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 March 2019
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Last Breath of Operation Sophia Should Push Coalition of the Willing

The decision of the EU Member States on Operation Sophia, an EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission, has caused consternation – and rightly so. The Mission’s mandate has been renewed for six months but will no longer involve maritime presence. Ending the deployment of ships to the Mediterranean means ceasing the one positive element of Operation Sophia’s work. The Mission has rescued tens of thousands of people since 2015, almost 50,000 according to some estimates. This is perhaps not what the Member States intended or wanted from the Mission but its mere presence, combined with the duty of rescue, has led it to play this role.

The main focus of the Mission, and that which will continue, is “destroying the smugglers’ business model”, that weaselly expression which covers so much. In practice, for this CSDP Mission it has meant destroying boats, leading to ever more rickety crafts setting sail. It has also contributed to training the Libyan Coastguard, activities widely criticized, including by ECRE.

Of course Libya should have a functioning coastguard to fulfil its responsibilities as a coastal state. However, the strategy of supporting third country’s coastguard agencies while cutting or preventing Search and Rescue (SAR) by European (EU, state and non-state) actors is a deliberate attempt to avoid responsibility for rescued persons and to get other countries to take actions that lead to human rights violations and that would be illegal under international, EU and national law with consequences if carried out by Europeans. To over-simplify, people rescued by European ships cannot be taken to Libya, they are under the jurisdiction of the country rescuing, and have to be taken to a place of safety, which patently obviously Libya is not. Supporting the Libyan Coastguard allowed it to “rescue” 15,000 people and pull them back to Libya last year.

The decision on Sophia has been blamed on Matteo Salvini who very often suits and courts the role of villain. Since coming to power, he has threatened to veto the renewal of the Mission’s mandate for as long as disembarkation of persons by the ships operating under its auspices was to take place only in Italy. Salvini’s stance is concerning and not least because Operation Sophia, like its predecessor, was seen as a way to support and share Italian SAR efforts, following the end of Mare Nostrum. The incident with the Diciotti indicates the Italian Government’s opposition to any SAR efforts in the Mediterranean, by the Italian authorities as well as NGOs. If there’s no Italian SAR there’s nothing for the EU to support. Indeed, if there’s no SAR in the Mediterranean then there’s no need to share responsibility for it.

Blame can be spread more widely though. The mandate of Sophia was decided by all Member States, including its Libya focus, and is part of wider tendency to use CSDP Missions for migration prevention rather than for genuine security objectives; other Member States’ refusal to accept responsibility-sharing (in all its senses) has fueled Salvini’s rise; the previous Italian government pioneered cooperation with Libya (although at least it remained committed to SAR). Many European policy-makers are wedded to the idea that SAR creates a pull factor and must end, despite the overwhelming evidence of the horrific push factors in Libya that would lead anyone to get on a boat, especially when combined with smugglers’ lies and pressure.

The impact of this change to Operation Sophia is likely to increase the death rate for those attempting to cross, as well as creating additional burdens for merchant shipping in the area. The difficulty of finding a way forward using EU policies that require all Member States to agree (such as CSDP), is again revealed. In the light of this decision, ECRE reiterates its call for a coalition of the willing Member States to step up and reach an agreement on disembarkation and relocation. They have been doing so ship-by-ship but a more predictable albeit temporary arrangement is required and is within grasp.

For now, it is perhaps time to find a new name for Operation Sophia, called after a baby born after the rescue of her pregnant mother, who had arrived from Somalia via Libya. What would be the story of such a person now? A decision to stay in their country of origin or in Libya because the pull factor has been removed? Or embarkation to face a yet more uncertain fate?

Editorial: Catherine Woollard, Secretary General for the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)



Operation ‘Sophia’ is Given Six More Months Without Ships

The EU will extend the mandate of its military operation in the Mediterranean for six month but no longer deploy naval ships, as member states cannot agree on disembarkation arrangements. The scaled down naval presence raises concerns about deaths at sea and people being returned to face abuse.

According to unnamed EU sources, the EU’s military operation ‘Sophia’ will be renewed for another six months but without its two naval ships. The EU will suspend ship patrols, strengthen air surveillance and continue the training of Libyan coastguards, the sources say.

