Category Archives: Immigration

EU leaders address migration

Brussels 25.06.2021 The European Council (pictured) discussed the migration situation on the various routes. While the measures taken by the EU and Member States have brought down the overall irregular flows in recent years, developments on some routes give rise to serious concern and require continued vigilance and urgent action.

In order to prevent loss of life and to reduce pressure on European borders, mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation with countries of origin and transit will be intensified, as an integral part of the European Union’s external action.

The approach will be pragmatic, flexible and tailor-made, make coordinated use, as Team Europe, of all available EU and Member States’ instruments and incentives, and take place in close cooperation with the UNHCR and IOM. It should address all routes and be based on a whole-of-route approach, tackling root causes, supporting refugees and displaced persons in the region, building capacity for migration management, eradicating smuggling and trafficking, reinforcing border control, cooperating on search and rescue, addressing legal migration while respecting national competences, as well as ensuring return and readmission. To this end, the European Council:

– calls on the Commission and the High Representative Josep Borrell, in close cooperation with Member States, to immediately reinforce concrete actions with, and tangible support for, priority countries of origin and transit;

– calls on the Commission and the High Representative, in close cooperation with Member States, to put forward action plans for priority countries of origin and transit in autumn 2021, indicating clear objectives, further support measures and concrete timelines;

– invites the Commission to make the best possible use of at least 10% of the NDICI financial envelope, as well as funding under other relevant instruments, for actions related to migration, and to report to the Council on its intentions in this respect by November.

The European Council condemns and rejects any attempt by third countries to instrumentalise migrants for political purposes.

Spain: Morocco migrant tactic

Brussels 18.05.2021 Some 6,000 undocumented migrants arrived illegally in the Spanish exclave city of Ceuta in North Africa on Monday 17 and Tuesday May 18, according to the central government’s delegate in the city. Government sources told Spanish news agency Efe that around 1,500 of the migrants may be minors, although their age still needs to be confirmed. Most of the arrivals were recorded between 4.30pm and 7pm yesterday.

The migrants reached Ceuta by swimming from the neighboring city of Fnideq, which is on the border of the breakwater that demarks the exclave city from Morocco. Other migrants used rudimentary swimming boards to make it to from the Moroccan city, also known as Castillejos, and which is home to around 7,000 people. The migrants entered via Tarajal beach and the area of Benzú. One person died in the crossing, according to the Cadena SER radio station and confirmed by this newspaper. Moroccan authorities made no effort to stop the wave of arrivals and the Moroccan government remained silent on the issue on Monday, May 17.

In response to the situation, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said via Twitter that Spain “will defend the integrity” of Ceuta “against any challenge. My priority right now is restoring normality in Ceuta. Its citizens must know that they have the absolute support of the Spanish government and our utmost resolve to protect their security,” he wrote.

The Doctor of Philosophy and teachter of International Relations of the Universidad Comillas ICADE, Elsa Aimé González, points out that after an arrival of these unusual characteristics is the “use of migrants as a bargaining chip within a political pulse between two governments. “” It is not something that cannot be foreseen, “ she said.

“What we have been seeing not only now but since recent months with the increase in the arrival of migrants to the Canary Islands is that Morocco is using the migration issue as an instrument of political pressure to obtain compensation from Spain and the EU and achieve alignment with their own political project “, highlights the professor.

The fact that there are 6,000 people who have arrived in this way to Spanish territory really has to call our attention because of the way and the ways they have to migrate,” he adds. “You have to abandon a logic that is based on emergency and in punctual responses and seek policies that seek to respond to the structural dimension of the migratory reality “.

European Council President Charles Michel expressed “full solidarity” with Spain after holding urgent talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who canceled a trip to Paris to deal with what he termed a “serious crisis” for both his country and the EU.

European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the European Parliament that the influx on Monday was unprecedented. About 1,500 of the recent arrivals are reported to be minors.

France: leadership vs. citizens

Brussels 14.05.2021 One year before the next presidential election, a new poll indicates that the 2017 duel Macron-Le Pen could be re-played again in 2022.
Will in 2022 once again Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen compete at the polls in the second round of the presidential election? In 2017, Emmanuel Macron won against his rival with 66.1% of the votes cast, against 33.9% for Marine Le Pen.

According to a survey carried out by Ipsos-Sopra Steria in partnership with Cevipof and the Jean-Jaurès Foundation the 2017 finalists would be the same in 2022, and this in different scenarios envisaged according to the various applications already announced or potential.

However this time the situation in not so favourable for the incumbent President of the V Republic. The second open letter of French military critical of the President Emmanuel Macron policies received a strong support of the compatriots, viewed two million times, and it was signed by 250 000 citizens. This declaration from active officers of the French army reinforces the one previously published letter by the military veterans on the site of Valeurs Actuelles journal (@Values). This text, the second one, which has been already circulating a lot and which caused the media echo, the editorial decided to publish in a form of a Petition for the signature of French citizens. Like the previous one, the purpose of this forum is not to undermine the institutions but to alert citizens and authorities of the gravity of the situation in France.

“…Cowardice, deceit, perversion: this is not our view of the hierarchy.
On the contrary, the army is, par excellence, the place where we speak truthfully to each other because we commit our lives. It is this confidence in the military institution that we call for” the second letter reads.

“…Yes, if a civil war breaks out, the military will maintain order on its own soil, because it will be asked to. This is even the definition of civil war. No one can want such a terrible situation, our elders no more than us, but yes, again, civil war is brewing in France and you know it perfectly well..”

“…Take action, ladies and gentlemen. This time it is not about custom emotion, ready-made formulas or media coverage. It’s not about extending your terms or winning new ones. It is about the survival of our country, of your country”.

French commentators suggest that both letters reflect the state of the political debate, which has been substantially weakened by the belligerent political parties, deviating from the traditional right and left in search for re-branding with the centre right Republicans plagued by scandals, and the Socialists vanishing after failed Francois Holland presidency. Weakened by economic and social consequences of the sanitary measures President Macron’s party ‘La République En Marche’ (LaREM) leaves sufficient room for the citizens initiatives. If there were active and constructive democratic debates between the main parties represented in the National Assembly, there would be no room for this kind of position on the part of the former military, warning the President about the possibility of the civil war as a result of mass migration.

“A leadership that does not stand behind its most loyal citizens, will eventually be devoured by them. The French Revolution, a strange masterpiece of history, set the stage for all other great democracies of the world and gave the gift of the French culture to the world,” – said Canadian writer Mark Hecht (@HechtWriter).
“To see France’s leadership today, not honour its own traditions and defend them without reservation, is a shattering reminder of that other, less noble, French character–for the elite to grow heads too large for the body.”

EU-UNHCR: refugees of Ethiopia-Colombia-Lebanon

Brussels 11.05.2021 High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi met on 11 May 2021.
They discussed in detail the situation in Ethiopia, Colombia, Lebanon and the Western Balkans. They agreed on the importance of bridging the divide between humanitarian and development responses to forced displacement to ensure long-term and sustainable solutions.

High Representative/Vice-President Borrell emphasised the EU’s commitment to addressing forced displacement and protecting those in need, as strongly reflected in the proposed EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum. He underlined the need to build on the momentum that followed the December 2019 Global Refugee Forum to promote global solidarity and responsibility sharing in protecting refugees.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Grandi welcomed the direction of the proposed EU Pact on Migration and Asylum and recalled, in the spirit of the Global Refugee Forum, the importance of shared responsibility for refugees, asylum seekers and other people of concern to UNHCR. 90 per cent of forcibly displaced people are in developing countries and the EU has a key role to support large refugee hosting countries.

High Representative/Vice President Borrell and High Commissioner Grandi reiterated the importance of the EU-UNHCR partnership in the development and implementation of policies to protect those in need.

