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 82 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.

29 May 2015

Commission’s relocation plan: first step to show concrete solidarity but fundamental questions remain

On Wednesday 27 May 2015, the European Commission presented its proposal for a Council Decision that would allow for the relocation of 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU member states over a period of 24 months.

The high migratory pressure that has confronted Italy and Greece, along with the structural shortcomings in their asylum systems, prompted the Commission to design such a mechanism to ensure member state support the two countries at stake. Through a temporary derogation from the Dublin III Regulation, the Commission proposes to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers that Italy or Greece would be responsible for under the Dublin system, to other member states that will be processing their claims.  

The Commission proposal targets Syrians and Eritreans as, according to Eurostat, those nationalities received an EU average recognition rate of 75% in 2014. The Commission proposes to relocate respectively 24,000 asylum seekers from Italy and 16,000 from Greece, over a period of 24 months. The Commission has calculated the allocation number for each member state on the basis of population, GDP, unemployment rate and number of asylum applications received. The Commission’s proposal specifies that family members should be relocated to the same country, and emphasises the obligation to give primary consideration to the best interest of the child when unaccompanied minors would be involved in the relocation procedure. In addition, applicants should receive information about the relocation procedure and be notified when a relocation decision is taken. Furthermore, the Commission’s plan specifies that member states would receive a lump sum of 6,000 euro for each applicant relocated from Italy and Greece. The plan, as proposed by the Commission, would be mandatory for EU Member States, although the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark can opt not to be part of it.

ECRE acknowledges that such a mechanism could offer some concrete support to Italy and Greece, and is a first step to show concrete solidarity with both countries. Furthermore, it is positive that it also includes the obligation for Italy and Greece to take the necessary measures to improve their asylum systems, and that particular vulnerabilities of applicants need to be taken into account before relocating them. At the same time, ‘refugee rights’ organisations have criticised the fact that asylum seekers have no say in relation to the country where they would be relocated, whilst important differences remain across the EU with regard to reception conditions, the type of protection status granted and integration perspectives. “I think it’s ignoring the reality today for some of these people - for example, a Syrian engineer or doctor having to stay in Latvia or Lithuania where there’s hardly any other refugees, no real asylum system in place and no integration programmes for them,” ECRE Senior Legal and Policy Officer Kris Pollet told IRIN News.

In the meantime, several member states have expressed their criticism in relation to the criteria chosen by the Commission to relocate asylum seekers. “Countries like Spain say unemployment rates should weigh more in the calculations; other countries say you have to take into account other efforts states are taking in regards to border control. So it looks like there’s already going to be a discussion about the fundamentals,” stated Pollet.

In addition to this relocation mechanism, Home Affairs and Migration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said on Wednesday that the Commission will expand the geographical operation area of Triton to the same as that of the Italian Mare Nostrum Operation and increase its resources. “In practice, this means more assets at sea, closer to where most refugees and migrants, travelling on overcrowded and unseaworthy boats, get into trouble and risk drowning. And ultimately more lives will be saved,” said Iverna McGowan, acting director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

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ECRE publish note on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund

ECRE has published a note on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) for 2014- 2020, which replaced the European Refugee Fund, the European Integration Fund and the European Return Fund. The fund supports actions addressing all aspects of migration, including asylum, legal migration, integration and return. The note provides a description of the actions and objectives covered in the AMIF and how they differ from previous EU Funds covering the migration field. It also gives some insight into the negotiations prior to the establishment of the AMIF. Finally, the note gives a brief overview of other EU Funds that can be relevant for organisations working on asylum and refugees.

With a total budget of €3.1 billion for 2014-2020, the AMIF surpasses by €1 billion the combined budget of the three funds it replaced. The bulk of the funds, €2.7 billion, are destined for national-level programmes, €360 million of which is reserved for resettlement and relocation. A budget of €385 million is planned for pan-European actions (Union Actions) and emergency actions.

It is foreseen that the wide range of actions that AMIF supports should better address the needs and challenges faced by asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Europe, and the note calls on Member States to make use of the possibilities offered by the fund, such as support to alternatives to detention and addressing identified needs.


MPI: political ignorance fails to counter migrant smuggling

A report issued by the Migration Policy Institute highlights knowledge gaps and weaknesses in the European response against migrant smugglers. Measures taken by politicians do not recognise that migrants make and change choices at every stage of their journey, aware of the dangers and risks involved. Furthermore, about the structure and economy of smuggling networks is still unknown to researchers and politicians.

The report argues that by focusing on push-pull factors, policymakers completely ignore the fact that migrants make choices all along their journey; moreover, that their ambitions and motives may change both before, and during, their travel. Several reasons could account for these changes, for instance, difficulties faced prior to their departure, seeking work in Europe may be prohibitive, or they may have been pushed to take decisions against their will.

