Statewatch article: RefNo# 36372
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22.4.16)
Statewatch News Online, April 2016
- By being tough on migration Europe can also be humane Donald Tusk Only strong and stable states can react to this crisis. We were helpless, but the new three-pronged strategy is working (Guardian, link) and:

Donald Tusk: EU needs ‘tough’ migration policies (politico, link): "Tusk defended more recent EU actions to tighten border controls and stop the flow of refugees, saying they were necessary to stop growing “radical, populist, often nationalist sentiment” that had led to “apocalyptic prophesies and questions about the future of Europe.”"

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"The President of the Council of the European Union, demonstrates a bizarre logic. If refugees are not stopped, and denied their right to ask for asylum, this will lead to "radical, populist, often nationalistic sentiment" - so the racists and nationalist win and determine EU policy. This is a blatant abdication of responsibility to uphold and enforce the purported fundamental values of the EU as set out in the Treaty and the Charter."

- Volunteer stories: 'I will never forget how cold the little boy’s body was I carried that day' (Guardian, link): "From burying the dead in Lesbos to saving desperate refugees from traffickers in Budapest, volunteers share their stories of responding to one of Europe’s worst humanitarian crises.

Across Europe, volunteers have been moved to act to help refugees seeking safety; from sea rescues, to teaching languages. Here, volunteers share stories from their involvement over the past months, revealing the emotional cost of this vast humanitarian crisis as it has unfolded"

- Are You Syrious (21.4.16, link):

"Nearly 54 thousand refugees are currently located on Greek territory, according to the Greek Government. The highest concentration of refugees is still recorded in Idomeni, with 10,257 refugees inside the camp. Even though NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said today that the number of refugees crossing the Aegean Sea into Europe is significantly lower, new arrivals are still recorded on a daily basis. According to the Greek Government, 196 new arrivals were recorded on Lesvos and 18 on Samos until 7:30 AM today"

"As we reported yesterday, the “administrative restriction” process for asylum applicants on Lesvos and Chios is in theory in effect as of Monday. This means that refugees cannot be detained in registration centers after 25 days since their asylum applications take longer than that to process. However, refugees from ?#?Moria? camp on Lesvos have not heard of anyone leaving the camp so far. Similarly, volunteers from ?#?Vial? camp on Chios report that the authorities there have not opened the camp. Earlier today, refugees themselves broke free from Vial camp. For now, they are free to come and go from the inside to outside of the camp. All of the NGOs active on site are having meetings on how to handle the situation. The atmosphere is described as tense by the volunteers."

"The Supreme Administrative Court in Finland has overturned the decision to return Afghani asylum seekers to Hungary. The decision to return the asylum seekers was made by the Finnish Immigration Service and the Administrative Court of Helsinki. Before coming to Finland, the asylum seekers arrived in Hungary via Serbia and applied for asylum in Hungary in September 2014. According to the Supreme Administrative Court, there was a genuine threat that the asylum seekers would be deported from Hungary back to Serbia, if they were to be sent back."

"On the initiative of Greek Foreign Minister, a quadripartite meeting between Foreign Ministers and Interior Ministers of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia is being held in Thessaloniki, April 21-22 with the focus on border cooperation. They will discuss the main challenges of migration and regional cooperation in the field of border management, combating trafficking and terrorist networks and management of the refugee crisis."

- EU: Killing by Omission (EJIL: Talk!, link): "On Monday, the Forensic Architecture team at Goldsmith College, London, published Death by Rescue. The report exposes a rather complex set of facts, but the basic argument is as simple as it is alarming.

Operation Triton, facilitated by Europe’s border security agency, Frontex, began on 1 November 2014 and is mandated to enforce Italy’s maritime border. Triton replaced an earlier and much wider Italian Navy operation, Mare Nostrum, which began in October 2013 and was mandated to save migrant lives beyond Italy’s territorial waters. When EU officials decided on the more limited scope of Triton, they knew their decision would result in the drowning of numerous migrants. As one Frontex official wryly noted, “the withdrawal of naval assets from the area, if not properly planned and announced well in advance, would likely result in a higher number of fatalities.” But the European Commission turned a blind eye – leading to a spike in migrant deaths, which the authors, Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani meticulously document.

From a legal perspective, this set of circumstances raises the question whether the migrants’ rights were violated, and if so, whether EU actors can be held legally accountable. In my view, the report exposes no illegal activity by European agents, either at the operational or at the policymaking level. Perhaps more troubling, the report raises the specter of unaccountable violence ingrained in the very structure of international law. If international law is somehow to blame for circumstances that made these utterly preventable deaths possible, then perhaps it is law itself that should be indicted."

An article examining the legal implications of the Death by Rescue reported released earlier this week. See: Summary of report: Death by Rescue - The lethal effects of the EU's policies of non-assistance at sea (pdf) and the full report (link).

- Finnish court suspends Dublin returns to Hungary

"Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court recently ruled that returning an Afghan asylum seeker to Hungary was problematic because of the country’s asylum procedures.

The court declared that deporting asylum seekers via Serbia threatened the fundamental rights of people seeking international protection. As a result of the Court’s decision the Finnish Immigration Service has suspended asylum seeker returns to Hungary.

The Afghan asylum seeker had come to Finland by way of Hungary and Serbia. The Supreme Administrative Court deemed that there is a risk that the man would be deported from Hungary to Serbia and from there to Afghanistan without having any authorities assess his asylum application or his need for international protection. Hungary is the only EU country that considers Serbia to be safe for asylum seekers and returns them there.

The Court determined that there are major problems with Hungary’s asylum procedures. It pointed to large numbers of asylum applications, difficulties in providing legal guidance and other problems facing asylum seekers in Hungary. It said that these factors made it impossible to be clear if the man’s return to Serbia and other third countries would be stopped or deferred."

See: Finland suspends asylum seeker returns to Hungary following higher court ruling (YLE, link). Hungary is the second EU country to which asylum-seekers can no longer be returned from Finland. A previous court ruling saw returns to Greece suspended.

From September 2012: Serbia is "no longer a safe third country" but Commission says that readmission "functions smoothly" (Statewatch News Online)

- Press release: Readmissions from Greece to Turkey: What Happens After Readmission? (Mülteci Der, link): "Mülteci-Der lawyer went to the RC [Removal Centre] in Pehlivanköy-Kirklareli and demanded to meet with the returned detainees. Although the lawyer insisted on her request for 2 days, in the end her request was refused by Kirklareli Provincial Migration Management (PDMM) based on an order given to by the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) in Ankara. The lawyer was prevented from seeing the detainees and the law was violated on the ground that “the DGMM has a working group on readmitted people and until they finalize their work, returned people shall not be allowed to meet with lawyers or anybody else”. By preventing lawyers from meeting with detainees arbitrarily and without any legal basis, the administration violated the law and once again the rule of law was not respected."

- Migration Maps (Occupied Times, link): "In 2013, Group 484 invited several artists to work with asylum seekers in an asylum centre near the village of Bogovadja, near Valjevo. At that time, the number of migrants in Serbia was not nearly as large as it is today. The issue of migration, except in the narrow circles of activists and individual organisations, was neither visible nor topical. In Bogovadja we met people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Guinea, Senegal, Syria while they were spending days in the centre, reporting to the police station upon entering Serbia illegally and expressing their intention to seek asylum.

We did not want to frame people as victims, avoiding the prism of humanitarian paternalism which is often the basis of art projects, but as courageous people who, by the very fact that they had decided to set out on such a journey, made a radical change in their life – fleeing war, conflicts and poverty. We were interested when, how and where they had been travelling before we met them. We asked why they had embarked on such a journey, what troubles they had survived, how they had crossed borders, what their experiences were with police and people in the countries they had passed through.

Together we sketched maps, piecing together their routes, which in some cases had taken up to 7 years. Sometimes the maps lack detail or are unclear, and sometimes they would skip parts of the journey.

We wanted to show their routes factually, and thus draw attention to Europe’s inhumane asylum policy."

- Teaming up: four-country discussions on migration and refugees

Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Macedonia to Discuss Migrant Crisis (Novinite, link): "Interior and foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Macedonia are to meet in Thessaloniki on Thursday and Friday to discuss possible measures to control the migrant inflow into Europe.

The meeting has been called by Greece's top diplomat, Nikos Kotzias. (...)

Bulgaria and other Greek neighbors for their part fear the numbers of migrants trying to enter their territories will rise this spring and summer."

And: CZECH REPUBLIC: PM rejects permanent refugee redistribution mechanism (Prague Monitor, link): "Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) told the Czech Chamber of Deputies yesterday he disagreed with the creation of a permanent mechanism redistributing refugees among EU countries and a transition of the powers relating to asylum to the European Commission.

These are efforts to federalise the asylum policy, Sobotka said. (...)

Sobotka said he wanted to prepare a joint position of the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) to the EC proposal.

"There is a big chance of our proceeding jointly," Sobotka said, adding that the Czech Republic would look for other allies, too, in support of its stand."

- News (22.4.16)

New ‘European Border Guard’ system to be agreed by 30 June (euractiv, link): "EU interior ministers formally agreed yesterday (21 April) on a proposal for a new border and coastguard force that could intervene in under-pressure countries like Greece to slow the influx of migrants."

Idomeni: Syrian refugee hit by police van dies in hospital (News That Moves, link):

"The Syrian refugee who was hit by a police van on Monday, died in Papageorgiou hospital in Thessaloniki Thursday noon. The man suffered severe injuries in the head, the doctors could not save him.

Officially the Greek police says that it was an accident. According to Greek police, the man was fixing something on his tent in Idomeni camp, he lost his balance and fell on the side of the police van. The van driver was a 46-year-old policeman. The exact causes of the accident are been investigated by the Traffic Police of Kilkis..."

Merkel sees drop of refugees as an ‘opportunity’ (euractiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday (21 April) that fewer asylum seekers were now reaching European shores, giving EU nations a chance to shore up plans to protect the continent’s outer borders."

Czech Police Detain Afghan Migrants in Bulgarian-Registered Van (Novinite, link): "Czech police have detained 26 illegal migrants from Afghanistan in a Bulgarian-registered van close to the border with Germany, Czech media reported on Thursday.

The irregular migrants – 11 men, five women and 10 children – were detained near the town of Doma˛lice, some 20 km from the Czech Republic’s border with Germany, Radio Prague said, citing the Minister of the Interior Milan Chovanec.

The migrants had said they planned to seek asylum in Germany.

The driver of the Peugeot Boxer van and his companion, who is suspected of being the mastermind of the people trafficking, have escaped. The Czech police has launched a search for them."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Iraqi Christians return home from Czech Republic (Prague Daily Monitor, link): "A group of 16 Iraqi Christian refugees who wanted to leave the Czech Republic for Germany last week departed for Iraq this afternoon, said Kiril Christov, spokesman for the Refugee Facilities Administration of the Czech Interior Ministry.

"All of them agreed with the voluntary return and all of them boarded the plane. Everything went well," Christov told CTK."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Migrant crisis fuelling negative sentiments towards foreigners and the EU (Radio Prague, link): "The migrant crisis is making Czechs increasingly wary of foreigners. According to a recent poll conducted by the STEM agency, the number of people who think an ethnic group or minority should have the right to live in the Czech Republic according to its own traditions has dropped by almost a half to 25 percent in the past two years. Only 25 percent of respondents now say requests for Czech citizenship should be granted without regard to nationality or ethnicity. And three quarters of Czechs consider foreigners to be a security threat. For this week’s Panorama I spoke to the head of the STEM polling agency, sociologist Jan Hartl, about how the crisis has changed attitudes to foreigners and even to the country’s next door neighbours."

Two survivors from Ethiopia and Somalia tell of mystery migrant shipwreck (Deutsche Welle, link): "An Ethiopian and a Somali man say they were on two boats heading to Italy from Libya when one of the vessels sank. The UN refugee agency says up to 500 people may have drowned in the tragedy.

Visibly shaken from their ordeal, the two men - 25-year-old Muaz Mahmoud Aymo and 28-year-old Mowlid Isman - described how they were among 200 people aboard a small boat when smugglers forced them onto a larger vessel, which already had 300 people on board.

"When we moved to that boat, the big boat fell into the water and my baby (of) two months and my 21-year-old wife, and all died in the middle of the ocean," Aymo told reporters at the offices of the Greek charity Praxis.

"Only 41 made it, we swam to save our lives to the small boat. And I saved two persons," he added.

The two said although they managed to get back on board the smaller boat, the smuggler refused to wait and help others struggling in the sea."

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