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.

6 February 2015

New research takes stock of EU Regional Protection Programmes and assesses their potential 

According to a new study published by ECRE, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR), the concept of EU Regional Protection Programmes needs to be reviewed in order to increase impact, ownership by third countries and Member States and coherence with development policies.

As defined by the European Commission in 2005, Regional Protection Programmes (RPPs) have two main aims: Firstly, to build the capacities of transit countries in order to help them protect refugees. Secondly, to promote durable solutions; namely return, local integration and resettlement, by building the capacities of local institutions and other actors in areas hosting refugees in protracted situations.

The research argues that RPPs could take the form of ‘protection partnerships’ with the engagement of Member States, third countries, the European Commission, International Organisations and NGOs. These partnerships should be based on the countries’ obligations to protect refugees and asylum seekers, driven by solidarity with the countries hosting the majority of the world’s refugees rather than a migration control logic. In this spirit, RPPs should also include substantial offers to resettle, to Europe, refugees hosted in the RPP regions.

The study provides an overview of the RPPs developed by the European Commission so far, namely in Eastern Europe, the African Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and North Africa, as well as the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP) that started in 2013 in response to the Syrian crisis.

This study was published in the framework of the Domaid project, which aims to promote dialogue between European NGOs involved in migration and refugee protection-related projects in third countries and the EU institutions. The publication follows up on a public seminar on RPPs that was organised by ECRE in Brussels in 2013.

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ECRE is recruiting for an 11-month legal internship

ECRE is offering an 11-month legal internship. The purpose of this position is to assist ECRE in undertaking effective advocacy work by supporting the Senior Legal Officer in gathering of information and the formulation of policy and legal research on asylum related topics and in particular the further development of ECRE’s Asylum Information Database on Asylum.

Candidates should send a CV and an application form to Kris Pollet ( and Julia Zelvenska ( stating “Application Legal internship” in the subject heading.

The deadline for the receipt of applications is 20 February 2015.



Death at Europe's doorstep: one year on and still no justice for the migrants who died off Ceuta

One year after at least 14 migrants drown off the coast of Ceuta, in Spain, NGOs have commemorated the victims and criticized the failure of the Spanish authorities to properly investigate the circumstances of the deaths.
The Spanish government acknowledged the use of anti-riot material (rubber bullets and blank cartridges) to “deter” migrants from reaching Ceuta on 6 February 2014 and confirmed that 23 survivors who managed to reach the Spanish beach of El Tarajal, were immediately handed over to the Moroccan authorities
NGOs have criticized that the judicial investigation of the migrants´ deaths that commenced in February 2014 has stalled. No Spanish officials have been indicted or officially disciplined for the loss of life and nobody has resigned. 
On the anniversary of the tragic incident, NGOs have reiterated their criticism of the amendments currently under review by the upper house of the Spanish parliament that would allow for the summary expulsion to Morocco of migrants entering Ceuta and Melilla.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks and national and international human rights NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and ECRE, have urged Spain to withdraw these amendments. UNHCR and the European Commission have also expressed their concerns and almost 95,000 people have supported the campaigns #PortazoAlGobierno and against summary returns from Ceuta and Melilla.
Automatic returns of this kind violate European law, as well as international human rights and refugee law obligations undertaken by Spain.

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Closure of Kokkinotrimithia camp reveals deterrents for refugees to apply for asylum in Cyprus

The Cypriot authorities have this week closed the temporary camp Kokkinotrimithia, which had been home to over 300 Syrian and Palestinian migrants after they were rescued off the coast of Cyprus in September last year. The camp’s closure leaves 85 remaining individuals, believed to be mostly Palestinians, with no immediate shelter. NGOs believe that the government is unlikely to detain or remove the refugees but that they will remain undocumented. In September, the government had given them a 3-month temporary residence permit allowing the refugees time in which to apply for asylum or a residence permit with the right to work in Cyprus. But this period has now ended and many do not wish to take either option. According to ECRE member Kisa, the government promised to provide a “Visitors’ Visa” permitting a stay longer than three months but giving no right to work.

The developments have exposed a series of reasons discouraging refugees to apply for asylum in Cyprus. “A deterrent to applying for asylum is the fact that the majority of Syrian nationals that have already applied for asylum in Cyprus have been granted subsidiary protection, a status which, in Cyprus, does not give individuals the right to family reunification”, said Corina Drousiotou from Cypriot NGO and ECRE member Future Worlds Center. Furthermore, according to the organisation, it is very difficult for refugees to settle in Cyprus as they have little chances of finding a job due to the current economic situation in Cyprus and they receive no integration support during the asylum procedure and once granted protection in Cyprus.

