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.

30 April 2015
The next ECRE Weekly Bulletin will be issued on Friday 15 May 2015. 
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Thank you to Ana Fontal, Editor of the ECRE Weekly Bulletin

ECRE would like to express our deepest appreciation to Ana Fontal, ECRE Senior Press and Public Information Officer, for her invaluable contribution to the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. 

Ana’s immense expertise, passion and inspiration have ensured that the ECRE Weekly Bulletin readers receive a top-quality and accurate overview of developments in asylum in Europe every Friday afternoon. Under her direction, the Weekly has relentlessly highlighted the impact of asylum policies on refugees’ lives. Her ‘non-journalistic, overly lawyery’ colleagues are indebted to her ability to ‘weeklycize’ complex issues to make the weekly available to a broad audience. Over the years, Weekly Bulletin ‘newcomers’ have benefitted from Ana’s guidance, patience and unmerciful editing. Ana’s sense of humour has helped ease the multiple IT crises that the Weekly has had to suffer.

After 7 years, Ana will be leaving ECRE next week. She will be sorely missed in ECRE and all her colleagues would like to wish her the very best for her future endeavours.

EP calls for legal channels for refugees and quotas for distributing asylum seekers within the EU

In response to the recent migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, and to the European Council conclusions of 23 April 2015, the European Parliament (EP) has adopted a resolution calling on Member States to make full use of existing possibilities for issuing humanitarian visas and to make greater contributions to existing resettlement programmes.

The EP urges the European Commission to establish a "binding quota" for distributing asylum seekers among all EU countries and calls on Member States to seriously consider whether to trigger the 2001 Temporary Protection Directive or Article 78(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which foresees a solidarity mechanism in the event of mass and sudden inflows of displaced persons.

Furthermore, the EU and its Member States should also expand the area of operation of the Frontex-led operation Triton and to increase its mandate for search and rescue operations at the EU level.

Speaking to the European Parliament, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced that he supports a quota system for redistributing people benefiting from international protection within the EU and that the European Commission will present a redistribution system on 13 May.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has also highlighted the need to expand channels for safe and legal migration on a resolution passed on 23 April.
For further information:  

Belgian Administrative Court suspends the return to Italy of two asylum seekers 

In two separate decisions made by the Council of Aliens Law Litigation on the 27 and 28 April, an Iraqi and a Congolese national had their returns to Italy under the Dublin III Regulation suspended after the Court found that if returned they would be exposed to a risk of inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Relying on reports from the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), the applicants had argued that asylum seekers returned under the Dublin system may in practice have limited access to reception facilities in Italy, if at all, and so if sent to Italy would not be able to access accommodation, judicial assistance, and financial support. 

The decision underlines that the large numbers of migrants and refugees arriving recently in Italy are placing further strains on the ability of Italy to provide facilities for returnees.


AIDA: Italy increases reception places & improves treatment of subsidiary protection beneficiaries

The AIDA report on Italy provides detailed information on the decree passed last year implementing the EU Qualifications Directive and increasing Italy’s reception capacity to the current 20,000 places provided at the national reception centres (SPRAR).

Italian law now grants refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection the same rights to family reunification and residence permits of equal duration, five years.

The report written by the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) illustrates how obstacles still prevent asylum seekers from accessing adequate reception. For example, asylum seekers claiming asylum at police headquarters can be accommodated in reception centres only after the formal registration of their asylum claim, which may happen long after the person has been fingerprinted, thus leaving people sleeping rough on the streets. In contrast, asylum seekers rescued at sea are immediately transferred to emergency temporary reception centres (CAS), regardless of the formal registration of their applications.

Furthermore, the quality of assistance varies between the different reception centres. Over 35,000 people were accommodated in temporary accommodation centres (CAS) in 2014 and 2015. The reception conditions and services provided in these centres are not being monitored at the national level. Accommodation Centres for Asylum Seekers (CARA) and short-term accommodation centres (CDA), host around over 9,000 asylum seekers who receive basic services in large, overcrowded buildings. UNHCR has warned that asylum seekers at CARA reception centres still face poor living conditions, due to the low quality of services, the prevalence of abuses and inefficiencies as well as the complete lack of integration perspectives. Overall, centres are overcrowded and sometimes placed in remote locations. Centres of the SPRAR network, providing over 20,000 places, ensure more and better services, such as mediation and legal counselling.

A National Coordinating Working Group has been established within the Italian Ministry of Interior, which involves members of civil society organisations and UNHCR in efforts to improve reception and integration in the country. The Working Group is responsible for the development of a plan to create additional emergency reception places, under an equitable distribution scheme, across the Italian regions as well as developing an integration plan.

The new decree reinforces protection for asylum-seeking children, whose level of maturity and personal development must be taken into account during personal interviews. Furthermore, the principle of the ‘best interest of the child’ is clearly prioritised, in particular in the identification of a mechanism for age assessment of unaccompanied children to be adopted in the future.

Furthermore, from now on, persons awaiting return will be detained for a maximum of 90 days, instead of the previous 18 month limit.

Finally, the report includes concerns by UNHCR and CIR about the decision to end Italy’s search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, which rescued over 170,000 people in 2014.

With a delay of seven years, an implementing decree on asylum procedures has entered into force in Italy on 20 March 2015. This Decree lays down the rules implementing the Procedure Decree 25/2008 which transposed in 2008 the EU Procedures Directive. The EU had in the meanwhile, already approved new measures in June 2013, to be transposed by July 2015.

The new law clearly states that asylum seekers do not need to approach the authorities of their countries of origin to request official documentation in order to benefit from state free legal aid. ​

The new measures also foresees the adoption of guidelines on minimum standards for the management of reception centres, which has been welcomed by UNHCR.

Under the new rules adopted in March, beneficiaries of humanitarian protection have the right to stay in Italy for two years, instead of one, as established by the previous law. In 2014, 36,330 applications were examined, out of which 21,861 people were granted a form of protection (60%); from which 10,091 were granted humanitarian protection.

For further information:

BCHR: obstacles to access protection and no integration prospects prompt refugees to leave Serbia

A report by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights (BCHR) shows that obstacles for asylum seekers to access international protection and the lack of integration prospects in Serbia are driving many refugees to travel irregularly, and further, to reach EU countries.

The report highlights that asylum seekers can be denied access to international protection, because Serbian authorities consider that they should return to the countries they consider to be safe and through which they have transited on their way to Serbia. Serbia considers ‘safe’ all its neighbouring countries, including Turkey, the FYR of Macedonia and Greece. However, according to the BCHR, the Serbian authorities do not take into account whether the rights of asylum seekers are protected in these countries, a practice which was also criticised by UNHCR and other NGOs.

Furthermore, asylum seekers risk being detained and returned, as authorities do not issue ID cards immediately after the registration of the intention to seek asylum. This violates Serbian law and leaves many asylum seekers residing in Serbia without personal documents for months. Of the 16,490 people seeking asylum in Serbia in 2014, only 460 were granted an ID card.

BCHR firmly deplores the lack of integration programmes in Serbia and underlines that recognised refugees have no access to proper accommodation, education, language classes and vocational trainings.

From 2008 to the end of 2014, only 18 people were granted international protection in Serbia. 

Of the 388 persons who were able to submit an asylum application in Serbia in 2014, 325 left the asylum centres in an attempt to travel to EU countries.

For further information: