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.

16 May 2014

At least 57 people died this week in two separate shipwrecks in the Mediterranean – Calls for legal channels to reach Europe for refugees and migrants continue 

Last Sunday at least 40 people died and 50 others were rescued after their boat capsized of the Libyan coast. A day later, 17 people died while a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized off the coast of the Italian island Lampedusa.

The European Commission and NGOs have consistently advocated for legal and safe channels for migrants and refugees to reach Europe.

EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has urged Member States to give concrete and effective follow up to the actions identified in the Action Plan designed by the European Commission and open legal channels for refugees to come to Europe legally. “By bringing these people safely to the EU, we could prevent them from falling in the hands of traffickers and smugglers who put migrants’ lives at risk to cross the Mediterranean. If each Member States would resettle even just a few thousand people, this would make a huge difference for hundreds of thousands of people who are in need of shelter,” the Commissioner stated.

"Every day that the EU dithers on creating safe and legal ways for protection seekers to come to Europe, more people die", stated Philip Amaral from the Jesuit Refugee Service. "These tragedies happen because the EU has failed to establish a system that enables people to come to Europe safely, legally and with dignity. In this case we commend the Italian authorities for doing all they can to rescue the migrants. But rescue-at-sea is not a sustainable policy for protection. For that, we need EU member states to agree on new legal channels to come to Europe", says Mr Amaral.
Amnesty International stresses that the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting (6 and 7 June) and the European Summit (26 and 27 June) “will be a good opportunity to redefine Europe’s approach to migration and asylum policy, before further lives are lost.”
Through a campaign by ECRE and over 100 other organisations, individuals can call on their government to act now to give refugees a safe way into Europe by relaxing visa restrictions, significantly increasing resettlement places and facilitating family reunification. Last week, the German Parliament has also called for an EU conference to increase the numbers of refugees from Syria resettled to EU countries.
Last week two boats carrying people from Somalia, Syria and Eritrea capsized in the Aegean Sea killing over 22 people. 
For further information


Refugees International: Tough times for Syrian refugees in Egypt

A new report by Refugees International (RI) illustrates the increasing difficulties faced by Syrians living in Egypt due to the lack of funding to address the needs of refugees, and changes in policies and public perceptions following the establishment of a military-backed government in July 2013.

Refugees told RI that Syrians were being stigmatised in Egyptian media, Syrian children were being attacked on the way to school, and that there was a growing feeling of vulnerability due to reports of arrests, detentions and deportations of Syrians.

In addition, the authorities are obstructing the work of organisations seeking to provide assistance for Syrians by not approving the registration of international NGOs intending to set up programmes for Syrian refugees in Egypt, shutting down a large number of new Egyptian charities that had developed in response to the needs of Syrians, and are not allowing some licensed agencies to expand the focus of their work to address the needs of Syrian refugees.

According to RI, in view of the situation, many Syrian refugees consider that they will not be able to have a dignified future in Egypt, and as they feel that it will not be possible to return to Syria for many years, decide to embark on unsafe boats to Europe.

RI also spoke to Syrian refugees who have relatives in Europe and other regions but are prevented from joining them because of visa restrictions. RI urges developed countries with Syrian populations to facilitate family reunification in order to show solidarity with the refugees and relieve some of the pressure on Egypt and other countries hosting refugees in the region.

Since July 2013, Syrians are required to have visas and a security clearance before entering the country, which according to RI has virtually stopped the arrivals of Syrians to Egypt. RI urges Egypt to lift the restrictions that are preventing Syrians from entering Egypt, in line with the obligations of the 1951 Refugee Convention to which Egypt is a signatory.

Around 135,000 Syrians have registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Egypt. Estimates by UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations suggest that the Syrian refugee population in the country could be twice that number. 

For further information


Frontex: Most people attempting to enter the EU irregularly are Syrians 

Most people detected trying to cross irregularly an EU border in 2013 were Syrian nationals, according to the latest report by the EU border agency Frontex.

