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.

13 May 2016
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Policy Roundtable on the Reception of Unaccompanied Minors

To mark the end of the project No Longer Alone: Advancing Reception Standards for Unaccompanied Children, ECRE and its project partners* are organising a policy roundtable to highlight key challenges and solutions for the reception of unaccompanied minors.

The project aimed to contribute to the improvement of reception standards for unaccompanied children (UAC) and to ensure that when designing accommodation and reception conditions the needs of UAC are properly taken into account. It consisted of five study visits to reception centres considered as good practices, in the Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, UK (Scotland) and France. The final roundtable aims at bringing together the participants of the project with key experts in the field of child protection to discuss the challenges, best practices and solutions encountered, and to evaluate whether the reception models studied are transferrable to other situations, especially in light of the current national and European developments.

The roundtable will take place on Monday 6 June 2016, from 14.30 to 17.30 in Brussels. The event is open to policy and decision makers, child rights professionals and NGOs. Registration is available through this link.

* Project partners include: Scottish Refugee Council, France terre d’asile, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Nidos, Save the Children Sweden, the Scottish government and the Directorate for Juvenile Justice Protection of the French Ministry of Justice and the Groupement d'intérêt public 'Justice Coopération International' - GIP JCI.


Turkey or not? The controversy continues

A visit of a GUE/NGL (European United Left – Nordic Green Left) parliamentary delegation last week to Turkey revealed that the people returned under the EU-Turkey deal – including children - are not given an opportunity to apply for asylum, are denied access to information, and detained in prison-like conditions with no access to legal assistance.

The delegation visited two removal centres and confirmed in conversation with the returnees the horrible conditions to which they are exposed. Previous reports by Human Rights Watch and ECRE member Multeci-Der have also documented the lack of access to information and legal assistance, in the framework of the EU-Turkey deal, whilst its implementation has been praised by EU officials. 

One of the conditions of the (in)famous EU-Turkey deal is that Turkish nationals will be granted visa-free travel to the European Union from June, and in order to do so, Turkey needs to meet a series of requirements set out by the EU. In its recent Visa Progress Report on Turkey, the European Commission recognised that a number of measures are still to be met - namely a change to anti-terrorist laws.

At the same time though, the Commission proposed a waiver for the outstanding visa requirements, with the understanding that they will be met soon enough. Many members of the European Parliament have voiced strong concerns in this regard, highlighting the need to not treat Turkey as a privileged partner, and the European Parliament refused to continue discussions on visa liberalisation unless all the conditions are met beforehand by Turkey.

Turkey’s anti-terror laws provide a very broad definition of the term, which has in the past also included journalists and academics. However, Turkish President Erdogan has stated that a change to the anti-terrorism laws is not going to be discussed and threatened the end of the EU-Turkey deal if visa liberalisation is not granted.

In the meantime, the EU-Turkey deal seems to have reached a standstill: only 15 more refugees have been resettled from Turkey to the EU over the last few weeks and no returns to Turkey have taken place since 27 April.

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LIBE Committee publishes study on the “hotspots” approach

A recent report commissioned by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE Committee) examines the support that is provided to frontline EU Member States, with a special focus on the implementation of the “hotspots” approach in Greece and Italy. The study emphasises the lack of legal certainty surrounding the “hotspots” and provides a series of recommendations to the European Parliament.

The report On the frontline: the hotspot approach to managing migration highlights the need of a legal instrument to provide clarity on the “hotspots” approach and the need to ensure a clearer role of the agencies involved in the management of the “hotspots” (Frontex, EASO and Europol). It also recommends that the Fundamental Rights Agency have a greater role in addressing some of the serious fundamental rights challenges.

The study urgently recommends that access to the asylum procedure is granted to asylum seekers who do not qualify for relocation, a concern which was also voiced by ECRE. The EU-Turkey deal is furthermore seen as problematic and there is a need to closely monitor any developments – especially in relation to the transformation of “hotspots” into closed detention facilities and the focus of efforts on returns. Finally, the report opposes resuming Dublin transfers to Greece.


Hungary to resume transfers of asylum seekers under Dublin regulation to Greece in overall climate of human rights repression

The Hungarian Office for Immigration and Nationality has recently issued decisions ordering the transfer of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation. ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has expressed concern regarding these developments and called on Hungary to continue the suspension of transfers to Greece.

Transfers of asylum seekers to Greece  have been suspended since 2011 following rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, on account of the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment of asylum seekers in the country.

“The HHC find this recent development extremely worrisome: first it is unfair to Greece, which is already struggling to be able to handle the backlog of cases and provide shelter and protection to refugees. Second, it is clear that the situation in Greece for refugees and asylum seekers is still far from the standards required by the European Union. According to information provided by the ELENA network, there is no other Member State which orders transfers to Greece, which shows that the situation is still not assessed as satisfactory,” stated the HHC.

This trend is taking place in an overall rush to dismantle the right to asylum in the country and a more general climate of regression of human rights protection. In a report released by UNHCR this week, serious concerns are raised about the compatibility with international and European law of measures taken recently in the field of asylum: the construction of the border fence, the criminalisation of ‘irregular entry’ and the application of the safe third country concept with regards to Serbia, FYROM and Greece.

Moreover, the Universal Periodic Review at the UN last week revealed the depths of the hostility against media and civil society in the country, and the erosion of freedom of expression, independence of the judiciary, and the asylum system.

