Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16-29.4.19) including:
- France delivers boats to Libya: NGOs demand justice!
- Case filed against Greece at ECHR over crackdown on humanitarian groups
- European governments' targeting of migrant solidarity activists must stop
- Legal crackdown on asylum seekers in Germany
- Starving in Hungary's transit zones
"Last summer, people across the globe expressed outrage when U.S. immigration officials began separating children from their parents at the U.S.- Mexico border and placing them in hastily set up camps and cages. Absent from much of the criticism, however, was any recognition of the fact that children are detained for immigration-related reasons in dozens of countries, all of which—with the exception of the United States—have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2019.
...The continued insistence by states that immigration enforcement decisions take precedence over considerations of the well-being of children is also reflected in the much-anticipated Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), adopted in December 2018. As we discuss later in this Annual Report, there is much that is laudable in the GCM, including its insistence that immigration detention only be used as a measure of last resort and its re-iteration of long-standing fundamental norms requiring that detention “follows due process, is non-arbitrary, based on law, necessity, proportionality and individual assessments.”
Concerning children, the GCM encourages states to apply “alternatives to detention” while “working to end the practice of child detention.” But the compact falls short of recognising immigration detention’s violation of the “best interest” principle or calling for the prohibition of child detention."
"On 17 April 2019 the German Government pushed ahead with the deprivation of rights of refugees with two laws – the so-called “Orderly Return Bill” and an amendment to the social welfare law for asylum seekers. The highly controversial “Orderly Return Bill” promoted by the Ministry of the Interior has now been passed by the cabinet meeting of the Government and will be discussed in parliament. The draft law is part of a recent wave of legal measures that represent a crackdown on asylum seekers. It provides for far-reaching changes which have been sharply criticised by civil society associations as they include the deprivation of rights, expansion of the use of detention, and withdrawal of social benefits. It also makes the status of recognised refugees more precarious, introduces a downgraded version of the “Duldung” (toleration) status, and targets people and organisations involved in refugee support."
"The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) publishes today a compelling new report on ‘crimes of solidarity’, drawing attention to a dramatic increase in prosecutions, restrictions and penalties, against a variety of civil society actors.
The online publication of When Witnesses Won’t be Silenced: citizens’ solidarity and criminalisation comes just days after the Global Legal Action Network petitioned the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecution in January 2016 of Salam Kamal-Aldeen, the founder of Team Humanity, for his rescue work in the Aegean Sea constitutes a violation of human rights law."
France delivers boats to Libya: NGOs demand justice! (press release, pdf):
"Today our eight organisations invoke justice and denounce France’s complicity in violations of human rights in Libya. At the Administrative Tribunal in Paris we demand the suspension of a delivery of boats planned by the Armed Forces Ministry destined for Libyan coastguards, on account of serious doubts about its legality.
Last February, Florence Parly, France’s armed Forces minister, announced the purchase of six high-speed boats destined for Libyan coastguards in order to deal with ‘the problem of illegal immigration’. For the first time, France publicly announced direct and concrete bilateral collaboration with the Libyan coastguards. In buying these six boats for their use, France is participating in the cycle of violations of human rights committed in Libya in relation to refugees and migrants, by providing the logistics to intensify such measures."
GREECE: April 2019 Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos (Legal Centre Lesvos, link):
"Last week, it was reported that in response to criticism the director of the notorious Reception and Identification Centre outside Moria village in Lesvos stated that “anyone who thinks they can do better than us is welcome to try.”
What he misses is that it is actually an obligation of the State to provide adequate reception facilities for asylum seekers. It is also an obligation of the state to respect, protect, and ensure the enjoyment of human rights for all residing in its jurisdiction, including all migrants and refugees.
Three years after the EU-Turkey Statement, time has shown that the Greek state, and the European Union in its role implementing European migration policies, have utterly failed to meet these obligations. The horrible conditions and systematic procedural violations are not only morally, but legally unacceptable.
The practices we have documented in the first quarter of 2019 demonstrate a continued policy of dehumanization, discrimination, and structural violence against migrants entering Europe via Lesvos. Below is just a sampling of the continuing violation of migrants we have repeatedly reported on."
"Following a two-and-a-half-year legal ordeal in Greek courts, Salam Kamal-Aldeen, founder of the non-profit Team Humanity has filed an unprecedented application with the European Court of Human Rights challenging Greece’s crackdown on NGOs rescuing refugees at sea. (More on Salam’s show trail in Greece here.
The application filed with the Strasbourg court exposes the illegality of the Greek authorities’ crackdown on human rights defenders working to render assistance to persons in distress at sea. It challenges Greek’s abuse of power to arbitrarily prosecute and expose Mr Aldeen to a minimum ten years’ imprisonment, only to suspend his life-saving activities. The best evidence for the political extraneous considerations in prosecuting Salam is of course his complete acquittal."
GREECE: Racist Violence Recording Network: Annual Report 2018 (pdf):
"In 2018, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) recorded an increase in incidents of racist violence, especially against refugees and migrants. This increase is linked to the political polarization at a global level regarding the reception of refugees and migrants, coupled with national and local factors shaping the situation in Greece. The reinforced presence of the far-right parties in Europe encourages the violent xenophobic groups that claim an increasing proportion of the public sphere. In view of the European elections, the more space is occupied by the far-right agenda and euro-scepticism, the more the far-right, neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups across Europe gain further strength and form alliances with each other or even compete in committing racist attacks."
Starving in Hungary's transit zones (InfoMigrants, link):
"Since August 2018, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), a non-governmental organization advocating for human rights in Hungary, has counted a total of 13 cases of starvation in Hungary’s transit zones, affecting 21 individuals.
An Iraqi family of five with three children left Iraq in the hope of finding treatment for their 9-year-old son who is particularly vulnerable due to his mental disability. Their 6-year-old child also has autistic tendencies.
An Afghan family arrived in Hungary after fleeing Afghanistan during a family dispute over land. They were threatened with death and then mistreated in Iran because they were Afghan. Another Iraqi family of eight fled Iraq due to ISIS. They had witnessed killings and the abduction of young girls. They were afraid for their lives.
These are just some of the case studies highlighted by the HHC in their latest report about the denial of food to rejected asylum seekers inside Hungary's transit zones. In all cases, food was denied to the adults in the group for between one and five days."
Libya: Detained refugees shot as clashes near Tripoli continue (Al Jazeera, link):
"Refugees and migrants trapped in a detention centre on the front line of conflict in Tripoli for weeks say they were shot at indiscriminately on Tuesday by fighters aligned with eastern forces advancing on Libya's capital.
At least 10 people were seriously wounded by gunfire, detainees said.
"Right now they are attacking the centre, shooting more people … They are shooting us directly," an Eritrean man told Al Jazeera through the messaging service WhatsApp."
And: Migrants in Libyan jail were reportedly seriously wounded in shooting: U.N. (Reuters, link)
EU-TURKEY: 10,000 irregular migrants held in Turkey this year (Anadolu Agency, link):
"Some 10,000 irregular migrants were rounded up off Turkey's Aegean Sea coast in the last three months, security sources said.
Coast guard units held 5,729 migrants. Six migrants lost their lives due to drowning or hypothermia and 15 human smugglers were arrested.
Also, 3,919 migrants and 82 human smugglers were held by the land forces.
All of the migrants were later referred to provincial migration directorates.
Last year, 6,336 irregular migrants were held in Turkey."
"The German government has agreed on a set of rules aimed at making it harder for failed asylum seekers to avoid deportation.
The country’s top security official, Horst Seehofer, said Wednesday that the package agreed by the Cabinet focuses on people who have exhausted all legal avenues to obtain asylum.
Seehofer told reporters in Berlin that people who try to hide their true identity can be jailed and those who fail to replace lost travel documents may face fines.
Authorities will double to about 1,000 the number of prison places designated for deportees."
CATALONIA: Government launches 'safe' ports plan for refugees and rescue boats (Catalan News, link):
"The Catalan government has launched an initiative bringing together several departments in order to make its ports "safe" for refugees and NGO rescue boats.
Speaking as the scheme started on Monday with the first meeting of the working group, the foreign minister reminded reporters that Catalonia does not have the power to grant migrants asylum, but does have control over reception and integration policy.
Alfred Bosch said the plan was a response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and recognition of the "moral and political obligation" to welcome migrants, particularly in the face of what he denounced as the "inaction" of EU member states."