‘Sophia’ was launched in June 2015, with the core mandate to contribute to the disruption of “the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks” by identifying and disposing of vessels used by migrant smugglers or traffickers. Due to its search and rescue obligations under international maritime law, ‘Sophia’ has reportedly saved more than 49,000 people in distress, most of which have been disembarked to Italy.

The operation was given an interim extension of three months in December last year after EU member states could not agree on a longer commitment. Italy refused a policy that would take people rescued automatically to Italian ports and threatened to halt the mission if other member states were not willing to accept a larger share of those rescued. The new compromise was reached after lengthy discussions during which other member states, with reference to the Dublin regulation, refused to take in asylum seekers that first arrived in another EU country. Germany had already withdrawn its  naval vessel  in January when  Italy did not let those rescued disembark.

In January, a report by Human Rights Watch found that EU policies, such as cooperation with the Libyan Coastguards, contribute to the well–documented, severe abuse of migrants and refugees in Libya.

For further Information:



UK: Home Office Detention Melt-down

As the result of what the Independent labels a “detain first, ask questions later” approach applied by the Home Office 15.200 of 24.674 removal orders for deportation of migrants from the UK issued in 2018 were cancelled. The figures were released amid debate about the role of the Home Office’s in the death of a removal center detainee and a recent report from the UK’s Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) describing the Home Office approach to detention as “shockingly cavalier”.

The statistics obtained by the Independent through freedom of information law reveals that of 15,200 deportations cancelled in 2018 more than two-thirds were called off in the week they were scheduled and 45 per cent within the same day. The main reason for the cancelations was the submission of legal representation and other reasons included administrative obstacles, “disruptive behavior” and “medical”.

The Independent quotes “Lawyers and campaigners” for calling the situation a “waste of public money” and a “damaging” symptom of the Home Office’s “detain first, ask questions later” approach. Director of Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) Celia Clarke stated that “the uncertainty caused by this callous practice is highly damaging for the people concerned, whether they are parents who face permanent separation from their children, survivors of torture or trafficking, or people who have grown up in the UK and face deportation to a country they have no connection to”.

Critique of the Home Office’s immigrant removal practices also came from the West London coroner’s court inquest jury, which examined the role of the home office and others in the violent death of a detainee in an immigration removal centre. The jury found an absence of an appropriate system to share information on the risk of violence from the perpetrator who should not have been placed at the center – failures that “may have caused or contributed to” the death of the detainee.

The UK’s Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) published a report on immigration detention stating that “too often the Home Office has shown a shockingly cavalier attitude to the deprivation of human liberty and the protection of people’s basic rights. It needs to be more transparent in collating information about the number of people who are wrongfully detained, it must give evidenced explanations as to why decisions to detain have been made and it needs to admit where things have gone wrong, apologise, and seek to learn lessons. Above all, it must do much more to ensure that all reasonable alternatives to detention have been considered before detention is authorised”.

According to the report UK immigration detention centres had capacity to hold 475 people and approximately an additional 200 were held under immigration powers in prisons in 2000. 18 years later in 2018: “the UK immigration detention estate was one of the largest in Europe with an average of 2,204 held in detention”.

For further Information:


France: Bone Tests to Determine Migrant Age Ruled Compliant with Constitution: a “Disgraceful” Decision according to NGOs

On 21 March 2019, the French Constitutional Court ruled that bone tests determining the age of young migrants are not unconstitutional, despite massive criticism of NGOs, lawyers and medical experts.

The case concerned a young Guinean, Adama. S, who declared to be 15 years old upon his arrival in France in 2016. A bone test concluded that his age was between 20 and 30 years. With the support of several civil society organisations, including Gisti, la Cimade, Médecins du monde and the Catholic Relief Service, he brought the case before the Constitutional Court as a preliminary priority question. The applicant claimed that the radiological examination of bones violated the principle of the ‘best interests of the child’. Due to its margin of error it led to unaccompanied minors being excluded from the beneficial provisions designed to protect them. Although the Court confirmed the constitutional character of the principle of the ‘best interest of the child’, it stated that the existence of a margin of error does not make the use of the test unconstitutional.