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Turkey violently rejects asylum seekers and clamps down on human rights

Human Rights Watch published this week a damning article documenting violence at the Syrian-Turkish border: according to the organisation, in March and April 2016 Turkish border guards violently attempted to stop Syrians from entering the country, beating them and shooting at them. The violence resulted in at least five people killed and fourteen seriously injured. Furthermore, push-backs at the border have been documented since at least August 2015, in a blatant violation of the non-refoulement principle.

These findings seriously contradict Turkey’s officially stated “open border” policy for Syrians. The country has moreover completed the construction of a rocket-resistant concrete wall along 911 kilometres of its border with Syria, making its territory ever more difficult to access. The Syrian-Turkish border is an increasingly dangerous area, and as recently as last week, a refugee camp near the border was bombed in an airstrike allegedly perpetrated by Syrian government forces, leaving more than 20 people dead.

At the same time, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein issued a statement this week condemning the actions of the Turkish security forces in the south-east area of the country, where hundreds are reported dead and many more injured in anti-terrorist operations. The Turkish government has also denied access to these areas to UN human rights monitors.

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“Meanwhile, people are still dying”: statement by refugee and migrant communities to all European citizens

“We, people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, workers, parents, students, soon-to-be or already European citizens, are joining our voices to all those ashamed of how Europe is treating refugees and migrants,” reads a statement by refugee and migrant communities in Europe published today. The statement, which calls on European citizens to react against inhumane asylum policies, was initiated by the Greek Forum of Refugees and has been signed and supported by over 80 refugee and migrant organisations and refugee-assisting NGOs all over Europe.

“We are raising our voices now to defend what we were taught to be European values: democracy, justice, tolerance, Human Rights and equality. We should not forget why people are coming to Europe. People come because they believed in our values,” say the refugee and migrant communities.”

The statement emerged from the need of the communities to speak out regarding the current situation in Europe, particularly regarding the implications of the EU-Turkey deal, detention, xenophobia and the overall situation for migrants and migrants in Europe.

“What’s wrong? Is Europe so poor that it cannot provide a shelter to just 1.7% of the refugees and displaced in the world? There are 59.5 million forced migrants in the world, the overwhelming majority of whom don’t ever get to Europe. Is Europe so scared that it cannot open legal ways for other migrants to come and go? Is it so difficult that the EU has to agree a deal with a country like Turkey, with such a low human rights record, to do what we should not do?

Can we tell our children that while Western countries are giving lessons to the world about human rights and equality, the same countries allow children to be detained on European soil, sometimes without enough food, and no school, that people are to be deported to an uncertain future without being listened to, and all sorts of human rights are being violated in the name of migration “management”, with the sole obsession of “reducing” numbers?”

Read the full statement here.

#RefugeesVoice campaign by the Greek Forum for Refugees shows every day struggles of refugees

“Does it help that we are making this video? Will it change something?,” asks a single mother from Afghanistan with a 10 year old boy, wondering whether her testimony on the difficulties she is facing as a refugee in Greece will ever lead to a change of circumstances.

Even though single mothers with underage children are extremely vulnerable and therefore entitled to special treatment to ensure maximal and appropriate protection, this mother has faced nothing but difficulties along the way. These difficulties exclude her from being integrated in a society where she constantly finds barriers instead of the application of her rights that should allow her to build up a future. In a campaign by the Greek Forum of Refugees, refugees explain the particular difficulties they face in their life in Greece, ranging from racism and xenophobia to lack of healthcare and even detention.

By disclosing the daily struggles of refugees, the #RefugeesVoice campaign aims to promote information on the rights of refugees and to denounce the violations of rights that hinder their integration into Greek society. All the interviews are combined with essential information on the refugees’ fundamental rights in EU and Greek law.


Kenya’s decision to close refugee camps could leave over 600,000 people displaced again

On Friday 6 May 2016 the Ministry of Interior of Kenya announced its plans to close all refugee camps on its territory and end refugee protection. In its declaration the reasons for the closure were described as “very heavy economic, security and environmental issues”. The camps in the Dadaab region, hosting around 350,000 refugees, and Kakuma, hosting over 190,000 refugees, would close due to this decision “within the shortest time possible”. UNHCR and civil society organisations have expressed their concerns about this decision and its disastrous consequences and called on Kenya not to ignore its obligations under international law.

With a refugee population of over 600,000 people, Kenya has played an important and generous role in East Africa and the Horn of Africa in the past. Conflicts in South-Sudan and Somalia have resulted in large displaced populations that have moved to Kenya. With the closure of the camps, this would mean these people become displaced once more.

While acknowledging and welcoming the responsibility that Kenya has borne in the past decades, a group of NGOs has asked the Government of Kenya to uphold the protection and rights of refugees who are prone to human rights violations. The NGOs predict a humanitarian disaster in the case of an abrupt closure. They also call upon the international community to expand its resettlement quotas for refugees from the Horn of Africa and demand that Kenya offers durable solutions. Similar demands have also been voiced by UNHCR and Amnesty International, showing widespread opposition to this measure.

The Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs has already been dismantled as a first step in the process. In a press statement from 11 May, the Ministry of Interior indicated that a timetable for the dismantling of the camps is expected in June 2016.

For further information: