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.

29 April 2016
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Vacancy: ECRE is recruiting a Communications and Events Assistant

ECRE is offering an 11-month Communications and Events internship, starting preferably as soon as possible. The assistant will support the Media & Communications Team in a wide range of tasks, including writing articles for the ECRE Weekly Bulletin and contributing to maintaining and developing ECRE’s presence in social media. This is an exciting opportunity for people with a strong interest in asylum and refugees’ rights as well as communications and event organisation.

To apply for this position, please complete the application form and return it to Rita Carvalho ( cc-ing Francesca Pierigh ( stating “Application Communications and Events Assistant” in the subject heading.

The deadline for the receipt of application is 16 May 2016 (midnight CET).


EU-Turkey deal: praised by EU leaders, condemned by NGOs

On Saturday 23 April, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during an official visit to the country. The visit was a follow-up on the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal and an opportunity to discuss next steps. The high-level delegation visited Nizip refugee camp near Gazientep and inaugurated a Child Protection Support Centre – a project financed under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey.

During his remarks at a press conference after the visit, Tusk congratulated the EU and its Turkish partner for the deal, which resulted in “a sharp reduction of the illegal migration flows across the Aegean.” He furthermore stated that “Turkey is the best example for the whole world on how we should treat refugees. No one has the right to lecture Turkey [on how to deal with refugees].” 

Before the visit, Amnesty International urged leaders to seriously “address the catalogue of human rights abuses faced by refugees in the country, not sweep them under the carpet.” Reports of mass push-backs into Syria, as well as outright shooting of Syrians fleeing conflict zones were not part of the dialogue. The Turkish Prime Minister denied the allegations, and no further action was taken by EU leaders.

A vast number of irregularities in the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal have been widely reported by numerous human rights organisations and journalists. Despite these concerns, deportations have been resumed this week and around 50 people have been returned to Turkey from Lesvos, Chios and Kos, bringing the total of people deported to 375. On the other hand, 120 refugees have been resettled from Turkey to EU countries under the deal, according to the latest figures provided by the European Commission.  

For further information:


Austrian Parliament approves law repudiating right to asylum

On Wednesday 27 April, only a few weeks after the proposed amendments to the Asylum Act were tabled, the Austrian Parliament approved them with a 98 to 67 majority. Under the new law, the government can declare a state of emergency in the case of a mass refugee influx, which could be a threat to national security. Though it is not specified what would constitute an influx big enough to trigger the application of the law, the state of emergency would lead to an effective closure of the border and a denial of access to the asylum procedure.

Applications made at the border would be subject to a fast-track admissibility procedure, based on the “safe third country” concept: any person unable to prove that he or she would be in danger or face degrading treatment in a neighbouring country would be returned to that country. Those who manage to enter Austrian territory to claim asylum, would be sent back to the border to undergo the same procedure in registration centres located there. Any decision to expel someone from the country would be based entirely on admissibility concerns and would not take into account the merits of the claim, meaning that in practice, people who could qualify for international protection, would not be allowed into Austrian territory.

Exceptions allowing access to the territory are provided for women with small children, unaccompanied minors and vulnerable groups. The right to appeal against return is provided for, but only after the return has taken place, thus making it difficult to understand how it would be possible to appeal a return decision while not on Austrian territory.

The new law also allows for increased time limits an applicant can spend in detention pending return, now up to14 days from the previous 5. The duration of refugee status itself has been reduced to three years, and the waiting period for family reunification has been increased to three years.

This law effectively turns the Austrian asylum system into one of the toughest in Europe, and means it derogates from international and EU law. Christoph Pinter, head of the UN refugee agency in Austria, said: “In the last 60 years, Austria has built up a solid asylum system and even in times of crisis has always upheld the tradition of refugee protection. Should the scheduled amendments be adopted in the current form, it would cause a renunciation of this decades-long established practice with massive consequences for refugee protection.”

The law is expected to pass quickly and unchallenged in the second parliamentary chamber and will come into force in June this year.

For further information:

French authorities under court order to register asylum applications

The Administrative Tribunal of Paris has delivered several judgments ordering prefectural authorities to complete the registration of asylum applications by persons facing excessive delays in accessing the procedure. The Administrative Tribunal ruled that the failure to comply with the time-limit to register asylum claims constitutes a serious and manifestly illegal infringement upon the fundamental right to asylum. In accordance with Article 6 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, the French Asylum and Immigration Code, Ceseda, requires prefectures to register asylum applications within 3 days; the deadline can be extended to 10 days in case of large numbers of asylum applications.

