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.

16 January 2015

Norway suspends returns to Libya, Uzbekistan and certain parts of Iraq 

Norway has suspended forced returns to Libya on account of the increased unrest and deteriorating security situation in the country. In addition, where the asylum application of a national or resident of Libya is rejected after final appeal, the Norwegian authorities have temporarily suspended the person’s duty to return by their own means. The suspension of returns to Libya is in line with UNHCR’s recommendation not to carry out forcible returns to the country until the security and human rights situation has improved considerably.

Norway has also suspended forced returns and the duty to return to Uzbekistan in light of reports stating that Uzbek authorities have arrested a number of persons who have previously sought protection and residence permits in Norway. This follows a practice by several other States (Austria, Cyprus, Finland and Ireland) who have also suspended returns to the country and reflects the practice of the European Court of Human Rights who have held that returns of Uzbek nationals will lead to a real risk inhumane treatment where the national has been accused by the Uzbek authorities of criminal offences.

Finally, in light of the deterioration of the security situation in Iraq, Norway has suspended forced returns to certain parts of the country, namely Anbar, Babel, Bagdad, Diyala, Kerbala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah al-Din. Also, asylum applicants from these areas whose claims have been rejected are no longer obliged to return by their own means. In Finland, Hungary and Luxembourg, subsidiary protection is granted to people coming from certain areas of Iraq on the basis that if the applicant were to be returned they would suffer a real risk of serious harm, as defined in EU asylum law


Muižnieks urges Spain to withdraw amendment giving legal cover to pushbacks in Ceuta and Melilla
Concluding a visit to Melilla and Madrid, Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has called on the Spanish authorities to stop the pushbacks to Morocco of migrants entering the cities of Ceuta and Melilla and to reconsider  the amendments legalising this practice. According to the Commissioner, these modifications are in clear breach of human rights law.
“The Spanish authorities should reconsider [the amendments] and ensure that any future legislation fully abides by Spain's international obligations, which include ensuring full access to an effective asylum procedure, providing protection against refoulement and refraining from collective expulsions", Commissioner Muižnieks said.  
“Push-backs must stop and should be replaced by a practice which reconciles border control and human rights. This is not mission impossible, considering that the migration flows in Melilla currently remain at a manageable level”, he added. According to the Commissioner, Spain received 5,200 asylum applications in 2014, i.e. 1% of the applications lodged in Europe.
Furthermore, the Commissioner asked for any excessive use of force by law enforcement officials to be fully and effectively investigated and for those found responsible to be adequately sanctioned.
Commissioner Muižnieks welcomed the establishment in November 2014 of an asylum office at one of Melilla's entry points from Morocco. According to the Commissioner, people fleeing Syria are increasingly using this office but regretted that “for other people, particularly Sub-Saharan Africans, who may also have valid protection claims, this possibility is still out of reach and they have to take serious risks, including jumping over the fence that surrounds the city, to get in”.
Citing the overcrowded conditions in the Centre for Temporary Stay of Migrants (CETI), which is hosting 2,000 migrants, four times its capacity, the Commissioner also recommended improving reception conditions in Melilla.
The conservative-led lower house of the Spanish parliament approved legislation on Thursday 11 December allowing for the summary expulsion to Morocco of migrants entering the country’s cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. The bill still has to be passed by the upper house of the Parliament.
For further information: 


Return of two Darfuris to Sudan constitutes ill-treatment, rules European Court of Human Rights

In two separate judgments, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concluded that the proposed return to Sudan of two Sudanese nationals from Darfur would amount to ill-treatment given their ethnicity and their supposed affiliation with opposition groups in Sudan.

In the first of the two cases, Mr. A.A, a member of the Birqid, a non-Arab tribe in Sudan, had been physically tortured, abused and detained by members of the militia group, the Janjaweed, for supposed knowledge of and affiliation with the Justice and Equality Movement, a Sudanese opposition group.  Similarly, in the second judgment, Mr. A.F, an ethnic Tunjur, had been tortured on account of his opposition activities against the Darfuri regime.

In both cases, the applicants were denied protection status by the French government due to inconsistencies with their submissions and a lack of credibility in their evidence. In response, the Court referred to several international and domestic reports as well as its own case-law (A.A v Switzerland) to conclude that links or suspected links with opposition groups in Sudan and Darfur led to a real risk of ill-treatment in the country. Moreover, in both cases, the Court referred to the applicant’s ethnic origin which also attracted unwanted attention and violence from government authorities and the Janjaweed in Sudan. Therefore, given their ethnic origins, opposition activities and international and medical documentation corroborating their submissions the Court found their evidence to be credible and concluded that the return of both to Sudan would violate their rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  


Detention of 14 migrants in Greece violated the European Convention of Human Rights
In its judgment in Mahammad and Others v Greece, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled yesterday (15 January) that 14 foreign nationals detained in the Greek centre of Fylakio were held in conditions amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment, under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Court further found there to have been a violation of the right to a speedy review of the legality of their detention before a legal body. 
The Court agreed with the applicants that the centre was in a state of serious and continued overpopulation, leading to a large number of detainees having to sleep on the floor. The Court noted that the large shared dormitories as well as the beds and facilities were not of an acceptable level of cleanliness. Personal hygiene products were rarely available and the quality of the food provided was also at times inadequate. Detainees could not go outside on a regular basis. Proof of these conditions had been provided in numerous reports by bodies such as the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT), the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as by local NGOs.
Furthermore, the ECtHR ruled that the applicants did not receive an examination of the legality of their detention that meets the standard required by the Convention. Instead, the judge in Greece who should initially have examined the legality of the detention had simply repeated that the applicants constituted a danger to the public as they would not be able to support or provide for themselves outside the centre without committing a crime. The tribunal judge had also argued that it was only necessary to examine the legality of the decision to detain and not to examine the conditions of the detention, despite the existence of this provision in an amended piece of domestic legislation.
A third violation alleged by the applicants was found to be inadmissible. The applicants had argued that their detention was not lawful due to the fact that no travel documents could be produced in order to facilitate their removal from Greece. However, citing previous cases such as Chahal v UK, the Court reiterated that the mere fact that removal procedures were in existence was enough to justify the deprivation of liberty. These grounds for detention were therefore not found to be in violation of the Convention.

