Statewatch article: RefNo# 36290
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (8.4.16)
Statewatch News Online, April 2016
- European Parliament: EU - Turkey migration deal: Civil Liberties MEPs push for answers (Press release, pdf):

"Civil Liberties MEPs quizzed the Commission on the conditions in the Greek reception facilities, the number and background of staff carrying out asylum interviews, returns and conditions for refugees in Turkey during this morning's debate on the EU-Turkey migration deal. MEPs also stressed the need to respect international law and live up to EU standards."

- Statewatch Analysis: Commission proposals on migration and internal security databases: a new list of old "needs" (pdf) by Chris Jones

The Commission’s proposal to extend the fingerprinting of short-stay visa applicants to children from the ages of 6 and up is part of a list of possible “enhanced functionalities” (i.e. expanded uses) of the Visa Information System (VIS). These “functionalities” will be examined as part of a larger process of trying to beef up EU and national databases and information systems.

And see: EU calls for the fingerprinting of 6-year-old children

- GREECE: Amnesty International: "Thousands of people" have been "arbitrarily detained" in detention centres (formerly "hotspots") on Lesvos and Chios

A new report from Amnesty International discusses the situation in Greece, following visits by the organisation to two detention centres (which used to be "hotspots"). It says that thousands of people have been arbitrarily detained pending removal (unless they manage apply for asylum) in the effort to implement the EU-Turkey deal.

See: Greece: Refugees detained in dire conditions amid rush to implement EU-Turkey deal (Amnesty International, link)

The report says:

"In Moria detention centre on Lesvos, Greek army and police exercise strict control over who goes in and out. The camp, which now houses around 3,150 people, is closed off from the outside world by several layers of fencing topped with barbed wire.

In VIAL detention centre on Chios, which is built around an abandoned aluminium factory, access is also tightly controlled. Security concerns linger following fierce clashes that broke out between different nationalities inside the camp overnight on 1 April, prompting more than 400 refugees and migrants to escape.

The majority of those who fled are now sleeping rough in and around the main port in downtown Chios. There is little security and scant access to basic services there."


There have been ugly scenes at the port as right-wing mobs have gathered outside and police have attempted to evacuate protesting refugees to a nearby camp. See: Refugees in Greece warn of suicides over EU-Turkey deal (The Guardian, link) and Bit of video from eviction of Chios port last night and numerous other tweets by Oscar Webb (Twitter, link).

The Amnesty report continues:

"Only two of the refugees and migrants Amnesty International spoke to were able to show their detention orders based on their individual circumstances. Automatic, group-based detention is by definition arbitrary and therefore unlawful." (emphasis added)

Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty's Deputy Director for Europe, said:

"No asylum seeker should be automatically detained, and these detention centres on Lesvos and Chios are not in any way fit for purpose for the many young children, people with disabilities, or people with urgent medical needs we've met. They must be released immediately."

The extra labour promised as part of the EU-Turkey deal has so far not materialised:

"On 6 April the asylum service official who is the lone case worker at VIAL told Amnesty International the surge in applications is beyond his capacity to process. Out of 833 that had been filed he had processed only 10 - slightly over 1% - one of which was successful. While these cases were still processed under the old Greek asylum process, they indicate the extent of the current staffing shortfalls." (emphasis added)

Member States are so far falling short on providing some of the officials required, most notably interpreters - as of 6 April, they had provided 46 of the 400 requested. See: Statistics: implementing the EU-Turkey deal: "boots on the ground"

The Amnesty report makes numerous recommendations:

  • The Greek and EU authorities must immediately halt mass returns until the following are effectively guaranteed:
  • Detention is used as a measure of last resort, with alternatives to detention considered
  • All decisions to detain must be based on a detailed and individualised assessment of the necessity to detain in line with a legitimate purpose.
  • All detainees must be given the opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of their detention with access to legal aid
  • Access to asylum procedures must be realistic and effective, including that timeframes for lodging supporting materials are appropriate for someone in detention, and access to legal and linguistic assistance should be made available
  • Capacity to process claims must be increased significantly
  • Asylum seekers in detention are provided with accurate legal information about the asylum process and their rights
  • Conditions in detention must be humane and dignified
  • All children should be immediately released from detention
  • The special circumstances and needs of particular asylum-seekers must be taken into account, including victims of trauma or torture, children, women, older people, and asylum-seekers with disabilities
  • Develop clear and rights-compliant guidelines on how the safe third country rule will be applied. Ensure the individual circumstances as well as up to date, independent information on the treatment and status of asylum seekers in Turkey are fully taken into account

    - Member States are so far falling short on providing some of the officials required, most notably interpreters - as of 6 April, they had provided 46 of the 400 requested. See: Statistics: implementing the EU-Turkey deal: "boots on the ground"

    Thousands of state officials from across Europe are supposed to be sent to Greece to help implement the EU-Turkey deal on refugees and migrants. This page gathers the statistics made available by the Commission on the process.

    The numbers "pledged" are those offered by Member States, the requesting institution is the European Asylum Support Office or Frontex, as indicated.

    6 April 2016: Member States remain either far less keen or far less able to provide interpreters, while the number of asylum officials requested for the operation has increased from 400 to 472. Amnesty International reported that during their visits on the 5 and 6 April, the VIAL detention centre in Moria had one asylum case worker.

    The Commision help pledged to Greece does not include the provision of legal aid, lawyers, to advice refugees - they are entitled to independent legal represenatation.

    - Association Malienne des Expulsés:
    Statement on expulsions to Mali and EU migration policy (pdf): "Since the end of last year (2015), in Mali we are witnessing waves of expulsions, refoulements and repatriations of our migrants from Asia, Europe and even from the African continent. This recurring problem of refoulements, expulsions and repatriations of Malian migrants worsens on a daily basis and is becoming increasingly worrying. Thus, Malians are mainly expelled, refouled or repatriated from Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, Libya, Spain and now also from Mauritania.

