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The ECRE Weekly Bulletin provides information about the latest European developments in the areas of asylum and refugee protection.ECRE is a pan-European alliance of 90 NGOs protecting and advancing the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons.If you would like to know more about ECRE’s advocacy work, policy positions, press releases and projects, please visit our website at www.ecre.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

     
27 November 2015
  
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ECRE
EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENTS
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
REPORTS & NGOs ACTIONS
  

ECRE

AIDA update Greece: asylum system suffers from persisting deficiencies in procedures and reception conditions

The updated AIDA report on Greece documents persisting deficiencies in the asylum procedure and reception conditions. Greece, which has seen as many as 715,000 persons arrive on its territory since the beginning of 2015, still suffers from a severe lack of hosting facilities, inadequate systems for registration and the lack of a proper identification and referral mechanism for the most vulnerable. As of the end of September, no First Reception Centre or Mobile Unit had been operating on Chios, Kos, Leros or Rhodes, while Samos is still only equipped with a Mobile Unit which is unable to meet the current needs.

Persons in need of protection still face considerable obstacles to accessing the asylum procedure. In Athens for example, the Asylum Service has set up a system for appointments through Skype, which meets significant shortcomings in practice. Without adequate access to registration, persons remain at risk of detention and deportation as irregular migrants.

Push-backs have remained an issue of concern at the Greek-Turkish border, with a number of incidents reported in 2015 by various NGOs, such as the Greek Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières and others.

The findings of the AIDA report are of particular relevance in view of the European Commission’s intention to consider a recommendation for the reinstatement of transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, four years after their halt by the MSS v Belgium and Greece and NS v Secretary of State for the Home Department  rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

For further information:
 

AIDA update on Germany: Dublin reinstated for all, lower protection for applicants from “safe countries of origin”

The most recent updates on Germany’s asylum system, as documented by the updated AIDA report, consist of several legislative changes in view of the record numbers of asylum seekers this year. Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro have been classified as “safe countries of origin” under the amended Asylum Act - which creates a presumption that citizens from these countries will not be persecuted.

Moreover, as of 21 October 2015, the rules of the Dublin III Regulation have been reinstated for everyone, including Syrians – who had been exempted since late August under instructions issued by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

Finally, the grounds for detention under Dublin have been defined, under an amendment of the Residence Act entering into force in August 2015. Nonetheless, detention of asylum seekers remains low, with approximately 90 applicants in detention as of October 2015.  

For further information:
 

AIDA update the Netherlands : the introduction of a formal border procedure does not remove systematic detention

The updated Netherlands AIDA report details how the recast Asylum Procedures and Reception Conditions Directives have been implemented in the country.

New developments include the introduction of a formal border procedure to assess asylum applications at a centre in Schiphol airport, and sets out time limits for the detention of applicants. If claims are not processed within a maximum period of four weeks, people being detained at the border are to be granted access to the territory of the Netherlands, and their applications processed in the regular asylum procedure. The grounds of rejection of asylum claims at the border have been limited to cases where the Dublin Regulation is applicable, and cases which are inadmissible or manifestly unfounded.

The report, drafted by ECRE member Dutch Council for Refugees, suggests that systematic border detention, regardless of the four week time limit, is not in conformity with international and EU standards, particularly the obligation to assess alternatives to detention.

For further information:
 

ECRE is recruiting a new Secretary General

ECRE is seeking a new Secretary General to lead its advocacy efforts and strategic development within a dynamic and challenging social and political environment. The Secretary General will develop the strategic planning in close interaction with the membership, represent the organization vis à vis EU Institutions and across Europe, develop partnerships, raise media profile and maximize ECRE’s impact through policy development and advocacy.

The ideal candidate will have:
  • significant experience at a senior management level coupled with strong strategic skills
  • cultural and political awareness - a good understanding of Europe’s political systems and how to influence them
  • an understanding of fundraising and the ability to negotiate and build relationships at the highest levels
  • a strong commitment to working for and with those seeking international protection, and a solid background in working with or for an NGO.
If you would like to receive an Application Pack for this position, please initially send your CV and motivation letter to executive@harrishill.co.uk. The closing date for completed applications is 8 am (Brussels time) on Monday, 14 December 2015.
 
