May



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (31.5.16)


Turkey starts building automatic shooting gun towers at Syrian border (yenisafak.com, link)

"As a part of measures to increase security on its border with Syria, Turkey begins building smart military towers that can warn and fire automatically.. Following the recent cross-border rocket attacks from the Daesh-held areas in northern Syria that killed dozens of civilians in Turkish border city of Kilis, Turkish security authority has hastened building security measures along the border line.

Turkish Defense Ministry said the establishment of a smart tower every 300 meters along the border with Syria to prevent illegal crossing was going at full speed.

Turkey has already sealed hundreds of kilometers of the border, either with concrete blocks or wire fencing. In the border city of Kilis, the construction of a concrete wall is nearly complete as the ministry started to build smart watch towers at 300-meter intervals.

The towers will be integrated with a computerized system that would feature a 3-language alarm system and automated firing systems."

EU Border Guard: European Parliament: Civil Liberties Committee backs new European Border and Coast Guard (Press release, pdf):

"Plans to set up an integrated EU border management system, with a flagship European Border and Coast Guard agency, bringing together Frontex and national border management authorities, were backed by the Civil Liberties Committee on Monday. They would enable extra border guard teams to be rapidly deployed to EU countries whose external borders are under pressure. National authorities would still manage their borders on a day-to-day basis, but could seek help from the new agency in a crisis. (....)

Specifically, they amended the original Commission proposal so that it is up to member states (in the Council) to decide on the intervention, by qualified majority, and not the Commission.

The draft regulation was approved by 40 votes to 10, with 5 abstentions."

Asylum- A Right Denied: NO to the EU’s lists of ‘safe countries’! (Euromed Rights, link):

"To label a country as a “safe country of origin” suggests that there is no general risk of persecution and that the state of law is respected.

A “safe” country can also be categorised as a “safe third country” where asylum-seekers who have transited through the said country may be returned there, because their asylum procedures is in line with international and European refugee law standards.

This notion of safety as an examination tool can therefore have dire consequences on asylum-seekers’ rights. That is why we at EuroMed Rights, the AEDH and the FIDH are fiercely opposed to the use of the notion of « safety""

Are you Syrious (30.5.16, link)

Millions more coming?—?deal with it, UN chief tells EU

"As the new number of arrivals from Libya show, it is more than obvious that we are to expect an even bigger influx through this dangerous route. Yesterday, Michael Moller, who heads the Geneva office of the UN, said that Europe should deal with the fact that millions are coming and will not be stopped since they are leaving their countries because they have no choice. Moller accused EU officials with “complacency and lack of leadership” who left Europe unprepared for the mass influx of migrants. “What we have been seeing is one of the biggest human migrations in history,” Moller, a Dane, said in an interview. “And it’s just going to accelerate.”"

97 new arrivals to Greece today

"Number of people stuck in Greece remains pretty much the same with 52, 871 people living in camps all around the country. There were 97 new arrivals today with 50 on Lesvos and 47 on Samos."

Hostility towards new arrivals by Maltesian Frontex. Volunteer report

"Platanos refugee solidarity team from Lesvos is reporting on new arrivals being held floating in the sea by Frontex. Here is their report in full: Last night we were informed of a boat approaching skala accompanied by Frontex and Proactiva. The dinghy carrying around 50 people was stopped by the maltesian frontex 200 m from the harbour. For more than 45 minutes they were kept drifting on the water, away from volunteer help and medical assistance, whilst ground frontex units arrived to the harbour to detain them. Despite the fact that many people were wet and travelling with young children, police deprived them of any form of support, even denying access to the UNHCR officer present. The maltesian frontex were notably hostile and aggressive towards the refugees, they put them in line and made them walk uphill 300 m to the coastguard bus, whist keeping all the volunteers at distance."

ITALY: Number of refugees in Italy on the rise - government urging for distribution of responsibility

"Due to large numbers of refugees arriving in Italy, both with a huge influx last week and existing numbers, an urgent message spread from the Italian government tries to manage the huge amount of migrants arrived in Italy during the last week. The government urges every province to receive and host 70 migrants each, so to avoid further burden upon regions and municipalities. This fair distribution involved also Friuli Venezia Giulia, a special-status region usually excluded from the migrants’ quotes. Italy is slowly filling up all of its capacities and is going to need more soon."

Electra (link) notes: "In the first 4 months of 2016, Greece declares it has deported 1.143 personsto Morocco, 585 persons to Pakistan, 249 persons to Iraq, 249 to Iran, 69 to Turkey, 198 to Algeria, 190 to Georgia, 442 to "other"... It is interesting to note that Greece continues deporting EU citizens too (65 to Bulgaria, in only 4 months...)"

Greece: Report by Pro Asyl: Vulnerable lives on hold: Refuges are hardly surviving the mass camps in the Athens region (pdf):

"A very high percentage of them are estimated to be admissible for family reunification or relocation.All these people are barely surviving the inhumane and devastating conditions in the reception centres, while at the same time the dirty deal agreed by Turkey and Europe turned the hot spots on the islands of the Aegean into detention - and deportation centres, keeping out those who were planning to follow."

From refugees to prisoners (Open Democracy, link):

"New data show that large swathes of the European public want their governments to show more solidarity with refugees, but instead the EU-Turkey deal has paved the way to mass detention...

Walls, fences and camps do not offer protection. They create vulnerability. All EU states and more importantly their populations know that on the other side of the wall are men, women, and children who crave safety. Now these people face an uncertain future in closed detention centres. In all likelihood they will eventually be returned to the places from which they fled. That’s how refugees become prisoners. We must resist this turn and press for alternatives to detention which respect the rights of refugees and migrants."

Italy plans a cemetery for refugees drowned at sea (aljazeera.com, link):

"A field beside a former fascist concentration camp could soon become the final resting place for hundreds of refugees.

Few refugees imagine ending up in a field in the toe of Italy's boot. But this rural slope between Tarsia, a hilltop town in the Calabria region, and the remains of the country's largest fascist concentration camp, may soon become the final resting place for those who lose their lives en route to Italian shores.

"Dedicating a part of our territory to the burial of these victims is simply an act of great humanity," says the town's mayor, Roberto Amerusa, who is spearheading a campaign to build the first cemetery for victims of the Mediterranean refugee crisis."

Council of Europe: Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees visits Turkey (link):

"The Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees, Ambassador Tomáš Bocek, is conducting a fact-finding mission to Turkey from 30 May to 4 June 2016 to assess the situation of refugees and migrants and identify areas where the Council of Europe could be of concrete assistance to Turkey, particularly in respect of children and unaccompanied minors."

News (31.5.16)

Turkey: No future for refugees (euractiv, link): "Despite official claims, Turkey cannot be considered a safe country – neither for migrants nor for its own citizens, writes Hakan Ataman..To sum up, there are no adequate national structures for the provision of services to refugees in Turkey. Local social programs and community-based organizations lack the capacity to meet refugees’ needs, while the support provided by United Nations agencies, other development and humanitarian partners and the private sector is also limited."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.5.16)


HOTSPOTS: ITALY: Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) applicable to ITALIAN HOTSPOTS (pdf): "The SOPs for ITALIAN HOTSPOTS have been drafted by the Italian Ministry of the Interior, Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration, and Department of Public Security. The European Commission, Frontex, Europol, EASO, UNHCR and IOM provided valuable contributions to the preparation of this document. The procedures indicated in this document should be used as an operational guide for activities organised within Hotspots. In the event of discrepancies between this document and current legislation, the latter shall apply."

 

Official document on how the "hotspots" in Italy are supposed to function in practice, which agencies and institutions are involved, and what their different roles are. See also the same document in Italian: STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES (SOP) applicabili agli HOTSPOTS ITALIANI (pdf) and a presentation on how the relocation scheme is supposed to work (also in Italian): L’hotspot approach e la relocation (pdf)

Annual reports for 2015: Fundamental Rights Agency and European Ombudsman

The FRA's report deals with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its use by Member States; equality and non-discrimination; racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; Roma integration; information society, privacy and data protection; rights of the child; access to justice, including the rights of crime victims; developments in the implementation of the convention of the rights of persons with disabilities.

The report also includes a section focusing specifically on the situation for migrants and refugees in Europe:

"Over a million people sought refuge in EU Member States in 2015, confronting the EU with an unprecedented challenge. Although this represents only about 0.2 % of the overall population, the number was far larger than in previous years. Moreover, with about 60 million people in the world forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence or human rights violations, the scale of these movements is likely to continue for some time. FRA looks at the effectiveness of measures taken or proposed by the EU and its Member States to manage this situation, with particular reference to their fundamental rights compliance."

The section on asylum and migration provides a useful oversight of developments across Europe in 2015, including the immediate responses to the arrival of large numbers of refugees and migrants; the construction of fences and introduction of border controls in the various countries; and legal and policy changes introduced by the EU and its Member States and their implications for migrants and refugees.

See:

Migrants could die crossing Channel, ex-chief inspector warns (BBC News, link): "More resources are needed to stop migrants trying to reach the UK on boats or lives will be lost, a former border force chief inspector has said.

A group of 20 people - including 18 Albanian migrants and two children - were rescued from an inflatable boat off the coast of Kent on Sunday.

Two British men, aged 35 and 33, have been charged with immigration offences.

Ex-inspector John Vine said there was an "equal chance" of migrants drowning in the Channel as in the Mediterranean."

And see: Kent boat rescue: two Britons charged with immigration offences (The Guardian, link)

MEDITERRANEAN: Statement in light of the current situation in the Mediterranean Sea and yesterday’s events (Alarm Phone, link): "Yesterday, on Thursday the 26th of May, it took more than four hours for rescue vessels to arrive. Four hours of worrying and of attempts to support the anxious people on board of an overcrowded wooden boat. In a SOS call at 6.21am, our WatchTheMed Alarm Phone shift team passed on the GPS coordinates to the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome. Shortly before, an emergency call had reached us via a satellite phone. The caller informed us about two boats carrying 500 people each, among them many Syrian and Iraqi refugees. At 10.31am, rescue finally approached but an hour earlier, the second boat had already capsized, within eyeshot. So far it is unclear how many people drowned or disappeared. MRCC Rome reported in their daily statement about one capsized boat and 96 survivors. Fatalities were not mentioned. However, the private rescue boat Sea-Watch, which arrived at the site of distress in the early afternoon, had to recover bodies of drowned people."

And see: Refugee crisis: 13,000 people rescued in Mediterranean in one week (The Guardian, link): "A flotilla of ships saved 668 people from boats in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, authorities in Italy said, bringing the week’s total of refugees plucked from the sea to 13,000 people."

Greece: Involuntary eviction from Idomeni creates further hardship for refugees (MSF, link): "Athens - As the eviction of residents from Idomeni camp continues, Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) denounces the forced movement of thousands of refugees, the lack of information provided about their destinations and the restrictions imposed on humanitarian assistance during this process.

MSF calls on the Greek authorities to ensure that adequate and continuous assistance is guaranteed during the movement of people from the informal camps and in the new locations."

And see: Greece: UNHCR concerned at conditions in new refugee sites and urges that alternatives be found (UNHCR, link): "UNHCR is seriously concerned about sub-standard conditions at several sites in northern Greece where refugees and migrants were evacuated this week from the makeshift site at Idomeni, and urges the Greek authorities, with the financial support provided by the European Union, to find better alternatives quickly."

The back way to Europe: Gambia’s forgotten refugees (openDemocracy, link): "The distinction between a refugee and other irregular migrants coming from the Gambia is hard to maintain in a country where a lack of democracy is accompanied by failures of economic and political governance."

IOM Records Over 60,000 Migrants Passing Through Agadez, Niger between February and April 2016 (IOM, link): "Niger - Through its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), IOM has recorded a total of 60,970 migrants passing through the transit towns of Arlit and Séguédine in the Agadez region of Niger between February and April 2016. Of this total, 44,890 were recorded leaving Niger, while 16,080 were migrants entering the country. Niger is a transit country for West African migrants travelling to and from Algeria and Libya.

The results of the flow monitoring during this period shows that minors represent 2.9 percent of the flow through Séguédine, which is an increase in the number of reported unaccompanied and accompanied minors heading towards Libya. The proportion of minors through Arlit is 9.4 percent, which includes those coming from and going to Algeria."

Syrian refugees sue Denmark over immigration law (EUobserver, link): "Five Syrians have sued Denmark over its recent law that extended the waiting period before refugees can apply for family members to join them from one year to three. Their lawyer Christian Dahl Ager says the law breaches the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives right to family life."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (28-29.5.16)


Refugee deaths intensify call for safe EU passages (aljazeera.com, link):

 

"EU member states need to do more to prevent deaths as peak crossing season approaches, rights groups warn...

The latest incidents have raised alarm among human rights groups and NGOs, who are urging EU member states to do more to protect the thousands escaping turmoil.

"The first thing to do is to ensure a robust search and rescue operation," Judith Sunderland, associate director for Europe at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Al Jazeera.... HRW's Sunderland said the EU's naval mission in the Mediterranean - Operation Sophia - aimed at checking undocumented migration could be exacerbating the danger."

and Libya Is Saving Migrants At Sea Only To Trap Them In Dire Conditions On Land (Huffington Post, link):

"Europe, desperate to stem the flow of refugees and migrants, has offered the fragile country help to stop migrants from leaving. Libyan forces intercepted over 2,000 migrants trying to flee by boat this week, as European leaders offered the country’s fragile new administration more help to turn back migrant boats.

Among them were four boats crammed with 500 people headed to Europe, including three children and eight pregnant women, that were intercepted by Libyan coastguards on Tuesday. They are now destined for Libya’s network of overcrowded, squalid detention centers, where human rights groups say violence is rampant and detention can stretch on indefinitely.

Libya’s efforts are potentially saving lives in the Mediterranean Sea, but they risk solving one problem by creating another."

Lesvos, Greece: Eric Kempson reports (link): "Another boat came in on the north last night every one safe, that's four boat on the island that we know of in three day all the teams are working well, great job."

Are You Syrious (28.5.16)

UNHCR concerned at conditions in new refugee sites and urges that alternatives be found

"UNHCR is seriously concerned about sub-standard conditions at several sites in northern Greece where refugees and migrants were evacuated this week from the makeshift site at Idomeni, and urges the Greek authorities, with the financial support provided by the European Union, to find better alternatives quickly."

Turkey: Refugees in Turkey already searching for new routes to Europe

"Turkey-EU migrant deal has apparently paid off and European leaders seem to be satisfied with the decreasing number of people crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece. However, keeping Europe migrant-free using Turkey’s help may come to an end in the wake of exchanged ultimatums between Brussels and Ankara."

Refugee agency says survivors from three shipwrecks being taken to Italian ports but hundreds of people still missing (The Observer, link):

"More than 700 migrants are feared dead in three Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks off southern Italy in the last few days as they tried to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats, according to the UN refugee agency.

Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for UNHCR, said on Sunday that an estimated 100 people were missing from a smugglers’ boat that capsized on Wednesday. The Italian navy took horrific pictures of that capsizing as it attempted to rescue survivors." and

Refugee crisis: 13,000 people rescued in Mediterranean in one week (The Observer, link)

Greece: New migrant centers ‘substandard,’ UNHCR says (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Despite the evacuation of refugees from the sprawling makeshift border camp of Idomeni in northern Greece on Thursday, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed serious concern Friday over the “sub-standard” conditions at the new camps they have been relocated to.

The new camps, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said, “fall well below minimum standards,” and she appealed to Greek authorities to address the matter as soon as possible."

Deaths at the Borders: Evidence from the Southern External Borders of the EU (thomasspijkerboer.eu, link)

"This paper contains a brief introduction to the Deaths at the Border Database, including methodology, prelimiary outcomes and preliminary policy conclusions.

Deaths at the Borders: Evidence from the Southern External Borders of the EU, published in HIJRA – La Revue Marocaine de Droit d’Asile et Migration 2016, no.1

English version: p. 5-23
Arabic version: p. 24-36"

Are You Syrious (27.5.16, link)

HUNGARY: Anti-refugee propaganda continues to escalate dangerously as new laws threaten deportations and pushbacks

"Political tensions and propaganda continue to escalate as camp conditions only worsen in Hungary, reports Migszol. György Bakondi, security advisor to the Ministry of the Interior, labeled refugees trapped in camps “criminals” on state television. Furthermore, Hungarian Parliament is discussing a new law to return anyone “found within 8km of the fence” to the transit zone. Not only would this endanger the lives and freedom of refugees in the future, it also has the potential to worsen the conditions of the transit zone camp on the Hungarian-Serbian border where hundreds of people have been trapped for weeks with minimal aid"

Mytillini: quest for justice unites all as hundreds protest

"On the 26th, three days of protest culminated in hundreds of people gathering in front of the port and marching, uniting refugees of different nationalities, demanding freedom, volunteers reported."

3,900 asylum-seekers have disappeared from Idomeni, their arrival not being registered in other official camps

"From numbers calculated using the Greek government’s daily refugee flow numbers, 3,900 refugees are estimated to have disappeared from Idomeni without relocating to new official camps. With many camps remaining dangerously overcrowded, “Scores of tents” have appeared near the to"

GREECE: One boat with fifty people landed in the South of Lesvos

"Remar S.O.S. is in need of volunteers to help in a RefugeeAid Project in Lesvos from June 1st through June 15th, 2016. They are looking for volunteers who can join them for a minimum of 7 days. Work will consist of handing out food, cleaning, and food preparation,contact them at info@remar.ch"

Child refugees in Greece have been out of school for 1.5 years on average

Child refugees stranded in Greece have been out of school for an average of 1.5 years, according to Save the Children. The study conducted by the charity ahead of the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit found that Syrian child refugees have been out of school for an average of 25.8 months, while Afghan child refugees spent an average of 10.7 months out of the classroom."

UPD Imminent intervention? Greece, Italy & Malta close their airspace for aircraft departing from Libya (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Weird things are happening in the Mediterranean Sea. Almost simultaneously three countries in the Mediterranean have closed their airspace and territories for aircraft departing from Libya. The exceptions are very few and could hind on the transport of military and evacuees. At the same time, three NATO exercises are taking place but the airspace closure and directly little to do with that.

The first country to close its airspace for aircraft departing from Libya” was Italy, followed by Malta. Today it was Greece’s turn. All three countries issued relevant NOTAMs: Italy on May 11 and closes the airspace May 11 – August 8 2016, consequently at the same period Malta that issued the NOTAM on May 12."

News (28-29.5.16)

EU: Stop ignoring the refugee crisis and start working on solutions (euractiv, link): "Nothing better demonstrates the decline of the EU as the pillar for common solutions than the painful scenes of refugees abandoned at Idomeni. The crisis is here to stay, so the EU must adapt, write Joost Lagendijk and Monica Frassoni.... In recent months, the EU has demonstrated an inability to live up to its values, with its member states unwilling to respect and enact common decisions, choosing instead go their own way by building fences and walls, irrespective of the fact that these are not legal."

Greece: Ethnic tensions at migrant camps seen as potential risk (.ekathimerini.com, link): "“Tension cannot be avoided and the safety of refugees cannot be guaranteed if Idomeni was evacuated only to create little Idomenis here and there,” Achilleas Tzemos, the deputy coordinator of the Doctors Without Borders team, told Kathimerini on Saturday."

Italian navy recovers 45 bodies after refugee boat sinks - Coastguard sent in rescue ships after receiving a call for help reporting 350 people in the water (Guardian, link)

Afghan migrant killed by lorry in Calais (The Local.fr, link): "A 25-year-old Afghan migrant was killed by a lorry on a motorway near the French port city of Calais in the early hours of Saturday, according to officials.."

Erdogan threatens to pull the deal (eurointelligence.com, link) " The EU will no doubt try its utmost to bend its own requirements - though it is not clear that they will be able to cowtow to Erdogan to quite the degree that now appears necessary for the deal to be ratified. We would, however, expect the EU to try and soften its stance on the quid-pro-quos for visa-free travel. Never underestimate the ability by Brussels to seek out a fudge. The bottom line is: if you strike Faustian pacts with dictators, don't pretend to be shocked about human rights violations.."

Serbia-Hungary: U.N. urges relief for migrants at border (link)" The United Nations' refugee agency on Friday urged Serbia and Hungary to find a solution for the migrants camping in dire conditions at their border, hoping to enter the European Union despite border closures."

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27.5.16)


Dispatches: ISIS Advance Traps 165,000 Syrians at Closed Turkish Border (Human Rights Watch, link): "There are two walls on the Turkey-Syria border.

 

One is manned by Turkish border guards enforcing Turkey’s 15 month-old border closure who, according to witnesses, have at times shot at and assaulted Syrian asylum seekers as they try to reach safety in Turkey – abuses strongly denied by the Turkish government.

The other is a wall of silence by the rest of the world, including the United Nations, which has chosen to turn a blind eye to Turkey’s breach of international law which prohibits forcing people back to places, including by rejecting them at the border, where their lives or freedom would be threatened."

EU: Safe country lists deny the right to asylum: AEDH, EuroMed Rights, FIDH report

From the press release (pdf): "On 30 May 2016, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament will discuss the proposed amendments to the proposal for a regulation by the European Commission in September 2015 for the purpose of establishing an EU common list of "safe countries of origin". Such a labelling implies that there should be, in principle no risk of persecution for asylum seekers and that the rule of law is respected in those countries.

The AEDH, EuroMed Rights and the FIDH warn against the dangers of using the concept of safety in processing asylum applications (see analysis). No country may be deemed "safe". By adopting such a list, the European Union (EU) and its Members States will institutionalise at European level a practice by which the Member States could refuse to fully comply with their responsibilities towards asylum seekers, in violation of their international obligations.

To date, 12 of the 28 Member States have a national list of "safe countries", but the lists are far from homogeneous. The Commission's proposal aims to remedy these disparities. The seven countries that the proposal deems "safe" are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

The Commission plans to use the same approach in order to ensure that a common list of "safe third countries" is adopted to enable asylum seekers to be sent back to the countries through which they transited before their arrival in the EU, and where they could "legitimately" file their asylum applications."

Full report: "Safe" countries: a denial of the right to asylum (pdf)

GREECE: Idomeni evacuation: consequences and next steps

Major NGOs and numerous independent voices have criticised the clearance of the Idomeni camp in northern Greece, whilst others have highlighted the consequences of the decision and the Greek government makes plans to clear the Elliniko camp in Athens next.

Dozens feared dead as migrant boat capsizes in Mediterranean (The Guardian, link): "Dozens of people are feared to have drowned in the second shipwreck in as many days in the southern Mediterranean, amid tentative signs that some Syrians may be trying once again to make for Europe from Libya.

At least 20 people drowned in a wreck 35 nautical miles north of the Libyan smuggling hub of Zuwara when a repurposed fishing boat sank on Thursday morning, the EU’s anti-smuggling operation said. Photographs taken from an EU reconnaissance plane showed groups of men desperately waving at the aircraft from a half-submerged blue trawler.

It followed another tragedy on Wednesday, when a boat of about 600 sank in nearby waters, drowning at least five."

UNHCR (Daily report, 26.5.16)

104 people arrived in Lesvos on 26 May (the highest number for weeks).

EU: Relocation from Italy and Greece: Sweden's obligations postponed

Agence Europe reports that the European Parliament has approved a Council Decision which will postpone for a year Sweden's obligations to relocate refugees currently in Greece and Italy: "The mechanism has been devised over two years and this temporary derogation granted on Thursday will postpone, but not suspend, Sweden's obligations to host its share of the asylum seekers currently in Greece and Italy. In November, the Commission authorised Sweden to have a derogation, as the country stressed that it was at its limits for hosting asylum seekers and that it had the highest rate of asylum seekers per million citizens (11.503/1 million) in 2015. Austria also secured arrangements regarding its obligations."

SPAIN: Andalucian Association for Human Rights confirms an increase in arrivals and deaths at the southern border during 2015

Last month the Andalucian Association for Human Rights released a report, 'Human Rights at the Southern Border 2016', which documents and analyses the situation for migrants and refugees at the southern borders of Spain. The organization condemns the increasing number of deaths "resulting from the immoral migration policies than confine people in countries immersed in war and hunger."

