Statewatch article: RefNo# 36412
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (28.4.16)
Statewatch News Online, April 2016
- European Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos to the Committee on Federal and European Affairs of the Bavarian Parliament on 26 April (pdf)

"To paraphrase an old saying information is security. We will respond to the terrorist threat effectively when we make our information systems interconnected, interoperable, and searchable..."

The Commissioner argues for a "Single Search Interface" where: "all data is searchable with just one click" - this requires major changes to laws on the book where acess is limited or prescribed. And see: Statewatch Analysis: Commission proposals on migration and internal security databases: a new list of old “needs” (pdf)

"Both the EU and Turkey need each other, as equal partners. This is a balanced partnership, one where we aim for each side to deliver on its commitments, but without renouncing our principles or conditions."

Many would argue that the EU wanted a deal at any price - even if it means tearing up all human rights and asylum law adopted since 1945.

"We must remember an element of political context: while we are working on these issues, we are witnessing the worrying rise in left and right wing violent extremism."

In context "right wing violent extremism" is carried out by extreme nationalists, racists and fascists. While what is characterised as "left wing violent extremism" is anti-racist and anti-fascist responses to the former - which is a piece of perverse logic.

- EU-TURKEY "Dodgy deal": Legal concerns met?

UNHCR reports (27.4.16):

"In a letter to the European Commission sent on Tuesday, 26 April, the Turkish government pledged to bolster legal protection to non-Syrians upon return to Turkey as part of the EU-Turkey Agreement. This follows previous assurances concerning Syrians and the fact that all returned Syrians could be granted or re-avail themselves from temporary protection. These pledges aim to support the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement by addressing the remaining legal concerns hampering its full implementation." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"If this "letter" addressees legal concerns about the EU-Turkey "dodgy deal" why has it not been published? Does it commit Turkey to fully signing up to the Geneva Convention? If not it is worthless.

First we had the EU-Turkey deal in a "Statement" (18 March) and now an unpublished "letter" - neither of which are legally binding. In their desperate haste to shut the borders the EU is neglecting the basic tenets of lawful decision-making"


- UN chief Ban Ki-moon hit out 'increasingly restrictive' EU refugee policies (dailysabah.com/europe, link):

"I am concerned that European countries are now adopting increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies," Ban said in a speech to the Austrian parliament.

"Such policies negatively affect the obligation of member states under international humanitarian law and European law."

His comments came a day after the Austrian parliament adopted one of Europe's toughest asylum laws, as the country's political leaders struggle to halt the surging far-right which is leading in presidential polls."


- Frontex 2.0: The European Union’s armed wing - Further reinforced and still untouchable (MIgreurop, link):

"By August 2016, the European institutions aim to replace Frontex by a new coast guards and border-guards agency which will further jeopardise the rights of migrants and refugees. This new mandate reinforces the serious concerns expressed by the FRONTEXIT campaign since its establishment: deter, control and keep away men, women and children deemed undesirable while they are exerting their right to leave any country and the right to seek asylum."

- European Parliament: EU-Turkey deal flouts international laws and conventions (Press release: GUE/NGL group, link):

"The agreement to return migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey, which Turkey and EU countries agreed on 18 March, sparked strong criticism from GUE/NGL MEPs during a European Parliament debate this morning, which focused on its legal aspects, implementation and democratic control.

Spanish GUE/NGL MEP, Marina Albiol, said: "The EU-Turkey agreement, which involves thousands of people remaining in Turkey, is inhuman and cruel. This agreement undermines EU standards regarding the return of refugees in the EU to their countries of origin. It undermines our legislation on refugees, the Geneva Convention, the European Charter of Human Rights and a long list of other laws and agreements."

MEP Albiol mentioned Article 263 of the TFEU which gives the Parliament the possibility to introduce an appeal to the European Court of Justice if EU legislation is not being complied with by the Council. "If we don't do this in this case, then the European Parliament will be an accomplice to the crimes being committed by our governments."


- Visa roadblock threatens EU-Turkey migration deal (politico, link):

"MEPs and diplomats say that if Turkey fails to meet all of the required criteria — which include guarantees to protect civil liberties — they will exercise their legislative power to deny visa liberalization. For its part, Turkey has already said that lifting the restrictions before June is a non-negotiable part of its controversial agreement to stem the flow of refugees into the EU.