In addition, MPI points out that decision-makers continue to rely on analysis that overgeneralises information from migrants who have succeeded in reaching their destination, without including those who change, fail or abandon their initial plans to go to Europe.

The report also observes, that for migrants, the risks of death or injury during their journey, seems to be insignificant compared with the immediate threats to their personal safety faced at home. At the same time, long-term risks, such as finding a job, or bringing family members in Europe at a later stage, are more important when taking the decision to leave. Thus, poor information is not the sole factor contributing to migrants taking high risk decisions.

Finally, the report notes that further research is needed with regards to the organisational structures and economics of migrant smuggling, as well as supporting policymakers in their cooperation with third countries. In this regard, the report proposes some recommendations, put forward on the basis of the available evidence acquired thus far.

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Europe, open your doors to those in need of protection – urges JRS

In the 2014 annual report issued this week, JRS Europe reiterated its call for the EU to open the door to people in need of international protection. JRS Europe stressed that 2014 witnessed a three-fold increase in the number of people who sought protection in Europe, compared with 2013, and that among them, numerous fled from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Congo, other war-torn countries or oppressive regimes.

In light of these considerations, JRS Europe developed a set of policy recommendations for ensuring that safe and legal routes are in place for asylum seekers to find protection in Europe. In addition, since the Operation Mare Nostrum came to an end in October 2014, JRS has advocated for the establishment of an adequate search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean.

Over the past year, JRS Europe also drew attention to the inadequate reception conditions in some EU member states for asylum seekers, who face destitution in countries, such as Italy and Greece. On this regard, the paper ‘Rescued – What Next?’, issued in October 2014, well illustrates how asylum seekers in southern Italy wait for lengthy asylum procedures without any perspective of social integration.

Violations of human rights of migrants at the border with the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla were also condemned by JRS, and other organisations, during the previous year. JRS Europe, along with other Spanish partners, lobbied the European Commission to take a firm stance on such violations.

The report presents the projects, as well as the advocacy and policy activities implemented by the organisation in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, South-East Europe and the United Kingdom. The annual report also noted the opening of a JRS office in Greece.


NRC: in 2014 most people in protracted displacement have been living in Syria and Iraq

In a new report, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) highlights that in 2014, 38 million people were forced to flee their homes and live in displacement inside their countries; an increase of 15% compared to 2013. However, the large majority, 90%, have been living in a situation of protracted displacement for ten years or more, most of them in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. 

Syria is the country with the largest number of IDPs in the world, with 7.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) as of the end of 2014. The report observes that a third of the world’s IDPs have been living in the Middle East and North Africa; with 90% of IDPs in this region being registered in Syria and Iraq (3.3 million). The NRC highlights that in both countries the government not only fails to prevent displacement and protect people, but uses IDPs as a strategy of war, by forcing them to flee their homes.

Overall, the NRC observes that the steady increase in displacements is mainly due to armed conflicts and generalised violence, perpetrated by military groups, as well as government operations to counter them. An additional factor is the growing inequalities, which create extreme disparities in wealth, education and human development, leading, in turn, to social and geographical marginalisation.

However, the NRC also warns about the absence of durable solutions, as development and peace-building programmes do not include measures on IDPs’ local integration, resettlement or return; factors all contributing to the cause of protracted displacement. Moreover, though IDPs are still under the responsibility of their state government, the report underlines that, so far, humanitarian agencies and NGOs have been the main responders to assist people living in protracted displacement.

In 2014, 30,000 people a day have been made homeless in their country, accounting for a total of at least 11 million newly displaced people. According to NCR, this represents the highest ever registered peak


3 June, Brussels: Beyond Dublin - ECRE adds its voice to find alternatives to EU’s asylum system

On 3 June, Kris Pollet, ECRE’s Senior Legal and Policy Officer, will participate at a public hearing: ‘Beyond Dublin: Rethinking Europe's Asylum System’, organised by the Greens and European Free Alliance at the European Parliament. Participants will discuss alternatives to the Dublin Regulation, which determines the Member State responsible for the examination of an asylum application in the EU.

During the conference, political controversy and flaws of the Dublin regulation will be pointed out by, among other speakers, Philippe De Bruycker, Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and Odysseus Network, Madeline Garlick, researcher at the Migration Policy Institute and Stefan Kessler, of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

In response of these challenges, ECRE's view will propose, together with studies presented by Richard Williams and
Cathryn Costello, Professor at the Oxford University, alternatives for a fair asylum system both for asylum seekers and Member States.
The conference will start at 3 pm at the EP Room ASP A1G3 and will be also web streamed here. You can register here to attend the event at the Parliament.

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