The League for Human Rights called the decision “disgraceful” and 10 civil society organisations reiterated their concerns through a collective action, which underlined the necessity to put an end to such practice. Concerns over the lack of scientific reliability of bones tests have been voiced persistently by medical experts and institutions such as the French Academy of Medicine, the Defender of Rights, the High Council for Public Health or the Committee on the rights of the child (CRC). The CRC has highlighted that in the event of uncertainty, the individual must be accorded the benefit of the doubt: if there is a possibility that the individual is a child, he or she should be treated as one.

ECRE has stressed that “being misidentified as an adult rather than a child when seeking international protection can have considerable implications on the level of rights and protections afforded to them by a receiving state. This ranges from being unable to access welfare services and support, to being detained as an adult, to not receiving publicly funded legal representation during the asylum process”.

For more information:


AIDA 2018 Update: Hungary*

The updated Country Report on Hungary provides a detailed overview of developments in the asylum procedure, reception conditions and detention, as well as content of international protection.

A quasi-state of exception introduced into Hungarian law in September 2015, entitled as the “state of crisis due to mass migration”, was again prolonged until 9 March 2019. During this state of crisis special rules apply to third-country nationals irregularly entering and/or staying in Hungary and to those seeking asylum, and certain provisions of Asylum Act are suspended.

Asylum procedure: A new inadmissibility ground was introduced into the Asylum Act in July 2018, consisting of a hybrid between the safe third country and first country of asylum concepts. Compliance of such a ground with the recast Asylum Procedures Directive was raised in a preliminary reference by the Metropolitan Court, while it also led the European Commission to start an infringement procedure. There is no automatic suspensive effect of the appeals against the inadmissible decision based on the new ground.  All asylum seekers applying for asylum after July 2018 have received inadmissible decisions, except for the former Prime Minister of North Macedonia who was granted refugee status.

In 2018, no transfers to Hungary were implemented under the Dublin Regulation. With regard to outgoing Dublin procedures, improvements were noted in the efforts of the Immigration and Asylum Office (IAO) to organise transfers to other countries.

Reception conditions: No major changes occurred. Still very few asylum seekers reside in open reception centres. By the end of 2018, only 3 persons were accommodated at the open reception centres, as the majority of asylum seekers continued to be de facto detained in transit zones.

Content of international protection: Accommodation free of charge is provided exclusively by civil society organisations and church-based organisations. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the Ministry of Interior withdrew all the calls for tenders funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in the beginning of 2018.  This means that by 30 June 2018 all those programs had ceased of which integration support activity relied on this fund.

*This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE


AIDA 2018 Update: Belgium & the Netherlands

Key developments in Belgium

Access to the asylum procedure: In November 2017 the Belgian Aliens Office introduced a quota allowing the registration of no more than 50 asylum seekers per day at the “Petit-Château” / “Klein Kasteeltje” in central Brussels. As a result, more than one hundred people, including families with children, were queuing outside the facility every day, many of them unsuccessfully. Civil-society organisations challenged the measure before the Council of State. On 20 December 2018, the latter concluded that the contested measure was a barrier to the effective exercise of the fundamental right to make an asylum application, as enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention and national law. It therefore suspended the measure introducing a cap on the number of asylum applications.

Following the judgment of the Council of State, the authorities did not manage to provide access to the asylum procedure to all applicants on their first day at the Aliens Office. During a couple of weeks, the access to the asylum procedure was therefore automatically refused almost one day per week, during the weekend, or during a holiday period. Asylum applicants, particularly single men, who were refused access were requested to come back the next day and were not accommodated for the night.

Reception capacity: In the beginning of 2018, the government decided to close 2,500 collective reception places and 4,000 individual places. By the summer of 2018, it became clear that - due to these closures and a growing number of asylum requests – the reception capacity had to be increased. The government therefore decided to keep 7 collective centres open. However, by the end of the year, the capacity of the reception system was still too limited, forcing the immigration office to refuse access to the asylum procedure and, subsequently, access to the reception system. In order to provide accommodation to all asylum applicants, the closure of many individual places was postponed.