25,500 Syrians were detected trying to enter the EU irregularly, accounting for almost a quarter of the total of persons detected. Member States reported to Frontex that there were over 50,000 applications for international protection from Syrians in 2013 – by far the largest of any nationality.

The number of people detected entering the EU irregularly in 2013 – 107,000 – is nearly 50% higher than for 2012, but roughly comparable to 2009 and 2010 and lower than the figure for 2011.

Frontex underlines steady numbers of migrants departing from North Africa (Libya and Egypt) and crossing the Mediterranean. Most people detected in the Central Mediterranean in 2013 were Eritreans (9,926) and Syrians (9,591).

Regarding the Eastern Mediterranean, Frontex reports that following the strengthening of border surveillance on the Greek side in 2012, including the completion of a fence along the 12-kilometre land border with Turkey and the deployment of additional border officers, as well as the continued implementation of Frontex-coordinated Joint Operations (Poseidon Sea and Land), the number of people detected crossing irregularly the Greek-Turkish land border dropped significantly.
Frontex also underlines that the number of people detected crossing irregularly the Bulgarian land border dropped sharply after October 2013, coinciding with a strengthening of surveillance efforts at the land border between Bulgaria and Turkey and the deployment of additional officers.

EU Commissioner Malmström told The Independent this week: “Why do people embark on those boats? Because there are no legal ways to get to Europe. The immediate way to help people, especially people from Syria, would be to engage in resettlement”. “Pathetically few countries take resettled refugees”, Malmström said.

The EU border agency also registered a sharp increase in the number of people detected attempting to cross irregularly to Hungary through its land border with Serbia.

The report also contains statistics on refusals of entry, document fraud, irregular stay and returns.


33.3 million people are displaced by war within their countries

There are 33.3 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the world today, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), part of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). This figure signifies another record-breaking year and a 4.5 million increase from 2012. The vast majority – over 78% – of newly displaced people reside in just five countries: Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), Nigeria, and Sudan. Alarmingly, 43% of newly displaced people in 2013 were from Syria alone. According to the IDMC, “with 9,500 people a day (approximately one family every 60 seconds) being displaced inside Syria, the country remains the largest and fastest evolving displacement crisis in the world.”

The rapidly growing numbers of IDPs worldwide evince the need to “overcome the perception of internal displacement as a solely humanitarian issue and [position] it as a matter for development agencies, private companies and others to address in order to move towards long-term solutions,” says the IDMC.

AIDA Report shows widespread use of detention in Hungary 

The updated AIDA Report, compiled by ECRE member organization Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), shows that the use of asylum detention is widespread in Hungary. This follows the introduction in July 2013 of asylum detention on grounds, among others, of risk of absconding and when identity or nationality of the person seeking recognition is uncertain. 26% of all applicants and almost half (42%) of single men are detained but practice shows that families with children and single women are no longer detained in immigration or asylum detention facilities.

On the other hand, despite the clear ban on detention of unaccompanied children, at the beginning of 2014, the HHC identified during its monitoring missions to asylum detention facilities cases where asylum seekers visibly under 18 had been detained due to probably incorrect age assessment. The age assessment carried out by a police-employed doctor at the initial stage of the immigration procedure is generally a simplified examination based on their physical appearance, and the Office of Immigration and Nationality (OIN) no longer requests a new age assessment.

The report also notes that subsequent asylum applicants (people who submit an asylum application after the case on a previous application has been rejected or closed) will now have the right to a suspensive effect of appeal, except if the subsequent application submitted after discontinuation (tacit or explicit)  is  found manifestly unfounded or inadmissible. As a consequence, the applicants will be allowed to stay in the territory pending the examination of their subsequent asylum application. Previously, subsequent applicants were usually issued an expulsion order and had to submit a separate request to appeal and/or suspend the order. As such requests had to be presented to another authority, many asylum seekers failed to lodge an appeal or suspend the removal.

