17 April - 10 May 2021

This round-up features news on continuing plans to externalise EU migration policy to Morocco and other North African states by striking "comprehensive" migration deals (Portuguese presidency). Conversely, a report by TNI suggests that reining in expansive implementation of harmful border security models urgently requires divestment from the "border industrial complex" to uphold rights and protect people. UK plans to strike deals making EU states responsible for asylum seekers to be returned are facing opposition, and UNHCR has criticised UK plans to diminish protection for refugees. The European Commission, meanwhile, plans to increase the use of detention at borders to increase so-called "voluntary returns" (by leaving people no other option) and improve provisions for reintegration.

Border deaths continue apace, including a shipwreck in which 130 people died after the Libyan coast guard, Italy and Malta failed to intervene, as the EU's withdrawal from SAR operations is compounded by "border surveillance, drones and the militarisation of the Mediterranean", as documented by journalist Antonio Mazzeo. Human rights concerns include the Greek Ombudsman's complaint that investigations into pushbacks to Turkey were obstructed; the Council of Europe state that five years after the ECtHR's Khlaifia vs. Italy sentence, rights are still not guaranteed in Italian hotspots; a model camp "Kara Tepe" on Lesbos was closed and its dwellers were transferred to the infamous Moria camp; and French human rights groups (led by Anafe) criticise the State Council's failure to order the closure of border police (PAF) detention facilities at the French-Italian border, where unlawful practices have been certified.

At an institutional level, the European Contact Group on Search and Rescue, aiming to coordinate the EU's activities on the "rescue void" engineered to reduce irregular border crossings in the Mediterranean, is not meeting transparency requirements. Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri, meanwhile, has issued a decision to set up a lobbying transparency register, as the agency is required to do by its 2019 Regulation. 


10 May 2021

UNHCR deeply concerned at discriminatory two-tier UK asylum plans, urges rethink

The UNHCR says that the UK government's 'New Plan for Immigration', which seeks to diminish refugee protections, risks "breaching international legal commitments, undermining global refugee cooperation and triggering damaging effects on asylum-seekers who arrive irregularly".

06 May 2021

Border surveillance, drones and militarisation of the Mediterranean

The growing use of drones and other long-range, increasingly-automated forms of surveillance and data collection are part of the militarisation of Europe’s borders in the Mediterranean, which have led to thousands of unnecessary deaths and push- and pull-backs to Libya, where migrants and refugees face arbitrary detention, violence, mistreatment and torture. This article, by the journalist Antonio Mazzeo, chronicles investments into and tests and deployments of drone technology by EU and national agencies in the Mediterranean.

06 May 2021

Frontex and lobbying: Executive Director Decision on the Transparency Register

Frontex is to set up a lobbying transparency register to record details of meetings with representatives from the private sector, in accordance with the 2019 Regulation governing the border agency. Statewatch has obtained the Decision of Executive Director establishing the register.

05 May 2021

Illegal detention at the French-Italian border: the State Council washes its hands of the issue

A press release from a group of human rights organisations in response to a decision of the French Conseil d'Etat, which has failed to order the closure of illegal detention facilities at the French-Italian border.

05 May 2021

EU: Detention at the borders to increase "voluntary" return of migrants

A new strategy on "voluntary" return and reintegration unveiled by the European Commission at the end of last month notes that the use of detention "can increase the uptake of voluntary returns at early stages of the return process."

04 May 2021

Greece closes humane camp for refugees, sends them to Moria

The last of the two model refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos is closing, with people there being sent to dire conditions in Moria. Up until last month, Kara Tepe 1 camp was home to around 1,000 people, including families and others with vulnerabilities.

04 May 2021

Khlaifia sentence: Italy still under scrutiny for violations in hotspots

Five years after the Khlaifia ruling handed down by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the effective respect of rights in hotspots in Italy is still not guaranteed and needs to be further examined in December 2021. This was decided by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe following violations and critical events reported by ASGI, A Buon Diritto Onlus and CILD.

30 April 2021

Pushbacks from Greece to Turkey: Ombudsman's report highlights obstruction of investigations

As part of an ongoing investigation into pushbacks of migrants and refugees from Greece to Turkey, the Greek Ombudsman has issued an interim report summarising the cases examined so far and the response - or lack thereof - of the authorities.

27 April 2021

130 people die at sea as Malta, Italy and Libya fail to provide assistance

130 people died after their rubber dinghy was shipwrecked off the coast of Libya in a storm. The Italian, Libyan and Maltese authorities failed to provide assistance to the vessel, despite knowing of the situation. Instead, the NGO-operated ship Ocean Viking headed towards the area - but a night storm meant they arrived too late. The incident is the latest in a long line of similar events, which the crew of Ocean Viking say they should not have to deal with - rather, states should be fulfilling their international legal obligations to rescue people in distress at sea.

27 April 2021

EU countries against bilateral deals allowing the UK to shift responsibility for asylum-seekers 

A number of major EU countries have expressed no interest in the UK Home Office's plan to strike bilateral deals that would replicate the effects of the EU's 'Dublin' rules, and allow the UK to return asylum-seekers to the first EU state in which they were registered. Belgium, France and Germany have all said they would not sign any such deals. However, this still leaves the option of trying to remove people to non-EU states - an intention expressed in letters recently sent to asylum-seekers being held at Napier Barracks, which said: "We will attempt to remove you to [EU country] in which you were present of have a connection, or any other safe country that will receive you.”

23 April 2021

Mediterranean: European Contact Group on Search and Rescue failing to meet transparency requirements

In response to ongoing deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, the European Commission set up a ‘Contact Group on Search and Rescue’, made up of EU member state authorities. It aims to establish a “structured framework for cooperation at EU level in order to ensure rapid response in case of events at sea as well as maintaining safety of navigation and ensuring effective migration management.” A month after its first meeting, as avoidable deaths and a lack of assistance to vessels in distress in the Mediterranean continue, it is failing to meet its own transparency requirements.

21 April 2021

Divestment from the border industrial complex could spur “a politics that protects and upholds the rights of refugees and migrants”

A recent report reveals the largest corporate players in today’s global “border industrial complex” and calls for divestment from the industry, as a way to force states to halt the implementation of harmful border security models.

19 April 2021

EU: Tracking the Pact: North Africa a key focus for new "comprehensive" migration deals

Two documents obtained by Statewatch outline the thinking of the Portuguese Council Presidency and the Spanish authorities on how to step up cooperation on migration (in particular on "border management") with Morocco and other states in the region.


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