Detention of asylum seekers: In 2018 the government made it a priority to apprehend so-called migrants in transit, who were subsequently sent to the detention centre 127bis. Many of them were released after a few days, and would regularly be apprehended, detained and set free again.


Key developments in the Netherlands

Access to the asylum procedure: The rest and preparation period should take maximum 6 days before the regular asylum procedure starts. However, due to capacity problems within the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), the rest and preparation period currently takes around 12 months and thus substantially delays the start of the asylum procedure.

Supervised reception centres: As of 2019, minors that are at least 16 years old can be transferred to the Extra Guidance and Supervision Locations (Extra begeleiding en toezichtlocaties, EBTL). These are special and restricted reception centres for asylum seekers who have caused tensions or any form of nuisance at an AZC, e.g. by bullying other inhabitants, destroying material, being aggressive or violating the house rules of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA).

Detention centres: During the last months of 2018, there has been a drastic reorganisation of the three detention centres. As of 2019, most immigration detention will take place in Rotterdam. The Dutch Council for Refugees has therefore started providing consulting services to asylum seekers in the Rotterdam detention centre, along with the ones that already existed at the Schiphol detention centre.

Family reunification: Following the CJEU judgement on 12 April 2018, a minor applying for asylum is still considered as such in the meaning of article 2(f) of the Family Reunification Directive, even when he or she reaches the age of 18 when he or she is granted a protection status and applies for family reunification.

*This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE


AIDA 2018 Update: Austria*

The updated Country Report on Austria provides a detailed overview of developments in the asylum procedure, reception conditions and detention, as well as content of international protection.

Asylum procedure

Length of procedures: The 20-day period for the admissibility procedure was deleted and the in-merit procedure can be carried out during the admissibility procedure. Moreover, the extension of the decision period from 6 to 15 months for the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum (BFA) and to 12 months for the Federal Administrative Court (BVwG) has expired on 31 May 2018. However, it still applies to proceedings that were pending in first instance or in Court at that time.

Appeal: In 2018, the appeal period had been shortened to 2 weeks for accelerated procedures and in cases in which the application for international protection has been refused and a return decision, along with an order to leave the territory, has been issued. However, the Constitutional Court recently overturned the shortening of the appeal period in several decisions, on the ground that it would be disproportionate to extend the decision-taking period of the authorities beyond 6 months, while asylum seekers can only make an appeal within 1 or 2 weeks.

Suspensive effect: An appeal has no suspensive effect in cases where an asylum seeker has attempted to mislead the Federal Office by providing false information or documents, by concealing important information or by withholding documents about his/her identity or nationality.

Detention of asylum seekers

Grounds for detention: The grounds for detention under the recast Reception Conditions Directive have been incorporated into Article 76 FPG, in compliance with the case law of the Administrative Court. Asylum applicants can be further detained in detention centres if, in addition to the risk of absconding, there is also a danger for public order and security within the meaning of Article 67 FPG. This is characterised as ‘an actual, present and significant danger’.

Reception conditions

Basic care: Asylum seekers can be requested to contribute financially to the basic care they receive during the asylum procedure. The maximum amount of this contribution is set at 840€ per person, although asylum seekers should always keep at least 120€. They also have to contribute financially for their family members. Upon termination of the provision of basic care by the state, any difference between the actual costs incurred and the cash seized should be reimbursed.

Access to education: The previous legal obligation to grant access to German classes to asylum seekers who have a high recognition rate has been limited. They currently receive integration courses only depending on financial and organisational resources. Moreover, the responsibility in that regard has been shifted from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is in charge of integration issues.

Content of international protection

Citizenship: The waiting period to apply for a citizenship has been extended from 6 to 10 years for refugees. As a consequence, only one refugee obtained the Austrian citizenship in 2018.

Withdrawal of protection: A withdrawal procedure is initiated when a beneficiary of international protection entered his or her country of origin or applied for a passport from the country of origin, or if he or she travelled to a neighboring country of the country of origin.

