Statewatch article: RefNo# 36538
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21-22.5.16)
Statewatch News Online, May 2016
- Syrian refugee wins appeal against forced return to Turkey (Guardian, link):

"Decision by Greek independent asylum service to overturn deportation order throws EU-Turkey migration deal into chaos

The EU-Turkey migration deal has been thrown further into chaos after an independent authority examining appeals claims in Greece ruled against sending a Syrian refugee back to Turkey, potentially creating a precedent for thousands of other similar cases.

In a landmark case, the appeals committee upheld the appeal of an asylum seeker who had been one of the first Syrians listed for deportation under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal.

In a document seen by the Guardian, a three-person appeals tribunal in Lesbos said Turkey would not give Syrian refugees the rights they were owed under international treaties and therefore overturned the applicant’s deportation order by a verdict of two to one. The case will now be re-assessed from scratch.

The committee’s conclusion stated: “The committee has judged that the temporary protection which could be offered by Turkey to the applicant, as a Syrian citizen, does not offer him rights equivalent to those required by the Geneva convention.".....

Greek media said it would be only a matter of time before the “bombshell” decision had the snowball effect of triggering an avalanche of similar asylum requests by other refugees, especially Syrians, detained on far-flung Aegean islands. Some 174 claims have been examined by appeals committees made up of asylum experts, lawyers and officials in Lesbos so far, with 100 being upheld, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini."


and see: Migrant deal at risk as Turkey deemed unsafe by Greek court (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The committee of judges on Lesvos refused to reject an asylum application by a Syrian refugee and send him back to Turkey, because it ruled it unsafe and said that the case should be examined further – meaning the implementation of the deal will face even further delays as it will take more time to process thousands of applications of stranded migrants.

The decision could form a precedent and deal a devastating blow to the agreement signed in late March, as it could put on hold the return of Syrian refugees to Turkey and, essentially, render the agreement toothless.

The asylum court on Lesvos has so far examined 174 applications by Syrians, of whom 100 have been granted asylum. The remaining applicants, who were rejected, have lodged appeals requesting the re-examination of their cases."


- Meanwhile, people are still dying – Refugee and migrant communities call to all European citizens (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, link):

"BHC is joining the Greek Forum of Refugees in its call for support, by sharing their open letter regarding the current situation of refugees in Greece. Refugee and migrant communities call to all European citizens.....

We, people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, workers, parents, students, soon-to-be or already European citizens, are joining our voices to all those ashamed of how Europe is treating refugees and migrants. What’s wrong?""


- EU Budgetary Responses to the ‘Refugee Crisis’ Reconfiguring the Funding Landscape (CEPS, link):

"EU funding for cooperation with third countries to prevent the inflow of refugees and asylum seekers has monetise questions over the responsibility for these individuals. As the EU – Turkey agreement shows , this has created a self - imposed dependence on third countries, with the risk of potentially insatiable demands for EU funding."

- How Europe is punishing migrants (Washington Post, link): "As hundreds of thousands of refugees have poured into Europe, some countries and regions have tried to pass legislation that specifically targets refugees and migrants. Here's a look at some of those policies that have been introduced in the last year."

- MSF calls for immediate opening of hotspots (link):

"Two months after the signing of the deal by the European Union and Turkey, the situation continues to deteriorate for migrants incarcerated on the Greek islands. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reiterates the abject conditions of these incarcerations and calls for the immediate opening of hotspots.

Since 20 March, refugees landing on the islands are sent to lock-down centres. Among them are women and infants and dozens of unaccompanied minors for whom no specific protection measures have been instituted."


- UK: Refugee Council: England’s forgotten refugees: Out of the fire and into the frying pan (link):

"The research explores the experience of newly recognised refugees within their first year of being granted asylum by the UK Government. When an asylum seeker is granted refugee status, those who are receiving accommodation and subsistence payments from the Home Office are informed that it will cease in 28 days. This is known as the ‘grace’ or ‘move on’ period and it is expected that the newly recognised refugee will be able to secure housing and income in this timeframe."

- Are You Syrious (21.5.16)

Translators, lawyers urgently needed on Chios

"Situation on the overcrowded island is still very bad due to mistreatment of the refugees and significant lack of relevant information about their legal possibilities. In order to tackle this, Kurdish, Farsi, Arabic and Dari translators are urgently needed, as well as migration law experts. Kurdish interpreters and legal experts should contact Gabrielle Tan of Action from Switzerland directly, while Farsi, Arabic and Dari translators are invited to contact Chios Eastern Shore Response Team. If you are willing to sponsor a skilled translator or legal volunteer, feel free to contact Gabrielle or CESRT as well."

