8 December 2020 - 18 January 2021

Including:

  • EU: Renewed deportation agreement with Afghanistan close to approval
  • Greece: Legal actors express serious concerns regarding the lack of state free legal aid for asylum applicants in Lesvos
  • Death on the Central Mediterranean: 2013-2020
  • EU: The 'Black Book of Pushbacks': testimonies of pushbacks affecting over 12,000 people
  • Mediterranean: Nine new legal proceedings against civil search and rescue ships since June 2020

15 January 2021

EU: Frontex, EASO and Europol: Presentations on migration and asylum trends in 2020/21

Statewatch is publishing three slideshows presented at a meeting of the Council of the EU's JHA Counsellors working party on 11 January. Produced by the EU agencies Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Europol, they give the agencies' impression of migration, asylum and migrant smuggling trends in 2020, and what may come in the year ahead.


14 January 2021

EU: Renewed deportation agreement with Afghanistan close to approval

The EU is close to adopting a renewed agreement with Afghanistan to facilitate further deportations to the war-torn country. A note from the Commission to the Council, dated 13 January, says "all requests made by Member States" are included in the new Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation.


14 January 2021

Court of Justice: Impermissible to put forced removal of minors 'on hold' to sidestep safeguards

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) has ruled that EU member states wishing to deport minors must verify that adequate reception facilities exist in the destination state, and that they cannot sidestep this requirement by issuing a removal order against a minor but only seeking to enforce the decision when they become an adult, when those safeguards no longer apply. The ruling comes after a court in the Netherlands, faced with an appeal by an individual handed a removal order as a minor but facing enforcement of the order as an adult, asked the CJEU to provide an interpretation of the relevant provisions of the EU Return Directive.


14 January 2021

Refugees in Greece: call for action to prevent homelessness and destitution for thousands during winter

In a statement published on 22 December, over 70 civil society organisations have called on the Greek government to ensure that refugees in Greece are protected during the winter months. They are demanding a halt to evictions, "a lasting strategy for social security and integration," and ongoing dialogue and discussion with civil society to ensure meaningful integration and inclusion.


14 January 2021

Greece: Legal actors express serious concerns regarding the lack of state free legal aid for asylum applicants in Lesvos

A group of legal organisations active on Lesvos are demanding that the Greek state meet its legal obligation to provide free legal aid in asylum cases. As of 11 January, the Regional Asylum Office of Lesvos is to start issuing first instance rejections and accepting appeals from asylum applicants, for the first time in four months - but without giving individuals access to legal aid, making it impossible for them to file an appeal.


13 January 2021

Tracking the Pact: UNHCR calls on EU to uphold refugee rights in new migration legislation

The UNHCR has released a new set of recommendations for the current Portuguese Council Presidency and the subsequent Slovenian Council Presidency. The UN refugee agency "welcomes the direction of the proposed EU Pact, its comprehensive approach, and emphasis on solidarity and addressing root causes of forced displacement," and "encourages the Presidencies to explore avenues for progress on key issues such as solidarity and border procedures," amongst other things.


12 January 2021

Death on the Central Mediterranean: 2013-2020

A new timeline provides a useful chronology of the migration situation in the Mediterranean, where over 13,000 people have died since 2013. The timeline looks at state powers and practice and the responses from civil society, such as the launch of search and rescue missions - which are increasingly being criminalised.


12 January 2021

Humanitarian crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina: "an inevitable consequence" of EU border externalization, say major NGOs

Refugee Rights Europe, Amnesty International, the Jesuit Refugee Service and Médicins du Monde have said that the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina - where thousands of refugees and migrants are stranded in appalling conditions - is "an inevitable consequence of the EU's externalization policy".


07 January 2021 

EU: The 'Black Book of Pushbacks': testimonies of pushbacks affecting over 12,000 people

The 'Black Book of Pushbacks' has been produced by the Border Violence Monitoring Network to document "the horrific violence suffered by over 12,000 people at the hands of authorities on the EU’s external borders". The publication, which documents so many incidents that it comes in two volumes, was launched on International Migrants Day.


22 December 2020

EU court: Hungary has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU asylum and migration law

The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled that Hungary's actions in the field of migration and asylum are against the law.


22 December 2020

Malta: Magistrate calls for new prisons if number of false passport cases continues to rise

Up to a third of Malta's prison population is made up of people who have been jailed for offences involving false passports. Some 250 people are currently behind bars for such offences. Whilst sentencing a Moroccan national to six months for use of a false passport, a magistrate recently said "that new facilities would need to be built to accommodate such offenders if the trend continued," and said there was a "dire need for a European and International mechanism for dealing with such cases."


22 December 2020

UK: Essex lorry deaths: two found guilty over manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese people

Two men have been found guilty of the manslaughter of 39 people who suffocated to death in a lorry whislt being smuggled into the UK in October 2019. Two others were found guilty of conspiring to unlawfully smuggle people into the country, while the two ringleaders of the operation - which had been ongoing for years - pled guilty to manslaughter before trial.