Social benefits: In 2018, the High Court dealt with the restriction of the minimum wage in the different provinces. The regulation of the province of Lower Austria, which aimed at limiting the social benefits, was ruled unconstitutional. However, the regulation applicable in Vorarlberg, which is more flexible and allows for contributions in kind, was considered constitutional. The CJEU further considered that the reduced benefits that were granted to asylum seekers due to their temporary right of residence in Upper Austria were not compatible with the recast Qualification Directive. The Ministry of Social Affairs presented a draft of its Social Assistance Basic Law in November 2018, which has been criticised as it excludes beneficiaries of subsidiary protection from the social care system and it applies other substantive restrictions to refugees.

*This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE


AIDA 2018 Update: Turkey*

The updated AIDA Country Report on Turkey offers a comprehensive analysis of legislative, policy and practice developments relating to the asylum procedure, reception conditions, detention of asylum seekers, and content of international protection. The report draws on field visits and information collected from stakeholders and legal practitioners in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Konya, Hatay, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Kayseri, Afyon, Antalya and Muğla.

Following the inauguration of Turkey’s presidential system in 2018, several changes have been made to the authorities in charge of migration and asylum. The role and responsibilities of the Directorate General for Migration Management (DGMM) have been specified a Presidential Decree.

Moreover, the derogation from the principle of non-refoulement for reasons such as public order, security and terrorism, introduced by way of emergency decree in October 2016, was consolidated by law in February 2018. Removal decisions against Syrian and non-Syrian nationals have increasingly been used on these grounds in 2018. The Constitutional Court delivered a pilot judgment in the case of Y.T., on 12 June 2018, launching the pilot procedure to examine whether requests for interim measures it has received stem from a structural problem to protection from refoulement and, if so, what measures can be taken. From the entry into force of the decree until June 2018, the Constitutional Court had received 866 individual applications with requests for interim measures against deportation. Of those, the Court granted interim measures in 784 cases. The Constitutional Court has continued to grant interim measures to prevent deportation of persons in cases involving public order or security, although these were often valid only for several days.

International protection: Access to the international protection procedure has changed substantially in 2018, as UNHCR announced on 10 September 2018 the termination of its registration activities in Turkey. In practice, however, the takeover of the process by DGMM in September 2018 has resulted in severe obstacles to accessing the international protection procedure. Several provinces refuse to register applications, while others face severe delays. While nationals of countries other than Afghanistan are instructed to appear before the PDMM in 6 to 9 months with a view to undergoing registration, the earliest registration appointments given to Afghan nationals are for 2021.

Moreover, following an October 2018 reform, DGMM no longer issues a Registration Document when directing the asylum seeker to the assigned “satellite city” with a view to registering the international protection application. The applicant only receives an International Protection Applicant Identification Card after having registered the application at the appointed province. This means that asylum seekers are required to travel to the assigned province without being provided documentation to attest their intention to seek international protection, thus facing risks of arrest and detention and deprivation of essential rights such as health care.

Under the legal aid project implemented by the Union of Bar Associations in Turkey in collaboration with UNHCR, free legal assistance is available to asylum seekers in 18 pilot provinces at all stages of the international protection procedure, detention, as well as civil law matters. The first Refugee Law Clinic has also been set up in Şanlıurfa. The project aims to expand to more provinces and set up more Refugee Law Clinics in its second phase.

Detention capacity almost doubled in the course of 2018 to a total of 24 active Removal Centres accommodating 16,116 persons. However, several venues such as sports halls have unofficially been used as detention facilities in provinces such as Erzurum, Izmir and Hatay.

Several Removal Centres have introduced a further requirement for lawyers seeking to access the facilities in 2018, as they now require the presence of interpreters under oath for meetings with clients.

Temporary protection: In 2018, large provinces such as Istanbul, Hatay and Mardin have de facto stopped registering and granting documents to newly arriving Syrian refugees, with the exception of vulnerable cases.

The Minister of Justice recently stated that 315,000 Syrian nationals have left Turkey to return to their country of origin and that more are expected to return as safe zones are being established in the country. Concerns have been expressed as to the voluntary nature of some returns, however. In 2018, UNHCR continued to monitor voluntary returns and observed the voluntary repatriation interviews of 10,395 families. In addition, a DGMM Circular of 7 January 2019 clarifying that persons returning to Turkey as of 1 January 2019 after having signed a “voluntary return document”, especially pregnant women, elderly persons and children, should be allowed to re-access services.

Following a 2018 amendment to the Temporary Protection Regulation, responsibility for accommodation and other services provided to temporary protection beneficiaries lies with DGMM. The number of temporary accommodation centres has been steadily reducing. Six camps were closed down in 2018, with most residents being granted cash assistance to find apartments in urban areas.

In mid-2018, the Ministry of National Education launched an Accelerated Learning Programme to reach children aged 10-18 who have missed three or more years of schooling. The programme had reached 6,600 children by the end of 2018. Moreover, the number of Temporary Education Centres continues to drop, and it is expected that they will be closed down by the end of 2019.

*This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE


AIDA 2018 Update: Greece*

The updated AIDA Country Report on Greece tracks numerous legislative, policy and practice developments relating to the asylum procedure, reception conditions, detention of asylum seekers, and content of international protection.

Substantial asylum reforms, driven by the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement, took place in 2018. Law 4540/2018 provided the possibility of participation of Greek-speaking EASO personnel in in the regular procedure, and transposed the recast Reception Conditions Directive.

Following an increasing number of cases of alleged push backs at the Greek-Turkish border of Evros in 2017, cases of alleged push backs have been systematically reported in 2018. The persisting practice of alleged push backs has been decried inter alia by UNHCR, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the National Commission for Human Rights and civil society organisations.

Asylum procedure: Access to asylum on the mainland continued to be problematic throughout 2018. Access to the asylum procedure for persons detained in pre-removal centres is also a matter of concern. The average period between pre-registration and full registration was 42 days in 2018.

The average processing time at first instance is reported at about 8.5 months in 2018 Out of the total number of 58,793 applications pending as of the end of 2018, in 80.5% the interview had not taken place. Thus, the backlog of cases pending for prolonged periods is likely to increase in the future.

Despite a slight increase in 2018, recognition rates at appeal level remain significantly low. Out of the total in-merit decisions issued in 2018, 2.8% granted refugee status, 1.5% subsidiary protection, 4.5% referred the case for humanitarian protection, and 91% were negative. This may be an alarming finding as to the operation of an efficient and fair asylum procedure in Greece.

Since mid-2016, the same template decision is issued to dismiss claims of Syrians applicants as inadmissible on the basis that Turkey is a safe third country for them. Accordingly, negative first instance decisions qualifying Turkey as a safe third country for Syrians are not only identical and repetitive – failing to provide an individualised assessment – but also outdated insofar as they do not take into account developments after that period, as the current legal framework in Turkish, including the derogation from the principle of non-refoulement. Second instance decisions issued by the Independent Appeals Committees for Syrian applicants systematically uphold the first instance inadmissibility decisions, if no vulnerability is identified.

Major delays occur in the identification of vulnerability on the island, due to significant lack of qualified staff, which by its turn also affects the asylum procedure. Despite a new guardianship framework established by Law 4554/2018, the system of guardianship is still not operating, as required secondary legislation has not been issued as of March 2019.

Reception conditions: On 17 April 2018, following an action brought by GCR, the Council of State annulled the Decision of the Director of the Asylum Service regarding the imposition of the geographical limitation. A new Decision of the Director of the Asylum Service was issued three days after the judgment and restored the geographical restriction on the Eastern Aegean islands. This Decision was replaced in October 2018. A new application for annulment has been filled by GCR before the Council of State against both Decisions of the Directive of the Asylum Service.

Most temporary camps on the mainland, initially created as emergency accommodation facilities, continue to operate without clear legal basis or official site management. Official data on their capacity are not available, however, as reported, a number of 16,110 persons were accommodated as of September 2018.

Reception facilities on the islands remain substandard and may reach the threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment, as it has been widely documented. Overcrowding, lack of basic services, including medical care, limited sanitary facilities, and violence and lack of security poses significant protection risks. The mental health of the applicants on the islands is reported aggravating.

