugee Council is deeply concerned about the conditions for refugees and migrants meeting the freezing winter weather in cold tents, warehouses and barracks in Greece.

“It is disgraceful how Europe is treating people who came to us for protection,” said Alain Homsy, Head of NRC’s operations in Greece.

Since European neighbors closed their borders to Greece almost nine months ago, and with the additional strains of the EU-Turkey deal, thousands of refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece, while new boats continue to arrive, nearly 2000 people just in November."

Danish MP suggests shooting at boats carrying migrants (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Security forces should shoot at the boats of migrants trying to reach the European Union illegally, a member of parliament for the Danish government’s main political ally, the Danish People’s Party, suggested on national television.

“The only efficient way is to turn the boats and say: ‘You cannot sail within this national border and if you do, you will either be shot at or be turned around and sailed back,” Kenneth Berth, the EU spokesman for anti-immigrant party, said on broadcaster DK4 on Tuesday.

Berth later softened his statement on Facebook, saying he did not mean that people should be shot at, but that NATO-ships could shoot in the air as a warning."

UNICEF chief: 2016 was ‘one of worst years in history for children’ (EurActiv, link):

"From Aleppo to South Sudan or Yemen, UNICEF banged the drum for education in emergencies at a European Parliament event this week, highlighting the plight of tens of millions of children in conflict and emergency situations going without schooling."

EU: Fundamental Rights Agency: Scope of the principle of non-refoulement in contemporary border management: evolving areas of law (pdf):

"EU Member States’ contemporary border control activities raise difficult questions related to their non-refoulement obligations, calling for more legal clarity. This report scrutinises specific scenarios – within third countries, on the high seas, and at the EU’s borders – regarding which views differ as to whether they constitute refoulement. The analysis presents each scenario and the applicable legal framework, briefly sketches current practices, and outlines arguments that speak against, and in favour of, finding a violation of non-refoulement."

UK: Yarl's Wood demonstration draws up to 2,000 campaigners - Hundreds march around detention centre perimeter to denounce rise in hate crime in wake of Brexit vote (Guardian, link):

"The largest protest staged against Britain’s most notorious detention centre has taken place, as up to 2,000 demonstrators gathered outside Yarl’s Wood to denounce “immigrant bashing” in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Campaigners from across the UK protested at the Bedfordshire immigration removal centre on Saturday, demanding that the facility, which mainly houses women, is closed immediately.

They said Yarl’s Wood had become an even more toxic symbol when viewed against the rising hate crime, xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment that had gathered momentum in the wake of the EU referendum."

Africa has mixed reaction to Germany’s ‘Marshall Plan’ proposal (EurActiv, link):

"Germany’s planned ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa has been greeted with both optimism and scepticism, with its supporters hailing it as a cure for Africa’s age old development problems and its critics questioning Germany’s true intentions. EurActiv Germany reports...

Germany now wants to transfer a similar plan to Africa, with a view to creating a conducive environment and opportunities for the African youth in particular, by making them stay and find meaningful employment at home rather than looking for work in Europe.

It is seen as a stab at containing the unprecedented inflow of migrants to Germany, following its open door policy for refugees...

Critics of the plan have poured cold water on the idea, arguing that it is a classic example of comparing apples and oranges....

Jacob Kahenya, a political scientist in Kenya, argues that the plan misses the point by comparing the African situation now to what happened in Eastern Europe after the Second World War.

“Situations and circumstances between the Marshall Plan of 1948 and what Germany is trying to introduce now are completely different. 21st century Africa requires serious and multi-faceted approaches in addressing the problems bedevilling it, part of which include some serious home grown solutions. This plan would be an outright flop,” Kahenya insisted."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6.12.16)

EU: The implementation of the hotspots in Italy and Greece: a study (Press release, link):


"“This is an experiment, a pilot model of registration and identification at the points of arrival that selects between people seeking asylum and people to be returned. Yet the hotspots currently apply practices and standards that are inadequate and disrespect fundamental rights” says Aspasia Papadopoulou Senior Policy Officer at the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). “What we are witnessing in Italy and Greece is the consequence of an EU pressure shifting responsibilities to the national level,” says Aspasia Papadopoulou. “If the hotspots are to become permanent then we would have to see fundamental improvements including standards and safeguards – there is a need for independent monitoring by international organisations, NGOs, or bodies like the Ombudsman.”

The study is part of a project led by the Dutch Council for Refugees, in partnership with ECRE, the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR), the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and ProAsyl that aims to support monitoring of hotspots in Greece and Italy and the strengthening of legal assistance provision by local NGOs."

And see: Report (pdf)

Amnesty: Almost half a million people forcibly displaced in Turkey (DW, link):

"At least half a million people in southeast Turkey have been forcibly displaced by violence, large scale destruction and ongoing curfews. A new report has called on Turkish authorities to facilitate their return home."

U.N. refugee chief warns EU against carrot-and-stick approach to migration (Reuters, link):

"Linking aid for countries in the Middle East and Africa to how they manage migration can create dangerous precedents, the United Nations top refugee official warned the European Union on Monday.

Overwhelmed by the arrival of more than a million refugees and migrants in 2015, the EU has tightened its external borders and sought to strike deals with countries along main migration routes to contain the flow of people...

"Support to host and transit countries should be driven by solidarity, not strict conditionality," Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told a seminar in Brussels. "

UNHCR calls for stronger EU action on refugees (link):

"In a paper presented to the European Union (EU) today, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, called for a far-reaching reform of Europe’s global engagement with refugees, including the European asylum system. UNHCR called on Europe to offer more strategic and targeted support to countries of origin, asylum and transit of refugees, to review its contingency preparations to respond to large refugee and migrant arrivals, and to put in place a more efficient and better managed asylum system. It also asked for greater investment by EU Member States in the integration of refugees, including housing, employment and language training.

“Last year, Europe failed to implement a collective, managed response to the challenges posed by the arrival of over a million refugees and migrants,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “This resulted in scenes of chaos at borders, leading to a breakdown in the public’s trust in the capacity of governments to manage the situation and playing into the hands of those who wanted to turn refugees into scapegoats."

See: UNHCR report (pdf) and see: UNHRC says be prepared for more refugees (Antigua Observer, link)

EU: New centralised sources of data on migration launched

"On 2 December 2016, the European Commission's Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography (KCMD) launched two new tools: the Migration Data Catalogue and the Dynamic Data Hub. These tools centralise migration related data, to better understand migration flows, trends and their impact on societies across the EU."

Press release: Migration Data Catalogue and Dynamic Data Hub – EU migration data at a glance (EU Science Hub, link)

See: the Migration Data Catalogue (link), which "will classify and organise datasets in a series of predefined domains, including legal migration and integration, asylum-seekers and refugees, irregular migration and returns, as well as unaccompanied minors"; and the Dynamic Data Hub (link), which "will validate information, highlight limitations and put migration data into context."

Sweden needs 64,000 immigrants a year to sustain growth (New Europe, link):

"Sweden needs 64,000 immigrants a year to bridge labour market shortages according to the director of the National Employment Agency.

Speaking to the Swedish Television, director Mikael Sjöberg, said the country is lacking chefs, engineers, bus and train drivers. Failure to maintain a steady supply of immigrants could “stunt growth” Sjöberg said.

Public and private employers struggle to find employees with the necessary skills to cover shortages in the labour market. Other measures considered are encouraging young people to enroll in vocational courses and elderly workers to delay retirement. But, replenishing the labour market with immigrants is an important “part of the puzzle.”"


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-5.12.16)

Are You Syrious (4.12.16, link):



"SF has reported the death of two women after they were rescued from a dinghy. Teams from Aquarius are devastated with this loss.

Tomorrow morning at 8:00, a boat with 285 refugees is expected at Ragusano in Sicily. The refugees (217 men, 15 women an 53 children) were rescued at sea in three missions (2 with the boat PHOENIX and 1 with AQUARIUS). Their countries of origin are Lybia, Syria, Morocco, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia Liberia, Togo and Niger."


"There has been a big number of arrivals on this island in the last 24 hours with 3 boats being picked up.

Two boats arrived in the north east shore of Lesvos, both picked up by Frontex. One boat carrying 56 people, 10 were minors and 1 woman had a broken leg . The total arrivals in these two boats was 74 people . Later, another boat landed in the north coast of the island at 1:15 pm, with 60 people on board. Everyone was wet and cold but were ok after geeting dry clothes and hot tea and snacks. After waiting over 3 hours, the transportation arrived and taken to Moria, only to be sent back to the north of the island to spend the night in stage 2 transit zone as the camp as full. Sao was also able to give everyone and dry warm coat."

Greece: “Transfers To Mainland Against EU-Turkey Deal” (News That Moves, link):

"From Ta Nea: Greek Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas stressed that the EU-Turkey deal does not include an option for transferring asylum seekers on the islands to the mainland and if the government does so it may lead to the agreement failing.

When asked why asylum claims take so long to process, the Minister replied, “We have 13,000 asylum applications in the islands, 50,000 applications on the mainland. We have a new asylum service that has existed for only three years in Greece, while the same services in France and Germany have fifty years of experience. I do not claim that our asylum service operates perfectly, but we are making progress.”

UNHCR: (2.12.16): 349,825 refugees have arrived in the EU this year: 173,069 to Italy and 171,785 to Greece. 4,699 dead/missing

UK: Home Office keeps child refugees ‘in the dark’ about move to UK (Guardian, link):

"Children held at French reception centres since Calais camp demolition are distressed by lack of information, says report..

The Home Office has been accused of failing to provide sufficient information to child refugees from the demolished Calais camp, in what critics believe is a ploy to try to reduce the number of unaccompanied minors who are likely to enter the UK.

Researchers who visited a series of reception centres in France, where children are being held as their UK applications are processed by Home Office officials, found many children had received insufficient information or none at all.

Their findings, contained in a report by the charity Help Refugees"

Libyan Fisherman Rescue 120 Refugees (Libyan Gazette, link):

"Boats carrying about 1,400 refugees across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe were rescued on Tuesday, according to the Italian coastguard.

Close to 11 boats overflowing with refugees left Libya for Europe at a time when sea waters were calm.

Eight dead bodies were found by rescuers on Topaz, a ship run by Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). Seven of the bodies were in the same rubber boat, the eighth one was found in another refugee boat."

Are You Syrious (2.12.16, link)

Lesvos, Greece

"Very bad weather has been reported in Lesvos over the last week, with thunder storms and floods followed by freezing conditions high winds and some snow. In spite of that, there have been some new arrivals by boats. According to the local volunteers, a boat was picked up on the north coast of Lesvos today by the coast guard and brought into Petra with 50 people on board: 3 children, 17 women, 30 men. All passengers arrived safe, although some reportedly fascist groups have verbally attacked the newcomers. In the north, they are in need or experienced volunteers for the coast watch, please get in touch with The Hope Project if you are able to come."

Samos, Greece

"A 45 year old man died in the camp in Samos after waiting 4 hours in acute pain to see the duty camp doctor, who kept turning him away despite the fact that he had a heart condition, a field-based source wrote. The vast numbers of people living in the camp are vulnerable, children, including small babies, pregnant women, the elderly & people with disabilities and the chronically ill and they are living in inhumane and dangerous conditions & many of them have been there for up to 8 months."

Greece: Migrant children await hostel spots (, link):

"More than 1,200 unaccompanied child migrants are on waiting lists for a spot at one of the country’s special hostels for vulnerable children, aid workers told a seminar organized by Doctors of the World in Athens Friday.

Out of around 62,000 migrants and refugees currently in Greece, around 2,500 are unaccompanied minors..."

Greece: More than 1,200 unaccompanied children refugees on waiting lists for suitable accommodation (ANA-MPA, link):

"More than 1,200 unaccompanied children refugees are on waiting lists for a place in suitable accommodation, an associate of the migration policy ministry Alkis Souliotis said on Friday, at an event organized by the “Doctors of the World” in Athens.
In total, about 2,500 unaccompanied children live among the 62,000 refugees and migrants who remain in Greece, with 286 of those living in closed detention centers and another two locked up in police stations, Souliotis said."

Stranded in Serbia - refugees in limbo (DW, link): "The Balkan route no longer dominates the headlines, but it still exists. Refugees undertaking the journey have been left stranded, with doubts over their future growing by the day. Many have gathered in Belgrade."

Syrians in Germany undergo tough fight to see families (Daily Sabah, link):

"Germany, trying to staunch the flow of Syrian refugees, has placed high hurdles for them to be reunited with their families, creating a Kafkaesque nightmare in the courts."

Are You Syrious (1.12.16, link):


"UNHCR announced that the refugees will be moved from tents to indoor rooms. While there have almost been not sufficient efforts made to winterize the camps before, it needed the first snow in Petra camp (as reported in yesterday’s digest) and temperatures below zero in other locations to prepare this steps. But as of today a lot of camps are still in use and the refugees have to resist freezing temperatures. Neither UNHCR nor the government gave a timeframe until the refugees will be accommedated in heated shelters. Most of the containers remain fridges, because there is no electricity and no other heating provided till now."


"Even after the Austrian Federal Administrative Court suspended deportations to Croatia until the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) makes a final decision, Austrian government still intend to continue deportations, ORF reports. They say, that it is not a “general” but a “differentiated” deportation. The ones who are being deported did obviously enter Austria illegally, they say. The cases, in which transports have been organized by governments in 2015, have to be investigated.

According to the Austrian Ministry of Interior 300 refugees have been sent back to Croatia in October. There are about 2000 cases open."


"By 24th of November the new reception center for refugees in Paris had already welcomed 1,253 people, Reuters reports. The centre offers 400 beds for up to ten days to refugees and costs 6.5 million Euros. “In just 18 months, from June 2015 to November 2016, thirty makeshift camps have been cleared in Paris, with authorities providing emergency shelter for 22,000 migrants”, according to a townhall spokesman.... Volunteer reports say, there are still several hundred people sleeping roughly in the streets while temperatures are dropping sub zero. Donations and volunteers for distribution are urgently needed.... If you can donate, please"

Greece: Winter: Some Refugees To Be Moved Indoor (News That Moves, link):

"Freezing temperatures, rain, wind and the first snow in northern Greece are making the life of refugees living in camps more difficult.

The Greek Ministry of Migration Policy is slowly implementing plans to move some of the refugees living in official camps on mainland Greece, mostly in the north, to indoor facilities.

On November 30, the transfer of 1,100 Yazidi refugees from the Petra camp, unsuitable for winter, to local hotels and flats rented by UNHCR was completed by the UN Refugee Agency."

Lesvos, Greece: Eric Kempson (2.12.16):

"One boat was picked up on the north coast of Lesvos today by the coast guard and brought into Petra, 50 people on board, 3 children, 17 women, 30 men, every one was ok."

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