Failure to comply with the 3-day or 10-day time-limit for registering an asylum application has been documented as a common problem beyond France. In Austria, ECRE’s fact-finding visit found that asylum seekers have faced delays of several months just to get an appointment for the first stage of registration before the police (Erstbefragung). The full registration of the claim could not take place where accommodation places were not available, thereby leaving asylum seekers in homelessness and legal limbo.

In Greece, where registration before the Asylum Service can take place only on the basis of appointments booked via Skype, access appears even more restricted. Organisations including the Greek Council for Refugees detail asylum seekers’ numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach the Asylum Service via Skype in order to schedule an appointment at the Athens or Thessaloniki offices. While the Asylum Service is designing an emergency plan to register asylum applications across the country’s accommodation facilities, those seeking protection in Greece must continue to rely on Skype in order to access the procedure for the time being.

For further information:

Sweden: Restrictive changes to asylum and immigration law

An amended Bill presented by the Swedish government, which contains restrictive changes to its immigration and asylum law, is currently going through Parliament. The proposals are aimed at introducing temporary provisions to reduce asylum regulations ‘to the minimum level in the EU so that more people choose to seek asylum in other EU countries’. These are due to enter into force on 20 July 2016 and last for 3 years, although the changes will be applicable to those who applied for residence permits after 24 November 2015, when the proposals were first announced.

Residence permits for those granted international protection will no longer be permanent, with refugees to be granted three years residence and holders of subsidiary protection, thirteen months. These are extendable if the grounds for protection still exist. In Sweden, the majority of Syrian nationals are granted subsidiary protection rather than refugee status. Upon expiry of the temporary residence permit, a permanent residence permit will be granted only if the person is able to support themselves. For those under the age of 25, this will only be granted if they have completed upper secondary education, and not solely through working. A child may be granted permanent residence in limited circumstances in light of the state of their health.

The Bill also includes restrictions to family reunification, which will now be limited to refugees, excluding holders of subsidiary protection, unless ‘a decision to refuse a residence permit would be contrary to a Swedish Convention obligation’. Furthermore, family reunification will be restricted to nuclear family members.
*This article originally appeared in the ELENA Weekly Legal Update.


IOM documents specific vulnerabilities of Egyptian unaccompanied children on the move

In a new report, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) analyses the specificities of irregular travel to Europe undertaken by Egyptian unaccompanied minors. The report is based on a case-study of a boat carrying 132 Egyptian unaccompanied minors directed towards Italy, which was rescued off the Greek island of Crete in August 2015. IOM interviewed the minors to assess their specific vulnerabilities and understand the smuggling networks in relation to children.

The organisation noted a shift in the modus operandi of smuggling networks: in the majority of cases, payment was arranged by the minors’ parents upon safe arrival of the child or through pre-arranged work in the country of destination for the minor. Children are more vulnerable to specific risks during the journey and on arrival: they are more exposed to trafficking, malnutrition and maltreatment including sexual exploitation.

IOM provides a set of recommendations to prevent irregular movements by fostering the economic, social and cultural variables which lead the minors to leave; to improve the protection granted to unaccompanied minors; and to prosecute those involved with the smuggling networks.


Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal, rules Papua New Guinea’s highest court

Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has ruled that the detention of asylum seekers by Australia on Manus Island is in breach of the country’s constitution. Australia’s policies of paying Papua New Guinea to hold asylum seekers and refugees who try to reach its shores have been extensively criticised by NGOs and human rights monitors, arguing that Australia needs to stop outsourcing their responsibility for refugees. After the decision, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea announced that the detention centre in the island would be closing and called on the Australian government to make swift arrangements for the people being held there.

Although NGOs such as the Refugee Council of Australia and Amnesty International have called on Australia to prioritise human rights and resettle the people detained on the island to Australia, the country’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has argued that people can instead be settled in Papua New Guinea or returned to their countries of origin.

“We must not destroy our remaining credibility by trying to force other nations into accepting people our Government doesn’t want to bring to Australia”, urged the CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power. “The better path is to accept that those currently on Manus Island must come to Australia and to put our national energy into working cooperatively with our neighbours to find better answers for persecuted people in our region.”