Future Worlds Center has told the ECRE Weekly Bulletin that the refugees’ refusal to apply for asylum in Cyprus highlights the vast differences between asylum systems and standard of living across the EU and the need to work harder towards harmonization. “In the meantime, the wish of refugees to be given the right to choose the country in which they are to apply for international protection remains a valid one to examine further,” said Drousiotou.

The government had been phasing out the services provided to refugees in the camp over the past several weeks, which garnered criticism from local NGOs such as KISA, who said the government was exposing the refugees to ‘inhuman, humiliating and degrading treatment’.

According to UNHCR, out of the 337 refugees that were rescued, approximately 71 have submitted applications for asylum, 165 have opted for a residence permit, which entails no material benefits. The remaining individuals have refused to apply for either option. Kisa criticised the government’s decision to make the refugees leave the camp before having granted the Visitors’ visa or other documents and highlighted that refugees will not be able to rent accommodation legally as in order to do that they would need to prove that they reside legally in Cyprus.
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Norway not to return families at risk in their home area to parts of Afghanistan with no support

Norway will not return families with children who would face persecution in their home area to areas of Afghanistan where they do not have sufficient networks or resources.

Norway will only refuse the asylum applications of families who are deemed to be at risk in their home area on the basis that they can be reasonably expected to safely settle in another part of their country (the ‘Internal Flight Alternative’) if they have sufficient networks or resources in the part of the country where they are expected to settle.

The instructions of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice highlights previous submissions by Norway’s Directorate of Immigration that the humanitarian situation of Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan has deteriorated, with women and children being particularly vulnerable. It further refers to UNHCR guidelines calling for the Internal Flight Alternative in Afghanistan to only apply where the individual can expect to benefit from meaningful support of their own family, community or tribe in the area of possible relocation.

Norway commits to undertake a concrete and individual assessment of each case where internal displacement in Afghanistan may be relevant. 

However, families that have no place of former residence, or have not been to Afghanistan for a long time, will not be considered to fall within the amended practice. This means that families with children, and other vulnerable persons, who have never, or who have not been to Afghanistan for a long period of time, will be returned to Kabul without any internal flight considerations.

The new instructions have come out following a political scandal in Norway where it has been reported that the Ministry of Justice had kept private requests from the Afghanistan Ministry of Refugees and Returnees not to transfer any families with children back to Afghanistan.
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New study shows that alternatives to detention are underused

Alternatives to detention are generally underused and applied to few people, according to a comparative study published by the Odysseus Network that examined national legislation and judicial practice in six EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Lithuania, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The study shows that although all six states have included forms of alternatives to detention in their national legislation, only Austria is using alternatives to detention to a similar extent as detention. In addition, although in all six states there are legal provisions restricting the detention of vulnerable groups, the lack of procedures to identify such groups often results in vulnerable people being detained, with the exception of people who are ‘visibly’ vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children and women at the end of their pregnancies.

The research underlines that in order to impose alternatives to detention, authorities must first prove that there are grounds for detaining the individual. Furthermore, it is stressed that there should be scrutiny to ensure that alternatives to detention are non-custodial, respect fundamental rights and do not become ‘alternatives form of detention’.

In addition, the study recommends that it should be possible to appeal both the imposition and the non-imposition of an alternative to detention.

Finally, the study calls for evaluation and monitoring mechanisms to be put in place in order to assess the functioning of existing alternatives to detention schemes, so as to learn from successful programmes and to improve practice.

The research covers measures such as reporting systems, sponsorship, financial guarantees, the requirement to live in a designated residence and electronic tagging.

This study is a part of the project MADE REAL, ‘Making Alternatives to Detention in Europe a Reality by Exchanges, Advocacy and Learning’, which was co-financed by the European Commission, and implemented by the Academic Network for legal studies on asylum and immigration in Europe, the Odysseus Academic Network, together with 13 national NGO partners.


Amnesty International brings voices from the Syria’s refugee crisis into the spotlight

On 4 February, Amnesty International published a new report featuring the testimonies of eight refugees from Syria, and their families, currently living in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Amongst them is Yara, 23 years old, struggling to provide for her four children and who faces continuous sexual harassment in Lebanon. Yara learnt through a video on YouTube that her husband had been killed following his arrest in Syria.

Amnesty calls on wealthy states to take in 380,000 refugees from Syria through resettlement or other humanitarian admission programmes. The figure corresponds to the overall number of vulnerable refugees, as estimated by UNHCR, in need of resettlement.

95% of the almost 4 million people who fled Syria are now living in five countries in the region: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. With a response that Amnesty International calls ‘pitiful’, states have offered globally only 79,180 places to refugees from Syria. Amnesty requests that resettlement should be prioritised for the most vulnerable refugees such us unaccompanied children, women and girls at risk, torture survivors, LGBTI people, and those with serious medical needs.

The report marks the launch of the #OpenToSyria campaign.
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