    The fight against so-called illegal immigration represents a priority in the policy implemented by the European Union which presents this form of migration as a dangerous scourge which must be combated. This attitude by the European Union is constituted by focussing on the consequences without worrying about the root causes of the migration phenomenon. Thus, the reasons that push our fellow nationals to leave are well known, as they concern a lack of employment for young people, their difficult economic and professional conditions and, most of all, a lack of any prospects which affects their daily life.

    The distinction or categorisation of migrants (between economic migrants and asylum seekers) by the EU is an incorrect reading of the situation which does not contribute to reducing the phenomenon of flows towards Europe."


    - From Right to Favor - The refugee question as moral crisis (The Nation, link):

    "Since the November 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and injured 350, and the New Year’s Eve melee in Cologne, where the police recorded 379 allegations of sexual assault and robbery, it has become increasingly difficult to have a sensible discussion about the refugee question in Europe. Even though the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were almost all French and Belgian citizens, and the suspects in Cologne were mostly Moroccans and Algerians, politicians, commentators, and citizens throughout Europe have pointed to the events to justify the rejection of asylum seekers from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. They allege two things: a possible fifth column of terrorists traveling among the asylum seekers, and the impossibility of integrating these refugees into Western societies. What has been lost in the debate is the recognition that the recent influx of asylum seekers and the wave of anxiety it has generated have revealed the refugee question rather than having created it. Indeed, there is a long-standing distrust and hostility in Europe toward non-Europeans fleeing persecution and violence."

    - BLOCKING REFUGEES: FROM TURKEY TO LIBYA: Merkel, Hollande Warn Libya May Be Next Big Migrant Staging Area (Bloomberg, link): "The European Union may need an agreement with Libya to restrict refugee flows similar to one with Turkey as the North African country threatens to become the next gateway for migrants to Europe, the leaders of Germany and France said.

    “If we can establish the same with Libya as what we’re working on with Turkey, as well as on our own borders: we have much to do,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after talks with French President Francois Hollande in Metz, France, on Thursday. “Huge numbers of refugees could make their way again to Malta, to Italy, tens of thousands of people,” Hollande said.

    The EU last month reached an agreement with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to Greece, raising the possibility that human traffickers will return to their previous favorite route from Libya across the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily. The United Nations brokered a unity government to end the chaos that swept Libya after the ouster of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, but powerful factions, especially in the east, haven’t endorsed the plan."


    - Migrants are Central Europe’s new Roma (Politico, link): "There’s something familiar about the anti-migrant language being used by politicians across Central Europe: It’s almost the same as the traditional attacks on the Roma, long the region’s most despised minority.

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán justified his reluctance to accept Muslim migrants by arguing his country is already unduly burdened by its Roma population.

    Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico played on familiar stereotypes about Roma as self-isolating and dependent upon welfare when he insisted “90 percent” of asylum seekers arriving in Europe last September were “economic migrants.”

    On the campaign trail ahead of this month’s parliamentary election, Fico repeatedly insisted Muslims would be “impossible to integrate” while vowing to prevent the creation of a “compact community” of migrants."


    - Positive alternative proposals (Silence of Eternity, link): "There are comprehensive sets of better alternative practical proposals, but quite rightly, they’re complex, systematically radically different, meticulously researched, evidenced and reasoned, so selling them to the public is going to be a long hard slog."

    - Five reasons why the EU-Turkey deal is a disgrace (Norwegian Refugee Council, link): "How the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented is a disgrace to Europe. Here are five reasons why it must be stopped now:

    1. The rights of the refugees are in jeopardy
    2. Greece does not have the capacity to ensure fair asylum hearings
    3. Asylum seekers are kept in detention
    4. Europe is not taking its fair share of responsibility
    5. The deal may push people towards more dangerous routes"


    - News (8.4.16)

    French, Germans & Italians overwhelmingly in favor of abandoning border-free Europe – poll (RT, link)

    Nearly one-third of Turkey's wall along Syria complete - Out of 911-kilometer (559.2-mile) long rocket-resistant wall, 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) is complete, Turkish security sources say (aa.com.tr/en/turkey, link)

    Frontex intercepts refugees travelling from Turkey to Greece (NRT, link): "CHIOS, Greece – People attempting to reach Greece from Turkey onboard smugglers boats were picked up by officers from the European Union's (EU) border agency Frontex early on Thursday (April 7) and brought to shore on the Greek island of Chios.Two Frontex vessels full of refugees docked at Chios port, with many children among the rescued. They were intercepted off the eastern shores of the island in dinghies, local authorities said, and would be taken to the "VIAL" holding center, where others have been held since March 20."

    Questions mount over EU’s role in processing asylum requests (Irish Times, link):

    "Under the new regime created by the EU-Turkey agreement, asylum applications from island detainees must be processed within two weeks, in a fast-tracked time frame that includes the appeal process. Previously, the Greek asylum service took an average of three months to adjudicate on each application.

    A key aspect sees the European Asylum Support Office (Easo), another EU agency, advise overburdened Greek asylum officials on the “admissibility” of each asylum seeker at the initial stage of processing. Easo spokesman Jean Pierre Schembri told the BBC: “This is a relatively short process involving our experts … accessing every applicant on his or her own merits. We then issue an opinion and the Greek authorities then issue the final decision.”

    But human rights organisations fear the outcome of this truncated, two-step process, where Greek officials will essentially sign off on Easo recommendations, is predetermined to result in most applicants being returned to Turkey, a “safe third country” according to the agreement."


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