 

EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENTS

Tusk calls new Turkey summit to finalise migration deal

On 29 November, EU Heads of State and governments will meet with Turkey with the aim of adopting a Joint Action Plan, EU Council President Donald Tusk announced last Wednesday. The meeting follows a series of high level talks between the European Commission and Turkey as well as a number of bilateral meetings Tusk had with President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Davutoğlu.

According to the EU Turkey Action Plan, Turkey is asked to control and prevent further irregular migrant arrivals.  The EU is offering €3 billion for refugee facilities in Turkey, accelerating negotiations on visa liberalisation and restarting EU accession talks. A diplomat has been quoted as saying that ‘the EU Commission plans to put up “less than half” of the €3 billion from the common budget, with member states to pledge the rest, on the model of a recently-agreed EU-Africa fund.’

In the Joint Action Plan the EU committed to support Turkey hosting 2.2 million Syrian refugees, with assistance for the host communities and local solutions for the medium and long term. The Refugee Facility for Turkey will be available as of 1 January 2016. According to the European Commission’s 2015 progress report, Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey have no access to asylum procedures. Moreover, without access to employment, many face difficult living conditions and have limited access to other fundamental services. The report also notes that ‘around 500,000 refugee children have no access to education.’

Since March 2015, Turkey has increasingly strengthened border controls and currently prevents all Syrian refugees from entering the country through official and non-official border crossings. In the 2015 Progress Report on Turkey, the European Commission spoke of “incidents where Turkey did not respect the principle of “non-refoulement”.

On 23 November Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report that shows how refugees fleeing Syria are blocked at the Turkish border and forcibly sent back to Syria, in violation of the international principle of non-refoulement. HRW interviewed refugees who were immediately returned, while others were detained. Many refugees HRW talked to were beaten or were exposed to shootings by officials at the Syrian-Turkish border.

For further information:
 

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

Western Balkans: refugees stranded at borders face discrimination with no access to asylum

Since 18 November, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia simultaneously prevented all refugees from entering the country, with the exception of Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. Thousands of refugees were refused access to international protection, in violation to the right to asylum and the principle of non-discrimination under European and international law.
 
As soon as Macedonia received the notice from other Western Balkans countries, the Greek-Macedonian border was closed and military presence reinforced by both countries. Once refugees arrived at the border, Macedonian authorities checked their nationality. While Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis were allowed to cross, all other nationals were blocked. Mixed families, such as Pakistan-Syrian or Afghan-Iranian risked being separated. On the evening of 19 November, Around 6,000 asylum seekers were stranded at the border. Some were accommodated in a temporary centre near Idomeni on the Greek side. These measures have led to tensions between refugees of different nationalities. Many have protested against the border police. Only two or three refugees managed to enter, on the grounds of their serious health condition. The Red Cross distributed blankets, but UNHCR had no access to the border area between Greece and Macedonia.
 
Following the actions of these governments, on 19 and 20 November, hundreds of refugees have been left waiting in the transit centre of Tabanovce or at the border between Macedonia and Serbia. According to UNHCR, the majority are women, children and families. Many refugees have been accommodated in the centre, but others have slept outside for days, in the cold and without food. Since 19 November, in Miratovac and Presevo, those refugees who had already crossed the border were separated, by nationality. In Presevo, the registration of refugees from countries other than Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq was stopped. Although they could not register they have not been deported. However, on 20 November, other reports indicated that, without being registered, some refugees were transported back to Miratovac, at the border with Macedonia, while others were sent back to Tabanovce in Macedonia. According to UNHCR, since the evening of 18 November, Serbia started sending back to Macedonia those refugees who were not Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans.
 
On 19 November, about 400 refugees could not board a train to Croatia and were prevented from crossing the border, through the fields, by the Croatian police, because of their nationality. Also, Slovenia started sending back asylum seekers from specific countries. However, on the same day, Croatia refused 162 people, who were sent back from Slovenia.

Commenting on these discriminatory practices, UNHCR stressed that "there is (no) nation that can be excluded from international protection (and) each case should be screened individually." In a joint statement, UNHCR, IOM, and UNICEF expressed serious concerns, as profiling asylum seekers on the basis of their nationality is “increasingly untenable from every point of view – humanitarian, legal, and also safety related, not least in light of falling temperatures and the risks for children and others with specific needs.”

For further information:
 

Sweden tightens asylum rules

Temporary legislation is to be introduced in Sweden to restrict the number of people seeking asylum to the ‘EU minimum’.

With Sweden having taken the largest number of asylum seekers per capita of all countries in the EU over the last few years, the government announced these new measures in response to the strain public authorities and municipalities have found themselves under. Swedish authorities have been unable to guarantee shelter for all people arriving on the territory. Equally, there are major challenges facing Swedish social services, schools and trauma care centres.

These measures are to last for the next three years, and include only offering temporary residence permits to refugees, restricting the laws relating to family reunification and medically verifying the age of all unaccompanied minors. It is also foreseen that ID checks will be carried out on all modes of transport to Sweden.

The Swedish government has said that these measures are not seen as a long-term way forward, and called for all EU countries to take a shared responsibility for refugee reception. They also called for the Dublin Regulation to be revised and replaced by a permanent relocation scheme in the EU.

For further information:
 

French authorities must improve humanitarian situation in Calais

The highest administrative court in France dismissed an appeal by the French Ministry of Interior and commune of Calais, ordering them to take measures to end the inhuman and degrading conditions for inhabitants of the camp at Calais, known as ‘The Jungle’.

This endorses a previous ruling and means that the authorities must install 10 water points, 50 latrines, set up a collection system for rubbish, install mobile rubbish containers, clean up the site and, within eight days, make one or more routes for emergency access. The commune of Calais must also take measures to identify the unaccompanied minors that are living in the camp, so that they are placed in appropriate accommodation and are cared for in a manner that meets their needs.

In a joint press release, the NGOs that brought the urgent challenge before the courts welcomed the decision, noting that the government had set up more accommodation in recent weeks. They encouraged the government to continue along this path to put in place lasting solutions to the situation in Calais.

For further information:
 

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

European Court of Human Rights finds detention of Somali asylum seeker in Malta unlawful

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Malta breached the human rights of a Somali national, detained for over eight months for immigration purposes.

Farhiyo Mahamed Jama arrived in Malta by boat in May 2012 and was detained at the Lyster Barracks while her claim to be a minor was being considered by age assessment procedures. In January 2013 she was found to be an adult, granted subsidiary protection in February 2013, notified of this decision and released five days later. She complained that the conditions of her detention amounted to degrading treatment, in particular due to the lack of activities and access to the outdoors, inability to communicate with the outside world, overcrowding, conditions of overheating in the summer, unbearable cold in the winter and lack of provision of basic items of clothing and hygiene. The Court was concerned about the lack of access to outdoor exercise, as well as the lack of heating and of female staff. However, given the sufficient living space, the provision of basic as well as other needs and appropriate hygienic standards the court found that the cumulative effect of these conditions did not amount to degrading treatment.

Conversely, the Court considered that she had no effective opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of her detention in Maltese law. In addition, the fact that she was detained for an additional five days after being granted international protection, was not justifiable. It therefore found that Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to liberty, was violated. 

 For further information:
 

REPORTS & NGOs ACTIONS

Rights of the child outlined in Fundamental Rights Agency handbook

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has released a new handbook that aims to raise awareness and improve the knowledge of the legal standards that protect and promote children’s rights in Europe.

Among the range of substantive issues the publication covers, FRA illustrates the provisions that cover children in a range of migration situations, and the conventions that support migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking children’s rights to family reunification, access to justice, and ongoing residence in the host state.

Noting that in the context of international protection procedures, children are regarded as ‘vulnerable persons’, FRA restates that states are required to identify and accommodate any special provision that asylum-seeking children might need when they enter a host state. The handbook also emphasises that European law authorises the detention of children in an immigration context only as a measure of last resort, and that national authorities are obliged to place children in appropriate alternative accommodation.

For further information:
 

EVENTS

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