• Medios aéreos y marítimos como plan de choque del Gobierno de España para «bloquear la salida de cayucos y pateras» hacia Canarias

    La ministra de Política Territorial anuncia que el Estado contará con dos buques oceánicos, una patrullera de altura, un avión, un helicóptero y una embarcación sumergida en la ruta atlántica.

    La ministra de Política Territorial del Gobierno de España, Carolina Darias, ha anunciado este viernes en su visita a Tenerife las medidas extraordinarias adoptadas desde el Ejecutivo nacional en un plan de choque para acabar con la crisis migratoria que atraviesa Canarias. Las llegadas en pateras y cayucos a Europa por Canarias suponen el 57% del total de llegadas al continente. Por ello, el Ministerio del Interior, de Exteriores, de Migraciones y de Política Territorial, en coordinación con la Vicepresidencia segunda del Gobierno estatal, han elaborado un decálogo de medidas para gestionar la situación migratoria en las Islas. Según la ministra, se trata de un «refuerzo» a las medidas ya existentes que intentan dar respuesta al fenómeno migratorio. Un fenómeno que tiene naturaleza «estructural» y que la pandemia ha complicado aún más. «La ruta atlántica ha vuelto a coger muchísima fuerza», subraya Darias, que fue subdelegada del Gobierno en el Archipiélago en 2006, durante la conocida como crisis de los cayucos.

    El Gobierno de España ha decidido apostar por reforzar a las fuerzas y cuerpos de seguridad del Estado y la vía diplomática con los países de origen para evitar que los migrantes salgan en patera o cayuco del continente africano hacia Europa. El Ejecutivo pretende reforzar la política de cooperación para mejorar las condiciones de vida de las personas en sus países de origen a través de una «respuesta conjunta y coordinada con la Unión Europea». «Tenemos que ser altamente sensibles y hacer políticas responsables porque estamos hablando de seres humanos. Debemos hacer pedagogía y rechazar cualquier manifestación xenófoba, porque Canarias nunca ha sido racista y no lo puede ser», apuntó.
    Ministerio del Interior

    Las medidas implantadas por el Ministerio del Interior, dirigido por Fernando Grande-Marlaska, pretenden «acabar con la inmigración irregular». La línea principal de actuación pasa por el refuerzo de la cooperación efectiva con los países emisores. «Vamos a contar con dos buques oceánicos, una patrullera de altura, un avión, un helicóptero y una embarcación sumergida», anuncia Darias.

    La agencia Frontex permanecerá hasta el 21 de enero de 2021 va a colaborar con el despliegue de equipos en Gran Canaria para reforzar las labores de la Policía: «Es nuestro objetivo combatir a las redes que trafican con personas». Además, el Gobierno de España está negociando con Senegal y con Frontex desplegar medios aéreos en la ruta atlántica.

    Interior va a instalar un Centro de Atención Temporal de Migrantes (CATE) en Barranco Seco que permita a la Policía Nacional contar con un espacio adecuado para realizar la reseña policial de los migrantes. Hasta el momento, el Ejército de Tierra ha instalado 23 tiendas de campaña para albergar a unas 800 personas.

    Darias ha anunciado que el ministro del Interior realizará una visita el próximo 20 de noviembre a Marruecos. Este será el séptimo viaje al país que haga Grande-Marlaska.

    Asimismo, Darias ha celebrado que se retomen las conexiones con Mauritania que permitan deportar migrantes. El pasado martes tuvo lugar el primer vuelo de deportación tras la pandemia, en el que 22 personas fueron expulsadas de Gran Canaria. De ellas, solo una era nacional mauritana. Esa misma noche, las autoridades de Mauritania confirmaron que expulsarían también de Nouakchot a las personas llegadas desde Canarias. «El Gobierno pondrá énfasis en la deportación de las personas que no estén en situación de vulnerabilidad. Las que sí lo están han sido derivadas poco a poco a la Península», asegura. Sin embargo, afirmó que no contaba con datos sobre el número de traslados al territorio peninsular desde las Islas que se han dado este año.
    Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores

    El Gobierno de España incrementará en 500 millones de euros el presupuesto destinado a la cooperación, contando con una partida de 3.100.000 euros. Además, la ministra Arancha González visitará Senegal antes de que acabe el año.
    Ministerio de Migraciones

    El Ministerio de Defensa ha cedido el espacio de El Matorral, en Fuerteventura, al Ministerio de Migraciones y a Interior. En Tenerife, el Ejército de Tierra instala ya un nuevo espacio cedido por Defensa en Las Raíces, que se suma al acuartelamiento de Las Canteras. Es una capacidad alojativa «amplia», ha dicho Darias.

    En Gran Canaria, además del CATE del antiguo polvorín de Barranco Seco, el Colegio León de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria se abrirá como espacio de acogida «en cuestión de días». «El objetivo es que la imagen de Arguineguín no se vuelva a repetir», ha aseverado la ministra. Carolina Darias ha querido agradecer a las corporaciones locales su predisposición a colaborar con el Estado en la gestión de la acogida. Sin embargo, la ministra no ha dado una fecha concreta para el desmantelamiento del muelle. «Cuanto antes», ha respondido. «Ya han visto lo rápido que hemos instalado el CATE de Barranco Seco», defendió. Así, preguntada por los medios sobre la lentitud del Ministerio de Defensa para habilitar nuevos espacios, Darias ha defendido que «las personas que están en el muelle no son las mismas que hace unos meses». «Se ha intentado desalojar, pero las llegadas han sido frecuentes», justifica.

    Respecto a las carencias en la asistencia letrada de las personas que han llegado a las Islas en los últimos meses, la ministra ha asegurado que el Gobierno de España cumple con esta obligación. Pero ha justificado que «la intensa llegada» de migrantes ha provocado «algunas dificultades».

    El presidente del Gobierno de Canarias, Ángel Víctor Torres, ha recordado en su intervención a las personas que han muerto intentando llegar al Archipiélago. Este viernes, Senegal ha convocado una jornada de duelo a iniciativa de la población en memoria de las 480 personas que han fallecido o desaparecido rumbo a Europa.

    Torres incidió en la necesidad de cumplir con los derechos de asilo de la población migrante. «La gente que llega a Canarias en cayucos y pateras llega a Europa», reivindicó el presidente canario, apelando a la necesidad de crear corredores humanitarios con el continente. Una práctica a la que ya se comprometió la comisaria europea Ylva Johansson durante su visita al Archipiélago.

    «La llegada de inmigrantes ha sido utilizada por algunos partidos políticos para promover una fobia hacia los extranjeros», ha leído Torres, compartiendo la carta publicada por los obispos de Canarias este jueves para combatir la xenofobia y el racismo. «Es verdad que la inmigración es un fenómeno complejo, pero forma parte de nuestra historia», concluyó el presidente.

    https://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/migraciones/gobierno-espana-anuncia-nuevas-medidas-evitar-salida-cayucos-pateras-canari

    #Canaries #îles_canaries #militarisation_des_frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #contrôles_frontaliers

    –---

    Résumé de Raphaëla Laspalmas via la mailing-list Migreurop (14.11.2020):

    Le gouvernement espagnol va munir les Canaries de nouveaux moyens : 2 navires, un bateau de patrouille « en haute altitude » (pas sûre de la traduction), un avion, un hélicoptère et un sous-marin.
    Selon l’article, les arrivées en bateaux de fortune vers l’Europe par les Canaries supposent 57% du total des arrivées sur le continent ( à vérifier)
    Le gouvernement espagnol négocie avec le #Sénégal et #Frontex de nouveaux #moyens_aériens sur la #route_atlantique.
    Les autorités mauritaniennes ont annoncé qu’elles expulseraient à leur tour les migrants d’autres nationalités déportés sur son sol.
    500 millions d’euros du gouvernement espagnol pour la coopération (la nature de ladite coopération n’est pas précisée...).
    Les autorités reconnaissent des failles dans l’assistance juridique et s’en défausse sur le nombre d’arrivées.

    #Mauritanie #Espagne

  • Discussion #Frontex et #MSF sur twitter...

    Tout commence par un tweet de Frontex, le 13.11.2020 :

    Ruthless people smugglers put dozens of people in danger today. Thankfully a Frontex plane saw the overcrowded boat near Libyan coast and issued mayday call. We also alerted all national rescue centres. 102 people were rescued by Libyan Coast Guard. Sadly, 2 bodies were recovered

    MSF répond le 14.11.2020 :

    How many boats do you see & not report to the NGOs who could have rescued them?
    How many people have you watched die without alerting the world to what reality looks in the #Med?
    What happens to the people you facilitate the Libyan Coast Guard in trapping & forcing back to Libya?

    https://twitter.com/MSF_Sea/status/1327569141344194560

    Frontex :

    Frontex always alerts national rescue centres in the relevant area, as required by international law. Always. Don’t you?

    MSF :

    International law requires people to be brought to a place of safety.

    Frontex :

    So you do not/would not contact the closest internationally-recognised rescue centres, violating international law and putting lives in danger?

    MSF :

    So you are not/ would not be concerned that people are taken back to a place internationally recognised as unsafe, violating international law and putting lives in danger?
    Your Director was.

    –-> en ajoutant le lien vers une lettre signée par Paraskevi MICHOU (EUROPEAN COMMISSION DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR MIGRATION AND HOME AFFAIRS) et adressée à #Fabrice_Leggeri (Ref. Ares(2019)1755075 - 18/03/2019) :
    https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/2019/jun/eu-letter-from-frontex-director-ares-2019)1362751%20Rev.pdf

    Frontex :

    We care deeply about the safety and security of hundreds of millions of European by helping to protect our borders. And we care deeply about the lives of those in distress at sea. This is why we helped to save more than a quarter million people in recent years.

    https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1327288578678906880

    –---

    Commentaire de #Jeff_Crisp sur twitter :

    Latest score:
    MSF: 3
    Frontex: 0
    And it is only half-time...

    https://twitter.com/JFCrisp/status/1327692414686027776

    #sauvetages_en_mer #frontières #migrations #asile #réfugiés #sauvetage #mensonges #Libye #twitter #réseaux_sociaux #Méditerranée #mer_Méditerranée

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Germany deports Ethiopian asylum seekers

    Ten men were deported from Germany to Ethiopia last week. Asylum seeker support groups say deportations should be stopped during the COVID pandemic.

    A group of 10 men were deported on a flight from Germany to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday, October 27.

    The plane, chartered by the Federal Interior Ministry and the European border agency, #Frontex, departed from Munich, the #Bavarian_Regional_Office_of_Asylum_and_Returns (#LfAR) confirmed.

    The returnees were Ethiopian men aged 24 to 58, LfAR told InfoMigrants.

    LfAR also confirmed that a previously scheduled stop in Mogadishu, Somalia, had not taken place “because of a lack of agreement with Somali authorities.” Reports last week from the Bavarian Refugee Council and Pro Asyl, an asylum seeker advocacy organization, had stated that a deportation flight was to take place to both Somalia and Ethiopia.
    Rights groups oppose deportations

    Almost all deportation flights from Germany have been suspended during the COVID pandemic. Pro Asyl said deporting people during the pandemic, which is ongoing, was irresponsible.

    “Rushing through a deportation at this time, before the next lockdown, shows a distinct callousness,” said Günter Burkhardt, Executive Director of Pro Asyl.

    Deportation flights are also expected to resume to Afghanistan from mid-November, according to the Bavarian Refugee Council, Pro Asyl as well as the German broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk.

    https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/28309/germany-deports-ethiopian-asylum-seekers

    #renvois #expulsions #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Ethiopie #Allemagne #réfugiés_éthiopiens #Bavière

    ping @rhoumour @isskein @karine4 @_kg_

  • Back to Mauritania: Frontex repatriates migrants arriving on Canary Islands

    On Monday, a Frontex operated repatriation flight took off from Spain’s Canary Islands for Mauritania. 51 African migrants were on board. This is the third such flight this year, says the Spanish Ombudsman. The repatriations are a result of a 2003 agreement signed between Spain and Mauritania.

    As the Spanish civil guard was still looking for three boats reported missing off the Canary Islands, other reports were coming through of a Frontex repatriation flight. The flight took off on Monday according to the news agency AFP and the Spanish Ombudsman. It was carrying 51 people aboard.

    “This is the third such flight this year,” the Spanish Ombudsman told Al Jazeera English. The flights are the result of a 2003 agreement signed between Spain and Mauritania. The agreement is part of the EU policy to tighten its borders.

    Officers working with the Spanish Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) and the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (MNP) have inspected each Frontex flight this year and produced reports about them. According to the reports, seen by InfoMigrants, one flight took off from Gran Canaria’s airport on January 20, another on January 27 and the third on February 17, both from Tenerife North airport. All had a destination of Noadhibou in Mauritania.

    February 17 flight

    On February 17, of the 51 people on board, not one held Mauritanian nationality. 36 were from Mali, 13 from Senegal, one person from Gabon and one from Ivory Coast. MNP personnel said they carried out three interviews during the flight but the results of those interviews have not been made public. In response to a question from InfoMigrants, regarding the 51 people’s arrival date on the Canary Islands, and whether or not they had been given the opportunity to reply for asylum, we were told that this was the only information publically available.

    Although there weren’t many details regarding the flight on February 17, for the flight on January 27, MNP officers noted several irregularities. Having pointed them out, they say they received “no response” from the deportation authorities. On this flight, they found that some of the officers conducting the flight failed to wear the requisite identification numbers on their vests.

    Irregularities

    Secondly, they pointed out that medical personnel who accompany the flights did not have the full clinical histories of the persons on board. Thirdly, they found that each of the 42 people on board the January 27 flight had an identical “fit to travel” document which had been filled out by doctors in the internment centers (CIE) prior to deportation and seemed to suggest that they had no medical problem which could impede their flight.

    In this case, states the MNP report, the 42 people on board arrived on the Canary Islands on December 23, 2019. One of those aboard had Mauritanian nationality, 38 people came from Mali and three from Senegal. The report notes that four of the people intended for repatriation to Mali came from regions deemed unsafe by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), because of their security and humanitarian situation.

    Of these four, the report notes, two of them had applied for asylum inside the internment center for foreigners (CIE). Those two didn’t fly with the others and stayed with the group at the CIE which had applied for asylum. The report also says that all those deported were notified of the deportation the same day and no interpreter was identified.

    January 20 flight

    On January 20, 46 people were deported from Gran Canaria to Mauritania. On that flight, seven people held Mauritanian citizenship, 34 were from Mali, 4 were from Senegal and one came from Ivory Coast.

    On this flight the two officers from MNP noted inaccuracies in the documentation relative to the repatriation. Again, they noted that some of the repatriation officers from Frontex did not wear vests with visible identification numbers. In this case, they also noted “a strong police presence” which accompanied, in convoy, the group of those being deported, parking near the ladder into the plane with “obvious intimidating effect.”
    A police van standing in front of the Foreigner Internment Centre CIE in Madrid Spain Photo EPAPACO CAMPOS

    Several returnees also claimed to be minors and said that they had not been tested to ascertain their ages. There were also no interpreters present who could speak all the dialects of those being deported. Some of the deportees claimed that they had not been informed of the possibility of applying for asylum and they hadn’t been told in advance that the deportation was to take place.

    EU migration policy

    All of these flights took place in the framework of a 2003 agreement signed between Spain and Mauritania. According to an Amnesty International report from 2008, the EU’s policy on migration flows hinges around two main axes: “the clauses of readmission and the joint operations of the Frontex Agency.” These so-called “readmission agreements and readmission clauses” are inserted into co-operation and association agreements or development aid deals that various EU countries have made with various countries around its borders, which are designated ’safe’ countries. Amnesty calls this one of the EU’s “preferred weapons against illegal migration.”

    It essentially allows EU countries like Spain to send back nationals to Mauritania as well as “nationals of a third country who have entered the territory of one of the two parties irregularly.” The agreements, states Amnesty are “not illegal in themselves.” Amnesty questions however whether such agreements are “fully compliant with the human rights obligations with the states party to the agreement.”

    The rights that migrants should enjoy within these agreements are the “right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention; protection against torture or other ill-treatment; their rights to access a fair and satisfactory asylum procedure and protection from return to a country or territory where he or she would be at risk of serious human rights violations.”

    Frontex operations in West Africa

    According to Amnesty, Frontex’s operations added another layer to these agreements when it was set up in 2004. In 2006, Frontex put in place an operation to control irregular migration from West Africa to the Canary Islands. This includes supporting Spain with experts to interview migrants arriving on the Canary Islands in order to establish their country of origin, and to which country they can be sent back; as well as conducting joint sea patrols “close to the West African coast in order to stop unseaworthy boats from continuing their dangerous journey.” Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal have participated in these operations alongside Spain in the past.

    In 2015, the Spanish newspaper El País looked into the arrivals of migrants from Mauritania to the Canary Islands. It said that in 2008 the Spanish police “sent a team of five police officers to train their Mauritanian counterparts. A further 25 civil guards then joined them, working with six more local officers.” They have been operating as a single unit ever since, writes El País.

    Back in 2015, the unit had a civil guard helicopter for patrolling the Mauritanian coastline, alongside two 30-meter patrol boats and two 15-meter vessels. As well as patrols the team gathers intelligence. Mauritania has introduced harsher prison sentences for anyone caught human trafficking.

    El País notes that in return for this close collaboration, between 2007 and 2011, “Spain invested around €150 million in Mauritania.”

    ‘Hard to reconcile with a respect for fundamental rights’

    In 2011, the European Greens and the Migreurop group carried out a detailed report asking whether Frontex was providing guarantees for human rights. In it they noted that sending officers to gather intelligence and effectively try and prevent people from leaving a departure country to reach Europe “was hard to reconcile with a respect for […] fundamental rights.” The report continued: “Intervening upstream to stop the departure of an individual in order to prevent illegal immigration constitutes a violation of the right of every person to leave any country.” They note that this right is “enshrined in various binding international texts.”

    Additionally, “intervening to interrupt the journey of a migrant entitled to claim international protection is also a breach of the right to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement.”

    They described agreements like that between Spain and Mauritania as “part of a move to outsource migration controls, something that is often incompatible with respect for migrants’ rights.” Specifically, they wrote, “the bilateral agreements between Italy and Libya and between Spain and Mauritania have been and continue to be the framework for regular and unpunished violations of migrants’ fundamental rights.”
    Around 42 migrants are rescued off the south coast of Gran Canaria Canary Islands Spain 8 February 2016 Photo EPASpanish Maritime Rescue Service

    A report published on the French academic portal HAL in October 2019 also confirmed the earlier reports assessment that Mauritania was playing a key role in EU migration policy. The report written by Philippe Poutignat and Jocelyne Streiff-Fénart described Mauritania as “a testing ground for European policies of migration.” It also found that “successive Mauritanian governments since […] 2005 […] have tended to found their quest for international recognition on the willingness of Mauritania to respond to EU injunctions on the control of migration flows.”

    InfoMigrants requested information from Frontex regarding flights from Spain to Mauritania. A Frontex spokesperson said that Frontex provides some funding for these flights but they rely on the national authorities to conduct the flight itself. In 2019, they operated six flights from the Canary Islands to Mauritania, repatriating a total of 146 people.

    https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/22908/back-to-mauritania-frontex-repatriates-migrants-arriving-on-canary-isl

    –- > publié en février 2020, je mets ici pour archivage

    #Mauritanie #Canaries #Frontex #renvois #vols #vols_frontex #asile #migrations #réfugiés #déboutés #réfugiés_mauritaniens #îles_Canaries #Espagne #accord #accord_de_réadmission #accords_de_réadmission

    • Los vuelos de deportación para migrantes: entre la opacidad, los malos tratos y el abandono

      El mecanismo para la prevención de la tortura ha documentado varias irregularidades en las repatriaciones de migrantes. Los colectivos denuncian opacidad y abandono de los migrantes en países de los que ni siquiera proceden, dejándoles desamparados y sin ningún tipo de ayuda.

      Una identificación de la Policía por perfil étnico es la primera parada en el largo recorrido que un migrante sufre hasta que es devuelto a su país de origen. A partir de ahí, comienza un periplo de duración indeterminada que terminará con la expulsión de España del migrante, que quizá ni siquiera será retornado a su territorio original debido a acuerdos bilaterales entre diversos Estados africanos. Hace unos días se llevó a cabo el primer vuelo de repatriación de migrantes, con destino Mauritania, tras la reapertura de los centros de internamiento para extranjeros (CIE) después de su cierre durante los peores momentos de la pandemia. Pero, ¿cómo es ese trayecto? ¿Encierran a todos ellos en los CIE hasta que son deportados? ¿Qué pasa una vez que llegan a sus países?

      Adrián Vives es el portavoz de CIEs No Valencia, y así explica el inicio de la travesía que un migrante experimenta hasta que es repatriado: «Cuando les para la Policía y ven que no pueden identificarse, les trasladan a comisaría y allí, en extranjería, les incoan un procedimiento sancionador administrativo por estancia irregular, y se propone la expulsión. Esa persona se va a la calle pero el proceso continúa, hasta que la Subdelegación del Gobierno del territorio resuelva la expulsión del territorio nacional». No será hasta una segunda parada, también por perfil étnico, según remarca Vives, cuando la Policía pida el internamiento del migrante, sobre el que ya consta una orden de expulsión, en un CIE.

      Pero en estos centros también hay personas que no están en situación irregular, sino que han entrado a España por un puesto fronterizo no habilitado. Es lo que sucede con las pateras. «En ese caso, se les hace una orden de devolución, que es igual que la de expulsión pero con la diferencia de que no tiene aparejada una prohibición de entrada a España posterior. La devolución también se da cuando un migrante, que ha sido expulsado de España y tiene prohibida la entrada, consigue entrar de nuevo en territorio nacional», explica el activista. Es en ese momento en el que, poco a poco, los CIE se van llenando de migrantes que no han cometido ningún delito pero a los que se les priva de libertad.

      Macrodevoluciones, vuelos comerciales y Frontex

      «A veces nos hemos encontrado que el Gobierno fletaba un avión de devolución a Senegal, por ejemplo, con 100 plazas, pero en toda la península tan solo tenían retenidos a 70 de ellos, así que buscarán otras 30 personas con supuestos rasgos senegaleses para llenar el vuelo. Por eso, desde la cuenta Stop Deportación de Twitter damos avisos para que los migrantes tengan más cuidado del habitual, porque las redadas se dan a lo largo y ancho de España», continúa explicando Vives. Estos casos suelen ser frecuentes en los macrovuelos o barcos, todos ellos pagados con dinero público a empresas privadas por contratos con el Ministerio del Interior, que se dirigen hacia el África subsahariana ya que el mayor número de internos en los CIE proceden de Marruecos y Argelia.


      https://twitter.com/Stopdeportacion/status/1324311996469301248

      Frontex, la Agencia Europea de la Guardia de Fronteras y Costas, también dispone de vuelos para las devoluciones. «En ellos suelen intervenir varios países, y hacen escala. Por ejemplo, uno que parte de Francia, para en España, y de España va al país de destino. En estos casos, trabajan conjuntamente la Agencia Europea y las policías de los diferentes países», desarrolla el valenciano. Él mismo afirma que la regulación recoge que por cada persona deportada tienen que acompañarle dos agentes de Policía, así que en el vuelo hay más policías que migrantes.

      Muchos de ellos también son devueltos en vuelos comerciales. De hecho, la protesta contra las deportaciones de extranjeros que intentan llevar a cabo desde la cuenta de Twitter mencionada está orientada a estos vuelos, «para que el resto de pasajeros sepa lo que está sucediendo y vea la barbaridad que es», en términos del portavoz, quien agrega que «si los CIE son una cosa opaca, las deportaciones son otro nivel». En lo que concierne a Argelia y Marruecos, las devoluciones se suelen llevar a cabo mediante barcos y en las mismas condiciones que en los vuelos.

      Irene Carrión, miembro de la Plataforma estatal por el cierre de los CIE y el fin de las deportaciones, indica que tienen varias formas de conocer si próximamente se realizará una devolución. «Si a una persona que conoces y que ya pesa sobre ella una orden de expulsión y le llaman de comisaría para firmar algo, sabemos que lo más probable es que será mentira y solo quieren que vaya para que la detengan, y que en esas 72 horas como máximo que puede estar en los calabozos sea deportada. Por eso es tan importante el trabajo en red que tenemos a nivel estatal, porque lo que sucede en un sitio puede también suceder en otro», comenta al respecto.
      Desamparo en el país de destino

      Más allá de que ciertos periodistas avisan al colectivo de los vuelos de repatriación, los activistas de la Plataforma están pendientes de las actuaciones por parte de Grande-Marlaska, ministro de Interior. «Hay veces que no sabemos la fecha pero sí que van a suceder. Hace unas semanas el ministro hizo una visita a Mauritania y en la agenda estaba la cooperación, y al final ha salido un vuelo con ese destino, así que cuando pasan estas cosas nos empezamos a preocupar y estar más atentas», agrega la activista. Ella misma remarca que no solo se deportan migrantes a países de África, sino que también se han dado casos de vuelos con destino Rumanía y América Latina, fundamentalmente Colombia y Ecuador, y Centroamérica.

      Para los migrantes expulsados, el no llegar a su país de origen es otro de los grandes problemas a los que se tienen que enfrentar. Carrión lo ejemplifica: «España tiene un acuerdo bilateral con Mauritania para estas deportaciones en el que el país africano acepta cualquier persona que, en teoría, haya pasado por su territorio durante su periplo migratorio, por lo que se dan situaciones en las que un extranjero es devuelto a un país que no conoce ni tiene ningún tipo de red creada». Vives añade que «cuando llegan, la Policía española se los entrega a las autoridades de ese país, como un traspaso».

      Una de las denuncias principales de estos colectivos es lo que está sucediendo con las personas de Mali que son devueltas a Mauritania. «Como España, al ratificar la Convención Europea de Ginebra, no puede devolver a los malienses a su país al ser una zona en conflicto, lo que hace es dárselos a Mauritania sin importarles si, a su vez, Mauritania les dejará tirados en Mali, que es lo que están haciendo», aclara Vives. Algo parecido sucede con Marruecos, quien también recibe migrantes que no son de origen marroquí: «Aquí lo que hacen es llevarlos a la frontera del desierto y los abandonan», aclara Carrión.

      La política de externalización de fronteras permite que países como Mauritania, Marruecos y Senegal hayan establecido un acuerdo mediante el que aceptan migrantes que no son nacionales propios pero que sí han transitado por esas regiones en el trayecto migratorio. Carrión puntualiza que «a veces no existen pruebas fehacientes de que haya sido así, pero el Gobierno español se aprovecha de ello. Son acuerdos bilaterales ligados al acceso de ayudas al desarrollo para los países receptores, por eso aceptan estos convenios que no les interesan».

      Sobre el trato que reciben los afectados a la llegada del país, la integrante de la Plataforma explica que, al fin y al cabo, ellos no han cometido ningún delito, pero «en Argelia sí que pasan dos o tres días en comisaría y por eso ellos siempre tienen mucho más miedo a la devolución que otros extranjeros». Por otra parte, si tienen la fortuna de no ser castigados a su vuelta, se les presenta un nuevo problema: han podido ser retornados a una ciudad desconocida, lejana de su región de origen, sin dinero y sin pertenencias. «Te detienen por la calle en España y en menos de tres días estás metido en un vuelo sin saber a qué zona del país de destino te van a llevar y sin haber podido coger ninguna de tus pertenencias. Imagínate cómo se siente esa persona», se explaya Carrión.
      Salvaguarda de sus derechos

      Pero, ¿quién vigila que se respeten los derechos humanos de los migrantes? De esto se encarga el mecanismo para la prevención de la tortura adscrito al Defensor del Pueblo, quienes a veces de manera sorpresiva o avisando acompañan a los migrantes en los traslados. Sus resoluciones no dejan lugar a dudas: «Siempre detectan irregularidades, como que no están cumplimentados los partes médicos necesarios para emprender el viaje, que no se les ha explicado toda la información necesaria en un idioma que los afectados entiendan o que se les ha hecho esperar en una sala durante horas. Eso es lo poco que podemos saber», determina el activista de CIEs No Valencia.

      «Se trata de recomendaciones. El Defensor del Pueblo insiste mucho en la sujeción mecánica, las esposas que les ponen a los migrantes, pues ha habido casos de que se han visto esposados con las manos atrás durante largos recorridos, sobre todo cuando los trasladan en un furgón policial desde el CIE en el que se encuentran a la ciudad de la que partirá el vuelo o el barco de deportación», agrega Carrión. Por otra parte, también se han dado situaciones en las que al migrante no le han permitido ir al servicio durante todo ese trayecto, que suele ser de horas. La integrante de la Plataforma apunta algunas pautas establecidas en un protocolo para evitar el maltrato más allá del físico, como que al afectado le tengan que avisar con unas horas pautadas antes del vuelo para que puedan enviar su ropa o avisar a algún contacto que tengan en la región a la que llegarán. «Los casos más extremos son las muertes, que también las hemos documentado, como la asfixia que se produjo por una venda con el que una persona estaba amordazada», incide Vives.

      Sobre el presente más inmediato de las devoluciones de migrantes en situación irregular, la pandemia no permite conocer muchas certezas. «El Gobierno español ha priorizado estas deportaciones, pese a que existen muchos cierres de fronteras internacionales, porque considera que son una solución a lo que piensa que es un problema. Que encierren a los argelinos sin saber si los podrán deportar es, cuanto menos, deprimente», concluye la propia Carrión.

      https://www.publico.es/politica/vuelos-deportacion-migrantes-opacidad-malos-tratos-abandono.html

  • #Espagne : #Frontex de retour aux #Canaries pour aider la police espagnole à identifier les migrants

    L’agence européenne de contrôle des frontières va entamer une nouvelle mission dans l’archipel espagnol des Canaries pour y aider les policiers locaux à identifier et enregistrer les personnes migrantes arrivées en grand nombre ces derniers mois.

    Face à l’explosion du nombre d’arrivées de personnes migrantes que connaît depuis plusieurs mois l’archipel espagnol des Canaries, des agents de Frontex vont être envoyés sur place pour aider la police locale à "identifier et enregistrer les migrants", a indiqué mercredi 4 novembre l’agence de contrôle européenne des frontières sur Twitter.

    https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1323969568721801219

    Il ne s’agira pas de la première mission de l’agence aux Canaries, rappelle le site d’information local Canarias ahoras. Frontex avait été envoyé en renfort déjà en 2006 alors que cette région d’Espagne située au sud-ouest du Maroc, dans l’océan Atlantique, connaissait une vague d’arrivées.

    Baptisée Hera, cette opération avait pris la forme d’un déploiement de ressources maritimes et aériennes destinées à surveiller les côtes africaines. Des systèmes satellitaires avaient aussi été utilisés pour surveiller l’immensité de l’Atlantique.

    "Cet équipement n’avait pas été fourni par Frontex, mais par les pays membres de l’Union européenne. L’agence leur avait ensuite remboursé les frais de déploiement, tant pour les gardes-frontières que pour le transport, le carburant et la maintenance de l’équipement”, précise Canarias ahoras.

    L’opération impliquant sept pays européens avait coûté 3,5 millions d’euros, dont 2,8 millions avaient été financés par Frontex.

    Pour venir en aide à l’Espagne, la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures Ylva Johansson doit également se rendre vendredi aux Canaries avec le ministre espagnol de l’Intérieur, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, “pour aborder la gestion de la crise migratoire avec les autorités locales”.

    https://twitter.com/YlvaJohansson/status/1322562759985418246

    La dangereuse route migratoire des Canaries connaît depuis plusieurs mois un regain de fréquentation. Plus de 11 000 personnes arrivées par voie maritime sur 411 bateaux ont été enregistrées depuis le début de l’année 2020. Parmi elles, 5 328 ont débarqué dans l’archipel durant le seul mois d’octobre.

    Par ailleurs, depuis janvier, 414 personnes ont perdu la vie en tentant la traversée vers les Canaries, selon les chiffres de l’Organisation internationale des migrations (OIM), contre 210 pour toute l’année 2019.

    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/28316/espagne-frontex-de-retour-aux-canaries-pour-aider-la-police-espagnole-
    #frontières #îles_canaries #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    • España y Frontex negocian una operación para cerrar la ruta migratoria canaria

      La agencia europea de fronteras y el Ejecutivo deben concretar aún los medios y el área de actuación para una misión conjunta

      El Gobierno mantiene conversaciones con la agencia europea de fronteras, Frontex, para relanzar una operación conjunta e intentar frenar con ella la llegada de cayucos y pateras hacia las islas. Las negociaciones, confirmadas por fuentes gubernamentales y de la agencia, están en una etapa muy preliminar y aún deben definir qué medios se utilizarán —marítimos, aéreos o ambos—, en qué regiones y el nivel de participación de países como Senegal o Mauritania. A falta de concretar la misión, se trata, según las fuentes consultadas, de reformular la operación Hera II con la que se desplegaron en 2006 barcos y aviones de varios estados miembros en el litoral africano para detener la salida de cayucos y devolver a sus ocupantes al punto de partida.

      La ruta hacia el archipiélago canario se daba por controlada, pero absorbe desde septiembre de 2019 una presión migratoria sin precedentes en la última década. En lo que va de año se han registrado casi 13.000 llegadas y el ritmo del mes de octubre –con 5.328 entradas, el peor dato mensual de la historia de las islas– ha recordado al de la llamada crisis de los cayucos de 2006, cuando más de 31.000 personas arribaron al archipiélago. La reactivación de la vía canaria responde sobre todo al mayor control de Marruecos de la ruta del Estrecho y el mar de Alborán: el refuerzo de la vigilancia la ha hecho más cara e inaccesible y está empujando a miles de personas a lanzarse al Atlántico. Otros factores, como la inestabilidad del Sahel, la crisis económica derivada del coronavirus y las restricciones fronterizas que impiden a los migrantes tomar rutas terrestres hacia otros puntos de partida del Mediterráneo están también espoleando los movimientos migratorios hacia las islas desde el Sahara Occidental, Senegal y Gambia.

      Los pasos que ahora sigue el Ejecutivo son una repetición de los recorridos en 2006. Este miércoles, siete agentes de Frontex comenzaban una misión para apoyar a la Policía Nacional en la identificación de migrantes llegados a las islas, como también se hizo entonces. Pero este apoyo logístico, aunque no se descarta ampliarlo, tiene poco impacto en los flujos migratorios. España, como ocurrió durante la crisis de los cayucos, busca una misión más ambiciosa, reforzada y financiada por la agencia, que ya actúa en una operación contra la inmigración irregular en el Estrecho y el mar de Alborán.

      En aquella época, España, gobernada también por el PSOE, recurrió a Frontex, una agencia recién creada que destacó barcos y aviones de estados miembros en el litoral africano en la que acabó siendo su operación más longeva. Fue también la primera misión de la agencia en colaboración estrecha y en el territorio de países ajenos a la UE. En la primera etapa de la operación Hera II, lanzada en agosto de 2006 con un presupuesto de 3,5 millones de euros, se sumaron a los barcos y helicópteros españoles, un barco portugués, un barco y un avión italianos y otra aeronave cedida por Finlandia. Durante cuatro meses y bajo el mando de la Guardia Civil, patrullaron el litoral canario y las costas de Mauritania, Senegal y Cabo Verde, según recoge la agencia en su página web.

