AIDA update Ireland: proposed asylum reform fails to squarely address direct provision
The updated AIDA report on Ireland provides information on the reform of the protection system, on the basis of the General Scheme of the International Protection Bill presented in March 2015. The text of the bill is due to be published in the coming days. Amongst other changes the draft International Protection Bill proposes a single asylum procedure to replace the existing multi-layered system as well as abolishing the independent Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and subsuming it within the Department of Justice and Equality.
A Working Group on the Protection Process, marking the first review of the protection process since the establishment of the Direct Provision system 15 years ago, issued its final report in June 2015. The report contained 173 recommendations in areas covering the protection system, reception conditions and ancillary supports for asylum seekers, yet missed the opportunity to squarely address call for an end to Direct Provision, writes the Irish Refugee Council.
Through the Statutory Instrument No. 317 of 2015 European Union (Subsidiary Protection) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, Ireland now provides that eligibility for subsidiary protection is only assessed once an applicant’s claim for refugee status is refused, following the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in HN v Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
In response to the refugee crisis, Ireland will participate in the relocation scheme from Italy and Greece by relocating 3,480 asylum seekers over the next two years. As part of that response Ireland will also resettle 520 refugees from outside Europe. In September 2015 the Department of Justice and Equality established an ‘Irish Refugee Protection Programme’ where a network of what is referred to as ‘Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres’ will provide accommodation for the relocated asylum seekers to Ireland. The Minister for Justice has indicated that the assessment and decisions on refugee status for these relocated asylum seekers will be made within weeks, so although not formally prioritised as such, their claims will be examined very quickly. The first group of relocated asylum seekers are due to arrive in Ireland by the end of this year.
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This article originally appeared in the Asylum Information Database (AIDA).
Malta AIDA update: lower numbers of asylum seekers lead to decrease in the use of detention
This year, Malta has seen positive improvements in its asylum policy, in particular a decreased use of detention, according to the updated Asylum Information Database (AIDA) report written by ECRE members, aditus Foundation and Jesuit Refugee Service Malta. The decrease is due to the lower numbers of people reaching Malta by boat; only 99 people in 2015. Following an agreement signed by Malta and Italy, all those rescued in Maltese territorial waters and the Search and Rescue Zone were disembarked in Italy.
In 2015, the majority of asylum seekers in Malta arrived regularly, by plane, and as a consequence were not detained. As a result, Lyster Barracks, one of the detention facilities, was closed in mid-2015 as no persons were detained there. Moreover, an Initial Reception Centre with a capacity of 200 places was established in early 2015 for unaccompanied children and children accompanied by up to two family members. The intention is to avoid the detention of minors, yet it is unclear whether the conditions of stay in that centre would, in practice, amount to deprivation of liberty.
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Michael Diedring leaves ECRE to become Director of EPIM
ECRE’s Secretary General, Michael Diedring, will be leaving the organisation in early 2016 to begin his role as the new Director of the European Programme on Integration and Migration (EPIM).
“To my colleagues at the secretariat, this has been a most difficult choice as I respect and admire the dedication, expertise and commitment they bring to their work every day. To the ECRE Board, I thank them for the trust and support provided to me. And last but certainly not least, to ECRE’s membership, it has been a true honour and privilege to have represented the interests of this unique alliance. The daily work of ECRE’s members provides inspiration in a sector that has recently been filled mostly with suffering and despair. The importance of this alliance has never been greater. I am proud to have been associated with ECRE, and am enthusiastic to undertake my new role at EPIM,” Michael Diedring said.
ECRE Board Chair Morten Kjærum wished Michael Diedring the very best for the future and thanked him for his enormous contributions to ECRE:
"Although it is with much regret that we bid farewell to Michael Diedring, I can, at least, take comfort in the knowledge that a man of his qualities will continue to work in his new role for the betterment of refugees and migrants in Europe,” Mr Kjærum said.
“Over the past few years as I have gotten to know Michael, I was struck by his profound dedication to the cause of refugee protection. He arrived at ECRE at precisely the right time, and went on to lead ECRE during a particularly tragic period for refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe. In this, he showed fortitude and an unswerving resolution in articulating the case for a truly humanitarian, European, response. For this, the ECRE family is deeply grateful,” he added.
ECRE’s Board will formally launch a search for a new leader shortly.
Valletta Summit: EU and Africa commit to prevent irregular migration, but support legal mobility
At the Valletta Summit on migration of 11 and 12 November 2015, 60 European and African Heads of State and governments agreed on a political declaration and Action Plan for cooperation in the area of migration, with sixteen priority initiatives to be launched before the end of 2016. African civil society has criticized the Action Plan for being one sided and Eurocentric, and many organisations are worried by the increasing emphasis placed on return and readmission in cooperation for development.
‘’While there are some positive steps in the area of legal migration for work, study and research, as well as a commitment to strengthen search and rescue, it is clear that the European States’ main objective remains to deter the migratory flows. No meaningful commitment is there for safe and legal channels for refugees’’, stated Michael Diedring, ECRE’s Secretary General.