Unless somebody backs down, that means the EU’s whole deal with Ankara — pushed by Angela Merkel, hashed out in difficult negotiations with the European Commission and other EU leaders, and now vigorously defended by Council President Donald Tusk — could unravel altogether.

“The feeling of lack of trust on the visa [liberalization] and on the camps [for refugees] is widespread, no one believes in it but we cannot say it openly because there is no alternative” — An EU diplomat

A key deadline hits next Wednesday, when the Commission will issue its next report on Turkey’s progress in meeting the criteria. MEPs say they worry the Commission will try to gloss over shortcomings in that progress in order to keep Ankara happy. They promise they will insist on holding everyone to the EU rules."


- UNHCR (Daily Report, 27.4.16):

"According to media, the Director of the Greek Asylum Service announced that people are now able to lodge asylum claims directly at temporary accommodation centres following difficulties in obtaining an appointment via Skype. As of 25 April, authorities will examine 50 applications per day on the islands. So far (as of 20 April), the Asylum Service registered 3,870 applications for relocation, of which 1,570 were accepted by EU Member States.

In Turkey, during the period between 22 to26 April, sources reported that some 270 people were apprehended, intercepted, or rescued at Turkey’s land and sea borders. Their countries of origin include Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine and Syria."


- Austria curtails asylum rights (euractiv, link):

"Austria has passed one of Europe's toughest asylum laws, designed to stop inflows of people seeking international protection. Lawmakers passed the new bill on Wednesday (27 April) amid broader fears over migration that have helped the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) to surge in popularity, with its main candidate taking a surprise lead in presidential elections.

The law allows the federal government to declare a "state of emergency" and refuse entry to migrants if numbers suddenly rise.

The new measures will give border police the power to turn back asylum seekers including Syrians, denying them the right to have their cases heard.

Those who can convince the police that their lives are in danger or that they risk degrading treatment in a neighbouring country will be allowed to apply for asylum
."
[emphasis added]

Migrant crisis: Austria passes controversial new asylum law (BBC News, link) and see: MEPs urge Juncker to stand against Austria border fence (euractiv, link): "Leading MEPs have urged European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to take a position against Austria’s plans to erect a fence at its border with Italy, at the Brenner pass."

Also: Austria: Drastic, Unjustified Measures against Asylum Seekers (HRW, link): "The key feature of the package of special measures is a fast-track admissibility procedure for asylum seekers at Austrian land borders. Austrian police officers will examine applications solely for the purposes of determining whether individuals can be returned to the neighboring country from which they came. Only people who argue successfully that their lives would be in danger or that they face a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment in a neighboring country, or who have a nuclear family member already in Austria, will be allowed to formally apply for asylum. Appeals against returns will only be possible after the return has taken place. The law increases the amount of time people can be detained pending return from five to 14 days."

- Contested Turkey deal 'only solution' in migrant crisis, says EU commissioner (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A highly contested EU deal with Turkey may not be ideal, but it is the only solution to stem the migration crisis, the bloc's Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides said Thursday.

The deal in which Turkey agrees to take back certain migrants fleeing to Greece in exchange for visa-free travel in the EU has angered member countries and rights activists. The accord is awash with legal and moral concerns, and critics have accused the EU of sacrificing its values and overlooking Turkey's growing crackdown on free speech in order to secure the deal."


- Are you Syrious? (27.4.16, link):

New legislation makes it more difficult to seek asylum in Austria, gives the government the right to declare a state of emergency in response to refugee influx

"The German website dw.com reported that the Austrian parliament passed legislation which makes it significantly harder for refugees to seek asylum in Austria. It allows the government to declare a state of emergency if the influx of migrants to the country “threatens national security,” and allows asylum seekers to be rejected directly at the border. This would include refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria.

Amnesty International condemns the new legislation, calling it a violation of international law, while Human Rights Watch calls it a “blow to the rights of asylum seekers”. Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, says “these measures constitute a legal wall to asylum just as despicable as a razor-wire fence”, adding Austria should not take “unilateral decisions to pass asylum seekers around like hot potatoes.”
...

79 new arrivals to Greece today.

Refugees are continuing to arrive to Greece, and more are making their way into other countries on the Balkan route, as well as some EU countries. According to the UNHCR data, yesterday 62 people were registered on the Greek islands, 17 on mainland Greece. At the same time, 73 people were registered in Serbia, 127 in Hungary, and 230 in Austria...

Greek authorities are struggling to find accommodations for unaccompanied minors.