      La hemeroteca considera aquella operación un éxito por haber reducido las entradas irregulares de 31.678 en 2006 a 12.478 en 2007 y seguir, desde entonces, una tendencia a la baja que prácticamente selló esa vía con apenas unos cientos de llegadas durante los últimos diez años. Tanto la operación terrestre como la marítima se repitieron todos los años durante los meses de más presión migratoria —generalmente de julio a noviembre— hasta que se suspendieron en 2018. La Comisión Europea, explican fuentes conocedoras de aquel operativo, consideró que el despliegue era un gasto demasiado alto para una ruta irrelevante en los flujos migratorios de entonces.

      No está definido todavía hasta dónde patrullarán los medios de Frontex y si tendrán un papel activo en el espacio aéreo o en aguas territoriales de terceros países. La actuación de la agencia más allá de las fronteras de los estados miembros es limitada, pero la operación en la ruta canaria se ve facilitada por los acuerdos bilaterales de cooperación que España mantiene con Senegal y Mauritania, en cuyo territorio trabajan fuerzas de seguridad españolas hace más de una década. En el caso de Senegal, donde se concentraron los esfuerzos en 2006, el acuerdo permite la actuación de patrullas españolas, pero también de otros estados miembros y contempla además la vigilancia conjunta en toda su zona económica exclusiva, hasta 200 millas desde la costa. Mauritania, aunque con un perfil mucho más bajo, fue otro de los socios clave en la operación de 2006, pero a diferencia de Senegal no se involucró con medios propios y la zona de actuación era más limitada. Marruecos, punto caliente de salida de una parte considerable de las pateras que están llegando estos meses a las islas, no participó en la operación de Frontex de entonces y está por ver su papel en la nueva misión.
      La agencia bajo la lupa

      La agencia europea de fronteras está siendo cuestionada por su posible complicidad con el Gobierno griego para expulsar en caliente a potenciales refugiados que intentan llegar a las costas helenas. Una investigación de varios medios, entre ellos Der Spiegel y Bellingcat, reveló con vídeos y fotografías que oficiales de Frontex desplegados en el Mediterráneo Oriental en la Operación Poseidón estaban involucrados en esas prácticas. La investigación periodística señala que, desde el pasado mes de marzo, agentes de Frontex habrían estado presentes en al menos seis intervenciones que podrían ser consideradas ilegales. La agencia ha asegurado que no ha hallado pruebas que respalden esas presuntas violaciones de su código de conducta y del derecho comunitario, pero anunció la semana pasada que ha abierto una investigación interna.

      https://elpais.com/espana/2020-11-06/espana-y-frontex-negocian-una-operacion-para-cerrar-la-ruta-migratoria-canar

    • Reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, le 17.11.2020

      La ministre de la Politique territoriale annonce le renforcement de la sécurité aux frontières pour bloquer la sortie des pirogues. Des personnels militaires seront déployés aux frontières espagnoles et aussi au Sénégal et en Mauritanie. Frontex va amplifier ses actions au moins jusqu’en janvier 2021. AI et CEAR demandent de la cohérence au gouvernement PSOE-UP et de se positionner contre les refoulements à chaud comme lorsqu’ils ont recouru au tribunal constitutionnel pour tenter de les interdire quand ils étaient dans l’opposition...
      Un espace à Fuerteventura devrait être (ré)habilité, je trouve cet article de janvier et 30 juillet 2020 sur le CIE del Matorral (il y en a beaucoup du début d’année). (1800 « places » en 2009...)

      https://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/migraciones/amnistia-internacional-cear-piden-gobierno-politicas-migratorias-garanticen

      el matorral 2020
      https://www.laprovincia.es/fuerteventura/2020/07/30/preve-abrir-cie-matorral-forma-9168520.html
      https://www.abc.es/noticias/abci-interior-reabre-fuerteventura-vacio-desde-2012-para-hacer-frente-migratoria

      el matorral 2009
      https://www.abc.es/espana/canarias/abci-gobierno-ampliara-centro-inmigrantes-matorral-pese-encontrarse-casi-vacio-2

      #militarisation_des_frontières

  • Les migrants algériens affluent sur les côtes espagnoles
    https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2020/10/27/les-migrants-algeriens-affluent-sur-les-cotes-espagnoles_6057563_3212.html

    Depuis le début de l’été, près de 2 500 Algériens ont rejoint les côtes de la région de Murcie. C’est déjà plus que les 1 900 migrants arrivés durant tout 2019, alors que les principaux mois d’activité de la « route algérienne » vers l’Espagne s’étalent d’ordinaire d’octobre à décembre. Aux Baléares, plus de 60 embarcations avec près de 900 personnes à bord ont aussi accosté dans l’archipel. Un autre record. Et à Almeria, en Andalousie, des mafias proposent la traversée en moins de cinq heures pour 3 000 euros dans des embarcations ultra rapides. Au total, l’exode algérien représente, selon le dernier bulletin de l’agence européenne de gardes frontières Frontex, les deux tiers des traversées de migrants en Méditerranée occidentale.
    La principale raison de ce boom n’échappe à personne. « Ils ne peuvent pas nous renvoyer en Algérie à cause du Covid : les frontières sont fermées », fanfaronne Mohamed Ould Lavioud. C’est la quatrième fois que ce jeune homme de 22 ans traverse la Méditerranée. A chaque fois, il avait terminé son périple dans un Centre d’internement pour étrangers (CIE), où les migrants sont enfermés par la police durant au maximum soixante jours, le temps d’organiser leur rapatriement. « Mais cette fois, c’est la bonne ! », assure-t-il. L’Algérie, où l’immigration clandestine est un délit, semble débordée par ces départs. « Quand trente ou quarante embarcations sortent en même temps, les garde-côtes algériens ne peuvent rien faire », explique Anouar, 29 ans.
    Autour d’eux, ils sont des dizaines à attendre l’heure du déjeuner, servi dans la cantine de la Croix-Rouge, ou à tuer le temps avant de prendre le prochain bus pour Barcelone. Nabil Damane, 37 ans, guette lui l’arrivée de son cousin, qui descend de Nîmes pour le chercher et le ramener à Amiens. « Ma femme et mes enfants m’y attendent, raconte l’homme, édenté, en montrant sur son téléphone la bouille ronde de sa fille de 2 ans. J’ai été expulsé en décembre 2019 car je n’ai pas de papiers. A Alger, j’ai entendu que quelqu’un préparait un voyage en bateau depuis Chlef (à 200 km à l’ouest de la capitale). Ça m’a coûté 500 euros. On était dix-sept dans un zodiac de 6 mètres, avec trois femmes et un enfant de 3 ans. On a mis quinze heures », détaille-t-il.
    Fuir l’Algérie, pour lui, est une évidence. « Là-bas, il n’y a pas de boulot, pas de vie. L’Etat contrôle tout. Il faut être pistonné, faire partie d’une bonne famille. Si tu es pauvre, tu es condamné à attendre la mort. Et pourtant notre pays est riche en pétrole, en gaz, en diamant, mais l’Etat et ses généraux accaparent tout », résume-t-il, amer, avant d’annoncer : « Vous verrez, le 1er novembre, les Algériens vont sortir manifester. » Ce jour, anniversaire du début de la guerre d’indépendance (1954-1962), coïncide avec le référendum sur une nouvelle mouture de la Constitution algérienne proposé par le président Abdelmajid Tebboune. « On ne l’accepte pas. On veut changer le pays, mais l’Etat s’y refuse », poursuit Nabil Damane.
    La détérioration de la situation sociopolitique en Algérie est l’une des causes avancées par la préfecture de Murcie pour expliquer l’augmentation des migrants algériens, perceptible depuis septembre 2019. Dans les barques, on dénombre aussi quelques Marocains, de rares Subsahariens et des Tunisiens, mais « plus de 90 % des migrants qui partent d’Algérie sont des Algériens », insiste Mari Carmen Vera, directrice des opérations d’urgence de la Croix-Rouge. Elle rappelle que la ville de Carthagène « a toujours accueilli des migrants, mais ils arrivaient peu à peu, en novembre et en décembre. On les recevait dans le port de Santa Lucia, dans le centre. Cet été, il y a eu tant d’arrivées que ce n’était plus possible ».
    C’est au milieu des raffineries du port industriel d’Escombreras, coupé de Carthagène par deux postes de contrôle, interdit d’accès y compris aux journalistes, que les autorités ont donc installé le nouveau dispositif de la Croix-Rouge. Ce 20 octobre, 92 des quelque 250 migrants arrivés durant le week-end se trouvent encore sur le quai, sous de grandes tentes. Nourris et habillés, ils sont aussi identifiés par la police et soumis à un test PCR. Si un cas positif au Covid a été détecté sur une embarcation, tous les passagers sont envoyés dix jours en quarantaine à l’hôtel El Cenojo, perdu dans la nature, à 130 kilomètres de là. Si tous sont négatifs, ils peuvent continuer leur projet migratoire. La Croix-Rouge se charge alors de leur fournir un billet de car ou de train vers la ville espagnole de leur choix. La plupart du temps, ils optent pour Barcelone, ce qui leur permet de continuer ensuite leur route vers la France ou la Belgique. Les moins chanceux, sélectionnés selon des critères sibyllins, sont emmenés au CIE, qui a rouvert fin septembre en prévision d’une possible réouverture des frontières après la visite du chef du gouvernement Pedro Sanchez à Alger le 7 octobre.

    #Covid-19#migrant#migration#algerie#espagne#méditerranee#sante#exil#frontiere#frontex#quarantaine#test#crise

  • #Frontex categorically denies any involvement of its officers in violations of fundamental rights. We condemn any form of inhumane treatment, unprocessed returns and any other form of violence which are illegal under the European Charter for Fundamental Rights.

    https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1158393650356920322

    –-> ce tweet date de 2019, mais j’archive au cas où...

    #hypocrisie #frontières #Frontex #asile #migrations #réfugiés #droits_humains #droits_fondamentaux #traitements_inhumains #traitements_dégradants #tweet

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Migrations : l’agence européenne #Frontex mise en cause pour des #refoulements en mer

    Des investigations menées par plusieurs médias dénoncent les pratiques illégales des #gardes-frontières_grecs impliquant parfois l’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières.

    Une enquête de plusieurs médias, dont le magazine allemand Spiegel, affirme que Frontex, l’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières, est impliquée dans plusieurs incidents de refoulement en mer de bateaux de demandeurs d’asile traversant la mer Egée entre la Turquie et la Grèce.

    Les investigations menées « montrent pour la première fois que les responsables de Frontex sont conscients des pratiques illégales des gardes-frontières grecs – et sont en partie impliqués dans les refoulements eux-mêmes », écrit le Spiegel dans un article disponible en ligne samedi 24 octobre.
    Les journalistes assurent avoir documenté six cas survenus depuis avril en mer Egée dans lesquels des équipes de Frontex ont au minimum assisté sans réagir à des refoulements vers la Turquie de bateaux de réfugiés se trouvant dans les eaux grecques, une pratique illégale. Dans un cas, en juin, une vidéo montre un navire de Frontex bloquant un bateau de réfugiés, puis, dans une autre scène enregistrée, passant devant le bateau de réfugiés à grande vitesse avant de quitter les lieux.

    Des dizaines de vidéos, d’images satellites, de récits comparés

    Outre le Spiegel, les recherches ont été menées par un magazine de la chaîne allemande ARD, le collectif de journalistes Lighthouse Reports, la plate-forme d’investigations Bellingcat et la chaîne de télévision japonaise TV Asahi. Les auteurs expliquent avoir comparé des « dizaines » de vidéos, d’images satellites, de récits de témoins oculaires, dont des réfugiés et des employés de Frontex. L’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières a engagé plus de 600 agents en Grèce, une des portes d’entrée de l’Union européenne, ainsi que des bateaux, des drones et des avions, selon l’article.

    Frontex n’a pas commenté les cas précis soulevés par la recherche, explique le Spiegel, mais a déclaré que ses agents étaient liés par un code de conduite en matière de droits de l’homme et respectaient l’interdiction des refoulements. Sans mentionner l’article, Frontex a annoncé vendredi soir sur son compte Twitter avoir été « en contact avec les autorités grecques à propos d’incidents en mer ces derniers mois » et qu’Athènes avait ouvert une « enquête interne ». Frontex agit « dans le respect des droits fondamentaux et de la loi internationale », souligne l’agence sur Twitter.
    Le gouvernement conservateur grec a toujours rejeté les allégations de refoulements illégaux à ses frontières dont font régulièrement état plusieurs organisations non gouvernementales.

    https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/10/24/migrations-l-agence-europeenne-frontex-mise-en-cause-pour-des-refoulements-e
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Mer_Egée #Grèce #Turquie

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Frontex at Fault : European Border Force Complicit in ‘Illegal’ Pushbacks

      Vessels from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, have been complicit in maritime “pushback” operations to drive away refugees and migrants attempting to enter the European Union via Greek waters, a joint investigation by Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi has found.

      Open source data suggests Frontex assets were actively involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea, were present at another and have been in the vicinity of four more since March.

      Although Frontex assets were not at the immediate scene of those latter four incidents, the signature of a pushback is distinctive, and would likely have been visible on radar, with visual tools common on such vessels or to the naked eye.

      The Greek Coast Guard (HCG) has long been accused of illegal pushbacks.

      These are described by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a legal and educational non-profit, as incidents where refugees and migrants are forced back over a border without consideration of individual circumstances and without any possibility to apply for asylum or to put forward arguments against the measures taken.

      In the Aegean Sea, pushbacks generally occur in two ways. The first type is the most common: Dinghies travelling from Turkey to Greece are blocked from landing on Greek soil by the HCG. This could mean either physically blocking the dinghy until it runs out of fuel, or disabling the engine. After the engine no longer works the dinghy can then either be pushed back into Turkish territorial water with waves, or towed if the wind is not favourable.

      The second type of pushback is employed when people have managed to land on Greek soil. In this case they are detained, placed in a liferaft with no means of propulsion, towed into the middle of the Aegean Sea and then abandoned.

      Pushbacks will often result in standoffs between the HCG and Turkish Coast Guard (TCG), both of which will standby, refusing to aid dinghies in distress and carrying out unsafe manoeuvres around them.

      The role of Frontex assets in such incidents, however, has never been recorded before.

      Dana Schmalz, an international law expert at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg said the incidents highlighted in this investigation were likely “illegal” and “violate the prohibition of refoulement and maritime law.” The prohibition of refoulement refers to rules banning the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers and is described by the UN Refugee Agency as a “rule of customary international law.”

      Schmalz added that if Frontex personnel stopped an overcrowded dinghy of the type seen in footage documented during this investigation, they would be obliged to rescue its occupants immediately. “If they don’t do that, even make waves [or] instead drive away and then let the Greeks do the dirty work – then they are involved in the illegal pushback.”

      Despite being presented with numerous examples of the practice, a spokesperson for the Greek Maritime Ministry Greek denied claims of pushbacks, describing allegations of illegal actions relating to the incidents documented in this article as “tendentious.” They added that HCG officers act in compliance with the country’s international obligations.

      Frontex said that the host states it works with have the final say in how operations on its territory or search and rescue zone are carried out. However, it added that Frontex had notified HCG which confirmed an internal inquiry had been launched into each of the reported incidents. Yet Frontex did not say when it notified HCG or when the inquiry had begun.

      On July 24, the director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, told the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) at the European Parliament that the agency had observed and recorded just a single incident which may have been a pushback in the Aegean.

      Our investigation — which looked at the presence of Frontex assets in the Aegean Sea and observed their movements over many months — appears to contradict that assertion.

      This was despite the difficulty in tracking many Frontex assets because their transponder information was either not registered, not turned on, or was out of range. As such, we were only able to view a snapshot of Frontex operations.

      Frontex, an agency of the European Union, is tasked with border control of the Schengen Area. Its activities in the Aegean are called Operation Poseidon.
      How we Recorded Pushbacks: Identification of Assets

      There were two main steps to establishing that Frontex had participated in pushback operations. The first was to identify what assets had been deployed in Operation Poseidon. The second was to establish whether these assets had participated in pushback operations.

      The first step was carried out using open sources. These included social media posts, vessel tracking sites and information published by Frontex itself. We were also able to establish the number of personnel and assets present in the operational area thanks to questions asked in the European Parliament.

      According to this response, Operation Poseidon has 185 personnel, one offshore patrol vessel (OPV), eight coastal patrol boats (CPB), one coastal patrol vessel (CPV), four thermal vision vehicles (TVV) and three patrol cars.

      There is also a “Rapid Border Intervention”, which contains additional assets on top of those dedicated to Operation Poseidon. This includes 74 personnel, two CPBs, two CPVs, one helicopter and three TVVs.

      In total we used open sources to identify 22 assets, including vessels, helicopters and planes, which operated in the Aegean during 2020. Although this is more than the total given in the answer to parliamentary questions above, some of these assets were rotating in or out of theater.
      Tracking Assets

      Some assets featured regularly on the open source record. For example, Romanian and Bulgarian vessels regularly transit through the Bosphorus strait, where there is an active ship-spotting community. As such it was possible to identify their operational rotations, including vessels heading to and returning from deployments roughly every three months. However, other assets were more difficult to track, and their presence on the open source record consisted of a single image or video.


      https://twitter.com/YorukIsik/status/1262417193083510784

      In order to track these assets and identify if they had participated in pushbacks, we required far more data than was available on social media. As such, we turned to AIS and transponder data, publicly available information about the location of particular ships or aircraft, available through sites such as Marine Traffic or Flight Radar 24.

      Many of the assets we identified either did not have their information publicly listed, or appeared to only turn on their transponders under certain circumstances, such as when in port. This made them extremely difficult to track. However, some assets did have their transponders on. We began to collect this data, buying additional, more granular data from ship and flight tracking companies on dates when pushbacks had been reported.

      We combined this tracking data with our own database of reported pushbacks, which we obtained through both public reports and information collected by NGOs such as Consolidated Rescue Group (CRG), Monitoring Rescue Cell (MRC) and Alarm Phone, who track these events. These included the coordinates of reported pushback events, frequently sent by the occupants of the dinghies. By overlaying these datasets we identified multiple pushback incidents in which Frontex assets were in the vicinity. Once we had identified these priority incidents we could then examine the specifics of what had happened.
      Incidents

      Using this data we identified six pushback incidents since March in which Frontex assets were either in the vicinity or participated directly. We have separated these into four “proximity incidents,” where Frontex assets were within five kilometers of the incident, and two “confirmed incidents,” where we can be certain that Frontex were present at the site of pushbacks themselves.
      Proximity Incidents

      April 28-29: In an incident we have previously reported, a group of refugees and migrants made landfall on Samos. They claim they were then detained, placed in a life-raft without any means of propulsion and towed into the middle of the Mycale Strait. A surveillance plane overflew the area twice while this pushback took place.

      June 4: Two dinghies were reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Nortada appears to have been present around 15 kilometers from the first incident and just over one kilometer away from the second.

      June 5: A dinghy was reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Nortada was approximately two to three kilometers away.

      August 19: A dinghy was reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Molivos was five kilometers away and appears to have changed course and headed towards the pushback before its transponder either lost signal or was turned off.

      In these cases, Frontex assets were recorded as being within a certain range, rather than participating directly. Their exact knowledge of what was happening at these distances is difficult to confirm. Operation Poseidon’s mission includes a significant number of tasks requiring surveillance, and its assets are able to use both radar and visual tools, such as low-light or infrared cameras, to observe the environment around them.

      For example, we know that the Molivos is equipped with an FLIR camera similar to this one seen on another Portuguese Frontex vessel. This model is capable of x36 magnification, with low light and infrared cameras.

      The boats that migrants use to make this crossing are very basic, inflatable rubber dinghies several meters long with a single outboard motor. Due to their construction, it is unlikely that these boats would be visible on radar. However, pushbacks don’t just involve a single dinghy. By their definition they must involve at least one other vessel. From images and videos of pushbacks we have reviewed, it is clear that they often involve multiple ships from both the Greek and Turkish coast guards.

      As stated above, ships from both Greece and Turkey will frequently attempt to push the dinghies across the sea border using waves. These vessels manoeuvre in a circular pattern at a relatively high speed close to the dinghy. This manoeuvre is not only dangerous because of the risk of collision, the waves it generates also represent a threat to the overcrowded and often fragile dinghies.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8BdEHtBWp4&feature=emb_logo

      As such, although a dinghy itself may not show up on radar, the signature of a pushback would. Multiple large and small vessels from both TCG and HCG, some of which are carrying out unusual manoeuvres in order to create waves, would be very difficult to miss. Indeed you can even see this kind of event from space.

      There’s also the matter of visual range. The same factors that make a pushback visible on radar will also make it visible to the eye or other visual systems such as surveillance cameras. Even at a range of a few kilometers in calm seas and good conditions, a dinghy would likely be visible, although exact details such as the nature of its passengers might not be. The other aspects of pushbacks which we have already described would also certainly be visible.

      The case of the April 28-29 pushback is a good illustration of surveillance assets passing very close to the results of a pushback.
      April 28

      In an incident previously covered by Bellingcat, a group of 22 migrants who landed on Samos were detained by Greek law enforcement. They were then placed on a life raft without any means of propulsion, and towed into the middle of the Mycale Strait by the Greek coast guard. In response to our request for comment at the time, the Greek government denied these people had ever reached Greek territory, despite witness statements, images, and videos showing this had in fact happened.

      As the life raft was floating in the strait, a private sureveillance plane passed over the area twice at 5,000 feet, once at 02:41 AM and once at 03:18 AM. This plane, G-WKTH, belongs to DEA Aviation, which provides aerial surveillance services to Frontex. In a promotional video from Frontex, it is claimed these feeds are live-streamed back to the Frontex HQ in Warsaw

      The plane is reportedly equipped with an MX-15 camera, which has both low-light and infrared sensors. Considering this plane is specifically employed for aerial surveillance, it would be surprising if it did not identify the life raft full of people and, according to one member of this group, the presence of Greek and later Turkish vessels.

      Indeed, the Frontex executive director’s response to the LIBE committee of the European Parliament indicates this may have been the incident Frontex reported as having seen. In this reply a “Serious Incident Report (‘SIR’) was created based on a sighting of an incident by aerial surveillance where people were transferred on a rubber boat from a vessel and later on rescued by Turkish authorities.
      Active incidents

      In two cases on June 8 and August 15, it seems certain that Frontex was aware of pushbacks as they took place. Indeed, on June 8, it appears that a Frontex vessel participated in a pushback, physically blocking a dinghy from reaching Greek territory.

      We will first address the incident on August 15, where a Frontext vessel was present at the scene of a pushback, before examining the June 8, where a Frontex asset appears to have participated in a pushback.
      August 15

      On the morning of August 15 there were reports of a confrontation between the Greek and Turkish coast guards. As well as multiple photos posted to social media by locals, this was also reported as a pushback by CRG, MRC, Alarm Phone and Aegean Boat Report.

      CRG and MRC also posted videos from people on this dinghy, with CRG’s video showing an engine without a starter cord, claiming it had been taken by the Greek Coast Guard. In the videos, the dinghy is surrounded by vessels from both the Greek and Turkish coast guards. We have previously noted that disabling the motor of dinghies is a tactic that has reportedly been used by the Greek Coast Guard.

      Most of the images of this incident are taken from a distance, making identification of the vessels difficult. However, we were also sent an image of this confrontation that is very clear. In this image we can clearly see the presence of MAI1102, a Romanian border forces vessel which had just arrived in theater.

      The metadata of this image is consistent with the date and time of this incident. Indeed, the ships can be seen arrayed in almost exactly the same manner in a video filmed by the people on the boat.

      Although it is not possible to be certain of exactly how far away MAI1102 is from this pushback, we can see that it is certainly within visual range of the confrontation and the dinghy itself.
      June 8

      On the morning of June 8 a pushback was reported to have taken place, again off the north-east coast of Lesbos. The Turkish coast guard reported it rescued 47 migrants after a pushback by the Greek Coast Guard that day. Footage published by Anadolu Agency appeared to show the Romanian Frontex vessel MAI1103 blocking a dinghy.

      We investigated this incident further, obtaining other videos from the TCG, as well as tracking data of vessels that appeared to be in the vicinity at the time, such as the NATO ship, Berlin. Using these sources we were able to reconstruct what happened.

      After initially trying to cross under the cover of darkness, the dinghy was intercepted and physically blocked from proceeding by MAI1103 early in the morning.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoNJXY3pa_U&feature=emb_logo

      We can see the exact time and a set of coordinates in one of the videos we obtained.

      We plotted the coordinates visible on the screen as they changed. It became clear these were not the location of the vessel with the camera, but rather the location of the dinghy and MAI1103.

      We can visually confirm the general location by comparing a panoramic view that is visible in one of the videos against the appearance of the landscape from the coordinates which appear on the camera feed.

      We can now start to build a picture of what happened that morning.

      We can see that the dinghy was extremely close to MAI1103, and is being physically blocked by the ship. Indeed the two vessels are close enough that it appears that personnel on MAI1103 are communicating with people in the dinghy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qD_I--2LPA&feature=emb_logo

      At one point MAI1103 makes a pass close to the dinghy at enough speed to generate waves, a maneuver that previously only HCG and TCG have been seen making. It is especially dangerous due to the overloaded and unseaworthy nature of the dinghies.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iUm1_e2R6A&feature=emb_logo

      Eventually HCG vessels arrive and MAI1103 leaves, resulting in a standoff between the TCG and HCG. This lasted several hours and gradually moved to the north-west, observed by the NATO ship Berlin.

      During this period the dinghy was approached at least twice by a rigid-hulled inflatable boat 060 (RHIB) from the HCG.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WODSvxnmoc&feature=emb_logo

      In what appears to be the final segment of video taken at about 09:30 AM we see the TCG radar screen, which can be exactly matched with the Turkish coast. This radar screen matches perfectly with the location and heading of the Berlin at this time, as we can see by overlaying a plot of the Berlin’s course with the radar screen.

      As well as matching the movement of vessels to AIS data, we can further verify that these videos are from the same incident by examining the passengers in the dinghy. We can see that in the earliest videos, showing the MAI1103 with the dinghy, there is clearly a person wearing a white hood, alongside someone who appears to be wearing a reddish top. The presence of these passengers helps to verify that all these videos are indeed from the same incident on June 8.

      In the final stage of the pushback at 10:30 AM it is possible to see the Portuguese Frontex vessel Nortada within 5 km with both AIS data and on the TCG radar screen. The Nortada had been in that vicinity since at least 09:11 AM that morning. Although it may not have been able to pick up this dinghy on its radar, it would have certainly been within visual range of the larger ships surrounding it. After the pushback, the Nortada continued its patrol off North Lesbos.

      Conclusion

      Over the course of this investigation we collected a huge amount of information on Frontex activities in the Aegean Sea. Most of Frontex’s assets were impossible to track because their transponder information was either not registered, not turned on, or was out of range. As such, we were only able to view a snapshot of Frontex operations.

      Despite this limited view, we still managed to identify multiple instances in which Frontex was either present at pushbacks, or close enough to be able to understand what was taking place. In at least one incident it appears that a Frontex vessel actively participated in a pushback. It is possible that there are other incidents we have not been able to capture.

      In a statement provided in response to this investigation, Frontex stated that it applies “the highest standards of border control to its operations” and that its officers are bound by a code of conduct that looks to prevent refoulement and to uphold human rights.

      The statement continued that Frontex’s executive director had notified the HGC regarding all reported incidents and that Greek authorities confirmed that an internal inquiry had been launched.

      A spokesperson for the Greek Maritime Ministry said the actions of HCG officers were “carried out in full compliance with the country’s international obligations, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.”

      The spokesperson added that thousands of migrants had been rescued throughout the refugee crisis of recent years by the HCG, that allegations of illegality were “tendentious” and that the “operation practices of the Greek authorities have never included such [illegal] actions.”

      https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2020/10/23/frontex-at-fault-european-border-force-complicit-in-illegal-pushbacks

      #forensic_architecture #architecture_forensique

    • EU Border Agency Frontex Complicit in Greek Refugee Pushback Campaign

      Greek border guards have been forcing large numbers of refugees back to sea in pushback operations that violate international law. #DER_SPIEGEL and its reporting partners have learned that the European Union is also complicit in the highly controversial practice.

      Jouma al-Badi thought he was safe when he first set foot on European soil on April 28. Together with 21 other refugees, he had been taken in a rubber dinghy from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos. The young Syrian planned to apply for political asylum. He documented his arrival in videos. Local residents also remember the refugees.

      Greek security forces captured the migrants. Under international law, it is their duty to give the new arrivals a hearing and field their applications for asylum. Instead, according to al-Badi, the officers dragged them back out to sea and released them on an inflatable rubber raft. Videos obtained by DER SPIEGEL also show him on the raft.

      For an entire night and a morning, Greek border guards kept pushing the men and women away as their raft floated around in circles. The Turkish coast guard filmed the maneuver.

      An aircraft used by the European border protection agency Frontex also passed over the refugees. The crew of the surveillance plane, with the registration identifier "G-WKTH,” were part of a European Union operation in Greece. The plane twice flew over the Strait of Mykali, where al-Badi and the other migrants were located. According to flight data that has been viewed by DER SPIEGEL, the first flight happened at 2:41 a.m. and the second at 3:18 a.m.

      The plane’s crew has a standard MX-15 camera on board with an infrared sensor and a sensor for poor lighting conditions. Even at night, the sensors are capable of detecting small objects on the water. According to a Frontex promotional video, the camera images are streamed live to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. But Frontex didn’t send any help.

      The waves struck the Syrian in the face. He eventually ran out of strength and thought he was going to die.

      The Greek government denies it conducted pushbacks of refugees to Turkey, even though DER SPIEGEL and other media have fully documented several of these operations, known as pushbacks. Greek border guards are growing increasingly ruthless. As in the case of al-Badi, they are now pushing even refugees who have reached the Greek isles back to sea in operations that are illegal under international law.

      Frontex officials have publicly claimed that they know nothing about pushbacks by Greek border guards. The agency has 600 employees deployed in Greece as well as ships, drones and aircraft.

      Together with Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, "Report Mainz” — a program on ARD, the German public broadcaster — and Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi, DER SPIEGEL spent several months reporting in the Aegean Sea region. The reporters tracked the positions of Frontex units and compared them with position data from pushbacks recorded by NGOs and migrants. They interviewed witnesses, refugees and Frontex staff. They viewed internal documents and dozens of videos and satellite photos.

      Their research proves for the first time that Frontex officials know about the Greek border guards’ illegal practices – and that the agency itself is at times involved in the pushbacks. Breaking the law has become an everyday occurrence at Europe’s borders, and the EU is allowing it to happen.

      Samira Mohammad could already see Lesbos when the men with the masks arrived. The Syrian woman, who does not want to provide her real name, is 45 years old. That morning of August 15, she was sitting in a rubber dinghy with dozens of other people. She recalls how Greek border guards tried in vain to stop the arrivals and how they steered toward the boat repeatedly and pushed it back toward Turkey multiple times. She says the Turkish coast guard held them off. Locals even have a name for the cynical game: "Greek water polo.”

      Mohammad claims the Greek officials took their gasoline and destroyed the engine. And that masked Greek border guards then boarded the dinghy. Several refugees claim that they forced the migrants to tie the shaky rubber dinghy to a speedboat at gunpoint. The border guards then towed the boat toward Turkey. Videos corroborate the statements made by the refugees, and the destroyed engine is clearly visible.

      Mohammad said she was scared to death during those moments. Her entire family had been onboard, including her pregnant daughter-in-law, who was later hospitalized with severe bleeding.

      The maneuver off the coast of Lesbos lasted hours, and the Turkish Navy didn’t rescue the refugees until noon.

      A Romanian Frontex boat was also on site that morning. The MAI 1102 was located only a few hundred meters away from the refugee boat. The boat can be clearly identified in a photo. A German navy ship on a NATO mission that observed the incident reported it to the German government. It also stated that Frontex people had been present. This is documented in an internal paper that has been obtained by DER SPIEGEL. Nevertheless, this pushback has never been revealed publicly before now.

      On June 8, Frontex officials went one step further, with the MAI 1103, a ship also flying the Romanian flag. It directly blocked a refugee boat. The incident can be seen in several videos recorded by the Turkish coast guard and verified by DER SPIEGEL. It shows officials standing on the deck, where they are obviously communicating with the refugees floating in the water in front of them.

      Later, the MAI 1103 passes the refugees traveling at high speed, with waves beating against the boat. The Romanian officials then withdrew and the Greek coast guard took over the operation.

      "These pushbacks violate the ban on collective expulsions and international maritime law,” says Dana Schmalz, an expert on international law at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. She notes that if Frontex officials stopped a completely overcrowded inflatable boat, they would be required to rescue the people immediately. "If they don’t do that and even make waves instead, only to drive away and let the Greeks do the dirty work, then they are still involved in the illegal pushback,” she says.

      Reporting by DER SPIEGEL and its partners found that a Frontex surveillance plane or Portuguese or Romanian Frontex ships were near at least six pushbacks in the area since April. The number of undetected cases could actually be much higher.

      The vast majority of Frontex vessels patrol the Aegean Sea with their AIS transponders switched off or untraceable in order to prevent giving away their positions. Their presence can only be verified with difficulty through videos and photos.

      When contacted for comment by DER SPIEGEL, Frontex did not deny the individual incidents, instead stating that the officials protected the fundamental rights of migrants and respected their right to non-refoulement. It further stated that the incidents that had been reported were forwarded to the Greek coast guard, which opened an investigation into the matter. The Greek government gave a blanket denial to the allegations, saying that it complies with the law and does not carry out illegal deportations.

      Under Frontex’s statutes, police officers are required to file so-called Serious Incident Reports to document violations of the law. But people familiar with the situation say that fewer and fewer of these reports are getting filed. The sources said the Frontex border guards, who are sent to Greece from all over Europe, frown upon such reports because they cause trouble for the host country.

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-border-agency-frontex-complicit-in-greek-refugee-pushback-campaign-a-4b6c

      –---

      en allemand :
      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/fluechtlinge-frontex-in-griechenland-in-illegale-pushbacks-verwickelt-a-0000

    • Bruxelles veut des explications de Frontex, accusée de procéder à des refoulements illégaux de migrants

      La #Commission_européenne a sollicité une réunion extraordinaire urgente du conseil d’administration de Frontex, l’agence européenne pour la protection des frontières, mise en cause pour des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Égée. Un article d’Euroefe.

      « Après s’être coordonnés avec la présidente de la Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, mes services ont demandé, au nom de la Commission, la convocation d’une réunion extraordinaire du conseil d’administration de Frontex le 10 novembre pour discuter des incidents présumés de refoulement en Grèce et de la protection des droits fondamentaux », a écrit Ylva Johansson, la commissaire chargée des migrations, dans un tweet.