The priority initiatives agreed on include development, legal migration and mobility, international protection, the management of irregular migration, smuggling and trafficking, and return. Participating States agreed to step up operational cooperation between EU agencies and African law enforcement authorities and launch projects to strengthen institutional capacities and carry out joint investigations to fight against human trafficking and smuggling. EU and African representatives announced further measures to facilitate return and readmission of migrants, not only from Europe, but also from country of transit to country of origin.
‘’We are particularly concerned about the emphasis placed on border control and readmission, and even more so at the bilateral level between European and African states, which bears significant risks of refoulement, detention and ill treatment in countries of origin and transit,” Mr Diedring said.
States agreed to enhance the protection capacities of countries hosting large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, including security in refugee camps and supporting local development for host communities and refugees alike. Countries need to be supported in their efforts to adhere to and comply with the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol; access to justice, legal assistance, witness-protection, health and psychosocial support will be facilitated. The Action Plan stresses the need to further engage with civil society, and jointly explore the concept of enhanced capacities in priority regions along the main migratory routes, possibly with pilot projects in cooperation with UNHCR. Existing programmes, such as the Regional Development and Protection Programmes in the Horn of Africa and North, and resettlement commitments are also mentioned in the plan.
The Action Plan will be implemented and monitored in the framework of the Rabat Process, the Khartoum Process and the Africa-EU Partnership. In addition to existing financial instruments, the Action Plan is supported by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. So far Member States and EU’s contributions amount to €81.2 million. In parallel to the Summit, the EU and Ethiopia signed a joint Declaration for a Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM).
For further information:
- EU Council President Donald Tusk, Remarks at the press conference at the Valletta Summit on migration , 12 November 2015
- European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Speech at the Valletta Summit on Migration, 11 November 2015
- European Commission, President Juncker launches the EU Emergency Trust Fund to tackle root causes of irregular migration in Africa, Valletta 12 November 2015
- African and European Civil Society, Joint Statement Valletta Summit 11-12 November 2015, 9 November 2015
- Amnesty International, EU-Africa Summit in Valletta must not dress up border control as ‘co-operation’, 10 November 2015
- HRW, EU/AU: Put Rights at Heart of Migration Efforts, 9 November 2015
- IRIN news EU Africa migrant plan raises worrying questions, 12 November 2015
EU ministers agree on measures to deter ‘non-cooperation’ of refugees and migrants
Following another extraordinary meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 9 November, EU interior ministers agreed on a number of measures to handle the refugee and migration crisis, including measures to overcome the potential lack of cooperation from people arriving into the EU.
In particular, they agreed to make use of EU law to accelerate asylum procedures, conduct border procedures, use ‘coercive measures’ including detention and forced fingerprinting of people entering the EU. Alongside this, ministers want to define an information strategy geared at ‘reducing pull factors’, explaining that all migrants must register in the first Member State of arrival. Furthermore, they intend to take measures to ensure that onward movement and non-cooperation are discouraged. ECRE has already expressed alarm over the use of coercive measures and detention for asylum seekers who refuse to be fingerprinted, given the dubious legal basis to do so. The disproportionate nature of such measures, in ECRE’s view, is an affront to the physical integrity of refugees and an assault on their human rights.
The Luxembourg foreign affairs minister, and president of the Council, Jean Asselborn acknowledged the need to slow down and control the scale of refugee movements, so as to make it more manageable. Work on ‘hotspots’ will therefore be intensified to make all of them operational by the end of the November; Italy and Greece are moreover required to accelerate the preparatory steps necessary for relocation. In addition, the Council agreed to explore the concept of processing centres in countries where the ‘hotspot approach’ is not being used, in order to organise access to international protection and/or for the purpose of return. It is understood that these will be set up both inside and outside the EU, with a focus on Western Balkan countries.
Only 147 people have been relocated under the EU scheme so far, with a target of 160,000. In addition, Sweden - which had committed to accepting refugees relocated from Italy and Greece - is now seeking the relocation of those arriving on its territory to other EU countries.
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Western Balkans route: insufficient and inadequate transportation for refugees on the move
Refugees continue to cross the Western Balkans packed in overcrowded trains, as transportation is limited and insufficient, considering the large number of arrivals. Consequently, refugees wait for hours at border crossings or at reception centres, such as Presevo in Serbia, where additional emergency shelters and sanitation facilities are urgently needed, as well as improvements to hygienic conditions. Many families have been separated in the attempt to board trains, resulting in increasing numbers of children forced to continue the journey alone. Bad weather conditions and limited humanitarian assistance at every step of the route pose further challenges for refugees seeking protection in Europe.
After registering their intention to seek asylum at the Vinojug reception centre in Macedonia, many of the refugees taking the train to the Serbian border continue to be overcharged for tickets by railway officials. In addition, despite the establishment of a new ticket office at the Vinojug asylum centre, the carriages are still overcrowded and hygiene conditions in the trains remain a serious concern.
