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.

16 September 2016
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EU to provide emergency funding for Greece and humanitarian funding for Turkey

On September 10, the European Commission announced another 115 million of emergency support for Greece to improve the conditions for over 60,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Greece in often dire conditions. The money will be used to improve current shelters and build new ones before winter starts. In addition to this, the money will be used to enable refugee children to access education and to give direct assistance to refugees through cash- and voucher-schemes. Finally the money will also be used to help unaccompanied asylum seeking children who are in need of special care. This money brings the total funding under the Emergency Support Instrument to €198 million.

This initiative comes only a few days after the EU’s announcement of a new humanitarian program in Turkey named the Emergency Social Safety Net (EESN). The ESSN was agreed upon in the context of the EU-Turkey Statement and consists of 348 million euros which will be distributed amongst refugees in the form of electronic cash cards and can be used as people wish. The programme will be rolled out in October 2016 by the World Food Programme in partnership with governmental bodies and the Turkish Red Crescent. According to the European Commission, the ESSN “will reach the most vulnerable families among registered Syrian refugees in Turkey” , but also include a referral system to address the needs of other persons of concern too.

VOICE, a network of European NGOs active in humanitarian aid, and other NGOs have raised concerns as to the potential exclusion of other nationalities and of unregistered Syrian refugees and asylum seekers from the programme. Sara Tesorieri, a policy advisor at Oxfam’s Brussels office,  regretted that the EU development budgets are now being “instrumentalised for migration control”.
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European Border and Coast Guard set to start activities soon

On 14 September, the Council gave final approval for the adoption of the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation. The European Border and Coast Guard agency will be the successor of Frontex, with expanded competences. The agency’s activities which are set to begin on 6 October include technical and operational assistance in support of search and rescue operations, appointing liaison officers of the agency in Member States, drafting vulnerability assessments of Member States’ border control capacity and organising, coordinating and conducting return operations and interventions.

One of the most contentious provisions in the Regulation is the establishment of a rapid reserve pool of at least 1500 border guards that can be sent to a country without the country’s explicit consent. The European Commission can propose an intervention and after the Parliament’s approval, the Border and Coast Guard agency will then intervene in a crisis situation, even if the country is reluctant to receive help. ECRE has previously published a joint briefing with Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists on the original proposal for a Regulation in April in which it expressed serious concerns about the working and competences of the agency.

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Hungarian NGOs protest against upcoming xenophobic referendum

On 2 October, Hungarian citizens will vote in a referendum on the following question: “Do you want the EU to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without the approval of the National Assembly?” The government has spent over 10 million euros of public money on a xenophobic campaign to divert public opinion offering scare-mongering and distorted facts about immigration and refugees.

The campaign includes a booklet which has been sent to over 4 million Hungarians, which allegedly explains why people should vote ‘No’ at the referendum, stating that the country needs to send a strong signal to Brussels and that only Hungarians should decide who can live in Hungary.

ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee, together with 21 other civil society organisations, issued a joint statement regarding the referendum. “The referendum campaign is inhuman. The goal of the referendum and the accompanying campaign is to incite hatred towards refugees. Its only outcome will be that the already extremely fragile solidarity in society will be further weakened and this will boost the government to carry on with the hate campaign,” state the organisations. “The real question on the 2nd of October is whether this country will ever be able to become an inclusive community.”

In a separate development, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is calling for the building of a second border fence to better protect the country and the Hungarian police is now recruiting 3,000 ‘Border Hunters’: civilians who will receive a 6-months training and who will later be deployed at the border to detect refugees crossing the border.

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Germany: Lesser standard of protection for people from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan

The level of protection given to people fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan in Germany has decreased drastically this year. Instead of refugee status, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is granting subsidiary protection to all four nationalities. In contrast with last year, people from Iraq and Afghanistan often receive no protection at all. People with subsidiary status face stricter conditions for family reunification, than people with full refugee status.
According to Pro Asyl, in 2015 nearly a 100 per cent of all Syrians obtained refugee status; the percentage fell continuously this year from 46 percent being granted only subsidiary in June to 70 per cent granted subsidiary protection in August. This situation has been leading to an increase of appeals, in which the German Administrative Courts have accepted that Syrians are entitled to refugee status.
Eritreans had a refugee status recognition rate of 96 per cent last year. However, in July, 19 per cent were granted subsidiary protection and in August 27 per cent.  While last year 96,7 per cent of all persons fleeing Iraq obtained a refugee status, in August 19 percent received subsidiary protection and 28 per cent of applications were rejected.
Similarly, in August 2016, only 48 per cent of Afghans received full protection, while last year 79 per cent had been granted full refugee status. Following an inquiry initiated by Green Party MP Volker Beck, the German government stated that in the first half of this year every second asylum request of a male Afghan asylum seeker was rejected. “Taking into account the precarious human rights situation in Afghanistan, the increasing numbers of rejections is especially concerning,” said MP Beck to the ECRE Weekly Bulletin.
It is thus likely that with an increasing number of people being granted subsidiary protection in 2016, and given the stricter conditions they will face for family reunification, it is of concern that more families may be forced to make the journey irregularly.  
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Italy’s deportation of 48 Sudanese citizens may amount to collective expulsion