EESC: Asylum Pact IMBALANCES

Brussels 12.03.2021 The New Migration and Asylum Pact: short on solidarity and weighing heavy on states of first entry, according to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

The EESC is worried about the feasibility of a number of proposals contained in the pact. There are grave concerns that it may even add to the pressure on the already overwhelmed states of first entry, effectively turning them into “closed centres” for migrants at EU borders.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has welcomed the new Migration and Asylum Pact but says that the proposals it sets out will be hard to implement and cannot be called a clear step towards creating a resilient and forward-looking common EU strategy on migration and asylum.

In two recent opinions, in which it analyses several proposals for regulations governing asylum management and asylum procedures, the EESC states that the new pact might not be able to ensure the fair and efficient processing of asylum applications. These would need to be shared evenly among Member States, which would result in the swift granting of international protection at EU borders to those migrants that need it and the return of those that do not.

On the contrary, the burden of responsibility and inconvenience for the countries of first entry will only increase, since the proposed solidarity mechanism, which is supposed to regulate the control of migration flows at borders, is based on a hypothetical, voluntary system of solidarity.

This means that under the mechanism, Member States will be able to choose whether they wish to participate in the relocation or sponsored return of persons in an irregular situation. However, no mention is made of incentives to encourage countries to take part, or of clear-cut criteria for how much each country should contribute.

Coupled with the Pact’s new pre-screening and border control proposals, which are likely to result in complex and lengthy procedures at the EU’s external borders, the mechanism may lead to the transformation of first-entry countries into large pre-departure or detention centres, increasing the chances of human rights breaches and of pressure on host communities.

“The pact is not ideal. We wanted something with more initiative, something more supportive. But we have to endorse it. It has some fresh ideas after the failure of the Dublin process and it is a big package. It is extremely important for the future of the EU,” says Dimitris Dimitriadis, rapporteur for the EESC’s opinion on asylum management.

Mr Dimitriadis says the EESC is pleased that the regulations proposed in the Pact invoke the principles of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, but believes the solidarity obligations of the states of first entry to be disproportionate. The procedures provide no assurances for relocation. There are only mandatory border procedures without an automatic sharing mechanism. “Put simply, solidarity, in the form of relocation, cannot be voluntary. Solidarity needs to be automatic and it needs to be binding. We need to have mandatory relocations without a question mark, without red tape or bureaucracy hampering them.”

Panagiotis Gkofas, rapporteur for the opinion on asylum procedures under the new pact, is pessimistic about the outcome of the pact’s implementation: “Ultimately, the proposed regulations will place a huge burden on the Member States of southern Europe, with the inevitable consequence that the regulations will be inapplicable and will fail to achieve their intended result. These Member States will have no choice but to become either detention or pre-departure centres for human beings, for a period of up to six or seven months, if not more, until the outcome of the procedures is known, resulting in situations that are much worse than before.”

According to Mr Gkofas, Member States will end up being de facto forced “to reject many asylum applications, even those that meet the conditions for asylum to be granted, in order to avoid increasing numbers of people being held together in inhumane conditions”.

The legislation analysed in the opinions includes the proposals for a regulation on asylum and migration management and for a regulation addressing situations of migration crisis and force majeure. Three of the nine instruments contained in the new pact are also scrutinised: a new screening regulation; an amended proposal revising the asylum procedures regulation and an amended proposal for a recast Eurodac regulation.
The EESC recognises the importance of the proposals having the legal status of a regulation, which is binding and directly applicable in the Member States. In order to become a fully-fledged policy, however, all the relevant proposed regulations will need to be adopted concurrently.

Among other matters, the EESC discusses the proposed policy of return to countries of origin, which may be fraught with problems, as the EU will be forced to rely on the willingness of these countries, whether of origin or transfer – to collaborate. This is why those countries should be given clear incentives and disincentives

The EESC welcomes the introduction of a crisis and ‘force majeure’ component in the field of migration and asylum. While the crisis and ‘force majeure’ regulation provides a window of opportunity for binding solidarity, however, it covers procedural support rather than emergency solidarity measures. Solidarity is undermined by the complex and bureaucratic procedures required to implement it.
The EESC expresses concerns about the new border procedures, especially as regards protecting the right to request asylum. It also objects to the use of ill-defined legal concepts such as “security threat” and “public order” or the flawed concept of “countries with low asylum recognition rates”, which give rise to legal uncertainty.

In the EESC’s view, the proposals leave many questions unanswered, such as how and where people are going to be kept during the border procedure and how to avoid a state of legal limbo by guaranteeing the right to effective judicial protection.

The asylum procedure regulation should make solidarity mandatory when it comes to relocation: without such a provision and unless procedures are created to allow people to apply for asylum in EU Member States without the need to cross EU borders, in practical terms, the regulation will not work. Furthermore, the EESC urges the Commission to take special care of families with children and unaccompanied minors, stating that it is unacceptable for a child to only be considered as such under the age of 12 and not 18, which is contrary to international law.

France: Sudanese migrant crime

A Sudanese asylum-seeker killed an employee at a centre for migrants in the southern French city of Pau
after his request was rejected, authorities said.

A police source said the Sudanese asylum seeker killed the director of the centre by stabbing him repeatedly in the throat. The assailant had arrived in France five years ago and had committed acts of violence with a knife in 2017, the French media reports, referring to governmental sources.

“This is a terrible drama, all the more so because the victim spent his entire professional life helping migrants and asylum seekers,” Pau Mayor Francois Bayrou said on France Bleu radio.

“The man’s asylum request had been rejected, and for good reasons. He then turned against the head of the service, this is extreme and absurd violence,” said Bayrou continued, adding that the suspect had previously spent time in jail.

The police source said the assailant’s demand for political asylum had been rejected but that it was not clear whether this was the motive for the homicide. It was also unclear whether it was the head of the centre who had notified him of his request being rejected.

French media reported that the alleged assailant had been arrested.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was heading to the asylum seekers centre in Pau and was expected to speak to reporters at spot.

Hungary migration position unchanged

Since 2015, the stance of the Hungarian Government on migration has been clear and unchanged. We have presented this stance and our proposals on several occasions” writes Zoltan Kovacs, the Secretary of State for International Communication and Relations, International spokesman, Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister Victor Orban.

We believe that the European Union and its member states must cooperate in keeping the looming migration pressure outside our borders. To this end, we should form alliances with countries of origin, so that they are able to provide proper living standards and ensure that their people do not have to leave their homelands. Instead of importing the trouble to Europe, we must bring help to where it is needed.
We believe that Europe’s borders must be protected: External hot-spots will have to be established to process asylum claims; we must ensure that the external borders of the EU and the Schengen Area remain perfectly sealed along all sections.

“Our goal is to see EU member states support each other in achieving the tasks above. While Hungary does not support obligatory distribution, it does defend joint borders, and we expect to receive the same amount of support as other Schengen states protecting those external borders. We would like to remind everyone that since the 2015 migration crisis, the Hungarian Government has spent more than 1 billion euros on protecting the borders of Hungary and the European Union, without a single cent of contribution from Brussels”.

Moria fire: EU mobilises support

The European Council president Charles Michel said he is working on mobilisation of the EU support to Greece in the aftermath of the Moria migrant camp fire. «Full solidarity with the people of Lesbos providing shelter, the migrants and staff. We are in touch with the Greek authorities and ready to mobilize support», Michel wrote on his Twitter microblog. Thousands of migrants are left without shelter. (Image above: social media).

The tensions in the camp were building up after the coronavirus outbreak, imposing lockdown, and strict sanitary rules. Moria saw a spike in coronavirus infections since reporting its first case in the beginning of September, when it was placed in lockdown, with 35 confirmed cases.

Aid groups have long criticised cramped and unsanitary living conditions at Moria, which also made social distancing and basic hygiene measures impossible to implement.

Moria hosts to nearly 13,000 people, four times exceeding its capacity of accomodating migrants. According to InfoMigrants, about 70% of arrived to the camp are from Afghanistan, but also migrants from more than 70 different countries stay there.

Fire broke out in mulitple places in a short space of time, local fire chief Konstantinos Theofilopoulos told state television channel ERT. Protesting migrants hindered firefighters who tried to tackle the flames, he said.

The main blaze was extinguished on September 9 morning, although Mr Theofilopoulos added there were still some small fires burning inside some containers at the site.

“The disaster at Moria is total,” the Secretary General of the Migration Policy Ministry, Manos Logothetis, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).

“In cooperation with all institutions, we must find solutions and provide for the temporary and long-term accommodation of the residents there. This is a first priority for everyone,” he added.

Banksy rescue vessel on errand

British street artist Banksy has financed a rescue boat to transport migrants trying to reach Europe crossing Mediterranean from North African coasts.

Named Louise Michel after a 19th-century French anarchist, the 31-metre motor yacht is decorated by some of Banksy’s trademark art with a fire extinguisher depicting a girl in a life jacket reaching out to a heart-shaped lifebelt.
The artwork is similar in style to Banksy’s famous “Girl with Baloon” stencil murals.

On its website, the Louise Michel project annouces that it aims to “uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice.”

On August 27 the vessel had succeeded in its first mission in the Mediterranean and boarded 89 people who were travelling to Europe from North Africa, including 14 women and 4 children.

According to the organization’s Twitter page, the rescued refugees traveled from Libya and are “safe onboard.”
“After dealing with dehydration, fuel burns and injuries from the torture they suffered in Libya, they have a moment of respite,” the organization announced.

The vessel started navigation on August 18 with 10-person crew and now is in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Twitter micro blog of Louise Michel, looking for a port of safety for the passengers, or to transfer them to a European coastguard ship.

Banksy has been continuously supporting migration in his art, reminind that Steve Jobs was a son of a Syrian migrant. In 2015 two Banksy murals appeared in Calais, France.
The first one showed late Apple founder Steve Jobs — the son of a Syrian migrant — carrying a sack over his shoulder.

The reception of migrants represents increasing challenge for the EU Mediterranean coutries in absence of the relevant common stragegy towards migration from Africa. At present the economic situation in Africa has degraded rapidly as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, forcing more people to leave their homes in search for solution of their problems in Europe.

COVI19: Italian military to control migrants

The Italian government will send soldiers to Sicily to stop recently arrived migrants leaving holding centers after a raft of breakouts in recent days, including some by people who had been quarantined to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The government ensured citizens and toursists none of the escapees had tested positive for the virus and that most had been caught soon after breaking out of the facilities.

But the breakouts are adding to unease over rising numbers of migrants who have made their way across the Mediterranean in recent weeks. Italy largely tamed the virus after one of the longest and strictest lockdowns among Western countries. Everyday life is returning to something approaching normalcy. A requirement to wear masks in enclosed places is one of the few hints the virus is still circulating.

So far in July, 5,583 migrants have arrived in Italy, almost five times as in the same month last year, though fewer than in the crush who came during the height of the European migrant crisis. So far this year, around 12,500 have arrived, compared with about 180,000 who came in 2016 alone.

The government now plans to make it all but impossible for new migrants to break free from their initial quarantine by confining them for two weeks on a large ship that will lie off the southern coast of Sicily before transferring them to migrant centers on land. It isn’t yet clear when the ship will be in place and, meanwhile, migrants centers have filled beyond their capacity in recent days. Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has promised to transfer 500 migrants from Sicily to other parts of Italy by July 28.

The government has assigned soldiers to prevent migrants leaving the holding centers. The first soldiers were due to arrive in the area on Tuesday and their numbers will eventually reach about 400, according to an Interior Ministry official.

Italy eventually slowed the initial flow of migrants by striking an agreement with authorities in Libya, the main point of departure, to fund and train the Libyan coast guard along with the European Union.

From January to July this year, 4,537 Tunisians reached Italy, more than five times the number by the same timline last year.

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