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.

10 April 2015

Spain: New law giving legal cover to pushbacks in Ceuta and Melilla threats the right to asylum – Op-ed by Estrella Galán, CEAR

Op-Ed by Estrella Galán, Secretary General of CEAR, on the passing through Parliament of the Law on Public Security

On October 22, 2014 we woke up to the news that an amendment to the Law on Public Security had been presented by the Popular Party, which proposed a reform of the Spanish Immigration Law so as to provide a legal basis for illegal push backs which have taken place for many years at the border of Ceuta and Melilla. 

Despite calls for its withdrawal by human rights organisations and international organisations, such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations, the amendment was included in the new Law on Public Security and approved by the Spanish Congress.

“To reject people at the border is a serious violation of the obligation to provide access to the international protection procedure and to respect the principle of non-refoulement.”

The approved text states that those who attempt to cross the border of Ceuta and Melilla without authorisation “will be rejected in order to prevent illegal immigration into Spain." Consequently, the concept of "rejection at the border" is codified into law, provided for in an amendment which seeks to legalise summary returns on the borders of Ceuta and Melilla.

This concept of rejection at the border does not provide for any of the procedural safeguards laid down in Articles 20 and 22 of the Spanish Immigration Law (i.e. the right to an effective remedy, the right to appeal against administrative acts or the right to a lawyer and interpreter) and can violate the principle of non-refoulement (Article 57.6). Thus, the "rejection at the border" without any guarantees or proceedings poses a serious threat to the right of asylum as it justifies the immediate return of people who come to Ceuta and Melilla without first identifying people in need of international protection and of other vulnerable people. Furthermore, these people are returned to Morocco, a country that does not guarantee respect for their human rights nor access to international protection. This can result in a serious breach of the principle of non-refoulement, which dictates that no state may expel or return a person to a country where their lives and physical integrity would be put at risk.

As stated by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, the legalisation of illegal returning people might mean the “beginning of the end for the common asylum system”. No European country has regulated these illegal practices, which are more and more frequent in countries such as Greece and Bulgaria. To reject people at the border is a serious violation of the obligation to provide access to the international protection procedure and to respect the principle of non-refoulement. This means a violation of not only the Spanish legal system but also the European regulations and the international treaties ratified by Spain.

“It is clearly unacceptable to apply a special border regime in Ceuta and Melilla, outside of the guarantees provided by Spanish, European and international laws.”

The amendment, included in the new Law on Public Security, deprives people in need of international protection of access to the right of asylum, protected in Article 13.4 of the Spanish Constitution, and violates the principles of legality, of hierarchy, of effective judicial protection and equality enshrined in that document. It also opposes the provisions of the Spanish regulation on immigration and asylum, of the European Convention on Human Rights, of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, of the Return Directive, of the Schengen Borders Code, of the Geneva Convention, of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the UN Convention against Torture. It is clearly unacceptable to apply a special border regime in Ceuta and Melilla outside of the guarantees provided by Spanish, European and international laws.

In addition, the opening of new asylum offices in Ceuta and Melilla, should not be used as an excuse to legitimise the illegal return of people who enter through non-authorised places via the Ceuta and Melilla fences. To this day, people of sub-Saharan origin are forced to come to Spain through these fences as they have to face numerous obstacles to reach the offices. It is important to remember that the refugee status is not determined by the way a person accessed the territory of a State. The Asylum Law expressly provides in Article 17.2 that “illegal entry into Spanish territory may not be penalised when it has been done by someone who is eligible to become a beneficiary of international protection”. Therefore, both those who enter Spain through authorised places and then reach the asylum offices and those who do it by jumping the fence or by swimming have the right to seek asylum and the authorities have the duty to ensure this right.

“The solution is not to shield the borders and to provide legal cover for illegal practices, such as push backs, but to address the causes of forced displacement and provide legal channels to enable refugees to obtain protection in safe countries.”

The response to the situation in the Spanish and European southern border should be based on a full commitment to the respect of human rights of all those who are forced to leave their homes. The solution is not to shield the borders and to provide a legal basis for illegal practices, such as push backs, but to address the causes of forced displacement and provide legal channels to enable refugees to obtain protection in safe countries.


ECRE publishes guidance on the application of the recast Dublin Regulation 
ECRE has published an information note providing guidance to apply the recast Dublin Regulation from the perspective of the fundamental rights of the asylum seekers. The Dublin Regulation determines the Member State responsible for the examination of an asylum application in the EU.

ECRE welcomes the fact that the recast Dublin Regulation clearly stipulates that the best interest of the child must always be a primary consideration when determining which Member State is responsible for examining an application. In ECRE’s view this requires a multi-disciplinary approach following an individual examination of the personal circumstances of each child, and always involving qualified legal representatives.

ECRE remains concerned that the definitions of ‘family members’ in the recast Dublin Regulation are over-restrictive and not in accordance with the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which considers family life to be an autonomous concept which extends beyond blood ties. Member States should also take into account the fact that many asylum seekers establish families during flight and assess whether the distinction between pre-flight and post flight families in the recast Regulation is not discriminatory under the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. ECRE calls on States to utilise the discretionary clause under Article 17, where necessary to ensure respect for family life.