Fighting in Libya will create huge number of refugees, PM warns (Guardian, link):
"Fayez al-Sarraj says Khalifa Haftar’s attack on Tripoli ‘will spread its cancer through Mediterranean
Hundreds of thousands of refugees could flee the fighting caused by Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to seize the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the prime minister of the country’s UN-recognised government has warned.(...)
There have been concerns that Libya could become a “new Syria”, with civil war leading to massive population displacement.(...)
“There are not only the 800,000 migrants potentially ready to leave, there would be Libyans fleeing this war",
Rescue ship says Spain is blocking its bid to aid refugees in Greece (El Pais, link):
"A vessel operated by an NGO is trying to deliver humanitarian relief to Lesbos, but Spanish authorities say it needs a new permit despite having one from Portugal.
A Basque fishing vessel converted into a migrant rescue boat called the Aita Mari is having problems going to the Greek island of Lesbos, where it aims to deliver humanitarian aid to the thousands of refugees concentrated there."
The excetional become the norm: Border controls: state of emergency becoming state of normality (euractiv, link);
"Germany, as well as other EU member states in the Schengen area, is extending the period of random border checks. The EU Commission is not pleased. EURACTIV’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.
Actually, border checks should only be temporary. However, the deployment of the German Federal Police at the German-Austrian border, which began at the height of the refugee crisis in September 2015, has since been repeatedly extended."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9-15.4.19) including:
- Safe harbours: the cities defying the EU to welcome migrants
- Joint Statement – the case of Alan Kurdi
- Switzerland: Authorities must drop absurd charges against priest who showed compassion to asylum-seeker
EU: Safe harbours: the cities defying the EU to welcome migrants (Open Democracy, link):
"This weekend, thousands of people marched in Berlin, and several other German cities including Nuremberg and Cologne, to protest a bill, proposed by the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, that would toughen the country’s asylum and deportation laws and criminalise pro-migrant activism.
The protest was not the first of its kind. Over the last few months, there have been several coordinated demonstrations over migrant policy across Germany. Between July and September last year, tens of thousands of people dressed in orange, many wearing life jackets, took to the streets to protest a growing clampdown on migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean and the civil society organisations aiding them."
HUNGARY: Migrant debit cards: a tool of terrorism? Yes, so vote Fidesz (Hungarian Spectrum, link):
"Commentators outside of the Fidesz propaganda media claim that Orbán’s seven points, which are the basis of Fidesz’s campaign program for the European parliamentary election, are meaningless and undecipherable. Naturally, they are all about migration, but none of them addresses existing EU regulations or directives, which Orbán’s campaign is fighting against. For example, the fourth of the seven points is a demand to terminate the issuance of ‘migrant visas’ and ‘migrant cards.’” In light of the Orbán government’s latest propaganda effort on an international scale in the form of a news agency, V4NA, I think it might be educational to see how the regime creates fake news and uses it for propaganda purposes."
Joint Statement – the case of Alan Kurdi (sea-watch.org, link):
"We have learned that Sea-Eye’s rescue vessel, the ‘Alan Kurdi’, has finally been allowed to disembark the people who were rescued on April 3 when in distress on the Mediterranean Sea. These 64 people (of whom two were evacuated already due to medical emergencies) are allowed to reach land in Valletta/Malta after suffering through ten days of uncertainty at sea.
We are relieved that these people have finally reached firm land in a safe port in the EU but we by no means consider this case a victory. Instead, it was once again a shameful episode in which EU member states unnecessarily prolonged an emergency at sea, the very same countries and institutions who now declare this a successful solution."
"Malta says some 60 migrants stranded off its coast in the Sea-Eye charity vessel will be taken by four EU countries. It said none of the migrants were to remain in Malta.
The Maltese government said on Saturday that more than 60 migrants stranded at sea for more than a week on the German rescue ship would be taken in by four EU countries after a deal was reached with the European Commission.
"Through the coordination of the European Commission, with the cooperation of Malta, the migrants on board the NGO vessel Alan Kurdi will be redistributed among four EU states: Germany, France, Portugal and Luxembourg," a government statement said.".
Moving Stories - Abshir’s (Samos Chronicles, link):
"Just over a week ago Abshir, from Somalia, was transferred from Samos to a mainland refugee camp at Nea Kavala in northern Greece. He was part of around 350 refugees taken that day from Samos as part of the Government’s attempt to ease pressure on the massively overcrowded camp in Vathi. All of them left on the ferry to Athens and in Abshir’s case with some others, he was bussed north. In all a journey of nearly 24 hours. No food or drink provided.
Abshir was very nervous about this move. He did not want to leave Samos. After 5 months this shy gay young man from Somalia was at last feeling more comfortable."
"Fighting that has broken out in Tripoli has further trapped refugees and migrants held in detention centres
- MSF is extremely concerned for the wellbeing of civilians and refugees and migrants caught in the fighting
- We reiterate our call to allow refugees and migrants held in detention to be released to an area of safety and to increase the capacity of search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea."
The Mediterranean battlefield of migration (opendemocracy.net,link):
"What plays out off the coast of Libya are forms of mass abduction that are not merely tolerated but strategically organised and orchestrated by European governments and its coastguards."
"A charity ship with scores of African migrants on board appealed to European states for a safe port on Thursday after being stranded for eight days between Malta and Italy, saying the health of the rescued people was worsening."
"The European Court of Human Rights recently confirmed what many have long known: that Greece’s practice of locking up unaccompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children in police cells and detention centers leads to serious rights abuses.
But despite that ruling, as of March 30, 82 unaccompanied children were still detained in so-called “protective custody,” held in police station cells or immigrant detention centers across the country."
"The Sea-Eye rescue ship Alan Kurdi is anchored off the coast of Malta with over 60 refugees on board. The vessel has been forbidden to dock. Sea-Eye spokesperson Carlotta Weibl spoke with DW about the situation."
"Pastor Norbert Valley, who was taken from his Sunday service by police for questioning, is charged with “facilitating the illegal stay” of a Togolese man. Following his refusal to pay a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs, the Public Prosecutor will decide tomorrow whether to issue an indictment."
"In March, the number of detections of illegal border crossings on Europe’s main migratory routes fell by 7% from the previous month to nearly 4 600, mainly due to a drop in migrant arrivals in Spain. The total for the first quarter of 2019 was 13% lower than a year ago at around 17 900."
Illegal migrants stopped in Edirne as rumors spark exodus to Europe (Daily Sabah, link):
"From highways to railroads, everywhere seems to be teeming with illegal migrants in Edirne. This northwestern province bordering Greece is a common route for migrants, but it is rare for migrants to arrive en masse to Edirne, hoping to sneak into Greece. More than 2,000 illegal migrants were intercepted by security forces in the province since April 4, and this new trend is attributed to rumors on social media accompanied with fake news that the border crossing will be opened for migrants traveling to Europe.Security forces work around the clock in areas near the border and in downtown Edirne and try to persuade migrants with the proper paperwork to go back to the cities they arrived from. Others without documents are accommodated at migrant centers in the province. Scenes in Edirne are reminiscent of another mass illegal migrant attempt four years ago when Syrian migrants heard rumors that European countries would admit more refugees."
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-8.4.19) including:
- Analysis: Italy's redefinition of sea rescue as a crime draws on EU policy for inspiration
- IOM: 356 deaths in the Mediterranean so far in 2019
- Overhaul of Spanish coastguard agency sparks fears for search and rescue operations
On the evening of 18 March, an ongoing conflict between the Italian government and civil sea rescue initiatives was reignited following the rescue of 49 people in international waters north of Libya by the ship Mare Jonio, of the Italian citizen-funded sea rescue initiative Mediterranea - Saving Humans.
Three teens charged in Malta over refugee ship hijacking (Al Jazeera, link):
"Authorities in Malta have charged three teenagers with committing an act of "terrorism" for their suspected role in hijacking a merchant ship that rescued them off the coast of Libya.
The teenagers, among 108 refugees and asylum seekers rescued by El Hiblu 1 earlier this week, appeared at a court in the Maltese capital, Valletta, on Saturday.
They were accused of seizing control of the tanker and using force and intimidation against the crew to change the ship's course to Europe."
"The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 12,174 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through 3 April. Deaths on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes have reached 356 individuals."
See also: IOM Statement: Protecting Migrants in Libya Must be Our Primary Focus (link): "Libya cannot yet be considered a safe port."
EU Trust Fund for Africa: €115.5 million to enhance security, migrant protection and job creation in the Sahel region (European Commission press release, pdf):
"The European Commission adopted five new programmes and three top-ups of current programmes worth €115.5 million under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to complement ongoing efforts in the Sahel and Lake Chad region.
...An additional €30 million will serve to protect migrants and refugees along the Central Mediterranean route and look for sustainable solutions in the Sahel and Lake Chad region. It will further increase the number of migrants benefitting from protection and voluntary return while ensuring their sustainable and dignified reintegration. In Niger, the Joint Investigation Team has dismantled 33 criminal networks and 210 smugglers have been convicted over the past two years. It will receive an extra €5.5 million to build on this success. In Ghana, €5 million for capacity-building and equipment will strengthen the country's border management."
"ZURICH (Reuters) - Austria will extend its border controls for fellow EU members Hungary and Slovenia until at least November, Austrian news agency APA reported on Sunday, citing a letter from the country’s interior minister to the European Commission.
In the letter to the EU Commission, Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl cited a persistently high number of illegal migrants and a “latent threat of terrorism” related to the prospect of fighters returning from former Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq, APA reported. "
Surveillance Company Cellebrite Finds a New Exploit: Spying on Asylum Seekers (Privacy International, link):
"Cellebrite, a surveillance firm marketing itself as the “global leader in digital intelligence”, is marketing its digital extraction devices at a new target: authorities interrogating people seeking asylum.
Israel-based Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corporation, markets forensic tools which empower authorities to bypass passwords on digital devices, allowing them to download, analyse, and visualise data. "
"“We could only save half of them, many people drowned,” remembers Roldán, a 32-year-old firefighter from the southern city of Málaga, who has been part of the underwater unit of the Seville City Hall Fire Department since 2013. His act of solidarity that day, as well as his help on other rescue missions in the summer of 2017, could land him behind bars for 20 years for allegedly aiding illegal immigration and working with human traffickers."
Spain’s civilian coast guard caught in election crosshairs (Politico, link):
"An overhaul of Spain’s operations in the Mediterranean has sparked fears among activists that Madrid is quietly gutting a civilian search-and-rescue agency credited with saving thousands of lives.
The changes to the Salvamento Marítimo rescue operation come as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s center-left government is under electoral pressure from the far right ahead of a general election later this month.
...Four of the agency’s mid-sized rescue ships will be moved from the Sea of Alborán, where most sea rescues took place last summer, to areas that receive less migrant traffic: one to the Balearic Islands, two to the eastern Spanish city of Cartagena, and one to the Canary Islands, according to an internal February report from Salvamento Marítimo’s security and safety committee obtained by POLITICO."
Gen Khalifa Haftar’s forces close in on Tripoli (Irish Times, link):
"Dozens of migrants and refugees in a Tripoli detention centre were dressed in old military uniforms and ordered to begin packing weapons this week, as rival forces began to march on the Libyan capital.(...)
In the Tripoli detention centre, some of the thousands of refugees and migrants who are locked up indefinitely, after being returned to Libya by the EU-backed Libyan coastguard, worried that they may be forced to fight."
Vento e pioggia sui migranti: le immagini a bordo della nave Alan Kurdi (lapresse.it, link):
On board of the Alan Kurdi, ship blocked in application of the directive from interior ministry. Appears its heading for Malta after not having been allowed into Italian waters.
"UN Secretary General António Guterres said Thursday (4 April) he was “shocked” by the level of suffering of migrants at a detention centre in Tripoli which he visited during a visit to the Libyan capital.
“I was very moved and shocked by the level of suffering and especially by the level of despair that I found,” Guterres told reporters during the second day of trip to Tripoli during which he visited the Zara detention centre."
"The European Union has mandated Italy to set up several maritime control centres in Libya. The Coast Guard and Maritime Police will be linked to European surveillance systems, the authorities will communicate directly with Frontex. The project costs 46 million euros and starts in July. But the Libyan Coast Guard has since long been connected to Italian counterparts.
European Parliament: Briefing: Recasting the Return Directive (pdf):
"Taking into account the decrease in the EU return rate (45.8 % in 2016 and 36.6 % in 2017), and following European Council and Council calls to review the 2008 legal text to enhance the effectiveness of the EU return policy, the Commission has proposed a targeted recast of the directive aiming to 'reduce the length of return procedures, secure a better link between asylum and return procedures and ensure a more effective use of measures to prevent absconding'."
See also: Lock ‘em up: the proposal to amend the EU’s Returns Directive (EU Law Analysis, link) by Professor Steve Peers.
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