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, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

9 September 2016
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AIDA report: Admissibility, responsibility and safety in European asylum procedures

A report launched this week by the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), managed by ECRE, documents the limited and fragmented application of admissibility and safe country concepts in 20 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Spain, France, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Serbia and Turkey.

In the implementation of their international obligations, European and EU states have devised sophisticated asylum systems based on complex procedural tools. In some cases, tools are designed and used for the purpose of avoiding responsibility for refugees, because they allow claims to be dismissed as inadmissible before looking at the substance of the claim. The recent EU-Turkey deal and the European Commission’s proposal for harmonised asylum procedures under an Asylum Procedures Regulation, for instance, revolve around concepts such as “safe third country” and “first country of asylum”.

“The latest reform of the Common European Asylum System brings the concepts of admissibility, responsibility and safety to the forefront of European asylum procedures, by introducing an obligation on Member States to deem applications inadmissible on the basis of ‘first country of asylum’ and ‘safe third country’ grounds”, says Minos Mouzourakis, AIDA Coordinator. “Yet such a move seems ill-fitted in the absence of evidence-based knowledge on the use and interpretation of these concepts throughout the continent.”

The report also discusses the implementation of the Dublin Regulation and the emergency relocation scheme, two instruments regulating the allocation of asylum responsibility within the EU.

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Have all the tears dried up? One year after Alan Kurdi’s death

Last week marked the first anniversary of the tragic drowning of Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body at a Turkish beach captured by a photo, caused an international outcry. One year after, many more continue to die at the external borders of the EU in their search for safety. According to UNHCR, since Alan Kurdi’s death, an average of 11 people have died per day of which two were children in the past 12 months, amounting to 4,176 deaths in the Mediterranean Sea.
“I have a voice, and I have to use it,” stressed Alan’s aunt. “It’s too late for my family but not for the others. We need a bigger table, not higher fences. If people are hungry, we must feed them… we all need each other one day.”
While the EU-Turkey agreement has resulted in less people arriving to Europe, this year has been one of the deadliest years on the Central Mediterranean route, which links Italy and Libya. “EU states have focused on policies to prevent people from departing for Europe and that crack down on smugglers, often arguing that this is the best way to save lives,” says Judith Sunderland from Human Rights Watch. “What the EU hasn’t done is create safe and legal channels to reach Europe – something that could help people avoid turning to smugglers in the first place.”
As ECRE reiterated on various occasions, resettlement can be a durable solution for many refugees. However, the pledge made collectively by EU governments in July 2015 to resettle 22,500 refugees in two years is far from being met with only 7,272 people resettled as of June 2016.  The International Refugee Committee has also drawn attention to those who made it safely to the EU and are stuck in Greece, prevented from moving on with their lives.
 “Until wealthy countries take more responsibility for the crisis unfolding before them, and take in a fairer share of the people fleeing war and persecution, they will be condemning thousands more children to risk their lives in desperate journeys or being trapped in refugee camps with no hope for the future,” says Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General stressing that the creation of legal pathways to the EU, including resettlement, private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarship schemes, is the only way to prevent death at sea.
Calls to action to their own governments came from various NGOS, including ECRE member Scottish Refugee Council and British Refugee Council. "Later this month, world leaders will gather in New York and Washington to agree solutions to the global refugee crisis, but the time for talking is over. We need to see all countries, including Britain, taking concrete action that prioritises sharing responsibility for protecting refugees and offering more people safe passage. Lives depend on it,” British Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said.
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Calais: More walls being built in Europe?

Over the past few weeks, discussions have taken place between French and  UK politicians over the situation of the makeshift camp in Calais. With  over 10,000 people living in squalid conditions that continue to deteriorate in an attempt to reach the UK, politicians on both sides have been trying to dismantle the camp. This week, it was announced that a four-metre high wall would be built, as part of a package of joint Anglo-French security measures, to stop refugees and migrants crossing the channel irregularly.

A meeting on 30 August between the UK Home Secretary, her French counterpart resulted in a statement that announced the establishment of closer co-operation to solve the crisis in Calais. According to the statement, both countries agree to provide  humanitarian assistance, to crack down on organised crime gangs, return irregular migrants who are not in need of international protection and invest in the security of the port. The joint statement also reiterates the UK’s willingness to  receive unaccompanied children, but the UK’s promise so far has led to very little action.

As a result of a 30 % recent increase in arrivals to the camp and a sharp fall in donations, more than half of the 10,000 refugees and migrants in the camp now live without housing. Around 800 children live in the camp, most of which are unaccompanied. Many of these children have family ties in the UK, however the UK has not relocated a single unaccompanied child since the passing of the Dubs amendment in May.

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UNICEF calls on the world to act on behalf of 50 million uprooted children

The number of children affected by violent conflict and other crisis is at a record high,says a recently published UNICEF report entitled Uprooted.Of the nearly 50 million “uprooted” children in the world, 28 million are forcibly displaced. These 28 million children consist of 10 million child refugees, 1 million asylum seekers waiting for their status to be determined and 17 million internally displaced children.

“One in every 45 children in the world today is on the move,”the UN Agency stresses.“They may be labelled “refugee,” “displaced” or “migrant.” But first and foremost children are children. No matter where they come from, no matter who they are. Period.”

Not only are these children often traumatized by conflict, they also face the risk of drowning on sea crossings, malnourishment and dehydration, trafficking, kidnapping, rape and even murder on their journey to a safer world, UNICEF stresses.The report shows that the amount of unaccompanied children applying for international protection tripled in 2015 compared to 2014. These children are at particular risk of exploitation and abuse and a refugee child is also 5 times more likely to be out of school than a non-refugee child.

The report makes several recommendations that focus on the protection from exploitation and violence, ending detention for refugee status seeking children, the provision of education, health-care, shelter, nutrition, water and sanitation. The UN Agency also calls for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of people and measures to combat xenophobia and discrimination in receiving countries. UNICEF adds that where there are safe and legal routes, migration can offer opportunities for both the affected children and the receiving communities, an opinion shared by ECRE in the past.

Human Rights Watch reports on the deplorable detention conditions for asylum seeking children in Greece

Asylum seeking children are facing harrowing conditions in Greek detention centres, a new report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) documents. Children are enduring inadequate sanitation and hygiene conditions, ill-treatment by police offices, and little or no access to counseling, information and legal aid.  
“Greece says it has to detain children for their own protection, but being locked up in cramped and filthy cells is the last thing these kids need,” said HRW Rebecca Riddell. “We’re talking about kids who are all alone and who fled their countries, often to escape violence. Greece and the EU should do a better job giving these vulnerable children the care they need and deserve.”
The report is based on interviews carried out in late June and early July 2016 with over 40 children. “It is hard when I think about how many days I’ve been inside. There’s nothing to do,” says 16-year-ol Wasim, interviewed by HRW at a police station in Filiates. “The only thing we do is think, talk to each other, and sleep. There’s no TV, no books, and the wall is black from the dirt…. [T]he water is too cold and we can’t shower.”  
HRW stresses that detention of unaccompanied children can only be used as a measure of last resort and in very exceptional circumstances and calls on the Greek government to ensure appropriate alternatives to detention in accordance with international, European and national law. The European Commission is also called upon to provide emergency funding for the development of adequate reception accommodation. In addition, EU Member States should enable unaccompanied asylum seeking children to relocate through the EU relocation plan and family reunification efforts.
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