On 24 August 2016, Italian police carried out the deportation of 48 Sudanese nationals from the border crossing of Ventimiglia to Khartoum. The Sudanese citizens were trying to cross into France as it was their intention to reach northern European countries. It is unclear if they were informed of the possibility to apply for asylum in Italy before the deportation took place, states ECRE member CIR (Italian Council for Refugees). However, if they were not provided with such information, this deportation would constitute an extremely grave violation of their rights, including the right to apply for international protection, continues the organisation.  

This deportation is the first to take place under a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two countries on 3 August 2016, with the aim of enhancing cooperation between Italy and Sudan on fighting crime and managing borders and migration, including stemming irregular migration. According to the Italian embassy in Sudan, this agreement is “another brick in the Italo-Sudanese tower of friendship." Furthermore, the agreement belongs to a series of measures taken or to be taken in the framework of cooperation between the Horn of Africa states and the European Union on migration - the Khartoum process - followed up by the EU Emergency Trust Fund launched at the Valletta Summit in November 2015.

In 2015, the recognition rate for humanitarian protection of Sudanese citizens in Italy was at 60%. Dario Belluccio, lawyer with ECRE member ASGI, told to the ECRE Weekly Bulletin that the practice amounted in effect to a collective expulsion, in violation of international and European law. In addition, repatriation of foreign nationals to a country where they may be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment is in violation of art 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 19 of the Italian law on Immigration. Sudan’s president Omar al Bashir has an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court since 2009 with ten counts of crimes, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

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Relocation of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy needs to be at a faster and increased rate, UNHCR urges

A day after the European Commission released new statistics revealing a slow implementation of the relocation mechanism, UNHCR has called upon EU Member States to increase their pledges and pace of relocation. So far only 3 per cent of the pledge to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other Member States has been met.

“UNHCR also calls upon the EU and Member States to revisit the eligibility criteria by lowering the threshold for relocation candidates to include additional nationalities likely in need of protection,” UNHCR’s William Spinder stated. “Currently, only asylum-seekers of nationalities with an average recognition rate of 75% or higher at the EU level are eligible for relocation. Based on the latest available EU data, this threshold excludes, for example, Iraqis, who previously met the threshold, as their average recognition rate has fallen to 73%.”

In total, 3,127 asylum seekers were relocated from Greece, and only 1,064 from Italy. France is the country that has relocated more asylum seekers from both countries (1,662). The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 15 September demanding EU Member States to honour their pledges and to speed up the implementation of the relocation scheme. The MEP’s voted against the Commission proposal to take 54,000 places from a scheme for relocating asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU member states, and use them to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey in the EU instead. MEP Ska Keller underlined that the relocation scheme is “a true solidarity instrument that “needs to be strengthened, not watered down”.

Rising inequality: millions of refugee children are missing out of school

Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than other children, a UNHCR report exposes this week.  “Missing Out: Refugee Education in Crisis” compares UNESCO data on global school enrolment with UNHCR data on refugee education and disparities are evident; only 50 per cent of refugee children have access to primary education, while the global enrolment lies at 90 per cent.

UNHCR stresses that the majority of refugee are hosted in countries where government struggle to educate their own children. More than half of the world’s out-of-school refugee children and adolescents are living in seven countries:  Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey.

“As the international community considers how best to deal with the refugee crisis, it is essential that we think beyond basic survival,” UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi underlined. “Education enables refugees to positively shape the future of both their countries of asylum and their home countries when they one day return.”

Hellenic Rescue Team and Efi Latsoudi awarded the Nansen Award

The Hellenic Rescue Team and Efi Latsoudi, the human rights activist behind ‘PIKPA village’ on Lesvos, have jointly been awarded UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award for their humanitarian efforts in Greece.
Since the beginning of 2012, Efi Latsoudi has been helping vulnerable asylum seekers, including children, pregnant women and people with disabilities, to find temporary shelter at the PIKPA village. “I think it’s a very simple human thing we have to do, and if we do it things can be very different,” she says. “Solidarity saved lives here. But solidarity is not enough. There should be political decisions so that we won’t experience this again.”
The Hellenic Rescue Team currently consists of 2,500 volunteers, who have been rescuing people from the Aegean Sea and Greek mountains. “We have to be united in periods of crisis, as we did with our other Greek volunteers and the rest of the world who came here to assist us. The planet will have difficult situations in the future, so we have to be together in order to assist in saving lives.”
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