      D’après des enquêtes menées par différents médias, Frontex aurait procédé à des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Égée, à la frontière entre la Turquie et la Grèce. Et ce à au moins six reprises.

      L’hebdomadaire allemand Der Spiegel a révélé le 23 octobre qu’il avait enquêté sur ces incidents en collaboration avec les médias numériques néerlandais Lighthouse Reports et britannique Bellingcat, ainsi qu’avec deux chaînes de télévision, l’Allemande ARD et la Japonaise Asahi.

      Ces médias disposent de films montrant comment, depuis le mois d’avril, des agents de Frontex ont procédé à ce que l’on appelle des « pushbacks » (refoulements) de migrants pour les empêcher d’atteindre le sol européen, une pratique illégale.

      Une vidéo montre comment un bateau de l’agence européenne bloque le passage d’une embarcation occupée par des migrants, avant de les dépasser à grande vitesse, provoquant ainsi de grosses vagues. Par la suite, les garde-côtes grecs obligent la barque à faire demi-tour vers la Turquie.

      De son côté, Frontex a nié les accusations et assuré au Spiegel que ses agents protégeaient les droits fondamentaux des migrants et respectaient le droit au non-refoulement.

      Le gouvernement grec a également nié catégoriquement ces accusations.

      https://www.euractiv.fr/section/migrations/news/bruxelles-veut-des-explications-de-frontex-accusee-de-proceder-a-des-refoulements-illegaux-de-migrants/?_ga=2.223583131.1633915392.1603989521-379746837.1590938192

    • Greek coast guard performed huge pushback involving 197 people and 7 life rafts!

      A boat carrying 197 people tried to cross from Turkey to Italy on Tuesday, but got in to bad weather and sat course towards Crete. Close to the south shore of Crete they had engine problems and the Greek Coast Guard was alerted 09.00.
      The coast guard divided the people on two coast guard vessels, 121 men and boys on one vessel and 76 people, families on the other. Reports from the refugees clearly states that some of them where abuse while onboard the HCG vessel, footage and video testimony has been provided. Most of their phones was confiscated by the Greek coast guard, but a few managed to hide their phones, and was able to send out distress messages.
      The first group containing the 121 males was forced in to 3 life rafts before first light on Wednesday the 21th just north of Rhodes, and found and picked up by Turkish coast guard 08.50 south of Marmaris.
      The second group with the families, 76 people, was put in 4 life rafts around noon north west of Simi, drifting for hours and not picked up by Turkish coast guard before 17.30 south west of Datça.
      This shows that the Greek coast guard is determined to prevent anyone to reach Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution.
      This is by far the largest pushback Aegean Boat Report has been able to document, but I guess nothing is a surprise anymore. No measures have been taken by the EU to try to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even do they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.

      https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/posts/951612422028529

    • Έστειλαν πίσω 200 πρόσφυγες γιατί ήταν… τζιχαντιστές

      Τεκμηριωμένη καταγγελία για τη μεγαλύτερη ώς τώρα καταγεγραμμένη επαναπροώθηση προσφύγων από το Λιμενικό προς την Τουρκία με μεγάλη και κρυφή επιχείρηση του Λιμενικού εν μέσω σφοδρής κακοκαιρίας νότια της Κρήτης ● Έντεχνη προσπάθεια οι 200 άνθρωποι, μεταξύ αυτών και γυναικόπαιδα, να εμφανιστούν ως… ισλαμιστές τρομοκράτες.

      Ακόμα μια καταγγελία για βίαιες επαναπροωθήσεις προσφύγων από το Λιμενικό έρχεται στο φως τις τελευταίες ημέρες, την ίδια στιγμή που η κυβέρνηση πανηγυρίζει για τη μείωση των προσφυγικών ροών προς τα νησιά, χωρίς όμως να εξηγεί πώς έχει επιτευχθεί η μείωση αυτή.

      Η υπόθεση αφορά πλοιάριο με περίπου 200 ανθρώπους που έφτασαν στα ανοιχτά της Κρήτης, προερχόμενοι από Τουρκία και με τελικό προορισμό την Ιταλία. Στη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση υπάρχει μια περίεργη αλληλουχία γεγονότων και « ειδήσεων » τόσο στα κρητικά όσο και τα κεντρικά ΜΜΕ. Το πρωί της Τρίτης 20 Οκτωβρίου σε όλα τα ηλεκτρονικά ΜΜΕ της Κρήτης μεταδίδεται η είδηση για « κινητοποίηση του Λιμενικού » για σκάφος με 200 μετανάστες στη θαλάσσια περιοχή νότια της νήσου Χρυσής (Γαϊδουρονήσι), στην Ιεράπετρα. Το προηγούμενο βράδυ η Κρήτη είχε χτυπηθεί σφοδρά από την κακοκαιρία και το πρωί τα βλέμματα όλων ήταν στις εκτεταμένες καταστροφές που προκάλεσε το χαλάζι σε καλλιέργειες και υποδομές, κυρίως στην ανατολική πλευρά του νησιού. Την ίδια κακοκαιρία προφανώς αντιμετώπισαν και οι 200 επιβαίνοντες στο σκάφος, μεταξύ των οποίων υπήρχαν γυναίκες και παιδιά.

      Στις πρώτες αναφορές και σε ερωτήσεις δημοσιογράφων προς το Λιμεναρχείο Ιεράπετρας γινόταν λόγος για « αδυναμία του Λιμενικού να εντοπίσει το πλοιάριο », ωστόσο δινόταν η πληροφορία πως τα σκάφη θα έμεναν στα ανοιχτά λόγω της κακοκαιρίας και για την περίπτωση που χρειαστεί, να παράσχουν βοήθεια αν εντοπίσουν τους πρόσφυγες. Λίγες ώρες αργότερα η είδηση εξαφανίστηκε από τα ΜΜΕ και δημιουργήθηκε η εντύπωση πως τα σκάφη του Λιμενικού δεν βρήκαν ποτέ το πλοιάριο με τους πρόσφυγες.
      Τους βρήκαν ;

      Ωστόσο τα πράγματα φαίνεται πως έγιναν διαφορετικά. Τέσσερις μέρες μετά, η οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report, η οποία και στο παρελθόν έχει αποκαλύψει παράνομες επιχειρήσεις επαναπροώθησης λέμβων με μετανάστες προς την Τουρκία από τις ελληνικές αρχές και τη Frontex, καταγγέλλει πως το Λιμενικό όχι μόνο βρήκε τους πρόσφυγες στα ανοιχτά της Κρήτης αλλά προχώρησε και με συνοπτικές διαδικασίες στην επαναπροώθησή τους στην Τουρκία. Η οργάνωση καταγγέλλει πως η ελληνική Ακτοφυλακή εντόπισε τους πρόσφυγες στις 9 το πρωί της Τρίτης (όπως δηλαδή μετέδιδαν αρχικά και τα κρητικά ΜΜΕ). Στη συνέχεια, πάντα σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία, οι άνδρες του Λιμενικού επιβίβασαν τους 197 πρόσφυγες σε δύο επιχειρησιακά σκάφη χωρίζοντάς τους σε δύο ομάδες. Στην πρώτη ομάδα μπήκαν 121 άνδρες και αγόρια, ενώ στη δεύτερη μπήκαν οικογένειες με γυναίκες και παιδιά, συνολικά 76 άτομα. Και οι δύο ομάδες, πάντα σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία, μεταφέρθηκαν στη θαλάσσια περιοχή βόρεια της Ρόδου, όπου και εξαναγκάστηκαν με τη βία να επιβιβαστούν σε συνολικά επτά θαλάσσιες σωστικές σχεδίες αφού προηγουμένως τους είχαν αφαιρεθεί όλα τα κινητά τηλέφωνα. Και οι επτά σχεδίες « σπρώχτηκαν » προς τις ακτές της Τουρκίας, εν μέσω κακοκαιρίας και κατά παράβαση των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων και του δίκαιου της θάλασσας.

      Στιγμιότυπα από την επαναπροώθηση των προσφύγων (Φωτογραφίες από την οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report).


      Οι τρεις πρώτες σχεδίες, με 121 άτομα, εξωθήθηκαν τα ξημερώματα της Τετάρτης 21/10 προς την περιοχή της Μαρμαρίδας, όπου και εντοπίστηκαν από το τουρκικό Λιμενικό που τους περισυνέλεξε. Το δεύτερο γκρουπ, όπου βρίσκονταν οι γυναίκες και τα παιδιά, εξαναγκάστηκε να επιβιβαστεί σε τέσσερις σωστικές σχεδίες και επαναπροωθήθηκε προς την Τουρκία από τη θαλάσσια περιοχή δυτικά της Σύμης, το μεσημέρι της Τετάρτης. Τους περισυνέλεξε το τουρκικό Λιμενικό το απόγευμα της ίδιας μέρας στην περιοχή νοτιοδυτικά της πόλης Ντάκτα. Οπως αναφέρουν μάλιστα κάποιοι από τους επιβαίνοντες, χτυπήθηκαν από τους Ελληνες λιμενικούς, ενώ υπάρχει και σχετικό φωτογραφικό υλικό που τραβήχτηκε μετά την περισυλλογή τους από τις τουρκικές αρχές. Σε μία από τις φωτογραφίες φαίνεται ένας άνθρωπος με μώλωπες στην κοιλιά και με γύψο σε σημεία και των δύο χεριών του.


      Πρωτοσέλιδο

      Την ίδια μέρα, πάντως, που έγινε η καταγγελία από την Aegean Boat Report (το Σάββατο) η εφημερίδα « ΤΑ ΝΕΑ » κυκλοφορούσε με τίτλο « Προετοιμαστείτε για Τζιχαντιστές », αναφερόμενη στο μήνυμα που, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες της εφημερίδας, έστειλε σε Ελλάδα και Κύπρο ο Αιγύπτιος πρόεδρος Αλ Σίσι κατά την τριμερή συνάντηση που πραγματοποιήθηκε στη Λευκωσία. Το μήνυμα υποτίθεται πως αφορούσε τις πληροφορίες που έχει η Αίγυπτος για τις κινήσεις του Ερντογάν και το πώς χρησιμοποιεί τον ισλαμιστικό παράγοντα. Σε κάποια κρητικά ΜΜΕ οι δύο υποθέσεις δεν άργησαν να συνδεθούν με αναφορές για το… περίεργο σκάφος στο οποίο, σύμφωνα με τα δημοσιεύματα, επέβαιναν « άτομα εμφανιζόμενα ως μετανάστες » και το οποίο, σύμφωνα με τις διοχετευμένες πληροφορίες, έχει κινητοποιήσει όχι μόνο το Λιμενικό αλλά και τον Στρατό, την ΕΥΠ ακόμα και ξένες μυστικές υπηρεσίες !

      Όπως αποκαλύπτεται, πάντως, οι επικίνδυνοι « τζιχαντιστές », τόσο οι άνδρες όσο και τα γυναικόπαιδα, είχαν ήδη από την Τετάρτη επαναπροωθηθεί παράνομα στην Τουρκία. Η Οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report αναφέρει πως αυτή είναι η μεγαλύτερη περίπτωση « pushback » που καταφέρνει να καταγράψει και τονίζει πως η Ευρωπαϊκή Ενωση δεν έχει επιβάλει ακόμα καμία κύρωση στην Ελλάδα για τις παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις, παρά τα ακλόνητα στοιχεία που έχουν τεθεί στη διάθεση των ευρωπαϊκών αρχών.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/efkriti/koinonia/265835_esteilan-piso-200-prosfyges-giati-itan-tzihantistes

    • Greece’s coast guard accused of mass migrant pushbacks

      An NGO, the #Aegean_Boat_Report (ABR), has accused the Greek coast guard of pushing back 197 migrants at sea last week.

      Greek coast guards have been accused by the NGO Aegean Boat Report (ABR) of performing illegal pushbacks involving 197 people and seven life rafts off the coast of the island of Crete in the Southern Aegean.

      A boat carrying 197 people was on its way trying to cross from Turkey to Italy on October 20 but ran into bad weather and changed course towards Crete, the NGO said.

      Close to the south shore of Crete, the vessel reported engine problems and, according to the Norwegian organization, the Greek coast guard was alerted at 9 am.

      ’’The Greek coast guard divided the people into two groups onto two coast guard vessels, 121 men and boys on one vessel, and 76 people, mostly families, on the other.

      Abuse on board

      Reports from the refugees clearly state that some of them were abused while onboard the Hellenic coast guard vessel, with footage and video testimony being provided,’’ said ABR via a media statement.

      According to ABR, the first group with the 121 men and boys were forced into three life rafts in the early hours of Wednesday, October 21 just north of Rhodes, before being found and picked up by the Turkish coast guard at 8:50 am south of Marmaris.

      The second group of 76 people, made up of families, were put into four life rafts at around noon north-west of the islands of Simi, drifting for hours and not picked up by Turkish coast guards before 5:30 pm south-west of Data.

      ’Largest pushback’ ABR has documented

      ’’This shows that the Greek coast guard is determined to prevent anyone from reaching Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution’’, added ABR.

      ’’This is by far the largest pushback Aegean Boat Report has been able to document, but I guess nothing is a surprise anymore. No measures have been taken by the EU to try to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even if they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.’’

      29 NGOs and humanitarian groups sent an open letter to Parliament Last week’s incidents were reported after an appeal was launched by several prominent NGOs and humanitarian groups earlier this month on the topic of illegal pushbacks.

      A total of 29 organizations sent an open letter to Parliament urging it to investigate reports of illegal pushbacks at the country’s land and sea borders with neighboring Turkey.

      The letter called on the Greek Parliament to ’’immediately conduct an effective, transparent and impartial investigation into allegations that personnel from the Coast Guard, the Greek Police and the Greek Army, sometimes in close cooperation with masked men in uniform, have engaged in such actions, which are not only illegal but also endanger the lives and safety of displaced people."

      Tensions on migration in Greece

      Tensions on the migrant issue in Greece continue to run high following September’s fires which destroyed the controversial Moria open camp on Lesbos, and widespread lockdowns at refugee camps across the country following outbreaks of coronavirus cases.

      The reports of pushbacks taking place have prompted action from humanitarian rights groups, with the joint-appeal calling for disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as deemed appropriate, “on anyone in uniform who are found to have participated in such illegal activities, but also for their superiors who are responsible for the administration of these bodies.”

      “The investigation should establish the identity and relationship of the masked men and other unidentified officers to law enforcement, and take steps to hold them to account.”

      State pushes ahead with migrant camps

      Meanwhile, in related developments, the government is pressing ahead with plans to create more secure and strictly controlled ’’closed’’ migrant reception centers on the Aegean islands.

      With the COVID-19 pandemic creating further challenges and complications for the operation of existing camps, most of which are under lockdown due to positive cases of the virus, the state is aiming to build new ’’permanent’’ structures, starting with one on Lesbos.

      The situation on Lesbos is the primary concern right now, as the current temporary facility which was hastily set up in the Kara Tepe area on the coast after Moria was burned down, has already flooded twice with the first rainfalls of the season.

      Lesbos Mayor Stratis Kytelis met with government officials in Athens last week to discuss the location of a new permanent facility on the island, although the plans are being met with resistance from local community groups.Greece’s health authorities, meanwhile, are also conducting regular COVID-19 tests at migrant camps on the Aegean islands to ensure that any outbreak is quickly contained.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/28139/greece-s-coast-guard-accused-of-mass-migrant-pushbacks

    • Frontex sous pression après des accusations de refoulement de migrants aux portes de la Grèce

      C’est une première : mardi 10 novembre, le conseil d’administration de l’Agence européenne des garde-frontières et de garde-côtes Frontex devra examiner des accusations de refoulements illégaux (ou « pushbacks ») de migrants en mer Egée. Elles ont été portées contre Frontex par un groupe de médias. En octobre, le site d’investigation Bellingcat et le magazine Der Spiegel notamment, avaient rapporté, images et témoignages à l’appui, six épisodes au cours desquels des embarcations avaient été bloquées, contrairement aux règles internationales sur le non-refoulement.

      Celles-ci stipulent que des personnes ne peuvent être renvoyées vers un pays, avant un examen de leur situation, si leur existence est en danger en raison de leur race, leur religion, leur nationalité ou leur appartenance à un groupe social ou politique.

      Il aura apparemment fallu une intervention ferme de la Commission européenne pour que la direction de Frontex, devenue le premier corps en uniforme et la plus importante agence de l’Union avec un budget de quelque 500 millions d’euros, accepte de convoquer un conseil extraordinaire. Dans un premier temps, elle s’était contentée d’affirmer, le 24 octobre, qu’elle respectait la loi internationale et était en contact avec la Grèce, qui devait ouvrir « une enquête interne ».
      Enquête interne

      « Si l’agence est impliquée dans de telles actions, c’est totalement inacceptable », déclarait pour sa part la commissaire à la migration, Ylva Johansson, le 26 octobre. Le lendemain, Frontex promettait une enquête interne et, même si elle n’exerce pas une tutelle directe sur l’agence, la Commission obtenait la convocation d’une réunion. A charge pour Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur français, de fournir des explications détaillées.

      « La Grèce ne participe pas à des refoulements, a affirmé de son côté le ministre grec des migrations, Notis Mitarachi. Nous gardons nos frontières en respectant le droit international et nous continuons à sauver des centaines de migrants tous les jours en Méditerranée », a-t-il précisé.

      Athènes fait face depuis des mois à de nombreuses accusations de refoulement en mer Egée et à la frontière terrestre avec la Turquie, dans l’Evros. Le 14 août déjà, le New York Times avait affirmé que les gardes-côtes grecs avaient abandonné en « pleine mer » des canots remplis de migrants. Interviewé par CNN, le premier ministre conservateur Kyriakos Mitsotakis avait démenti : « Cela n’est jamais arrivé. Nous sommes les victimes d’une vaste campagne de désinformation », suggérant que les journalistes avaient interrogé principalement des sources turques voulant décrédibiliser les autorités grecques.

      Depuis l’envoi par la Turquie de milliers de réfugiés à la frontière terrestre de l’Evros, en mars, Athènes a toujours assuré vouloir « protéger ses frontières » qui sont aussi celles de l’Europe et faire face à « une menace ». Le gouvernement a renforcé le contrôle des frontières en embauchant notamment du personnel supplémentaire. Entre avril et juillet, les arrivées à Lesbos ont diminué de 85 % par rapport à l’année dernière, selon le ministère des migrations.
      Des « abus sont trop nombreux pour être ignorés »

      Pour de nombreuses ONG présentes sur le terrain, cette diminution spectaculaire est le résultat de « pushbacks ». Selon Human Rights Watch, « les preuves et les rapports décrivant les abus sont trop nombreux pour être ignorés ». L’organisation dit avoir interrogé des victimes et des témoins qui décrivent comment les garde-côtes grecs, la police, et des hommes masqués et vêtus d’habits sombres ont effectué depuis les îles de Rhodes, de Samos et Simi, des refoulements illégaux de personnes sur de petits canots gonflables.

      A la fin août, le Haut-Commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) de l’ONU se disait « inquiet de l’augmentation des publications depuis mars 2020 attestant de refoulements illégaux ». « Le HCR a reçu des rapports et des témoignages de personnes abandonnées en pleine mer pendant un long moment, souvent sur des rafiots surpeuplés », précisait le communiqué.

      L’Observatoire grec des accords d’Helsinki a déjà déposé une plainte auprès de la Cour suprême grecque pour le refoulement de plus de 1 300 personnes en s’appuyant sur les témoignages recueillis par plusieurs ONG. En septembre, 29 organisations de défense des droits de l’homme ont par ailleurs adressé une lettre au premier ministre et au parlement grecs pour réclamer une enquête. Leur courrier est encore sans réponse alors que 35 membres d’ONG font, eux, l’objet d’une investigation : ils sont suspectés d’avoir renseigné des migrants sur les positions des gardes-côtes ainsi que des passeurs sur des lieux d’accostage. Ces humanitaires travaillent pour des organisations qui ont dénoncé avec le plus de véhémence les refoulements vers la Turquie par les gardes-côtes grecs.

      Frontex, qui a engagé en Grèce quelque six cents agents dotés de divers moyens de surveillance, a déjà fait l’objet d’autres accusations mais affirme à chaque fois respecter un code de conduite qui prohibe strictement les refoulements. La communication très cadenassée de l’agence ne détaille toutefois pas comment les contrôles sont vraiment exercés. L’action du service interne chargé de contrôler le respect des droits fondamentaux reste également nébuleuse. Une situation déplorée par le HCR, membre du forum consultatif chargé de conseiller l’agence européenne dans son action.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/11/05/frontex-sous-pression-apres-des-accusations-de-refoulement-de-migrants-aux-p

    • EU: Probe Frontex Complicity in Border Abuses. Ensure Independent and Effective Investigation

      The top governing body of the European Union Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) should urgently establish an independent inquiry into allegations of its involvement in unlawful operations to stop migrants from reaching the European Union (EU), Human Rights Watch said today.

      The agency’s board will hold an extraordinary meeting on November 10, 2020. Frontex should also address serious and persistent violations by border and law enforcement officers of the countries where it operates.

      “The fact that Frontex may have become complicit in abuses at Greece’s borders is extremely serious,” said Eva Cossé, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Management Board of Frontex should quickly open an inquiry into Frontex involvement in – or actions to disregard or cover up – abuses against people seeking protection from conflicts and persecution.”

      On October 23, a group of media outlets published a detailed investigative report alleging Frontex involvement in pushback operations at the Greek-Turkish maritime border, in the Aegean Sea. The reports said that asylum seekers and migrants were prevented from reaching EU soil or were forced out of EU waters. Such pushbacks violate international law, Human Rights Watch said.

      EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on October 28 that she had asked, in coordination with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, “to convene an urgent extraordinary Frontex Management Board meeting on 10 November, to discuss alleged push-back incidents in Greece and fundamental rights protection.”

      Frontex’s mandate obliges officers and the officers of member states deployed to respect fundamental rights, but the agency has been under heavy criticism for the shortcomings of its internal monitoring and accountability mechanisms. On October 27, Frontex announced an internal inquiry into the incidents reported by the media.

      In recent years, nongovernmental groups and media outlets have consistently reported the unlawful return, including through pushbacks, of groups and individuals from Greece to Turkey, by Greek law enforcement officers or unidentified masked men who appear to be working in tandem with border enforcement officials.

      Since Frontex deployed officers along the full length of the Turkey-Greece land border in March, Human Rights Watch has documented that Greek law enforcement officers routinely summarily returned asylum seekers and migrants through the land border with Turkey. Human Rights Watch found that officers in some cases used violence and often confiscated and destroyed migrants’ belongings.

      Greek authorities have said that police officers wearing dark blue uniforms work at police stations. Border patrol police officers wear military camouflage uniforms. Frontex guards wear their national uniforms, with a blue armband with the EU flag.

      In July, Human Rights Watch documented collective expulsions, through the Evros river land border, of asylum seekers rounded up from deep inside Greece.

      In a June 19 response to questions posed by Human Rights Watch, Frontex wrote that no abuses against migrants by Greek border guards or by police or border guards of other EU member states deployed under Frontex had been reported to Frontex. It said that Frontex does not have the authority to investigate allegations of abuse by EU member states’ police or border guards deployed in Greece. It said that such investigations are conducted by the competent national authorities.

      In June, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was deeply concerned about persistent reports of pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, in some cases violent, at Greece’s border with Turkey. In August, the UN Refugee Agency flagged concerns over the increasing number of credible reports of pushbacks at Greece’s land and sea borders.

      In May 2019, Frontex told Human Rights Watch that it had not detected any human rights violations or pushbacks during its operational presence at Croatia’s border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite consistent evidence of brutal pushbacks, reports from international and regional organizations, and the confirmation by Croatian officials that such abuses were taking place.

      Under the Frontex mandate, its executive director has the authority to, and should, withdraw financing, and suspend or terminate its activities if there are serious violations of fundamental rights related to its activities. The executive director is also expected to take into account information provided by relevant international organizations.

      On July 6, during a debate at the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on fundamental rights at the Greek border, Johansson said that pushbacks by Greek border guards should be investigated. In its new Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented on September 23, the European Commission recommended to member states to set up an independent monitoring mechanism, amid increased allegations of abuse at the EU’s external borders.

      Members of the Frontex Management Board should set up an independent, prompt, effective, transparent, and impartial investigation into allegations that officers deployed by Frontex were involved in unlawful operations of pushbacks of asylum seekers. Any officer found to have engaged in such illegal acts, as well as their commanding officers and officials who have command responsibility over such forces, should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as applicable.

      The investigation should also identify whether Frontex failed to report or otherwise address allegations of serious fundamental rights violations committed by law enforcement or border officers of the member state hosting operations.

      “An EU agency with a clear mandate to act in compliance with fundamental rights has the responsibility to do everything possible to prevent such severe violations,” Cossé said. “If Frontex not only turned a blind eye to abuses committed under its sight, or worse, directly took part in them, it becomes every EU member state’s responsibility.”

      https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/09/eu-probe-frontex-complicity-border-abuses

    • Frontex calls for committee to consider questions related to sea surveillance

      Today, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has called for the creation of an evaluation committee to consider legal questions related to the Agency’s surveillance of external sea borders and accommodating the concerns raised by Member States about “hybrid threats” affecting their national security at external borders where the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will deploy its standing corps.

      Under the Frontex proposal, the committee would be coordinated by the European Commission with the participation of Member States on a volunteer basis. It would address various questions, in particular those related to Regulation 2014/656 in the light of the current operational situation.

      Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri also expressed the Agency’s continued commitment to highest standards of protection of fundamental rights.

      “Any allegation of misconduct or infringement of international treaties or fundamental rights in the framework of joint operations coordinated by Frontex is treated with grave concern and carefully investigated,” said Fabrice Leggeri.

      “I am committed to reinforce the office of the Fundamental Rights Officer and to gradually increase its budget,” he added.

      Leggeri also proposed that the Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer to play a bigger role in raising awareness of the operational officers on the legal requirements that they need to apply on everyday basis in the field.

      “This could apply not only to the Frontex-deployed staff, but also to the staff of the International Coordination Centres, who often play an essential part in deciding to react to complicated events,” Leggeri said.

      https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-calls-for-committee-to-consider-questions-related-to-sea-surv

    • #Ombudsman opens inquiry to assess European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) ‘#Complaints_Mechanism’

      European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has opened an inquiry to look into how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) deals with alleged breaches of fundamental rights. In particular, the investigation will assess the effectiveness and transparency of Frontex’s Complaints Mechanism for those who believe their rights have been violated in the context of Frontex border operations, as well as the role and independence of Frontex’s ‘Fundamental Rights Officer’.

      In 2013, as part of a previous inquiry, the Ombudsman recommended that Frontex set up an individual complaints mechanism, and that its Fundamental Rights Officer be in charge of the mechanism. Since then, such a mechanism was put in place and further developed, with a view to providing safeguards for fundamental rights in the context of Frontex’s expanding mandate, as well as ensuring increased accountability and redress for those impacted by its actions.

      This inquiry focuses on whether the Complaints Mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer are truly empowered to deal with the issues faced by migrants and asylum seekers who feel their rights have been violated under Frontex operations.

      In opening the inquiry, the Ombudsman has sent a set of detailed questions to Frontex on the Complaints Mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer. She has also informed members of the European Network of Ombudsmen (ENO), with a view to their possible participation in the inquiry, as part of the ENO’s parallel work. This is important, given the role of national authorities in Frontex operations, and the fact that some national ombudsmen are responsible for following up on complaints related to this.

      Among other things, the questions set out by the Ombudsman look at: how and when Frontex will be updating the mechanism to reflect its expanded mandate; what happens to complainants who are faced with forced return while their complaint is still being processed; what appeal possibilities are open to complainants; how Frontex monitors complaints against national authorities; how those who have been affected by Frontex operations but are in non-EU countries can complain about alleged breaches of fundamental rights, including the issue of language; and the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer in this process.

      https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/news-document/en/134739

    • Frontex: Cover-Up and Diversion. Outcomes of and Responses to the Frontex Management Board meeting on 10th November

      An extraordinary meeting took place on Tuesday 10th November, between the EU Commission and Frontex, regarding alleged Frontex involvement in illegal pushbacks in Greece.

      Why did the meeting take place?

      This meeting was called due to an overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting the involvement or complicity of Frontex in pushbacks. Reports by Spiegel, Report Mainz, Bellingcat and other international media, including Josoor and other members of the BVMN, had led to this meeting taking place. These investigations show Frontex involvement in at least six pushbacks through, for example, blocking boats and making waves to deter boats from getting any closer to the shore. According to Frontex insiders, mission reports were routinely altered into something more positive, excluding explicit mentions of pushbacks, before being sent to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland.

      We, at the Border Violence Monitoring Network, took advantage of the opportunity presented by the meeting on 10th November by sending a letter of concern to the Executive Director of Frontex and the FRO. This letter included evidence from testimonies, collected by BVMN partners, including Josoor, from people-on-the-move who claim that Frontex personnel were involved or complicit in pushbacks operations at the borders between Greek and Turkey, and Albania and Greece. The letter questioned Frontex’s knowledge and understanding of these allegations, and demanded an investigation into these claims. The letter was also addressed to the EU commissioner of Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, and her officer and we hoped this was presented as evidence at the management board meeting on 10th November

      What were the outcomes?

      Johansson remarked on twitter after the meeting:

      “Today’s @Frontex extraordinary management board was a good start to what I want to be a transparent process. The @EU_Commission has asked the Frontex Executive Director to reply to Qs ahead of the next scheduled board meeting (end November).”

      Leggeri, the Executive Director of Frontex, has been ordered by the EU Commission to answer questions concerning these accusations by the end of November. Frontex is yet to comment in detail on the allegations and reported incidents have been forwarded to the Greek coastguard, where also the Greek authorities have refused to comment and denied involvement. Both Frontex and the Greek authorities have launched internal investigations in response to these allegations. Unsurprisingly, after just 48 hours of their investigations, Frontex announced that they were innocent.

      The meeting also included a discussion on whether Frontex should withdraw from missions, such as the one in the Aegean Sea in the event of serious and persistent human rights violations. Such a directive can be found already in Frontex’s regulations. Officials of a few member states vetoed the application of this rule, and Greek representatives in particular were concerned that this could expose the Greek government.

      In the end, a compromise was met. A Frontex statement outlined that a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ will now be made to deal with legal questions concerning operations at sea borders. This will be coordinated by the EU Commission.

      “Any allegation of misconduct or violation of international agreements or fundamental rights within joint operations coordinated by Frontex will be treated with grave concern and investigated closely,” Leggeri said.

      Also, Frontex seeks to strengthen the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer, but experts agree that the internal mechanisms at Frontex are insufficient and therefore see this move as insufficient. As of yesterday, Frontex is advertising for the vacancy of the FRO.

      Members of EU Parliament reactions:

      Tineke Strik (from Netherlands, Green) commented, according to Spiegel, “The announcement did not mention the human rights violations at the border. A committee does not replace a truly independent and transparent investigation. Strik stated “Citizens need to know what has happened and how human rights violations are to be prevented in the future”

      Dietmar Köster (from Germany, SPD) stated, quoted from Tagesschau, "It is a unique cover-up attempt to divert attention from one’s own responsibility and failure to observe human rights”. Köster further stated that Leggeri’s statements showed the arrogance and ignorance of Frontex. “Basic and human rights apply to all. The European Border Management Agency is not exempt from their observance, it is not above the law.”

      An successful outcome: an independent inquiry:

      On the morning of Thursday 12th November, the European Ombudsman tweeted that they would open an inquiry into Frontex, assessing the effectiveness and transparency of their ‘Complaints Mechanism’ and the role and independence of the ‘Fundamental Rights Officer’ (FRO). The latter is especially important as the current ad interim FRO, Annegret Kohler, appointed in 2018, and re-appointed in September 2020, was selected from the Executive Director’s former cabinet, where she was an advisor to the Executive Director. This raises questions about independence and objectivity of the FRO and the FRO’s team to carry out their duties and avoid potential conflicts of interest. Josoor welcomes this investigation.

      https://www.josoor.net/post/frontex-cover-up-and-diversion

    • EU erhöht Druck auf Frontex-Chef

      Die EU-Grenzschutzagentur gerät durch Recherchen des ARD-Magazins Report Mainz und weiterer Medien in Bedrängnis. Heute musste die Frontex-Führung der EU-Kommission zum Thema illegale Pushbacks Rede und Antwort stehen.

      Die Europäische Kommission erwartet Antworten vom Frontex-Chef. Bis Ende November muss sich Fabrice Leggeri zur Verwicklung seiner Grenzschutzagentur in illegale Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen äußern. Das ist das Ergebnis einer Dringlichkeitssitzung des Frontex Management Boards. Das Treffen sei ein guter Anfang gewesen, sie wolle den Prozess transparent gestalten, twitterte die zuständige EU-Kommissarin Ylva Johansson. Leggeri solle bis zur nächsten Zusammenkunft des Management Boards auf die Fragen der Kommission antworten.
      Recherchen bringen Frontex in Bedrängnis

      Johansson hatte das Treffen einberufen, um über eine gemeinsame Recherche des ARD-Magazins Report Mainz, des „Spiegel“ und der Medienorganisationen Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports und tv Asahi zu diskutieren. Die Medien hatten aufgedeckt, dass Frontex-Einheiten in der Ägäis in illegale Zurückweisungen von Flüchtlingen verwickelt sind.

      Seit April waren Frontex-Beamte nachweislich bei mindestens sechs sogenannten Pushbacks in der Nähe. Auf einem Video ist zu sehen, wie ein Frontex-Schiff ein überladenes Flüchtlingsboot zunächst blockiert, die Insassen aber nicht rettet. Stattdessen fahren die Frontex-Beamten mit hohem Tempo an dem Flüchtlingsboot vorbei und verlassen dann den Ort des Geschehens. Vertrauliche Gespräche mit Frontex-Beamten legten zudem nahe, dass diese ihre Berichte schönen, bevor sie an die Zentrale in Warschau geschickt werden.

      Keine Äußerung von Frontex und Griechenland

      Frontex ist auf die Vorwürfe bis heute nicht im Detail eingegangen. Alle gemeldeten Vorfälle seien an die griechische Küstenwache weitergeleitet worden, diese habe eine interne Untersuchung eingeleitet, teilte die Genzschutzagentur in einem Statement mit. Nach der Antwort der griechischen Behörden seien seine Zweifel ausgeräumt, sagte Leggeri zudem in einem Interview.

      Auch die griechischen Behörden hatten sich zu den Pushbacks nicht im Detail äußern wollen. Sie bestreiten die Vorwürfe pauschal, obwohl die ARD, der „Spiegel“ und andere Medien die Pushbacks mehrfach dokumentiert haben. Nach Angaben von Teilnehmern im „Spiegel“ sahen sich vor allem die griechischen Mitglieder des Management Boards bei dem Treffen Fragen ausgesetzt. Diskutiert wurde unter anderem ein Statement, welches betonen sollte, dass Frontex sich bei schwerwiegenden und anhaltenden Menschenrechtsverletzungen von Missionen wie der in der Ägäis zurückziehen muss.