ECtHR rules against extradition of Uzbek national from Russia to Uzbekistan 

In line with recent judgments on removal to Uzbekistan, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that the extradition of an Uzbek national from Russia to his country of origin on charges of alleged membership of a Muslim extremist movement would violate the European Convention of Human Rights. In particular, the Court found that the Russian authorities did not duly examine the applicant’s claim that his return to Uzbekistan would expose him to ill-treatment although there was clear and strong evidence provided by UN bodies and prominent NGOs on the alarming human rights situation in Uzbekistan and on the risk of ill-treatment that some Muslim groups face there.

Furthermore, the Court held that the applicant’s right to a speedy review of the legality of his detention was violated when he was in custody pending expulsion for residing irregularly in Russia.

The applicant’s removal had been suspended in November 2013 under an interim measure by the European Court of Human Rights, which established that Russia should not expel the applicant until the Court ruled on the case.


For Further information:    
UNHCR publishes recommendations on asylum to the Latvian EU Presidency

UNHCR has published recommendations in the area of asylum to the incoming Latvian EU Presidency. According to UNHCR, of particular urgency is the matter of strengthening rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, improving reception conditions and providing swift access to asylum procedures to those in need of international protection.

Furthermore, UNHCR also urges prioritising refugees’ access to EU territory, among reports of push backs and the denial of entry at borders. The recommendations set out the need to ensure protection-sensitive border management that is in line with fundamental rights, and adherence to the principle of non-refoulement. Increasing legal alternatives for refugees by expanding resettlement and facilitating family reunification should also be a priority for the presidency.

In addition to committing to end statelessness, exploring alternatives to detention, and improving responses to refugees and asylum seekers with specific needs, such as unaccompanied children and victims of torture, UNHCR also calls for the Latvian Presidency to encourage Member States to meet the deadline of 21 July 2015 for transposing and implementing the new provisions of the Common European Asylum System.  

The Latvian Presidency presented its priorities to the European Parliament this week. 

For further information:

Syrian refugees in Jordan living in extreme poverty, says UNHCR
UNHCR has published a report on the situation of the more than half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan living outside of official camps. As the situation continues to deteriorate, two thirds of the population are already living below Jordan’s absolute poverty line of €82 per month and one in six refugee households is in abject poverty, with less than €34 for each person per month. In spite of 94% receiving humanitarian assistance, the current living conditions of 47% are assessed as bad or urgent.
"The generosity of the Jordanian people and the Government needs to be matched by massive support from the international community – support for the refugees themselves and for the local populations hosting them, but also structural and budgetary support to the Jordanian Government for education, health, water and sanitation and electricity to enable it to cope with this enormous challenge", UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres explains.
Out of the nearly 42,000 households that researchers visited in January to June 2014, almost half had no heating, a quarter had unreliable electricity and 20% had no functioning toilet. While a third of all households reported earning an income by way of work, only 14% of female-headed households had work-related income compared to 47% of male-headed households. A mere one % of visited households had a member with a work permit.
"Unless the international community increases its support to refugees, families will opt for ever more drastic coping strategies," says High Commissioner Guterres. "More children will drop out of school to work and more women will be at risk of exploitation, including survival sex."
Education remains free of direct costs for Syrian refugees in Jordan, but 12% of families still report resorting to taking children out of school in order to cope with the level of poverty and 6% of households with school-aged children use child labour. 53% of refugee children are enrolled in school. While Syrian refugees had access to free public health services when data was gathered for the report, the government of Jordan has decided to begin charging refugees, adding expenditures to refugee households.
84% of the 622,000 refugees from Syria living in Jordan live outside refugee camps.
For further information:    


6 February, Brussels: Conference on alternatives to immigration detention

The Odysseus Academic Network is hosting the final conference of the project MADE REAL (Making Alternatives to Detention in Europe a Reality by Exchanges, Advocacy and Learning) on 6 February at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels.

The conference will analyze the notion of alternatives to detention and its relevance in the EU context, present a range of practices in selected Member States and the principles underlying administrative decision-making and judicial control on both detention and alternatives to detention. Panelists include civil society representatives, judges, academics, EU policy-makers and representatives of international organizations.

Participants are requested to register by email to before 2 February. For further information contact: or



ECRE publishes recommendations on how to transpose the EU’s recast Asylum Procedures Directive - ECRE Weekly Bulletin 9 January 2015

We regret that the link to ECRE’s information note on the EU’s recast Asylum Procedures Directive was missing in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin disseminated by email on 9 January.

The article ‘ECRE publishes recommendations on how to transpose the EU’s recast Asylum Procedures Directive’ is available on ECRE’s website with the correct links. The note provides a detailed analysis of the key provisions in the Directive and recommendations on how to transpose and implement those provisions.