Statewatch article: RefNo# 36555
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (24.5.16)
Statewatch News Online, May 2016
- Moving Europe: Updates from the eviction in Idomeni (link): "Moving Europe is writing live updates on the situation in Idomeni and on the unacceptable conditions in the camps where people are being brought to. As journalists and indepedent observers are not allowed into the area around Idomeni, the updates are based on observations and information from people in the camp. The page will be updated constantly, please spread!

As journalists and independent observers are not let into the area of the camp in Idomeni, on this site we are constantly collecting observations and information which residents of the camp send to us. Follow us as well on Twitter"


- Greek authorities begin evacuation of Idomeni refugee camp (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Greek authorities began an operation at dawn Tuesday to gradually evacuate the country’s largest informal refugee camp of Idomeni on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), blocking access to the area and sending in more than 400 riot police....

Journalists were barred from the camp during the evacuation operation, stopped at a police roadblock a few kilometers (miles) away. Twenty buses carrying various riot police units were seen heading to the area while a police helicopter observed from above. An estimated 700 police were participating in the operation."
[emphasis added]

and see: Idomeni: Greek riot police move in to clear refugee camp (Guardian, link): "No violence reported as Greek authorities order 8,000 residents of Europe’s largest informal refugee camp to leave."

- Are You Syrious (23.5.16, link)

50 new arrivals on Greek islands

There are 54,195 people still stuck in Greece with 50 new arrivals, 35 in Lesvos and 15 in Samos.

7th day of hunger strike in Souda camp in Chios

"Fifty people still stuck in #Souda camp in #Chios island are continuing their already seven day long hunger strike. Two hunger strikers have had to receive medical attention so far. The hunger strikers are demanding clarification about their future after the implementation of the EU–Turkey agreement, the implementation of the international regulations for protection, and the relocation program to Europe and North America. In addition, they request a speed-up of the evaluation procedure for asylum requests."

ITALY: New disputes over Austro?—?Italian border

"Austrian authorities have reported that 40–50 migrants attempt to cross Brennero daily while Italy pegs the estimate at 2–3 people per day. Austria speaks about an “invasion”, while Italian PM Matteo Renzi accuses Vienna of “demagogy” and “lies”. Governor of Tirol Günther Platter has just deployed other 80 Austrian police on the border, to stop the migrants from crossing it; he declared that this decision was taken since “Italy has made deceiving moves to avoid Austrian controls”.

High number of refugees in Belgrade

"Info Park reports that “People are arriving and the numbers are steadily rising in Belgrade. Most of the new arrivals are from Eidomeni, practically all assisted or organized by smugglers for sums starting from 1000 euro per adult person and more. To illustrate the rising numbers: in the hotel Bristol park area alone, Info Park and associated organizations distributed 818 meals this Saturday, and more than 1500 for the weekend in total""

- European Parliament: MEPs assess refugee camps in Greece and call for smoother implementation of EU-Turkey deal (Press release, pdf):

"A delegation from the civil liberties committee visited Greece last week to assess refugees' situation at the EU's external borders and the implementation of the EUTurkey deal to manage the influx of migrants and refugees. The delegation was led by Hungarian S&D member Péter Niedermüller. Members also met with representatives from the Greek authorities, international organisations and nongovernmental organisations.

According to Frontex, 1.83 million illegal crossings were detected at the EU's external borders last year. Southern European countries were responsible for dealing with most of these migrants, but the sharp increase has proved challenging. The delegation aimed to see how Greece was coping."

Statewatch comment: Unfortunately the Press release cites Frontex (in January) stating: "In all of 2015, there were 1.83 million illegal border crossings detected at EU’s external borders." By its own admission Frontex figures are inflated by the double-counting of refugees. UNHCR states: "UNHCR’s latest figures show that some 1,000,573 people had reached Europe across the Mediterranean, mainly to Greece and Italy, in 2015."


- Italy helps rescue 2,600 migrants from sea in 24 hours (Reuters, link):

"Italian vessels have helped rescue more than 2,600 migrants from boats trying to reach Europe from North Africa in the last 24 hours, the coastguard said on Monday, indicating that numbers are rising as the weather warms up.

Some 2,000 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast from 14 rubber dinghies and one larger boat in salvage operations by the Italian navy and coastguard, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres and an Irish navy vessel, the coastguard said.... Officials fear the numbers trying to make the crossing to southern Italy
will increase as conditions improve in warmer weather...

More than 31,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat so far this year, slightly fewer than in the same period of 2015."


- EU navies to help Libya coastguard stop migrants (euobserver, link): "EU navies are to start training the Libyan coastguard amid concern that the summer could see huge numbers of migrants try to cross the Mediterranean. Foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (23 May) agreed the new task for Sophia, the EU's anti migrant-smuggling naval operation."

See: External aspects of migration - Council Conclusions (23 May 2016) (pdf)

"Regarding the Central Mediterranean route, the Council highlights the need to use the broad range of tools available to manage flows in cooperation with third countries of origin and transit as part of an EU regional approach to migration, including via CSDP instruments. In particular, it highlights the importance of the work to be undertaken at the request of and in partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord on a comprehensive approach to manage migration, which includes the fight against smugglers and traffickers, as well as capacity building and training of Libyan coastguard and Navy as one of the two further supporting tasks to be implemented by EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. Work will be carried forward to this end to amend the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia as well as the possible setting up of an increased civilian CSDP presence in Libya, including on border management assistance, in addition to existing EU funded capacity building projects."

- Divert 10% of EU funds to deal with refugee crisis, says Germany (Guardian, link):

"Development minister Gerd Müller also says EU’s mechanisms for responding to refugee crisis are not fit for purpose.... Müller’s proposal follows a year in which Europe’s leaders responded to a wave of migration at its borders with a fragmented series of strategies and promises, many of which they failed to uphold, or were slow to enact.

In April last year, leaders said they would crackdown on Libyan smugglers, but the mission took until September to get underway, and has largely been a failure.In September, EU members pledged to relocate 120,000 refugees from Greece and Italy, the frontline states where most new asylum-seekers enter Europe. But despite renewing these vows in March, less than 1% of the refugees concerned have been moved. Similarly low numbers have been resettled directly from the Middle East.

In January, European and western leaders promised to send billions of pounds to countries in the Middle East where refugees form substantial proportions of the population – but so far only a sixth of the money has been paid... Alluding to some of these problems, Müller said: “We can’t just go from one summit to the next, making statements that we don’t fulfil.”"


- World humanitarian summit starts amid hope, hype and fear of empty words (euractiv, link):

"Hundreds of world leaders and politicians will descend on Istanbul on Monday in a nominal attempt to reform the global humanitarian system, despite criticism that their summit is a photo opportunity that will achieve little....

Speaking to the Guardian, MSF’s UK director, Vickie Hawkins, said it was unlikely that the same countries who are currently shirking their obligations to refugees would turn over a new leaf next week. “The contradiction became too much for us,” said Hawkins. “We didn’t have any confidence that anything different will come out of the conference. There’s a lot of good intentions, but also empty rhetoric. And we felt we needed more than that, given the current disregard for international law.”


- Germany sees rise in right-wing violence (DW, link): "The German government says political violence reached a new high in 2015 as the country saw a massive influx of migrants. German ministers have previously promised to crack down on hate crimes."

- UNHCR: Daily Report (23.5.16):

"According to the [Greek] Ministry of Citizen’s Protection press release, 1,048 foreigners of various nationalities were returned to Turkey on the basis of the Bilateral Readmission Protocol between Greece and Turkey, 34 Turkish nationals were returned to Turkey under the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, and 441 foreigners of various nationalities were returned to Turkey on the basis of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement of 18 March."

"In Austria, during the month of April, 4,152 people lodged asylum claims. This brings applications up to 18,597 in 2016 (to the end of April). In total this constitutes an increase of 29.18% compared to the same period in 2015. Afghan nationals ranked first with 5,234 applications, followed by Syrian nationals (3,926), people from Iran (1,520), and Iraq (1,489)."


- News (24.5.16)

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 191,134; Deaths 1,370 (IOM link): "Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said Monday the world is witnessing the "complete collapse of humanitarian law" and criticized the EU for "looking the other way when it comes to rights violations in Turkey itself" and "abdicating its responsibilities" toward refugees. Shetty said the 12 Syrians who have been returned from Greece to Turkey in line with the EU-Turkey deal have been held in a detention center without access to a lawyer. He also said Turkey, which lacks an asylum system and is either turning back or detaining new arrivals, cannot be considered a safe country."

Humanitarian summit aims high amid refugee rights concerns (AP, link)

Merkel warns Erdogan his authoritarian drift endangers visa deal (euractiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday (23 May) of her “deep concern” over the state of democracy in Turkey and voiced doubt that a plan to offer Turks visa-free travel to the EU would be implemented on time."

Migration crisis: Italians protest over Austria border fence plan (Guardian, link): "Clashes with police at Brenner Pass coincide with far-right march in Germany calling on Merkel to resign"

Martin Schulz: Turkey on the way to becoming a ‘one-man state’ (Politico, link): "No visa liberalization for Turks in Europe until Erdogan meets all conditions, the European Parliament president insists."

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