Category Archives: Immigration

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.

Borrell visits Malta over migration

This visit is one of the very first visits after the lockdown and it carries a strong message of European Union solidarity with respect to Malta. We are facing major challenges in our Southern neighbourhood” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while visiting Valletta.

“We discussed all of them today: Libya, Syria, Middle East, the Middle East Peace Process and the migration flows, of course. We have been talking almost every day over the last few months with the Minister because you were worried and asking for the European Union’s intervention in order to deal with migration problems”.

«…On migration, Malta has been facing a huge pressure. We fully share Malta’s determination to address irregular migration in a comprehensive way, starting by addressing the crisis in Libya and supporting the Libyan authorities»

«Libya remains the largest beneficiary in North Africa under the European Union [Emergency] Trust Fund [for Africa]. We, Europeans, are contributing a lot for the population in Libya. We will continue supporting them and also the Libyan Coastguard in order to strengthen their capacity of intervention to dismantle trafficking networks and conduct rescue operations in their area of responsibility. This is done through our two CSDP missions and operations: Operation Irini (link is external) – recently launched – and EUBAM Libya. But the Minister explained me that we really have to increase the capacities of the Libyan Coastguard. But of course we also need a long-term solution in Libya and Malta is at the forefront when it comes to these efforts.

«We talked also with Prime Minister Abela about his meeting with Prime Minister [of Libya, Fayez] al-Sarraj. We have a common objective: a united and stable Libya. We need to work together in the framework of the European Union. The Berlin process remains the only international framework to relaunch a political dialogue on Libya.

«I am also glad that just yesterday Malta reached a deal with other Member States to relocate an important number of migrants with the coordination and help of the European Commission. We will continue encouraging Member States to show solidarity towards other Member States when rescued persons are disembarked.

«Malta is not alone, Malta’s challenges are also the European Union’s challenges and I am here to show that we will continue to work together to address all of them in the short-term and looking also for structural solutions in the middle and long-term».

Italy: 150 migrants landed at night

There were four migrant landings overnight at Lampedusa bringing a total to more than 150 migrants onto the island between Sicily and Libya, ANSA news agency reports. Migrant hotspot of the island has been already so full that the coronavirus checks were carried out on the harbour side.

In spite coronavirus pandemic the flows of migrant have not decreased, but started to grow following season opportunities in the calm sea. Monday May 4 arrivals were preceeded by the others in Italy and Spain, alltogether 300 migrant left Libyan coast last weekend to reach European coasts.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Lega party has claimed the operataions are conducted by Soros-backed NGO lawyers, who are helping migrants from North Africa to reach Europe, and claim asylum there.

Concerns are also growing among aid agencies and service providers about the potential impact of COVID-19 pandemic on displaced people in Africa. Africa hosts more than 25.2 million refugees and internally displaced people. Most African refugee appeals are chronically underfunded and most displaced people are hosted in poor countries with already under-resourced health systems.

Africa houses four of the world’s six largest refugee camps (in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia). These camps are vulnerable accommodations for transmission of the coronavirus. They are overcrowded and lack of basic sanitary facilities as water, hygiene facilities, and products.

COVID19: Luxembourg hosts migrant minors

A group of unaccompanied refugee children was relocated from Greek islands to Luxembourg, the European Commission said.

Twelve children between the ages of 11 and 15 were taken from Lesvos, Samos and Chios to Luxemburg, and 50 more will be transferred to Germany this coming weekend.

Greece says there are 42,000 asylum-seekers on its islands, of which 1,500 are children and minors.

To ease pressure on Greek authorities, the European Commission in early Mach opened a relocation program for minors who had been stranded in camps on the islands.

Ten EU members, and Switzerland, responded to the Commission’s call.

The eleven countries pledged to relocate 1,600 asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors and families in a fragile situation.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the program, but Luxemburg gave the green light last week after Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and Greek Minister of Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos had a exchange of opinion via telephone.

The decision was intended to support Greek authorities “facing in particular the risk of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in overcrowded refugee camps,” the government of Luxembourg explained in a statement April 15.

In times where coronavirus is taking its toll on everyday life, it is commendable to see Member States honoring their commitments and working together to help vulnerable migrants on the Greek islands,” EU Commissioner for Promoting our European way of life Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said as 12 children arrived in Luxemburg.

Greece imposed a curfew on migrants living in Lesvos’ Moria refugee camp in March.

The Ritsona refugee camp near Athens was placed under lockdown two weeks ago after 20 cases of coronavirus infection were established.

Human Rights Watch launched a campaign April 14 to secure the release of hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Greece.

According to the #FreeTheKids campaign, at least 331 children are under police custody waiting for transfer to a shelter.

Greek authorities call the measures protective custody.

COVID19: Belgium releases 297 migrants

Belgium Immigration Office has released almost three hundred migrants from the closed reception centers in order to comply with the hygiene measures regarding the corona virus pandemic. That is what Minister of Asylum and Migration Maggie De Block (Open Vld) said, informing the Parliament about the decision. She added that the releases were made on a case-by-case basis and there are “no people who have committed crimes“, she assured among 297 released. All of them have exhausted legal procedures and did not obtain asylum, or any other legal status, allowing them to stay in Belgium, in reality from juridical point of view being irregular migrants.

The experts criticising the measure say that it is impossible to estalbish the past of the migrants in absence of population record in the majority countries of origin. In Africa more that 500 million people have no birth ceritificate, neither ID card, according to the World Bank. There is no opportuity to establish the past of people coming from failed states and war zones, making the decision of the Beglium government highly contraversial. None of the released has proven their rights for asylum in the European Union.

However the Minister preferred to switch the debate from security issues to pandemic dimension also emphasized that the various asylum centers in Belgium are taking measures against the further spread of the corona virus, in line with the rules that apply to all of the society.

The risk of contamination among asylum seekers is no higher than that of the rest of the population. I am a little annoyed by the people who assume that they are all spreaders of the virus. Stigmatization does not help anyone, especially in these exceptional times” De Block concluded.

The health risks are too great, we have to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said MP Wouter De Vriendt. “Homeless people, asylum seekers, sans-papiers or others must be temporarily housed in vacant holiday parks, sports halls or Defence infrastructure as soon as possible, in the interests of everyone,” he added.

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