From the Serbian border town of Miratovac to the registration centre of Presevo, transportation has been increasingly challenging for refugees: due to cold temperatures, rain and bad weather conditions, buses cannot easily drive on roads. Although IOM and UNHCR continued to provide vulnerable refugees with transportation, many still have to walk.
From Wednesday 4th November, in line with an agreement between Serbia and Croatia, refugees are now transported from Presevo to Sid, at the Croatian border. Then, other trains drive them to Slavonski Bord in Croatia, the new temporary asylum centre replacing Opatovac. This decision was aimed to avoid crossings through Bapska-Berkasovo, as there were no facilities there to provide humanitarian help. However, in the week following the agreement, large groups of refugees still preferred entering Croatia through the former border crossing point, due to the long wait for the trains.
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Risks of mixed migration in North East Africa explored in new paper
A research paper by MHub, focusing on the conditions and risks of migration in North East Africa, found no evidence to support the idea that large numbers of people are leaving their countries of origin in Africa with the intention of reaching Europe.
Both mapping and illustrating the highly complex migration patterns in the region, the report suggests that many migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers target regional employment markets in Africa, only to find that protection needs are not met in these places. Equally, the lack of safe, regular migration opportunities was found to be driving migration underground, thus leading to risks of new human rights violations and abuses.
The report identifies the major human rights and protection risks confronting people on the move. They include, smuggling operations that develop into trafficking once migration has begun, the increased vulnerability of people who lack official - documented - evidence of their identity and the growing presence of unaccompanied minors on the move across the region.
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REPORTS & NGOs ACTIONS
Syrian refugee children struggle to access education in Turkey
Human Rights Watch released a report this week on the obstacles refugee children in Turkey face trying to access education. Although over 700,000 Syrian refugees living in Tukey are school-age children, during the last school year just over 200,000 were enrolled in formal education at primary and secondary levels.
Even though Turkey issued a policy that would allow all registered Syrian refugees to access the public school system, a number of practical obstacles remain which makes it extremely hard for children to attend school. For example, schools do not offer any language support for non-native Turkish speakers. Lack of information on enrolling procedures and social integration difficulties are other obstacles faced by Syrian children.
Moreover, as Syrian refugees are not allowed to work legally in Turkey, many children have to work in the informal market to help provide for their families and avoid destitution, as their parents wages are insufficient. “Failing to provide Syrian children with education puts an entire generation at risk. With no real hope for a better future, desperate Syrian refugees may end up putting their lives on the line to return to Syria or take dangerous journeys to Europe.”
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Report highlights concerns about the best interests of children in the UK asylum system
The Law Centres Network in the UK has published a report titled ‘Put Yourself in Our Shoes’ that calls on the government to keep children’s best interests at the heart of the asylum system. Due to their vulnerability, unaccompanied children who seek asylum should have their best interests prioritised throughout the asylum and care processes and are entitled to specific welfare protection and procedural safeguards.
The report records and analyses the experiences of 60 unaccompanied children who applied for asylum in the UK, and their lawyers, over a one year period. It finds there are a number of areas where, in practice, the best interests of the child are not adequately taken into account. As such, it makes a number of recommendations to improve asylum procedures for unaccompanied children in the UK and so too the skills and training of those working with them.
It notes that although the asylum process focuses on the immediate causes of the child leaving their country of origin, it overlooks other highly relevant factors which, if taken into account, would better enable the assessment of their best interests. These include, according to the children’s experiences, events that occurred during their journeys to the UK. The study reveals how dangerous and traumatic these journeys were; children reliant on agents and exposed to the risk of abuse, exploitation and hardship.
These experiences, together with the ‘suspended expectations’ of asylum-seeking children, caused by a high degree of uncertainty about the outcome of their asylum process, and henceforth, about their futures, are liable to cause stress, anxiety and other mental health problems. In addition, there are few, if any, attempts to seek their opinions or thoughts, or to understand their feelings or desires.
The report finds that there is a lack of support and coordination amongst professionals working with this vulnerable group, both of which are necessary to ensure that these children’s needs are met.
For further information:
- 17 November, London, Lost Journeys: The Stories of Child Refugees (a play staged by ice&fire), Queen Mary University of London Human Rights Collegium
- 18 November, Brussels, Refugees’ integration in the EU labour market: seizing the opportunities - tackling the challenges, ILO
- 24 November, Brussels, Border Stories: From there to here. How innovative research into personal experiences can help the EU address Intra EU mobility and Third Country Migration, London Higher Europe
- 25 November, London, Asylum Aid 25th Anniversary Party, Asylum Aid
- 30 November, London, Launch of new ENS toolkit on Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention, European Network on Statelessness
- 18 December, Brussels, Illustrate Our Rights Launching Event, Migrants Matter
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