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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 www.ecre.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

     
4 November 2016
  
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OP-ED
ECRE

EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENTS
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS
REPORTS & NGO ACTIONS
  

OP-ED

Calais: the dismantlement of the camp should not be an end in itself - OP- ed by Pierre Henry, Director of France Terre d’Asile

Last week, the biggest unofficial migrant camp in France was evacuated and dismantled. It was a necessary action in light of the appalling living conditions of those men, women and children seeking protection or a better life, even if some elements could have been improved. The camp had also grown to unmanageable levels, rising from 400 people in April 2014, to 9 000 in September 2016. In spite of the valuable work of NGOs and volunteers, there were growing concerns about insecurity and exploitation of the most vulnerable within the camp.

Even if many of those migrants dream of reaching the UK, France still has a duty to offer them decent shelter and the opportunity to access the asylum procedure. Following the camp being dismantled, over 6,000 persons have been accommodated within the space of three days in temporary reception centres. In these reception centres, migrants will be able to rest and will be offered the opportunity to apply for asylum. According to the French Asylum office (Ofpra), 70 % of the migrants who were in Calais are in need of international protection.

Yet, challenges remain in the short and longer term. How many will stay in those centres? Are all those who apply for asylum to be offered a place in a centre for asylum seekers after their stay in the temporary centres?

As far as unaccompanied children are concerned, 308 have already been able to join their family in the UK under the Dublin III Regulation. While this is merely the implementation of the legislation, it still is significant progress as a few months ago those children had only one choice: risking their life by jumping on a truck near port of Calais. During the dismantlement, 1 500 unaccompanied children have been accommodated in the existing site composed of containers, located next to the ‘Jungle’ before being transferred to specialised temporary centres throughout France. In each centre, a representative of the British Home Office will examine their case to see if they can benefit from family reunification. For those refused, the question remains as to whether they will accept staying in France and what sort of protection they will be offered.

Evacuating this huge slum and providing accommodation to its ‘inhabitants’ was urgently required, but it will of course not end the Calais migratory issue as long as its root causes are not tackled. Many of the migrants that end up in Calais are in need of protection and may not have had access to asylum or to decent living conditions during their journey in Europe and in France.

As in the rest of Europe, France has seen the number of asylum seekers increase by 26% over the last two years. This increase is manageable and should not affect access to the asylum procedure and accommodation. On the other hand, we know that, because of family links or cultural ties, some migrants want to go to the UK no matter what.

The British fortress policy has not stopped arrivals and there is no sustainable solution without a strong British humanitarian commitment. Brexit or not, Calais still remains a European and France-UK issue. In this perspective, the family reunification pathway opened for unaccompanied children is a start but it is not enough. It has to be continued and widened. Political will and commitment are essential to find appropriate solutions to migratory and humanitarian situations. Without a long term commitment of both France and the UK, the migration situation in Calais risk being again a media headline.
 
 

ECRE

Unravelling Travelling: AIDA legal briefing on travel documents for beneficiaries of international protection

A legal briefing published last week by the Asylum Information Database (AIDA) documents the various legal frameworks and practices for issuing travel documents to beneficiaries of international protection in 20 European countries. The briefing highlights the fragmented nature of the issuing of travel documents. It also raises concerns about the European Commission proposal to introduce a one year minimum duration period and the differential treatment of various protection status holders.
 
Regarding the duration of travel documents issued to holders of international protection, the briefing finds that with the exception of Hungary and Turkey, all EU countries and Switzerland currently provide a period of validity that is longer than one year. Hence, the Commission proposal to introduce a one year minimum time span, could lead to a ‘race to the bottom’.
 
The briefing further highlights the diverging treatment of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection when it comes to the right to travel and the period of validity of those travel documents. In all cases beneficiaries of subsidiary protection enjoy fewer rights than refugees.
 
The briefing concludes that the absence of a comprehensive legal instrument on recognition of travel documents and transfer of responsibility results in a complex and fragmented legal framework and gives rise to confusion in many countries. Other topics discussed in the legal briefing are the recognition of travel documents issued by other countries and the transfer of responsibility for refugees between states.
  
For further information:                                                             
See also the AIDA article of 28 October 2016.
 
 


ECRE Comments on the proposal for a Qualification Regulation

ECRE has published its Comments on the European Commission’s proposal for a Qualification Regulation. This proposal defines the criteria for obtaining refugee status or subsidiary protection in the EU and the content of international protection. ECRE is concerned that the proposal will have negative consequences for protection standards in the EU.
 
One of the changes raising concern for protection standards is the stricter, mandatory rules foreseen in relation to the internal protection alternative. This would oblige states to reject asylum applications if they find that a person could have sought protection in another part of their home country. This and other expanded options for excluding persons from refugee status or subsidiary protection – for example under the exclusion grounds or the problematic “revocation and non-renewal” clauses – run a real risk of denying status to those in need of it. These changes also risk further  distancing the Common European Asylum System from the refugee protection standards set by the 1951 Refugee Convention.
 
With the new proposal refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection continue to receive different rights without justification. The distinction of the two statuses comes with differential treatment between holders in relation to social assistance, the duration of residence permits and the corollary provisions on review of status. Upholding this distinction has a substantial impact on the rights of subsidiary protection holders.
 
For further information:
 

EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENTS

Report of Libyan Coast Guards attacking migrants raises concerns over continued cooperation within Operation Sophia

The allegation that the Libyan Coast Guard violently assaulted a vessel transporting asylum seekers raises strong concerns about the EU’s collaboration with the Libyan navy, which commenced last week as part of the EU’s Operation Sophia.