ECRE highlights that the non-application of the new early warning mechanism, conceived to be triggered in the case of particular pressure on national asylum systems, should not be interpreted as being relevant to assess whether there are risks of a violation of asylum seekers’ fundamental rights. ECRE calls upon Member States to comply with the obligation not to send back asylum seekers to another Member State where they risk a violation of their fundamental rights, irrespective of whether the risk arises from systemic deficiencies. In this regard, it is noted that the early warning mechanism has not been applied in some Member States where it could have been appropriate, such as Bulgaria, where UNHCR considered that the situation amounted to systemic deficiencies in the asylum procedure and reception conditions.

ECRE also recommends that the right to effective remedy must be guaranteed not only with respect to decisions to return asylum seekers to another Member State but also with regard to decisions under the recast Dublin Regulation not to return them.

Furthermore, ECRE urges Member States to refrain from detaining asylum seekers under the recast Dublin regulation and to apply alternatives to detention. ECRE reminds Member States that they are prohibited from using detention as a tool to determine more quickly which country is responsible for examining an asylum application.

In the longer term ECRE continues to call for the development of an alternative system for determining which Member State should examine an asylum application. Such an alternative system should ensure genuine responsibility sharing and take into consideration connections between applicants for international protection and particular Member States.
For further information:
ECRE is recruiting a Head of Communications

ECRE is recruiting a Head of Communications. The Head of Communications develops and implements ECRE’s communications and media strategy and manages ECRE's Media and Communications team.

Candidates should send a Curriculum Vitae, a cover letter and one sample of their work (writing sample, audio-visual project, etc.) to Evelyne Rottiers ( no later than 13 April 2015, stating "Head of Communications" in the subject heading.

Eurostat: Syrians lead the increase of asylum applicants in the EU in 2014
626,000 people applied for asylum in the European Union in 2014, according to the latest Eurostat report. 122,790 were Syrians, accounting for 20% of the total number of asylum applicants in the EU. They are followed by Afghans (41,300 asylum seekers), Kosovars (37,900) and Eritreans (37,000).
The number of asylum applications increased by 191,000 compared to 2013. In particular, the number of Syrians seeking protection in the EU rose by 72,000, from 50,000 in 2013 to almost 123,000 in 2014.
95% of the Syrians who received a decision in the EU on their asylum claim in 2014 were granted international protection, 63% of the Afghans, 7% of the Kosovars and 89% of the Eritrean nationals.
In 2014, most asylum seekers applied in Germany (203,000), Sweden (81,000), Italy (65,000), France (63,000) and Hungary (43,000).


Calais: migrants forced to move to old dumping grounds with no basic infrastructures 

France terre d’asile, along with 11 other French NGOs have denounced that since Thursday 31 March, the French authorities have forced more than a thousand migrants to move from makeshift camps around Calais to a new site in the proximity of the new day centre ‘Jules Ferry’.

The organisations condemned the decision of the French authorities to relocate the migrants to a former old garbage dump lacking basic infrastructures, such as electricity, access to water, toilets or garbage collection services, therefore promoting the creation of a slum. In addition, the area is located several kilometres out of Calais, according to France terre d’asile, in a clear move to isolate the migrants and keep them out of sight.  

The NGOs urged the authorities to provide adequate shelter to the migrants by ensuring that electricity, sanitary infrastructures and drinkable water are made available on site. They request that all asylum seekers have access to accommodation, including those who are awaiting return to other countries under the Dublin procedure.

The day centre «Jules Ferry» provides access to showers, toilets, electricity points, as well as advice on migration and asylum issues. The centre also includes accommodation for 50 women and children, but not for men. The organisations acknowledged that the opening of the day centre is a step in the right direction but they remain concerned about the appalling conditions faced by more than 1,000 migrants currently living nearby.

For further information: 
Austrian Court finds detention of asylum seekers subject to a ‘Dublin’ return currently unlawful

The High Administrative Court of Austria has ruled that the detention of asylum seekers in Austria pending removal to another EU Member State under the Dublin framework is currently illegal. Therefore, for the time being, no one in a procedure under the Dublin III Regulation should be kept in detention.

The case was brought by an Eritrean national regarding the order of his detention pending his return to Italy, the Member State that had been declared responsible for assessing his asylum claim.

The Court found that no provision in domestic law reflected the requirement of the Dublin III Regulation to legally establish a "risk of absconding" as a condition for detention. Indeed, given that no definition is provided in Austrian legislation as to what a risk of absconding means, the Court found that no persons subject to a Dublin transfer can be put into detention. The Court also noted that it has repeatedly stressed in its jurisprudence that the use of detention for asylum seekers in a Dublin procedure must not become a standard measure.

For further information:
  • Asylum Information Database (AIDA), Country Report Austria

UNHCR: Greece requested to individually examine and undertake frequent reviews of detention orders 

In its recommendations to the new Greek government UNHCR has called, amongst others, for the revocation of a domestic Decree allowing the prolongation of detention beyond 18 months in pre-removal detention centres as well as a consistent and timely examination of the legality of administrative detention orders. UNHCR has also requested the Greek authorities to process and examine expeditiously the asylum applications of persons placed in pre-removal detention and to thoroughly examine deportation orders, issuing a renewable six-month suspension if removal is not feasible.