The report notes that family reunification has become more difficult due to administrative barriers: all documents shall now bear an official stamp from the authorities proving that they are originals, as well as an official stamp from the Hungarian consulate. In addition, all documents have to be translated into English or Hungarian, which is very costly. According to the report, reunification proves to be very difficult especially when applicants with no valid passports apply for family reunification visas, which is often the case with Syrian nationals.

In 2013, asylum applications have raised a 776% (18,900) in Hungary compared to 2012 (2,157). The main country of origin of asylum seekers was Kosovo (6,212), followed by Pakistan (3,081) and Afghanistan (2,328).

This report is part of the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), a project of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), in partnership with Forum Refugiés-Cosi, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Irish Refugee Council. AIDA focuses on asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention of asylum seekers in EU Member States.


New AIDA Report: The Netherlands establishes criteria for detention of asylum seekers awaiting return to another Member State under the Dublin procedure
A new AIDA report by the Dutch Council for Refugees on the asylum procedure, detention and reception conditions in the Netherlands has been published this week.

The update explains the new Dutch criteria for detaining asylum seekers pending their removal to another EU Member State under the Dublin III Regulation. According to this Regulation, detention is permitted where there is a ‘significant risk of absconding’, which Dutch law says is met if at least two of these three circumstances are present: (1) previous irregular entry and unlawful absconding; (2) previous failure to leave the Netherlands when ordered to do so; (3) previous non-cooperation with determination of identity and nationality, including forged or discarded ID papers, or expressed non-intention to cooperate. The Dutch Secretary of State stated that there will always be as well an individual assessment on whether somebody should be detained and that it is not sufficient just to ascertain that these circumstances are met.

The report highlights the good practice of the six-day ‘rest and preparation period’ prior to beginning the asylum procedure, during which the asylum seeker has time to recuperate from their journey, an independent medical examination can take place to determine fitness for interview, counselling can be provided by the Dutch Council for Refugees, and preparatory action can be taken by the applicant’s lawyer.

The report also notes that the Dutch appeals process has been described as ‘unnecessarily complicated’. Appeals in the ordinary (non-extended) asylum procedure don’t have ‘suspensive effect’, which means the appellant can be removed from the Netherlands before the outcome of the appeal. This can only be prevented if, alongside the appeal, a request for suspension of removal is lodged, but this must be made within 24 hours of the initial refusal of the asylum application.

This report is part of the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), a project of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), in partnership with Forum Refugiés-Cosi, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Irish Refugee Council. AIDA focuses on asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention of asylum seekers in EU Member States.


ECRE is recruiting for an 11-month legal internship

ECRE is offering an 11-month legal internship, starting preferably in September 2014.
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.

Please complete the application form and return it to Julia Zelvenska ( stating “Application for Legal internship” in the subject heading.

The deadline for the receipt of applications is 17 June 2014.

Visit the ECRE vacancies page and read the legal internship description.



Amnesty International urges Chad to reopen its borders to refugees from Central African Republic

Amnesty International has called on the Chadian government to revise its decision to close the borders with Central African Republic (CAR) in order to guarantee a lifeline to refugees fleeing the worsening ethnically-motivated violence.

On 11 May, the Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno, announced that the border with CAR would be sealed to everyone “until the crisis in [the country] is resolved”, with the exception of returning Chadian citizens and their personal belongings.

According to Amnesty International, since December 2013 more than 360,000 people have left CAR to seek protection from war crimes and crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, in neighbouring countries.

Christian Mukosa, Amnesty’s International’s Researcher on Central Africa, stated: “President Déby has slammed the door in the face of refugees arriving from CAR, condemning them to continued suffering. He must reverse this decision and the international community must do more to support the tens of thousands of refugees from CAR who have fled to Chad”.

Valerie Amos, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, during her visit to Chad called for more efforts to be made to assist and support refugees from CAR who have sought protection within Chadian borders.

For further information