Detention of asylum seekers: The total number of detention orders issued in 2018 was 31,126 compared with 25,810 in 2017. The total number of asylum seekers detained throughout the year was 18,204, almost doubling 2017 figures (9,534). There were 8 active pre-removal detention centres in Greece at the end of 2018. Police stations continued to be used for prolonged immigration detention.

Conditions of detention in pre-removal centres, in many cases fail to meet standards, inter alia due to their carceral, prison-like design. Police stations and other police facilities, which by their nature are not suitable for detention exceeding 24 hours, continue to fall short of basic standards. On the overall, available medical services provided in pre-removal centres are inadequate compared to the needs observed. At the end of 2018, out of the total 20 advertised positions for doctors in pre-removal centres, only 9 were actually present. There was no doctor present in Paranesti, Lesvos and Kos and no psychiatrist in any of the pre-removal detention centres at the end of 2018. Medical services are not provided in police stations.

Content of international protection: A long awaited Joint Ministerial Decision was issued in August 2018 on the requirements regarding the issuance of visas for family members in the context of family reunification of refugees. However, administrative obstacles which hinder the effective exercise of the right to family reunification for refugees persist.

The naturalisation criteria and procedure have been amended following a 2018 reform.

Finally, in March 2019, the Ministry of Migration Policy clarified in a Ministerial Decision the conditions under which persons accommodated in UNHCR’s accommodation scheme (ESTIA) can maintain the right to accommodation for a period of six months after being granted international protection.

*This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE



Study Seeks to Fill Knowledge Gap on Sexual Abuse of Male Migrants

Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) has released the study: “’More Than One Million Pains”: Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys on the Central Mediterranean Route to Italy”, broadening the scope and seeking to fill the gap of research on sexual abuse of men and boys that constitute 87.5 per cent of the refugees and migrants who entered Italy through the central Mediterranean route.

The research conducted in Rome and Sicily include interviews with humanitarian personnel, service providers, guardians as well as refugees and migrants reveals widespread sexual abuse and violence in Libya: “Sexual violence is used for extortion, subjugation, punishment, and entertainment, and frequently involves elements of profound cruelty and psychological torture. Sexual victimization is usually not a single event: findings suggest that refugees and migrants are repeatedly exposed to multiple forms of sexual violence by a variety of perpetrators in contexts of impunity”.

Further the study finds cases of and risk of sexual exploitation in Italy as well as lack of capacity and multiple barriers to treatment of physical and mental traumas including anti-migration legislation, sociocultural norms, limited awareness of the issue, capacity challenges, and poor referral systems.

According to WRC the study “was conducted against a background of measures that the European Union (EU) and its member states, particularly Italy, have enacted to stem the flow of migration from Libya”.

The Extensive recommendations aimed at EU and Member States, UN agencies and international humanitarian actors in Italy as well as service providers and donors are urging that: “Prevention, mitigation, and response to sexual violence and other harms against women, men, boys, and girls, including those with diverse SOGIESC, must be prioritized throughout the central Mediterranean route”.



ECRE European Parliament Campaign: Your Vote Our Future! It is time to oppose the far-right populists and fight for a Europe respecting human dignity and fundamental rights – the European Parliament elections provide this opportunity. Every vote counts!

Choose Respect: Together We Can Tackle Anti-Migrant Hate Speech. Hate speech against migrants and refugees is all too common, both online and in the real world. But it isn’t always easy to know how to react effectively – and it’s even harder to respond in a way which changes attitudes. In the run-up to elections, politics is a frequent topic of debate. But if the discussion turns nasty – either around the dinner table or on your social media feed – here are some tips to help you make a constructive contribution to a more positive discourse.

End Immigration Detention of Children (Belgium): You don't lock up a child. Period. Detention of children violates fundamental rights and can cause irreparable damage to children’s well-being and development. It is unacceptable that in Belgium, in 2018, children are exposed to the trauma's that are caused by detention; alternatives do exist. Sign this petition to ask the Belgian government to stop detaining children, and to enshrine in law a prohibition on child immigration detention. If we speak up together, we can tackle anti-migrant hate speech!




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