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.

27 February 2015

Commissioner for Human Rights: French reception system is failing asylum seekers

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, has denounced serious and chronic deficiencies in the French reception system for asylum seekers, which is leaving many asylum seekers, including families, sleeping rough or reliant on precarious emergency accommodation.

Only 33% of applicants for international protection in France had access to a reception centre for asylum seekers (CADA) and approximately only 2,200 places are made available by the temporary reception service (ATSA). Consequently, most asylum seekers are forced to rely on emergency accommodation; numbering, for example, 24,600 in 2013. During his visit to France from 22 to 26 September 2014, the Commissioner met asylum seekers and unaccompanied children from Afghanistan and Sub-Saharan countries living in the streets. Asylum seekers without stable accommodation must receive a daily allowance of 11,20 €, an insufficient amount for people to meet their basic needs.

With regard to unaccompanied children, the Commissioner was informed that many of them are detained at France’s borders, not always separated from adults, thus exposing them to possible abuse and exploitation.

Furthermore, Commissioner Muižnieks urged France to remove the obstacles that prevent Syrian refugees from seeking asylum in France, and in particular the obligation, since January 2013, for Syrians to obtain an airport transit visa. The Commissioner also noted that, although the French authorities had committed in October 2013 to resettle 500 Syrian refugees, less than half of them had actually been resettled by September 2014, at the time of the Commissioner’s visit.
Moreover, the Commissioner called on France to find durable solutions to the critical situation of migrants in Calais and to better protect them from xenophobic violence.
Muižnieks also warned that “despite advances in legislation and measures to combat intolerance and racism, discrimination and hate speech not only persist in France but are on the rise.”
In 2014, in France, 57,230 people applied for asylum.

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Asylum can be granted to military defectors who provide logistical support in conflicts says CJEU

The Court of Justice of the European (CJEU) has held that members of the military participating indirectly in a conflict can be granted asylum for defection. Whilst, past commission of war crimes does not have to occur for protection to be applicable, evidence must be provided that there is a high likelihood that war crimes will be committed and that the individual’s tasks are sufficiently linked to the participation in war crimes.

In the case of the US mechanic André Shepherd who had applied for asylum in Germany, the CJEU held, however, that a possible five year custodial sentence in the US for military defection was not so disproportionate or discriminatory as to amount to acts of persecution.

Shepherd was deployed to Iraq in 2004, where he worked for six months as a helicopter engineer, before returning with his unit to its base in Germany. Upon reenlisting in the military, Shepherd refused to return to Iraq in 2007 on account that continued participation in the US armed forces would lead to the commission of war crimes. "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing (…) I could not in good conscience continue to serve."  Mr Shepherd, said in 2008.

Noting that the EU Qualification Directive does define an act of persecution as prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service in a conflict, where performing military service would include the commission of war crimes, the CJEU highlighted that the likelihood of war crimes being committed could be indicated by past conduct or previous criminal sentences of a military unit. The Court underlined that it would be unlikely that a soldier would be led to commit war crimes if the intervention was legitimised by a UN Security Council mandate or an international consensus and if domestic legislation effectively prosecuted war crimes.

The CJEU further highlighted that the acts of persecution complained of must, and can only, arise from the applicant’s refusal to perform military service. In the present case, given voluntary enlistment and subsequent reenlistment, the applicant had not availed himself of a procedure for obtaining conscientious objector status.

The case is back now to a Munich court for a final decision that takes the CJEU’s judgment into account.

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AIDA: Freedom of movement and access to employment improved for asylum seekers in Germany
A new AIDA update by Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration details legislative changes improving the situation of asylum seekers in the country.
Since November 2014, asylum seekers now only have to wait for three months (down from nine) to be able to work in Germany after submitting their asylum application.
Since January 2015 most migrants are able to move freely within Germany after having resided in the country for three months. Previously, asylum seekers and other migrants, who cannot be returned, were obliged to remain in a particular municipality and apply for a permit to leave their area.
Furthermore, in November 2014, the German authorities introduced further accelerated procedures for those groups with a strong likelihood of being granted refugee status. The aim of this development was to enable the individuals involved, mostly Syrians and members of some ethnic minority groups from Iraq, to receive a decision on their asylum claim within 11 days.
On the other hand, in November 2014, Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were added to the list of “safe countries of origin”. Applications from asylum seekers from these countries can now summarily be rejected as “manifestly unfounded” unless the applicant provides evidence that he or she is at a particular risk of persecution.
Finally, the report shows that, in the second half of 2014, Germany stopped using prisons to detain migrants awaiting return. This followed a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in July 2014 which found that detention for the purpose of removal of illegally staying third-country nationals has to be carried out in specialised detention facilities in all Federal States of Germany.
With over 173,000 people applying for asylum in Germany in 2014, Germany received approximately 33% of all asylum applications lodged in the EU during that period.

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AIDA Report: Malta introduces review of detention of migrants and asylum seekers
The new AIDA update on Malta draws attention to changes emerging in the practice of detaining migrants, with frequent reviews provided for by law since January 2014. In further steps to transpose the EU Returns Directive, the law now requires that detention be reviewed at reasonable intervals, which should not exceed three months. According to the new AIDA report, although it is not yet possible to identify a clear practice, a number of reviews were indeed conducted in the second half of 2014 and in most cases the person was released. Both migrants awaiting removal from Malta and people waiting for a final decision on their asylum claim had their detention reviewed. The outcome of the review appears to be mostly based on an assessment of how likely the prospect of a successful removal is.
The report, written by aditus foundation and the Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, also notes a rise in the number of Libyan asylum seekers towards the end of 2014. While in 2013, 100 Libyan nationals applied for asylum in Malta, 345 sought protection from January to November 2014. This is likely due to renewed fighting in the country. Malta’s Office of the Refugee Commissioner has been granting, as a minimum, Temporary Humanitarian Protection to all Libyan asylum seekers. Refugee status has also been granted in some cases.
The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is an ECRE project mapping asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention in Europe. The database covers 16 EU countries, and will soon be enlarged to include Switzerland and Turkey.

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AIDA Report: children & other asylum seekers in Austria left without adequate accommodation 

A new AIDA report shows that shortcomings in the asylum system in Austria, and the lack of reception places, lead to serious overcrowding in the initial reception centre, resulting in some asylum seekers having to sleep in sport halls and, at the end of 2014, in military barracks.

BFA, the national authority responsible for processing claims, was understaffed and had experienced problems with its database, which led to only a few asylum applications being processed. In Austria, from January to June 2014, 8,395 people applied for asylum. As asylum applications continued to increase in the second half of the year, and more people were awaiting a decision for longer periods, Austria’s reception places for asylum seekers were soon not sufficient to accommodate all asylum seekers in the system.

The report also shows that unaccompanied children seeking asylum suffered heavily due to the system’s failures. According to the report, many asylum seekers under 18 saw no substantive action taken on their case after registration of their claim. No decision was taken from January to June 2014. Reception places adapted to the needs of children were lacking, leading to unaccompanied children being accommodated, together with adults, in regular centres. 

The government has been working on a new programme for the distribution of asylum seekers across the country, which should be operational by July 2015. But the report notes that no draft law is yet available which would be necessary to implement the changes.
Austria resettled 500 refugees from Syria in 2014 and has committed to resettle a further 1,000 Syrian refugees.
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