Tag Archives: migrants

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.

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.

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: 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.

Germany willing to shelter children

Government is seeking a “coalition of the willing” to shelter migrant children across Europe. The EU is searching for way to avoid the second wave of the 2015 refugee crisis while thousands of migrants gather at Greece’s border. (Image: social media).

Germany is prepared to take in “an appropriate share” of the neediest refugee children hosted in overcrowded Greek migrant camps, Berlin officials said on March 9.
The official underlined that they are prepared to take children together with “a coalition of the willing” along with the other EU countries.

The announcement from the government came after Chancellor Angela Merkel met with members of her coalition government to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Greece including already existing situation in the migrants camps.

At present the crowds of migrants have been gathering along the Greece-Turkey border following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announcement Turkey borders were open to refugees seeking to cross into Greece.

German plan is set to help between 1,000 – 1,500 children identified as being particularly in need. This means either unaccompanied children under the age of 14 or children in need of urgent medical assistance. However no clarifications of methods of establishing real age of children were presented publicly. So far in absence of documents humanitarian organisations register age of migrants on bona fide basis without any further verifications. This practice has opened a broad gate of abuses, when young men of 25 years, and older registered as minors.

The Europeans discovered gross abuses in hosting refugee system when a Somalianchild refugee” stabbed a Swedish social worker to death. In the cause of prosecution the assailant has been identified to be at least three years older than the declared age of 15.

Alexandra Mezher, 22, was killed (25.01.2016) after she tried to break up a knife fight at an child migrant centre where she worked in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Educated to care for children Mezher herself had expressed concerns to her family about being the guardian for “big powerful guys aged up to 24“.

EU rejects Turkey migratory pressure

The Foreign Affairs Council adopted a statement on the crisis in Idlib and the situation at the EU external borders with Turkey. (Image: illustration).

In its statement, the Council acknowledges the increased migratory burden and risks Turkey is facing on its territory and the substantial efforts it has made in hosting 3,7 million migrants and refugees. The Council also strongly rejects Turkey’s use of migratory pressure for political purposes and restates that the EU and its member states remain determined to effectively protect EU’s external borders, in accordance with EU and international law.

In this context the Council reiterates the EU’s full solidarity with Greece, which faces an unprecedented situation, as well as with Bulgaria, Cyprus and other member states in their efforts to manage the EU’s external borders.

On Idlib, the Council notes that the recent and continuing offensive by the Syrian regime and its backers, including Russia, is creating untold human suffering and has provoked the worst humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.

The Council therefore calls for an urgent de-escalation of the conflict in Syria in order to avert a slide into international military confrontation, and prevent further suffering.

The Council notes the outcome of the Russia-Turkey meeting yesterday in Moscow and reiterates, in the strongest possible terms, its call on all parties to keep in place an immediate and a sustainable ceasefire, to guarantee the protection of civilians on the ground and from the air and to enable the unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance by the international community.

MEPs condemn Erdogan “blackmail”

Greek officials said that in 24 hours between March 2 and March 3 morning hours, 5,183 people were prevented from entering the country,  45 people were detained they added. (Image: social media).

On March 3 morning, two men — one from Mali and one from Afghanistan — were arrested by Greek agents shortly after crossing the border, and loaded into a van with about 20 more people, from Somalia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Iraq, the Associated Press reported.

The new flow of migrants attempting to illegally enter Europe comes days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his country was easing restrictions on those wishing to cross the border to leave Turkey.

Erdogan said his country, which has more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, is unable to cope with a new wave and demands Europe’s “support”.

“It’s done, the gates are open,” Erdogan said March 2 in a TV announcement. “You will have your share of this burden now, ” adding that Europe could expect “millions” of migrants and refugees from now onward.

We strongly condemn the cynical blackmail by Turkish President Erdogan with the lives of people. The European border to Greece is not open and sending people there is dangerous and irresponsible. What happens at the border is fully Turkey‘s responsibility”  wrote in his Twitter micro blog Manfred Weber, the leader of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) in the European Parliament.

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