22 December 2020

Greece: Government attacks on NGOs debunked

Claims by the Greek Migration Minister, Notis Mitarakis, that NGOs have been helping organise the irregular arrival of people onto the Aegean islands, have been debunked by a media investigation. Mitarakis' claims were made following the publication by the government of four video interviews with Somali citizens, which the government claimed proved they receiving illegal assistance from NGOs to arrive on Greek territory. However, the videos raise a number of questions that the government has failed to answer.


22 December 2020

Final contracts arranged for €6 billion EU-Turkey deal

The EU has finalised the contracting of the €6 billion it owes to Turkey as part of the March 2016 deal to keep refugees off European territory. The failure to provide all the funds promised was one reason cited by Turkey in March, when it decided to stop preventing departures to Greece, leading to a spike in arrivals, a diplomatic crisis between the EU and Turkey, the provision of more assistance from other EU member states to Greece for border security, and a worsening situation for people arriving in Greece.


18 December 2020

Mediterranean: Nine new legal proceedings against civil search and rescue ships since June 2020

Over 1,000 people have died in the Mediterranean in 2020 and EU member states are still halting civilian search and rescue initiatives. An overview produced by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) documents nine new legal proceedings against civil search and rescue ships seeking to operate in the Mediterranean since June 2020, making a total of 50 proceedings since the beginning of 2018. The proceedings launched since June are all administrative in nature, but some of the 50 invoke criminal law against the crews of rescue ships, the organisations operating them or the vessels themselves.


17 December 2020

EU: Pushbacks: “it is high time to break the silence of EU institutions”

Writing for the European Policy Centre, Green MEP Tineke Strik denounces the fact that “pushbacks at our external borders have become a widespread practice, often accompanied by violence... Their systematic character reveals that they are not only a matter of practice but also of policies in many EU border countries.” She calls for a wider scope of the newly proposed monitoring mechanism, stricter enforcement of the rules, and stronger scrutiny from the European Parliament and Commission.


15 December 2020

Greece: Refugees in 'Moria 2' camp face appalling conditions

Refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos living in the 'Moria 2' camp - set up to replace Moria when it burnt down in September - are living amongst mud and water, with inadequate access to hygiene and in the presence of old military equipment, such as mortar shells. The camp was hastily constructed on a former military firing range after the destruction of Moria. Photos and videos shared by residents and activist groups have documented the situation. The Dunya Collective, who recently shared a photo of a mortar shell, said: "Over 7,000 people are living in this camp, many of them children, in inhumane conditions.”


14 December 2020

Four Greek officials charged with assaulting migrants

Three Greek border guards and one police officer were charged on Saturday with assaulting migrants during an identity check on Lesvos, according to a variety of press outlets. The charges reportedly include "beating asylum seekers" and "inflicting bodily harm, torture, and breaking anti-racist laws." The four men appeared before a prosecutor on Saturday evening and have been released, pending an investigation. The investigation comes following the publication of a video by the newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton, which shows officers landing blows on two individuals even after they have been arrested and handcuffed.


10 December 2020

EU: Frontex report on removal operations in the first half of 2020 and fundamental rights observations

Statewatch is publishing Frontex's report on its forced removal operations in the first half of 2020, along with the observations of the agency's fundamental rights officer (FRO). The FRO report highlights a number of problems: a failure to correctly brief escorts on fundamental rights; not enough monitors available to cover all flights and not enough monitors on each flight; a failure to protect dignity and privacy during strip searches; wrongful disclosure of medical data to escorts; improper treatment of vulnerable groups; and problematic use of force and coercive measures. On this latter point, the FRO's report notes that: "A few monitors found that unauthorized coercive measures were used (steel shoes, helmets)."


09 December 2020

German courts repeal more than 5,600 Afghan asylum rejections

Over 5,600 Afghan asylum seekers in Germany have had negative decisions on their applications for protection overturned by the courts in the first nine months of 2020, according to a report published by InfoMigrants. This represents a success rate for appeals of almost 60%; there were 9,557 appeals overall against negative asylum decisions in the same period. A politician from The Left (Die Linke), who submitted a parliamentary question that led to the government publishing the figures, says that they point to a need for a change in asylum decision-making policies.


09 December 2020

Frontex, 15 years of impunity : The outlaw agency must disappear !

Public statement from the Migreurop network in response to the allegations of Frontex's involvement in and/or knowledge of pushbacks at the Greek-Turkish sea border.


09 December 2020

UK: Digital borders scheme costing millions, with nothing to show for it

The UK Home Office's "Digital Services at the Border programme," which aims "to provide UK Border Force staff with better information to make decisions about people crossing the border and to track goods entering and exiting the UK," has cost hundreds of millions of pounds since it was launched in 2014 but has so far produced no results, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO). A recent pilot project saw the new systems being used on just 20% of passengers who passed through six of the seven ports at which they were deployed, and the Home Office "now has 16 months to introduce its new systems, including delivering the more technically complex aspects of the programme which it has previously struggled with," warn the NAO.


09 December 2020

EU: Tens of thousands of people call for Frontex director to step down

A petition for the resignation of Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri, launched by the campaigning organisation We Move Europe, has gained over 57,000 signatures within one week.


 

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