European Commission: Press release: Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €47 million to strengthen migration management and to support education of Syrian refugees (pdf): "Today, the European Commission is delivering on its commitment to accelerate the implementation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey by announcing a further €47 million in new projects, bringing the total amount contracted under the Facility to address the immediate needs of refugees and host communities in Turkey so far to almost €240 million.

€20 million has been committed under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) to enhance the capacity of the Turkish Coast Guard to carry out search and rescue operations. An additional €27 million will fund educational infrastructure, skills training and social support for Syrian refugees under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis. This new commitment is part of the accelerated implementation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey which was agreed under the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March."

UK: Information Commissioner's Office instructs Home Office to provide Syrian refugee data (parliament.uk, link): "The Home Affairs Committee submitted an FOI (freedom of information) request to the Home Office on 7 April 2016 in an attempt to uncover the number of Syrian refugees settled in each local authority area, since the Prime Minister's September 2015 announcement that 20,000 Syrian refugees would be settled in the UK by 2020."

UK prepares to send warship to tackle Libya refugee crisis (Middle East Eye, link): "The British government is preparing to send a Royal Navy warship to the coast of Libya to lead new attempts to tackle people and weapon smuggling amid fears of a surge in refugee boats following the closure of the Turkish route into Europe.

Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to outline a new EU plan on Friday, and a government spokesman said late on Thursday that a formal request for help was imminently expected from the UN-backed Libyan unity government."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.5.16)


Electra reports (link) Idomeni clear-out: volunteers denied access to their equipment, tents etc bulldozed

 

"This is OUTRAGEOUS! I guess that's the Greek Government's way of saying 'thanks' to volunteers... By destroying the humanitarian material and belongings thousands fundraised for... Volunteers in Idomeni, who were told that if they approach the camp during the - priorly unanounced - eviction they would be arrested, return to the field, just to find all their tents, belongings and humanitarian material smashed under the bulldozers: "Despite liaising with authorities to recover resources all of our resources and the ngo resources have been destroyed by the authorities. This includes thousands of euros of medical equipment all the NGO tents and hundreds of thousands of euros other infrastructure."

Idomeni clear-out (read more)

Eric Kempson
on Facebook posted this report today (26.5.16)

"This post was put on by Phoebe Ramsey a must to read. This what has happened in the last 36 hours, summarized to the best of my ability in my present exhausted, sad, and angry state.

At present, there are only a couple of hundred people left in Idomeni. There has been no major resistance or violence. It seems everyone was resigned and complied in the face of the enormous presence of riot police. As the tents have been emptied, bulldozers have come in to flatten them. Just over 2,000 people were moved yesterday, and about 1,000 today. Given that there were at least 7,000 people in Idomeni two days ago, this means that about 4,000 people are 'unaccounted' for. They have either tried to go to the major cities, or made a panicked rush for the border-hundreds and hundreds of people headed west into the woods last night. This is in convenient conjunction with today's reported announcement by police that from now on, anyone caught and returned by FYROM (pushbacks) from an illegal border crossing will be arrested in Greece, and have any existing asylum claims canceled.......

Council of Europe: detention of lone minors 'unacceptable' (ekathimerini.com, link):

"One of Europe’s top human rights officials says it is “unacceptable” that any unaccompanied refugee and migrant children who arrive on the continent are held in detention centers, and called on European countries to ensure such children can be housed in special facilities and quickly reunited with their families.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland also voiced criticism Thursday over the increasingly restrictive legislation some European countries are adopting that would make it harder for such children to be reunited with parents already living in Europe."

EU: SHIPPING AND FISHERIES INDUSTRIES CO-OPTED INTO BORDER SURVEILLANCE & INTERCEPTING "SUSPECTED" BOATS Frontex, EMSA and EFCA extend cooperation (Frontex, link):

Frontex, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) signed bilateral interagency agreements today to extend their cooperation. The three agencies will continue to work together in their respective areas of border surveillance, interception of vessels suspected of engaging in criminal activities, cross border crime, support for search and rescue at sea and illegal fishing.

Denmark: creating a hostile environment (IRR News, link): "Nearly 300 people face criminal charges for aiding refugees in Denmark in September 2015, and the government continues to create a hostile environment by cracking down on migration." and

Solidarity criminalised: an interview with Reem El-Awwad (link):"Below we interview a member of the Danish group MedMenneskeSmuglerne (With the Human Smugglers), about the criminal charges of ‘human trafficking’ those who acted in solidarity with refugees now face."

Sudan and Eritrea crackdown on migrants amid reports of EU incentives (IRIN, link):

"Authorities in Sudan have launched a crackdown on Eritrean migrants - arresting those living in the capital, Khartoum, and intercepting hundreds travelling north through the country towards Libya, the launching point for smugglers’ boats heading for Europe.

Reports that 900 Eritreans were rounded up in Khartoum on Monday and that a further 400 arrested en route to Libya have been deported to Eritrea, come amid recent revelations in the British and German media that the EU is planning to deepen its cooperation with a number of African countries, including Sudan and Eritrea, to stem migration towards Europe."

Syrian refugees caught in the middle of Europe and Turkey standoff over migrant deal (IBT, link):

", the EU and Turkey have found themselves wrangling over the issue of Turkish visa-free travel to the continent. The visa waiver scheme for Turkey's 75 million citizens was one of the largest incentives on offer to Ankara for accepting the deal....

Speaking as the UN's World Humanitarian Summit took place in Istanbul Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his parliament would block the swap deal if visa-free travel was not granted.

"If that (the visa exemption) is not what will happen... no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament of the Turkish Republic," he was quoted by the Hurriyet Daily News as saying."

EU: Turkey 'threats' over migrant deal won't work, says Juncker (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Turkey must uphold its side of a deal made with the European Union over stemming the flow of migrants, a top EU official said Thursday, warning “threats” against the bloc will not work. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Ankara must ease strict anti-terror laws if it wants its citizens to enjoy visa-free travel on the continent."

Italian navy saves 550 refugees as smugglers' trawler capsizes in Med (Guardian, link):

"Praise for sailors’ swift action as dramatic photographs show overloaded boat turning over as naval vessel approaches...

More than 500 people narrowly escaped drowning on Wednesday after their smugglers’ boat capsized in the southern Mediterranean, a series of dramatic photographs have revealed.

As Italian naval ships approached to rescue the stricken asylum-seekers, their boat – a repurposed trawler – tipped over, throwing those on deck into the water.

At least five people drowned when the boat capsized “due to overcrowding and instability caused by the high number of people on board”, the Italian navy said in a statement. But the sailors managed to save about 550 lives, in a mission that migration experts described as miraculous.

Bulgaria to Have 146-km Wire Fence along Border with Turkey in 2 Months (novinite.com, link):

"In about two months Bulgaria will have a wire fence built along 146 km of the country's border with Turkey, preventing illegal migration flow, Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova has said."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.5.16)


On the Refugee Trail: Keep quiet and eat soup (link):

 

"Today, the Greek authorities at last started what they had long threatened: an eviction of the camp at Idomeni. Greece’s migration spokesman said that everyone knew that “conditions would be much better” in the camps they’re being moved to. He promised “no violence would be used”, but also that he expected the 8000 people, who’ve been there for months, to be gone in “no more than a week.” To ensure that nobody sees just how peacefully Idomeni will be evacuated, all journalists and activists have been removed from the area."

Are You Syrious (24.5.16)

2000 or so people so far evicted from Idomeni.

"After an MSF doctor finished her shift in Idomeni today, she stated “What struck me the most were the blank faces. People looked like they had lost all hope”. She was referring to people who were evicted today from the camp where some of them have lived for over three months. They were hoping the border would open and that they would have freedom of movement.

Early in the morning, police arrived with buses and bulldogs, and eviction began. Before the evening, about 2,000 people were taken to other camps from Idomeni. Relocation will continue tomorrow and it should be finished by the end of this month. Unfortunately, people are being relocated to camps where living conditions are unbearable."

Czech Republic: Refugee shelter eviction

"Police in Prague made another attempt to evict people who are squatting at Klinika center, including several refugees. From Klinika Twitter we learned how riot police came claimed the presence of a bomb in the building. However, the bomb was not found, but the police entered the center forcibly. Apparently some people were arrested. Activist living inside are calling for help. Follow their twitter account @centrum_klinika.

The same center was attacked several times this year. In February, a group of people threw Molotov cocktails at the building. The attack took place just hours after thousands of people rallied in Prague against Muslims and immigration. Activists who work at the center said the attackers were neo-Nazis."

and see: Idomeni Special: Around 2,000 people moved out from the camp during the first day of eviction (link)

Merkel desperate to salvage her Turkey deal (EVRO Intelligence, link):

"Frankfurter Allgemeine has an excellent report about Angela Merkel's difficult visit to Turkey. The most important new information is that the German government does not expect the visa liberalisation to happen this year because Turkey will not change its anti-terrorism laws. But it still hopes that Turkey will continue to abide by the agreement on refugees. This hope rests on the assumption that President Tayyip Recep Erdogan will not ultimately behave like a sultan, but will act like a rational politician....

It is very clear from this article that the only thing Merkel cares about is salvaging her deal. She addresses the human rights situation in Turkey in a perfunctory manner, to the extent that German domestic politics demands of her. "

Migrant crisis: Turkey could block EU deal over visas (BBC News, link):

"Turkey's parliament will block a deal with the EU on migrants if Turks do not gain visa-free access to the bloc, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says....the EU says Turkey still needs to meet certain conditions, including changes to its terror laws, before access can be granted. The agreement is aimed at halting the mass movement of people into Europe." and see:

Turkey's president: No refugee deal without EU visa waiver (AP, link):

"But for Turkey to enjoy visa-free travel for its citizen narrow it must meet five conditions, out of an initial 72, including narrowing the definition of terrorism. The bloc is concerned that the existing legislation is being used to silence dissent.... Erdogan added that if further bilateral talks on the visa issue didn't yield results, "the readmission agreement" on refugees wouldn't be approved by Turkey." and also:

Erdogan says Turkish parliament will block EU refugee deal if no visa-free travel (euractiv, link): "President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday (24 May) warned the European Union that lawmakers would block legislation related to the landmark deal to stem the flow of refugees to Europe if Ankara was not granted its key demand of visa-free travel...." and Erdogan says Turkey will not change its anti-terrorism law (euractiv, link)

Bulgaria to put more barbed wire along Turkish border, says PM (hurriyetdailynews.com, link)

"Bulgaria will increase the line of barbed wire along its border with Turkey, which it set up to stop the flow of migrants entering the country, from 30 to 146 kilometers in two months’ time, the country’s prime minister has said.

The 30-kilometer-long barbed wire fence along Bulgaria’s border with Turkey is not enough to stop migrants from crossing into Bulgaria and will thus be extended to 146 kilometers within the forthcoming two months, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was quoted by Bulgarian News Agency BTA as saying....Turkey has around 270 kilometers of border with Bulgaria."

Italian navy saves 550 refugees as smugglers' trawler capsizes in Med (Guardian, link):

"Praise for sailors’ swift action as damatic photographs show overloaded boat turning over as naval vessel approaches..

As Italian naval ships approached to rescue the stricken asylum-seekers, their boat – a repurposed trawler – tipped over, throwing those on deck into the water.

At least five people drowned when the boat capsized “due to overcrowding and instability caused by the high number of people on board”, the Italian navy said in a statement. But the sailors managed to save about 550 lives, in a mission that migration experts described as miraculous."

News (25.5.16):

Greek police steps up evacuation of Idomeni border camp (euractiv, link): "Greek police yesterday (24 May) transferred some two thousand refugees out of the overcrowded camp of Idomeni, launching a major operation to clear up the squalid tent city where thousands fleeing war and poverty have lived for months."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (24.5.16)


Moving Europe: Updates from the eviction in Idomeni (link): "Moving Europe is writing live updates on the situation in Idomeni and on the unacceptable conditions in the camps where people are being brought to. As journalists and indepedent observers are not allowed into the area around Idomeni, the updates are based on observations and information from people in the camp. The page will be updated constantly, please spread!

 

As journalists and independent observers are not let into the area of the camp in Idomeni, on this site we are constantly collecting observations and information which residents of the camp send to us. Follow us as well on Twitter "

Greek authorities begin evacuation of Idomeni refugee camp (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Greek authorities began an operation at dawn Tuesday to gradually evacuate the country’s largest informal refugee camp of Idomeni on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), blocking access to the area and sending in more than 400 riot police....

Journalists were barred from the camp during the evacuation operation, stopped at a police roadblock a few kilometers (miles) away. Twenty buses carrying various riot police units were seen heading to the area while a police helicopter observed from above. An estimated 700 police were participating in the operation."
[emphasis added]

and see: Idomeni: Greek riot police move in to clear refugee camp (Guardian, link): "No violence reported as Greek authorities order 8,000 residents of Europe’s largest informal refugee camp to leave."

Are You Syrious (23.5.16, link)

50 new arrivals on Greek islands

There are 54,195 people still stuck in Greece with 50 new arrivals, 35 in Lesvos and 15 in Samos.

7th day of hunger strike in Souda camp in Chios

"Fifty people still stuck in #Souda camp in #Chios island are continuing their already seven day long hunger strike. Two hunger strikers have had to receive medical attention so far. The hunger strikers are demanding clarification about their future after the implementation of the EU–Turkey agreement, the implementation of the international regulations for protection, and the relocation program to Europe and North America. In addition, they request a speed-up of the evaluation procedure for asylum requests."

ITALY: New disputes over Austro?—?Italian border

"Austrian authorities have reported that 40–50 migrants attempt to cross Brennero daily while Italy pegs the estimate at 2–3 people per day. Austria speaks about an “invasion”, while Italian PM Matteo Renzi accuses Vienna of “demagogy” and “lies”. Governor of Tirol Günther Platter has just deployed other 80 Austrian police on the border, to stop the migrants from crossing it; he declared that this decision was taken since “Italy has made deceiving moves to avoid Austrian controls”.

High number of refugees in Belgrade

"Info Park reports that “People are arriving and the numbers are steadily rising in Belgrade. Most of the new arrivals are from Eidomeni, practically all assisted or organized by smugglers for sums starting from 1000 euro per adult person and more. To illustrate the rising numbers: in the hotel Bristol park area alone, Info Park and associated organizations distributed 818 meals this Saturday, and more than 1500 for the weekend in total""

European Parliament: MEPs assess refugee camps in Greece and call for smoother implementation of EU-Turkey deal (Press release, pdf):

"A delegation from the civil liberties committee visited Greece last week to assess refugees' situation at the EU's external borders and the implementation of the EUTurkey deal to manage the influx of migrants and refugees. The delegation was led by Hungarian S&D member Péter Niedermüller. Members also met with representatives from the Greek authorities, international organisations and nongovernmental organisations.

According to Frontex, 1.83 million illegal crossings were detected at the EU's external borders last year. Southern European countries were responsible for dealing with most of these migrants, but the sharp increase has proved challenging. The delegation aimed to see how Greece was coping."

Statewatch comment: Unfortunately the Press release cites Frontex (in January) stating: "In all of 2015, there were 1.83 million illegal border crossings detected at EU’s external borders." By its own admission Frontex figures are inflated by the double-counting of refugees. UNHCR states: "UNHCR’s latest figures show that some 1,000,573 people had reached Europe across the Mediterranean, mainly to Greece and Italy, in 2015."

Italy helps rescue 2,600 migrants from sea in 24 hours (Reuters, link):

"Italian vessels have helped rescue more than 2,600 migrants from boats trying to reach Europe from North Africa in the last 24 hours, the coastguard said on Monday, indicating that numbers are rising as the weather warms up.

Some 2,000 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast from 14 rubber dinghies and one larger boat in salvage operations by the Italian navy and coastguard, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres and an Irish navy vessel, the coastguard said.... Officials fear the numbers trying to make the crossing to southern Italy
will increase as conditions improve in warmer weather...

More than 31,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat so far this year, slightly fewer than in the same period of 2015."

EU navies to help Libya coastguard stop migrants (euobserver, link): "EU navies are to start training the Libyan coastguard amid concern that the summer could see huge numbers of migrants try to cross the Mediterranean. Foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (23 May) agreed the new task for Sophia, the EU's anti migrant-smuggling naval operation."

See: External aspects of migration - Council Conclusions (23 May 2016) (pdf)

"Regarding the Central Mediterranean route, the Council highlights the need to use the broad range of tools available to manage flows in cooperation with third countries of origin and transit as part of an EU regional approach to migration, including via CSDP instruments. In particular, it highlights the importance of the work to be undertaken at the request of and in partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord on a comprehensive approach to manage migration, which includes the fight against smugglers and traffickers, as well as capacity building and training of Libyan coastguard and Navy as one of the two further supporting tasks to be implemented by EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. Work will be carried forward to this end to amend the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia as well as the possible setting up of an increased civilian CSDP presence in Libya, including on border management assistance, in addition to existing EU funded capacity building projects."

Divert 10% of EU funds to deal with refugee crisis, says Germany (Guardian, link):

"Development minister Gerd Müller also says EU’s mechanisms for responding to refugee crisis are not fit for purpose.... Müller’s proposal follows a year in which Europe’s leaders responded to a wave of migration at its borders with a fragmented series of strategies and promises, many of which they failed to uphold, or were slow to enact.

In April last year, leaders said they would crackdown on Libyan smugglers, but the mission took until September to get underway, and has largely been a failure.In September, EU members pledged to relocate 120,000 refugees from Greece and Italy, the frontline states where most new asylum-seekers enter Europe. But despite renewing these vows in March, less than 1% of the refugees concerned have been moved. Similarly low numbers have been resettled directly from the Middle East.

In January, European and western leaders promised to send billions of pounds to countries in the Middle East where refugees form substantial proportions of the population – but so far only a sixth of the money has been paid... Alluding to some of these problems, Müller said: “We can’t just go from one summit to the next, making statements that we don’t fulfil.”".

World humanitarian summit starts amid hope, hype and fear of empty words (euractiv, link):

"Hundreds of world leaders and politicians will descend on Istanbul on Monday in a nominal attempt to reform the global humanitarian system, despite criticism that their summit is a photo opportunity that will achieve little....

Speaking to the Guardian, MSF’s UK director, Vickie Hawkins, said it was unlikely that the same countries who are currently shirking their obligations to refugees would turn over a new leaf next week. “The contradiction became too much for us,” said Hawkins. “We didn’t have any confidence that anything different will come out of the conference. There’s a lot of good intentions, but also empty rhetoric. And we felt we needed more than that, given the current disregard for international law.”

Germany sees rise in right-wing violence (DW, link): "The German government says political violence reached a new high in 2015 as the country saw a massive influx of migrants. German ministers have previously promised to crack down on hate crimes."

UNHCR: Daily Report (23.5.16):

"According to the [Greek] Ministry of Citizen’s Protection press release, 1,048 foreigners of various nationalities were returned to Turkey on the basis of the Bilateral Readmission Protocol between Greece and Turkey, 34 Turkish nationals were returned to Turkey under the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, and 441 foreigners of various nationalities were returned to Turkey on the basis of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement of 18 March."

"In Austria, during the month of April, 4,152 people lodged asylum claims. This brings applications up to 18,597 in 2016 (to the end of April). In total this constitutes an increase of 29.18% compared to the same period in 2015. Afghan nationals ranked first with 5,234 applications, followed by Syrian nationals (3,926), people from Iran (1,520), and Iraq (1,489)."

News (24.5.16)

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 191,134; Deaths 1,370 (IOM link): "Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said Monday the world is witnessing the "complete collapse of humanitarian law" and criticized the EU for "looking the other way when it comes to rights violations in Turkey itself" and "abdicating its responsibilities" toward refugees. Shetty said the 12 Syrians who have been returned from Greece to Turkey in line with the EU-Turkey deal have been held in a detention center without access to a lawyer. He also said Turkey, which lacks an asylum system and is either turning back or detaining new arrivals, cannot be considered a safe country."

Humanitarian summit aims high amid refugee rights concerns (AP, link):

Merkel warns Erdogan his authoritarian drift endangers visa deal (euractiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday (23 May) of her “deep concern” over the state of democracy in Turkey and voiced doubt that a plan to offer Turks visa-free travel to the EU would be implemented on time."

Migration crisis: Italians protest over Austria border fence plan (Guardian, link): "Clashes with police at Brenner Pass coincide with far-right march in Germany calling on Merkel to resign"

Martin Schulz: Turkey on the way to becoming a ‘one-man state’ (Politico, link): "No visa liberalization for Turks in Europe until Erdogan meets all conditions, the European Parliament president insists."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.5.16)


EU: External aspects of migration - Council conclusions (23 May 2016) (9111/16, pdf)

 

"The Council stresses the need to further strengthen the work on the external dimension of migration policy and reaffirms its commitment to a comprehensive and geographically balanced approach on migration on the basis of the European Agenda on Migration, European Council conclusions and Council conclusions of 12 October 2015 and 12 May 2016 in full respect of international law and human rights. The Council recalls the steps taken by the EU and its Member States in integrating migration as a permanent and structural component of EU foreign policy. While implementation of agreed actions should form the core of the EU approach, the Council welcomes Member States' calls and initiatives for further, collective strengthened EU action towards third countries."

The conclusions say that the EU will continue with various efforts at stemming migration to Europe, for example through High-Level Dialogues and the Valletta Action Plan, and the Council is to "continue to look into the proposal by Hungary on "Schengen 2.0"."

There is also affirmation "of the importance of the security-development nexus"; the "need for full and effective implementation of existing readmission agreements," as well as the completion of negotiations on new agreements; and "the need for cooperation on migration with all third countries, such as Iraq, that are key in managing the current irregular migration flows".

Increased involvement in Libya is also noted:

"Work will be carried forward to this end to amend the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia as well as the possible setting up of an increased civilian CSDP presence in Libya, including on border management assistance, in addition to existing EU funded capacity building projects."

Furthermore:

"The management of mixed migratory flows is not only a European, but a global responsibility, which calls for collective commitments and solutions. It requires countries of origin, transit and destination to forge genuine partnerships, on the basis of enhanced mutual support and solidarity, and an equitable and balanced responsibility-sharing within the international community. The EU will continue to advocate strongly for the respect of international law, including international humanitarian law, refugee law, notably the principle of non-refoulement, and international human rights law."

EU: Commission statistics on hotspots, relocation, financial pledges, civil protection and returns: updated 23 May with figures published 20 May. See: Refugee crisis: Statistics: September 2015-ongoing

GREECE: Camp at Idomeni to be evacuated

Refugee Crisis: Evacuation of Idomeni Begins Tomorrow (The Press Project, link): "Mr.Kiritsis estimated that the entire camp will have been evacuated within the next 10 days. He clarified that this is not a brutal police evacuation but, rather, a smooth operation aiming to help the refugees relocate in a civilized non violent manner. "This is not a primarily police, or police centred, operation" were the words of Kiristis.

It has been reported that squads of riot police have been assembling close to the camp but the authorities assure that their work will only be to aid and facilitate.

The representative stated that the refugees will be mostly relocated to Thessaloniki where 6 ex-industrial spaces have been altered in order to host 6500-7000 people."

And: Police poised to evacuate Idomeni refugee camp (Ekathemerini, link): "It appears that Greek authorities are poised to put into action a plan to evacuate the refugee camp in Idomeni, on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

According to sources, nine squads of riot police received orders on Monday to travel from Athens to Kilkis so they can take part in the operation if their contribution is needed. Authorities will attempt to move the refugees from the unofficial camp to other sites that have been made ready in various parts of northern Greece."

Migreurop press release: close the camps

"On 18 June 2010, the Migreurop network decided to make a stand against the detention of foreigners.

Launched in 2011, the ‘Open Access Now’ campaign aimed to publicise the unseen realities of immigration detention, its excesses and the rights violations that flow from it. The campaign demanded total transparency and unconditional access to information and to locations where people are deprived of their liberty, for journalists and for civil society.

(...)

In the face of the increase in immigration detention, following the ‘Open Access Now’ campaign, in the years ahead Migreurop will give priority to campaigning for the closure of all the detention camps for foreigners in Europe and beyond, under the slogan ‘Close the Camps’.

The ‘Close the Camps’ mobilisation will aim to better expose detention centres including their new forms, to familiarise the public with them, in order to demand different policies."

See: After the 'Open Access Now' campaign: mobilisation (pdf)

EU: Migration and border security top INTERPOL European meeting agenda (INTERPOL press release, link): "Addressing the border security challenges posed by an unprecedented number of migrants travelling to Europe is a key issue for senior law enforcement officials gathered at the 44th INTERPOL European Regional Conference.

Following the publication of the joint Europol-INTERPOL Report on Migrant Smuggling Networks earlier this week, delegates at the conference will hear from countries including Austria, Germany, Slovenia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as well as from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on their experiences in tackling this phenomenon.

With the report highlighting that border controls influence key routes for migrant smuggling, ensuring frontline officers have access to INTERPOL’s capabilities in order to access vital policing information, particularly within the Schengen area, is an essential part of enhancing national, regional and global security."

See: MIGRANT SMUGGLING NETWORKS Joint Europol-INTERPOL Report (pdf) and speeches from the conference: Opening address by Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General (pdf) and Closing speech by Mr Alexander PROKOPCHUK, INTERPOL Executive Committee Delegate for Europe (pdf)

Questionable Deal: EU to Work with African Despot to Keep Refugees Out (Der Spiegel, link): "The ambassadors of the 28 European Union member states had agreed to secrecy. "Under no circumstances" should the public learn what was said at the talks that took place on March 23rd, the European Commission warned during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee. A staff member of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini even warned that Europe's reputation could be at stake.

Under the heading "TOP 37: Country fiches," the leading diplomats that day discussed a plan that the EU member states had agreed to: They would work together with dictatorships around the Horn of Africa in order to stop the refugee flows to Europe -- under Germany's leadership.

When it comes to taking action to counter the root causes of flight in the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, "I strongly believe that we must improve peoples' living conditions." The EU's new action plan for the Horn of Africa provides the first concrete outlines: For three years, ?40 million ($45 million) is to be paid out to eight African countries from the Emergency Trust Fund, including Sudan.

Minutes from the March 23 meetings and additional classified documents obtained by SPIEGEL and the German public television station ARD show "Report Mainz" show that the focus of the project is border protection. To that end, equipment is to be provided to the countries in question."

And see: Europe’s secret deal with Africa’s dictators (New Statesman, link): "Detailed plans, copies of which have been seen by the New Statesman, lay out a programme of co-operation with some of Africa’s most notorious regimes. The aim is to curtail the exodus of African refugees, whose arrival in Europe has become such a toxic political question."

Background: EU-AFRICA: EU refugee crisis: Valletta Conference 11-12 November 2015 Update: Final texts and full documentation (Statewatch News Online, November 2015) and The 'Khartoum Process': beefing up borders in east Africa (October 2015)

GERMANY-MAGHREB: Condemnation and denunciation statement: Stop the attack on human dignity (pdf) signed by Maghreb LGBTQ organisations Mawjoudin (Tunisia), Aswat (Morocco), Alouen (Algeria) and Quzah (Libya): "In the context of the International day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and as Human Rights activists generally and LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queer) rights activists specifically in the Region of North Africa, we address our speech to all Governments concerned and to International Organizations following the last decisions issued by the German Parliament concerning the “Safe Country” report regarding Asylum Seekers from the Greater MaghrebCountries (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria) without consideration of International Covenants and what they stipulate as to guaranteeing the right to seek protection and Freedom of movement that are clearly enshrined in the Article 13 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which includes the principle of freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State."

See: 'Safe countries': German MPs vote to block asylum applications from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria (RT, link)

Dispatches: Dignity at Stake for Refugees with Disabilities in Greece (Human Rights Watch, link): "“Here it is very hard for me to go to the toilet. My husband helps me at the door and random women help me inside the toilet,” Nawael, a 34-year-old Syrian woman who uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed from an airstrike in Syria, told me. I met her, her three children, and husband last March at the informal refugee camp at the Athens port of Piraeus.

Nawael is among dozens of refugees with disabilities I’ve met in Greece over the past year. Like many other people with disabilities forced to flee, Nawael told me of their treacherous journey to Europe, and how her husband carried her most of the time. She spoke of the difficulties in Greece in accessing a proper place to sleep, the toilet, food, and medical assistance."

EU-TURKEY: The saga continues

Bulgaria asks EU for ‘plan B’ if Turkey abandons refugee deal (EurActiv, link): "Bulgaria asked the European Union to develop a backup plan, in the event that Turkey refuses to implement its agreement to deal with the refugee crisis, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said on Friday (20 May).

Mitov made the comment at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers last week, at which NATO-EU cooperation to deal with refugee crisis was discussed.

“We are pushing for plan B. It must take into account many factors. You need to be aware that the agreement itself has its delicate moments. We have insisted for such a plan and now we are discussing it,” said Mitov, according to Bulgarian newspaper Sega."

See also: Erdogan approves law on Turkey-EU readmission deal (Hurriyet Daily News, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved a law on an agreement between Ankara and Brussels on the readmission of people residing in the EU without authorization."

But: Erdogan adviser warns Turkey could suspend EU agreements (Reuters, link): "Turkey could suspend all of its agreements with the European Union, including a customs union, if the bloc continues its "double standards" in talks with Ankara, an adviser to President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Speaking on state broadcaster TRT Haber, Yigit Bulut, who advises Erdogan on the economy, warned that if Europe failed to live up to its promises to Turkey, Ankara could review all of its relations with the 28-member bloc."

And: Bulgaria to build more fences to stop migrants: media report (EurActiv, link)

France, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands met at Eurojust and set up a task force on illegal immigrant smuggling in the North Sea region (Eurojust press release, link): "Judicial and law enforcement professionals from France, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as liaison magistrates and specialists from Europol, recently came together at Eurojust for an operational meeting on illegal immigrant smuggling in the North Sea region.

The meeting, which was chaired by the National Member for France, discussed emerging trends and new threats in the field of illegal immigrant smuggling and explored the possibilities of more efficient cooperation and information sharing in related cases.

During the meeting, the work of Eurojust’s Thematic group on Illegal immigrant smuggling (TG IIS) was presented, after which the authorities involved outlined the state of play in the fight against illegal immigrant smuggling in their respective countries. Specialists from Europol then presented the work of their team in disrupting migrant smuggling networks. The participants highlighted the complexity of the migrant smuggling phenomenon, in which national authorities are confronted with highly adaptable and mobile transnational criminal networks."

Joint press release of the Greek Asylum Service, UNHCR and European Asylum Support Office (EASO): The registration of asylum seekers residing in open reception facilities in the mainland will begin in the next few weeks (link): "The Asylum Service will conduct a pre-registration exercise for international protection in the mainland from end of May to end of July with the financial support of the European Commission (DG Home), The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will support the Asylum Service in this exercise.

The pre-registration exercise will take several weeks to conclude, but all those who arrived in Greece before 20 March, wishing to apply for international protection in Greece and are currently residing on the mainland will be able to pre-register.

The pre-registration exercise is the first step to apply for international protection in Greece, which could eventually lead to (i) examination of the application for international protection by the Greek authorities, and potential recognition of beneficiary of international protection, or (ii) transfer to another EU Member State in the context of Dublin III provisions, or, (iii) transfer to another EU Member State in the context of the relocation scheme.

Before and during the pre-registration exercise, information will be provided on the available options to those concerned, through leaflets and information teams deployed to the open accommodation sites.

The International Organization for Migration will also participate in order to provide information on voluntary repatriation to the countries of origin to those interested.

Those wishing to be pre-registered must be physically present during this exercise, including any members of their family. A photo will be taken of each individual during this exercise. At the end of the pre-registration an asylum seeker card will be issued for each individual."

GREECE: Humanitarian space and border management in Lesbos (OpenDemocracy, link): "The latest EU-Turkey deal is the culmination of months of attempts by the European Commission to take control of the eastern Mediterranean, a space that has recently seen the arrival of over one million people as well as unprecedented displays of solidarity by people across Europe.

(...)

The unfolding drama on the Greek islands can be read in three acts: the rise of autonomous and solidaric organisation; the emergence of a securitised humanitarian border space; and, finally, the consolidation of a de facto securitised and punitive regime. Throughout all three of these acts, actors have negotiated and renegotiated the relationship between the solidarity, humanitarianism, and securitisation agendas."

News (23.5.16)

Migrant crisis: Child trafficking on rise in EU (BBC News, link): "The number of children trafficked to EU countries by gangs - often for prostitution - is rising and the UK is a major destination, new data show.

The European Commission says child trafficking is "one of the trends that is increasing most sharply".

In 2013-2014 there were 15,846 registered victims of trafficking in the EU, at least 15% of them children.

Three-quarters of the victims were women, and 67% were trafficked for sex. Many other victims were not detected.

According to the official Commission figures, the UK registered 1,358 victims in 2013-2014, and the Netherlands registered the most - 1,561."

GERMANY: Rightwing violence surges in Germany (The Guardian, link): "The number of violent crimes with a rightwing political motive rose more than 40% in Germany last year accompanying a large influx of migrants into the country, the government has said. The number of crimes committed by foreigners was also up more than 10%.

German authorities recorded 1,485 violent far-right crimes last year, up from 1,029 the previous year, according to annual crime statistics. As the number of homes for asylum seekers grew, so too did attacks on them, which more than quadrupled to 923. Acts of violence against those homes increased to 177 from 26 the previous year."

SPAIN: 100 organizaciones acusan al Ministro Fernández de promover actos inmorales contra los Derechos Humanos [100 organisations accuse the Fernansez Ministry of promoting immoral acts contrary to human rights] (Periodismo Humano, link): "According to the 115 signatory organisations, the awarding of medals to Guardia Civil officers, accused and absolved of beating and illegally deporting migrants and refugees, not only exceeds the powers of the caretaker government, but also means awarding and promoting illegal actions that gravely infringe human rights, about which the United Nations has recently shown its grave concern and which is also the theme of several cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21-22.5.16)


Syrian refugee wins appeal against forced return to Turkey (Guardian, link):

 

"Decision by Greek independent asylum service to overturn deportation order throws EU-Turkey migration deal into chaos

The EU-Turkey migration deal has been thrown further into chaos after an independent authority examining appeals claims in Greece ruled against sending a Syrian refugee back to Turkey, potentially creating a precedent for thousands of other similar cases.

In a landmark case, the appeals committee upheld the appeal of an asylum seeker who had been one of the first Syrians listed for deportation under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal.

In a document seen by the Guardian, a three-person appeals tribunal in Lesbos said Turkey would not give Syrian refugees the rights they were owed under international treaties and therefore overturned the applicant’s deportation order by a verdict of two to one. The case will now be re-assessed from scratch.

The committee’s conclusion stated: “The committee has judged that the temporary protection which could be offered by Turkey to the applicant, as a Syrian citizen, does not offer him rights equivalent to those required by the Geneva convention.".....

Greek media said it would be only a matter of time before the “bombshell” decision had the snowball effect of triggering an avalanche of similar asylum requests by other refugees, especially Syrians, detained on far-flung Aegean islands. Some 174 claims have been examined by appeals committees made up of asylum experts, lawyers and officials in Lesbos so far, with 100 being upheld, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini."

and see: Migrant deal at risk as Turkey deemed unsafe by Greek court (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The committee of judges on Lesvos refused to reject an asylum application by a Syrian refugee and send him back to Turkey, because it ruled it unsafe and said that the case should be examined further – meaning the implementation of the deal will face even further delays as it will take more time to process thousands of applications of stranded migrants.

The decision could form a precedent and deal a devastating blow to the agreement signed in late March, as it could put on hold the return of Syrian refugees to Turkey and, essentially, render the agreement toothless.

The asylum court on Lesvos has so far examined 174 applications by Syrians, of whom 100 have been granted asylum. The remaining applicants, who were rejected, have lodged appeals requesting the re-examination of their cases."

Meanwhile, people are still dying – Refugee and migrant communities call to all European citizens (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, link):

"BHC is joining the Greek Forum of Refugees in its call for support, by sharing their open letter regarding the current situation of refugees in Greece. Refugee and migrant communities call to all European citizens.....

We, people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, workers, parents, students, soon-to-be or already European citizens, are joining our voices to all those ashamed of how Europe is treating refugees and migrants. What’s wrong?""

EU Budgetary Responses to the ‘Refugee Crisis’ Reconfiguring the Funding Landscape (CEPS, link):

"EU funding for cooperation with third countries to prevent the inflow of refugees and asylum seekers has monetise questions over the responsibility for these individuals. As the EU – Turkey agreement shows , this has created a self - imposed dependence on third countries, with the risk of potentially insatiable demands for EU funding."

How Europe is punishing migrants (Washington Post, link): "As hundreds of thousands of refugees have poured into Europe, some countries and regions have tried to pass legislation that specifically targets refugees and migrants. Here's a look at some of those policies that have been introduced in the last year.

MSF calls for immediate opening of hotspots (link):

"Two months after the signing of the deal by the European Union and Turkey, the situation continues to deteriorate for migrants incarcerated on the Greek islands. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reiterates the abject conditions of these incarcerations and calls for the immediate opening of hotspots.

Since 20 March, refugees landing on the islands are sent to lock-down centres. Among them are women and infants and dozens of unaccompanied minors for whom no specific protection measures have been instituted. "

UK: Refugee Council: England’s forgotten refugees: Out of the fire and into the frying pan (link):

"The research explores the experience of newly recognised refugees within their first year of being granted asylum by the UK Government. When an asylum seeker is granted refugee status, those who are receiving accommodation and subsistence payments from the Home Office are informed that it will cease in 28 days. This is known as the ‘grace’ or ‘move on’ period and it is expected that the newly recognised refugee will be able to secure housing and income in this timeframe."

Are You Syrious (21.5.16)

Translators, lawyers urgently needed on Chios

"Situation on the overcrowded island is still very bad due to mistreatment of the refugees and significant lack of relevant information about their legal possibilities. In order to tackle this, Kurdish, Farsi, Arabic and Dari translators are urgently needed, as well as migration law experts. Kurdish interpreters and legal experts should contact Gabrielle Tan of Action from Switzerland directly, while Farsi, Arabic and Dari translators are invited to contact Chios Eastern Shore Response Team. If you are willing to sponsor a skilled translator or legal volunteer, feel free to contact Gabrielle or CESRT as well."

ITALY: Only one Sicilian hotspot working properly, fears of mafia infiltration rising

"Delegation of the parliamentary committee for the refugees has visited the hotspot of Milo in the province of Trapani, Sicily, witnessing the boat landing of 435 refugees (143 of them minors) from the MSF ship Dignity. Trapani was singled out as a good example of NGO’s and authorities working together to ensure fast transfer of the new arrivals, as opposed to other two Sicilian hotspots Lampedusa and Pozzallo where refugees are detained for longer periods of time, waiting for their placement in reception centers.

Hotspots must remain centers of identification and not turn into detention centers. Otherwise we won’t be able to absorb the flow of migrants which is expected to increase in the coming months?—?said Federico Gelli of Democratic party after visiting Trapani today

The delegation also warned about the possibility of mafia infiltration in the hotspots, which could lead to further endangering refugees."

UNHCR: Daily Report (19.5.16)

"According to the Turkish Coast Guard, the number of people attempting to irregularly cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece has dropped significantly in April. 400 people were intercepted on the Aegean in the first half of May, compared to 800 in the first half of April, representing a 50% decrease. The number of interceptions in April had already fallen by 80% in comparison to those of March.

Of the 24,500 refugees intercepted so far this year, 5,506 took place in January, 8,747 in February, 8,530 in March, and 1,717 in April. Also according to Turkish Coast Guard figures, no casualties occurred in Turkish waters this April."

and see UNHCR: detention centres in Greece: Capacity and actual number of refugees (pdf)

35 refugees arrived in Lesvos on 20 May.

Hungary: Where have all the deported asylum seekers gone? (Budapest Beacon, link):

"Between 15 September 2015 and 11 May 2016, Hungarian immigration authorities ordered the expulsion of 2,639 individuals from Hungary. These individuals were put through the expedited expulsion process as a result of the new crime of engaging in restricted border crossing. This is the process that has been criticized by many international human rights organizations, foreign governments and the UN Refugee Agency as a violation of international agreements....

The big question here is what happened to individuals who were expelled on paper but were not taken back by Serbia."

Ai Weiwei says EU's refugee deal with Turkey is immoral - Unveiling work documenting his time on Lesbos, Chinese artist describes getting caught up in ‘shameful humanitarian crisis’ (Guardian, link)

"The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei described the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey as shameful and immoral as he unveiled the artistic results of his stay on the Greek island of Lesbos....

Of the agreement, Ai said: “It is not legal or moral, it is shameful and it is not a solution. It will cause problems later.” "

Amnesty International: Urgent Action: Syrians returned from Greece, arbitrarily held (pdf):

"A group of 12 Syrian refugees, including four children, have been arbitrarily detained at the Düziçi camp since 27 April. They were some of the first Syrians voluntarily returned to Turkey from Greece since the signing of the EU-Turkey deal. Some have medical conditions for which they have not been receiving adequate treatment."

Bulgaria, still going to be a poor guardian of European’s External Borders (Border Monitoring Bulgaria, link):

"At the beginning of May 2016, Sofia and Ankara signed a protocol about returning migrants from Bulgaria back to Turkey from June the 1st, who crossed the border in an “illegal“ way. It is not clear what means this for the estimated 50 migrants, which are still arriving in Bulgaria on a daily basis to transit the country to Western Europe. The Signing was accelerated after the EU and Turkey sealed their controversial deal on returning refugees (on March 18 this year), which forced Brussels to make serious concessions to Ankara in an attempt to halt the migrant flow.".

News (21-22.5.16)

Vote Leave embroiled in race row over Turkey security threat claims - Brexit group ‘appealing to prejudice’ with argument that Turkey’s accession to EU would put Britons at greater risk of crime (Guardian, link)

Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans (Daily Sabah, link): "Dreaming of reaching Western European countries, desperate refugees said they are being pushed back into Greece by some Balkan countries even though their papers are complete. Some have been stuck in no-man's land for days"

Turkey wants withdrawal of NATO Refugees Surveillance Mission in the Aegean Sea (Keep Talking Greece, link): "Daily Eleftheros Typos that obtained the report Greek diplomats sent to the political and military leadership in Athens, writes that “Turkey expressed its wish to have ending of the NATO action in the Aegean Sea and the Alliance is expected to take up the issue in near future even before the NATO Summit in Warsaw.”"

Turkey refuses EU travel to highly skilled Syrian refugees: report (DW, link): "German media has reported that Ankara is banning Syrian academics from leaving Turkey. Turkey has already threatened to end a migration deal with the EU amid the ongoing dispute over visa-free travel for its citizens."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20.5.16)


African Civil Society condemns the hunt for migrants on the continent (pdf):

 

"African civil society condemns these hunting policies for migrants that grow everywhere on the African continent with the support of the European institutions under the guise of the fight against "irregular" migration. The current situation in Libya is a sad illustration with anti-immigration brigade heavily armed, with the support of the European Union, which tracks day and night the sub-Saharan migrant workers cram in detention centers instead of effectively combating traffickers and Libyan smugglers...

The lure of European financial aid to fight against migration transforms the African political authorities in real persecutors of their brothers and sisters who are looking for work to live and feed their families. This could recall the time of slavery abolished there only two centuries. The European Union, at the expense of its humanist values, and shamelessly, in African countries outsources its security migration policy.

African civil society calls for the African Union commission, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and all African heads of state to listen to the voice of their people and engage resolutely in a real regional integration process. Only a true African integration could prevent our countries to always be the instrument of European policy and will prevent brave young hope of tomorrow's Africa, being killed in other countries on the continent seeking win their daily bread."

Signed by: The West African Observatory on Migrations (WAOM), The Pan African Network for the Defense of Migrants' Rights (PANiDMR), Caritas - Migration and Development Network (MADE) – Africa, Moroccan Transnational Network on Migration and Development (RMTMD), Samir ABI, Visions Solidaires.

CYPRUS: Recent conflicts at Kofinou constitute a manifestation of the Center’s Abandonment by the Government (pdf) and: Greek (pdf)

"During Saturday night (14.05.16), a number of serious incidents were noted between residents of the Kofinou Center for Asylum Seekers, which resulted in the injury of certain individuals and became the cause for great turbulence.i KISA condemns in the most unreserved manner any act of violence, no matter its source. At the same time however, we consider the particular incident to constitute an expression of the chronic and structural problems which are present at Kofinou and which have been exacerbated due to the Ministry of Interior’s continued delay in deciding upon the Center’s new supervision body. As a result of the above, the Kofinou Reception Center for Asylum Seekers continues to remain without any Administration Unit for the past eight months."

Greece: Campaign for Access to Asylum: Open Letter to the Asylum Service (pdf)

"The great difficulty in access to the asylum procedure was the reason why our campaign was founded in 2012. Today, four years later, not only hasn’t this problem been solved but it has greatly deteriorated....

The problem has now reached alarming levels, given that:

- the refugee population is a much-afflicted population (because of the sufferings from the war and persecutions, the difficult journey towards our country and also the severe deficiencies of our country regarding their reception) which is in a state of great uncertainty.

- a great number of those people belong to particularly vulnerable groups (40% chlidren, a great number of sick people and people with disabilities).

- the documents of a large number of those people have already expired and as a result they are in risk of arrest, detention and deportation, as they are in state of legal uncertainty."

The DCR/ECRE desk research on application of a safe third country and a first country of asylum concepts to Turkey (link)

"There is currently no meaningful capacity in Turkey for permanent independent monitoring of migration and border control management practices of Turkish authorities. In particular with regard to Turkey’s extensive land borders in the south and east and the increasing number of detention centres that are being used and established by the Turkish authorities. This means that present practices of immigration and border authorities remain outside any meaningful and independent scrutiny....

The present analysis of the current legal framework for international protection in Turkey and the available evidence of gaps in asylum seekers’ and refugees’ access to human rights, absence of effective access to procedural guarantees during the asylum procedure, and documented cases of refoulement, does not allow for the conclusion that Turkey meets the criteria laid down in Article 38(1) and Article 35 recast Asylum Procedures Directive."

See: Final version (pdf)

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 20 May 2016: Final press release (pdf): including: "Council expressed support for Greece's designation of Turkey as a safe country for return of irregular migrants"

"B" Points Agenda (for discussion, pdf), "A" Points (legislative, adopted without discussion) and "A" Points (non-legislative, adopted without discussion). See Background Note (pdf)

Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans (ekathimerini.com, link):

"IDOMENI - Anwar Ismail Murad passed almost effortlessly along what has become known as the Balkan route, heading north from Greece to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, through Serbia, Croatia and on to Slovenia. He reached there on February 14, when the border was still open, but that’s where his dream abruptly died....

From then on, against all expectations — and against official policy — Murad found himself kicked back across nearly all the borders he had passed through...

Balkan countries along the route say they do not force potential asylum-seekers back across the border they just came from. But Murad’s case is by no means the only one."

Turkish minister: Anti-terror law amendment ‘not on the agenda’ (euractiv, link):

"The granting of visa liberalisation, and to a lesser extent the German parliament’s expected recognition of the Armenian genocide, could threaten to derail the EU’s refugee pact with Turkey. EurActiv’s partner Der Tagesspiegel spoke with the Turkish Minister of Youth and Sport, Çagatay Kiliç....

The EU needs Ankara to change its anti-terror laws if it is to grant visa liberalisation to its citizens. Will Turkey follow through on this?

We have to make it clear what we mean when we talk about anti-terror legislation. The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) is a terrorist organisation, it is classed as such by Germany and the EU. We are fighting a war on terror, so we have to stand together. It’s the EU that is going to have to move when it comes to defining the fight against terror...

So an amendment will not be made to the anti-terror law?

It’s not on the agenda."

Are You Syrious (link)

Bulgaria: Bigger and stronger wall

"The Bulgarian government plans to fill the gaps at its borders with Greece and Turkey in order to stop refugees and migrants from entering the country, German newspaper Bildt reports. The government would, according to the report, consider establishing a fence along certain parts of the country’s the border with Greece. It also planned to extend the fences along the Turkish border by another 160 kilometers over summer. The report says that action in the Aegean to tackle smuggling has shifted the migrant route to Western Europe from Turkey through Bulgaria."

Serbia: Up to 600 people daily in Belgrade

"According to Info Park and other organizations working with refugees in Serbia, a number of refugees going through Serbia is still high. They estimate that at any moment, there are at least 500–600 people in transit in Belgrade.

The refugees over the last couple of days are predominantly composed of Afghani citizens along with a smaller number of Syrian and Iraqi families with children. They are mainly coming from Macedonia, via Preshevo, while smaller part comes from Bulgaria, via Stara planina, according to Info Park."

And see: Guide to Asylum, reunification, and relocation in Greece is now available in Urdu, Arabic and Kurdish

Exclusive Video: Worst Riots Ever Break Out at Idomeni Refugee Camp (Greek Reporter, link)

Hungary: Updates on the asylum and migration situation in Hungary: May 6th - May 18th (migszol.com, link)

"As mentioned in our first situation update, one of the ways we at MigSzol can influence the current situation is through documentation. Many people are still passing through Hungary every day, and recently the importance of Hungary as a transit country has been increasing again: there are many things happening at both the Serbian and the Austrian borders and the situation is changing quickly. Even though most of the camps are full (and often overcrowded), there is very little information about the conditions there available.

Most importantly, see here for the information leaflet prepared by the Hungarian Helsinki committee."

See also: UNHCR: Hungary: As a Country of Asylum (pdf)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.5.16)


How real is the new irregular migration threat from Libya and what do the figures exactly say? (New Europe link):

 

"Recent reports and data available paint a mixed, if not confusing picture.

According to a leaked document by the Dutch Presidency of the EU to the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum of 3 May, during the first four months of 2016 there have been 27,810 arrivals from Libya, compared with approximately 26,000 in both 2014 and 2015 in the same period. In April 2016, there have been 9,116 arrivals, compared with 15,679 in April 2015 and 16,061 in April 2014."

Greeks rally to help as EU-Turkey deal leaves migrants locked up in limbo (The Conversation, link):

"After visiting refugee settlements in Lesbos and Piraeus and speaking to people helping the refugees, it is clear to me that the EU and Greek government are failing to provide even basic necessities to the thousands of people who have been used to deter further arrivals from Turkey.

The young refugees in Moria have been protesting against being imprisoned in a former military garrison for almost two months now, living in poor conditions but facing uncertainty about their future. There are 3,000 people living in facilities designed to accommodate a third of that number. I witnessed people fighting for food in queues."

Greece: Refugee “Hotspots” Unsafe, Unsanitary (HRW, link):

"(Athens) – Police are failing to protect people during frequent incidents of violence in closed centers on the Greek islands known as “hotspots,” Human Rights Watch said today. The centers were established for the reception, identification, and processing of asylum seekers and migrants. None of the three centers Human Rights Watch visited on Samos, Lesbos, and Chios in mid-May 2016, separate single women from unrelated adult men, and all three are unsanitary and severely overcrowded.

“In Europe’s version of refugee camps, women and children who fled war face daily violence and live in fear,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Lack of police protection, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions create an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity in Greece’s razor wire-fenced island camps.”"

UNHCR: Daily report (18.5.16): 190,647 arrivals in the EU this year: 155,837 in Greece, 33,907 in Italy. 1,361 deaths/missing and:

"On 10 May, the Hungarian Parliament approved amendment package submitted by the Ministry of Interior last February. The legislative amendments will enter into force as of 1 June 2016. The amendments will, inter alia, terminate measures aiming to facilitate integration of beneficiaries, introduce mandatory and automatic revision of refugee status at least every three years; reduce the maximum period of stay in open reception centres after recognition from sixty to thirty days, and reduce the eligibility period for free of charge access to basic health care services following recognition from one year to six months."

"In Hungary, between 9 and 15 May, 255 people were admitted into the transit zones (122 in Röszke and 133 in Tompa). Further limits have been placed on the number of asylum-seekers admitted in each transit zone, reducing it from 30 people per day to 15 due to new procedures at the border including the activation of EURODAC checks, comprehensive interviews and national security screening conducted by the Constitution Protection Office (CPO). This has prolonged the waiting time for some 300 people awaiting admission without shelter, sanitation and hygiene facilities, exposed to protection and health risks. As of the beginning of May, for people previously registered though the EURODAC system the asylum procedure at the border is suspended until the European Union Member State responsible to process the asylum application claim is determined, as according to Dublin III regulation.

Europe helped Greece in its migration hour of need. Now Italy needs help (Politico, link):

"Record numbers of migrants are likely to arrive on Lampedusa. The EU can’t leave Rome to deal with problem on its own....

The Turkish model is not much help. Turkey is a NATO member and an EU candidate. In the best case scenario in Libya’s stabilization process it will take years for the internationally backed Fayez al-Sarraj government to be in control of its territory and to re-establish a functioning state to which migrants could be “returned.” The prospect of any immigration accord, let alone of a Turkish-like trade-off, with Libya is a medium-long term prospect at best.".

Turkey summons EU ambassador over refugee deal comment( (euractiv, link):

"Turkey summoned the top European Union envoy in the country on Tuesday (17 May) to complain about comments he made last week on the refugee deal between Ankara and the EU, Turkish foreign ministry sources said yesterday (18 May).....

But progress halted when Brussels insisted that Ankara must also reform its tough anti-terror laws for another part of the deal – further talks on EU membership for Turkey – to resume. Turkey said that was out of the question."

NATO summit to mull presence in central Mediterranean after Aegean ‘success’ (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The case for possible NATO cooperation with the European Union’s border managing agency Frontex to detect and stop human trafficking in the central Mediterranean will be discussed, among other pressing issues, at Thursday’s NATO summit of foreign ministers in Brussels."

News (19.5.16):

EU resettled fewer than 200 Syrians under Turkey deal (euobserver, link): "Only 177 Syrians have been resettled in EU states under a March deal with Turkey to stem the flow of people seeking international protection in Greece, according to figures presented on Wednesday (18 May) by the EU commission."

NGO workers denounce Italian hotspot system (DW, link): "Humanitarian groups are questioning Italy's ability to handle minors and victims of torture, as irregular migration from North African continues. Diego Cupolo reports from Pozzallo, Sicily."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18.5.16)


European Commission: 18.5.16.

 

- Third report on relocation and resettlement (COM 360, pdf):

"Overall, progress on relocation since the Second Report on Relocation and Resettlement has been unsatisfactory. The Commission had set a target to relocate at least 20,000 persons by mid-May in its First Report on Relocation and Resettlement. The reality falls well short of this target. Only 355 additional persons have been relocated during the reporting period bringing the total number of persons relocated so far to 1,500 (909 from Greece and 591 from Italy)......

Austria,13 Hungary and Slovakia have still not submitted any pledge. In addition, a number of Member States (Germany and Poland) are not yet respecting the obligation under the Council Decision to indicate, every three months....

Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis that requires a quick and full implementation of the obligations assumed by Member States in the Council Decisions on relocation. As for Italy, although the numbers of people available for relocation has not yet seen a rapid increase, established seasonal patterns of migration point to the strong likelihood of an increase in the number of arrivals."

- Annex 1: Greece (pdf) Of the 63.302 pledges of relocation needed for Greece only 909 have been carried out.

- Annex 2: Italy (pdf) Of the 34,953 pledges of relocation need for Italy only 591 have been carried out.

- Annex 3: resettlement (pdf) 6.231 refugees have been resettled in the EU.

- Relocation and resettlement: State of Play (pdf)

See: Big Fail: The EU’s Relocation & Resettlement scheme (Keep Talking Greece, link): "The Relocation and Resettlement scheme for asylum seekers falls short and thus far beyond EU’s expectations. Apparently, the EU member-states are happy to have gotten rid of the problem and have 54,000 refugees stuck in Greece. "

Greece-Turkey deal: Plenary highlights: Europol, asylum reform, Turkey visa liberalisation (pdf):

"Aslym reform

Any reform of the EU's asylum system should be based on solidarity among member states as this will ensure the effective management of asylum applications, MEPs said in a debate on Wednesday with commissioners Frans Timmermans and Dimitris
Avramopoulos. Currently asylum demands need to be dealt with by the first EU country the applicant entered."

"Turkey visa liberalisation

MEPs voiced serious concerns about Turkey's lack of progress in meeting the EU’s conditions for liberalising its
visa regime for Turkish nationals in a debate on Wednesday."

A programme about British volunteers helping some of Europe's most vulnerable refugees (ITV, link): "25 days left"

Greek asylum system reaches breaking point (IRIN, link):

"As Greece prepares to deport an initial 500 migrants and refugees on Monday under a controversial agreement between the EU and Turkey, senior Greek officials say the pressure to process applications quickly has become too great, at the expense of legal and ethical standards.

“Insufferable pressure is being put on us to reduce our standards and minimise the guarantees of the asylum process,” Maria Stavropoulou, who heads the Greek Asylum Service, told IRIN. “[We’re asked] to change our laws, to change our standards to the lowest possible under the EU directive [on asylum procedures].” [emphasis added]

Statewatch comments:

The EU demands in March 2016 to lower Greek asylum law standards were themselves based on the "lowest common" denominators already built into the EU Asylum Directive.

These lower than low standards are built into the: Letter from Mathias Ruete, Director-General of European Commission Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs, to Vasileios Papadopoulos, Secretary-General, General Secretariat for Population and Social Cohesion, 5 May 2016 (pdf) and response: Hellenic Action for Human Rights: Pleiades Rejects European Commission Letter Regarding the Application of the Safe Third Country Concept to Turkey (Pleiades, link)

Interpol: increased border protection forces migrants to use people smugglers (Guardian, link):

"Deals such as EU-Turkey agreement in spotlight as report says 90% of irregular journeys to Europe facilitated by smugglers

Attempts to deter migrants from reaching Europe such as the EU-Turkey deal are likely to force people into the arms of smugglers, Interpol has said in a joint statement with the EU’s law enforcement agency.

More than 90% of recent irregular journeys to Europe were facilitated by smugglers, a figure that is likely to rise due to increased border protection, Interpol and Europol have concluded in a report on people smuggling.

“These numbers are expected to increase in the future in response to control measures taken by countries along the migratory routes,” the report says..."

See: MIGRANT SMUGGLING NETWORKS Joint Europol-INTERPOL Report (pdf)

EU plans for Libya risk crossing migration 'red lines' (euobserver, link):

"Italian officials and even German chancellor Angela Merkel have gone so far as to suggest that the EU should strike a deal with Libya similar to the one with Turkey, which allows the return of asylum seekers on the presumption that they are “safe” there.

The assessment that Turkey is safe for refugees and asylum seekers is wrong.

But the idea that Libya, riven by warring factions and with a fledgling and contested government of national unity that the EU is desperate to legitimise, can provide a safe haven is positively mind-boggling. "

Are You Syrious (link)

Syrians returned to Turkey under EU deal report being detained indefinitely in poor conditions and not being allowed to rejoin family members in Turkey:

"A group of 12 Syrians returned by plane on the 27th of April who were contacted by telephone said they had simply been detained without clear legal recourse since they arrived in a remote detention center in southern Turkey called Düziçi. The fate of two other Syrians deported along with hundreds of non-Syrians earlier in April is unknown.

“You can’t imagine how bad a situation we are in right now,” said one Syrian mother detained with her children, who now wants to return to Syria because she sees no alternative. “My children and I are suffering, the food is not edible. I’m forcing my children to eat because I don’t have any money to buy anything, but they refuse because there are bugs in it.”"

Violence erupts in Samos as a direct result of failings in the EU/Turkey deal

"Operators on the ground in Samos are witnessing first hand the failings of the EU/Turkey deal. The ‘1 in 1 out’ theory is not working in practice, with disastrous effects.

In Samos there are 1,000 refugees detained in a closed camp built to house just 300 people. 300 of those detained are children, including some with special needs & disabilities. Less than 20 people have been transferred off Samos since the deal was signed in March and despite the ‘crack down’ refugees have continued to arrive every day to the shores of Samos, sometimes 50 a day. As the numbers detained have been swelling, inevitably tensions have been building too".

News (18.5.16)

Refugees, migrants reach 54,574 in Greece on Wednesday (ekathimerini.com, link): "The number of identified refugees and migrants across Greece reached 54,574 on Wednesday, according to figures released by the country's Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration. According to the coordinating body, 8,549 refugees and migrants were staying on Greece's eastern Aegean islands – including 30 people who had arrived over the last 24 hours – while 14,510 were located in areas across Attica."

Borderless: Undercover with the People Smugglers - Inside the people-smuggling rings specialising in getting refugees into Europe (aljazeera.com, link)

Refugees will repay EU spending almost twice over in five years - report (Guardian, link): "Investigation into impact of refugees in Europe finds rising public debt will be offset by a much greater rise in GDP"

Cyprus, KISA: Recent conflicts at Kofinou constitute a manifestation of the Center’s Abandonment by the Government (link): "During Saturday night (14.05.16), a number of serious incidents were noted between residents of the Kofinou Center for Asylum Seekers, which resulted in the injury of certain individuals and became the cause for great turbulence. KISA condemns in the most unreserved manner any act of violence, no matter its source. At the same time however, we consider the particular incident to constitute an expression of the chronic and structural problems which are present at Kofinou and which have been exacerbated due to the Ministry of Interior’s continued delay in deciding upon the Center’s new supervision body. As a result of the above, the Kofinou Reception Center for Asylum Seekers continues to remain without any Administration Unit for the past eight months."

Italy: More than 1,100 migrants rescued off Italian coasts (Daily Sabah, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.5.16)


UN Human Rights: Greece: UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants concludes his follow up country visit to Greece (pdf): Fourteen Preliminary Recommendations on Greece:

 

"The unfortunate use of mandatory detention: The law limits administrative detention upon arrival to twenty-five days. However in practice detention at times lasts longer. I deeply regret the Greek government’s policy of increasing the use of detention of persons irregularly entering the Greek territory, including unaccompanied children and families."

"Establish a roster of lawyers and interpreters for easy access of the Asylum Service, First Reception Service and other authorities. Appoint immediately camp management for every hotspot and every open camp, in charge of coordinating activities of all actors and protecting the human rights of migrants; provide clear and public information with regards to the authority of the management at central level."

And nine Recommendations addressed to the EU, including:

"Ensure an independent and thorough human rights impact assessment to overview how the EU-migration agenda, the EU-Turkey statement and all future agreements on mobility and migration are carried out.

Examine the EU's accountability under an agreement such as the EU-Turkey statement.".

Greek journalists draft ethical code to fight racism on refugees coverage (European federation of Journalists, link):

"The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is strongly supporting the initiative of its affiliate in Greece the Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH) – who drafted a proposal for the adoption of the Anti-racism Ethics Code of the Greek journalists called The Charter of Idomeni, in the name of the border control village where thousands of refugees are passing through to reach Northern European countries."

Report Launched for "Mapping Refugee Media Journeys" project (Open University, link):

"The Open University has released a ground–breaking research report on how refugees use smartphones. It was led by Prof. Marie Gillespie and was carried out in partnership with France Medias Monde....

The report, “Mapping Refugee Media Journeys: Smart Phones and Social Media Networks” explores the benefits and risks of mobile phones for refugees. It calls for action from the European Commission and Member States to fulfill their responsibilities under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to provide relevant, reliable and timely information and news for refugees."

See report: Mapping Refugee Media Journeys Smartphones and Social Media Networks (pdf) and Website (link)

The Lampedusa Hotspot Failure: Refugees Demand Dignity (Liberties.eu, link):

"Having been held as prisoners on the island of Lampedusa for months now, a number of refugees started a hunger strike to demand to be enabled to leave the island. Besides the desperate living conditions in the island's former reception center and first European hotspot, refugees expressed their opposition to identifications that would force them to stay in Italy, even though they wish to settle in another European country. They are roughly 550 migrants living in these conditions, a figure that is set to increase since multiple new landings took place in the last few days. "

Samos: Greece: Revealing Truths: Talking with Refugees in Samos (Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones, link):

"The term ‘the system’ is one we have come across many times when talking with refugees and with poor people in many places and in various countries. It refers to the ways in which people understand the world and their place in it. It is also a description of the world in which they live under the gaze of teachers, police, social workers, border guards, prison officers, NGOs, bosses and supervisors and so on. It is the system that watches and humiliates and as one young Syrian refugee told us, it celebrates and feeds on wars. “Always war“ he said. “If it is not shooting you in your body, it is trying to destroy your brain and always shoots at our pockets.”"

Syrians returned to Turkey under EU deal 'have had no access to lawyers' (Guardian, link):

"Refugees report being detained indefinitely in poor conditions and not being allowed to rejoin family members in Turkey...

The first Syrians to be returned by plane under the EU-Turkey deal have been detained in a remote camp for the past three weeks with no access to lawyers, casting further doubts over EU claims that they are being sent back to a safe third country.

With hundreds more likely to be expelled in similar fashion in the coming weeks, the returnees have warned that those following in their wake face arbitrary detention, an inscrutable asylum process, and substandard living conditions. Their claims undermine the legitimacy of the EU-Turkey migration deal,...."

UN proposal would ask EU ships to enforce Libya arms embargo (euractiv, link): "The European Union’s Operation Sophia would be tasked with enforcing a UN arms embargo that was imposed on Libya in 2011, during the uprising against Moamer Kadhafi. European powers are also looking at building up Libya’s coast guards to ramp up operations against migrant smugglers operating off the coast of the north African country." and:

Libya to be military equipped in fight against ISIL - The US and other world powers agree to help unity government in the fight against ISIL threat in Libya.(aljazeera.com)

EU struggles to save Turkey agreement (New Europe, link):

"Tensions continue to rise over a deal to grant Turks visa-free travel rights within the European Union. Controversy hit a peak when the European Commission’s third report on Turkey’s progress in fulfilling the requirements of the visa liberalisation roadmap found that Turkey is still short several benchmarks. Five of them, including one of the most important benchmarks, have yet to be addressed.

More specifically, under the fundamental rights block, Turkey still needs to “revise – in line with the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) and with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) case law, the EU acquis and EU Member States practices – the legal framework as regards organised crime and terrorism, as well as its interpretation by the courts and by the security forces and the law enforcement agencies, so as to ensure the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, of assembly and association in practice”."

UNHCR (17.5.16)

"On 13 May, 1,034 people arrived to Italy following several search and rescue operations. They were disembarked in Augusta (344), Catania (286), Crotone
(231) and Palermo (173). Despite the Coast Guard’s initial communication regarding the nationality of arrivals, following disembarkation, UNHCR did not observe large groups of people originating from Syria. Boats disembarked from Egypt carried people mainly from Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Comoros Islands. Boats departed from Libya carried mainly people originating from various Sub Sahara countries."

"On 13 May, the Austrian Minister of the Interior announced that for the time being, border controls will not be introduced at the Austrian-Italian Brennero crossing. He said that currently numbers of asylumseekers and migrants have dropped significantly and linked this to tightened controls on trains taking place in Italy prior to reaching Austria through Brennero.."

News (17.5.16)

Stop jailing refugee children, UN adviser tells Greece (euobserver, link)

World must tackle 'once-in-a-generation' refugee crisis: Angelina Jolie (Reuters, link): "Global leaders must come together to tackle a 'once-in-a-generation' migrant crisis, said U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie, or risk greater instability that could drive more refugees to Europe. The United Nations and the declaration of human rights were among the world-changing outcomes of the global refugee crisis after World War Two, Jolie said, adding that the international community is now at a similar pivotal moment. "I believe this is again that once-in-a-generation moment when nations have to pull together," the Hollywood actress and director told the BBC."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16.5.16)


EU: European Commission statistics on the refugee crisis: updated with new figures from 12 May.

 

European Commission letter to Greek asylum authorities: all is well in Turkey

A letter from the European Commission to the Greek authorities setting out why Turkey should be considered a safe third country has been condemned by a Greek human rights group as an attempt "to establish standardized reasoning for systematically denying the asylum claims of Syrian and non-Syrian nationals as inadmissible in Greece."

Key documents: Letter from Mathias Ruete, Director-General of European Commission Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs, to Vasileios Papadopoulos, Secretary-General, General Secretariat for Population and Social Cohesion, 5 May 2016 (pdf)

and Hellenic Action for Human Rights: Pleiades Rejects European Commission Letter Regarding the Application of the Safe Third Country Concept to Turkey (Pleiades, link)

To Deal with the Refugee Crisis, Europe Needs to Confront the Demons From Its History (Vice, link): "In 2012 I flew to Budapest for the BBC to cover the right–wing political car-crash that is Hungary.

In the parliament, right by the Danube, I interviewed one of the leaders of Jobbik, a thinly disguised fascist movement who had only just given up having a uniformed militia.

Off camera I asked one member of the party, "What's your attitude to the British National Party?" He answered: "Well, they are against Muslims whereas the people we have the problem with is Jews.""

Why is the cost of hosting refugees falling on the world's poorest states? (The Guardian, link): "Whether or not a similar scenario will play out in Kenya is hard to tell. Certainly, one of the great challenges in advocating for a rights-respecting outcome is that European states hardly have a moral leg to stand on in all of this. While Kenya has been hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees for decades (albeit begrudgingly, and often at the expense of refugees’ quality of life), most European governments have shown a shocking lack of willingness to take in any more than a token number of refugees.

For decades, the default response to refugee crises has been to set up camps or settlements and coerce refugees into them. The UNHCR launched an Alternatives to Camps policy in 2014, but no viable alternatives were found to camps such as Dadaab and Kakuma."

News (16.5.16)

Austria backs down on Brenner Pass border checks (The Local, link): "Austria said Friday it would no longer seek to resume controversial checks on its frontier with Italy after tougher measures by Rome have led to a huge drop in migrant numbers.

Vienna had threatened to re-impose controls on the Brenner Pass in the Alps as part of a string of anti-migrant measures if Italy failed to reduce the number of new arrivals heading to Austria.

"The number of illegal migrants has dropped to almost zero in the past weeks," Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano at the pass, a key north-south route.

"That's why it is not necessary to carry out border controls at the Brenner pass for now," Sobotka said."

EU-Turkey deal: MEPs to go to Greece to check on refugees and implementation of EU-Turkey deal (press release, pdf): "A Civil Liberties Committee delegation will travel to Greece from 18 to 20 May to check the situation of refugees at the external borders of the EU and assess how the EU-Turkey deal to manage migrant and asylum-seekers flows into the EU is being implemented. MEPs will visit the Greece/FYROM border, the island of Lesvos and Athens. They will also meet representatives of the Greek Government, and EU and international bodies, as well as NGOs."

Macedonia: More than 11,000 migrants sent back to Greece (Anadolu Agency, link): "Macedonian authorities have sent more than 11,000 migrants back to Greece since it closed its borders to migrants in early March.

Director of the Macedonian Interior Ministry of Strategic Affairs Department Nataliya Spirova told Anadolu Agency that, in total, 11,803 migrants had been apprehended and returned to Greece since the country sealed its borders on March 8.

She added the border patrols were done by Greek, foreign and Macedonian police and military forces."

NETHERLANDS: Mayor admits helping Syrian refugees go into hiding (update) (Dutch News, link): "A Dutch mayor has been accused of putting himself above the law for helping a family of Syrian refugees avoid deportation.

Jos Heijmans told a council meeting in Weert, Limburg, that he acted to prevent the family, consisting of a mother and her four children, being separated from her younger brother. Only the brother, who is 18, had permission to stay in the Netherlands.

After two failed attempts to keep the family in the Netherlands legally – first through the courts and then by writing to junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff – Heijmans helped to shelter the mother and her children, 1Limburg reported."

UN envoy blasts EU's 'lack of vision' on migration (Ekathimerini, link): "A United Nations envoy for human rights has criticized the European Union's response to the refugee crisis as showing a "lack of vision," operating under legal ambiguity, and backing the detention of newly arrived migrants in Greece.

The envoy, Francois Crepeau, said the March agreement between the EU and Turkey to send back migrants reaching Europe required "much stronger legal instruments to ensure legal accountability.""

UN says turning migrants away 'won't work' (BBC News, link): "The UN high commissioner for refugees says the migrants crisis is now a global phenomenon and that simply turning them away "won't work".

Filippo Grandi told the BBC that more nations had to help the "few countries" shouldering the burden, by increasing both funding and resettlement.

He said that, last year, fewer than 1% of 20 million refugees had been resettled in another nation.

More are fleeing conflict and hardship than at any other time in history."

U.N. urges Greece to stop detaining migrant children (Reuters, link): "A top United Nations official urged Greece on Monday to stop detaining refugee and migrant children, some of whom are locked up in police cells for weeks, and to develop child protection services instead.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, said he had met unaccompanied children held in police stations for more than two weeks without access to the outdoors, and "traumatised and distressed" by the experience.

Others were with their families in overcrowded detention centres, where inter-communal frictions and contradictory information created "an unacceptable level of confusion, frustration, violence and fear", he said.

"Children should not be detained - period," said Crepeau, on a fact-finding mission in Greece from May 12 to 16."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-15.5.16)


David Miliband's refugee aid group in corruption probe (Daily Telegraph, link):

 

"The United States is investigating an international aid group headed by David Miliband over allegations of corruption in projects intended to help Syrian civilians and refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of three international groups to have had millions of pounds in funding withdrawn over alleged bid-rigging and bribery....

Allegations relate to the organisations systematically overpaying for goods in Turkey. A senior USAID official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said private Turkish companies had sold cut-rate blankets and other basic materials at vastly inflated prices and pocketed the difference...."

Refugees: German police chief concerned at growing anti-refugee violence (DW, link):

"Germany's federal police chief says there have been 45 arson ttacks on refugee shelters so far this year. He warned of the potential threat posed by organized right-wing extremist crime....

Speaking to newspapers of the Funke media group, Münch said the "increasing level of violence was especially of concern," adding that 45 arson attacks had been carried out on refugee shelters so far this year.."

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF): Europe, don't turn your back on asylum: #TakePeopleIn (link)

"Meanwhile the welcome offered by Europe to those in Greece often erases what little hope people had left. In island ‘hotspots’ there are virtually no safeguards in place. Women fear to go to the toilet once darkness falls, mothers beg for formula milk to feed their babies, and men of all ages lose their dignity fighting over scraps of food or who is next in line.

European countries, people are in need of your help and protection – not just your money. Is World War II so long ago that you no longer recall the basic human need to flee from violence and persecution when left with no other choice? We understand that meeting the huge challenges of the global displacement crisis has become a controversial political issue, but for us it is first and foremost a humanitarian one, and it should be for you too.

"Many of your citizens have risen to this challenge by volunteering to help others, but your leadership has lagged behind for fear of potential political consequences. We appeal to you, the leaders of Europe, to rise to the challenge: use your substantial resources to welcome and offer protection to those who need your help."

Greece: Is The Relocation Program Real? (News that Moves, link): "There is a lot of scepticism among the refugee population regarding the legitimacy of the relocation program. Our team reports that almost everyone they talk to seems to believe that the program is not a real program. It seems this opinion is informed by the extreme difficulties and frustrations that many people have had in accessing the Greek Asylum Service Skype line."

and see: Statistical Data of the Greek Asylum Service – Relocation Procedures (Minister of the Interior, pdf)

Greece-Turkey: Migrant influx is down but deal spat fuels fears (ekathimerini.com/, link):

"The number of migrants arriving in Greece dropped 90 percent in April, the European Union border agency Frontex said Friday, a sign that an agreement between Turkey and the EU to curb migration has had an impact, though tensions between Ankara and Brussels over Turkey’s reluctance to amend its anti-terrorism laws have fueled fears that the deal will collapse.....

In Athens, however, there are fears that the sharp drop in numbers may reverse soon as a deal between the EU and Turkey to curb migration is wobbling following Ankara’s insistence on its citizens being granted visa-free travel to Europe while it refuses to satisfy EU demands for it to reform its anti-terrorism legislation. The deal involves Turkey taking back the majority of migrants that reach Greece. If it collapses, a lull in arrivals may be reversed. Already the virtually zero influx before Orthodox Easter has picked up, with dozens of migrants now arriving on the islands every day." [emphasis added]

Are You Syrious (link)

The Charter of Idomeni receives support among journalist groups.

"The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) “strongly supports” the initiative of its affiliate in Greece the Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH)?—?who drafted a proposal for the adoption of the Anti-racism Ethics Code of the Greek journalists called The Charter of Idomeni, named after the location at northern border. The Charter explains that it aims at preserving “the social role of journalists in the conditions created by the presence of refugees, migrants, minorities and socially vulnerable groups in Greece, discourage and denounce climates of intolerance, guarantee the right to freedom of expression and press freedom and the rights of refugees and provide journalists with conditions of voluntary commitment in performing their duties”. The draft has 11 articles and is described as a practical guide for local and foreign journalists covering the migrant issues. The draft has also received the support of the Italian NGO Carta di Roma."

Increasing number of people caught while trying to cross the Greek-FYROM border

"Macedonian authorities report that an increasing number of people have been caught while trying to irregularly cross the Greek-FYROM border. Most of them are from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Iraq.

According to News That Moves, people crossing irregularly into FYROM will first be transferred to the camp in Gevgelija, and then returned to Greece. According to the FYROM Asylum Law, amended on April 4th, claims submitted by persons who crossed irregularly from a “safe third country” like Greece will be considered unfounded. Only ill and injured refugees can be transferred to the Asylum center in Gazi Baba in Skopje."

Italy deploys 110 more guards to patrol Alpine pass after warning from Austrian officials

"Italy said on Friday it had deployed 110 more guards to patrol the Alpine crossing point between the two countries, in order to keep refugees from traveling into Austria, after Vienna threatened to introduce tighter border controls that could have hurt trade routes by slowing down traffic. "Migrants who arrive here thinking to go to Austria will be taken to Italian shelters”, said Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano at the Brenner Pass."

UNHCR Daily Report (13.5.16)

"Yesterday, according to the Italian Cost Guard, some 1,000 refugees and migrants were rescued off the coast of Italy, including refugee families and unaccompanied children. In one operation, some 500 people travelling in two fishing boats that had departed several days earlier from Egypt were rescued off Sicily, south east of Cape Passero. Apart from the two fishing boats that sailed from Egypt, it is believed that there were other smaller boats that came from Libya. Disembarkation of the 1,000 people rescued yesterday is taking place today at four different locations in southern Italy: Catania, Palermo, Augusta and Crotone, and will probably last the whole day.UNHCR staff will be present and will be giving information and assistance to the persons rescued."

"A proposal was made in the German Parliament to determine the status of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria as safe countries of origin. Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, stated that there are “good reasons” for declaring these states as safe countries of origin. The government hopes that the proposal will lead to accelerated asylum procedures, faster returns for rejected asylum seekers originating from these countries and a “deterrent effect” for people from “safe counters” intending to come travel to Germany. A final decision will be made on the 10 June by the Bundesrat. Many federal states have not yet taken a final position."

Hungary to resume transfers of asylum seekers under Dublin regulation to Greece in overall climate of human rights repression (ECRE, link):

"The Hungarian Office for Immigration and Nationality has recently issued decisions ordering the transfer of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation. ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has expressed concern regarding these developments and called on Hungary to continue the suspension of transfers to Greece....

“The HHC find this recent development extremely worrisome: first it is unfair to Greece, which is already struggling to be able to handle the backlog of cases and provide shelter and protection to refugees. Second, it is clear that the situation in Greece for refugees and asylum seekers is still far from the standards required by the European Union. According to information provided by the ELENA network, there is no other Member State which orders transfers to Greece, which shows that the situation is still not assessed as satisfactory,” stated the HHC."

News (14-15.5.16)

Expert-level talks ongoing in Brussels to overcome terror impasse with Turkey: EU envoy (.hurriyetdailynews.com, link)

Germany: Munich police brace for rival protests at anti-refugee party's meeting (Guardian, link): "Right- and leftwing protesters expected at Alternative for Germany event in beer hall where Adolf Hitler once gave a speech."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13.5.16)


European Commission: Statistics on hotspots, returns, relocation, financial pledges and civil protection: updated 13.5.16

 

UNHCR: Hungary As a Country of Asylum: Observations on restrictive legal measures and subsequent practice implemented between July 2015 and March 2016 (pdf):

"In UNHCR’s view, legislation and related Decrees adopted by Hungary in July and September 2015, and progressively implemented between July 2015 and 31 March 2016, have had the combined effect of limiting and deterring access to asylum in the country. These include, most notably, the following.

(a) the erection of a fence along Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia, accompanied by the introduction of a procedure in which individuals arriving at the border who wish to submit an asylum application in Hungary must do so in special “transit zones” in which the asylum procedure and reception conditions are not in accordance with European Union (EU) and international standards...

(b) the application of the ‘safe third country’ concept to countries on the principal route followed by asylum-seekers to Hungary – namely Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia – without adequate procedural safeguards, and despite the fact that no other EU Member State applies a presumption of safety to those countries and that UNHCR has recommended that asylum-seekers should not be returned to them...

(c) the criminalization of irregular entry into Hungary through the border fence, punishable by actual or suspended terms of imprisonment of up to ten years – and/or the imposition of an expulsion order. Prison sentences, at variance with the EU Return Directive, are imposed following fasttracked trials of questionable fairness, and are not suspended in the event that the concerned individual submits an asylum application... (...)

In conclusion, UNHCR considers these significant aspects of Hungarian law and practice raise serious concerns as regards compatibility with international and European law, and may be at variance with the country’s international and European obligations."

And see: Hungary to resume transfers of asylum seekers under Dublin regulation to Greece in overall climate of human rights repression (ECRE, link): "The Hungarian Office for Immigration and Nationality has recently issued decisions ordering the transfer of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation. ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has expressed concern regarding these developments and called on Hungary to continue the suspension of transfers to Greece.

Transfers of asylum seekers to Greece have been suspended since 2011 following rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, on account of the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment of asylum seekers in the country."

UK-EU: House of Lords committee says EU's Operation Sophia deals with "symptoms, not causes" and "cannot deliver its mandate"

A new report from the UK House of Lords' European Union Committee has commended the EU's "anti-smuggling" military operation in the Mediterranean for its efforts at search and rescue, but notes that it is ultimately unable to meet its aims of deterring migrants, disrupting smugglers' networks and thwart smugglers' business models as it deals with "symptoms, not causes".

Key document: European External Action Service: Planning for a possible non-executive Civilian CSDP mission in Libya (LIMITE docxno: 7491/16, 1 April 2016, pdf):

Number of people arriving on Greek islands dropped dramatically in April

"The number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in April plunged by 90% compared to the previous month, reaching fewer than 2 700. The drop is a result of several factors, including The EU-Turkey agreement and stricter border policies applied by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at its border with Greece.

“The drop in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands was dramatic. The total for all of April is well below the number of people we often saw reaching just the island of Lesbos on a daily basis during last year’s peak months,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.

Syrians again accounted for the largest share of the migrants coming to the Greek islands, trailed by nationals from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq."

European External Action Service/European Commission: One year after: the impact of the EU Regional Strategy for Syria, Iraq and against Da'esh (10 May 2016, pdf):

"This paper shows that EU actions in the region are consistent with the Regional Strategy's objectives and have contributed to supporting political solutions to the Syrian and Iraqi crises, as well as the degradation of Da'esh capacities, while playing an essential role in alleviating the dramatic humanitarian consequences of the crises. Substantial coordinated efforts have been made to defeating Da'esh with a large range of internal and external measures. The scale of the Syria crisis is such that efforts will never cover all needs but the London Conference in February 2016 confirmed the priority sectors where the EU should continue focusing its support: education, job opportunities and protection. Efforts will continue to be made on livelihoods and health, supporting also host communities who bear huge socio-economic pressure. On Iraq, the active support of the EU to the reform, governance, stabilisation and reconciliation agenda is key to the peaceful and democratic future of the country, as is the political will on the part of the Iraqis to achieve those aims."

This is not a ‘migrant crisis’ - it's a crisis of inequality and war (Global Justice Now, link):

"The media is wrong to characterise the issues surrounding the thousands of people attempting to travel into Europe as a ‘migrant crisis’, according to a briefing released today by campaign group Global Justice Now. Instead, attention should be drawn to the multiple crises that are forcing people to move. The briefing argues that these include:

Inequality. Over the long term, the most important driver of migration. With 62 people having more than half the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population, more people are being forced to flee poverty.

War and conflict is raging all along Europe’s borders. People are dying and being forced to leave their homes. Countries in Europe have a degree of complicity in these conflicts through either their geo-politics or through the sales of weapons to the countries in conflict.

Climate change. Increased drought, famine, flooding and natural disasters are already forcing people to move across borders.

The briefing goes beyond the well-documented evidence of the benefits that come from migration to pose the question, what would happen if we were to get rid of borders completely?"

See: Migrant crisis or poverty crisis? Why free movement is vital in the battle for global justice (pdf)

Policing the hotspots: Europol setting up team of 200 investigators to deploy to migration hotspots (press release, 12 May 2016, pdf):

"Europol’s Management Board today approved the recruitment of up to 200 counter-terrorist and other investigators for deployment to migration hotspots in Greece and other countries. Europol will form this pool of law enforcement officers through their secondment from national services in EU Member States. Up to 50 of these ‘guest officers’ will be deployed on rotation at key points on the external border of the EU to strengthen the security checks on the inward flows of migrants, in order to identify suspected terrorists and criminals."

Anti-discrimination unit urges governments to reject irregular migrants “offence of solidarity” (Human Rights Europe, link):

"Anti-discrimination experts say governments risk human rights abuses if they establish an “offence of solidarity” in their bid to control irregular migration.

Christian Ahlund, Chair of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), warned that criminalising social and humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants could also encourage discrimination.

“It is highly counterproductive to the delivery of human rights to establish an ‘offence of solidarity’ and it discourages irregular migrants from seeking out services, including urgent medical care,” he said."

See the report: ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 16: On safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination (pdf)

News (13.5.16)

Bulgarian Cabinet Allocates BGN 6.2 M to Continuing Fence on Border with Turkey (Novinite, link): "The Bulgarian cabinet has approved additional expenditures to the budget of the Council of Ministers amounting to nearly BGN 6.5 M, the government's press service informed on Friday.

BGN 6.2 M will be allocated for continuing the construction of the temporary fence along the Bulgarian-Turkish border, in particular the section running through the territory of Burgas region.

The temporary facility plays importance role in countering the increasing migrant pressure exerted on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The fence is vital in guarding the state border and bringing under control the refugee wave."

EU should take charge of asylum, says EP negotiator (EUobserver, link): "Cecilia Wikstroem once hid a family of refugees in her house, but the Swedish liberal MEP is adamant that the best way to deal with migrants is through legislation, not the goodwill of individuals.

In 2013, she was made responsible for negotiating the European Parliament’s position on a proposed update to the Dublin regulation, which stipulates that asylum claims must be processed in the first EU country that migrants enter.

Wikstroem is taking the same role for yet another reform of Dublin, which was outlined by the European Commission on 4 May.

“We could find the political will to save our banks from collapse. We can afford to save people from drowning in the Mediterranean and give them a dignified reception when seeking asylum in the EU,” she told EUobserver in an interview."

Greece / Migrant crisis: UN expert launches follow-up visit to assess impact on human rights (UN Human Rights, link): "The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, will visit Greece from 12 to 16 May 2016 to gather information on the complex management of the Greek border, and its impact on the human rights of migrants.

“In 2015, over one million migrants arrived in Greece; its proximity to Turkey makes it a key point of entry for many migrants seeking to reach Europe,” Mr. Crépeau said. “This visit will allow me to follow up on my 2013 and 2015 reports* on the management of the external borders of the European Union, which took me to Tunisia, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Malta and the EU institutions in Brussels and Vienna.”

“Territorial sovereignty is about controlling the border, knowing who comes in and who leaves. It has never been about sealing the border to migration,” the expert reiterated. “Democratic borders are porous by nature. Providing migrants and asylum seekers with legal and safe mobility solutions will ensure such a control.”"

GREECE: On the search for our human rights - 3 people attempt to swim FROM Greece (RefuAid, link): "Yesterday 3 people were forced to flee, not because of mass human rights violations taking place in Turkey, not because of the savage and unrelenting war in Syria, not due to torture but following all of this, as human beings they had been subject to starvation, neglect and abuse… in Europe... at the hands of European governments. They risked their lives for safety and found none, how can we preach morality across the globe yet neglect our brothers and sisters in need in our backyard.

3 people chose to attempt to swim from the Greek island of Chios BACK to the Middle East, desperate to flee the inhumane conditions inflicted on them in the ‘hotspots’. Desperate for food, shelter and water."

Italy breaks up people-smuggling ring that imprisoned migrants (Midnimo, link): "Italian police arrested seven people on Wednesday for running a people-smuggling ring in which Somali boat migrants who reached Italy by boat were held prisoner until their families paid their passage further north, a statement said.

A court in Catania in eastern Sicily ordered that 13 people be detained for running the smuggling operation, but only seven were picked up. The others were thought to be living abroad."

SPAIN: Interior ministry awards medals to eight Guardia Civil officers acquitted of maltreating a migrant in Melilla [ Interior condecora a los ocho guardias civiles absueltos por maltrato a un inmigrante en Melilla] (El Diario, link)

  • The caretaker Interior minister has anounced that eight Guardia Civil agents who beat up a young Cameroonian man in Melilla - as shown in a video from the NGO Prodein - will be awarded medals
  • "They have suffered a painful incident," offered Diaz in their defence
  • The interior has awarded the Cross of Merit of the Civil Guard, which does not provide an additional pension

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12.5.16) Draft Council conclusions call on Member States to "reduce administrive burdens" that hinder expulsion of third-country nationals


Contents

 

Draft Council conclusions call on Member States to "reduce administrive burdens" that hinder expulsion of third-country nationals

EU Member States will be "invited" to ease the expulsion of expelling "illegally staying third-country nationals" by reducing "administrative burdens" - such as "the suspensive effect of return and asylum decisions" and "multiple and last minute asylum applications and appeals" - if a set of draft conclusions being prepared for the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 20 May remain in their current form.

Schengen: Greece and Slovenia unhappy with continuation of internal border controls

The Council of the EU has today (12 May 2016) adopted a decision that permits the continuation of the internal border controls adopted by Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Greece and Slovenia have submitted statements disagreeing with the decision.

European Parliament study: On the frontline: the hotspot approach to managing migration (pdf): "This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee, places the new “hotspot approach” to managing migration within its policy framework. It examines the way in which EU agencies provide support to frontline Member States, with particular focus on Greece, and assesses the chief challenges identified to date in both the policy design and operational implementation of hotspots."

EU: European Investment Bank: Migration and the EU: Challenges, opportunities, the role of EIB (pdf): "This paper examines what the EIB is already doing in the EU and outside Europe - and what, in partnership with others, we might do to move from humanitarian assistance to economic development, for example through support of the private sector. But unlocking and managing the potential of migration will require a much more coordinated policy response from EU governments. The European Commission has put important building blocks in place, but we still lack a sustainable and coordinated system of migration management that also has Europe’s labour market in mind, the potential for brain-drain as well as the need to provide a humanitarian as well as an economic response."

New report on Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”: action needed to improve living conditions for migrants and refugees and to protect unaccompanied children (Council of Europe, link): "Strasbourg, 11.05.2016 - A new report addressing the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” was published today by Tomáš Bocek, the Special Representative on Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe’s Secretary General. The report is based on his fact-finding mission to the two countries from 7 to 11 March.

The Special Representative visited a shelter for unaccompanied children in Athens, a “hotspot” and reception centre on the island of Chios and camps in both countries. Some of the camps were seriously overcrowded following the build-up of refugees and migrants as a result of the closure of the western Balkan route, which occurred shortly before his visit. In these camps, living conditions were extreme and only basic needs were being catered for. The report calls for the Council of Europe to mobilise resources to enable the necessary additional capacity to be built to house migrants and refugees in decent living conditions in both countries.

An important issue addressed in the report is the treatment of refugee and migrant children, especially unaccompanied minors, in Greece. The report calls for alternatives to detention for children who are often detained while their asylum claims are being processed or on their way to shelters. It also draws attention to the importance of making some provision for education in the camps and the need to strengthen the Greek child-protection system to protect refugee and migrant children from exploitation.

The Special Representative welcomed the generally supportive response of local populations in Greece to the rising number of new arrivals and underlined the need for integration policies focusing on the fight against intolerance and discrimination.

Finally, the Special Representative was concerned at reports of push-backs and allegations of ill-treatment by those guarding the border of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". He recommended human rights training for all relevant personnel."

Report: Report of the fact-finding mission by Ambassador Tomáš Bocek Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees to Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” 7-11 March 2016 (pdf) and on the Council of Europe website (link).

EU-AFGHANISTAN: Foreign Affairs council may discuss controversial Afghan repatriation plan (EurActiv, link): "Development ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday (12 May) may discuss a controversial proposal to repatriate some 80,000 Afghans to their homeland, it emerged Tuesday (10 May).

The scheme – first disclosed by EurActiv.com last month – came in the form of a secret Commission proposal to declare the Hindu Kush a “safe region”, and thus return tens of thousands of Afghans in order to deter further migration flows from the war-torn state.

On Thursday, Afghan Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi will join development ministers and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini for lunch, as part of the day’s agenda discussing Afghanistan, migration and development.

A senior EU official told EurActiv.com that the issue of return of Afghan refugees to Hindu Kush “may be raised – one way of the other” over the lunch."

See: the European Commission-European External Action Service (EEAS) document (published by Statewatch in March): Joint Commission-EEAS non-paper on enhancing cooperation on migration, mobility and readmission with Afghanistan - Country Fiche proposing possible leverages across Commission-EEAS policy areas to enhance returns and effectively implement readmission commitments (6738/16, 3 March 2016, pdf)

And see: Europe sees rise in unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, with almost half from Afghanistan (Pew Research, link)

Irregularly present migrants: “firewalls” needed to prevent denying human rights through sharing personal data (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, link): "To prevent state and private sector actors from effectively denying migrants’ human rights, social services providers must be prohibited from sharing the personal data of irregularly present migrants with immigration authorities, says the Council of Europe’s anti-discrimination body in the new set of policy recommendations to European governments issued today.

With these recommendations, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) seeks to support states in addressing a pressing issue of discrimination against individuals – women, men and children - who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in a member State of the Council of Europe.

“All migrants, including those who are irregularly present, have fundamental human rights which must be guaranteed in law and practice, without discrimination, while these people are within the jurisdiction of member States,” said the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland. “People should be treated as human beings regardless of their legal status.” "

ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 16: On safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination (adopted 16 March 2016, pdf): "For the purposes of this General Policy Recommendation (GPR) “irregularly present migrants” should be understood as individuals – women, men and children - present in a member State that is not their country of origin, who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in that member State.

The purpose of the GPR is to address a pressing issue of discrimination which is causing grievous hardship to a substantial number of migrants who are irregularly present in member States. It deals exclusively with the question of ensuring access by all persons in this particularly vulnerable group to those human rights which are guaranteed to them in international human rights instruments, in particular as concerns education, health care, housing, social security and assistance, labour protection and justice, while they are within the jurisdiction of a member State."

EU-TURKEY: Commission confirms high level EU – Turkey visa liberalization talks postponement (New Europe, link): "The European Commission confirmed the postponement of a high level dialogue meeting on EU – Turkey for the assessment with visa liberalization, while Erdogan denies reform in anti-terror law.

The meeting that was rescheduled to a later date, was to take place on Friday. “The decision to reschedule the meeting was common,” added the Commission. Attempting to link the postponement of the visa accession meeting, with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s decision to quit, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pressure.“Those who criticise us are reduced to sidelining democracy and freedoms when bombs started to explode on their soil,” Erdogan said in last Saturday’s speech in the southeastern city of Malatya, referring to Turkey’s anti-terror reform."

See also: Erdogan says he wants visa waiver by October (EurActiv, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday (10 May) that he wanted the European Union to grant Turks visa-free travel to the passport-free Schengen area by October at the latest. The previous deadline, also cited by the Commission, was the end of June."

And: Turkey repeats threat to flood Europe with refugees (EurActiv, link): "The threat is not new, but this time it’s addressed to the European Parliament which made it clear that Turkey should not expect a visa waiver if it has not fulfilled all the requirements for the visa liberalisation deal."

1,700 years ago, the mismanagement of a migrant crisis cost Rome its empire (Quartz, link): "The trust between the abused Goths and the Romans was broken several times before Adrianople, and the Goths went from wanting to become Roman to wanting to destroy Rome.

Less than two years later, Marcellinus writes, “with rage flashing in their eyes, the barbarians pursued our men.” And they took down the empire.

The migrants trying to get to Europe right now are not about to rise up in arms, and Europe is not—thankfully—the Roman empire. But this story shows well that migration has always and will always be a part of our world. There are two ways to deal with refugees: one is to promote dialogue, and inclusion; the other is to be unwelcoming and uncaring. The second has led to disaster before—and in one way or another, is sure to do so again."

Mapped: The countries that host the most refugees (Quartz, link): "Despite the recent attention to refugees in Europe, Western countries play a relatively small part in refugee asylum. The largest refugee camps in the world are, as they have been for decades, in Africa and the Middle East, and the first exception, in terms of size, is Mae La, in Thailand (hosting nearly 50,000 refugees from Burma), and then Suruç, in Turkey. By comparison, the camps of Idomeni, in Greece, arguably Europe’s largest, hosts 13,000 people, and Calais, in France, known as “The Jungle,” houses 4,500."

News (12.5.16)

EU: World Humanitarian Summit: GUE/NGL MEP skeptical about the real outcome (press release, link): "Responding to Commission and Council statements on the "Preparation of the World Humanitarian Summit", Spanish MEP, Miguel Urbán Crespo, highlighted the inconsistency of the European Union's policies on the refugee crisis.

"Unfortunately, humanitarian crises are becoming more frequent. The causes are not just climate change and natural disasters, but often armed conflicts created by economic interests," he said.

Urbán Crespo continued: "The causes also include political decisions, such as closing borders to thousands of refugees. This policy has generated the first humanitarian crisis in the territory of the European Union."

"What good are vague commitments to humanitarian aid when policies are deepening humanitarian crises?" he asked."

EU-TURKEY: Verhofstadt outlines new plans for Syrian refugees in Turkey (The Parliament, link): "Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, the Belgian MEP outlined a dramatic two-pronged plan designed to help relieve the suffering of up to two million mostly Syrian refugees.

This includes vastly increasing financial assistance to refugees trapped in camps in Turkey.

Under his plan, the monthly amount would increase from about €7 per refugee to €80.

This would come from the €3bn pledged by the EU as part of its response to the crisis.

Another key plank of Verhofstadt's proposal is the creation of a rapid reaction force, comprising up to 2000 civil servants and agents, who would be despatched to refugee hotspots at short notice."

TURKEY: Syrian refugee children forced into factory work in Turkey (CBS News, link): "In a textile factory in Istanbul, workers toil over sewing machines. But look closely, because the workers are children.

Filming with a hidden camera, we found scores of factories using child labor in Turkey. Most, perhaps all, of the children are from Syria.

Some told us they were as young as 11 -- refugees from a war now easily exploited.

A Turkish worker on the minimum wage earns around $450 a month. A Syrian child, working 12 hours a day, earns as little as $160."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.5.16)


'Risks of inaction are considerable', says Ban, urging new compact on refugees and migrants (UN, link): " Despite bold efforts, responses to the large movements of refugees and migrants – which will continue or possibly increase due to such issues as conflict, poverty and disasters – have been largely inadequate, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a new report, calling for the adoption of a global compact on responsibility-sharing that collectively ensures the human rights, safety and dignity of all refugees and migrants.

 

“Away from the daily headlines and stark images, strains are quietly accumulating on refugees and migrants, as well as on countries and communities that receive them, sometimes for many years,” Mr. Ban stressed in his report to the UN General Assembly, entitled In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants.

“If one lesson can be drawn from the past few years, it is that individual countries cannot solve these issues on their own. International cooperation and action to address large movements of refugees and migrants must be strengthened,” he added.

Any approach should uphold the safety and dignity in large movements of both refugees and migrants, Mr. Ban said, urging Member States to, among other things, address the root causes of such movements, protect people en route and at borders, and prevent discrimination and promote inclusion."

Full report: Report of the Secretary-General: In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants (pdf)

EU-Turkey deal not binding, says EP legal chief (EUobserver, link): "The legal arm of the European Parliament on Monday (9 May) spoke out against the EU deal with Turkey.

It noted the statement between the two on 18 March is nothing more than a press release, which has no legal bearing.

"This statement was nothing more than a press communique," the parliament lawyer told MEPs in the civil liberties committee.

"This statement is not a binding agreement."

He noted the statement came without any signatures and was not published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

"It is very difficult to conclude that both the European Union and Turkey wanted to be legally bound under international law by this declaration," he said."

And see: Is the EU-Turkey refugee and migration deal a treaty? (EU Law Analysis, link)

EU-TURKEY: Visa liberalisation for Turkey: EU critieria must be met, say MEPs (press release, pdf): "The EU should make sure that all its requirements are met before granting Turkey visa-free access to the Schengen area, stressed Civil Liberties Committee MEPs in a debate with the EU Commission on Monday. Most MEPs criticised the Commission for proposing a visa waiver for Turkish nationals even though the country has not yet fulfilled all the criteria. Turkey should not be discriminated, but neither should it receive preferential treatment, they agreed."

And see: EP stops work on Turkey visa waiver (EUobserver, link): "MEPs have stopped work on plans to give Turks visa-free access to the EU’s Schengen zone, putting a wider migrant deal in doubt.

Group leaders in the European Parliament's “conference of presidents” quietly suspended work on the file last Wednesday. Some of the lead MEPs on the dossier, the group coordinators in the civil liberties committee (LIBE), found out about the suspension on Monday (9 May).

"They [EP group leaders] decided to stop the whole thing," the German centre-left coordinator Birgit Sippel told this website on Tuesday.

Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green MEP, said EU parliament chief Martin Schulz suspended it because Turkey had not yet met all EU visa-free criteria.

“Schulz said we will only start processing the file when the 72 criteria have been met,” she said."

Hungary imposes strict measures on refugees after border shooting (Vatican Radio, link): "Hungary's Parliament has adopted strict new measures towards asylum seekers and also approved a government referendum on whether to accept a European Union quota plan to distribute as many as 160.000 refugees among member states. The vote came amid rising tensions in the region after Slovak border guards shot at refugees near the Hungarian border.

Hungarian legislators approved tougher conditions for asylum seekers, including cutting allowed stays at reception centers from 60 days to maximum 30 days and gradually reducing their already meager social benefits and subsidies.

Human rights activists condemned the measures saying they are meant to discourage refugees from seeking asylum in Hungary and forcing them into increasingly worse and unpleasant situations.

Hungarian authorities have acknowledged that only 197 people were granted asylum or some other sort of international protection this year in the January-April period."

And: Parliaments votes to cut benefits for migrants and to issue residence permits more easily (Politics.hu, link)

See also: Hungarian parliament backs referendum challenging EU refugee quotas (Europe Online, link) and Hungary to hold anti-migrant referendum (Hungarian Free Press, link)

News (11.5.16)

Creating 'security' for Europe's new child arrivals (Christian Science Monitor, link): "It is a symbol of desperation and, they hope, of a better life to come. On the Greek island of Lesbos, which half a million refugees passed through last year, the local garbage dump has turned into a burnt-orange mountain of life jackets.

Many of them are baby-sized, some bearing the words, “Not for use in boating.” An inner tube marked with the characters from “Toy Story” lies on one of the piles. The life jackets are refuse left behind by the interminable waves of refugees from Syria and other countries making the journey across the eastern Mediterranean in their quest to push deeper into Europe.

As Sweden, Germany, and other destination countries face the daunting task of integrating new refugee children, many other minors are just starting to come, in a flow of humanity that is unprecedented in scale and whose members often fall victim to the perils of the pilgrimage. Indeed, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that on average two children have died per day since September trying to cross the Mediterranean."

DENMARK: Police Rescue Migrants From Icy Danish Waters (NDTV, link): " Two migrants were in hospital after authorities rescued them from icy waters off Denmark as they tried to reach Sweden to ask for asylum, Danish police said today.

They were part of a group of four men who attempted to cross on Monday the strait between Denmark and Sweden, where the water is around eight degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit).

"There were two who were taken to hospital after the rescue operation," police spokesman Henrik Svejstrup told local Danish broadcaster TV 2 Lorry.

"One was put on a respirator, but we expect him to be taken out of the coma" later today, he added."

Turkey readmitted 386 irregular migrants since March 20: Foreign Ministry (Hurriyet, link): "In line with a March deal with the European Union, almost 400 illegal immigrants have been readmitted to Turkey so far, the spokesperson for the Turkish Foreign Ministry has announced, noting that 125 Syrians have been resettled in five EU countries under the same deal.

“Within the framework of the agreement with the EU, 386 irregular migrants have been readmitted to Turkey from five Greek islands. Of those, 14 of them were Syrians and a vast majority was other countries’ citizens,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç told reporters at a press conference on May 9."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.5.16)


EU: What Merkel, Tusk and Timmermans should have seen during their visit to Turkey: Report from GUE/NGL Delegation to Turkey, May 2-4, 2016 (pdf):

 

"The key findings of the delegation are:

1. People deported from Greece have, until now, had no opportunity to ask for asylum, neither in Greece nor in Turkey;

2. Detention under a prison-style regime including for children;

3. Documented push-backs to Turkey by Bulgarian and Greek police forces;

4. Horrifying testimonials from refugees as a result of the closure of the Turkish-Syrian border.

See also: Non-Syrians denied asylum claims under EU-Turkey deal - MEPs (Guardian, link): "Politicians say interviews with refugees reveal they were not given chance to ask for asylum in Greece or Turkey. Hundreds of non-Syrian asylum seekers deported under the EU-Turkey migration deal were not allowed to claim asylum in either Greece or Turkey, a group of European politicians has claimed.... “All refugees interviewed told us they were not given the opportunity to ask for asylum, neither in Greece nor in Turkey,” Cornelia Ernst, Marina Albiol and Josu Juaristi said in a report released to journalists after they visited two detention centres in northern Turkey. “All said they did not know what will happen to them, and had received no information since they had arrived in Turkey.”

Buried without a name - The untold story of Europe's drowned migrants (BBC News, link)

"More than 1,250 unnamed men, women and children have been buried in unmarked graves in 70 sites in Turkey, Greece and Italy since 2014, a BBC investigation has found. The majority died trying to cross the Mediterranean to seek a new life in Europe. "

Greek ‘Plan B’ reported, if EU-Turkey deal collapses (euractiv, link):

"A German tabloid reported yesterday (9 May) that the EU was considering giving the billions it promised to Turkey to Greece instead, in case the deal agreed with Ankara to stem the refugee flows collapses.

On Monday, Bild reported that several Greek islands in the Aegean are being turned into central registration sites for stranded refugees, and that ships will no longer take refugees to the Greek mainland in order to stop the uncontrolled flow of migrants into the EU.

In other words, asylum seekers will be kept on the islands; those refused asylum would then be deported directly to their home countries. The €6 billion in aid promised to Turkey would be transferred to Athens instead.

The paper reported that several EU states are considering this alternative plan in the event that the EU’s refugee deal with Ankara collapses. The story included statements from unnamed high-ranking politicians. Bild is known for having excellent contacts within the German government....

the EU may be unable to move forward with the promise to offer visa-free travel to the Turks by the end of June. On 7 May, Erdogan made it clear Turkey will not change its anti-terror law, which is one of the conditions for the EU to lift the visa barrier."

Europe to Turkey: We won’t be bullied on refugees - Europe needs Erdogan’s help — but Turkey wants an EU visa waiver and its financial aid. (Poltico,link):

"European officials have argued the imperative of the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey to a skeptical public for weeks, insisting there was simply no viable alternative to the controversial pact....

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted in recent days he may just let the whole arrangement collapse, a step that could again send refugees streaming across the Aegean, Europe has quietly begun preparing a Plan B...

The EU’s contingency plan, described by senior diplomats, envisions turning Greece into what European leaders from Angela Merkel on down have vowed to avoid: a giant refugee camp."

Statewatch:comment: And the same could happen to Italy

Médecins Sans Frontières financial independence makes organisation more flexible, its general director tells ANA-MPA (link):

"The financial independence of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which is a basic principle of the organization, ensures the immediate and effective assistance to people in need," its general director Marietta Provopoulos said in an interview with ANA-MPA on Monday.

"Our choice to refuse state funding makes the organization more flexible and ready to go where it is needed," she added."

Turkey’s EU minister heads to Strasbourg for thorny visa talks with EP (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "Turkey’s EU minister has embarked on an intense lobbying visit to Strasbourg and Brussels, as the European Parliament’s plenary is scheduled on May 11 to debate last week’s proposal by the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, to lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens."

Turkey: Border Guards Kill and Injure Asylum Seekers - Border Lock-Down Puts Syrian Lives at Risk (HRW, link):

"(Istanbul) – Turkish border guards are shooting and beating Syrian asylum seekers trying to reach Turkey, resulting in deaths and serious injuries, Human Rights Watch said today. The Turkish authorities should stop pushing Syrian asylum seekers back at the border and should investigate all use of excessive force by border guards....

“While senior Turkish officials claim they are welcoming Syrian refugees with open borders and open arms, their border guards are killing and beating them,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Firing at traumatized men, women, and children fleeing fighting and indiscriminate warfare is truly appalling.”"

UNHCR Daily Report (9.5.16)

"On 5 May, Bulgaria and Turkey signed a “Protocol for the Implementation of the Agreement between the Republic of Turkey and the European Union on the Readmission of Persons Residing without Authorisation”.

Are You Syrious (9.5.16, link)

New arrivals on Greek islands.

"The number of refugees in Greece today is 54,341 with 8,352 in the islands, 14,438 in the Atika region, 1,915 in central Greece, 338 in southern Greece and 29,298 in the northern region. There were 74 new arrivals today with 37 in Lesvos and 37 in Leros."

Protests continue on Leros

"As UNHCR reports, on the island of Leros, tension and protests occurred during the last days at the hotspot / registration and identification center. Demonstration began on Wednesday, 3 May, and continued in the following days, when detained refugees and migrants protested against general living conditions. In addition, members of the local community gathered outside the center to express their anger to the Mayor. Authorities guaranteed improvement regarding food provision, and announced that those detained for 25 days will then be able to move freely on the island."

Hunger strike in Elliniko camp

"Unfortunately, the news from the mainland is not looking good, either. As reported from the #Elliniko camp in Athens, refugees started a hunger strike today: Volunteers report that people “are desperate, and this is the only way they can speak out. They say that they will leave the camp, if things won’t change.” They are asking for their voice to be heard and to be treated like human beings by closed off Europe."

HUNGARY: Hundreds of new asylum seekers reported to have arrived in Hungary during last week with 572 people apprehended for illegal border crossing

"As UNHCR reports around 800 asylum-seekers and migrants were reported to have arrived in Hungary last week. Police reported 572 individuals were apprehended after irregular entry while UNHCR observed 265 people who approached the transit zones in Roszke and Tompa. With the limited daily admission capacity (30 per zone per day) at these locations, around 200 people are waiting outside the fence without shelter, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and are exposed to protection and health risks. UNHCR is present daily in the transit zones to monitor the admission process, coordinate with UNHCR Serbia to identify people with specific needs. On the Hungarian side of the border, access to the transit zones remains limited for other organizations."

GERMANY: Useful app for asylum seekers in Germany

"There is a useful tool for asylum seekers in Germany?—?it is called Ankommen and it can help with basic information on language, previously established migrant communities, as well aswhere to get some basic necessities near you. The app for iPhones can be downloaded here and for Android here

Don’t forget about Calais: People to People Solidarity running out of supplies!

"People to People Solidarity?—?Action from UK needs your help. With the warmer weather, more refugees are making their way to Calais and Dunkirk while the volunteers are running out of supplies. Some volunteers report that every day they have new people coming with absolutely nothing and they have not been able to help them for the last couple of days since they ran out of everything.

They’ve put a list of items to help you all find what is being asked at the moment and where to go for up-to-date information so please see the following link and help if you can: http://bit.ly/1s8uDWK.

News (10.5.16)

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 187,631; Deaths: 1,357 (IOM, link)

Migrants freed from Greek detention, trapped in limbo on islands (Daily Sabah, link): "Migrants and refugees are being freed from detention centers in Greece but remain trapped on its islands until their asylum requests are processed, exposing them to dire living conditions and even the risk of people smugglers, human rights groups say. At least 1,100 people have been released from centers on three islands and more will follow as their 25-day detention limit expires, police officials said. They are forbidden from travelling to the mainland, where most state-run shelters are."

Czech extremists swap traditional topics for migrant issue (Radio Praha, link): "In its annual report on extremism in the Czech Republic in 2015, the Interior Ministry reports on a slight rise in activities both left and right and a shift from traditional topics to the migrant issue which invariably commands public attention."

Greece: Most migrants in Idomeni have expired papers, says minister (ekathimerini.com, link): "The majority of refugees stranded at the sprawling camp in Idomeni, northern Greece, do not have valid documents as most have expired, according to Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas. “The papers of 70 percent of the people at Idomeni [which they received when they were registered] have already expired,” he said, admitting that if police were to conduct checks on the more than 10,000 migrants at the camp many could be arrested as illegal migrants. “What we are saying is that if they are moved to other camps around the country their documents will be automatically validated and renewed,” he said.


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9.5.16)


Reports: Syrian woman shot at the Hungarian-Slovakian border

 

Via the Migreurop (link) mailing list, 9.5.16: "According to Hungarian language news sources (link), a 26-year old Syrian woman was shot this morning on the Hungarian-Slovakian border by the Slovakian authorities.

A 26-year-old Syrian was shot this morning on the Slovakian-Hungarian border. She was being smuggled in a car through the Vamosszabadi-Medve crossing. Vamosszabadi is also the location of one of the three open refugee camps in Hungary.

There were four cars, and close to Nagymegyer the Slovak customs authorities decided to stop the cars. Three of them stopped, and it turned out that they are carrying “illegal immigrants†(wording by the Slovak authorities). The driver of the fourth car decided not to stop and speeded instead. The customs authorities reacted with warning shots in the air, but when the driver did not care they shot at the car. The woman in the car was hit as well, and an ambulance had to be called. She was shot in the back and brought to the Dunajská Streda-hospital and operated, and now her situation is stable. All the people who were being transported have been handed over to the Ministry of the Interior.

At the same time, there is a huge traffic jam on the Hungarian-Austrian border as cars are being checked."

EU: New asylum proposals: reaction and analysis

EU proposes Minority Report-style facial recognition for refugees (EurActiv, link): "The EU is planning wholesale changes to the bloc’s asylum law. In addition to a “fairer” distribution system for refugees and an extension of border controls within the Schengen area, the Eurodac fingerprint database, which is currently used to identify asylum seekers and irregular migrants, is to be enlarged.

The system is set to be supplemented with facial recognition software and personal data will be stored for a longer period of time, with the aim of ensuring that irregular migrants stay on the authorities’ radar; the information of underage refugees will also be kept. The upgrade will cost some €30 million."

Association Européenne pour la défense des Droits de l’Homme: Coercion and exclusion do not make an equitable asylum policy! The Commission’s «propositions» for a reform of asylum are either unacceptable or unrealistic (press release, pdf): "For the second time in less than a year, the European Commission has presented a “plan” bringing forward reform propositions to solve the European Asylum and Migration crisis.

In a note published today, AEDH observes that the European Commission is offering to organise the regression of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, in a bid to seek the support of Member States and stem the flow of people entering the European territory with the hope of finding protection there.

How far will the European Union go in denying its fundamental values and its history?"

See the English summary of AEDH's analysis (link).

And: Commission Proposals for tougher Dublin system, more data collection under Eurodac and the birth of a new Asylum Agency

"The proposed reform of the Dublin Regulation will not revisit the responsibility criteria of the current mechanism, which in the majority of cases lead to Member States of first entry being designated as responsible for asylum seekers. The weight placed on the irregular entry criterion could be further exacerbated given that the 12-month time-limit, after which the responsibility of the country of entry ceases under the current rules, is to be removed. The proposal includes a “corrective fairness mechanism” of relocation, to be triggered in Member States facing particular pressure, similar to a reform proposed last September. Under that mechanism, asylum seekers will be subject to a relocation scheme from the country in question only after their claim has been deemed admissible, namely after the potential applicability of the “safe third country” concept has been ruled out in their case. Member States refusing to relocate asylum seekers will have to pay 250,000€ per person to the country in which he or she is relocated."

The proposal for new Eurodac legislation, along with the Commission's other proposals, can be seen here: EU opens door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy deal" with Turkey and plans Dublin III

See also: The Orbanisation of EU asylum law: the latest EU asylum proposals (EU Law Analysis, link)

Map: Refugee camps in Northern Greece (link): lists 19 different sites on the Greek mainland.

News (9.5.16)

FRANCE: Calais : un migrant pakistanais meurt percuté par une voiture sur la rocade portuaire [A Pakistani migrant dies after being hit by a car on the port bypass] (La Voix du Nord, link)

GREECE: Europe Day: 100 Refugees Tour Acropolis With Greek Minister (Greek Reporter, link): "Greek Culture Minister Aristidis Baltas will guide a hundred refugees around the ancient site of the Acropolis. The refugees – mainly families from hospitality centers of Eleonas, Athens center, and Schistos, Piraeus – will be the minister’s guests in the framework of events celebrating Europe Day (May 9)."

GREECE: Coast guard officers save 74 migrants of Lesvos, Farmakonisi (Ekathimerini, link): "Greek Coast Guard officers saved a total of 74 migrants off the islands of Lesvos and Farmakonisi over the past three days as the influx of people from neighboring Turkey ebbs.

The rescue efforts were relatively unhindered as weather conditons have been good."

MOROCCO-SPAIN: Marruecos blinda la playa de Beliones con vallas metálicas y efectivos de las Fuerzas Auxiliares [Morocco shields the Beliones beach with metal fences and troops from the Auxiliary Forces] (ceutaactualidad.com, link): "The collaboration between Spain and Morocco to halt the entry of migrants onto Spanish national territory has led the Auxiliary Forces of the neighbouring country to shield, with metal fences and barbed wire, the entire beach of Beliones."

NETHERLANDS: Former refugee boats now sail on calmer waters in Amsterdam (Dutch News, link): "A cruise around Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Graham Dockery took a different sort of tour of the city’s waterways, on a boat which had carried asylum seekers to Sicily."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7-8.5.16)


President Erdogan tells EU: “We’re going our way, you go yours” – Bye, Bye to EU Turkey Deal (Keep Talking Greece, link):

 

"Turkish president President Tayyip Erdogan told the European Union on Friday that Turkey would not make changes to its terrorism laws required under a deal to curb migration, and declared: “we’re going our way, you go yours”.

His fiery speech will be a blow to any hope in European capitals that it might be business as usual with Turkey after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who negotiated the migration deal with Europe and had largely delivered on Turkey’s commitments so far, announced he was standing down.

The EU asked member states on Wednesday to grant visa-free travel to Turks in return for Ankara stopping migrants reaching Europe, but said Turkey still had to change some legislation, including bringing its terrorism laws in line with EU standards..."

Austria: Tear gas used at Brenner Pass protest against Austria migration policy (DW, link): "Dozens of protesters have thrown bricks and firecrackers at a police blockade, with officers using tear gas in response. Austria's plans to tighten border controls have angered many Italians."

Are You Syrious (link)

53,652 refugees are in Greece today, with 44 new arrivals to the islands

"Government statistics report a total of 53,652 refugees across the country today as of 8AM, lower than yesterday’s total of 53,901. The government reports 7,703 people at the islands, with 15 new arrivals — 14 at Samos and 1 at Chios. By 5PM today, volunteers at Lesvos reported the arrival of one boat with 29 people, which landed in the North of the island while no information is available for the South.

The greatest number of people is at the mainland—14,389 in Attiki (out of this, 2135 in the Port of Piraeus and 2880 in Skaramagas Dock), 1,954 in the Central, 338 in the Southern and 29,268 in the Northern Greece. 10,028 refugees are still in Idomeni camp."

Refugees of Viale Camp are on a hunger strike after being detained for over a month

"Refugees started a hunger strike four days ago in Viale, at Chios?—?after 47 days in Viale (from March 20) there is a little attention given to them and they have no information about what will happen to them. In order to remain visible, they started a hunger strike, and some of the people have sewn their mouths shut. (Source: Aplotaria.gr)"

ITALY: Refugees protest at Lampedusa being held for months

"“Take us away from this prison” — Migrants were protesting in the streets of Lampedusa island yesterday asking to leave the island, where they have been held for months and where more than 70 migrants have been on a hunger and thirst strike against the identification and hotspot system. Another 400 people have landed on the island in the last 24 hours. (Source: La Repubblica)"

Refugees forced to sleep on the street in Pordenone as a result of slow accommodation

According to Messaggero Veneto, the situation could be soon become critical for refugees and migrants in Pordenone, the city in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, the Italian region "at the border with Austria and Slovenia. The funds available for the Pordenone province to host refugees in 2016 are sufficient for 800 people, while according to the data by the local Nuovi Vicini organization, the number of people has already reached 770 and it is constantly growing."

Excellent summary from MSF: EU Migration Crisis Update - May 2016 (link):

"Todays’ humanitarian crisis in Europe in regards to migrants and refugees is a result of a collective catastrophically failure to respond to the urgent need for assistance and protection of over a million men, women and children. The policies and actions of European governments actively contributed to the worsening of the so-called “refugee crisis” and the health and well-being of those who fled. The lack of safe and legal options for people to flee, the razor wire fences, capriciously closed borders, squalid, inhumane reception conditions and the complicated, ever changing registration procedures aggravated the already miserable conditions imposed on thousands fleeing war, poverty and oppression, serving only to make fleeing more dangerous and increasing the suffering of those on the move."

The Orbanisation of EU asylum law: the latest EU asylum proposals (EU Law Analysis, link):

"The Commission’s proposals are not a done deal, of course. Some Member States and Members of the European Parliament have misgiving about a visa waiver for Turkey, on migration control or human rights grounds. MEPs fought for years for many of the provisions in the Dublin III Regulation (on family members and unaccompanied minors in particular) which the Commission now seeks to overturn. As I pointed out above, some of the proposed changes to the Dublin rules are highly vulnerable to challenge in the CJEU, if adopted. The red herring of a €250,000 sanction is already floating on the surface of the pond. And the whole EU/Turkey deal might anyway be overturned at the whim of Turkish President Erdogan – the only politician whose ego makes Donald Trump’s look small by comparison."

RUMOUR: Will Afghans Be Stuck In Greece?  (news that moves, link):

“They say Afghans are the third most vulnerable on the list. They will separate Afghans and spread Syrians to other EU countries. Afghans will be stuck here.”

Afghans are one of the major groups of refugees currently in Greece. Afghans are not eligible for relocation in the EU. EASO (European Asylum Support Office), the agency that manages the EU Relocation Program, uses specific criteria for the eligible nationalities and updates the criteria quarterly. Afghans are eligible for Family Reunification, in which case they may be able to live in another EU country. You can apply for family reunification if you have a core family member (spouse or minor child) who has a legal residency permit in another EU country. The process might take some time. For more information: UNHCR: Family Reunification (link)"

Erdogan says Turkey will not change terror laws for EU (aljazeera.com, link):

"Turkish president tells Europe he will not change anti-terror measures in exchange for visa-free travel for Turks in EU. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected easing anti-terror legislation in exchange for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in the European Union. Erdogan told EU states, "We'll go our way, you go yours," in a statement released on Friday, just a day after the resignation of his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu."

EU-Turkey visa deal on brink as Erdogan refuses to change terror laws (Guardian, link):

"Refugee pact appears in danger of falling apart as Turkish president tells Europe: ‘We’ll go our way, you go yours’"

When the European commission made a conditional offer of visa-free travel earlier this week, it said Ankara must rewrite its anti-terrorism laws because they were used to prosecute journalists and government critics....

MEP Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal group in the parliament, highlighted anti-terrorist laws, which “have been used in a brutal clampdown” against journalists. “As long as this remains the case, the European parliament should not support this proposal for visa liberalisation,” he said."

UNHCR: Daily Report (6.5.6)

"Last week, temporary border controls at the Hungarian- Austrian border were introduced. The Ministry of Interior also presented details for future border controls and a border management system at the Austrian-Italian crossing where refugees and migrants would be channelled through."

"A total of 1,694 third-country nationals were deported or returned to their countries of origin from Greece in April, under operational planning to combat irregular migration, Greek Police announced on Thursday. The greatest number of returns were to Albania (852), Pakistan (157), Morocco (107), Iran (61), Georgia (51), Afghanistan (45) and Bangladesh (29). A total of 6,427 third-country nationals have been returned to their country of origin since the beginning of the year, Greek Police said." [emphasis added]

Comment: A large number of people are returned by Greece to Albania each year.

Denmark wants to stay out of EU asylum distribution plan (The Local.dk, link): "The Danish government has promised to do everything it can to land an agreement with the EU that would see Denmark escaping a requirement to accept an EU-defined number of asylum seekers, while retaining its right to send asylum seekers back to other EU countries."

Italy-Austria border controls would be 'political catastrophe' (The Local.at, link):

"Austria imposing controls on its border with Italy would be a "political catastrophe" for Europe, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Saturday.

Vienna is threatening to resume checks on the Brenner Pass between the two countries as part of a package of anti-migrant measures if Italy does not do more to reduce the number of new arrivals heading to Austria."

EU ‘sacrifices’ press freedom for Turkish help - Rights groups say migration plan ignores Turkey’s worsening record on human rights (Politico, link):

" It didn’t take long for the platitudes about press freedom to fall foul of the messy political reality of Europe’s migration crisis.

A day after stressing their commitment to free speech to mark World Press Freedom Day, European commissioners were accused of abandoning those principles to win the favor of one of the region’s most repressive autocrats....

The Commission has “abandoned the many journalists, editors and writers in Turkey who face prosecution, imprisonment, harassment and even death for speaking out,” Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, a writers’ association, said.

Not only is the Commission’s pursuit of a deal with Erdogan a betrayal of the Turkish media organizations and journalists that have been victimized by his administration, the critics said, it’s also a signal to other regimes that they can act with impunity against their critics — so long as Brussels needs their support."

News (7-8.5.6)

Bulgaria: Return Migrants to Turkey from June 1 (Balkan Insight, link) "Bulgaria has become the first EU member state to sign a protocol with Ankara to set in place procedures for sending illegal migrants back to Turkey starting from next month."

The refugee children of Idomeni: alone, far from home but clinging to hope (Observer, link): "They have fled their wartorn homelands in Syria and Afghanistan. Now they are stuck in northern Greece – so close to a new life"

German NGO to fund facility for refugees in northern Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Plans are afoot for the creation of a new reception center for refugees near Thermi, east of Thessaloniki, funded by a German nongovernmental organization, Kathimerini understands."

Turkey’s visa liberalisation: An insult to the EU’s eastern neighbours (euractiv, link): "While the EU may think that remaining silent on the more challenging issues of the visa liberalisation deal might be a price worth paying for dealing with the refugee crisis, it reflects the bloc’s desperation, writes Igor Merheim-Eyre."

Austrian mosque under construction vandalized with pig heads, blood (dailysabah.com/europe, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6.5.16)


Bulgaria to Return Migrants to Turkey from June 1 (Balkan Insight, link): "Bulgaria will be able to send back migrants who have crossed its border with Turkey illegally from June 1, according to the protocol signed between Sofia and Ankara on Thursday.

 

The country is the first among EU member states to sign the protocol, which sets procedures for sending refugees back to Turkey.

“The most important thing is that we are sending a very strong signal to the traffickers and the refugees who plan to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border,” Bulgarian interior minister Rumyana Rachvarova said in Ankara."

EU: Commission statistics on the refugee crisis: updated 6.5.16

The latest statistics on hotspots in Italy and Greece; relocation; returns; civil protection support for Croatia, Greece and Serbia; and Member States' financial pledges.

Overview: Turkey meets 65 of 72 requirements for visa liberalisation (pdf):

"On 4 May the Commission published the ‘Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap’. The “roadmap” has 72 requirements grouped under five headings. Here we provide an overview of the requirements and information on whether or not they have been fulfilled, as set out in the working document that accompanied the Commission’s communication.

The working document provides more detail on what Turkey has done with regard to each of the individual requirements. It also contains an 11-page annex setting out an ‘assessment of the security impact of visa liberalisation’."

See also: Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Third Report on progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (SWD(2016) 161 final, pdf): Detailed overview of the 72 requirements and progress made.

Further documentation: EU opens door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy deal" with Turkey and plans Dublin III

Trapped in the new Greek archipelago with no way out (OpenDemocracy, link): "‘It’s all lies,’ Massoud (not his real name) taps angrily on his smartphone screen; there are dozens of failed calls to the Skype address of the Greek Asylum service. In Greece you register an asylum claim by Skype. Massoud is from Syria and has been in Idomeni camp for 2 months and 10 days.

People have been blockaded in Greece since Macedonia shut its border with Greece entirely for refugees on 9 March this year. At the same time many people are finding it impossible to lodge asylum applications in Greece - and therefore have no chance of ‘relocation’ to another EU country. The EU plan to relocate refugees to other EU countries appears to be bogged down.

By 17 April, UNHCR said some 46,000 refugees are stranded in Greece in an archipelago of camps from Athens to the Macedonian border in the North. Meanwhile, in the islands the deportations to Turkey under the ‘one-for-one’ deal between the EU and Turkey started on 4 April."

See also: Migration Minister: Greece Will Keep 30,000-40,000 Refugees (Greek Reporter, link): "Greek Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said that 30,000-40,000 refugees will stay in Greece for a long time.

Mouzalas headed a meeting on the migration issue in Thessaloniki. He said that the makeshift migrant camp in Idomeni, on the Greek-FYROM border, will be evacuated by May 30."

And: Greece: Police clash with refugees as they clear Idomeni train tracks (Ruptly TV, link to YouTube)

Week April 28th - May 5th 2016 - Hungarian Situation update (Migszol, link): "One of the ways we at MigSzol think we can influence the current situation is through documentation. Many might think that since the events of last year, the situation has calmed down and there is no longer anything happening in Hungary. This is far from the truth. Many people are still passing through Hungary every day and recently the importance of Hungary as a transit country has been increasing again. Every week there are many things happening at both the Serbian and the Austrian borders and the situation is often changing quickly. And even though most of the camps are full (and often overcrowded again), there is very little information about the conditions there available.

MigSzol is in a good position to have access to many sources and other groups who work in the field. We make use of this by documenting the situation in Hungary as often as possible. For this reason, we are starting a situation diary. Every other week, we will publish updates with general information about the situation at the borders and in the camps that we gather from our different sources all over the country. We hope this will provide information to other organizations elsewhere in Europe to keep up to date and serve as a reference for the conditions in Hungary."

Topics covered in the update: A steady number of people are transiting through Hungary every day - Nagyfa closed and new camp opening in Kormend - Hungarian and Serbian border Update - Transit zones

News (6.5.16)

EU: Central European countries resist new E.U. refugee quota proposal (Washington Post, link): "The European Union announced a new plan Wednesday to deal with asylum seekers, requiring member states to accept certain numbers under a quota system and imposing 250,000-euro-per-migrant fines if the countries do not.

The much-anticipated plan is aimed at revamping Europe’s controversial regulations on handling the continent’s migrant crisis as nations struggle to cope with the largest number of displaced people since World War II.

European leaders have been desperately seeking a solution for months. In 2015 alone, more than 1 million people poured into the continent, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa."

EU: Merkel warns of return to nationalism unless EU protects borders (EurActiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday (5 May) urged European leaders to protect EU borders or risk a “return to nationalism” as the continent battles its worst migration crisis since World War II.

As Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi kicked off two days of talks in Rome with Merkel and senior EU officials, the German leader said Europe must defend its borders “from the Mediterranean to the North Pole” or suffer the political consequences.

Support for far-right and anti-immigrant parties is on the rise in several countries on the continent, which saw more than a million people arrive on its shores last year."

FM: Cyprus has a lot of scenarios in mind as regards visa liberalization (FG News, link): "The government of Cyprus has many scenarios in mind as regards the issue concerning the liberalization of visa requirements for Turkish nationals to the EU, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides has said.

Kasoulides said that the decision will be taken by the European Council with a qualified majority, adding that Cyprus, in order to protect its national interests, could for example request exemptions, partial or total suspension, or even submit a unilateral declaration.

Kasoulides said that Nicosia will await for the completion of the process of the road map, adding that all 72 benchmarks set out for Turkey must be fulfilled and that `there remain important issues that are necessary"."

GERMANY: 'Quota refugees' from Syria adjust to life in Germany (Deutsche Welle, link): "On the coffee table is a little plate of Syrian cookies. A friend has sent them from home. The television is tuned to a Syrian channel. In front of it, on the sofa, sits Zakiah Bshara (pictured). She left her homeland at the age of 71 and fled with her husband and son to her daughter in Germany. That was almost two years ago. Today, she lives in Kiel."

GREECE: German NGO to fund facility for refugees in northern Greece (Ekathimerini, link): "Plans are afoot for the creation of a new reception center for refugees near Thermi, east of Thessaloniki, funded by a German nongovernmental organization, Kathimerini understands.

Representatives of a large German NGO recently visited Thessaloniki for talks with local officials about creating the center, which would hold up to 1,500 refugees, Kathimerini has learned. The NGO is said to be offering 5 million euros for use by local authorities."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5.5.16)


MSF to pull out of World Humanitarian Summit (link):

 

"with regret, we have come to the decision to pull out of the summit. We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations. Instead, the WHS’s focus would seem to be an incorporation of humanitarian assistance into a broader development and resilience agenda. Further, the summit neglects to reinforce the obligations of states to uphold and implement the humanitarian and refugee laws which they have signed up to.

As shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights continue on a daily basis, WHS participants will be pressed to a consensus on non-specific, good intentions to ‘uphold norms’ and ‘end needs’. The summit has become a fig-leaf of good intentions, allowing these systematic violations, by states above all, to be ignored."

EU opens the door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy-deal" with Turkey and plans for Dublin III

1. DUBLIN REVISION: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast) (COM 270-16. pdf)

- Questions & Answers: Reforming the Common European Asylum System: Reforming the Dublin system (pdf)

2. EU-Turkey "Statement": Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (COM 278-16, pdf). Seven of the 72 requirements to allow visa "liberalisation" to go ahead have not been met. These are pretty fundamental:

- "upgrading the existing biometric passports so as to include security features in line with the latest EU standards;

- fully implementing the provisions of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement, including those related to the readmission of third country nationals."
[emphasis added]

Apparently this is OK because:

"The Commission and the Turkish authorities have agreed on practical ways of implementing these benchmarks before their complete fulfilment." [emphasis added]

Comment: This is a massive Commission "fudge" or put another way, this statement is economical with the truth.

- Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Third Report on progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (SWD(2016) 161 final, pdf): Detailed overview of the 72 requirements and progress made.

See also: Overview: Turkey meets 65 of 72 requirements for visa liberalisation (pdf)

- Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement – Questions and Answers (pdf) Sets out details of action by Turkey, Greece and the EU.

- REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Turkey) (COM 279, pdf)

- Questions & Answers: Third Report on Progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap (pdf):

"on 7 and 18 March 2016, meetings of Heads of State or Government of the EU and Turkey took place. The Summit concluded with an EU-Turkey Statement which stipulates that "the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated vis-à-vis all participating Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met."

3. Border controls: Schengen: COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING DECISION setting out a recommendation for temporary internal border control in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk (COM 275, pdf)

- Questions & Answers: A coordinated EU approach for temporary internal border controls (pdf)

4. Eurodac: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the establishment of 'Eurodac' for the comparison of fingerprints for the effective application of [Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person] , for identifying an illegally staying third-country national or stateless person and on requests for the comparison with Eurodac data by Member States' law enforcement authorities and Europol for law enforcement purposes (recast) (COM 272-16, pdf)

5. EU Agency for Asylum: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the European Union Agency for Asylum and repealing Regulation (EU) No 439/2010 (pdf) and Annex (pdf)

CIMADE: France & EU: What are we talking about? (pdf):

"La Cimade issued a press statement on 20 April 2016 in which it announced a suspension of its activities in Rennes detention centre from 18 to 20 April as a result of witnessing a system to deal with the refugee crisis in northern France involving sequences of unlawful practices. Eventually, their unlawfulness is predictably certified by courts or the prefectures which enacted them, but they nonetheless fulfil their purpose, described as removing people from the Calais region and port areas and attempting to dissuade them from returning there. In the meantime, the number unlawful detentions, denials of access to asylum procedures and violations of the rights of minors are rising, and migrants and refugees who are released subsequently return to a state of vagrancy as they await their opportunity to attempt the crossing."

Are You Syrious (4-5-16, link):

Serious concerns about health and protection of refugees

"Lawyers and human rights activists in Izmir express their concern over the protection and health of refugees in Turkey. The president of the NGO Halklarin Korprusu says concerns with human rights are not within the scope of the EU-Turkey deal, while the lawyers in charge of specific asylum cases express their difficulty in meeting with refugees in detention centres."

Strike in Chios

"In Chios, refugees in the Viale detention center sewed their mouths shut and started a hunger strike on Tuesday, to protest living conditions and the indifference of authorities. They protest the lack of attention to people with disabilities in particular."

Police clamping down on volunteers in Athens

"The Iokasti’s Kitchen in Athens will suspend cooking activities until further notice as recent legislation has made it impossible to distribute food in public places?—?police is clamping down on volunteers at Victoria Square and at Piraeus. The Kitchen will continue to provide ingredients to 3 self managed locations, currently cooking 1200 meals a day."

Italy: Volunteers are helping in the sea

"Le Monde reports on the volunteer boat ‘Aquarius’ that has saved 917 migrants in the Mediterranean within two months. It’s funded mostly through crowdfunding and plans to operate between Sicily and Libya over the summer."

European commission faces challenge to grant visa-free travel to Turks (Guardian, link):

"EU executive gives provisional blessing to key scheme in deal with Ankara, as asylum rules overhaul also hits trouble...

In another important caveat, visa-free travel would only be available to those Turks with biometric passports that include fingerprint recognition chips. Such passports do not exist in Turkey, although the government plans to introduce them from 1 June....

The final decision on whether Turkish citizens will get visa-free access to the Schengen Area for stays of up to three months rests with the EU’s 28 member states and the European parliament....

But five conditions still need to be cleared, including passing anti-corruption laws, rewriting domestic law on terrorism to avoid conflicts with freedom of expression, and bringing data protection rules in line with EU standards."

EU-Turkey: Commission admits visa-free travel for Turks depends on national parliaments (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission today (4 May) proposed that Turkish nationals would enjoy visa-free travel to the EU’s Schengen zone by the end of June, praising Ankara for its fast delivery on meeting the necessary conditions. But Commission experts admit that national parliaments could upturn the deal....

In the short time since EU leaders agreed the deal with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last 18 March, Turkey implemented most of the EU benchmarks on the way toward lifting the visa restrictions. The five remaining benchmarks appear to be a formality, listening to EU officials who praised Turkey for an outstanding ability to deliver....

Following the Commission proposal, the decision rests with the Justice and Home Affairs Council who will examine the issue on 19 June and vote by qualified majority.

Paul said she was more concerned about what would happen in the European Parliament, who also need to endorse the decisions. “Some national parliaments also have to ratify it, including the Netherlands”, she said, mentioning Timmermans’ home country. “Let’s hope it gets through, because a lot is at stake”, she added."

EU: Commission approves extending border checks at internal Schengen borders (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission approved today (4 May) extending by six months controls at several frontiers inside the free-travel Schengen area, saying checks were justified by deficiencies in Greece’s management of the bloc’s external border.

Border controls between Schengen countries are usually not allowed, but in a situation of emergency, such as Europe’s migration crisis, checks can be reintroduced for a maximum of two years.oversial Austrian plans to introduce border controls at the Brenner Pass. “There will be no wall,” Austrian interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka said after meeting his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano on Thursday (29 April). But he added: “If and only if it is necessary will we introduce more controls by slowing traffic and trains ... but circulation will be guaranteed.” The Alpine pass connects the two countries. But Austria is concerned that migrants will turn to Italy as a gateway to Europe after it closed the Western Balkan corridor."

Norwegian Government condemns stateless children to a state of legal limbo (statelessness.eu, link):

"A new proposal by the Norwegian Government will leave children born stateless in Norway who are habitually resident without a nationality until they turn 18. The new proposal, put forward by the Ministry of Justice, clearly violates provisions in international law which safeguard every child’s right to a nationality by stipulating that a 5 year lawful residence is required for acquisition of Norwegian citizenship."

News (5.5.16)

Bulgaria, Croatia announced joint positions in the fields of migration crisis, EU enlargement and Schengen membership (focus-fen.net): "“Coordinated positions of Bulgaria and Croatia and the countries in the region of Central and Eastern Europe are of paramount importance for tackling challenges the EU faces with.” That is what Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said during a meeting with his Croatian counterpart Dr Miro Kovac, which was held within the two-day official visit of the Bulgarian first diplomat to the Republic of Croatia, the press centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced."

Avramopoulos, Schengen isn't dying, we'll revive it (ANSA, link): "BRUSSELS, MAY 3 - "Schengen isn't dying. On the contrary, the EU Commission is doing everything to restore it and go back to normalcy, as indicated by the roadmap 'Back to Schengen'," said EU Migrant and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in an interview with ANSA. "But to move ahead, intermediate steps are needed. What we want to reach can't happen in one night, that's why we have to ensure a gradual process, even if that means allowing temporary extra checks at internal borders". (ANSAmed)."

Comment: But will it ever be the same again?

Don’t want migrants? Pay for them instead - Planned relocation scheme would have financial penalties for those who don’t join in. (Politico, link): "It’s part of a planned shake-up of the bloc’s asylum rules that aims to ease the pressure on the EU countries at the bloc’s external borders. If the proposal becomes law, the EU country in which migrants first set foot would in principle have to process their asylum claims, but that country would no longer be obliged to host all of the migrants it receives."

EU Commission: Accept asylum-seekers or pay up (DW, link): "EU nations that reject asylum seekers from overburdened frontline states will face a 250,000 euro charge per refugee under a plan unveiled by the European Commission. It's drawn rapid rebuffs from Slovakia and Poland."

EU leaders in Rome to discuss migrant crisis (ekathimerini.com, link): "EU president Donald Tusk travels to Rome Thursday with fellow EU institution leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for two days of talks likely to focus on next steps in Europe’s migrant crisis. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who fears Italy becoming the new migrant frontline after the closure of the Balkan route, will host the first day of talks, followed by Pope Francis on Friday."

Visa deal for Turkey; crisis off for Greece? (Reuters, link): "A revised relocation system to reform the EU's so-called "Dublin" asylum system was proposed Wednesday by the EU's executive. Italy, with tens of thousands of new arrivals, has led the push for a "fairness mechanism" when it comes to dealing with asylum-seekers who enter the 28-member bloc.... The Commission said Wednesday any member state could opt to "temporarily not take part in the reallocation," but must then pay 250,000 euros ($288,000) per asylum seeker."

Denmark extends controls on German border, EU set to authorize more (Reuters, link): "Denmark extended temporary controls at its border with Germany on Monday, imposed to help control an influx of migrants, as the European Commission confirmed it would shortly authorize more such extensions within the passport-free Schengen zone. Seven members of the Schengen zone, including Germany and Denmark, have introduced temporary border controls after more than one million migrants entered the European Union last year, mostly via Greece. The European Commission, struggling to prevent the collapse of the Schengen accord, is expected this month to allow EU member states to retain the emergency border checks, which are due to expire in May, for a while longer."

Niger tells Europe it needs 1 billion euros to fight illegal migration (Reuters, link): "Niger, a major transit country for Africans seeking to reach the EU, told foreign ministers visiting from Europe on Tuesday it needs 1 billion euros to combat illegal migration. As many as 150,000 migrants, most coming from other West African nations, will travel through Niger this year, crossing the Sahara Desert on their way to the Mediterranean coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4.5.16)


European Commission: Proposal to revise the Eurodac Regulation (COM 272. pdf)

 

"During the same period, those Member States that are not situated at the external borders began to see an increasing need to be able to store and compare information on irregular migrants that were found illegally staying on their territory, particularly where they did not seek asylum. As a consequence, thousands of migrants remain invisible in Europe, including thousands of unaccompanied minors, a situation that facilitates unauthorised secondary and subsequent movements and illegal stay within the EU. It became clear that significant steps had to be taken to tackle irregular migration that occurred within the EU as well as to the EU....

this proposal amends the current EURODAC Regulation (EU) No. 603/2013, and extends its scope for the purposes of identifying illegally staying third-country nationals and those who have entered the European Union irregularly at the external borders, with a view to using this information to assist a Member State to re-document a third-country national for return purposes."

Greece, Lesvos: A very important legal victory: Electra (link)

"This is today's Decision of Lesvos Prosecutor, making clear that the Moria Center is NOT a place where Unaccompanied Minors can possibly "reside". It can be used to effectively challenge the detention of every single youth detained in that space".

300 organisations and 11,000 individuals denounce the EU-Turkey agreement and see: CEAR denuncia junto a más 300 organizaciones el acuerdo UE-Turquía (link):

"The Spanish Refugee Aid Commission (CEAR) has today presented before the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the EU Ombudsman its complaint about the EU-Turkey deal and the infringement of the rights of refugees, with the support of 294 organisations and more than 11,000 individual signatures....

"Withdrawing the agreement with Turkey is the last opportunity for the EU to recover its decency, avoid putting at risk the lives of thousands of people who have fled war, and to prevent the treaties that it has signed on human rights and the right to asylum from becoming nothing more than wasted paper," said Estrella Galán, general secretary of CEAR."

See The list of social collectives and entities; professional organisations, networks and platforms, universtities and research centres, political organisations and trade unions that have signed the CEAR letters - including Statewatch - can be viewed: Here (link, pdf)

The petition open for individual signatures is here: Detengan las expulsiones de refugiados y retiren el acuerdo con Turquía (change.org, link)

Welcome2eu: Superb guides: Welcome to Italy:Info Guide for refugees and migrants (72 pages, great detail, English, link) and Italian (link) and Long guide (English, pdf, link) and Long guide (Italian, pdf, link)

European Commission: Proposal for a COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING DECISION setting out a recommendation for temporary internal border control in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk (COM 275-16, pdf): Applies only to AU, DE, DK, SE, NO.

and see Background: Can Schengen be suspended because of Greece? Should it be? (EU Law Analysis, link)

EU: SCHENGEN & BORDER CONTROLS: Letter to European Commission from Austria, France, Germany and Denmark: Letter (pdf):

"Our countries have reintroduced temporary border controls along the internal borders of the Schengen area to manage the migration flow and respond to the concerns of public order and security.

Even though the refugee situation at the internal borders along the Balkan route is no longer as dramatic as in the past, we are concerned about developments at the European Union's external borders. In some places persistent serious shortcomings and structural deficits have been detected by the Schengen evaluation. We do not assume that they can be permanently remedied in the very near future. Furthermore, a considerable number of migrants are still in Greece and along the Balkan route. We do not know whether and to what extent they have been registered."

Hungary to hold EU refugee quota referendum by October (euractiv, link): "Hungary will hold a referendum in September or early October, on whether to accept any future European Union quota system for resettling refugees, the prime minister’s office said yesterday (3 May)."

UNHCR Daily Report (3.5.16) Lawyers finaly allowed to enter some detention centres

"Greek Alternate Minister of Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas agreed to allow permanent presence of lawyers in two facilities in Eleonas, Attica, as well as in Moria, Lesvos, following a meeting with the head of the Athens Bar Association, Vasilis Alexandris, on 28 April. The program will be launched tentatively under the responsibility of the Greek Bar’s Committee for refugees and migrants issues, headed by Panagiotis Perakis, who was also present at the meeting. The ministry said the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has also expressed an interest in offering legal aid to refugees in Moria."

See also: Pilot Program to Allow Fixed Presence of Greek Lawyers in Two Refugee Centers (Greek Reporter, link)

Migrant flow to Greek islands ebbs but camps full (ekathimerini.com, link):

"There were no migrant and refugee landings on the shores of Lesvos for a fourth straight day Tuesday. Also no arrivals were reported on the islands of Chios and Samos between Monday and Tuesday morning.

A total of 8,190 people are being hosted at the so-called hot spots on the three islands, with more than half of those staying on Lesvos. Another 10,000 migrants and refugees are living in a makeshift camp near the border village of Idomeni in northern Greece, with thousands more in state-run venues in Attica and other parts of Greece."

UNHCR report that: 53 refugees arrived in Lesvos on 3 May.

News (4.5.16)

Racism in Austria at its highest level in years (The Local.at, link): "Racism in Austria is at its highest level for years according to an annual report released by the anti-discrimination organisation ZARA.... Two thirds of the racist remarks or acts referred to refugees, and were directed towards either asylum seekers or people supporting them. The ZARA statistics are only a guide to the extent of racism in Austria as they just reflect the number of incidents that were registered by people with the organisation." and see: The far right is weaselling into the mainstream, dressed up in suits (Guardian, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3.5.16)


Eurostat press release: Almost 90 000 unaccompanied minors among asylum seekers registered in the EU in 2015 (pdf): "In 2015, 88 300 asylum seekers applying for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU) were considered to be unaccompanied minors. While their number always stood between 11 000 and 13 000 in the EU over the period 2008-2013, it almost doubled in 2014 to reach slightly more than 23 000 persons, then nearly quadrupled in 2015.

 

In 2015, a substantial majority of unaccompanied minors were males (91%) and over half were aged 16 to 17 (57%, or 50 500 persons), while those aged 14 to 15 accounted for 29% (25 800 persons) and those aged less than 14 for 13% (11 800 persons). Around half (51%) of asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors in the EU in 2015 were Afghans."

And see: Italy struggles to house migrants in third year of mass arrivals (Reuters, link): "About 27,000 boat migrants have reached Italy since Jan. 1, slightly up on the same period last year and following a total 153,000 arrivals in 2015 and 170,000 in 2014.

The numbers are expected to rise this year because countries along the “Balkan route” – starting with a short boat ride from Turkey to Greece and continuing on land up to Austria – have shut their borders. That may cause more migrants to sail from Libya to Sicily, the closest part of Italy.

Many of the new arrivals move swiftly to wealthier northern Europe, although Austria has said it may shut down its main border crossing in the Alps to them. Already 113,000 are housed in Italy, some three-quarters of them in what are called “temporary” shelters.

The situation is acute for minors like Darboe, who Italian law requires be treated with extra care and be integrated quickly into the school system.

More than 2,700 unaccompanied minors arrived in Italy during the first three months of the year, the Interior Ministry says, a four-fold increase on the same period of 2015. "

Commission denies free pass to Germany and Austria on border controls (Politico, link): "The European Commission plans to let EU countries impose internal border checks for another six months — including during the summer tourist season — before insisting on a return to free travel in the Schengen zone, according to officials.

In a decision due to be published Wednesday, the Commission will recommend allowing the internal border checks in five countries until November, but Brussels will require oversight of the controls that Germany and Austria, among others, are pushing for. “The decision for Wednesday is made,” said an EU official familiar with the plans.

According to a draft of the decision, seen by POLITICO, the Commission recommends allowing “Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway to maintain proportionate temporary border controls for a maximum period of six months, starting from the day of the adoption of this Implementing Decision” at their respective shared borders."

The Commission will include proposals for regular monitoring, according to a quote from the document seen by Politico: “Border control should be targeted and limited in scope, frequency, location and time, to what is strictly necessary to respond to the serious threat and to safeguard public policy and internal security."

Such a system would not be entirely unfamiliar - Schengen states already undergo evaluations to assess their conformity with the Schengen Borders Code, as can be seen in these Council documents (pdfs): Schengen evaluation of AUSTRIA: Action plans to remedy deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation report in the field of:

  • Air borders (LIMITE doc no: 6761/16, 3 March 2016)
  • Visa (LIMITE doc no: 6816/16, 3 March 2016)
  • Police cooperation (LIMITE doc no: 6817/16, 3 March 2016)
  • Return (LIMITE doc no: 7258/16, 31 March 2016)

And: Draft Council Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation of the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of the Schengen Information System by Austria (LIMITE doc no: 5864/1/16 REV 1, 10 February 2016) and Council Implementing Decision (6222/16, 16 February 2016)

UNHCR Daily Report (2.5.16)

German authorities announced on Thursday, 28 April, that all asylum applications will be processed by the end of 2016, according to the head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Around 400,000 asylum cases are pending and another 300,000 people are waiting for a date to be set to commence their asylum procedure.

In Austria, in 2015, 85,798 people lodged asylum claims, which constitutes an increase by almost 215% in comparison to 2014. Most were from Afghan nationals (over 25,560), followed by Syrians (almost 24,550) and Iraqis (approx. 13,630). The asylum recognition rate stood at 35% with over 80% of recognition for Syrians. In addition, 2,478 people were granted subsidiary protection.

News (3.5.16)

EU may fine countries for rejecting refugees (EUobserver, link): "The EU Commission plans to impose fines on countries that refuse to take refugees under revised EU asylum laws to be put forward on Wednesday (4 May). The commission will propose a sanction of €250,000 per refugee, according to the Financial Times.

The commission's proposal will maintain the guiding principle of the current system that the country where migrants first step into the EU must deal with asylum applications.

But it proposes that when a country at the EU’s external border is overwhelmed, asylum seekers should be distributed across the continent. "

Syrian refugees flown out by pope start new life in Rome (Reuters, link): "For Nour Essa, one of the Syrian refugees who flew out of Lesbos on Pope Francis' plane last week, it was a choice tinged with shock, joy and sadness - and it had to be made immediately.

"They asked me 'Are you ready to leave for Italy tomorrow? You will be on the same plane with the pope. You must give me your answer now'," Essa recalled as she sat on a schoolyard bench with her husband Hasan Zaheda and two-year-old son Riad.

"We were shocked," the 30-year-old said in an interview with Reuters as she and her husband prepared to start an Italian language class.

The choice was offered at about 9 p.m. last Friday evening. Less than 18 hours later they and nine other Syrian refugees, all of them Muslim, were bound for Rome on the pope's plane. For some, including Zaheda, it was their first time on an aircraft."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.4.16-2.5.16)


The Refugee Crisis Is Humanity’s Crisis (NYT, link):

 

"This is the third in a series of dialogues with philosophers and critical theorists on the question of violence. This conversation is with Zygmunt Bauman, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, Britain. His latest book, “Strangers at the Door” is published with Polity Press....

I don’t believe there is a shortcut solution to the current refugee problem. Humanity is in crisis —- and there is no exit from that crisis other than the solidarity of humans. The first obstacle on the road to the exit from mutual alienation is the refusal of dialogue: that silence that accompanies self-alienation, aloofness, inattention, disregard and indifference. Instead of the duo of love and hate, the dialectical process of border-drawing needs to be thought therefore in terms of the triad of love, hate and indifference or neglect that the refugee, in particular, continues to face."

Hungary: Humanitarian disaster on the transit zones, unclear plans on legislation, and climate of fear: update on the asylum policy in Hungary (migszol.com, link):

"Many are asking us about the situation in Hungary regarding the transit zones and the planned legislation that would abolish all integration contract. In this post, we have gathered some of the latest information on the situation....

The situation is particularly worrying in the so called transit zone at the southern border. While access to the actual containers where cases are handled in extreme speed is restricted, humanitarian groups are working on both sides of the border. We especially recommend this testimony from a volunteer at the humanitarian group Migration Aid, describing the situation in the transit zone this week

We are extremely concerned about the new plan of the Austrian government to push back asylum seekers to Hungary and Italy. Leaving Hungary is becoming extremely difficult - undercover policemen, quite clearly relying on racial profiling, are trying to catch people in the train stations, and the cars travelling from Hungary to Austria are being checked...

Migszol is increasingly worried about the fact that the rhetoric and language that Hungarian politicians and authorities use about refugees remains unnoticed. During the celebration of the 5th anniversary of the Fidesz-drafted Hungarian constitution, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated that “islamization” is against the constitution of Hungary that defines the country as Christian. The rhetoric of Orban, as well as other notable politicians in Hungary, increasingly relies not only on islamophobia, but an increasingly racial definition of muslims as a separate ethnic identity that needs to be separated from white, Christian Hungary."

REPORT FROM THE HUNGARIAN-SERBIAN BORDER (Migration Aid, link)

"The Hungarian online media has been steadily reporting in the past weeks on the miserable situation developing in the transit zones at Röszke and Kelebia; alleviating the humanitarian challenges is particularly difficult given the uncooperative attitude of the local authorities.

However, there is another aspect of the refugee crisis that gets little to no attention. We know that the Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationality adjudicates approximately 20 cases a day, making it possible for about 40 asylum seekers / day to enter the country “legally” at the Serbian-Hungarian border. We also know that it is practically impossible for unaccompanied men to enter the transit zone and submit their asylum claim, not even if they are fleeing from Syrian war zones...."

Are You Syrious (1.5.16, link)

Volunteers needed on multiple locations

"Volunteers are still needed to cover Team Brit day shifts at Piraeus port, where 2189 refugees were staying yesterday. Volunteers are also needed in Cherso/Kilkis, where Love in Action is looking for hard working people for distribution in the camp and work in the warehouse. Accommodation and food are covered, driving license is welcome.

Again, Idomeni is in great need of volunteers — many of the teams in the field are really struggling right now. EKO kitchen, The EKO project, Team Banana, Hot Food Idomeni, Warehouse, Nurture Project International, RefuAid and Health / Dental Point Project are in dire need of volunteers. You can find more about their specific needs in a massive post in Information Point for Idomeni Volunteers FB group, which is one of the best info groups available."

BULGARIA: Patriarch Neophyte and Bulgarian Orthodox Church against taking in more refugees

““We live in difficult times, the very foundations of the world around us are shaken. Moral values ??that were observed for centuries are being questioned and rejected. In this atmosphere of value disorientation, waves of migrants with different beliefs, world view and traditions are coming and bringing more and more challenges to us”, said Patriarch Neophyte in his address to the Bulgarian people for Easter, according to local Standart News.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has also announced it will help refugees who have arrived in Bulgaria, but has urged authorities not to let any more in."

UNHCR: (1.5.16): 1,776 refugees arrived in Lesvos in April.

EU set to drive forward visas for Turks in migrant deal (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Despite deep public misgivings in some countries, the European Union will this week drive forward a plan to grant Turks visa-free travel to Europe as a reward for having reduced a flood of refugees and migrants into Europe to a trickle.

The European Commission is set to declare on Wednesday that Turkey has broadly met the criteria for early visa liberalization in a blaze of last-minute legislation and ask EU governments and the European Parliament to approve the decision by the end of June, several EU sources said....

EU officials insist the union made no promise, and the offer applies only if Turkey meets 72 legal and technical conditions. ...

A senior EU diplomat belittled any suspense around the conditions, saying: "This is just a joke. We have already made the decision...." [emphasis added]

Are You Syrious (30.4.16, link):

162 new arrivals to the islands

"Government sources report on the presence of 53,687 refugees and migrants in the country on April 30th as of 8:00 AM. The majority of them are still on the Greek mainland, while there are 8,042 people at the islands. Government sources report on 162 new arrivals to the islands?—?67 to Samos and 95 to #Chios. Volunteers report that there were no arrivals to the Northern coast of #Lesvos by 6:00 PM today (Sat, Apr 30th), while no information is available for the South of the island."

Irish group works to provide Wi-Fi for refugees trapped on the islands, volunteers are needed.

"The Irish group Disaster Tech Lab is sending a team to the islands between Greece and Turkey to build public internet facilities which will serve as public information points as well as allowing the refugees to establish contact relatives and friends. Additionally, they will provide secure WiFi networks for other humanitarian aid workers to use. They are looking for volunteers with specific technical skills (WiFi networking, Vsat, VoIP). More information on the application process is available at: http://bit.ly/1QHQvfu."

FRANCE: Volunteers will soon open kitchens and community spaces for refugees. Volunteers needed for final touch-ups.

"Volunteers report that four out of seven of the kitchens and community spaces are due to open in the new #Dunkirk camp on Tuesday or Wednesday, with wood burning cooking stoves, kitchen consuls, hot and cold running water, lighting, floored, free shop/distribution area, tables and benches, booth platforms etc. The residents of the camp are excited by the prospect. If there are volunteers skilled with wood, general making, set building, building, tent manufacturing, or plumbing who can help to get the final three spaces finished over the next week please contact Finn Kay on Facebook by private message."

Dublin Agreement might be renegotiated with each country taking more additional refugees.

On Wednesday May 4th, The European Commission will propose to the member states an amendment to the Dublin Regulation related to the responsibility of receiving refugees and migrants from the entry countries. If the agreement is reached, the first countries receiving migrants will have the responsibility to record and identify up to 150% of the originally agreed upon number?—?beyond this percentage, other states will have to share this responsibility by receiving the exceeding number of people. The Member States which refuse to receive these people will have to pay a fee for each person refused.

EU not providing fair and safe reception system in Greece, says Oxfam (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The European Union is failing to deliver a fair and safe system for receiving people in Greece, according to charity group Oxfam.

The Greek government’s limited capacity and the pressure to meet the terms of the EU-Turkey agreement has led to refugees and migrants being kept in poor conditions, stressed the humanitarian organization in a statement on Friday.

“Europe has created this mess and it needs to fix it in a way that respects people’s rights and dignity,” said Giovanni Riccardi Candiani, Oxfam’s representative in Greece. “The EU says it champions the rights of asylum-seekers beyond its borders but these rights are not being respected within EU countries.”"

April 2016

Europe’s failure on refugees echoes the moral collapse of the 1930s (Guardian , link)

":n 1938, representatives from 32 western states gathered in the pretty resort town of Evian, southern France. Evian is now famous for its water, but back then, the delegates had something else on their minds. They were there to discuss whether to admit a growing number of Jewish refugees, fleeing persecution in Germany and Austria. After several days of negotiations, most countries, including Britain, decided to do nothing.

On Monday, I was reminded of the Evian conference when British MPs voted against welcoming just 600 child refugees a year over the next half-decade. The two moments are not exactly comparable. History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself. But it does echo, and it does remind us of the consequences of ethical failure. Looking back at their inaction at Evian, delegates could claim they were unaware of what was to come. In 2016, we no longer have that excuse."

Greece: "DOG DAYS ON SAMOS" - Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones (link, with Archives back to 2012):

"we are back to an island which is staggeringly beautiful but which has a vile tumour throbbing less than a kilometre from the centre of the main town. There are hundreds of children amongst the inmates, languishing behind a double fence topped with razor wire. On every possible ground imaginable the camp is not a safe place for children. Even though the camp has doubled its capacity the new, bottom half, has yet to open so all the refugees are crammed in the older part which was constructed for 250 people. The principled opposition of the big NGOs not to work or co-operate with closed camps makes life more difficult...."

Who are we: "Sofiane Ait Chalalet is Algerian and came to Samos in 2006. He subsequently married a Greek artist which gave him the necessary papers to live and work in Greece without fear of the daily persecution which is the plight of so many undocumented people here. Chris Jones came to Samos about the same time as Sofiane. He was a university professor in Britain.

Both Sofiane and Chris have spent their lives working with some of the most oppressed and vulnerable both in Greece, Britain and Algeria."

Are You Syrious (link)

More arrivals to the Greek islands.

"There were 68 new arrivals to Samos today, mainly from Syria and Afganistan but also from Iraq, Palestine, and a considerable group from Algeria. The camp is so busy that they can barely find a place to put up their tents. Many set them up on a steep slope which is very unconformable for sleeping, but even this “option” is not available anymore."

Italy: Refugees’ rights for seeking asylum severely violated by Italian police.

"According to the organizations Naga, Asgi and Avvocati per Niente, in Milan’s police Headquarters (Questura), refugees have to fill in a preset form from April 2016, with a list of questions about departure country, states crossed on the way, and reason for migration. Then, an officer evaluates the form and decides on a refugee’s acceptance or expulsion from Italy. There is no chance for a trial to re-evaluate the case.

The organizations claim that the practice is illegitimate, since only the Territorial Commission for Asylum is the only authority in charge of assessing requests for asylum and protection. In this situation, a policeman substitutes an expert in understanding such a critical issue....

In the last 20 days, the lawyers of the candidates are forbidden to enter the police headquarters, another practice against the law. Meanwhile, Naga offers assistance with shelters and courses of Italian language, but also information sharing. These days, they strongly discourage the migrants to apply at the police headquarters."

Leaving refugees hungry is despicable! We are trying to help

"The Calais Kitchen would not mind your help. They need more donated food, more money to top up supplies, and volunteers to help them prepare all the food packs. Please contact them to volunteer at: Calaiskitchens@gmail.com; to drop off supplies at: Calaisdonations@gmail.com, or donate."

UNHCR: Daily Report 29.4.16:

"floating hotspots"!

"In order to address people’s reluctance to register upon arrivals to the Italian shores, the Italian government announced a plan to register people at sea. Following talks with European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, who stated that Italy should be prepared to receive more refugees and migrants, Interior Minister Angelo Alfano spoke of a proposal to convert ships into virtual floating “hotspot” reception centres as a possible method to this respect."

And see:Italy to start fingerprinting migrants at sea (The Local.it, link): "Italy is to introduce the fingerprinting of migrants crossing the Mediterranean as soon as they are picked up by rescue boats, officials say."

NATO to the rescue again

"Following a meeting of the heads of state of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy, in the context of NATO support aimed at deterring human smuggling to Europe, the American administration will source US ships to ongoing operations in international waters near the coast of Libya."

Eight EU Member States have introduced border controls

"On 26 April, the Greek government sent additional information to the European Commission (EC) regarding further measures they would implement to better manage the EU’s external borders. This information will feed into the EC’s assessment of potential deficiencies in the management of the EU’s external borders, as part of the so-called “Back To Schengen” roadmap. The outcome of this assessment will be available by 12 May. Should the EC find remaining deficiencies, it could propose to allow member states to prolong temporary border controls within the Schengen area until mid-November. Since September 2015, eight of the 26-Member Schengen area (including Austria and Germany) have introduced border control measures aimed at stemming the flow of refugees and migrants across Europe."

News (30.4-2-5-16)

Commission to give green light to extension of border controls (euractiv, link): "The European Commission wants to give Germany and other member states the option of extending internal border controls beyond the middle of May." And: Denmark pushes EU for longer border controls (The Local.dk, link): "Denmark is among six countries asking the European Commission to extend temporary controls at the internal borders of the Schengen area, as part of efforts to more closely monitor migration flows."

France: Police suspect arson after Muslim prayer hall burns in Corsica (DW, libk): "Prosecutors say the fire at the prayer hall in the capital, Ajaccio, was probably a criminal act. The French Mediterranean island experienced days of anti-Arab riots over Christmas."

Italy: 20-30 migrants drown during rescue operation - 454 arrive in Pozzallo, two bodies recovered (ANSA, link): "May 2 - Between 20 and 30 migrants are believed to have died on Friday during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean, sources said Monday. The deaths occurred after a freighter that had intercepted a migrant boat in difficulty put down a ladder to allow the passengers to climb on board.."

Refugee's Extradition to Turkey Rejected by Polish Court (Liberties.eu, link): "The man was wanted by Turkey for being a member of a terrorist group, but his status as a refugee had already been confirmed by Belgian authorities."

Italian NGOs Join Forces to Stop Forced Returns of Migrants (Liberties.eu, link) "Two Italian NGOs, Amnesty Italy and ASGI, are seeking justice for migrants who were forced by the Italian government to return to Libya, where they were imprisoned and abused... When deported back to Libya, these asylum seekers were thrown in jail and subjected to months of abuse. Some of them eventually managed to escape and reach Europe; others, however, have not been as lucky."

Greece: Underage Refugees in Lesvos to Be Moved to Separate Camp (Greek Reporter, link): "Greece’s Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas announced that the 380 unaccompanied minors at the Moria refugee registration camp in Lesvos will be transferred to a separate camp.

The decision came after the riots on Holy Tuesday, when refugees and migrants of different nationalities rioted, with most of them being unaccompanied minors.

The Greek government decided to move all unaccompanied underage refugees to a separate camp on the island under the supervision of NGOs Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and METAdrasi."

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April

 

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