Ekathimerini.com reports that 380 unaccompanied minors remain without housing due to staff shortages. According to the law, it is illegal for a minor to be housed in hotspots, but this continues to happen. The National Center of Social Solidarity is working to accommodate 200 minors by the end of May....

17 people injured during the clashes at Moria camp as people remain detained and in fear of deportation to Turkey.

According to the Greece media, 17 people have been injured during the clashes yesterday at #Moria camp. The atmosphere is still tense. One of the volunteers reported:

“I arrived after almost all people were in tents, but I witness one unnecessary shot of teargas. Police closed the area around for hours, many ambulances comes from #Mytilene collect injured refugees. #MSF doctors waiting outside if needed. Bad situation for few refugees from Cameron, Kongo seeking asylum, they stays over 1 month without access to any official information, asylum process not starting.”

Around 4000 refugees are being kept in a closed center in Moria, waiting for their decision for asylum. Many of them are afraid of being sent back to Turkey...

Refugees have launched a petition to replace the inefficient Skype system used by the Asylum Office.

People at Idomeni are petitioning for the replacement of the “failed system of only being able to make asylum appointments to the Greek Asylum Office with a Skype call that is never picked up with a face-to-face service in the refugee camps here in Greece”. Refugees in Greece have only three options to continue their lives beyond camps: to apply for asylum in Greece, to apply for family reunification or for relocation to another country in the EU if they want us. You can sign the petition here..

- UK: Refugees stranded on UK military bases in Cyprus given fresh hope (Guardian, link):

"High court orders Theresa May to reconsider refusal to allow six families entry into Britain.

More than 30 refugees who have been stranded in UK sovereign military bases in Cyprus since 1998 have been given fresh hope of finding a permanent home in Britain. The high court in London has ordered the home secretary, Theresa May, to reconsider her refusal to allow the six families entry on grounds she did not consider all the relevant circumstances."


- News (28.4.16)

EU Commissioner Avramopoulos inaugurates EU Regional Task Force's new building in Catania (ANAmpa, link): "Avramopoulos underlined. "With the inauguration of the new building of the EU Regional Task Force, we have taken another important step in consolidating our hotspot approach here in Italy," he added."

Czech Republic: Government condemns hate-related attacks on Prague cafes and shops (Prague Minotor, link): "The Czech cabinet condemned the authors of threatening inscriptions and Nazi symbols, which appeared at several places in Prague this weekend, at its meeting yesterday. It seems that the extremist graffiti was scrawled on cafes and shops participating in the HateFree Zone project that promotes tolerance to minorities and refugees and is supported by the Government Office."

EC concerned about Brenner Pass situation, Juncker to meet Renzi (ANSA, link): "The European Commission said Thursday that it was worried by Austria's plans to introduce controls at its border with Italy at the Brenner Pass. "The European Commission follows all the developments in Europe that go against the schedule to return (to the normal functioning of the Schengen agreement), in this case with serious concern," said EC spokesperson Mina Andreeva, adding that EC President Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Italian Premier Matteo Renzi in Rome next Thursday"

Italy-Austria: Tense talks as Italy fumes over Austria migrant 'slap' (The Local.at, link): "Italy and Austria were set for showdown talks Thursday as Italian politicians and media reacted furiously to Vienna's new anti-migrant measures that could close the border between the two countries."

Refugees: Attacks on refugee homes as high as ever, German Criminal Police Office says (DW, link): "Despite decreasing numbers of refugees in Germany, the number of crimes on refugee accommodation shows no sign of waning. One of the German Criminal Police Office's (BKA) main fears is an attack by a lone wolf."

Justice: 'Oldschool Society' neo-Nazis go on trial for refugee home attacks (DW, link): "Four Germans have gone on trial on suspicion of planning to detonate nail bombs at a home for asylum seekers. The three men and one woman allegedly formed a far-right terror group, known as as the "Oldschool Society.""

Greece: Authorities scramble to find housing for child refugees (ekathimerini.com, link): "Some 380 unaccompanied minors remain in closed hot spots, detention centers and even on the streets, as a program to house them in rented apartments has yet to materialize due to staff shortages and despite increased funding by the European Union, authorities said on Wednesday."

Border checks between Italy and Austria 'inevitable', Hofer (ANSA, link): "Border checks at the Brenner Pass are inevitable, the head of Austria's far-right, anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO) Norbert Hofer has said. The FPO, which is pushing for tighter border control, won the first round of the country's presidential elections on Sunday."

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