ITALY: Only one Sicilian hotspot working properly, fears of mafia infiltration rising

"Delegation of the parliamentary committee for the refugees has visited the hotspot of Milo in the province of Trapani, Sicily, witnessing the boat landing of 435 refugees (143 of them minors) from the MSF ship Dignity. Trapani was singled out as a good example of NGO’s and authorities working together to ensure fast transfer of the new arrivals, as opposed to other two Sicilian hotspots Lampedusa and Pozzallo where refugees are detained for longer periods of time, waiting for their placement in reception centers.

Hotspots must remain centers of identification and not turn into detention centers. Otherwise we won’t be able to absorb the flow of migrants which is expected to increase in the coming months?—?said Federico Gelli of Democratic party after visiting Trapani today

The delegation also warned about the possibility of mafia infiltration in the hotspots, which could lead to further endangering refugees."


- UNHCR: Daily Report (19.5.16)

"According to the Turkish Coast Guard, the number of people attempting to irregularly cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece has dropped significantly in April. 400 people were intercepted on the Aegean in the first half of May, compared to 800 in the first half of April, representing a 50% decrease. The number of interceptions in April had already fallen by 80% in comparison to those of March.

Of the 24,500 refugees intercepted so far this year, 5,506 took place in January, 8,747 in February, 8,530 in March, and 1,717 in April. Also according to Turkish Coast Guard figures, no casualties occurred in Turkish waters this April."


and see UNHCR: detention centres in Greece: Capacity and actual number of refugees (pdf)

35 refugees arrived in Lesvos on 20 May.

- Hungary: Where have all the deported asylum seekers gone? (Budapest Beacon, link):

"Between 15 September 2015 and 11 May 2016, Hungarian immigration authorities ordered the expulsion of 2,639 individuals from Hungary. These individuals were put through the expedited expulsion process as a result of the new crime of engaging in restricted border crossing. This is the process that has been criticized by many international human rights organizations, foreign governments and the UN Refugee Agency as a violation of international agreements....

The big question here is what happened to individuals who were expelled on paper but were not taken back by Serbia."


- Ai Weiwei says EU's refugee deal with Turkey is immoral - Unveiling work documenting his time on Lesbos, Chinese artist describes getting caught up in ‘shameful humanitarian crisis’ (Guardian, link)

"The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei described the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey as shameful and immoral as he unveiled the artistic results of his stay on the Greek island of Lesbos....

Of the agreement, Ai said: “It is not legal or moral, it is shameful and it is not a solution. It will cause problems later.”"


- Amnesty International: Urgent Action: Syrians returned from Greece, arbitrarily held (pdf):

"A group of 12 Syrian refugees, including four children, have been arbitrarily detained at the Düziçi camp since 27 April. They were some of the first Syrians voluntarily returned to Turkey from Greece since the signing of the EU-Turkey deal. Some have medical conditions for which they have not been receiving adequate treatment."

- Bulgaria, still going to be a poor guardian of European’s External Borders (Border Monitoring Bulgaria, link):

"At the beginning of May 2016, Sofia and Ankara signed a protocol about returning migrants from Bulgaria back to Turkey from June the 1st, who crossed the border in an “illegal“ way. It is not clear what means this for the estimated 50 migrants, which are still arriving in Bulgaria on a daily basis to transit the country to Western Europe. The Signing was accelerated after the EU and Turkey sealed their controversial deal on returning refugees (on March 18 this year), which forced Brussels to make serious concessions to Ankara in an attempt to halt the migrant flow."

- News (21-22.5.16)

Vote Leave embroiled in race row over Turkey security threat claims - Brexit group ‘appealing to prejudice’ with argument that Turkey’s accession to EU would put Britons at greater risk of crime (Guardian, link)

Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans (Daily Sabah, link): "Dreaming of reaching Western European countries, desperate refugees said they are being pushed back into Greece by some Balkan countries even though their papers are complete. Some have been stuck in no-man's land for days"

Turkey wants withdrawal of NATO Refugees Surveillance Mission in the Aegean Sea (Keep Talking Greece, link): "Daily Eleftheros Typos that obtained the report Greek diplomats sent to the political and military leadership in Athens, writes that “Turkey expressed its wish to have ending of the NATO action in the Aegean Sea and the Alliance is expected to take up the issue in near future even before the NATO Summit in Warsaw.”"

Turkey refuses EU travel to highly skilled Syrian refugees: report (DW, link): "German media has reported that Ankara is banning Syrian academics from leaving Turkey. Turkey has already threatened to end a migration deal with the EU amid the ongoing dispute over visa-free travel for its citizens."

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