German NGO Sea Watch reported  that during a rescue operation two weeks ago, a rubber dinghy carrying 150 – 160 people was attacked by the Libyan Coast Guard.  According to Sea Watch, coast guards were seen hitting migrants and causing the deflation of the vessel. The attack led to the drowning of approximately 30 people. While Sea Watch published pictures of the incident, the Libyan Coast Guard merely confirmed its presence at the scene but denied the alleged attack.  After the attack, Sea Watch spokesperson Ruben Neugebauer said, “Next week training starts with the Libyan coastguard. We think it’s quite important to think about with whom we are collaborating.

”The training will start in the framework of Operation Sophia which was launched in June last year as an EU military mission with the objective of “disrupt[ing] the business model of human smugglers and traffickers” in the Central Mediterranean.  In June this year, the Operation’s mandate was reinforced to include the training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy. The training, with the objective of enhancing the coast guard’s ability to disrupt smuggling and trafficking as well as to perform search and rescue operations, begun last week.

The decision to continue the training despite the attack was criticised by ProAsyl. The organization condemned the EU’s cooperation, saying that the EU hereby becomes an accomplice to the breaches of human rights committed by the Libyan Coast Guard.

For further information:
 

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

Asylum seekers transferred from northern Italy to Taranto hotspot

Last week, approximately 100 persons staying in the Via Corelli reception centre in Milan were transferred by  bus to the Taranto hotspot (approximately 1,000km south of Milan), where migrants and asylum seekers are being unlawfully detained. Similar incidents have been reported earlier this year, whereby people have been returned from Ventimiglia to Taranto.
 
Dario Belluccio, lawyer and board member of the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (ASGI), told ECRE: “It's hard to explain this huge waste of public money by the Italian authorities. It seems that the will of the Italian authorities, with regard to applicants for international protection, is to limit their secondary movements to other European countries. In this sense, sending people to the Taranto hotspot acts as a deterrent.”
 
The President of the Italian Senate Extraordinary Commission for Human Rights, Luigi Manconi, has addressed the Prefect and the Questura of Milan to request more information on the reasons for transferring the group to Taranto, and to investigate their treatment in the hotspot.
 
 “From a legal point of view, because of the absence of legislation (Italian or European) that legitimises the existence of hotspots in Italy and, therefore, of the unlawful detention of people within each of these places, we can say that all transfers to and detentions in the hotspot are illegal and contrary to several provisions of the Italian Constitution", added Dario Belluccio.
 
A report published by Amnesty International this week details a series of human rights violations against migrants and refugees in the Italian hotspots, including detention and use of force to coerce fingerprinting that may amount to torture.
 
 For further information:
 

REPORTS & NGO ACTION

UN Special Rapporteur finds no evidence of risk between migration and terrorism

In its latest Report on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights finds that there is “no evidence of risk” that migration leads to an increase in acts of terrorism. Instead, recent overly-restrictive migration policies seem to have created conditions conducive to terrorist-related activities. 

The report finds that the increasing implementation of restrictive immigration policies, such as building fences, engaging in push-back operations, criminalizing irregular migration and abandoning international legal commitments to refugees, ultimately leads to an increase in terrorist activity. Such policies also result in restricted access to safe territories for those seeking asylum and an increase in the covert movements of people, particularly by traffickers.

“What is clear is that policies that respect human rights, justice, and accountability, and that manifest the values on which democracy is founded, are an essential element of effective counterterrorism policies,” the Special Rapporteur Mr. Emmerson noted. “The further we move away from this, the more we concede to terrorist groups.”

The report calls upon States to recognize that the vast majority of people fleeing affected regions should be recognized as victims of terrorism instead of stigmatized as potential terrorists.

For further information:

 


Serbia: Access to protection is a rarity as the bottleneck intensifies

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has published its Periodic Report on the Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia, covering the period of July-September 2016. The report investigates developments regarding the reception situation, regular border crossings to Hungary, proposed policy reforms and general trends.

The reception of persons in need of protection has been affected by a decision of the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration in July 2016, to restrict accommodation in the Krnjača Asylum Centre to persons who had expressed an intention to apply for asylum. During that month, approximately 450 people were staying in makeshift sites without legal status. The Commissariat modified its policy in August 2016 to allow all persons in need of protection to stay at the Krnjača Asylum Centre. The centre has a maximum capacity of 750 places, but hosted over 1,000 people in September.

At the same time, the recent rounds of restrictions imposed by Hungary with regard to access to its territory through the transit zones of Röszke and Tompa have resulted in greater pressure on Serbian authorities. As of April 2016, entry into Hungary has been managed through an informal process, whereby refugees and migrants in Serbia draw up lists of people wishing to enter Hungary and forward them to the Hungarian police. On the basis of those lists, the police prepares its own list of 30 persons allowed to enter the transit zones per day. Whereas 30 people per day leave Serbia to enter Hungary, the number of persons entering Serbia daily is substantially higher.

In relation to policies, the report also discusses the second “Response Plan in Case of Increased Inflow of Migrants to the Republic of Serbia in the October 2016 – March 2017 Period”, adopted in late September by the authorities. The Response Plan aims inter alia at increasing the reception capacity of Asylum Centres and improving living conditions therein.

When looking at the numbers of people seeking protection, the report shows that, asylum claims in Serbia have decreased and the total number of positive asylum decisions remain low. Compared to a total 577,995 in 2015, only 8,954 persons have expressed the intention to apply for asylum in the first nine months of 2016. However, only 540 effectively lodged asylum applications with the Asylum Office. In most cases in 2016, the Asylum Office has continued to automatically apply the “safe third country” concept and to reject the claims of asylum seekers transiting through FYROM or Bulgaria. To date, only 78 people have obtained some form of international protection since the establishment of the Serbian asylum system.
 
For further information:
 

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