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 December 2016
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ECRE Study: The implementation of the hotspots in Italy and Greece

The EU ‘hotspot approach’ was designed to ensure operational support to Member States facing disproportionate migratory pressure. However, one year since the first hotspots was set up and half a year since the entry into force of the EU Turkey Statement, research reveals that the pressure in these countries is growing and the challenges in accessing protection are multiplying.

Many newly arrived migrants have been trapped in prolonged detention, including vulnerable persons, such as pregnant women and small children. The reception conditions are problematic and overcrowding and different treatment of people based on nationality create tensions. Unaccompanied minors are still detained in the hotspots in the absence of proper guardianship systems and specialised shelters. Further there are serious gaps of information, and the hotspots need more interpreters and cultural mediators.

“This is an experiment, a pilot model of registration and identification at the points of arrival that selects between people seeking asylum and people to be returned. Yet the hotspots currently apply practices and standards that are inadequate and disrespect fundamental rights” says Aspasia Papadopoulou Senior Policy Officer at the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE).

The study is part of a project led by the Dutch Council for Refugees, in partnership with ECRE, the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR), the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and ProAsyl that aims to support monitoring of hotspots in Greece and Italy and the strengthening of legal assistance provision by local NGOs. 
Read the full report


ECRE concludes fact-finding visit to Croatia

ECRE conducted a fact-finding visit to Croatia between 28 November and 1 December 2016 as part of its Asylum Information Database (AIDA). Through its visit, ECRE examined the current situation of asylum procedures and reception conditions available to asylum seekers, including those returned under the Dublin system.
Following the closure of the Western Balkan route in March 2016, Croatia has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of people seeking asylum, from only 211 in 2015 to 2,046 so far this year.  The increase is the result of the fact that asylum seekers are unable to transit to other countries along the route as well as a raise in the number of people returned to Croatia under the Dublin Regulation.
“There appears to be a reversal of movement of people along the Western Balkan route, and an increasing number of returning asylum seekers have been faced with the consequences of a growing pressure on the Croatian asylum system. There are reasons for concern when it comes to the procedural treatment and the reception conditions they face”, says Minos Mouzourakis, AIDA Coordinator.
Through cooperation with the Croatian Law Centre, an organisation providing legal assistance to asylum seekers and AIDA expert for Croatia, the ECRE mission was able to access key actors including national authorities, UNHCR representatives, academics as well as civil society organisations and volunteer groups protecting and assisting refugees on the ground.
“We were aiming to get a balanced and thorough understanding of the challenges underlying the work of the Croatian authorities and therefore it was vital for us to meet the full range of actors,” says Minos Mouzourakis.
A report of the mission will be published in December 2016. Reports of previous ECRE fact-finding visits can be found here.
For more information, see:  

ECRE Campaign Launch #ShareOurEurope

The ECRE Communication Team is looking to share stories of personal engagement for the refugees and asylum seekers across Europe to present under the hashtag #ShareOurEurope.

Join a narrative of hope and send us links or updates through Facebook, Twitter  or mail ( More information on the campaign here



European Commission proposes to increase numbers of returns to Turkey under EU-Turkey Deal and re-start returns to Greece under Dublin

The European Commission published its Fourth Report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal this week.  The publication comes together with a Joint Action Plan of the EU Coordinator on the implementation of certain provisions of the EU-Turkey Statement that outlines several modifications to the Greek asylum procedure aiming to increase numbers of returns under the EU Turkey deal, as well as a Recommendation to EU Member States to reinstate the Dublin procedure to Greece. The proposals have been sharply criticised by a number of actors, including Amnesty International.
Three main proposals are put forward by the Commission to modify the EU Turkey Deal. The first foresees the abolition of the exemption of vulnerable persons or persons falling within the family provisions of the Dublin Regulation from the exceptional border procedure applied on the Greek islands. Safeguards might only be maintained for victims of torture or other forms of violence, and families in case the right to family life is threatened. The second proposal envisages the further speeding up of the decision-making for asylum seekers such as Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian nationals. Finally, the Commission urges Greece to exert stronger pressure on its Appeals Committees for faster decisions and to explore the possibility to limit the number of appeal steps in the context of the asylum process. So far a number a significant number of returns under the EU-Turkey Deal have been prevented by the rulings of the Appeals Committees.
Further, the Commission recommended that Member States reinstate Dublin procedures to Greece from 15 March 2017 onward.  Ahead of the resumption of Dublin procedure and transfers to Greece, the Commission recommends Greece to ensure sufficient reception capacity, guarantee at least the minimum standards of the recast Reception Conditions Directive in all facilities, to increase the efficiency of the asylum procedure and to effectively implement the new legal aid scheme.  

Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, has called the proposals “hypocritical.” She states that: “Asylum-seekers on the Greek islands face overcrowding, freezing temperatures, lack of hot water, violence and hate-motivated attacks. While we have long called for reception conditions to improve, forcing refugees to stay on the islands only so that they can be returned to Turkey, in line with Turkey’s interpretation of the deal, is inhumane. Pressure on Greece must be immediately alleviated, not increased.”
For further information:

European Commission has launched the European Solidarity Corps

On the 7th of December, the Commission has launched the European Solidarity Corps. Through the Solidarity Corps, young people will be able to volunteer where needed most in order to respond to crisis situations. They will have the opportunity to engage in solidarity activities for the most vulnerable communities in a wide range of areas, such as providing food, cleaning forests or helping with the integration of refugees. It is aimed to have 100.000 young Europeans participating in the Solidarity Corps by 2020.