UNHCR calls on Greece to ensure that informal returns at the borders do not occur, that any allegations of these returns are investigated and that increased human resources are available to coast guard and local authorities in order to adequately receive refugees entering the country.

In terms of reception, UNHCR calls on Greece to ensure that First Reception Centres are fully equipped with staff and a framework for referring persons with special reception needs to appropriate facilities is set up for vulnerable applicants. Moreover, UNHCR requests Greece to increase the number of reception places to address the basic needs of asylum seekers and to ensure that reception centres meet adequate standards.

UNHCR also urges Greece to establish a public legal aid system for asylum seekers, to prioritise the examination of the back-log of cases as well as to review the applications of persons given humanitarian statuses under the old regime. According to the report these persons are in fact eligible for subsidiary protection.  In addition UNHCR recommends that Greece ensures adequate protection of unaccompanied children by assigning responsibility to an administrative entity with expertise in child welfare. The administrative entity should assess protection needs, co-ordinate with different stakeholders and ensure that children have practical access to asylum procedures.

Lastly, UNHCR urges Greece to expand the scope of family reunification to subsidiary protection beneficiaries, reduce the time to respond to reunification requests as well as ensuring that the renewal of residence permits are swift and effective.  
For further information:
AIDA Update: Cyprus continues to detain asylum seekers beyond lawful time-limits 
Asylum seekers in Cyprus are being detained for longer periods than what is prescribed by law, according to a new AIDA report on Cyprus. The Future Worlds Center reports that since the end of 2014, asylum claims of people in detention ought to be processed within 30 days, with appeals taking no more than 15 days, following the introduction of a fast-track procedure. If the applicant is granted international protection or the decision is delayed, they must therefore be released.  Latest monitoring by Future Worlds Center suggests that the prescribed time-limits are not being followed by the authorities.
Furthermore, Cyprus continues to detain asylum seekers for deportation purposes as soon as their protection claims have been refused at the first instance, without providing the opportunity to effectively exercise their right to appeal before the Supreme Court. Asylum seekers who are waiting for a final decision from the Supreme Court continue to risk deportation.
Asylum seekers returning to Cyprus under Dublin procedures pending a final decision on their application are not detained in practice, in a break away from the country’s previous detention policy.
The report also refers to the expansion of the Kofinou Reception Centre’s capacity to host 400 residents. Despite the increase in size, asylum seekers are reluctant to actually reside there given the location in a remote area with no easy access to the country’s urban areas. The majority of applicants therefore opt out from accommodation in Kofinou and are given no further state support. At the time of writing, Cyprus counted approximately 2,700 persons with a pending application for international protection, with only 122 residing at Kofinou.
The report also indicates that around 65% of the persons applying for international protection in Cyprus are granted subsidiary protection. Under current legislation beneficiaries of subsidiary protection status, mostly Syrians, are excluded from the right to family reunification. As a result, many Syrian families end up separated and in some instances children are left behind unaccompanied and liable to exploitation.
The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is an ECRE project mapping asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention in 16 EU countries.
For further information:
  • Asylum Information Database (AIDA), Country Report Cyprus
Unwanted, unnoticed: New report by IRR on asylum and immigration-related deaths in Europe 

report by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has documented the death of 160 migrants and refugees in Europe between January 2010 and December 2014.

Of them, 60 asylum seekers committed suicide, hours or days before a scheduled return to their country. 26 asylum seekers died of illness with medical assistance being denied, severely delayed or inadequate. 16 died as a result of destitution either through accidents or illness caused by having to live on the streets or in derelict buildings. Nine died after direct contact with police or security officials, result of beatings, restraint or shooting. Four died during police chases or immigration raids, in accidents, or, afraid of being arrested, by throwing themselves from high storey buildings. Four (including a 10-year-old child) died in Germany, hit by trains on railway tracks they were forced to cross to get to shops from their reception centre. Two were killed by violent room- or cellmates, whose psychological problems were untreated, ignored or punished. Two people died violently in their country of origin after their deportation following refusal of asylum from Belgium and Ireland.

Germany had the highest migrant death toll with 29, followed by Norway with 23, then the UK with 22, and Ireland with 18.

In Northern European countries, such as Germany, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Norway, suicide was the most common cause of death among the cases studied. Conversely, in southern Europe, the majority of asylum seekers died from the effects of destitution or untreated illnesses.

IRR underlines that this represents a snapshot of a bigger picture, as for many countries, migrants’ deaths are not recorded or investigated. Furthermore, the report figures do not include the thousands of migrants and refugees who have died trying to enter the EU.

Last month, an Iraqi man died in Sweden following a deportation attempt. According to IRR, an internal document of the prison service suggests that one person present during the deportation attempt warned the escort officers that they were holding the man in a dangerous hold. The Swedish prosecution service has opened an investigation into possible manslaughter.

For further information: