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.

20 June 2014

ECRE hands over the Europe Act Now petition – Europe needs to take down the “Closed” sign and help Syria’s refugees

Today, on World Refugee Day, ECRE has handed over the ‘Europe Act Now, #HelpSyriasRefugees’ petition to Anne Kemppainen, representative of the Office of the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. Over 100 NGOs, Members of the European Parliament and 20,000 citizens, have called on Europe to give refugees a safe way into Europe, reunite families torn apart by the crisis and protect refugees arriving at Europe’s borders.

“While our campaign petition is handed over today, we will continue to work for safe and legal means for refugees to access Europe, for an end to pushbacks at our borders, and for families that have been torn apart fleeing crisis to be reunified,” stressed ECRE’s Secretary General when handing over the petition.
“I am honoured to receive this petition which has succeeded in mobilising European public opinion. This event is a very timely initiative to give some concrete policy recommendations to European decision makers ahead of next week’s European Council meeting. The EU remains the leading humanitarian actor in Syria and the neighbouring countries and the track record is improving also regarding resettlement”, said Anne Kemppainen.

Last week, ECRE commended Germany’s pledge to resettle 10,000 more refugees, bringing the number of refugees from Syria to be resettled in the country to 20,000. ECRE also strongly supports the call from the German Parliament for a European conference to encourage EU Members States to come together and make greater commitments to accept more refugees.

The #HelpSyriasRefugees campaign allowed supporters to give their voice to a refugee from Syria on social media, such as to Farah who is in Lebanon and fears for her children’s future as they are not able to attend school and must beg on the street to get money for rent and food; or to Zaina and Osama who are beaten and robbed by smugglers when trying to leave Greece; or Azmi who had to risk his life crossing the Mediterranean.


2013 saw the highest number of forcibly displaced people since the Second World War, UNHCR Global Trends report reveals

A record-breaking 51.2 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide in 2013, UNHCR’s annual Global Trends, published today, shows. This represents an average of 32,200 persons per day -or one person every four seconds- forced to leave their homes due to persecution, conflict, or human rights violations.
These record-breaking numbers are attributed mainly to crises in Syria, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a dramatic and troubling turn-around Syria has gone from being the world’s second largest refugee-hosting country to being its second largest refugee-producing country – within a span of just five years. In August 2013, the one millionth Syrian refugee child was registered by UNHCR. A few weeks later, the total number of Syrian refugees had passed two million.
Of the more than 50 million total displaced globally, approximately 16.7 million are refugees, 1.1 million are asylum seekers, and 33.3 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs). Children made up half of the refugee population last year.
Developing countries took responsibility of hosting 86 per cent of the world’s refugees last year, while the Least Developed Countries alone provided asylum to 24 per cent of the global total.

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UNHCR Somalia update: asylum seekers fleeing areas affected by recent military action or outside State control are likely to meet criteria for refugee status

UNHCR’s updated position on returns to Southern and Central Somalia recommends that Somali asylum seekers from areas currently or recently affected by military action and/or consequent displacement, or from areas under the control of non-State groups, are likely to have a well-founded fear of persecution and therefore meet the criteria for refugee status.

Reasserting UNHCR’s position in their previous update in January 2014, the new update notes that the criteria for refugee status may also be met by a Somali applicant from an area under effective Government control and not affected by military operations, if they meet one of the potential risk profiles listed in the January 2014 paper, e.g. a perceived supporter of anti-government groups.

UNHCR notes that the security situation in Southern and Central Somalia is reported to have deteriorated since the January 2014 update, which recorded the weak capacity of the State to protect civilians, massive displacement, weakened community structures, gross human rights violations and the breakdown of law and order. These are the ‘devastating consequences’ of the protracted conflict between government forces and non-state armed groups, which have effective control over large parts of the region.

The military offensive against non-State groups has resulted in the displacement of 73,000 people since March 2014. Criminal harassment and extortion of money from displaced persons is reported along transit routes between key towns. Areas where the State has re-established control are ‘expected to remain fragile for some time’, as justice and security structures require re-building.

UNHCR highlights that, since December 2013, over 34,000 Somalis, including children, elderly people, registered asylum seekers and recognised refugees, have been deported from different countries to Somalia.

This update also recommends that any Somali considering a spontaneous and organised voluntary return to Somalia should be provided with as much detailed information on the situation in their place of origin as possible, in order for them to make a fully informed choice.
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Malta has not yet taken steps required by ECtHR to improve detention system, updated AIDA report shows

The updated AIDA Report, compiled by ECRE member organisations aditus foundation and Jesuit Refugee Service Malta (JRS), shows that Malta has not yet improved its detention system following the 2013 judgment in which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) indicated measures that Malta is required to take in order to prevent the detention regime for asylum seekers from violating the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECtHR requested the Maltese authorities to establish a mechanism to allow individuals seeking a review of the lawfulness of their immigration detention to obtain a determination of this claim within a reasonable time-limit. It further recommended taking the necessary steps to improve the conditions and shorten the length of detention of asylum seekers.

The ECtHR ascertained violations of Articles 3 (Prohibition of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment) and 5 (Right to liberty and security and Right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) in the cases of Aden Ahmed v. Malta and Suso Musa v. Malta, which were decided in July 2013 and became final in December.

Anyone who enters the Maltese territory without the necessary documents is detained upon arrival. In 2013, around 1,900 individuals went through detention in Malta.

The report notes that asylum seekers who arrive in Malta in an irregular manner are not always effectively informed of the possibility and/or of the means of challenging the removal order issued against them.
Finally, the Report highlights that, in 2013, the Office of the Refugee Commissioner raised the level of protection granted to Syrian asylum seekers to subsidiary protection (a status granted to people recognised as fleeing war, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment), mainly by eliminating the distinction made earlier between Syrians reaching Malta after the start of the conflict and those who arrived in Malta prior to the start of the hostilities. Where those who had been in Malta for some time and who only applied for asylum after the start of the conflict were found not eligible for refugee status, instead of being granted subsidiary protection, they were granted ‘Temporary Humanitarian Protection’ a domestic form of protection which, while still providing protection from forced return and a selection of the same rights of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, is not set out in law and is granted on a discretionary basis. In a number of cases, the Refugee Appeals Board overturned first instance and granted the asylum seekers concerned subsidiary protection. At the same time, all Syrian applicants who had been granted Temporary Humanitarian Protection had their protection changed to subsidiary protection.

Currently, all Syrian applicants who prove their Syrian nationality are granted, as a minimum, subsidiary protection. Only 1% was recognised as refugees.

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.
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Manual on monitoring immigration detention designed to ‘open up the closed world of custody’

A new Practical Manual on Monitoring Immigration Detention by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), the International Detention Coalition (IDC) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) sets out to provide a practical tool for building and strengthening monitoring and/or inspection capacities of organisations and individuals visiting places of immigration detention.

The manual offers a step-by-step guide to identifying and documenting situations where immigration detention conditions fail to meet minimum international standards. Guidelines are provided on how to prepare for, conduct, and follow-up on a visit to an immigration detention facility in order to assess the conditions of detention, the treatment of detainees and their access to care, advice, family and an effective complaints mechanism. Guidance on the visit encompasses assessment of the physical place of detention, observing procedures, interviews with the detainees themselves and facility staff, and access to administrative information. Advice is offered on how to monitor the law and practice of detention, in order to determine the existence of arbitrary and unlawful detention, in particular prolonged or indefinite custody. 

The manual also highlights which aspects of immigration detention to monitor, including detention procedures and recourse to alternatives to detention, access to a lawyer, access to asylum/protection procedures, requests and complaints mechanisms, and removal procedures. For each aspect, the manual provides useful references and sample questions.

Specific monitoring guidance is provided with respect to the risk of ill-treatment, including solitary confinement and use of force, safeguards such as disciplinary procedures and external inspection, healthcare and special needs, and material conditions, including accommodation arrangements, food and drinking water, hygiene, and clothing. The manual advises on the necessary questions to be asked regarding activities for detainees, including communication with the outside world, education, work, exercise and leisure, religious practice, and counselling. 
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