The Solidarity Corps targets young people between the age of 18 and 30 who are willing to volunteer or do an internship, apprenticeship or who want to work where it is needed. “These young people will be able to develop their skills, and get not only work, but also an invaluable human experience”, Juncker says.
The Solidarity Corps is part of an entire package of EU actions to support Member States in fighting youth unemployment and enhance EU programmes dedicated to youth.

During the launch event held in Brussels on the 7th of December, people could inform themselves about the new Corps and meet participating organisations. There was also possibility to register for the European Solidarity Corps on the spot.

For further information:
  • European Solidarity Corps Website


Lack of information on legal procedures leaves refugee children from Calais waiting distressed in reception centres

Lack of information on the side of the Home Office has caused psychological stress for unaccompanied refugee children who have been distributed around France from Calais. ECRE’s member organisations France terre d’asile and the UK Refugee Council have urged the French and British governments to provide sufficient protection and information to these children.
Media reported this week that a lack of information regarding their options and future left many refugee children in psychological stress. France terre d’asile stressed that the main issue is the risk that some children will leave again through Calais or other risky routes.
Following the dismantling of the makeshift refugee camp in Calais, 1616 unaccompanied refugee children have been distributed to newly set up temporary reception centres, called Centre d’accueil et d’orientation pour mineurs isolés (CAOMI) around the country. In these open centres their claim to be transferred to the UK, either to join their family members under Dublin III or under the Dubs Amendment, is assessed by the Home Office.  
Since the UK and French government’s vow to “give utmost priority” to the protection of vulnerable children in Calais after the dismantling of the camp, the UK government has made its guidelines for refugee children to be admitted under Dubs stricter.
Refugee Council’s Policy Manger Judith Dennis told ECRE that it is crucial that the UK develops necessary policies and procedures to enable those with a right to come to Britain to travel there safe and swift. France terre d’asile called on the British government to its responsibility and remain faithful to its promise to welcome children in their best interest, and reminded the French government they need to provide adequate protection within the general child protection system for those rejected.
For further information:


UNHCR presents new vision aimed at better protecting refugees in the EU and globally

On Monday 5 December, UNHCR presented a paper outlining proposals on how to reform the Common European Asylum System to better manage migration and enhance the spirit of partnership and solidarity.
“Last year, Europe failed to implement a collective, managed response to the challenges posed by the arrival of over a million refugees and migrants. It is important that EU Member States show, through collective action, that Europe is capable of engaging effectively and in a principled manner with refugee movements, helping to stabilize refugee flows over the long term through more strategic external engagement - while at the same time, continuing to welcome refugees in Europe,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi states in the introduction of the paper.
The paper contains four proposals aimed at making the EU more engaged, prepared and committed to protection and integration. The reform proposals include initiatives such as a common European registration system, accelerated and simplified procedures for asylum determination and prioritization of family reunification. It further suggests a common approach to unaccompanied and separated children, a distribution mechanism for Member States under pressure of a high number of arrivals and an efficient system for returning individuals who are not in need of protection to their countries of origin.
The paper was presented to the general public on Monday by the High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and discussed in detail with ECRE during a roundtable on Tuesday.
The paper comes timely, when the European Commission proposed seven legislative proposals for the reform of the CEAS. “We hereby inform members, partners and others that the vision paper is public and encourage you to read and form your opinions – we are sure it will be debated in the time to come,” says Catherine Woollard, Secretary General for ECRE.  


European politicians silent over mounting number of deaths at Turkish-Syrian border

Syrian refugees continue to be shot at the Turkish – Syrian border, news reported this week. ECRE’s German member Pro Asyl links the silence of European politicians towards these shootings directly to the interest to manage refugee flows to the Union through the EU Turkey Deal.

According to news reports, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that during the last year 163 Syrians have been shot death at the Turkish-Syrian border. Among the deaths were 30 children. Also German newspaper Spiegel Online collected testimonies during the last months of people witnessing the shootings. Already in May Human Rights Watch documented shooting, beating and illegal push-backs of Syrian refugees at the Turkish border.

As of November 2016 Turkey hosts 2.6 mil Syrian refugees - currently the largest population of refugees anywhere in the world.  More restrictive measures towards Syrians have been taken by the government. In September this year the Turkish government stated that it would finish the construction of a wall along its 900km long border with Syria by spring 2017. The first stretch of the wall has been completed after construction began in 2014.  In January this year Turkey introduced visa requirements for Syrians entering the country.

Karl Kopp, Pro Asyl’s Director of European Affairs told ECRE: “The silence of Europe on the fatal shootings at the Turkish-Syrian border speaks volumes. For people who flee   before war and terror in Syria, all escape routes are closed. Already on 7 January 2016, Turkey had introduced the visa requirement for Syrian refugees from third countries - under applause from the EU.  The suffering of the fugitives in the Turkish border area is also the result of European refugee policy.”
For further information  



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