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.

17 June 2016

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Accommodation options for asylum seekers in Greece

In a report released on 9 June, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) analyses the accommodation options in Athens, Greece, for asylum seekers and refugees. According to UNHCR, 50,000 refugees who arrived prior to the EU-Turkey deal are currently stranded in Greece, 12,000 of which are based in Athens and its surroundings. As a result of the deal, these refugees have only a few options left: apply for asylum in Greece, apply for relocation to another European country or voluntarily return to their country of origin. The number of potential asylum applicants in Greece leads to a shift in duration and type of residence. Short-term reception capacity will need to be replaced with longer-term solutions.

The CRS report contains information on the existing types of shelters and potential  shelters,  the living conditions, how they are managed  as well as setting out their locations. The report states that all mainland camps in the Athens area are full and that an increasing number of refugees and migrants are sleeping outside.


Stopping people from reaching Europe a top priority, according to Commission’s Communication

In a Communication  released on 7 June 2016, the European Commission proposed a new concept of cooperation with third countries, the Partnership Framework. This new approach will tie all existing EU and Member States' instruments and tools available in external cooperation to third countries’ abilities to stop people coming to Europe. The Communications states that it is a  priority  to see a reduction of irregular arrivals and increased numbers of returns to countries of origin and transit.

According to the Communication, the EU will  develop a mix of positive and negative incentives that will be integrated into  EU’s development aid, neighbourhood, trade, energy and security policies. Countries cooperating with the EU on readmitting their own nationals and third country nationals will be rewarded, as well as those taking action to adequately host people fleeing conflict and persecution.

Agreements, or “compacts”, are proposed with key countries, and will become the key component of the overall relationship between these countries and the EU. “In the short term we will deliver compacts with Jordan and Lebanon and take steps to agree further ones with Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia. We also intend to increase our engagement with Tunisia and Libya,” the European Commission stated.

There is an apparent lack of any sort of commitment to human rights standards and safeguards that will ensure that persons are not returned to countries where their fundamental rights may be at risk. Amnesty International  raised serious concerns over the idea of enhancing cooperation with Libya, highlighting several human rights violations in the country and at the hands of Libyan Border Guards. “Europe shouldn’t even think about migration cooperation arrangements with Libya if it results, directly or indirectly, in such shocking human rights violations,” stated Amnesty International’s Magdalena Mughrabi.

The Communication regularly refers to the EU-Turkey deal as a good practice to be duplicated with other countries. ECRE, as well as other NGOS and MEPS, has repeatedly warned that the EU-Turkey deal is an unlawful and unethical agreement and creates a dangerous precedent in external cooperation.

In terms of development cooperation, countries that cooperate in return and migration management will be prioritised in terms of funding. Organisations such as Platforma have already criticised this approach of tying development cooperation to the countries’ performance in the field of migration. “Diverting European Development Fund resources towards projects pursuing security objectives, such as border management and control jeopardizes long-term, global objectives to shorter-term concerns,” the organisation argues.

It is also concerning that no clear commitments are made to open up safe and legal channels to Europe. The Communication suggests rather that Europe's international partners should assume their responsibility in global resettlement efforts. Resettlement, labour migration and visas are suggested as suitable rewards and leverage for the partner countries, following the model of the EU- Turkey deal.


New Commission recommendation before reinstatement of transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under Dublin

The European Commission has issued a second Recommendation to the Greek government relating to necessary measures to be taken in view of a resumption of transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation.

Following on from its shorter Recommendation of 10 February 2016, the Commission has introduced a more detailed assessment of the necessary preconditions before a reinstatement of Dublin transfers to Greece may take place. Many of the specific recommendations made reflect concerns expressed by ECRE in its Comments to the Recommendation, including among others:
  • The need to clarify that reception facilities must follow the standards of the recast Reception Conditions Directive and be designed for “permanent” or longer-term accommodation, rather than short stays. As explained in earlier ECRE positions, less than 1,500 such places exist in reception centres in Greece at the moment;
  • The need for sizeable investments in human and financial resources, following a needs assessment by the Greek authorities, to enhance the capacity of the Asylum Service to register and examine a considerably higher of asylum applications compared to previous years, as well as the capacity of the Appeals Authority to examine appeals;
  • The need to implement the legal aid scheme recently introduced for appeals by Law 4375/2016 and to establish a registry of lawyers providing legal representation to asylum seekers under that framework;
  • Specific needs pertaining to vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children or victims of torture and violence.
Given the persisting deficiencies in the Greek asylum system, the 15 June Commission Recommendation seems to confirm more firmly than its predecessor that reinstating transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation would still be a premature endeavour. From the outset, the Commission notes that:

“Any resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece should also take into account that Greece still needs to deal with a potentially large number of new asylum applicants, notably as a result of the implementation of the so-called pre-registration exercise, and it should be avoided that an unsustainable burden is placed on Greece.”

However, the intention of the Commission to include Dublin returns to the political agenda last September seems to have reinvigorated Member States’ interest in resuming transfers. Hungary has already issued decisions to that effect, though asylum seekers have not yet been transferred back to Greece at this stage.
For further information:  This article originally appeared in the Asylum Information Database (AIDA)


Worsening conditions for refugees in Hungary

On 15 June, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee released an update on the legislative changes in Hungary, stating that due to changes adopted on 13 June whereby people who are arrested within 8 km of either the Serbian-Hungarian or the Croatian-Hungarian border will be “escorted” to the external side of the border fence by the police, without having their protection needs assessed or being registered. “Hungary has authorised the automatic push-back of persons potentially in need of international protection from the territory of Hungary to the border area of Hungary and Serbia, where they will have to queue for several days or even weeks in order to be admitted to one of the few “transit zones” established as part of the border fence,” states the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

UNHCR has recently released a statement on the dire conditions of refugees stranded outside the transit zones Röszke and Tompa. Hungary’s restrictive policy of only allowing 15-17 asylum seekers per day in the two transit zones is resulting in hundreds of refugees and migrants outside the camps, suffering day and night, without any proper support at the EU border.

In the fields outside both zones some 600 refugees are waiting for the possibility to enter, in places where the conditions are not fit for people to stay, according to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. The conditions on both sites are broadly the same: a single tap, no toilets and handouts of cold snacks. In addition to this hardship, there does not seem to be a system to select those eligible to enter the transit zone, which leads to desperation and tension amongst the refugees.

UNHCR has stated that these conditions and this restrictive system are forcing people outside the transit zones to resort to smugglers, who use increasingly dangerous routes thereby risking the lives of refugees and migrants with often tragic consequences.

In addition to this, UNHCR is also very concerned over the use of excessive violence by the Hungarian authorities as people try to cross the border. Since May 2016, UNHCR staff has gathered information on over 100 cases where there was excessive use of force. A worrying example is that of 3 June, when the Hungarian police reported the death of a 22 year old man in the Tisza River. The group with whom he was travelling to Serbia have said they were pushed back by the Hungarian authorities. UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Central Europe has called for a swift and thorough investigation into the circumstances of his tragic death.

For further information:


Over 1.19 million people in need of resettlement in 2017

UNHCR’s projected global resettlement needs 2017 report estimates that over 1.19 million people will be in need of resettlement. Syrians are the biggest group in need of resettlement (40%), followed by people from Sudan, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Resettlement is now more important than ever as a solution, and we must grasp this opportunity to increase the number of refugees benefitting from it, as well as other avenues for admission,” stated the High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

The report was released on the first day of the Annual Tripartite Consultations for Resettlement, co-chaired by ECRE member, the Dutch Council for Refugees and the Dutch government in partnership with UNHCR. At the meeting, 35 NGOs, including ECRE called on all parties to provide resettlement places and additional legal channels for at least 10% of the global refugee population annually.

In order to ensure safer legal pathways to Europe, NGO’s advocated that refugees should have access to extended family reunification, labour mobility schemes, student scholarships, private sponsorships, as well as medical evacuation and humanitarian visas. These additional pathways are crucial for refugees who are unable to access resettlement.


World Refugee Day: We stand #WithRefugees

20 June is World Refugee Day.  On that day, all over the world, particular attention is given to the millions of people who have to flee war and human rights violations or persecution. ECRE is joining refugee-assisting organisations in Belgium and UNHCR to call on everyone to stand #WithRefugees.

ECRE, UNHCR, Flemish Refugee Action, the Belgian Federal Agency for the reception of asylum seekers (Fedasil), the Belgian Red Cross and 11.11.11 are also supporting a concert with refugee artists organised with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra.

Various ECRE members are involved in organising events to mark this day in different countries, we invite you participate in those and show solidarity with refugees.

Human Rights Watch reports severe shortcomings for unaccompanied children in Sweden

In a recently released report, Human Rights Watch highlighted the many shortcomings and delays faced by unaccompanied minors in Sweden. The report, entitled Seeking Refuge, documented the long waits faced by children until a legal guardian is appointed, which is paramount to guaranteeing the child’s access to education, information and basic support services. Unaccompanied children also have to wait long periods of time before meeting with a social worker or healthcare provider.

Accommodation for unaccompanied children is in general not appropriate, with girls at times being placed in group housing with boys. Children often have to move multiple times to different housing, which takes a huge toll on their psychological well-being. Particularly worrying is the lack of specific treatment for girl asylum seekers, and especially for those who are victims of sexual violence.

While Swedish laws are generally in line with international human rights standards, the arrival of 35,000 unaccompanied children in the country in 2015 - compared to the 7,000 in 2014 - has put the system to the test. The huge backlog in asylum applications means that in some cases children have been in the country for 5 months or more without an asylum interview.

While the organisation recognises the steps taken by Sweden in dealing with an unprecedented number of children arriving, it also recommends that the authorities prioritise asylum claims of unaccompanied children and that guardians for unaccompanied children are promptly appointed and adequately trained.

For further information:

Ending childhood statelessness in Europe

A petition organised by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) calls on all European states to urgently take steps to address the problem of childhood statelessness. Thousands of children across Europe are growing up without a nationality, many of them born in Europe. By failing to meet their international obligations, States are effectively denying these children of their rights.

“No child should be left stateless. It is a problem that is entirely solvable, yet thousands of children in Europe are growing up without a nationality because more than half of European countries don't have necessary safeguards against childhood statelessness. This is why we’ve launched our #StatelessKids petition and why we are calling on European leaders to act now to end childhood statelessness once and for all,” said ENS’ Jan Brulc to the ECRE Weekly Bulletin.
You can sign the petition here.

For further information:



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