      Griechen haben Angst vor Bloßstellung

      Ein solche Vorschrift findet sich schon jetzt in den Frontex-Regularien. Beamte einiger weniger Mitgliedsstaaten legten ihr Veto dagegen ein, dass die Anwendung dieser Regel nun in den Raum gestellt werden soll. Besonders die griechischen Teilnehmer fürchteten, dass das Statement die griechische Regierung bloßstellen könnte.

      Am Ende einigte man sich auf einen Kompromiss. Es soll ein Komitee geschaffen werden, das sich mit rechtlichen Fragen zu Einsätzen an der Seegrenzen beschäftigt, heißt es in einem Frontex-Statement. Die Kommission solle dem Vorschlag zufolge die Arbeit des Komitees koordinieren, Mitgliedsstaaten könnten sich auf freiwilliger Basis beteiligen. Im Komitee sollen auch die Sorgen einige Mitgliedsstaaten vor „hybriden Bedrohungen“ eine Rolle spielen. Vor allem Griechenland hatte immer wieder davor gewarnt, dass türkische Geheimdienste sich unter die Migranten auf den Inseln mischen könnten.

      Außerdem will Frontex nach eigener Aussage den sogenannten Fundamental Rights Officer stärken. Der Beamte ist bei Frontex dafür zuständig, dass die Grenzschützer die Grundrechte von Schutzsuchenden achten. Allerdings halten Beobachter alle bestehenden internen Überwachungsmechanismen bei Frontex für unzureichend.
      Kritik aus Europaparlament

      Nach den Enthüllungen der ARD und ihrer Recherchepartner hatten mehrere Europaparlamentarier von Leggeri eine vollständige Untersuchung der Vorwürfe gefordert. Die Grünen-EU-Abgeordnete Tineke Strik kritisierte das Frontex-Statement. Die Ankündigung erwähne die Menschenrechtsverletzungen an der Grenze nicht, sagte sie. Ein Komitee ersetze keine wirklich unabhängige und transparente Untersuchung. „Die Bürger müssen erfahren, was geschehen ist und wie Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Zukunft verhindert werden sollen“, so Strik.

      „Das Ganze ist eine große Nebelkerze“, sagte Europaparlamentarier Dietmar Köster von der SPD. „Es ist ein einzigartiger Vertuschungsversuch, von der eigenen Verantwortung und dem Versagen bei der Einhaltung von Menschenrechten abzulenken“,

      https://www.tagesschau.de/investigativ/report-mainz/frontex-pushbacks-103.html

    • EU-Grenzpolizei Frontex: Keine Untersuchung zu Verstößen gegen Menschenrechte

      Im März war die EU-Grenzpolizei Frontex in einen versuchten Verstoß gegen Menschenrechte verwickelt. Wie von uns veröffentlichte Akten zeigen, untersuchte Frontex den Vorfall aber nicht, sondern kehrte ihn unter den Teppich.

      Als ARD, Spiegel und Bellingcat vor drei Wochen aufdeckten, dass die Europäische Grenzpolizei Frontex an illegalen Pushbacks an EU-Grenzen beteiligt ist, versprach der Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri schnell Aufklärung. Die EU-Agentur werde die Vorwürfe untersuchen, nach denen Frontex Geflüchtete völkerrechtswidrig aus der EU abgeschoben hatte.

      „Jeder Vorwurf des Fehlverhaltens oder der Verletzung internationaler Verträge oder Grundrechte im Rahmen gemeinsamer Operationen, die von Frontex koordiniert werden, wird mit großer Besorgnis behandelt und sorgfältig untersucht.“

      Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri (Übersetzung von FragDenStaat)

      Ein interner E-Mail-Verlauf von Frontex, den wir per Informationsfreiheitsanfrage erhalten haben, zeigt jetzt jedoch, dass die EU-Agentur in vergleichbaren Fällen offenbar kein Interesse daran hat, Verstöße gegen Menschenrechte zu untersuchen. EU Observer hatte zunächst darüber berichtet.
      Dänemark widersetzt sich Frontex-Befehlen

      Bereits am 2. März diesen Jahres hatte Frontex in der Nähe der griechischen Insel Kos versucht, ein Boot mit 33 geflüchteten Menschen, die griechische Gewässer erreicht hatten, in die Türkei abzuschieben. Das griechische Frontex-Kommando befahl einem Schiff der Dänischen Marine mit dem Namen „Stela Polaris“, die Geflüchteten nicht an Land zu bringen, sondern wieder in ein Gummiboot zu setzen und aufs offene Meer Richtung Türkei zu schleppen. Der dänische Befehlshaber des Schiffes widersetzte sich dem rechtswidrigen Befehl jedoch und erreichte durch seine dänischen Vorgesetzten, dass er aufgehoben wurde.

      Frontex hatte den Vorgang bisher nie öffentlich zugegeben. Der dazugehörige E-Mail-Verkehr aus der Frontex-Zentrale in Warschau, den wir veröffentlichen, zeigt, dass Pushbacks die Entscheidungsträger um Direktor Fabrice Leggeri kaum interessierten. Erst aus der Presse erfuhr das Hauptquartier überhaupt davon, dass Frontex in einen versuchten Verstoß gegen die Menschenrechte verwickelt war.

      Einen Bericht – intern Serious Incident Report genannt – gab es trotz der Schwere des Vorfalls nicht. Die Frontex-Pressesprecherin forderte deswegen in Erwartung von Presseanfragen am Morgen des 6. März, vier Tage nach dem Vorfall, bei ihren Kolleg:innen einen Bericht zu den Vorfällen an. Am Nachmittag wurde sie informiert, dass es in der Tat einen versuchten Pushback gegeben hatte.

      Menschenrechte geprüft in vier Stunden

      Bemerkenswert ist, wie die Frontex-Zentrale anschließend mit den Informationen umging: Es schloss die Akten. Bereits vier Stunden nach der Meldung über Vorfall kamen die Frontex-Mitarbeiter:innen zu der Einschätzung, der versuchte Pushback sei ein „Einzelfall“. Er wurde noch nicht einmal beim täglichen Treffen der Befehlshabenden in der Frontex-Mission besprochen.

      Weitere Informationen zu dem Vorfall finden sich in den Akten laut Frontex nicht. Die Frontex-Mitarbeiter:innen überprüften nicht die Kommando-Strukturen und prüften nicht, warum es keinen internen Bericht zu dem rechtswidrigen Befehl gab. Sie unternahmen auch sonst keine Versuche, um sicherzustellen, dass Pushbacks durch das Frontex-Kommando nicht mehr vorkommen würden. Im Sommer schließlich gab Frontex-Direktor gegenüber dem Europäischen Parlament zu Protokoll, der versuchte Pushback sei ein „Missverständnis“ gewesen.

      Einige Monate später fanden Journalist:innen Beweise dafür, dass es sich offenbar nicht um einen Einzelfall handelt und Frontex mindestens im Juni an weiteren Pushbacks beteiligt war. Die EU-Agentur hatte offenbar kein Interesse daran, Verstöße gegen Menschenrechte zu unterbinden.

      https://fragdenstaat.de/blog/2020/11/18/frontex-pushbacks-denmark

    • Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee calls on Greece to reform its immigration detention system and stop pushbacks

      In a report published today on a rapid reaction ad hoc visit to Greece in March 2020, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee (CPT) once again urges the Greek authorities to change their approach towards immigration detention and to ensure that migrants deprived of their liberty are treated both with dignity and humanity.

      The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its ad hoc visit to Greece, which took place from 13 to 17 March 2020, together with the response of the Greek authorities.

      In the report, the CPT acknowledges the significant challenges faced by the Greek authorities in dealing with large numbers of migrants entering the country and that it requires a coordinated European approach. However, this cannot absolve the the Hellenic Republic from their human rights obligations and the duty of care owed to all migrants that the Greek authorities detain.

      The CPT found that the conditions of detention in which migrants were held in certain facilities in the Evros region and on the island of Samos could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. The report again underlines the structural deficiencies in Greece’s immigration detention policy. Migrants continue to be held in detention centres composed of large barred cells crammed with beds, with poor lighting and ventilation, dilapidated and broken toilets and washrooms, insufficient personal hygiene products and cleaning materials, inadequate food and no access to outdoor daily exercise. Extreme overcrowding in several of the facilities further aggravated the situation. In addition, migrants were not provided with clear information about their situation.

      The CPT once again found that families with children, unaccompanied and separated children and other vulnerable persons (with a physical or mental health illness, or pregnant women) were being detained in such appalling conditions with no appropriate support. The CPT calls upon the Greek authorities to end the detention of unaccompanied children and of children with their parents in police establishments. Instead, they should be transferred to suitable reception facilities catering to their specific needs.

      The report also highlights that the CPT again received consistent and credible allegations of migrants being pushed back across the Evros River border to Turkey. The Greek authorities should act to prevent such pushbacks. The CPT furthermore raises concerns over acts by the Greek Coast Guard to prevent boats carrying migrants from reaching any Greek island and it questions the role and engagement of FRONTEX in such operations.

      The CPT calls upon the Greek authorities to take vigorous steps to stamp out ill-treatment of detained migrants by the police. The report refers to a number of allegations by migrants that they had been ill treated by members of the Hellenic Police and/or Coast Guard either upon apprehension or after being brought to a place of detention. The ill treatment alleged consisted primarily of slaps to the head and kicks and truncheon blows to the body.

      In their response, the Hellenic Police provide information on the steps being taken to improve the conditions of detention for detained migrants. They also state that the alleged practice of pushbacks to the border is unsubstantiated and completely wrong. As regards unaccompanied minors, reference is made to a new strategy to end their detention and to their transfer from reception centres on the islands to safe accommodation facilities on the mainland.

      https://search.coe.int/directorate_of_communications/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680a06bcf

    • Annex to the reply of Fabrice Leggeri to the LIBE Committee

      https://www.tinekestrik.eu/sites/default/files/2020-11/Answers%20to%20the%20questions%20from%20the%20LIBE%20Commitee.pdf

      –---

      Thread sur twitter:

      It looks like Frontex are NOT denying that they may be involved in #pushbacks after all. FL partly evades (’...always committed...’) and partly seems to blame the ’uniqueness’ of operational areas & ’complex geography’ of the Greek and Turkish border for FX being involved in pushbacks.

      –---

      The earlier letter sent to the EP President might offer some clues. I’m not a legal expert, but FL seems to suggest that Art. 6 of Reg. 656/2014 (on interception at sea) needs to be clarified so as to define what constitutes a #pushback. Interesting.
      https://www.tinekestrik.eu/sites/default/files/2020-11/Letter%20to%20EP_Frontex%20maritime%20operations%20at%20EU%20external%20

      –—

      Yet not all pushbacks happen at sea. While the request for interpretation above might mean that FX is looking for a way out re: #pushbacks at the Aegean, what about those at the
      Greek-Turkish land border? I think there’s less concern with #pushbacks at #Evros, though. No videos...

      –---

      Back to the Annex: We know SIRs weren’t submitted as they should. The real question is why. It might be down to officers on the ground lacking in training (they shouldn’t, but...) or not wanting to get their colleagues in trouble (the spirit of camaraderie...).

      –---

      BUT: Today’s Spiegel article refers to a ’Frontex official in charge’ advising a Swedish officer not to submit a SIR. FX management were aware few SIRs being submitted for years. Is it a practice dictated from the top? To avoid having evidence of violations?

      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/pushbacks-in-der-aegaeis-wie-frontex-menschenrechtsverletzungen-vertuscht-a-

      –—

      Suspension/non-launch of operations has never happened. The ED didn’t take into account reports by NGOs or human rights bodies when considering the 2016 recommendation to suspend operations in Hungary. He relied on the very low number of SIRs to reject it.
      https://respondmigration.com/wp-blog/fundamental-rights-accountability-transparency-european-governance

      –—

      Same with the 2019 & 2020 recommendations of the FRO to consider suspension of operations in #Evros. As for taking into account media reports ... well, I’d say the reply to the LIBE committee reads like the media accounts are being dismissed.

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1331662031095787521

  • Bulgaria blocks North Macedonia Frontex agreement

    Bulgaria is the only country blocking the signing of a border management agreement between North Macedonia and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency – Frontex, EURACTIV reports.

    The reason for the dispute is that Bulgaria does not recognise the language of North Macedonia as “Macedonian”, as the authorities in Skopje call it. Bulgaria considers it as a dialect of Bulgarian.

    Also, Bulgaria conditions a change in terminology regarding Macedonian language in order to allow progress in drafting a final negotiating framework.

    “Bulgaria does not recognize the existence of a separate so-called ‘Macedonian language’ and therefore cannot agree to any reference to it in EU documents. The reference to the “official language” of this country enables the continuation of institutional work”, reads the document in which Radio Free Europe had an insight.

    An agreement on co-operation in border management would enable Frontex to conduct joint operations and send its teams to border areas to stop illegal immigration, especially in cases of sudden changes in migration flows, and cross-border crime and, if necessary, to provide technical and operational assistance to national border forces.

    Frontex has previously signed such agreements with Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. A similar agreement has been initialed with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but is awaiting finalization.

    https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/10/22/bulgaria-blocks-north-macedonia-frontex-agreement

    #Bulgarie #Frontex #Macédoine_du_Nord #route_des_balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Balkans #accord

    –---

    La raison pour laquelle la Bulgarie ne signe pas est intéressante... sur une question linguistique...

    The reason for the dispute is that Bulgaria does not recognise the language of North Macedonia as “Macedonian”, as the authorities in Skopje call it. Bulgaria considers it as a dialect of Bulgarian.

    #langue #macédonien #dialecte_bulgare #bulgare #langue_bulgare

    • Bulgaria asks EU to stop ’fake’ Macedonian identity

      In another Balkan historical dispute, Sofia has asked its fellow EU members to stop North Macedonia’s accession bid. Sofia wants its neighbor to admit to sharing a common history with Bulgaria.

      A long-simmering historical dispute between two Balkan neighbors is about to enter the corridors of Brussels again as North Macedonia expects an official start to the EU accession negotiation process in December. An EU candidate country since 2005, North Macedonia hoped that solving the name dispute with Greece would end the historical quarrels with its Balkan neighbors and, after having entered NATO in March, start the country down the long road to full EU membership.

      But Bulgaria has different ideas.

      A document titled the “Explanatory Memorandum on the relationship of the Republic of Bulgaria with the Republic of North Macedonia in the context of the EU enlargement and Association and Stabilization Process” caught the attention of the media in North Macedonia last week. The six-page memorandum, sent to 26 EU capitals from Sofia in August, lays out Bulgaria’s position on several historical issues. Key among them, as Sofia claims: “the ethnic and linguistic engineering that has taken place” in North Macedonia since World War II.

      “The accession path of the Republic of North Macedonia provides a valuable opportunity for its leadership to break with the ideological legacy and practices of communist Yugoslavia,” the Bulgarian memorandum stated. “The enlargement process must not legitimize the ethnic and linguistic engineering that has taken place under former authoritarian regimes.”

      According to the official Bulgarian view of history, people of Slavic descent who live in North Macedonia are Bulgarians who speak the Bulgarian language but were brainwashed during the Josip Broz Tito’s communist regime in the former Yugoslavia and were artificially given a new “Macedonian” identity and language in the process.

      Pressing nationalistic views

      The claim is not new. It is the official position of the Bulgarian state since the 1950s and, as a result, the historical misunderstandings between the two neighbors often boiled over in the political arena. As a member of the European Union, Bulgaria sees an advantage and aims to use it.

      Ulf Brunnbauer, chair of history of Southeast and Eastern Europe at the University of Regensburg, said the memorandum is Bulgaria’s way of “pressing its own nationalistic view on the history and culture of another country and its people.”

      “It would be similar to Germany telling the Austrians that they are actually Germans, or Denmark calling the Norwegians an anomaly because they used to be part of their empire and their standard language developed later than Danish,” Brunnbauer told DW.

      The memorandum caused consternation in North Macedonia and condemnation in parts of the Bulgarian academia as well.

      Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Dimitrov said, “Language is not subject to recognition or nonrecognition because in the 21st century, especially in Europe, the right to self-determination and self-expression cannot be denied.”

      Bulgarian sociologist Ivaylo Ditchev wrote for DW that the primary “accusation” made in the Bulgarian memo is the fact that “North Macedonia exists at all.”

      “And if that new nation persistently refuses to abolish itself — Bulgaria considers that an act of aggression,” Ditchev wrote.

      Occupation or liberation?

      During the Second World War, the Kingdom of Bulgaria was part of the Axis powers and occupied the territory of what is today North Macedonia. Macedonian history considers this period “Bulgarian fascist occupation.” But Bulgaria denies that assertion and claims that its forces liberated what it considers its brethren in the west. In a declaration adopted by the parliament last year, Sofia told Skopje to stop using the term “fascist occupation” in reference to Bulgaria in its history books and to remove all such mention on the World War II monuments in the country.

      Disagreements like this were supposed to be solved by a commission formed after the signing of a bilateral friendship agreement in 2017.

      A group of historians and education experts from both countries started working on the long list of divisive issues but stopped last year. The official reason was because of the elections in North Macedonia and later the coronavirus pandemic, unofficially, there were insurmountable disagreements. Now the Bulgarian government insists that the commission continue its work and show results or North Macedonia’s path towards the EU would be stopped before it can begin in earnest.

      No place for bilateral issues

      While the EU has so far been quiet on the issue, Germany, as the current holder of the rotating European Council presidency, called on both countries to resolve outstanding problems in the history commission. German Ambassador in North Macedonia Anke Holstein rejected Bulgaria’s attempt to include the bilateral issues in the EU negotiations framework.

      “Bilateral problems should be solved bilaterally,” Holstein told Radio Free Europe.

      But, according to Dragi Gjorgiev, president of the Macedonian team of experts in the Macedonian-Bulgarian commission, that won’t be an easy task.

      “The Bulgarian memorandum, which denies the modern Macedonian language and identity, is not helpful for the commission’s success,” Gjorgiev told DW.

      While Ditchev, and other political analysts on both sides of the border think the memorandum might be a PR-stunt of Boyko Borisov’s Bulgarian government to turn the attention of the public opinion after months of anti-corruption protests in the country, others disagree.

      “Protests in Sofia have nothing to do with this,” Andrey Kovatchev member of the European Parliament from Bulgaria’s governing conservative GERB party, wrote in an op-ed for DW Macedonian on Saturday. The government in Sofia would not change its position, Kovatchev said, adding that North Macedonia will not be allowed to start the EU accession negotiations unless it accepts Bulgaria’s demands.

      “Do not hope! You will never find another traitor like Georgi Dimitrov [the first communist leader of Bulgaria 1946-1949, who recognized the existence of a separate Macedonian nation and Macedonian language] in Bulgaria to get this thing done for you.,” he said.

      German historian Brunnbauer, on the other hand, called on Brussels and “especially Berlin” to put pressure on the Bulgarian government.

      “The question of how historians or politicians in (North) Macedonia interpret the history of their nation and of their language might enrage Bulgarian nationalists (and vice versa),” he said. “But it has zero connection with the Copenhagen criteria or any other criteria an accession country needs to fulfill for membership in the EU.”

      https://www.dw.com/en/bulgaria-asks-eu-to-stop-fake-macedonian-identity/a-55020781

    • Bulgaria threatens to veto North Macedonia’s EU talks

      Bulgaria said it will veto the formal launch of EU accession talks with North Macedonia unless its concerns about language and history are taken into account, diplomats said after a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday.

      One diplomat who took part in the meeting said the Bulgarian representative gave “a very long and emotional speech” on the topic.

      The ambassadors were having their first discussion on the framework for negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia that was put forward by the European Commission last summer. Once the member states have backed the framework, the presidency of the Council of the EU, currently held by Germany, will present the so-called “agreed General EU Position” to the two countries hoping to join the bloc, marking the formal start of accession negotiations.

      It was expected that the EU’s support for the negotiating framework would be signed off at a ministerial meeting of the General Affairs Council on November 10 — but Sofia could derail those plans.

      Opening talks with the two Balkan countries has already been difficult as North Macedonia and Greece first had to resolve a near 30-year-long dispute over the former’s name. An agreement between the two was ratified last year, paving the way for Skopje’s NATO accession.

      Another obstacle appeared when France led a group of capitals pushing for a change in the way countries join the bloc. At a meeting of EU leaders last October, France blocked approval of the opening of the accession talks with both countries. Approval was granted in March after a compromise was found that included revamping the accession process.

      The discussion among ambassadors on Wednesday was mainly about this new methodology, with some member states having doubts about how negotiations could be suspended, two diplomats said.

      In recent weeks, Bulgaria distributed documents to the other member states to explain its position. In one of the documents, seen by POLITICO, Sofia stressed that Bulgaria cannot “accept that the still ongoing nation-building process in the Republic of North Macedonia be conducted through the revision of our common history, the denial of our common ethnic and linguistic roots or the unfounded claims for the existence of a ‘Macedonian minority’ in Bulgaria.”

      The two countries signed an accord in August 2017 to resolve these problems “but the implementation of the Treaty has been stagnant,” said Sofia.

      Nikola Dimitrov, North Macedonia’s deputy prime minister for European integration, said his country is committed to implementing the friendship agreement with Sofia. He noted Bulgaria had played a positive role in putting EU enlargement back on the bloc’s agenda but said that success would be at risk if a solution is not found to the impasse.

      “It is simply not right for the Macedonian language to be an obstacle to our European future if the EU is a community of values that celebrates diversity,” Dimitrov told POLITICO.

      Diplomats said that Wednesday’s session was just a first discussion and there’s still a chance to avoid the process being derailed, with more talks planned. “There’s still room for diplomacy,” said one of the diplomats involved in the discussion, pointing to preparatory meetings for the next summit as part the so-called Berlin process, that will bring together leaders from the Western Balkans and the EU, to be held in Sofia on November 10, the same day as the General Affairs Council.

      https://www.politico.eu/article/bulgaria-threatens-veto-on-north-macedonia-accession

  • L’UE achète des drones à #Airbus pour repérer les bateaux transportant des migrants

    Airbus et deux sociétés d’armement israéliennes ont reçu 100 millions d’euros pour faire voler des drones au-dessus de la #Méditerranée. Le but : identifier les bateaux chargés de migrants qui tentent d’atteindre l’#Europe, selon le Guardian. Un article d’Euractiv Italie.

    Dans le cadre des « services de #surveillance_aérienne_maritime » qu’elle assure, l’#UE a décidé de recourir à des #appareils_téléguidés volant à moyenne altitude à longue endurance, connus du grand public sous le nom de drones. C’est Airbus qui a été mandaté par Bruxelles pour fournir les engins. Le conglomérat européen spécialisé dans l’aéronautique et la défense travaillera avec la société publique #Israel_Aerospace_Industries (#IAI). Un deuxième contrat a été signé avec #Elbit_Systems, une société d’#armement israélienne privée. Les deux contrats s’élèvent à 50 millions d’euros chacun, selon une information du journal britannique The Guardian.

    Les opérations seront menées en #Grèce et/ou en #Italie et/ou à #Malte selon le contrat-cadre signé entre #Frontex et les fournisseurs, dans le cadre des mesures de contrôle des frontières du sud de l’Europe.

    Le #budget de l’agence européenne de garde-frontières et de gardes-côtes (Frontex), est passé de 6 millions d’euros en 2005 à 460 millions d’euros cette année, ce qui reflète l’importance croissante donnée au contrôle des frontières extérieures en raison de l’immigration. Le service de surveillance aérienne comprendra la mise à disposition d’un flux de #données fiable en temps réel et la capacité de partager ces données en temps réel.

    L’IAI affirme que son drone #Heron, employé couramment par les forces armées israéliennes et allemandes, est en mesure de voler pendant plus de 24 heures et peut parcourir jusqu’à 1 000 miles à partir de sa base à des altitudes supérieures à 35 000 pieds.

    Elbit Systems soutient pour sa part que ses drones #Hermes peuvent voler jusqu’à 36 heures à 30 000 pieds. Le mois dernier, Elbit a annoncé que des drones Hermes avaient été testés avec l’Agence maritime et des garde-côtes britannique au large de la côte ouest du Pays de Galles pour des opérations de recherche et de sauvetage.

    Les drones israéliens sont le résultat d’une technologie de surveillance qu’Israël a développée et testée lors d’une série d’attaques sur Gaza, comme le détaille un rapport de Human Rights Watch. Airbus a fait savoir que son modèle n’était pas en mesure de transporter des armes, et qu’il serait peint en blanc avec le label « Frontex ». Les premiers tests seront effectués en Grèce sur l’île de #Crète.

    Dans le cadre du programme Frontex, le drone italien #Falco_Evo de l’entreprise #Leonardo avait déjà été testé pour des activités de surveillance maritime aérienne dans l’espace aérien civil italien et maltais.

    En juin 2919, le drone avait permis de mettre au jour une pratique fréquemment utilisée par les passeurs : le transbordement de dizaines de personnes d’un « vaisseau -mère » vers une embarcation qui est ensuite laissée à la dérive. La Guardia di Finanza, la police dounière italienne, alertée par les images du drone, avait alors intercepté et saisi un bateau de pêche.

    Reste que l’utilisation de ce type de technologie suscite de nombreuses craintes. Les détracteurs les plus acharnés de la surveillance aérienne par des drones affirment que l’obligation légale d’aider un navire en danger et de sauver des naufragés ne s’applique pas à un engin aérien sans pilote, quel qu’il soit.

    https://www.euractiv.fr/section/migrations/news/lue-achete-des-drones-a-airbus-pour-reperer-les-bateaux-transportant-des-mi
    #complexe_militaro-industriel #business #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #drones #contrôles_frontaliers #surveillance_des_frontières #Israël #EU #Union_européenne #UE

    ping @e-traces

  • Migrants: le règlement de Dublin va être supprimé

    La Commission européenne doit présenter le 23 septembre sa proposition de réforme de sa politique migratoire, très attendue et plusieurs fois repoussée.

    Cinq ans après le début de la crise migratoire, l’Union européenne veut changer de stratégie. La Commission européenne veut “abolir” le règlement de Dublin qui fracture les Etats-membres et qui confie la responsabilité du traitement des demandes d’asile au pays de première entrée des migrants dans l’UE, a annoncé ce mercredi 16 septembre la cheffe de l’exécutif européen Ursula von der Leyen dans son discours sur l’Etat de l’Union.

    La Commission doit présenter le 23 septembre sa proposition de réforme de la politique migratoire européenne, très attendue et plusieurs fois repoussée, alors que le débat sur le manque de solidarité entre pays Européens a été relancé par l’incendie du camp de Moria sur lîle grecque de Lesbos.

    “Au coeur (de la réforme) il y a un engagement pour un système plus européen”, a déclaré Ursula von der Leyen devant le Parlement européen. “Je peux annoncer que nous allons abolir le règlement de Dublin et le remplacer par un nouveau système européen de gouvernance de la migration”, a-t-elle poursuivi.
    Nouveau mécanisme de solidarité

    “Il y aura des structures communes pour l’asile et le retour. Et il y aura un nouveau mécanisme fort de solidarité”, a-t-elle dit, alors que les pays qui sont en première ligne d’arrivée des migrants (Grèce, Malte, Italie notamment) se plaignent de devoir faire face à une charge disproportionnée.

    La proposition de réforme de la Commission devra encore être acceptée par les Etats. Ce qui n’est pas gagné d’avance. Cinq ans après la crise migratoire de 2015, la question de l’accueil des migrants est un sujet qui reste source de profondes divisions en Europe, certains pays de l’Est refusant d’accueillir des demandeurs d’asile.

    Sous la pression, le système d’asile européen organisé par le règlement de Dublin a explosé après avoir pesé lourdement sur la Grèce ou l’Italie.

    Le nouveau plan pourrait notamment prévoir davantage de sélection des demandeurs d’asile aux frontières extérieures et un retour des déboutés dans leur pays assuré par Frontex. Egalement à l’étude pour les Etats volontaires : un mécanisme de relocalisation des migrants sauvés en Méditerranée, parfois contraints d’errer en mer pendant des semaines en attente d’un pays d’accueil.

    Ce plan ne résoudrait toutefois pas toutes les failles. Pour le patron de l’Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration, Didier Leschi, “il ne peut pas y avoir de politique européenne commune sans critères communs pour accepter les demandes d’asile.”

    https://www.huffingtonpost.fr/entry/migrants-le-reglement-de-dublin-tres-controverse-va-etre-supprime_fr_

    #migrations #asile #réfugiés #Dublin #règlement_dublin #fin #fin_de_Dublin #suppression #pacte

    –---

    Documents officiels en lien avec le pacte:
    https://seenthis.net/messages/879881

    ping @reka @karine4 @_kg_ @isskein

    • Immigration : le règlement de Dublin, l’impossible #réforme ?

      En voulant abroger le règlement de Dublin, qui impose la responsabilité des demandeurs d’asile au premier pays d’entrée dans l’Union européenne, Bruxelles reconnaît des dysfonctionnements dans l’accueil des migrants. Mais les Vingt-Sept, plus que jamais divisés sur cette question, sont-ils prêts à une refonte du texte ? Éléments de réponses.

      Ursula Von der Leyen en a fait une des priorités de son mandat : réformer le règlement de Dublin, qui impose au premier pays de l’UE dans lequel le migrant est arrivé de traiter sa demande d’asile. « Je peux annoncer que nous allons [l’]abolir et le remplacer par un nouveau système européen de gouvernance de la migration », a déclaré la présidente de la Commission européenne mercredi 16 septembre, devant le Parlement.

      Les États dotés de frontières extérieures comme la Grèce, l’Italie ou Malte se sont réjouis de cette annonce. Ils s’estiment lésés par ce règlement en raison de leur situation géographique qui les place en première ligne.

      La présidente de la Commission européenne doit présenter, le 23 septembre, une nouvelle version de la politique migratoire, jusqu’ici maintes fois repoussée. « Il y aura des structures communes pour l’asile et le retour. Et il y aura un nouveau mécanisme fort de solidarité », a-t-elle poursuivi. Un terme fort à l’heure où l’incendie du camp de Moria sur l’île grecque de Lesbos, plus de 8 000 adultes et 4 000 enfants à la rue, a révélé le manque d’entraide entre pays européens.

      Pour mieux comprendre l’enjeu de cette nouvelle réforme européenne de la politique migratoire, France 24 décrypte le règlement de Dublin qui divise tant les Vingt-Sept, en particulier depuis la crise migratoire de 2015.

      Pourquoi le règlement de Dublin dysfonctionne ?

      Les failles ont toujours existé mais ont été révélées par la crise migratoire de 2015, estiment les experts de politique migratoire. Ce texte signé en 2013 et qu’on appelle « Dublin III » repose sur un accord entre les membres de l’Union européenne ainsi que la Suisse, l’Islande, la Norvège et le Liechtenstein. Il prévoit que l’examen de la demande d’asile d’un exilé incombe au premier pays d’entrée en Europe. Si un migrant passé par l’Italie arrive par exemple en France, les autorités françaises ne sont, en théorie, pas tenu d’enregistrer la demande du Dubliné.
      © Union européenne | Les pays signataires du règlement de Dublin.

      Face à l’afflux de réfugiés ces dernières années, les pays dotés de frontières extérieures, comme la Grèce et l’Italie, se sont estimés abandonnés par le reste de l’Europe. « La charge est trop importante pour ce bloc méditerranéen », estime Matthieu Tardis, chercheur au Centre migrations et citoyennetés de l’Ifri (Institut français des relations internationales). Le texte est pensé « comme un mécanisme de responsabilité des États et non de solidarité », estime-t-il.

      Sa mise en application est aussi difficile à mettre en place. La France et l’Allemagne, qui concentrent la majorité des demandes d’asile depuis le début des années 2000, peinent à renvoyer les Dublinés. Dans l’Hexagone, seulement 11,5 % ont été transférés dans le pays d’entrée. Outre-Rhin, le taux ne dépasse pas les 15 %. Conséquence : nombre d’entre eux restent « bloqués » dans les camps de migrants à Calais ou dans le nord de Paris.

      Le délai d’attente pour les demandeurs d’asile est aussi jugé trop long. Un réfugié passé par l’Italie, qui vient déposer une demande d’asile en France, peut attendre jusqu’à 18 mois avant d’avoir un retour. « Durant cette période, il se retrouve dans une situation d’incertitude très dommageable pour lui mais aussi pour l’Union européenne. C’est un système perdant-perdant », commente Matthieu Tardis.

      Ce règlement n’est pas adapté aux demandeurs d’asile, surenchérit-on à la Cimade (Comité inter-mouvements auprès des évacués). Dans un rapport, l’organisation qualifie ce système de « machine infernale de l’asile européen ». « Il ne tient pas compte des liens familiaux ni des langues parlées par les réfugiés », précise le responsable asile de l’association, Gérard Sadik.

      Sept ans après avoir vu le jour, le règlement s’est vu porter le coup de grâce par le confinement lié aux conditions sanitaires pour lutter contre le Covid-19. « Durant cette période, aucun transfert n’a eu lieu », assure-t-on à la Cimade.

      Le mécanisme de solidarité peut-il le remplacer ?

      « Il y aura un nouveau mécanisme fort de solidarité », a promis Ursula von der Leyen, sans donné plus de précision. Sur ce point, on sait déjà que les positions divergent, voire s’opposent, entre les Vingt-Sept.

      Le bloc du nord-ouest (Allemagne, France, Autriche, Benelux) reste ancré sur le principe actuel de responsabilité, mais accepte de l’accompagner d’un mécanisme de solidarité. Sur quels critères se base la répartition du nombre de demandeurs d’asile ? Comment les sélectionner ? Aucune décision n’est encore actée. « Ils sont prêts à des compromis car ils veulent montrer que l’Union européenne peut avancer et agir sur la question migratoire », assure Matthieu Tardis.

      En revanche, le groupe dit de Visegrad (Hongrie, Pologne, République tchèque, Slovaquie), peu enclin à l’accueil, rejette catégoriquement tout principe de solidarité. « Ils se disent prêts à envoyer des moyens financiers, du personnel pour le contrôle aux frontières mais refusent de recevoir les demandeurs d’asile », détaille le chercheur de l’Ifri.

      Quant au bloc Méditerranée (Grèce, Italie, Malte , Chypre, Espagne), des questions subsistent sur la proposition du bloc nord-ouest : le mécanisme de solidarité sera-t-il activé de façon permanente ou exceptionnelle ? Quelles populations sont éligibles au droit d’asile ? Et qui est responsable du retour ? « Depuis le retrait de la Ligue du Nord de la coalition dans le gouvernement italien, le dialogue est à nouveau possible », avance Matthieu Tardis.

      Un accord semble toutefois indispensable pour montrer que l’Union européenne n’est pas totalement en faillite sur ce dossier. « Mais le bloc de Visegrad n’a pas forcément en tête cet enjeu », nuance-t-il. Seule la situation sanitaire liée au Covid-19, qui place les pays de l’Est dans une situation économique fragile, pourrait faire évoluer leur position, note le chercheur.

      Et le mécanisme par répartition ?

      Le mécanisme par répartition, dans les tuyaux depuis 2016, revient régulièrement sur la table des négociations. Son principe : la capacité d’accueil du pays dépend de ses poids démographique et économique. Elle serait de 30 % pour l’Allemagne, contre un tiers des demandes aujourd’hui, et 20 % pour la France, qui en recense 18 %. « Ce serait une option gagnante pour ces deux pays, mais pas pour le bloc du Visegrad qui s’y oppose », décrypte Gérard Sadik, le responsable asile de la Cimade.

      Cette doctrine reposerait sur un système informatisé, qui recenserait dans une seule base toutes les données des demandeurs d’asile. Mais l’usage de l’intelligence artificielle au profit de la procédure administrative ne présente pas que des avantages, aux yeux de la Cimade : « L’algorithme ne sera pas en mesure de tenir compte des liens familiaux des demandeurs d’asile », juge Gérard Sadik.

      Quelles chances pour une refonte ?

      L’Union européenne a déjà tenté plusieurs fois de réformer ce serpent de mer. Un texte dit « Dublin IV » était déjà dans les tuyaux depuis 2016, en proposant par exemple que la responsabilité du premier État d’accueil soit définitive, mais il a été enterré face aux dissensions internes.

      Reste à savoir quel est le contenu exact de la nouvelle version qui sera présentée le 23 septembre par Ursula Van der Leyen. À la Cimade, on craint un durcissement de la politique migratoire, et notamment un renforcement du contrôle aux frontières.

      Quoi qu’il en soit, les négociations s’annoncent « compliquées et difficiles » car « les intérêts des pays membres ne sont pas les mêmes », a rappelé le ministre grec adjoint des Migrations, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, jeudi 17 septembre. Et surtout, la nouvelle mouture devra obtenir l’accord du Parlement, mais aussi celui des États. La refonte est encore loin.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/27376/immigration-le-reglement-de-dublin-l-impossible-reforme

      #gouvernance #Ursula_Von_der_Leyen #mécanisme_de_solidarité #responsabilité #groupe_de_Visegrad #solidarité #répartition #mécanisme_par_répartition #capacité_d'accueil #intelligence_artificielle #algorithme #Dublin_IV

    • Germany’s #Seehofer cautiously optimistic on EU asylum reform

      For the first time during the German Presidency, EU interior ministers exchanged views on reforms of the EU asylum system. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) expressed “justified confidence” that a deal can be found. EURACTIV Germany reports.

      The focus of Tuesday’s (7 July) informal video conference of interior ministers was on the expansion of police cooperation and sea rescue, which, according to Seehofer, is one of the “Big Four” topics of the German Council Presidency, integrated into a reform of the #Common_European_Asylum_System (#CEAS).

      Following the meeting, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, spoke of an “excellent start to the Presidency,” and Seehofer also praised the “constructive discussions.” In the field of asylum policy, she said that it had become clear that all member states were “highly interested in positive solutions.”

      The interior ministers were unanimous in their desire to further strengthen police cooperation and expand both the mandates and the financial resources of Europol and Frontex.

      Regarding the question of the distribution of refugees, Seehofer said that he had “heard statements that [he] had not heard in years prior.” He said that almost all member states were “prepared to show solidarity in different ways.”

      While about a dozen member states would like to participate in the distribution of those rescued from distress at the EU’s external borders in the event of a “disproportionate burden” on the states, other states signalled that they wanted to make control vessels, financial means or personnel available to prevent smuggling activities and stem migration across the Mediterranean.

      Seehofer’s final act

      It will probably be Seehofer’s last attempt to initiate CEAS reform. He announced in May that he would withdraw completely from politics after the end of the legislative period in autumn 2021.

      Now it seems that he considers CEAS reform as his last great mission, Seehofer said that he intends to address the migration issue from late summer onwards “with all I have at my disposal.” adding that Tuesday’s (7 July) talks had “once again kindled a real fire” in him. To this end, he plans to leave the official business of the Interior Ministry “in day-to-day matters” largely to the State Secretaries.

      Seehofer’s shift of priorities to the European stage comes at a time when he is being sharply criticised in Germany.

      While his initial handling of a controversial newspaper column about the police published in Berlin’s tageszeitung prompted criticism, Seehofer now faces accusations of concealing structural racism in the police. Seehofer had announced over the weekend that, contrary to the recommendation of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), he would not commission a study on racial profiling in the police force after all.

      Seehofer: “One step is not enough”

      In recent months, Seehofer has made several attempts to set up a distribution mechanism for rescued persons in distress. On several occasions he accused the Commission of letting member states down by not solving the asylum question.

      “I have the ambition to make a great leap. One step would be too little in our presidency,” said Seehofer during Tuesday’s press conference. However, much depends on when the Commission will present its long-awaited migration pact, as its proposals are intended to serve as a basis for negotiations on CEAS reform.

      As Johansson said on Tuesday, this is planned for September. Seehofer thus only has just under four months to get the first Council conclusions through. “There will not be enough time for legislation,” he said.

      Until a permanent solution is found, ad hoc solutions will continue. A “sustainable solution” should include better cooperation with the countries of origin and transit, as the member states agreed on Tuesday.

      To this end, “agreements on the repatriation of refugees” are now to be reached with North African countries. A first step towards this will be taken next Monday (13 July), at a joint conference with North African leaders.

      https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/germany-eyes-breakthrough-in-eu-migration-dispute-this-year

      #Europol #Frontex

    • Relocation, solidarity mandatory for EU migration policy: #Johansson

      In an interview with ANSA and other European media outlets, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs #Ylva_Johansson explained the new migration and asylum pact due to be unveiled on September 23, stressing that nobody will find ideal solutions but rather a well-balanced compromise that will ’’improve the situation’’.

      European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson has explained in an interview with a group of European journalists, including ANSA, a new pact on asylum and migration to be presented on September 23. She touched on rules for countries of first entry, a new mechanism of mandatory solidarity, fast repatriations and refugee relocation.

      The Swedish commissioner said that no one will find ideal solutions in the European Commission’s new asylum and migration proposal but rather a good compromise that “will improve the situation”.

      She said the debate to change the asylum regulation known as Dublin needs to be played down in order to find an agreement. Johansson said an earlier 2016 reform plan would be withdrawn as it ’’caused the majority’’ of conflicts among countries.

      A new proposal that will replace the current one and amend the existing Dublin regulation will be presented, she explained.

      The current regulation will not be completely abolished but rules regarding frontline countries will change. Under the new proposal, migrants can still be sent back to the country responsible for their asylum request, explained the commissioner, adding that amendments will be made but the country of first entry will ’’remain important’’.

      ’’Voluntary solidarity is not enough," there has to be a “mandatory solidarity mechanism,” Johansson noted.

      Countries will need to help according to their size and possibilities. A member state needs to show solidarity ’’in accordance with the capacity and size’’ of its economy. There will be no easy way out with the possibility of ’’just sending some blankets’’ - efforts must be proportional to the size and capabilities of member states, she said.
      Relocations are a divisive theme

      Relocations will be made in a way that ’’can be possible to accept for all member states’’, the commissioner explained. The issue of mandatory quotas is extremely divisive, she went on to say. ’’The sentence of the European Court of Justice has established that they can be made’’.

      However, the theme is extremely divisive. Many of those who arrive in Europe are not eligible for international protection and must be repatriated, she said, wondering if it is a good idea to relocate those who need to be repatriated.

      “We are looking for a way to bring the necessary aid to countries under pressure.”

      “Relocation is an important part, but also” it must be done “in a way that can be possible to accept for all member states,” she noted.

      Moreover, Johansson said the system will not be too rigid as the union should prepare for different scenarios.
      Faster repatriations

      Repatriations will be a key part of the plan, with faster bureaucratic procedures, she said. The 2016 reform proposal was made following the 2015 migration crisis, when two million people, 90% of whom were refugees, reached the EU irregularly. For this reason, the plan focused on relocations, she explained.

      Now the situation is completely different: last year 2.4 million stay permits were issued, the majority for reasons connected to family, work or education. Just 140,000 people migrated irregularly and only one-third were refugees while two-thirds will need to be repatriated.

      For this reason, stressed the commissioner, the new plan will focus on repatriation. Faster procedures are necessary, she noted. When people stay in a country for years it is very hard to organize repatriations, especially voluntary ones. So the objective is for a negative asylum decision “to come together with a return decision.”

      Also, the permanence in hosting centers should be of short duration. Speaking about a fire at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos where more than 12,000 asylum seekers have been stranded for years, the commissioner said the situation was the ’’result of lack of European policy on asylum and migration."

      “We shall have no more Morias’’, she noted, calling for well-managed hosting centers along with limits to permanence.

      A win-win collaboration will instead be planned with third countries, she said. ’’The external aspect is very important. We have to work on good partnerships with third countries, supporting them and finding win-win solutions for readmissions and for the fight against traffickers. We have to develop legal pathways to come to the EU, in particular with resettlements, a policy that needs to be strengthened.”

      The commissioner then rejected the idea of opening hosting centers in third countries, an idea for example proposed by Denmark.

      “It is not the direction I intend to take. We will not export the right to asylum.”

      The commissioner said she was very concerned by reports of refoulements. Her objective, she concluded, is to “include in the pact a monitoring mechanism. The right to asylum must be defended.”

      https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/27447/relocation-solidarity-mandatory-for-eu-migration-policy-johansson

      #relocalisation #solidarité_obligatoire #solidarité_volontaire #pays_de_première_entrée #renvois #expulsions #réinstallations #voies_légales

    • Droit d’asile : Bruxelles rate son « #pacte »

      La Commission européenne, assurant vouloir « abolir » le règlement de Dublin et son principe du premier pays d’entrée, doit présenter ce mercredi un « pacte sur l’immigration et l’asile ». Qui ne bouleverserait rien.

      C’est une belle victoire pour Viktor Orbán, le Premier ministre hongrois, et ses partenaires d’Europe centrale et orientale aussi peu enclins que lui à accueillir des étrangers sur leur sol. La Commission européenne renonce définitivement à leur imposer d’accueillir des demandeurs d’asile en cas d’afflux dans un pays de la « ligne de front » (Grèce, Italie, Malte, Espagne). Certes, le volumineux paquet de textes qu’elle propose ce mercredi (10 projets de règlements et trois recommandations, soit plusieurs centaines de pages), pompeusement baptisé « pacte sur l’immigration et l’asile », prévoit qu’ils devront, par « solidarité », assurer les refoulements vers les pays d’origine des déboutés du droit d’asile, mais cela ne devrait pas les gêner outre mesure. Car, sur le fond, la Commission prend acte de la volonté des Vingt-Sept de transformer l’Europe en forteresse.
      Sale boulot

      La crise de 2015 les a durablement traumatisés. A l’époque, la Turquie, par lassitude d’accueillir sur son sol plusieurs millions de réfugiés syriens et des centaines de milliers de migrants économiques dans l’indifférence de la communauté internationale, ouvre ses frontières. La Grèce est vite submergée et plusieurs centaines de milliers de personnes traversent les Balkans afin de trouver refuge, notamment en Allemagne et en Suède, parmi les pays les plus généreux en matière d’asile.

      Passé les premiers moments de panique, les Européens réagissent de plusieurs manières. La Hongrie fait le sale boulot en fermant brutalement sa frontière. L’Allemagne, elle, accepte d’accueillir un million de demandeurs d’asile, mais négocie avec Ankara un accord pour qu’il referme ses frontières, accord ensuite endossé par l’UE qui lui verse en échange 6 milliards d’euros destinés aux camps de réfugiés. Enfin, l’Union adopte un règlement destiné à relocaliser sur une base obligatoire une partie des migrants dans les autres pays européens afin qu’ils instruisent les demandes d’asile, dans le but de soulager la Grèce et l’Italie, pays de premier accueil. Ce dernier volet est un échec, les pays d’Europe de l’Est, qui ont voté contre, refusent d’accueillir le moindre migrant, et leurs partenaires de l’Ouest ne font guère mieux : sur 160 000 personnes qui auraient dû être relocalisées, un objectif rapidement revu à 98 000, moins de 35 000 l’ont été à la fin 2017, date de la fin de ce dispositif.

      Depuis, l’Union a considérablement durci les contrôles, notamment en créant un corps de 10 000 gardes-frontières européens et en renforçant les moyens de Frontex, l’agence chargée de gérer ses frontières extérieures. En février-mars, la tentative d’Ankara de faire pression sur les Européens dans le conflit syrien en rouvrant partiellement ses frontières a fait long feu : la Grèce a employé les grands moyens, y compris violents, pour stopper ce flux sous les applaudissements de ses partenaires… Autant dire que l’ambiance n’est pas à l’ouverture des frontières et à l’accueil des persécutés.
      « Usine à gaz »

      Mais la crise migratoire de 2015 a laissé des « divisions nombreuses et profondes entre les Etats membres - certaines des cicatrices qu’elle a laissées sont toujours visibles aujourd’hui », comme l’a reconnu Ursula von der Leyen, la présidente de la Commission, dans son discours sur l’état de l’Union du 16 septembre. Afin de tourner la page, la Commission propose donc de laisser tomber la réforme de 2016 (dite de Dublin IV) prévoyant de pérenniser la relocalisation autoritaire des migrants, désormais jugée par une haute fonctionnaire de l’exécutif « totalement irréaliste ».

      Mais la réforme qu’elle propose, une véritable « usine à gaz », n’est qu’un « rapiéçage » de l’existant, comme l’explique Yves Pascouau, spécialiste de l’immigration et responsable des programmes européens de l’association Res Publica. Ainsi, alors que Von der Leyen a annoncé sa volonté « d’abolir » le règlement de Dublin III, il n’en est rien : le pays responsable du traitement d’une demande d’asile reste, par principe, comme c’est le cas depuis 1990, le pays de première entrée.

      S’il y a une crise, la Commission pourra déclencher un « mécanisme de solidarité » afin de soulager un pays de la ligne de front : dans ce cas, les Vingt-Sept devront accueillir un certain nombre de migrants (en fonction de leur richesse et de leur population), sauf s’ils préfèrent « parrainer un retour ». En clair, prendre en charge le refoulement des déboutés de l’asile (avec l’aide financière et logistique de l’Union) en sachant que ces personnes resteront à leur charge jusqu’à ce qu’ils y parviennent. Ça, c’est pour faire simple, car il y a plusieurs niveaux de crise, des exceptions, des sanctions, des délais et l’on en passe…

      Autre nouveauté : les demandes d’asile devront être traitées par principe à la frontière, dans des camps de rétention, pour les nationalités dont le taux de reconnaissance du statut de réfugié est inférieur à 20% dans l’Union, et ce, en moins de trois mois, avec refoulement à la clé en cas de refus. « Cette réforme pose un principe clair, explique un eurocrate. Personne ne sera obligé d’accueillir un étranger dont il ne veut pas. »

      Dans cet ensemble très sévère, une bonne nouvelle : les sauvetages en mer ne devraient plus être criminalisés. On peut craindre qu’une fois passés à la moulinette des Etats, qui doivent adopter ce paquet à la majorité qualifiée (55% des Etats représentant 65% de la population), il ne reste que les aspects les plus répressifs. On ne se refait pas.


      https://www.liberation.fr/planete/2020/09/22/droit-d-asile-bruxelles-rate-son-pacte_1800264

      –—

      Graphique ajouté au fil de discussion sur les statistiques de la #relocalisation :
      https://seenthis.net/messages/605713

    • Le pacte européen sur l’asile et les migrations ne tire aucune leçon de la « crise migratoire »

      Ce 23 septembre 2020, la nouvelle Commission européenne a présenté les grandes lignes d’orientation de sa politique migratoire à venir. Alors que cinq ans plutôt, en 2015, se déroulait la mal nommée « crise migratoire » aux frontières européennes, le nouveau Pacte Asile et Migration de l’UE ne tire aucune leçon du passé. Le nouveau pacte de l’Union Européenne nous propose inlassablement les mêmes recettes alors que les preuves de leur inefficacité, leur coût et des violences qu’elles procurent sont nombreuses et irréfutables. Le CNCD-11.11.11, son homologue néerlandophone et les membres du groupe de travail pour la justice migratoire appellent le parlement européen et le gouvernement belge à un changement de cap.

      Le nouveau Pacte repose sur des propositions législatives et des recommandations non contraignantes. Ses priorités sont claires mais pas neuves. Freiner les arrivées, limiter l’accueil par le « tri » des personnes et augmenter les retours. Cette stratégie pourtant maintes fois décriée par les ONG et le milieu académique a certes réussi à diminuer les arrivées en Europe, mais n’a offert aucune solution durable pour les personnes migrantes. Depuis les années 2000, l’externalisation de la gestion des questions migratoires a montré son inefficacité (situation humanitaires dans les hotspots, plus de 20.000 décès en Méditerranée depuis 2014 et processus d’encampement aux frontières de l’UE) et son coût exponentiel (coût élevé du contrôle, de la détention-expulsion et de l’aide au développement détournée). Elle a augmenté le taux de violences sur les routes de l’exil et a enfreint le droit international en toute impunité (non accès au droit d’asile notamment via les refoulements).

      "ll est important que tous les États membres développent des systèmes d’accueil de qualité et que l’UE s’oriente vers une protection plus unifiée"

      La proposition de mettre en place un mécanisme solidaire européen contraignant est à saluer, mais celui-ci doit être au service de l’accueil et non couplé au retour. La possibilité pour les États européens de choisir à la carte soit la relocalisation, le « parrainage » du retour des déboutés ou autre contribution financière n’est pas équitable. La répartition solidaire de l’accueil doit être permanente et ne pas être actionnée uniquement en cas « d’afflux massif » aux frontières d’un État membre comme le recommande la Commission. Il est important que tous les États membres développent des systèmes d’accueil de qualité et que l’UE s’oriente vers une protection plus unifiée. Le changement annoncé du Règlement de Dublin l’est juste de nom, car les premiers pays d’entrée resteront responsables des nouveaux arrivés.

      Le focus doit être mis sur les alternatives à la détention et non sur l’usage systématique de l’enfermement aux frontières, comme le veut la Commission. Le droit de demander l’asile et d’avoir accès à une procédure de qualité doit être accessible à tous et toutes et rester un droit individuel. Or, la proposition de la Commission de détenir (12 semaines maximum) en vue de screener (5 jours de tests divers et de recoupement de données via EURODAC) puis trier les personnes migrantes à la frontière en fonction du taux de reconnaissance de protection accordé en moyenne à leur pays d’origine (en dessous de 20%) ou de leur niveau de vulnérabilité est contraire à la Convention de Genève.

      "La priorité pour les personnes migrantes en situation irrégulière doit être la recherche de solutions durables (comme l’est la régularisation) plutôt que le retour forcé, à tous prix."

      La priorité pour les personnes migrantes en situation irrégulière doit être la recherche de solutions durables (comme l’est la régularisation) plutôt que le retour forcé, à tous prix, comme le préconise la Commission.

      La meilleure façon de lutter contre les violences sur les routes de l’exil reste la mise en place de plus de voies légales et sûres de migration (réinstallation, visas de travail, d’études, le regroupement familial…). Les ONG regrettent que la Commission reporte à 2021 les propositions sur la migration légale. Le pacte s’intéresse à juste titre à la criminalisation des ONG de sauvetage et des citoyens qui fournissent une aide humanitaire aux migrants. Toutefois, les propositions visant à y mettre fin sont insuffisantes. Les ONG se réjouissent de l’annonce par la Commission d’un mécanisme de surveillance des droits humains aux frontières extérieures. Au cours de l’année écoulée, on a signalé de plus en plus souvent des retours violents par la Croatie, la Grèce, Malte et Chypre. Toutefois, il n’est pas encore suffisamment clair si les propositions de la Commission peuvent effectivement traiter et sanctionner les refoulements.

      Au lendemain de l’incendie du hotspot à Moria, symbole par excellence de l’échec des politiques migratoires européennes, l’UE s’enfonce dans un déni total, meurtrier, en vue de concilier les divergences entre ses États membres. Les futures discussions autour du Pacte au sein du parlement UE et du Conseil UE seront cruciales. Les ONG membres du groupe de travail pour la justice migratoire appellent le Parlement européen et le gouvernement belge à promouvoir des ajustements fermes allant vers plus de justice migratoire.

      https://www.cncd.be/Le-pacte-europeen-sur-l-asile-et

    • The New Pact on Migration and Asylum. A Critical ‘First Look’ Analysis

      Where does it come from?

      The New Migration Pact was built on the ashes of the mandatory relocation scheme that the Commission tried to push in 2016. And the least that one can say, is that it shows! The whole migration plan has been decisively shaped by this initial failure. Though the Pact has some merits, the very fact that it takes as its starting point the radical demands made by the most nationalist governments in Europe leads to sacrificing migrants’ rights on the altar of a cohesive and integrated European migration policy.

      Back in 2016, the vigorous manoeuvring of the Commission to find a way out of the European asylum dead-end resulted in a bittersweet victory for the European institution. Though the Commission was able to find a qualified majority of member states willing to support a fair distribution of the asylum seekers among member states through a relocation scheme, this new regulation remained dead letter. Several eastern European states flatly refused to implement the plan, other member states seized this opportunity to defect on their obligations and the whole migration policy quickly unravelled. Since then, Europe is left with a dysfunctional Dublin agreement exacerbating the tensions between member states and 27 loosely connected national asylum regimes. On the latter point, at least, there is a consensus. Everyone agrees that the EU’s migration regime is broken and urgently needs to be fixed.

      Obviously, the Commission was not keen to go through a new round of political humiliation. Having been accused of “bureaucratic hubris” the first time around, the commissioners Schinas and Johansson decided not to repeat the same mistake. They toured the European capitals and listened to every side of the entrenched migration debate before drafting their Migration Pact. The intention is in the right place and it reflects the complexity of having to accommodate 27 distinct democratic debates in one single political space. Nevertheless, if one peers a bit more extensively through the content of the New Plan, it is complicated not to get the feelings that the Visegrad countries are currently the key players shaping the European migration and asylum policies. After all, their staunch opposition to a collective reception scheme sparked the political process and provided the starting point to the general discussion. As a result, it is no surprise that the New Pact tilts firmly towards an ever more restrictive approach to migration, beefs up the coercive powers of both member states and European agencies and raises many concerns with regards to the respect of the migrants’ fundamental rights.
      What is in this New Pact on Migration and Asylum?

      Does the Pact concede too much ground to the demands of the most xenophobic European governments? To answer that question, let us go back to the bizarre metaphor used by the commissioner Schinas. During his press conference, he insisted on comparing the New Pact on Migration and Asylum to a house built on solid foundations (i.e. the lengthy and inclusive consultation process) and made of 3 floors: first, some renewed partnerships with the sending and transit states, second, some more effective border procedures, and third, a revamped mandatory – but flexible ! – solidarity scheme. It is tempting to carry on with the metaphor and to say that this house may appear comfortable from the inside but that it remains tightly shut to anyone knocking on its door from the outside. For, a careful examination reveals that each of the three “floors” (policy packages, actually) lays the emphasis on a repressive approach to migration aimed at deterring would-be asylum seekers from attempting to reach the European shores.
      The “new partnerships” with sending and transit countries, a “change in paradigm”?

      Let us add that there is little that is actually “new” in this New Migration Pact. For instance, the first policy package, that is, the suggestion that the EU should renew its partnerships with sending and transit countries is, as a matter of fact, an old tune in the Brussels bubble. The Commission may boast that it marks a “change of paradigm”, one fails to see how this would be any different from the previous European diplomatic efforts. Since migration and asylum are increasingly considered as toxic topics (for, they would be the main factors behind the rise of nationalism and its corollary, Euroscepticism), the European Union is willing to externalize this issue, seemingly at all costs. The results, however, have been mixed in the past. To the Commission’s own admission, only a third of the migrants whose asylum claims have been rejected are effectively returned. Besides the facts that returns are costly, extremely coercive, and administratively complicated to organize, the main reason for this low rate of successful returns is that sending countries refuse to cooperate in the readmission procedures. Neighbouring countries have excellent reasons not to respond positively to the Union’s demands. For some, remittances sent by their diaspora are an economic lifeline. Others just do not want to appear complicit of repressive European practices on their domestic political scene. Furthermore, many African countries are growing discontent with the forceful way the European Union uses its asymmetrical relation of power in bilateral negotiations to dictate to those sovereign states the migration policies they should adopt, making for instance its development aid conditional on the implementation of stricter border controls. The Commission may rhetorically claim to foster “mutually beneficial” international relation with its neighbouring countries, the emphasis on the externalization of migration control in the EU’s diplomatic agenda nevertheless bears some of the hallmarks of neo-colonialism. As such, it is a source of deep resentment in sending and transit states. It would therefore be a grave mistake for the EU to overlook the fact that some short-term gains in terms of migration management may result in long-term losses with regards to Europe’s image across the world.

      Furthermore, considering the current political situation, one should not primarily be worried about the failed partnerships with neighbouring countries, it is rather the successful ones that ought to give us pause and raise concerns. For, based on the existing evidence, the EU will sign a deal with any state as long as it effectively restrains and contains migration flows towards the European shores. Being an authoritarian state with a documented history of human right violations (Turkey) or an embattled government fighting a civil war (Lybia) does not disqualify you as a partner of the European Union in its effort to manage migration flows. It is not only morally debatable for the EU to delegate its asylum responsibilities to unreliable third countries, it is also doubtful that an increase in diplomatic pressure on neighbouring countries will bring major political results. It will further damage the perception of the EU in neighbouring countries without bringing significant restriction to migration flows.
      Streamlining border procedures? Or eroding migrants’ rights?

      The second policy package is no more inviting. It tackles the issue of the migrants who, in spite of those partnerships and the hurdles thrown their way by sending and transit countries, would nevertheless reach Europe irregularly. On this issue, the Commission faced the daunting task of having to square a political circle, since it had to find some common ground in a debate bitterly divided between conflicting worldviews (roughly, between liberal and nationalist perspectives on the individual freedom of movement) and competing interests (between overburdened Mediterranean member states and Eastern member states adamant that asylum seekers would endanger their national cohesion). The Commission thus looked for the lowest common denominator in terms of migration management preferences amongst the distinct member states. The result is a two-tier border procedure aiming to fast-track and streamline the processing of asylum claims, allowing for more expeditious returns of irregular migrants. The goal is to prevent any bottleneck in the processing of the claims and to avoid the (currently near constant) overcrowding of reception facilities in the frontline states. Once again, there is little that is actually new in this proposal. It amounts to a generalization of the process currently in place in the infamous hotspots scattered on the Greek isles. According to the Pact, screening procedures would be carried out in reception centres created across Europe. A far cry from the slogan “no more Moria” since one may legitimately suspect that those reception centres will, at the first hiccup in the procedure, turn into tomorrow’s asylum camps.

      According to this procedure, newly arrived migrants would be submitted within 5 days to a pre-screening procedure and subsequently triaged into two categories. Migrants with a low chance of seeing their asylum claim recognized (because they would come from a country with a low recognition rate or a country belonging to the list of the safe third countries, for instance) would be redirected towards an accelerated procedure. The end goal would be to return them, if applicable, within twelve weeks. The other migrants would be subjected to the standard assessment of their asylum claim. It goes without saying that this proposal has been swiftly and unanimously condemned by all human rights organizations. It does not take a specialized lawyer to see that this two-tiered procedure could have devastating consequences for the “fast-tracked” asylum seekers left with no legal recourse against the initial decision to submit them to this sped up procedure (rather than the standard one) as well as reduced opportunities to defend their asylum claim or, if need be, to contest their return. No matter how often the Commission repeats that it will preserve all the legal safeguards required to protect migrants’ rights, it remains wildly unconvincing. Furthermore, the Pact may confuse speed and haste. The schedule is tight on paper (five days for the pre-screening, twelve weeks for the assessment of the asylum claim), it may well prove unrealistic to meet those deadlines in real-life conditions. The Commission also overlooks the fact that accelerated procedures tend to be sloppy, thus leading to juridical appeals and further legal wrangling and eventually amounting to processes far longer than expected.
      Integrating the returns, not the reception

      The Commission talked up the new Pact as being “balanced” and “humane”. Since the two first policy packages focus, first, on preventing would-be migrants from leaving their countries and, second, on facilitating and accelerating their returns, one would expect the third policy package to move away from the restriction of movement and to complement those measures with a reception plan tailored to the needs of refugees. And here comes the major disappointment with the New Pact and, perhaps, the clearest indication that the Pact is first and foremost designed to please the migration hardliners. It does include a solidarity scheme meant to alleviate the burden of frontline countries, to distribute more fairly the responsibilities amongst member states and to ensure that refugees are properly hosted. But this solidarity scheme is far from being robust enough to deliver on those promises. Let us unpack it briefly to understand why it is likely to fail. The solidarity scheme is mandatory. All member states will be under the obligation to take part. But there is a catch! Member states’ contribution to this collective effort can take many shapes and forms and it will be up to the member states to decide how they want to participate. They get to choose whether they want to relocate some refugees on their national soil, to provide some financial and/or logistical assistance, or to “sponsor” (it is the actual term used by the Commission) some returns.

      No one expected the Commission to reintroduce a compulsory relocation scheme in its Pact. Eastern European countries had drawn an obvious red line and it would have been either naïve or foolish to taunt them with that kind of policy proposal. But this so-called “flexible mandatory solidarity” relies on such a watered-down understanding of the solidarity principle that it results in a weak and misguided political instrument unsuited to solve the problem at hand. First, the flexible solidarity mechanism is too indeterminate to prove efficient. According to the current proposal, member states would have to shoulder a fair share of the reception burden (calculated on their respective population and GDP) but would be left to decide for themselves which form this contribution would take. The obvious flaw with the policy proposal is that, if all member states decline to relocate some refugees (which is a plausible scenario), Mediterranean states would still be left alone when it comes to dealing with the most immediate consequences of migration flows. They would receive much more financial, operational, and logistical support than it currently is the case – but they would be managing on their own the overcrowded reception centres. The Commission suggests that it would oversee the national pledges in terms of relocation and that it would impose some corrections if the collective pledges fall short of a predefined target. But it remains to be seen whether the Commission will have the political clout to impose some relocations to member states refusing them. One could not be blamed for being highly sceptical.

      Second, it is noteworthy that the Commission fails to integrate the reception of refugees since member states are de facto granted an opt-out on hosting refugees. What is integrated is rather the return policy, once more a repressive instrument. And it is the member states with the worst record in terms of migrants’ rights violations that are the most likely to be tasked with the delicate mission of returning them home. As a commentator was quipping on Twitter, it would be like asking a bully to walk his victim home (what could possibly go wrong?). The attempt to build an intra-European consensus is obviously pursued at the expense of the refugees. The incentive structure built into the flexible solidarity scheme offers an excellent illustration of this. If a member state declines to relocate any refugee and offers instead to ‘sponsor’ some returns, it has to honour that pledge within a limited period of time (the Pact suggests a six month timeframe). If it fails to do so, it becomes responsible for the relocation and the return of those migrants, leading to a situation in which some migrants may end up in a country where they do not want to be and that does not want them to be there. Hardly an optimal outcome…
      Conclusion

      The Pact represents a genuine attempt to design a multi-faceted and comprehensive migration policy, covering most aspects of a complex issue. The dysfunctions of the Schengen area and the question of the legal pathways to Europe have been relegated to a later discussion and one may wonder whether they should not have been included in the Pact to balance out its restrictive inclination. And, in all fairness, the Pact does throw a few bones to the more cosmopolitan-minded European citizens. For instance, it reminds the member states that maritime search and rescue operations are legal and should not be impeded, or it shortens (from five to three years) the waiting period for refugees to benefit from the freedom of movement. But those few welcome additions are vastly outweighed by the fact that migration hardliners dominated the agenda-setting in the early stage of the policy-making exercise and have thus been able to frame decisively the political discussion. The end result is a policy package leaning heavily towards some repressive instruments and particularly careless when it comes to safeguarding migrants’ rights.

      The New Pact was first drafted on the ashes of the mandatory relocation scheme. Back then, the Commission publicly made amends and revised its approach to the issue. Sadly, the New Pact was presented to the European public when the ashes of the Moria camp were still lukewarm. One can only hope that the member states will learn from that mistake too.

      https://blog.novamigra.eu/2020/09/24/the-new-pact-on-migration-and-asylum-a-critical-first-look-analysis

    • #Pacte_européen_sur_la_migration : un “nouveau départ” pour violer les droits humains

      La Commission européenne a publié aujourd’hui son « Nouveau Pacte sur l’Asile et la Migration » qui propose un nouveau cadre règlementaire et législatif. Avec ce plan, l’UE devient de facto un « leader du voyage retour » pour les migrant.e.s et les réfugié.e.s en Méditerranée. EuroMed Droits craint que ce pacte ne détériore encore davantage la situation actuelle pour au moins trois raisons.

      Le pacte se concentre de manière obsessionnelle sur la politique de retours à travers un système de « sponsoring » : des pays européens tels que l’Autriche, la Pologne, la Hongrie ou la République tchèque – qui refusent d’accueillir des réfugié.e.s – pourront « sponsoriser » et organiser la déportation vers les pays de départ de ces réfugié.e.s. Au lieu de favoriser l’intégration, le pacte adopte une politique de retour à tout prix, même lorsque les demandeurs.ses d’asile peuvent être victimes de discrimination, persécution ou torture dans leur pays de retour. A ce jour, il n’existe aucun mécanisme permettant de surveiller ce qui arrive aux migrant.e.s et réfugié.e.s une fois déporté.e.s.

      Le pacte proposé renforce la sous-traitance de la gestion des frontières. En termes concrets, l’UE renforce la coopération avec les pays non-européens afin qu’ils ferment leurs frontières et empêchent les personnes de partir. Cette coopération est sujette à l’imposition de conditions par l’UE. Une telle décision européenne se traduit par une hausse du nombre de refoulements dans la région méditerranéenne et une coopération renforcée avec des pays qui ont un piètre bilan en matière de droits humains et qui ne possèdent pas de cadre efficace pour la protection des droits des personnes migrantes et réfugiées.

      Le pacte vise enfin à étendre les mécanismes de tri des demandeurs.ses d’asile et des migrant.e.s dans les pays d’arrivée. Ce modèle de tri – similaire à celui utilisé dans les zones de transit aéroportuaires – accentue les difficultés de pays tels que l’Espagne, l’Italie, Malte, la Grèce ou Chypre qui accueillent déjà la majorité des migrant.e.s et réfugié.e.s. Placer ces personnes dans des camps revient à mettre en place un système illégal d’incarcération automatique dès l’arrivée. Cela accroîtra la violence psychologique à laquelle les migrant.e.s et réfugié.e.s sont déjà soumis. Selon ce nouveau système, ces personnes seront identifié.e.s sous cinq jours et toute demande d’asile devra être traitée en douze semaines. Cette accélération de la procédure risque d’intensifier la détention et de diviser les arrivant.e.s entre demandeurs.ses d’asile et migrant.e.s économiques. Cela s’effectuerait de manière discriminatoire, sans analyse détaillée de chaque demande d’asile ni possibilité réelle de faire appel. Celles et ceux qui seront éligibles à la protection internationale seront relocalisé.e.s au sein des États membres qui acceptent de les recevoir. Les autres risqueront d’être déportés immédiatement.

      « En choisissant de sous-traiter davantage encore la gestion des frontières et d’accentuer la politique de retours, ce nouveau pacte conclut la transformation de la politique européenne en une approche pleinement sécuritaire. Pire encore, le pacte assimile la politique de “retour sponsorisé” à une forme de solidarité. Au-delà des déclarations officielles, cela démontre la volonté de l’Union européenne de criminaliser et de déshumaniser les migrant.e.s et les réfugié.e.s », a déclaré Wadih Al-Asmar, Président d’EuroMed Droits.

      https://euromedrights.org/fr/publication/pacte-europeen-sur-la-migration-nouveau-depart-pour-violer-les-droits

    • Whose Pact? The Cognitive Dimensions of the New EU Pact on Migration and Asylum

      This Policy Insight examines the new Pact on Migration and Asylum in light of the principles and commitments enshrined in the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees (UN GCR) and the EU Treaties. It finds that from a legal viewpoint the ‘Pact’ is not really a Pact at all, if understood as an agreement concluded between relevant EU institutional parties. Rather, it is the European Commission’s policy guide for the duration of the current 9th legislature.

      The analysis shows that the Pact has intergovernmental aspects, in both name and fundamentals. It does not pursue a genuine Migration and Asylum Union. The Pact encourages an artificial need for consensus building or de facto unanimity among all EU member states’ governments in fields where the EU Treaties call for qualified majority voting (QMV) with the European Parliament as co-legislator. The Pact does not abolish the first irregular entry rule characterising the EU Dublin Regulation. It adopts a notion of interstate solidarity that leads to asymmetric responsibilities, where member states are given the flexibility to evade participating in the relocation of asylum seekers. The Pact also runs the risk of catapulting some contested member states practices’ and priorities about localisation, speed and de-territorialisation into EU policy.

      This Policy Insight argues that the Pact’s priority of setting up an independent monitoring mechanism of border procedures’ compliance with fundamental rights is a welcome step towards the better safeguarding of the rule of law. The EU inter-institutional negotiations on the Pact’s initiatives should be timely and robust in enforcing member states’ obligations under the current EU legal standards relating to asylum and borders, namely the prevention of detention and expedited expulsions, and the effective access by all individuals to dignified treatment and effective remedies. Trust and legitimacy of EU asylum and migration policy can only follow if international (human rights and refugee protection) commitments and EU Treaty principles are put first.

      https://www.ceps.eu/ceps-publications/whose-pact

    • First analysis of the EU’s new asylum proposals

      This week the EU Commission published its new package of proposals on asylum and (non-EU) migration – consisting of proposals for legislation, some ‘soft law’, attempts to relaunch talks on stalled proposals and plans for future measures. The following is an explanation of the new proposals (not attempting to cover every detail) with some first thoughts. Overall, while it is possible that the new package will lead to agreement on revised asylum laws, this will come at the cost of risking reduced human rights standards.

      Background

      Since 1999, the EU has aimed to create a ‘Common European Asylum System’. A first phase of legislation was passed between 2003 and 2005, followed by a second phase between 2010 and 2013. Currently the legislation consists of: a) the Qualification Directive, which defines when people are entitled to refugee status (based on the UN Refugee Convention) or subsidiary protection status, and what rights they have; b) the Dublin III Regulation, which allocates responsibility for an asylum seeker between Member States; c) the Eurodac Regulation, which facilitates the Dublin system by setting up a database of fingerprints of asylum seekers and people who cross the external border without authorisation; d) the Asylum Procedures Directive, which sets out the procedural rules governing asylum applications, such as personal interviews and appeals; e) the Reception Conditions Directive, which sets out standards on the living conditions of asylum-seekers, such as rules on housing and welfare; and f) the Asylum Agency Regulation, which set up an EU agency (EASO) to support Member States’ processing of asylum applications.

      The EU also has legislation on other aspects of migration: (short-term) visas, border controls, irregular migration, and legal migration – much of which has connections with the asylum legislation, and all of which is covered by this week’s package. For visas, the main legislation is the visa list Regulation (setting out which non-EU countries’ citizens are subject to a short-term visa requirement, or exempt from it) and the visa code (defining the criteria to obtain a short-term Schengen visa, allowing travel between all Schengen states). The visa code was amended last year, as discussed here.

      For border controls, the main legislation is the Schengen Borders Code, setting out the rules on crossing external borders and the circumstances in which Schengen states can reinstate controls on internal borders, along with the Frontex Regulation, setting up an EU border agency to assist Member States. On the most recent version of the Frontex Regulation, see discussion here and here.

      For irregular migration, the main legislation is the Return Directive. The Commission proposed to amend it in 2018 – on which, see analysis here and here.

      For legal migration, the main legislation on admission of non-EU workers is the single permit Directive (setting out a common process and rights for workers, but not regulating admission); the Blue Card Directive (on highly paid migrants, discussed here); the seasonal workers’ Directive (discussed here); and the Directive on intra-corporate transferees (discussed here). The EU also has legislation on: non-EU students, researchers and trainees (overview here); non-EU family reunion (see summary of the legislation and case law here) and on long-term resident non-EU citizens (overview – in the context of UK citizens after Brexit – here). In 2016, the Commission proposed to revise the Blue Card Directive (see discussion here).

      The UK, Ireland and Denmark have opted out of most of these laws, except some asylum law applies to the UK and Ireland, and Denmark is covered by the Schengen and Dublin rules. So are the non-EU countries associated with Schengen and Dublin (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). There are also a number of further databases of non-EU citizens as well as Eurodac: the EU has never met a non-EU migrant who personal data it didn’t want to store and process.

      The Refugee ‘Crisis’

      The EU’s response to the perceived refugee ‘crisis’ was both short-term and long-term. In the short term, in 2015 the EU adopted temporary laws (discussed here) relocating some asylum seekers in principle from Italy and Greece to other Member States. A legal challenge to one of these laws failed (as discussed here), but in practice Member States accepted few relocations anyway. Earlier this year, the CJEU ruled that several Member States had breached their obligations under the laws (discussed here), but by then it was a moot point.

      Longer term, the Commission proposed overhauls of the law in 2016: a) a Qualification Regulation further harmonising the law on refugee and subsidiary protection status; b) a revised Dublin Regulation, which would have set up a system of relocation of asylum seekers for future crises; c) a revised Eurodac Regulation, to take much more data from asylum seekers and other migrants; d) an Asylum Procedures Regulation, further harmonising the procedural law on asylum applications; e) a revised Reception Conditions Directive; f) a revised Asylum Agency Regulation, giving the agency more powers; and g) a new Resettlement Regulation, setting out a framework of admitting refugees directly from non-EU countries. (See my comments on some of these proposals, from back in 2016)

      However, these proposals proved unsuccessful – which is the main reason for this week’s attempt to relaunch the process. In particular, an EU Council note from February 2019 summarises the diverse problems that befell each proposal. While the EU Council Presidency and the European Parliament reached agreement on the proposals on qualification, reception conditions and resettlement in June 2018, Member States refused to support the Presidency’s deal and the European Parliament refused to renegotiate (see, for instance, the Council documents on the proposals on qualification and resettlement; see also my comments on an earlier stage of the talks, when the Council had agreed its negotiation position on the qualification regulation).

      On the asylum agency, the EP and Council agreed on the revised law in 2017, but the Commission proposed an amendment in 2018 to give the agency more powers; the Council could not agree on this. On Eurodac, the EP and Council only partly agreed on a text. On the procedures Regulation, the Council largely agreed its position, except on border procedures; on Dublin there was never much prospect of agreement because of the controversy over relocating asylum seekers. (For either proposal, a difficult negotiation with the European Parliament lay ahead).

      In other areas too, the legislative process was difficult: the Council and EP gave up negotiating amendments to the Blue Card Directive (see the last attempt at a compromise here, and the Council negotiation mandate here), and the EP has not yet agreed a position on the Returns Directive (the Council has a negotiating position, but again it leaves out the difficult issue of border procedures; there is a draft EP position from February). Having said that, the EU has been able to agree legislation giving more powers to Frontex, as well as new laws on EU migration databases, in the last few years.

      The attempted relaunch

      The Commission’s new Pact on asylum and immigration (see also the roadmap on its implementation, the Q and As, and the staff working paper) does not restart the whole process from scratch. On qualification, reception conditions, resettlement, the asylum agency, the returns Directive and the Blue Card Directive, it invites the Council and Parliament to resume negotiations. But it tries to unblock the talks as a whole by tabling two amended legislative proposals and three new legislative proposals, focussing on the issues of border procedures and relocation of asylum seekers.

      Screening at the border

      This revised proposals start with a new proposal for screening asylum seekers at the border, which would apply to all non-EU citizens who cross an external border without authorisation, who apply for asylum while being checked at the border (without meeting the conditions for legal entry), or who are disembarked after a search and rescue operation. During the screening, these non-EU citizens are not allowed to enter the territory of a Member State, unless it becomes clear that they meet the criteria for entry. The screening at the border should take no longer than 5 days, with an extra 5 days in the event of a huge influx. (It would also be possible to apply the proposed law to those on the territory who evaded border checks; for them the deadline to complete the screening is 3 days).

      Screening has six elements, as further detailed in the proposal: a health check, an identity check, registration in a database, a security check, filling out a debriefing form, and deciding on what happens next. At the end of the screening, the migrant is channelled either into the expulsion process (if no asylum claim has been made, and if the migrant does not meet the conditions for entry) or, if an asylum claim is made, into the asylum process – with an indication of whether the claim should be fast-tracked or not. It’s also possible that an asylum seeker would be relocated to another Member State. The screening is carried out by national officials, possibly with support from EU agencies.

      To ensure human rights protection, there must be independent monitoring to address allegations of non-compliance with human rights. These allegations might concern breaches of EU or international law, national law on detention, access to the asylum procedure, or non-refoulement (the ban on sending people to an unsafe country). Migrants must be informed about the process and relevant EU immigration and data protection law. There is no provision for judicial review of the outcome of the screening process, although there would be review as part of the next step (asylum or return).

      Asylum procedures

      The revised proposal for an asylum procedures Regulation would leave in place most of the Commission’s 2016 proposal to amend the law, adding some specific further proposed amendments, which either link back to the screening proposal or aim to fast-track decisions and expulsions more generally.

      On the first point, the usual rules on informing asylum applicants and registering their application would not apply until after the end of the screening. A border procedure may apply following the screening process, but Member States must apply the border procedure in cases where an asylum seeker used false documents, is a perceived national security threat, or falls within the new ground for fast-tracking cases (on which, see below). The latter obligation is subject to exceptions where a Member State has reported that a non-EU country is not cooperating on readmission; the process for dealing with that issue set out under the 2019 amendments to the visa code will then apply. Also, the border process cannot apply to unaccompanied minors or children under 12, unless they are a supposed national security risk. Further exceptions apply where the asylum seeker is vulnerable or has medical needs, the application is not inadmissible or cannot be fast-tracked, or detention conditions cannot be guaranteed. A Member State might apply the Dublin process to determine which Member State is responsible for the asylum claim during the border process. The whole border process (including any appeal) must last no more than 12 weeks, and can only be used to declare applications inadmissible or apply the new ground for fast-tracking them.

      There would also be a new border expulsion procedure, where an asylum application covered by the border procedure was rejected. This is subject to its own 12-week deadline, starting from the point when the migrant is no longer allowed to remain. Much of the Return Directive would apply – but not the provisions on the time period for voluntary departure, remedies and the grounds for detention. Instead, the border expulsion procedure would have its own stricter rules on these issues.

      As regards general fast-tracking, in order to speed up the expulsion process for unsuccessful applications, a rejection of an asylum application would have to either incorporate an expulsion decision or entail a simultaneous separate expulsion decision. Appeals against expulsion decisions would then be subject to the same rules as appeals against asylum decisions. If the asylum seeker comes from a country with a refugee recognition rate below 20%, his or her application must be fast-tracked (this would even apply to unaccompanied minors) – unless circumstances in that country have changed, or the asylum seeker comes from a group for whom the low recognition rate is not representative (for instance, the recognition rate might be higher for LGBT asylum-seekers from that country). Many more appeals would be subject to a one-week time limit for the rejected asylum seeker to appeal, and there could be only one level of appeal against decisions taken within a border procedure.

      Eurodac

      The revised proposal for Eurodac would build upon the 2016 proposal, which was already far-reaching: extending Eurodac to include not only fingerprints, but also photos and other personal data; reducing the age of those covered by Eurodac from 14 to 6; removing the time limits and the limits on use of the fingerprints taken from persons who had crossed the border irregularly; and creating a new obligation to collect data of all irregular migrants over age 6 (currently fingerprint data for this group cannot be stored, but can simply be checked, as an option, against the data on asylum seekers and irregular border crossers). The 2020 proposal additionally provides for interoperability with other EU migration databases, taking of personal data during the screening process, including more data on the migration status of each person, and expressly applying the law to those disembarked after a search and rescue operation.

      Dublin rules on asylum responsibility

      A new proposal for asylum management would replace the Dublin regulation (meaning that the Commission has withdrawn its 2016 proposal to replace that Regulation). The 2016 proposal would have created a ‘bottleneck’ in the Member State of entry, requiring that State to examine first whether many of the grounds for removing an asylum-seeker to a non-EU country apply before considering whether another Member State might be responsible for the application (because the asylum seeker’s family live there, for instance). It would also have imposed obligations directly on asylum-seekers to cooperate with the process, rather than only regulate relations between Member States. These obligations would have been enforced by punishing asylum seekers who disobeyed: removing their reception conditions (apart from emergency health care); fast-tracking their substantive asylum applications; refusing to consider new evidence from them; and continuing the asylum application process in their absence.

      It would no longer be possible for asylum seekers to provide additional evidence of family links, with a view to being in the same country as a family member. Overturning a CJEU judgment (see further discussion here), unaccompanied minors would no longer have been able to make applications in multiple Member States (in the absence of a family member in any of them). However, the definition of family members would have been widened, to include siblings and families formed in a transit country. Responsibility for an asylum seeker based on the first Member State of irregular entry (a commonly applied criterion) would have applied indefinitely, rather than expire one year after entry as it does under the current rules. The ‘Sangatte clause’ (responsibility after five months of living in a second Member State, if the ‘irregular entry’ criterion no longer applies) would be dropped. The ‘sovereignty clause’, which played a key part in the 2015-16 refugee ‘crisis’ (it lets a Member State take responsibility for any application even if the Dublin rules do not require it, cf Germany accepting responsibility for Syrian asylum seekers) would have been sharply curtailed. Time limits for detention during the transfer process would be reduced. Remedies for asylum seekers would have been curtailed: they would only have seven days to appeal against a transfer; courts would have fifteen days to decide (although they could have stayed on the territory throughout); and the grounds of review would have been curtailed.

      Finally, the 2016 proposal would have tackled the vexed issue of disproportionate allocation of responsibility for asylum seekers by setting up an automated system determining how many asylum seekers each Member State ‘should’ have based on their size and GDP. If a Member State were responsible for excessive numbers of applicants, Member States which were receiving fewer numbers would have to take more to help out. If they refused, they would have to pay €250,000 per applicant.

      The 2020 proposal drops some of the controversial proposals from 2016, including the ‘bottleneck’ in the Member State of entry (the current rule, giving Member States an option to decide if a non-EU country is responsible for the application on narrower grounds than in the 2016 proposal, would still apply). Also, the sovereignty clause would now remain unchanged.

      However, the 2020 proposal also retains parts of the 2016 proposal: the redefinition of ‘family member’ (which could be more significant now that the bottleneck is removed, unless Member States choose to apply the relevant rules on non-EU countries’ responsibility during the border procedure already); obligations for asylum seekers (redrafted slightly); some of the punishments for non-compliant asylum-seekers (the cut-off for considering evidence would stay, as would the loss of benefits except for those necessary to ensure a basic standard of living: see the CJEU case law in CIMADE and Haqbin); dropping the provision on evidence of family links; changing the rules on responsibility for unaccompanied minors; retaining part of the changes to the irregular entry criterion (it would now cease to apply after three years; the Sangatte clause would still be dropped; it would apply after search and rescue but not apply in the event of relocation); curtailing judicial review (the grounds would still be limited; the time limit to appeal would be 14 days; courts would not have a strict deadline to decide; suspensive effect would not apply in all cases); and the reduced time limits for detention.

      The wholly new features of the 2020 proposal are: some vague provisions about crisis management; responsibility for an asylum application for the Member State which issued a visa or residence document which expired in the last three years (the current rule is responsibility if the visa expired less than six months ago, and the residence permit expired less than a year ago); responsibility for an asylum application for a Member State in which a non-EU citizen obtained a diploma; and the possibility for refugees or persons with subsidiary protection status to obtain EU long-term resident status after three years, rather than five.

      However, the most significant feature of the new proposal is likely to be its attempt to solve the underlying issue of disproportionate allocation of asylum seekers. Rather than a mechanical approach to reallocating responsibility, the 2020 proposal now provides for a menu of ‘solidarity contributions’: relocation of asylum seekers; relocation of refugees; ‘return sponsorship’; or support for ‘capacity building’ in the Member State (or a non-EU country) facing migratory pressure. There are separate rules for search and rescue disembarkations, on the one hand, and more general migratory pressures on the other. Once the Commission determines that the latter situation exists, other Member States have to choose from the menu to offer some assistance. Ultimately the Commission will adopt a decision deciding what the contributions will be. Note that ‘return sponsorship’ comes with a ticking clock: if the persons concerned are not expelled within eight months, the sponsoring Member State must accept them on its territory.

      Crisis management

      The issue of managing asylum issues in a crisis has been carved out of the Dublin proposal into a separate proposal, which would repeal an EU law from 2001 that set up a framework for offering ‘temporary protection’ in a crisis. Note that Member States have never used the 2001 law in practice.

      Compared to the 2001 law, the new proposal is integrated into the EU asylum legislation that has been adopted or proposed in the meantime. It similarly applies in the event of a ‘mass influx’ that prevents the effective functioning of the asylum system. It would apply the ‘solidarity’ process set out in the proposal to replace the Dublin rules (ie relocation of asylum seekers and other measures), with certain exceptions and shorter time limits to apply that process.

      The proposal focusses on providing for possible exceptions to the usual asylum rules. In particular, during a crisis, the Commission could authorise a Member State to apply temporary derogations from the rules on border asylum procedures (extending the time limit, using the procedure to fast-track more cases), border return procedures (again extending the time limit, more easily justifying detention), or the time limit to register asylum applicants. Member States could also determine that due to force majeure, it was not possible to observe the normal time limits for registering asylum applications, applying the Dublin process for responsibility for asylum applications, or offering ‘solidarity’ to other Member States.

      Finally, the new proposal, like the 2001 law, would create a potential for a form of separate ‘temporary protection’ status for the persons concerned. A Member State could suspend the consideration of asylum applications from people coming from the country facing a crisis for up to a year, in the meantime giving them status equivalent to ‘subsidiary protection’ status in the EU qualification law. After that point it would have to resume consideration of the applications. It would need the Commission’s approval, whereas the 2001 law left it to the Council to determine a situation of ‘mass influx’ and provided for the possible extension of the special rules for up to three years.

      Other measures

      The Commission has also adopted four soft law measures. These comprise: a Recommendation on asylum crisis management; a Recommendation on resettlement and humanitarian admission; a Recommendation on cooperation between Member States on private search and rescue operations; and guidance on the applicability of EU law on smuggling of migrants – notably concluding that it cannot apply where (as in the case of law of the sea) there is an obligation to rescue.

      On other issues, the Commission plan is to use current legislation – in particular the recent amendment to the visa code, which provides for sticks to make visas more difficult to get for citizens of countries which don’t cooperate on readmission of people, and carrots to make visas easier to get for citizens of countries which do cooperate on readmission. In some areas, such as the Schengen system, there will be further strategies and plans in the near future; it is not clear if this will lead to more proposed legislation.

      However, on legal migration, the plan is to go further than relaunching the amendment of the Blue Card Directive, as the Commission is also planning to propose amendments to the single permit and long-term residence laws referred to above – leading respectively to more harmonisation of the law on admission of non-EU workers and enhanced possibilities for long-term resident non-EU citizens to move between Member States (nb the latter plan is separate from this week’s proposal to amend this law as regards refugees and people with subsidiary protection already). Both these plans are relevant to British citizens moving to the EU after the post-Brexit transition period – and the latter is also relevant to British citizens covered by the withdrawal agreement.

      Comments

      This week’s plan is less a complete restart of EU law in this area than an attempt to relaunch discussions on a blocked set of amendments to that law, which moreover focusses on a limited set of issues. Will it ‘work’? There are two different ways to answer that question.

      First, will it unlock the institutional blockage? Here it should be kept in mind that the European Parliament and the Council had largely agreed on several of the 2016 proposals already; they would have been adopted in 2018 already had not the Council treated all the proposals as a package, and not gone back on agreements which the Council Presidency reached with the European Parliament. It is always open to the Council to get at least some of these proposals adopted quickly by reversing these approaches.

      On the blocked proposals, the Commission has targeted the key issues of border procedures and allocation of asylum-seekers. If the former leads to more quick removals of unsuccessful applicants, the latter issue is no longer so pressing. But it is not clear if the Member States will agree to anything on border procedures, or whether such an agreement will result in more expulsions anyway – because the latter depends on the willingness of non-EU countries, which the EU cannot legislate for (and does not even address in this most recent package). And because it is uncertain whether they will result in more expulsions, Member States will be wary of agreeing to anything which either results in more obligations to accept asylum-seekers on their territory, or leaves them with the same number as before.

      The idea of ‘return sponsorship’ – which reads like a grotesque parody of individuals sponsoring children in developing countries via charities – may not be appealing except to those countries like France, which have the capacity to twist arms in developing countries to accept returns. Member States might be able to agree on a replacement for the temporary protection Directive on the basis that they will never use that replacement either. And Commission threats to use infringement proceedings to enforce the law might not worry Member States who recall that the CJEU ruled on their failure to relocate asylum-seekers after the relocation law had already expired, and that the Court will soon rule on Hungary’s expulsion of the Central European University after it has already left.

      As to whether the proposals will ‘work’ in terms of managing asylum flows fairly and compatibly with human rights, it is striking how much they depend upon curtailing appeal rights, even though appeals are often successful. The proposed limitation of appeal rights will also be maintained in the Dublin system; and while the proposed ‘bottleneck’ of deciding on removals to non-EU countries before applying the Dublin system has been removed, a variation on this process may well apply in the border procedures process instead. There is no new review of the assessment of the safety of non-EU countries – which is questionable in light of the many reports of abuse in Libya. While the EU is not proposing, as the wildest headbangers would want, to turn people back or refuse applications without consideration, the question is whether the fast-track consideration of applications and then appeals will constitute merely a Potemkin village of procedural rights that mean nothing in practice.

      Increased detention is already a feature of the amendments proposed earlier: the reception conditions proposal would add a new ground for detention; the return Directive proposal would inevitably increase detention due to curtailing voluntary departure (as discussed here). Unfortunately the Commission’s claim in its new communication that its 2018 proposal is ‘promoting’ voluntary return is therefore simply false. Trump-style falsehoods have no place in the discussion of EU immigration or asylum law.

      The latest Eurodac proposal would not do much compared to the 2016 proposal – but then, the 2016 proposal would already constitute an enormous increase in the amount of data collected and shared by that system.

      Some elements of the package are more positive. The possibility for refugees and people with subsidiary protection to get EU long-term residence status earlier would be an important step toward making asylum ‘valid throughout the Union’, as referred to in the Treaties. The wider definition of family members, and the retention of the full sovereignty clause, may lead to some fairer results under the Dublin system. Future plans to improve the long-term residents’ Directive are long overdue. The Commission’s sound legal assessment that no one should be prosecuted for acting on their obligations to rescue people in distress at sea is welcome. The quasi-agreed text of the reception conditions Directive explicitly rules out Trump-style separate detention of children.

      No proposals from the EU can solve the underlying political issue: a chunk of public opinion is hostile to more migration, whether in frontline Member States, other Member States, or transit countries outside the EU. The politics is bound to affect what Member States and non-EU countries alike are willing to agree to. And for the same reason, even if a set of amendments to the system is ultimately agreed, there will likely be continuing issues of implementation, especially illegal pushbacks and refusals to accept relocation.

      https://eulawanalysis.blogspot.com/2020/09/first-analysis-of-eus-new-asylum.html?spref=fb

    • Pacte européen sur les migrations et l’asile : Le rendez-vous manqué de l’UE

      Le nouveau pacte européen migrations et asile présenté par la Commission ce 23 septembre, loin de tirer les leçons de l’échec et du coût humain intolérable des politiques menées depuis 30 ans, s’inscrit dans la continuité des logiques déjà largement éprouvées, fondées sur une approche répressive et sécuritaire au service de l’endiguement et des expulsions et au détriment d’une politique d’accueil qui s’attache à garantir et à protéger la dignité et les droits fondamentaux.

      Des « nouveaux » camps européens aux frontières pour filtrer les personnes arrivées sur le territoire européen et expulser le plus grand nombre

      En réaction au drame des incendies qui ont ravagé le camp de Moria sur l’île grecque de Lesbos, la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, affirmait le 17 septembre devant les députés européens qu’« il n’y aurait pas d’autres Moria » mais de « véritables centres d’accueil » aux frontières européennes.

      Si le nouveau pacte prévoie effectivement la création de « nouveaux » camps conjuguée à une « nouvelle » procédure accélérée aux frontières, ces derniers s’apparentent largement à l’approche hotspot mise en œuvre par l’Union européenne (UE) depuis 2015 afin d’organiser la sélection des personnes qu’elle souhaite accueillir et l’expulsion, depuis la frontière, de tous celles qu’elle considère « indésirables ».

      Le pacte prévoie ainsi la mise en place « d’un contrôle préalable à l’entrée sur le territoire pour toutes les personnes qui se présentent aux frontières extérieures ou après un débarquement, à la suite d’une opération de recherche et de sauvetage ». Il s’agira, pour les pays situés à la frontière extérieure de l’UE, de procéder – dans un délai de 5 jours et avec l’appui des agences européennes (l’agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes – Frontex et le Bureau européen d’appui en matière d’asile – EASO) – à des contrôles d’identité (prise d’empreintes et enregistrement dans les bases de données européennes) doublés de contrôles sécuritaires et sanitaires afin de procéder à un tri préalable à l’entrée sur le territoire, permettant d’orienter ensuite les personne vers :

      Une procédure d’asile accélérée à la frontière pour celles possédant une nationalité pour laquelle le taux de reconnaissance d’une protection internationale, à l’échelle de l’UE, est inférieure à 20%
      Une procédure d’asile normale pour celles considérées comme éligibles à une protection.
      Une procédure d’expulsion immédiate, depuis la frontière, pour toute celles qui auront été rejetées par ce dispositif de tri, dans un délai de 12 semaines.

      Pendant cette procédure de filtrage à la frontière, les personnes seraient considérées comme n’étant pas encore entrées sur le territoire européen ce qui permettrait aux Etats de déroger aux conventions de droit international qui s’y appliquent.

      Un premier projet pilote est notamment prévu à Lesbos, conjointement avec les autorités grecques, pour installer un nouveau camp sur l’île avec l’appui d’une Task Force européenne, directement placée sous le contrôle de la direction générale des affaires intérieure de la Commission européenne (DG HOME).

      Difficile de voir où se trouve l’innovation dans la proposition présentée par la Commission. Si ce n’est que les États européens souhaitent pousser encore plus loin à la fois la logique de filtrage à ces frontières ainsi que la sous-traitance de leur contrôle. Depuis l’été 2018, l’Union européenne défend la création de « centres contrôlés au sein de l’UE » d’une part et de « plateformes de débarquement dans les pays tiers » d’autre part. L’UE, à travers ce nouveau mécanisme, vise à organiser l’expulsion rapide des migrants qui sont parvenus, souvent au péril de leur vie, à pénétrer sur son territoire. Pour ce faire, la coopération accrue avec les gardes-frontières des États non européens et l’appui opérationnel de l’agence Frontex sont encore et toujours privilégiés.
      Un « nouvel écosystème en matière de retour »

      L’obsession européenne pour l’amélioration du « taux de retour » se retrouve au cœur de ce nouveau pacte, en repoussant toujours plus les limites en matière de coopération extérieure et d’enfermement des personnes étrangères jugées indésirables et en augmentant de façon inédite ses moyens opérationnels.

      Selon l’expression de Margaritis Schinas, commissaire grec en charge de la « promotion du mode de vie européen », la nouvelle procédure accélérée aux frontières s’accompagnera d’« un nouvel écosystème européen en matière de retour ». Il sera piloté par un « nouveau coordinateur de l’UE chargé des retours » ainsi qu’un « réseau de haut niveau coordonnant les actions nationales » avec le soutien de l’agence Frontex, qui devrait devenir « le bras opérationnel de la politique de retour européenne ».

      Rappelons que Frontex a vu ses moyens décuplés ces dernières années, notamment en vue d’expulser plus de personnes migrantes. Celle-ci a encore vu ses moyens renforcés depuis l’entrée en vigueur de son nouveau règlement le 4 décembre 2019 dont la Commission souhaite accélérer la mise en œuvre effective. Au-delà d’une augmentation de ses effectifs et de la possibilité d’acquérir son propre matériel, l’agence bénéficie désormais de pouvoirs étendus pour identifier les personnes « expulsables » du territoire européen, obtenir les documents de voyage nécessaires à la mise en œuvre de leurs expulsions ainsi que pour coordonner des opérations d’expulsion au service des Etats membres.

      La Commission souhaite également faire aboutir, d’ici le second trimestre 2021, le projet de révision de la directive européenne « Retour », qui constitue un recul sans précédent du cadre de protection des droits fondamentaux des personnes migrantes. Voir notre précédente actualité sur le sujet : L’expulsion au cœur des politiques migratoires européennes, 22 mai 2019
      Des « partenariats sur-mesure » avec les pays d’origine et de transit

      La Commission étend encore redoubler d’efforts afin d’inciter les Etats non européens à participer activement à empêcher les départs vers l’Europe ainsi qu’à collaborer davantage en matière de retour et de réadmission en utilisant l’ensemble des instruments politiques à sa disposition. Ces dernières années ont vu se multiplier les instruments européens de coopération formelle (à travers la signature, entre autres, d’accords de réadmission bilatéraux ou multilatéraux) et informelle (à l’instar de la tristement célèbre déclaration entre l’UE et la Turquie de mars 2016) à tel point qu’il est devenu impossible, pour les États ciblés, de coopérer avec l’UE dans un domaine spécifique sans que les objectifs européens en matière migratoire ne soient aussi imposés.

      L’exécutif européen a enfin souligné sa volonté de d’exploiter les possibilités offertes par le nouveau règlement sur les visas Schengen, entré en vigueur en février 2020. Celui-ci prévoie d’évaluer, chaque année, le degré de coopération des Etats non européens en matière de réadmission. Le résultat de cette évaluation permettra d’adopter une décision de facilitation de visa pour les « bon élèves » ou à l’inverse, d’imposer des mesures de restrictions de visas aux « mauvais élèves ». Voir notre précédente actualité sur le sujet : Expulsions contre visas : le droit à la mobilité marchandé, 2 février 2020.

      Conduite au seul prisme des intérêts européens, cette politique renforce le caractère historiquement déséquilibré des relations de « coopération » et entraîne en outre des conséquences désastreuses sur les droits des personnes migrantes, notamment celui de quitter tout pays, y compris le leur. Sous couvert d’aider ces pays à « se développer », les mesures « incitatives » européennes ne restent qu’un moyen de poursuivre ses objectifs et d’imposer sa vision des migrations. En coopérant davantage avec les pays d’origine et de transit, parmi lesquelles des dictatures et autres régimes autoritaires, l’UE renforce l’externalisation de ses politiques migratoires, sous-traitant la gestion des exilées aux Etats extérieurs à l’UE, tout en se déresponsabilisant des violations des droits perpétrées hors de ses frontières.
      Solidarité à la carte, entre relocalisation et expulsion

      Le constat d’échec du système Dublin – machine infernale de l’asile européen – conjugué à la volonté de parvenir à trouver un consensus suite aux profonds désaccords qui avaient mené les négociations sur Dublin IV dans l’impasse, la Commission souhaite remplacer l’actuel règlement de Dublin par un nouveau règlement sur la gestion de l’asile et de l’immigration, liant étroitement les procédures d’asile aux procédures d’expulsion.

      Les quotas de relocalisation contraignants utilisés par le passé, à l’instar du mécanisme de relocalisation mis en place entre 2015 et 2017 qui fut un échec tant du point de vue du nombre de relocalisations (seulement 25 000 relocalisations sur les 160 000 prévues) que du refus de plusieurs Etats d’y participer, semblent être abandonnés.

      Le nouveau pacte propose donc un nouveau mécanisme de solidarité, certes obligatoire mais flexible dans ses modalités. Ainsi les Etats membres devront choisir, selon une clé de répartition définie :

      Soit de participer à l’effort de relocalisation des personnes identifiées comme éligibles à la protection internationale depuis les frontières extérieures pour prendre en charge l’examen de leur demande d’asile.
      Soit de participer au nouveau concept de « parrainage des retours » inventé par la Commission européenne. Concrètement, il s’agit d’être « solidaire autrement », en s’engageant activement dans la politique de retour européenne par la mise en œuvre des expulsions des personnes que l’UE et ses Etats membres souhaitent éloigner du territoire, avec la possibilité de concentrer leurs efforts sur les nationalités pour lesquelles leurs perspectives de faire aboutir l’expulsion est la plus élevée.

      De nouvelles règles pour les « situations de crise et de force majeure »

      Le pacte prévoie d’abroger la directive européenne relative à des normes minimales pour l’octroi d’une protection temporaire en cas d’afflux massif de personnes déplacées, au profit d’un nouveau règlement européen relatif aux « situations de crise et de force majeure ». L’UE et ses Etats membres ont régulièrement essuyé les critiques des acteurs de la société civile pour n’avoir jamais activé la procédure prévue par la directive de 2001, notamment dans le cadre de situation exceptionnelle telle que la crise de l’accueil des personnes arrivées aux frontières sud de l’UE en 2015.

      Le nouveau règlement prévoie notamment qu’en cas de « situation de crise ou de force majeure » les Etats membres pourraient déroger aux règles qui s’appliquent en matière d’asile, en suspendant notamment l’enregistrement des demandes d’asile pendant un durée d’un mois maximum. Cette mesure entérine des pratiques contraires au droit international et européen, à l’instar de ce qu’a fait la Grèce début mars 2020 afin de refouler toutes les personnes qui tenteraient de pénétrer le territoire européen depuis la Turquie voisine. Voir notre précédente actualité sur le sujet : Frontière Grèce-Turquie : de l’approche hotspot au scandale de la guerre aux migrant·e ·s, 3 mars 2020

      Cette proposition représente un recul sans précédent du droit d’asile aux frontières et fait craindre de multiples violations du principe de non refoulement consacré par la Convention de Genève.

      Bien loin d’engager un changement de cap des politiques migratoires européennes, le nouveau pacte européen migrations et asile ne semble n’être qu’un nouveau cadre de plus pour poursuivre une approche des mouvements migratoires qui, de longue date, s’est construite autour de la volonté d’empêcher les arrivées aux frontières et d’organiser un tri parmi les personnes qui auraient réussi à braver les obstacles pour atteindre le territoire européen, entre celles considérées éligibles à la demande d’asile et toutes les autres qui devraient être expulsées.

      De notre point de vue, cela signifie surtout que des milliers de personnes continueront à être privées de liberté et à subir les dispositifs répressifs des Etats membres de l’Union européenne. Les conséquences néfastes sur la dignité humaine et les droits fondamentaux de cette approche sont flagrantes, les personnes exilées et leurs soutiens y sont confrontées tous les jours.

      Encore une fois, des moyens très importants sont consacrés à financer l’érection de barrières physiques, juridiques et technologiques ainsi que la construction de camps sur les routes migratoires tandis qu’ils pourraient utilement être redéployés pour accueillir dignement et permettre un accès inconditionnel au territoire européen pour les personnes bloquées à ses frontières extérieures afin d’examiner avec attention et impartialité leurs situations et assurer le respect effectif des droits de tou∙te∙s.

      Nous appelons à un changement radical des politiques migratoires, pour une Europe qui encourage les solidarités, fondée sur la protection des droits humains et la dignité humaine afin d’assurer la protection des personnes et non pas leur exclusion.

      https://www.lacimade.org/pacte-europeen-sur-les-migrations-et-lasile-le-rendez-vous-manque-de-lue

    • EU’s new migrant ‘pact’ is as squalid as its refugee camps

      Governments need to share responsibility for asylum seekers, beyond merely ejecting the unwanted

      One month after fires swept through Europe’s largest, most squalid refugee camp, the EU’s migration policies present a picture as desolate as the blackened ruins of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos. The latest effort at overhauling these policies is a European Commission “pact on asylum and migration”, which is not a pact at all. Its proposals sharply divide the EU’s 27 governments.

      In an attempt to appease central and eastern European countries hostile to admitting asylum-seekers, the commission suggests, in an Orwellian turn of phrase, that they should operate “relocation and return sponsorships”, dispatching people refused entry to their places of origin. This sort of task is normally reserved for nightclub bouncers.

      The grim irony is that Hungary and Poland, two countries that would presumably be asked to take charge of such expulsions, are the subject of EU disciplinary proceedings due to alleged violations of the rule of law. It remains a mystery how, if the commission proposal moves forward, the EU will succeed in binding Hungary and Poland into a common asylum policy and bend them into accepting EU definitions of the rule of law.

      Perhaps the best thing to be said of the commission’s plan is that, unlike the UK government, EU policymakers are not toying with hare-brained schemes of sending asylum-seekers to Ascension Island in the south Atlantic. Such options are the imagined privilege of a former imperial power not divested of all its far-flung possessions.

      Yet the commission’s initiative still reeks of wishful thinking. It foresees a process in which authorities swiftly check the identities, security status and health of irregular migrants, before returning them home, placing them in the asylum system or putting them in temporary facilities. This will supposedly decongest EU border zones, as governments will agree how to relocate new arrivals. But it is precisely the lack of such agreement since 2015 that led to Moria’s disgraceful conditions.

      The commission should not be held responsible for governments failing to shoulder their responsibilities. It is also justified in emphasising the need for a strong EU frontier. This is a precondition for free movement inside the bloc, vital for a flourishing single market.

      True, the Schengen system of border-free internal travel is curtailed at present because of the pandemic, not to mention restrictions introduced in some countries after the 2015 refugee and migrant crisis. But no government wants to abandon Schengen. Where they fall out with each other is over the housing of refugees and migrants.

      Europe’s overcrowded, unhygienic refugee camps, and the paralysis that grips EU policies, are all the more shameful in that governments no longer face a border emergency. Some 60,800 irregular migrants crossed into the EU between January and August, 14 per cent less than the same period in 2019, according to the EU border agency.

      By contrast, there were 1.8m illegal border crossings in 2015, a different order of magnitude. Refugees from conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria made desperate voyages across the Mediterranean, with thousands drowning in ramshackle boats. Some countries, led by Germany and Sweden, were extremely generous in opening their doors to refugees. Others were not.

      The roots of today’s problems lie in the measures devised to address that crisis, above all a 2016 accord with Turkey. Irregular migrants were kept on Moria and other Greek islands, designated “hotspots”, in the expectation that failed asylum applicants would be smoothly returned to Turkey, its coffers replenished by billions of euros in EU assistance. In practice, few went back to Turkey and the understaffed, underfunded “hotspots” became places of tension between refugees and locals.

      Unable to agree on a relocation scheme among themselves, EU governments lapsed into a de facto policy of deterrence of irregular migrants. The pandemic provided an excuse for Italy and Malta to close their ports to people rescued at sea. Visiting the Greek-Turkish border in March, Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, declared: “I thank Greece for being our European aspida [shield].”

      The legitimacy of EU refugee policies depends on adherence to international law, as well the bloc’s own rules. Its practical success requires all governments to share a responsibility for asylum-seekers that goes beyond ejecting unwanted individuals. Otherwise the EU will fall into the familiar trap of cobbling together unsatisfactory half-measures that guarantee more trouble in the future.

      https://www.ft.com/content/c50c6b9c-75a8-40b1-900d-a228faa382dc?segmentid=acee4131-99c2-09d3-a635-873e61754

    • The EU’s pact against migration, Part One

      The EU Commission’s proposal for a ‘New Pact for Migration and Asylum’ offers no prospect of ending the enduring mobility conflict, opposing the movements of illegalised migrants to the EU’s restrictive migration policies.

      The ’New Pact for Migration and Asylum’, announced by the European Commission in July 2019, was finally presented on September 23, 2020. The Pact was eagerly anticipated as it was described as a “fresh start on migration in Europe”, acknowledging not only that Dublin had failed, but also that the negotiations between European member states as to what system might replace it had reached a standstill.

      The fire in Moria that left more than 13.000 people stranded in the streets of Lesvos island offered a glaring symbol of the failure of the current EU policy. The public outcry it caused and expressions of solidarity it crystallised across Europe pressured the Commission to respond through the publication of its Pact.

      Considering the trajectory of EU migration policies over the last decades, the particular position of the Commission within the European power structure and the current political conjuncture of strong anti-migration positions in Europe, we did not expect the Commission’s proposal to address the mobility conflict underlying its migration policy crisis in a constructive way. And indeed, the Pact’s main promise is to manage the diverging positions of member states through a new mechanism of “flexible solidarity” between member states in sharing the “burden” of migrants who have arrived on European territory. Perpetuating the trajectory of the last decades, it however remains premised on keeping most migrants from the global South out at all cost. The “New Pact” then is effectively a pact between European states against migrants. The Pact, which will be examined and possibly adopted by the European Parliament and Council in the coming months, confirms the impasse to which three decades of European migration and asylum policy have led, and an absence of any political imagination worthy of the name.
      The EU’s migration regime’s failed architecture

      The current architecture of the European border regime is based on two main and intertwined pillars: the Schengen Implementing Convention (SIC, or Schengen II) and the Dublin Convention, both signed in 1990, and gradually enforced in the following years.[1]

      Created outside the EC/EU context, they became the central rationalities of the emerging European border and migration regime after their incorporation into EU law through the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997/99). Schengen instituted the EU’s territory as an area of free movement for its citizens and, as a direct consequence, reinforced the exclusion of citizens of the global South and pushed control towards its external borders.

      However this profound transformation of European borders left unchanged the unbalanced systemic relations between Europe and the Global South, within which migrants’ movements are embedded. As a result, this policy shift did not stop migrants from reaching the EU but rather illegalised their mobility, forcing them to resort to precarious migration strategies and generating an easily exploitable labour force that has become a large-scale and permanent feature of EU economies.

      The more than 40,000 migrant deaths recorded at the EU’s borders by NGOs since the end of the 1980s are the lethal outcomes of this enduring mobility conflict opposing the movements of illegalised migrants to the EU’s restrictive migration policies.

      The second pillar of the EU’s migration architecture, the Dublin Convention, addressed asylum seekers and their allocation between member-states. To prevent them from filing applications in several EU countries – derogatively referred to as “asylum shopping” – the 2003 Dublin regulation states that the asylum seekers’ first country of entry into the EU is responsible for processing their claims. Dublin thus created an uneven European geography of (ir)responsibility that allowed the member states not directly situated at the intersection of European borders and routes of migration to abnegate their responsibility to provide shelter and protection, and placed a heavier “burden” on the shoulders of states located at the EU’s external borders.

      This unbalanced architecture, around which the entire Common European Asylum System (CEAS) was constructed, would begin to wobble as soon as the number of people arriving on the EU’s shores rose, leading to crisis-driven policy responses to prevent the migration regime from collapsing under the pressure of migrants’ refusal to be assigned to a country that was not of their choosing, and conflicts between member states.

      As a result, the development of a European border, migration and asylum policy has been driven by crisis and is inherently reactive. This pattern particularly holds for the last decade, when the large-scale movements of migrants to Europe in the wake of the Arab Uprisings in 2011 put the EU migration regime into permanent crisis mode and prompted hasty reforms. As of 2011, Italy allowed Tunisians to move on, leading to the re-introduction of border controls by states such as France, while the same year the 2011 European Court of Human Rights’ judgement brought Dublin deportations to Greece to a halt because of the appalling reception and living conditions there. The increasing refusal by asylum seekers to surrender their fingerprints – the core means of implementing Dublin – as of 2013 further destabilized the migration regime.

      The instability only grew when in April 2015, more then 1,200 people died in two consecutive shipwrecks, forcing the Commission to publish its ‘European Agenda for Migration’ in May 2015. The 2015 agenda announced the creation of the hotspot system in the hope of re-stabilising the European migration regime through a targeted intervention of European agencies at Europe’s borders. Essentially, the hotspot approach offered a deal to EU member states: comprehensive registration in Europeanised structures (the hotspots) by so-called “front-line states” – thus re-imposing Dublin – in exchange for relocation of part of the registered migrants to other EU countries – thereby alleviating front-line states of part of their “burden”.

      This plan however collapsed before it could ever work, as it was immediately followed by the large-scale summer arrivals of 2015 as migrants trekked across Europe’s borders. It was simultaneously boycotted by several member states who refused relocations and continue to lead the charge in fomenting an explicit anti-migration agenda in the EU. While border controls were soon reintroduced, relocations never materialised in a meaningful manner in the years that followed.

      With the Dublin regime effectively paralysed and the EU unable to agree on a new mechanism for the distribution of asylum seekers within Europe, the EU resorted to the decades-old policies that had shaped the European border and migration regime since its inception: keeping migrants out at all cost through border control implemented by member states, European agencies or outsourced to third countries.

      Considering the profound crisis the turbulent movements of migrants had plunged the EU into in the summer of 2015, no measure was deemed excessive in achieving this exclusionary end: neither the tacit acceptance of violent expulsions and push-backs by Spain and Greece, nor the outsourcing of border control to Libyan torturers, nor the shameless collaboration with dictatorial regimes such as Turkey.

      Under the guise of “tackling the root causes of migration”, development aid was diverted and used to impose border externalisation and deportation agreements. But the external dimension of the EU’s migration regime has proven just as unstable as its internal one – as the re-opening of borders by Turkey in March 2020 demonstrates. The movements of illegalised migrants towards the EU could never be entirely contained and those who reached the shores of Europe were increasingly relegated to infrastructures of detention. Even if keeping thousands of migrants stranded in the hell of Moria may not have been part of the initial hotspot plan, it certainly has been the outcome of the EU’s internal blockages and ultimately effective in shoring up the EU’s strategy of deterrence.

      The “New Pact” perpetuating the EU’s failed policy of closure

      Today the “New Pact”, promised for Spring 2020 and apparently forgotten at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, has been revived in a hurry to address the destruction of Moria hotspot. While detailed analysis of the regulations that it proposes are beyond the scope of this article,[2] the broad intentions of the Pact’s rationale are clear.

      Despite all its humane and humanitarian rhetoric and some language critically addressing the manifest absence of the rule of law at the border of Europe, the Commission’s pact is a pact against migration. Taking stock of the continued impasse in terms of internal distribution of migrants, it re-affirms the EU’s central objective of reducing, massively the number of asylum seekers to be admitted to Europe. It promises to do so by continuing to erect chains of externalised border control along migrants’ entire trajectories (what it refers to as the “whole-of-route approach”).

      Those who do arrive should be swiftly screened and sorted in an infrastructure of detention along the borders of Europe. The lucky few who will succeed in fitting their lives into the shrinking boxes of asylum law are to be relocated to other EU countries in function of a mechanism of distribution based on population size and wealth of member states.

      Whether this will indeed undo the imbalances of the Dublin regime remains an open question[3], nevertheless, this relocation key is one of the few positive steps offered by the Pact since it comes closer to migrants’ own “relocation key” but still falls short of granting asylum seekers the freedom to choose their country of protection and residence.[4] The majority of rejected asylum seekers – which may be determined on the basis of an extended understanding of the “safe third country” notion – is to be funnelled towards deportations operated by the EU states refusing relocation. The Commission hopes deportations will be made smoother after a newly appointed “EU Return Coordinator” will have bullied countries of origin into accepting their nationals using the carrot of development aid and the stick of visa sanctions. The Commission seems to believe that with fewer expected arrivals and fewer migrants ending up staying in Europe, and with its mechanism of “flexible solidarity” allowing for a selective participation in relocations or returns depending on the taste of its member states, it can both bridge the gap between member states’ interests and push for a deeper Europeanisation of the policy field in which its own role will become more central.

      Thus, the EU Commission’s attempt to square the circle of member states’ conflicting interests has resulted in a European pact against migration, which perpetuates the promises of the EU’s (anti-)migration policy over the last three decades: externalisation, enhanced borders, accelerated asylum procedures, detention and deportations to prevent and deter migrants from the global South. It seeks to strike yet another deal between European member states, without consulting – and at the expense of – migrants themselves. Because most of the policy means contained in the pact are not new, and have always failed to durably end illegalised migration – instead they have created a large precaritised population at the heart of Europe – we do not see how they would work today. Migrants will continue to arrive, and many will remain stranded in front-line states or other EU states as they await deportation. As such, the outcome of the pact (if it is agreed upon) is likely a perpetuation and generalisation of the hotspot system, the very system whose untenability – glaringly demonstrated by Moria’s fire – prompted the presentation of the New Pact in the first place. Even if the Commission’s “no more Morias” rhetoric would like to persuade us of the opposite,[5] the ruins of Moria point to the past as well as the potential future of the CEAS if the Commission has its way.

      We are dismayed at the loss of yet another opportunity for Europe to fundamentally re-orient its policy of closure, one which is profoundly at odds with the reality of large-scale displacement in an unequal and interconnected world. We are dismayed at the prospect of more suffering and more political crises that can only be the outcome of this continued policy failure. Clearly, an entirely different approach to how Europe engages with the movements of migration is called for. One which actually aims to de-escalate and transform the enduring mobility conflict. One which starts from the reality of the movements of migrants and offers a frame for it to unfold rather than seeks to suppress and deny it.

      Notes and references

      [1] We have offered an extensive analysis of the following argument in previous articles. See in particular : Bernd Kasparek. 2016. “Complementing Schengen: The Dublin System and the European Border and Migration Regime”. In Migration Policy and Practice, edited by Harald Bauder and Christian Matheis, 59–78. Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship. Houndmills & New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani. 2016. “Ebbing and Flowing: The EU’s Shifting Practices of (Non-)Assistance and Bordering in a Time of Crisis”. Near Futures Online. No 1. Available here.

      [2] For first analyses see Steve Peers. 2020. “First analysis of the EU’s new asylum proposals”, EU Law Analysis, 25 September 2020; Sergio Carrera. 2020. “Whose Pact? The Cognitive Dimensions of the New EU Pact on Migration and Asylum”, CEPS, September 2020.

      [3] Carrera, ibid.

      [4] For a discussion of migration of migrants’ own relocation key, see Philipp Lutz, David Kaufmann and Anna Stütz. 2020. “Humanitarian Protection as a European Public Good: The Strategic Role of States and Refugees”, Journal of Common Market Studies 2020 Volume 58. Number 3. pp. 757–775. To compare the actual asylum applications across Europe over the last years with different relocations keys, see the tool developed by Etienne Piguet.

      https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/the-eus-pact-against-migration-part-one

      #whole-of-route_approach #relocalisation #clé_de_relocalisation #relocation_key #pays-tiers_sûrs #EU_Return_Coordinator #solidarité_flexible #externalisation #new_pact

    • Towards a European pact with migrants, Part Two

      We call for a new Pact that addresses the reality of migrants’ movements, the systemic conditions leading people to flee their homes as well as the root causes of Europe’s racism.

      In Part One, we analysed the EU’s new Pact against migration. Here, we call for an entirely different approach to how Europe engages with migration, one which offers a legal frame for migration to unfold, and addresses the systemic conditions leading people to flee their homes as well as the root causes of Europe’s racism.Let us imagine for a moment that the EU Commission truly wanted, and was in a position, to reorient the EU’s migration policy in a direction that might actually de-escalate and transform the enduring mobility conflict: what might its pact with migrants look like?

      The EU’s pact with migrants might start from three fundamental premises. First, it would recognize that any policy that is entirely at odds with social practices is bound to generate conflict, and ultimately fail. A migration policy must start from the social reality of migration and provide a frame for it to unfold. Second, the pact would acknowledge that no conflict can be brought to an end unilaterally. Any process of conflict transformation must bring together the conflicting parties, and seek to address their needs, interests and values so that they no longer clash with each other. In particular, migrants from the global South must be included in the definition of the policies that concern them. Third, it would recognise, as Tendayi Achiume has put it, that migrants from the global South are no strangers to Europe.[1] They have long been included in the expansive webs of empire. Migration and borders are embedded in these unequal relations, and no end to the mobility conflict can be achieved without fundamentally transforming them. Based on these premises, the EU’s pact with migrants might contain the following four core measures:
      Global justice and conflict prevention

      Instead of claiming to tackle the “root causes” of migration by diverting and instrumentalising development aid towards border control, the EU’s pact with migrants would end all European political and economic relations that contribute to the crises leading to mass displacement. The EU would end all support to dictatorial regimes, would ban all weapon exports, terminate all destabilising military interventions. It would cancel unfair trade agreements and the debts of countries of the global South. It would end its massive carbon emissions that contribute to the climate crisis. Through these means, the EU would not claim to end migration perceived as a “problem” for Europe, but it would contribute to allowing more people to live a dignified life wherever they are and decrease forced migration, which certainly is a problem for migrants. A true commitment to global justice and conflict prevention and resolution is necessary if Europe wishes to limit the factors that lead too many people onto the harsh paths of exile in their countries and regions, a small proportion of whom reach European shores.
      Tackling the “root causes” of European racism

      While the EU’s so-called “global approach” to migration has in fact been one-sided, focused exclusively on migration as “the problem” rather then the processes that drive the EU’s policies of exclusion, the EU’s pact with migrants would boldly tackle the “root causes” of racism and xenophobia in Europe. Bold policies designed to address the EU’s colonial past and present and the racial imaginaries it has unleashed would be proposed, a positive vision for living in common in diverse societies affirmed, and a more inclusive and fair economic system would be established in Europe to decrease the resentment of European populations which has been skilfully channelled against migrants and racialised people.
      Universal freedom of movement

      By tackling the causes of large-scale displacement and of exclusionary migration policies, the EU would be able to de-escalate the mobility conflict, and could thus propose a policy granting all migrants legal pathways to access and stay in Europe. As an immediate outcome of the institution of right to international mobility, migrants would no longer resort to smugglers and risk their lives crossing the sea – and thus no longer be in need of being rescued. Using safe and legal means of travel would also, in the time of Covid-19 pandemic, allow migrants to adopt all sanitary measures that are necessary to protect migrants and those they encounter. No longer policed through military means, migration could appear as a normal process that does not generate fear. Frontex, the European border agency, would be defunded, and concentrate its limited activities on detecting actual threats to the EU rather then constructing vulnerable populations as “risks”. In a world that would be less unequal and in which people would have the possibly to lead a dignified life wherever they are, universal freedom of movement would not lead to an “invasion” of Europe. Circulatory movement rather then permanent settlement would be frequent. Migrants’ legal status would no longer allow employers to push working conditions down. A European asylum system would continue to exist, to grant protection and support to those in need. The vestiges of the EU’s hotspots and detention centres might be turned into ministries of welcome, which would register and redirect people to the place of their choice. Registration would thus be a mere certification of having taken the first step towards European citizenship, transforming the latter into a truly post-national institution, a far horizon which current EU treaties only hint at.
      Democratizing borders

      Considering that all European migration policies to date have been fundamentally undemocratic – in that they were imposed on a group of people – migrants – who had no say in the legislative and political process defining the laws that govern their movement – the pact would instead be the outcome of considerable consultative process with migrants and the organisations that support them, as well the states of the global South. The pact, following from Étienne Balibar’s suggestion, would in turn propose to permanently democratise borders by instituting “a multilateral, negotiated control of their working by the populations themselves (including, of course, migrant populations),” within “new representative institutions” that “are not merely ‘territorial’ and certainly not purely national.”[2] In such a pact, the original promise of Europe as a post-national project would finally be revived.

      Such a policy orientation may of course appear as nothing more then a fantasy. And yet it appears evident to us that the direction we suggest is the only realistic one. European citizens and policy makers alike must realise that the question is not whether migrants will exercise their freedom to cross borders, but at what human and political cost. As a result, it is far more realistic to address the processes within which the mobility conflict is embedded, than seeking to ban human mobility. As the Black Lives Matter’s slogan “No justice no peace!” resonating in the streets of the world over recent months reminds us, without mobility justice, [3] their can be no end to mobility conflict.
      The challenges ahead for migrant solidarity movements

      Our policy proposals are perfectly realistic in relation to migrants’ movements and the processes shaping them, yet we are well aware that they are not on the agenda of neoliberal and nationalist Europe. If the EU Commission has squandered yet another opportunity to reorient the EU’s migration policy, it is simply that this Europe, governed by these member states and politicians, has lost the capacity to offer bold visions of democracy, freedom and justice for itself and the world. As such, we have little hope for a fundamental reorientation of the EU’s policies. The bleak prospect is of the perpetuation of the mobility conflict, and the human suffering and political crises it generates.

      What are those who seek to support migrants to do in this context?

      We must start by a sobering note addressed to the movement we are part of: the fire of Moria is not only a symptom and symbol of the failures of the EU’s migration policies and member states, but also of our own strategies. After all, since the hotspots were proposed in 2015 we have tirelessly denounced them, and documented the horrendous living conditions they have created. NGOs have litigated against them, but efforts have been turned down by a European Court of Human Rights that appears increasingly reluctant to position itself on migration-related issues and is thereby contributing to the perpetuation of grave violations by states.

      And despite the extraordinary mobilisation of civil society in alliance with municipalities across Europe who have declared themselves ready to welcome migrants, relocations never materialised on any significant scale. After five years of tireless mobilization, the hotspots still stand, with thousands of asylum seekers trapped in them.

      While the conditions leading to the fire are still being clarified, it appears that the migrants held hostage in Moria took it into their own hands to try to get rid of the camp through the desperate act of burning it to the ground. As such, while we denounce the EU’s policies, our movements are urgently in need of re-evaluating their own modes of action, and re-imagining them more effectively.

      We have no lessons to give, as we share these shortcomings. But we believe that some of the directions we have suggested in our utopian Pact with migrants can guide migrant solidarity movements as well , as they may be implemented from the bottom-up in the present and help reopen our political imagination.

      The freedom to move is not, or not only, a distant utopia, that may be instituted by states in some distant future. It can also be seen as a right and freedom that illegalised migrants seize on a day-to-day basis as they cross borders without authorisation, and persist in living where they choose.

      Freedom of movement can serve as a useful compass to direct and evaluate our practices of contestation and support. Litigation remains an important tool to counter the multiple forms of violence and violations that migrants face along their trajectories, even as we acknowledge that national and international courts are far from immune to the anti-migrant atmosphere within states. Forging infrastructures of support for migrants in the course of their mobility (such as the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone and the civilian rescue fleet) – and their stay (such as the many citizen platforms for housing )– is and will continue to be essential.

      While states seek to implement what they call an “integrated border management” that seeks to manage migrants’ unruly mobilities before, at, and after borders, we can think of our own networks as forming a fragmented yet interconnected “integrated border solidarity” along the migrants’ entire trajectory. The criminalisation of our acts of solidarity by states is proof that we are effective in disrupting the violence of borders.

      Solidarity cities have formed important nodes in these chains, as municipalities do have the capacity to enable migrants to live in dignity in urban spaces, and limit the reach of their security forces for example. Their dissonant voices of welcome have been important in demonstrating that segments of the European population, which are far from negligible, refuse to be complicit with the EU’s policies of closure and are ready to embody an open relation of solidarity with migrants and beyond. However we must also acknowledge that the prerogative of granting access to European states remains in the hands of central administrations, not in those of municipalities, and thus the readiness to welcome migrants has not allowed the latter to actually seek sanctuary.

      While humanitarian and humanist calls for welcome are important, we too need to locate migration and borders in a broader political and economic context – that of the past and present of empire – so that they can be understood as questions of (in)justice. Echoing the words of the late Edouard Glissant, as activists focusing on illegalised migration we should never forget that “to have to force one’s way across borders as a result of one’s misery is as scandalous as what founds that misery”.[4] As a result of this framing, many more alliances can be forged today between migrant solidarity movements and the global justice and climate justice movements, as well as anti-racist, anti-fascist, feminist and decolonial movements. Through such alliances, we may be better equipped to support migrants throughout their entire trajectories, and transform the conditions that constrain them today.

      Ultimately, to navigate its way out of its own impasses, it seems to us that migrant solidarity movements must address four major questions.

      First, what migration policy do we want? The predictable limits of the EU’s pact against migration may be an opportunity to forge our own alternative agenda.

      Second, how can we not only oppose the implementation of restrictive policies but shape the policy process itself so as to transform the field on which we struggle? Opposing the EU’s anti-migrant pact over the coming months may allow us to conduct new experiments.

      Third, as long as policies that deny basic principles of equality, freedom, justice, and our very common humanity, are still in place, how can we lead actions that disrupt them effectively? For example, what are the forms of nongovernmental evacuations that might support migrants in accessing Europe, and moving across its internal borders?

      Fourth, how can struggles around migration and borders be part of the forging of a more equal, free, just and sustainable world for all?

      The next months during which the EU’s Pact against migration will be discussed in front of the European Parliament and Council will see an uphill battle for all those who still believe in the possibility of a Europe of openness and solidarity. While we have no illusions as to the policy outcome, this is an opportunity we must seize, not only to claim that another Europe and another world is possible, but to start building them from below.

      Notes and references

      [1] Tendayi Achiume. 2019, “The Postcolonial Case for Rethinking Borders.” Dissent 66.3: pp.27-32.

      [2] Etienne Balibar. 2004. We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship. Princeton: University Press, p. 108 and 117.

      [3] Mimi Sheller. 2018. Mobility Justice: The Politics of Movement in an Age of Extremes. London: Verso.

      [4] Edouard Glissant. 2006. “Il n’est frontière qu’on n’outrepasse”. Le Monde diplomatique, October 2006.

      https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/towards-pact-migrants-part-two

    • Pacte européen sur la migration et l’asile : Afin de garantir un nouveau départ et d’éviter de reproduire les erreurs passées, certains éléments à risque doivent être reconsidérés et les aspects positifs étendus.

      L’engagement en faveur d’une approche plus humaine de la protection et l’accent mis sur les aspects positifs et bénéfiques de la migration avec lesquels la Commission européenne a lancé le Pacte sur la migration et l’asile sont les bienvenus. Cependant, les propositions formulées reflètent très peu cette rhétorique et ces ambitions. Au lieu de rompre avec les erreurs de la précédente approche de l’Union européenne (UE) et d’offrir un nouveau départ, le Pacte continue de se focaliser sur l’externalisation, la dissuasion, la rétention et le retour.

      Cette première analyse des propositions, réalisée par la société civile, a été guidée par les questions suivantes :

      Les propositions formulées sont-elles en mesure de garantir, en droit et en pratique, le respect des normes internationales et européennes ?
      Participeront-elles à un partage plus juste des responsabilités en matière d’asile au niveau de l’UE et de l’international ?
      Seront-elles susceptibles de fonctionner en pratique ?

      Au lieu d’un partage automatique des responsabilités, le Pacte introduit un système de Dublin, qui n’en porte pas le nom, plus complexe et un mécanisme de « parrainage au retour »

      Le Pacte sur la migration et l’asile a manqué l’occasion de réformer en profondeur le système de Dublin : le principe de responsabilité du premier pays d’arrivée pour examiner les demandes d’asile est, en pratique, maintenu. De plus, le Pacte propose un système complexe introduisant diverses formes de solidarité.

      Certains ajouts positifs dans les critères de détermination de l’Etat membre responsable de la demande d’asile sont à relever, par exemple, l’élargissement de la définition des membres de famille afin d’inclure les frères et sœurs, ainsi qu’un large éventail de membres de famille dans le cas des mineurs non accompagnés et la délivrance d’un diplôme ou d’une autre qualification par un Etat membre. Cependant, au regard de la pratique actuelle des Etats membres, il sera difficile de s’éloigner du principe du premier pays d’entrée comme l’option de départ en faveur des nouvelles considérations prioritaires, notamment le regroupement familial.

      Dans le cas d’un nombre élevé de personnes arrivées sur le territoire (« pression migratoire ») ou débarquées suite à des opérations de recherche et de sauvetage, la solidarité entre Etats membres est requise. Les processus qui en découlent comprennent une série d’évaluations, d’engagements et de rapports devant être rédigés par les États membres. Si la réponse collective est insuffisante, la Commission européenne peut prendre des mesures correctives. Au lieu de promouvoir un mécanisme de soutien pour un partage prévisible des responsabilités, ces dispositions tendent plutôt à créer des formes de négociations entre États membres qui nous sont toutes devenues trop familières. La complexité des propositions soulève des doutes quant à leur application réelle en pratique.

      Les États membres sont autorisés à choisir le « parrainage de retour » à la place de la relocalisation de personnes sur leur territoire, ce qui indique une attention égale portée au retour et à la protection. Au lieu d’apporter un soutien aux Etats membres en charge d’un plus grand nombre de demandes de protection, cette proposition soulève de nombreuses préoccupations juridiques et relatives au respect des droits de l’homme, en particulier si le transfert vers l’Etat dit « parrain » se fait après l’expiration du délai de 8 mois. Qui sera en charge de veiller au traitement des demandeurs d’asile déboutés à leur arrivée dans des Etats qui n’acceptent pas la relocalisation ?

      Le Pacte propose d’étendre l’utilisation de la procédure à la frontière, y compris un recours accru à la rétention

      A défaut de rééquilibrer la responsabilité entre les États membres de l’UE, la proposition de règlement sur les procédures communes exacerbe la pression sur les États situés aux frontières extérieures de l’UE et sur les pays des Balkans occidentaux. La Commission propose de rendre, dans certains cas, les procédures d’asile et de retour à la frontière obligatoires. Cela s’appliquerait notamment aux ressortissants de pays dont le taux moyen de protection de l’UE est inférieur à 20%. Ces procédures seraient facultatives lorsque les Etats membres appliquent les concepts de pays tiers sûr ou pays d’origine sûr. Toutefois, la Commission a précédemment proposé que ceux-ci deviennent obligatoires pour l’ensemble des Etats membres. Les associations réitèrent leurs inquiétudes quant à l’utilisation de ces deux concepts qui ont été largement débattus entre 2016 et 2019. Leur application obligatoire ne doit plus être proposée.

      La proposition de procédure à la frontière repose sur deux hypothèses erronées – notamment sur le fait que la majorité des personnes arrivant en Europe n’est pas éligible à un statut de protection et que l’examen des demandes de protection peut être effectué facilement et rapidement. Ni l’une ni l’autre ne sont correctes. En effet, en prenant en considération à la fois les décisions de première et de seconde instance dans toute l’UE il apparaît que la plupart des demandeurs d’asile dans l’UE au cours des trois dernières années ont obtenu un statut de protection. En outre, le Pacte ne doit pas persévérer dans cette approche erronée selon laquelle les procédures d’asile peuvent être conduites rapidement à travers la réduction de garanties et l’introduction d’un système de tri. La durée moyenne de la procédure d’asile aux Pays-Bas, souvent qualifiée d’ « élève modèle » pour cette pratique, dépasse un an et peut atteindre deux années jusqu’à ce qu’une décision soit prise.

      La proposition engendrerait deux niveaux de standards dans les procédures d’asile, largement déterminés par le pays d’origine de la personne concernée. Cela porte atteinte au droit individuel à l’asile et signifierait qu’un nombre accru de personnes seront soumises à une procédure de deuxième catégorie. Proposer aux Etats membres d’émettre une décision d’asile et d’éloignement de manière simultanée, sans introduire de garanties visant à ce que les principes de non-refoulement, d’intérêt supérieur de l’enfant, et de protection de la vie privée et familiale ne soient examinés, porte atteinte aux obligations qui découlent du droit international. La proposition formulée par la Commission supprime également l’effet suspensif automatique du recours, c’est-à-dire le droit de rester sur le territoire dans l’attente d’une décision finale rendue dans le cadre d’une procédure à la frontière.

      L’idée selon laquelle les personnes soumises à des procédures à la frontière sont considérées comme n’étant pas formellement entrées sur le territoire de l’État membre est trompeuse et contredit la récente jurisprudence de l’UE, sans pour autant modifier les droits de l’individu en vertu du droit européen et international.

      La proposition prive également les personnes de la possibilité d’accéder à des permis de séjour pour des motifs autres que l’asile et impliquera très probablement une privation de liberté pouvant atteindre jusqu’à 6 mois aux frontières de l’UE, c’est-à-dire un maximum de douze semaines dans le cadre de la procédure d’asile à la frontière et douze semaines supplémentaires en cas de procédure de retour à la frontière. En outre, les réformes suppriment le principe selon lequel la rétention ne doit être appliquée qu’en dernier recours dans le cadre des procédures aux frontières. En s’appuyant sur des restrictions plus systématiques des mouvements dans le cadre des procédures à la frontière, la proposition restreindra l’accès de l’individu aux services de base fournis par des acteurs qui ne pourront peut-être pas opérer à la frontière, y compris pour l’assistance et la représentation juridiques. Avec cette approche, on peut s’attendre aux mêmes échecs rencontrés dans la mise en œuvre des « hotspot » sur les îles grecques.

      La reconnaissance de l’intérêt supérieur de l’enfant comme élément primordial dans toutes les procédures pour les États membres est positive. Cependant, la Commission diminue les garanties de protection des enfants en n’exemptant que les mineurs non accompagnés ou âgés de moins de douze ans des procédures aux frontières. Ceci est en contradiction avec la définition internationale de l’enfant qui concerne toutes les personnes jusqu’à l’âge de dix-huit ans, telle qu’inscrite dans la Convention relative aux droits de l’enfant ratifiée par tous les États membres de l’UE.

      Dans les situations de crise, les États membres sont autorisés à déroger à d’importantes garanties qui soumettront davantage de personnes à des procédures d’asile de qualité inférieure

      La crainte d’iniquité procédurale est d’autant plus visible dans les situations où un État membre peut prétendre être confronté à une « situation exceptionnelle d’afflux massif » ou au risque d’une telle situation.

      Dans ces cas, le champ d’application de la procédure obligatoire aux frontières est considérablement étendu à toutes les personnes en provenance de pays dont le taux moyen de protection de l’UE est inférieur à 75%. La procédure d’asile à la frontière et la procédure de retour à la frontière peuvent être prolongées de huit semaines supplémentaires, soit cinq mois chacune, ce qui porte à dix mois la durée maximale de privation de liberté. En outre, les États membres peuvent suspendre l’enregistrement des demandes d’asile pendant quatre semaines et jusqu’à un maximum de trois mois. Par conséquent, si aucune demande n’est enregistrée pendant plusieurs semaines, les personnes sont susceptibles d’être exposées à un risque accru de rétention et de refoulement, et leurs droits relatifs à un accueil digne et à des services de base peuvent être gravement affectés.

      Cette mesure permet aux États membres de déroger à leur responsabilité de garantir un accès à l’asile et un examen efficace et équitable de l’ensemble des demandes d’asile, ce qui augmente ainsi le risque de refoulement. Dans certains cas extrêmes, notamment lorsque les États membres agissent en violation flagrante et persistante des obligations du droit de l’UE, le processus de demande d’autorisation à la Commission européenne pourrait être considéré comme une amélioration, étant donné qu’actuellement la loi est ignorée, sans consultation et ce malgré les critiques de la Commission européenne. Toutefois, cela ne peut être le point de départ de l’évaluation de cette proposition de la législation européenne. L’impact à grande échelle de cette dérogation offre la possibilité à ce qu’une grande majorité des personnes arrivant dans l’UE soient soumises à une procédure de second ordre.

      Pré-filtrage à la frontière : risques et opportunités

      La Commission propose un processus de « pré-filtrage à l’entrée » pour toutes les personnes qui arrivent de manière irrégulière aux frontières de l’UE, y compris à la suite d’un débarquement dans le cadre des opérations de recherche et de sauvetage. Le processus de pré-filtrage comprend des contrôles de sécurité, de santé et de vulnérabilité, ainsi que l’enregistrement des empreintes digitales, mais il conduit également à des décisions impactant l’accès à l’asile, notamment en déterminant si une personne doit être sujette à une procédure d’asile accélérée à la frontière, de relocalisation ou de retour. Ce processus peut durer jusqu’à 10 jours et doit être effectué au plus près possible de la frontière. Le lieu où les personnes seront placées et l’accès aux conditions matérielles d’accueil demeurent flous. Le filtrage peut également être appliqué aux personnes se trouvant sur le territoire d’un État membre, ce qui pourrait conduire à une augmentation de pratiques discriminatoires. Des questions se posent également concernant les droits des personnes soumises au filtrage, tels que l’accès à l’information, , l’accès à un avocat et au droit de contester la décision prise dans ce contexte ; les motifs de refus d’entrée ; la confidentialité et la protection des données collectées. Etant donné que les États membres peuvent facilement se décharger de leurs responsabilités en matière de dépistage médical et de vulnérabilité, il n’est pas certain que certains besoins seront effectivement détectés et pris en considération.

      Une initiative à saluer est la proposition d’instaurer un mécanisme indépendant des droits fondamentaux à la frontière. Afin qu’il garantisse une véritable responsabilité face aux violations des droits à la frontière, y compris contre les éloignements et les refoulements récurrents dans un grand nombre d’États membres, ce mécanisme doit être étendu au-delà de la procédure de pré-filtrage, être indépendant des autorités nationales et impliquer des organisations telles que les associations non gouvernementales.

      La proposition fait de la question du retour et de l’expulsion une priorité

      L’objectif principal du Pacte est clair : augmenter de façon significative le nombre de personnes renvoyées ou expulsées de l’UE. La création du poste de Coordinateur en charge des retours au sein de la Commission européenne et d’un directeur exécutif adjoint aux retours au sein de Frontex en sont la preuve, tandis qu’aucune nomination n’est prévue au sujet de la protection de garanties ou de la relocalisation. Le retour est considéré comme un élément admis dans la politique migratoire et le soutien pour des retours dignes, en privilégiant les retours volontaires, l’accès à une assistance au retour et l’aide à la réintégration, sont essentiels. Cependant, l’investissement dans le retour n’est pas une réponse adaptée au non-respect systématique des normes d’asile dans les États membres de l’UE.

      Rien de nouveau sur l’action extérieure : des propositions irréalistes qui risquent de continuer d’affaiblir les droits de l’homme

      La tension entre l’engagement rhétorique pour des partenariats mutuellement bénéfiques et la focalisation visant à placer la migration au cœur des relations entre l’UE et les pays tiers se poursuit. Les tentatives d’externaliser la responsabilité de l’asile et de détourner l’aide au développement, les mécanismes de visa et d’autres outils pour inciter les pays tiers à coopérer sur la gestion migratoire et les accords de réadmission sont maintenues. Cela ne représente pas seulement un risque allant à l’encontre de l’engagement de l’UE pour ses principes de développement, mais cela affaiblit également sa posture internationale en générant de la méfiance et de l’hostilité depuis et à l’encontre des pays tiers. De plus, l’usage d’accords informels et la coopération sécuritaire sur la gestion migratoire avec des pays tels que la Libye ou la Turquie risquent de favoriser les violations des droits de l’homme, d’encourager les gouvernements répressifs et de créer une plus grande instabilité.

      Un manque d’ambition pour des voies légales et sûres vers l’Europe

      L’opportunité pour l’UE d’indiquer qu’elle est prête à contribuer au partage des responsabilités pour la protection au niveau international dans un esprit de partenariat avec les pays qui accueillent la plus grande majorité des réfugiés est manquée. Au lieu de proposer un objectif ambitieux de réinstallation de réfugiés, la Commission européenne a seulement invité les Etats membres à faire plus et a converti les engagements de 2020 en un mécanisme biennal, ce qui résulte en la perte d’une année de réinstallation européenne.

      La reconnaissance du besoin de faciliter la migration de main-d’œuvre à travers différents niveaux de compétences est à saluer, mais l’importance de cette migration dans les économies et les sociétés européennes ne se reflète pas dans les ressources, les propositions et les actions allouées.

      Le soutien aux activités de recherche et de sauvetage et aux actions de solidarité doit être renforcé

      La tragédie humanitaire dans la mer Méditerranée nécessite encore une réponse y compris à travers un soutien financier et des capacités de recherches et de sauvetage. Cet enjeu ainsi que celui du débarquement sont pris en compte dans toutes les propositions, reconnaissant ainsi la crise humanitaire actuelle. Cependant, au lieu de répondre aux comportements et aux dispositions règlementaires des gouvernements qui obstruent les activités de secours et le travail des défendeurs des droits, la Commission européenne suggère que les standards de sécurité sur les navires et les niveaux de communication avec les acteurs privés doivent être surveillés. Les acteurs privés sont également requis d’adhérer non seulement aux régimes légaux, mais aussi aux politiques et pratiques relatives à « la gestion migratoire » qui peuvent potentiellement interférer avec les obligations de recherches et de sauvetage.

      Bien que la publication de lignes directrices pour prévenir la criminalisation de l’action humanitaire soit la bienvenue, celles-ci se limitent aux actes mandatés par la loi avec une attention spécifique aux opérations de sauvetage et de secours. Cette approche risque d’omettre les activités humanitaires telles que la distribution de nourriture, d’abris, ou d’information sur le territoire ou assurés par des organisations non mandatées par le cadre légal qui sont également sujettes à ladite criminalisation et à des restrictions.

      Des signes encourageants pour l’inclusion

      Les changements proposés pour permettre aux réfugiés d’accéder à une résidence de long-terme après trois ans et le renforcement du droit de se déplacer et de travailler dans d’autres Etats membres sont positifs. De plus, la révision du Plan d’action pour l’inclusion et l’intégration et la mise en place d’un groupe d’experts pour collecter l’avis des migrants afin de façonner la politique européenne sont les bienvenues.

      La voie à suivre

      La présentation des propositions de la Commission est le commencement de ce qui promet d’être une autre longue période conflictuelle de négociations sur les politiques européennes d’asile et de migration. Alors que ces négociations sont en cours, il est important de rappeler qu’il existe déjà un régime d’asile européen et que les Etats membres ont des obligations dans le cadre du droit européen et international.

      Cela requiert une action immédiate de la part des décideurs politiques européens, y compris de la part des Etats membres, de :

      Mettre en œuvre les standards existants en lien avec les conditions matérielles d’accueil et les procédures d’asile, d’enquêter sur leur non-respect et de prendre les mesures disciplinaires nécessaires ;
      Sauver des vies en mer, et de garantir des capacités de sauvetage et de secours, permettant un débarquement et une relocalisation rapide ;
      Continuer de s’accorder sur des arrangements ad-hoc de solidarité pour alléger la pression sur les Etats membres aux frontières extérieures de l’UE et encourager les Etats membres à avoir recours à la relocalisation.

      Concernant les prochaines négociations sur le Pacte, nous recommandons aux co-législateurs de :

      Rejeter l’application obligatoire de la procédure d’asile ou de retour à la frontière : ces procédures aux standards abaissés réduisent les garanties des demandeurs d’asile et augmentent le recours à la rétention. Elles exacerbent le manque de solidarité actuel sur l’asile dans l’UE en plaçant plus de responsabilité sur les Etats membres aux frontières extérieures. L’expérience des hotspots et d’autres initiatives similaires démontrent que l’ajout de procédures ou d’étapes dans l’asile peut créer des charges administratives et des coûts significatifs, et entraîner une plus grande inefficacité ;
      Se diriger vers la fin de la privation de liberté de migrants, et interdire la rétention de mineurs conformément à la Convention internationale des droits de l’enfant, et de dédier suffisamment de ressources pour des solutions non privatives de libertés appropriées pour les mineurs et leurs familles ;
      Réajuster les propositions de réforme afin de se concentrer sur le maintien et l’amélioration des standards des droits de l’homme et de l’asile en Europe, plutôt que sur le retour ;
      Œuvrer à ce que les propositions réforment fondamentalement la façon dont la responsabilité des demandeurs d’asile en UE est organisée, en adressant les problèmes liés au principe de pays de première entrée, afin de créer un véritable mécanisme de solidarité ;
      Limiter les possibilités pour les Etats membres de déroger à leurs responsabilités d’enregistrer les demandes d’asile ou d’examiner les demandes, afin d’éviter de créer des incitations à opérer en mode gestion de crise et à diminuer les standards de l’asile ;
      Augmenter les garanties pendant la procédure de pré-filtrage pour assurer le droit à l’information, l’accès à une aide et une représentation juridique, la détection et la prise en charge des vulnérabilités et des besoins de santé, et une réponse aux préoccupations liées à l’enregistrement et à la protection des données ;
      Garantir que le mécanisme de suivi des droits fondamentaux aux frontières dispose d’une portée large afin de couvrir toutes les violations des droits fondamentaux à la frontière, qu’il soit véritablement indépendant des autorités nationales et dispose de ressources adéquates et qu’il contribue à la responsabilisation ;
      S’opposer aux tentatives d’utiliser l’aide au développement, au commerce, aux investissements, aux mécanismes de visas, à la coopération sécuritaire et autres politiques et financements pour faire pression sur les pays tiers dans leur coopération étroitement définie par des objectifs européens de contrôle migratoire ;
      Evaluer l’impact à long-terme des politiques migratoires d’externalisation sur la paix, le respect des droits et le développement durable et garantir que la politique extérieure migratoire ne contribue pas à la violation de droits de l’homme et prenne en compte les enjeux de conflits ;
      Développer significativement les voies légales et sûres vers l’UE en mettant en œuvre rapidement les engagements actuels de réinstallation, en proposant de nouveaux objectifs ambitieux et en augmentant les opportunités de voies d’accès à la protection ainsi qu’à la migration de main-d’œuvre et universitaire en UE ;
      Renforcer les exceptions à la criminalisation lorsqu’il s’agit d’actions humanitaires et autres activités indépendantes de la société civile et enlever les obstacles auxquels font face les acteurs de la société civile fournissant une assistance vitale et humanitaire sur terre et en mer ;
      Mettre en place une opération de recherche et de sauvetage en mer Méditerranée financée et coordonnée par l’UE ;
      S’appuyer sur les propositions prometteuses pour soutenir l’inclusion à travers l’accès à la résidence à long-terme et les droits associés et la mise en œuvre du Plan d’action sur l’intégration et l’inclusion au niveau européen, national et local.

      https://www.forumrefugies.org/s-informer/positions/europe/774-pacte-europeen-sur-la-migration-et-l-asile-afin-de-garantir-un-no

    • Nouveau Pacte européen  : les migrant.e.s et réfugié.e.s traité.e.s comme des « # colis à trier  »

      Le jour même de la Conférence des Ministres européens de l’Intérieur, EuroMed Droits présente son analyse détaillée du nouveau Pacte européen sur l’asile et la migration, publié le 23 septembre dernier (https://euromedrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Analysis-of-Asylum-and-Migration-Pact_Final_Clickable.pdf).

      On peut résumer les plus de 500 pages de documents comme suit  : le nouveau Pacte européen sur l’asile et la migration déshumanise les migrant.e.s et les réfugié.e.s, les traitant comme des «  #colis à trier  » et les empêchant de se déplacer en Europe. Ce Pacte soulève de nombreuses questions en matière de respect des droits humains, dont certaines sont à souligner en particulier  :

      L’UE détourne le concept de solidarité. Le Pacte vise clairement à «  rétablir la confiance mutuelle entre les États membres  », donnant ainsi la priorité à la #cohésion:interne de l’UE au détriment des droits des migrant.e.s et des réfugié.e.s. La proposition laisse le choix aux États membres de contribuer – en les mettant sur un pied d’égalité – à la #réinstallation, au #rapatriement, au soutien à l’accueil ou à l’#externalisation des frontières. La #solidarité envers les migrant.e.s et les réfugié.e.s et leurs droits fondamentaux sont totalement ignorés.

      Le pacte promeut une gestion «  sécuritaire  » de la migration. Selon la nouvelle proposition, les migrant.e.s et les réfugié.e.s seront placé.e.s en #détention et privé.e.s de liberté à leur arrivée. La procédure envisagée pour accélérer la procédure de demande d’asile ne pourra se faire qu’au détriment des lois sur l’asile et des droits des demandeur.se.s. Il est fort probable que la #procédure se déroulera de manière arbitraire et discriminatoire, en fonction de la nationalité du/de la demandeur.se, de son taux de reconnaissance et du fait que le pays dont il/elle provient est «  sûr  », ce qui est un concept douteux.

      L’idée clé qui sous-tend cette vision est simple  : externaliser autant que possible la gestion des frontières en coopérant avec des pays tiers. L’objectif est de faciliter le retour et la réadmission des migrant.e.s dans le pays d’où ils/elles sont parti.es. Pour ce faire, l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes (Frontex) verrait ses pouvoirs renforcés et un poste de coordinateur.trice européen.ne pour les retours serait créé. Le pacte risque de facto de fournir un cadre juridique aux pratiques illégales telles que les refoulements, les détentions arbitraires et les mesures visant à réduire davantage la capacité en matière d’asile. Des pratiques déjà en place dans certains États membres.

      Le Pacte présente quelques aspects «  positifs  », par exemple en matière de protection des enfants ou de regroupement familial, qui serait facilité. Mais ces bonnes intentions, qui doivent être mises en pratique, sont noyées dans un océan de mesures répressives et sécuritaires.

      EuroMed Droits appelle les Etats membres de l’UE à réfléchir en termes de mise en œuvre pratique (ou non) de ces mesures. Non seulement elles violent les droits humains, mais elles sont impraticables sur le terrain  : la responsabilité de l’évaluation des demandes d’asile reste au premier pays d’arrivée, sans vraiment remettre en cause le Règlement de Dublin. Cela signifie que des pays comme l’Italie, Malte, l’Espagne, la Grèce et Chypre continueront à subir une «  pression  » excessive, ce qui les encouragera à poursuivre leurs politiques de refoulement et d’expulsion. Enfin, le Pacte ne répond pas à la problématique urgente des «  hotspots  » et des camps de réfugié.e.s comme en Italie ou en Grèce et dans les zones de transit à l’instar de la Hongrie. Au contraire, cela renforce ce modèle dangereux en le présentant comme un exemple à exporter dans toute l’Europe, alors que des exemples récents ont démontré l’impossibilité de gérer ces camps de manière humaine.

      https://euromedrights.org/fr/publication/nouveau-pacte-europeen%e2%80%af-les-migrant-e-s-et-refugie-e-s-traite

      #paquets_de_la_poste #paquets #poste #tri #pays_sûrs

    • A “Fresh Start” or One More Clunker? Dublin and Solidarity in the New Pact

      In ongoing discussions on the reform of the CEAS, solidarity is a key theme. It stands front and center in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum: after reassuring us of the “human and humane approach” taken, the opening quote stresses that Member States must be able to “rely on the solidarity of our whole European Union”.

      In describing the need for reform, the Commission does not mince its words: “[t]here is currently no effective solidarity mechanism in place, and no efficient rule on responsibility”. It’s a remarkable statement: barely one year ago, the Commission maintained that “[t]he EU [had] shown tangible and rapid support to Member States under most pressure” throughout the crisis. Be that as it may, we are promised a “fresh start”. Thus, President Von der Leyen has announced on the occasion of the 2020 State of the Union Address that “we will abolish the Dublin Regulation”, the 2016 Dublin IV Proposal (examined here) has been withdrawn, and the Pact proposes a “new solidarity mechanism” connected to “robust and fair management of the external borders” and capped by a new “governance framework”.

      Before you buy the shiny new package, you are advised to consult the fine print however. Yes, the Commission proposes to abolish the Dublin III Regulation and withdraws the Dublin IV Proposal. But the Proposal for an Asylum and Migration Management Regulation (hereafter “the Migration Management Proposal”) reproduces word-for-word the Dublin III Regulation, subject to amendments drawn … from the Dublin IV Proposal! As for the “governance framework” outlined in Articles 3-7 of the Migration Management Proposal, it’s a hodgepodge of purely declamatory provisions (e.g. Art. 3-4), of restatements of pre-existing obligations (Art. 5), of legal bases authorizing procedures that require none (Art. 7). The one new item is a yearly monitoring exercise centered on an “European Asylum and Migration Management Strategy” (Art. 6), which seems as likely to make a difference as the “Mechanism for Early Warning, Preparedness and Crisis Management”, introduced with much fanfare with the Dublin III Regulation and then left in the drawer before, during and after the 2015/16 crisis.

      Leaving the provisions just mentioned for future commentaries – fearless interpreters might still find legal substance in there – this contribution focuses on four points: the proposed amendments to Dublin, the interface between Dublin and procedures at the border, the new solidarity mechanism, and proposals concerning force majeure. Caveat emptor! It is a jungle of extremely detailed and sometimes obscure provisions. While this post is longer than usual – warm thanks to the lenient editors! – do not expect an exhaustive summary, nor firm conclusions on every point.
      Dublin, the Undying

      To borrow from Mark Twain, reports of the death of the Dublin system have been once more greatly exaggerated. As noted, Part III of the Migration Management Proposal (Articles 8-44) is for all intents and purposes an amended version of the Dublin III Regulation, and most of the amendments are lifted from the 2016 Dublin IV Proposal.

      A first group of amendments concerns the responsibility criteria. Some expand the possibilities to allocate applicants based on their “meaningful links” with Member States: Article 2(g) expands the family definition to include siblings, opening new possibilities for reunification; Article 19(4) enlarges the criterion based on previous legal abode (i.e. expired residence documents); in a tip of the hat to the Wikstroem Report, commented here, Article 20 introduces a new criterion based on prior education in a Member State.

      These are welcome changes, but all that glitters is not gold. The Commission advertises “streamlined” evidentiary requirements to facilitate family reunification. These would be necessary indeed: evidentiary issues have long undermined the application of the family criteria. Unfortunately, the Commission is not proposing anything new: Article 30(6) of the Migration Management Proposal corresponds in essence to Article 22(5) of the Dublin III Regulation.

      Besides, while the Commission proposes to expand the general definition of family, the opposite is true of the specific definition of family applicable to “dependent persons”. Under Article 16 of the Dublin III Regulation, applicants who e.g. suffer from severe disabilities are to be kept or brought together with a care-giving parent, child or sibling residing in a Member State. Due to fears of sham marriages, spouses have been excluded and this is legally untenable and inhumane, but instead of tackling the problem the Commission proposes in Article 24 to worsen it by excluding siblings. The end result is paradoxical: persons needing family support the most will be deprived – for no apparent reason other than imaginary fears of “abuses” – of the benefits of enlarged reunification possibilities. “[H]uman and humane”, indeed.

      The fight against secondary movements inspires most of the other amendments to the criteria. In particular, Article 21 of the Proposal maintains and extends the much-contested criterion of irregular entry while clarifying that it applies also to persons disembarked after a search and rescue (SAR) operation. The Commission also proposes that unaccompanied children be transferred to the first Member State where they applied if no family criterion is applicable (Article 15(5)). This would overturn the MA judgment of the ECJ whereby in such cases the asylum claim must be examined in the State where the child last applied and is present. It’s not a technical fine point: while the case-law of the ECJ is calculated to spare children the trauma of a transfer, the proposed amendment would subject them again to the rigours of Dublin.

      Again to discourage secondary movements, the Commission proposes – as in 2016 – a second group of amendments: new obligations for the applicants (Articles 9-10). Applicants must in principle apply in the Member State of first entry, remain in that State for the duration of the Dublin procedure and, post-transfer, remain in the State responsible. Moving to the “wrong” State entails losing the benefits of the Reception Conditions Directive, subject to “the need to ensure a standard of living in accordance with” the Charter. It is debatable whether this is a much lesser standard of reception. More importantly: as reception conditions in line with the Directive are seldom guaranteed in several frontline Member States, the prospect of being treated “in accordance with the Charter” elsewhere will hardly dissuade applicants from moving on.

      The 2016 Proposal foresaw, as further punishment, the mandatory application of accelerated procedures to “secondary movers”. This rule disappears from the Migration Management Proposal, but as Daniel Thym points out in his forthcoming contribution on secondary movements, it remains in Article 40(1)(g) of the 2016 Proposal for an Asylum Procedures Regulation. Furthermore, the Commission proposes deleting Article 18(2) of the Dublin III Regulation, i.e. the guarantee that persons transferred back to a State that has meanwhile discontinued or rejected their application will have their case reopened, or a remedy available. This is a dangerous invitation to Member States to reintroduce “discontinuation” practices that the Commission itself once condemned as incompatible with effective access to status determination.

      To facilitate responsibility-determination, the Proposal further obliges applicants to submit relevant information before or at the Dublin interview. Late submissions are not to be considered. Fairness would demand that justified delays be excused. Besides, it is also proposed to repeal Article 7(3) of the Dublin III Regulation, whereby authorities must take into account evidence of family ties even if produced late in the process. All in all, then, the Proposal would make proof of family ties harder, not easier as the Commission claims.

      A final group of amendments concern the details of the Dublin procedure, and might prove the most important in practice.

      Some “streamline” the process, e.g. with shorter deadlines (e.g. Article 29(1)) and a simplified take back procedure (Article 31). Controversially, the Commission proposes again to reduce the scope of appeals against transfers to issues of ill-treatment and misapplication of the family criteria (Article 33). This may perhaps prove acceptable to the ECJ in light of its old Abdullahi case-law. However, it contravenes Article 13 ECHR, which demands an effective remedy for the violation of any Convention right.
      Other procedural amendments aim to make it harder for applicants to evade transfers. At present, if a transferee absconds for 18 months, the transfer is cancelled and the transferring State becomes responsible. Article 35(2) of the Proposal allows the transferring State to “stop the clock” if the applicant absconds, and to resume the transfer as soon as he reappears.
      A number of amendments make responsibility more “stable” once assigned, although not as “permanent” as the 2016 Proposal would have made it. Under Article 27 of the Proposal, the responsibility of a State will only cease if the applicant has left the Dublin area in compliance with a return decision. More importantly, under Article 26 the responsible State will have to take back even persons to whom it has granted protection. This would be a significant extension of the scope of the Dublin system, and would “lock” applicants in the responsible State even more firmly and more durably. Perhaps by way of compensation, the Commission proposes that beneficiaries of international protection obtain “long-term status” – and thus mobility rights – after three years of residence instead of five. However, given that it is “very difficult in practice” to exercise such rights, the compensation seems more theoretical than effective and a far cry from a system of free movement capable of offsetting the rigidities of Dublin.

      These are, in short, the key amendments foreseen. While it’s easy enough to comment on each individually, it is more difficult to forecast their aggregate impact. Will they – to paraphrase the Commission – “improv[e] the chances of integration” and reduce “unauthorised movements” (recital 13), and help closing “the existing implementation gap”? Probably not, as none of them is a game-changer.

      Taken together, however, they might well aggravate current distributive imbalances. Dublin “locks in” the responsibilities of the States that receive most applications – traditional destinations such as Germany or border States such as Italy – leaving the other Member States undisturbed. Apart from possible distributive impacts of the revised criteria and of the now obligations imposed on applicants, first application States will certainly be disadvantaged combination by shortened deadlines, security screenings (see below), streamlined take backs, and “stable” responsibility extending to beneficiaries of protection. Under the “new Dublin rules” – sorry for the oxymoron! – effective solidarity will become more necessary than ever.
      Border procedures and Dublin

      Building on the current hotspot approach, the Proposals for a Screening Regulation and for an Asylum Procedures Regulation outline a new(ish) “pre-entry” phase. This will be examined in a forthcoming post by Lyra Jakuleviciene, but the interface with infra-EU allocation deserves mention here.

      In a nutshell, persons irregularly crossing the border will be screened for the purpose of identification, health and security checks, and registration in Eurodac. Protection applicants may then be channelled to “border procedures” in a broad range of situations. This will be mandatory if the applicant: (a) attempts to mislead the authorities; (b) can be considered, based on “serious reasons”, “a danger to the national security or public order of the Member States”; (c) comes from a State whose nationals have a low Union-wide recognition rate (Article 41(3) of the Asylum Procedure Proposal).

      The purpose of the border procedure is to assess applications “without authorising the applicant’s entry into the Member State’s territory” (here, p.4). Therefore, it might have seemed logical that applicants subjected to it be excluded from the Dublin system – as is the case, ordinarily, for relocations (see below). Not so: under Article 41(7) of the Proposal, Member States may apply Dublin in the context of border procedures. This weakens the idea of “seamless procedures at the border” somewhat but – from the standpoint of both applicants and border States – it is better than a watertight exclusion: applicants may still benefit from “meaningful link” criteria, and border States are not “stuck with the caseload”. I would normally have qualms about giving Member States discretion in choosing whether Dublin rules apply. But as it happens, Member States who receive an asylum application already enjoy that discretion under the so-called “sovereignty clause”. Nota bene: in exercising that discretion, Member States apply EU Law and must observe the Charter, and the same principle must certainly apply under the proposed Article 41(7).

      The only true exclusion from the Dublin system is set out in Article 8(4) of the Migration Management Proposal. Under this provision, Member States must carry out a security check of all applicants as part of the pre-entry screening and/or after the application is filed. If “there are reasonable grounds to consider the applicant a danger to national security or public order” of the determining State, the other criteria are bypassed and that State becomes responsible. Attentive readers will note that the wording of Article 8(4) differs from that of Article 41(3) of the Asylum Procedure Proposal (e.g. “serious grounds” vs “reasonable grounds”). It is therefore unclear whether the security grounds to “screen out” an applicant from Dublin are coextensive with the security grounds making a border procedure mandatory. Be that as it may, a broad application of Article 8(4) would be undesirable, as it would entail a large-scale exclusion from the guarantees that applicants derive from the Dublin system. The risk is moderate however: by applying Article 8(4) widely, Member States would be increasing their own share of responsibilities under the system. As twenty-five years of Dublin practice indicate, this is unlikely to happen.
      “Mandatory” and “flexible” solidarity under the new mechanism

      So far, the Migration Management Proposal does not look significantly different from the 2016 Dublin IV Proposal, which did not itself fundamentally alter existing rules, and which went down in flames in inter- and intra-institutional negotiations. Any hopes of a “fresh start”, then, are left for the new solidarity mechanism.

      Unfortunately, solidarity is a difficult subject for the EU: financial support has hitherto been a mere fraction of Member State expenditure in the field; operational cooperation has proved useful but cannot tackle all the relevant aspects of the unequal distribution of responsibilities among Member States; relocations have proved extremely beneficial for thousands of applicants, but are intrinsically complex operations and have also proven politically divisive – an aspect which has severely undermined their application and further condemned them to be small scale affairs relative to the needs on the ground. The same goes a fortiori for ad hoc initiatives – such as those that followed SAR operations over the last two years– which furthermore lack the predictability that is necessary for sharing responsibilities effectively. To reiterate what the Commission stated, there is currently “no effective solidarity mechanism in place”.

      Perhaps most importantly, the EU has hitherto been incapable of accurately gauging the distributive asymmetries on the ground, to articulate a clear doctrine guiding the key determinations of “how much solidarity” and “what kind(s) of solidarity”, and to define commensurate redistributive targets on this basis (see here, p.34 and 116).

      Alas, the opportunity to elaborate a solidarity doctrine for the EU has been completely missed. Conceptually, the New Pact does not go much farther than platitudes such as “[s]olidarity implies that all Member States should contribute”. As Daniel Thym aptly observed, “pragmatism” is the driving force behind the Proposal: the Commission starts from a familiar basis – relocations – and tweaks it in ways designed to convince stakeholders that solidarity becomes both “compulsory” and “flexible”. It’s a complicated arrangement and I will only describe it in broad strokes, leaving the crucial dimensions of financial solidarity and operational cooperation to forthcoming posts by Iris Goldner Lang and Lilian Tsourdi.

      The mechanism operates according to three “modes”. In its basic mode, it is to replace ad hoc solidarity initiatives following SAR disembarkations (Articles 47-49 of the Migration Management Proposal):

      The Commission determines, in its yearly Migration Management Report, whether a State is faced with “recurring arrivals” following SAR operations and determines the needs in terms of relocations and other contributions (capacity building, operational support proper, cooperation with third States).
      The Member States are “invited” to notify the “contributions they intend to make”. If offers are sufficient, the Commission combines them and formally adopts a “solidarity pool”. If not, it adopts an implementing act summarizing relocation targets for each Member State and other contributions as offered by them. Member States may react by offering other contributions instead of relocations, provided that this is “proportional” – one wonders how the Commission will tally e.g. training programs for Libyan coastguards with relocation places.
      If the relocations offered fall 30% short of the target indicated by the Commission, a “critical mass correction mechanism” will apply: each Member States will be obliged to meet at least 50% of the quota of relocations indicated by the Commission. However, and this is the new idea offered by the Commission to bring relocation-skeptics onboard, Member States may discharge their duties by offering “return sponsorships” instead of relocations: the “sponsor” Member State commits to support the benefitting Member State to return a person and, if the return is not carried out within eight months, to accept her on its territory.

      If I understand correctly the fuzzy provision I have just summarized – Article 48(2) – it all boils down to “half-compulsory” solidarity: Member States are obliged to cover at least 50% of the relocation needs set by the Commission through relocations or sponsorships, and the rest with other contributions.

      After the “solidarity pool” is established and the benefitting Member State requests its activation, relocations can start:

      The eligible persons are those who applied for protection in the benefitting State, with the exclusion of those that are subject to border procedures (Article 45(1)(a)).Also excluded are those whom Dublin criteria based on “meaningful links” – family, abode, diplomas – assign to the benefitting State (Article 57(3)). These rules suggest that the benefitting State must carry out identification, screening for border procedures and a first (reduced?) Dublin procedure before it can declare an applicant eligible for relocation.
      Persons eligible for return sponsorship are “illegally staying third-country nationals” (Article 45(1)(b)).
      The eligible persons are identified, placed on a list, and matched to Member States based on “meaningful links”. The transfer can only be refused by the State of relocation on security grounds (Article 57(2)(6) and (7)), and otherwise follows the modalities of Dublin transfers in almost all respects (e.g. deadlines, notification, appeals). However, contrary to what happens under Dublin, missing the deadline for transfer does not entail that the relocation is cancelled it (see Article 57(10)).
      After the transfer, applicants will be directly admitted to the asylum procedure in the State of relocation only if it has been previously established that the benefitting State would have been responsible under criteria other than those based on “meaningful links” (Article 58(3)). In all the other cases, the State of relocation will run a Dublin procedure and, if necessary, transfer again the applicant to the State responsible (see Article 58(2)). As for persons subjected to return sponsorship, the State of relocation will pick up the application of the Return Directive where the benefitting State left off (or so I read Article 58(5)!).

      If the Commission concludes that a Member State is under “migratory pressure”, at the request of the concerned State or of its own motion (Article 50), the mechanism operates as described above except for one main point: beneficiaries of protection also become eligible for relocation (Article 51(3)). Thankfully, they must consent thereto and are automatically granted the same status in the relocation State (see Articles 57(3) and 58(4)).

      If the Commission concludes that a Member State is confronted to a “crisis”, rules change further (see Article 2 of the Proposal for a Migration and Asylum Crisis Regulation):

      Applicants subject to the border procedure and persons “having entered irregularly” also become eligible for relocation. These persons may then undergo a border procedure post-relocation (see Article 41(1) and (8) of the Proposal for an Asylum Procedures Regulation).
      Persons subject to return sponsorship are transferred to the sponsor State if their removal does not occur within four – instead of eight – months.
      Other contributions are excluded from the palette of contributions available to the other Member States (Article 2(1)): it has to be relocation or return sponsorship.
      The procedure is faster, with shorter deadlines.

      It is an understatement to say that the mechanism is complex, and your faithful scribe still has much to digest. For the time being, I would make four general comments.

      First, it is not self-evident that this is a good “insurance scheme” for its intended beneficiaries. As noted, the system only guarantees that 50% of the relocation needs of a State will be met. Furthermore, there are hidden costs: in “SAR” and “pressure” modes, the benefitting State has to screen the applicant, register the application, and assess whether border procedures or (some) Dublin criteria apply before it can channel the applicant to relocation. It is unclear whether a 500 lump sum is enough to offset the costs (see Article 79 of the Migration Management Proposal). Besides, in a crisis situation, these preliminary steps might make relocation impractical – think of the Greek registration backlog in 2015/6. Perhaps, extending relocation to persons “having entered irregularly” when the mechanism is in “crisis mode” is meant precisely to take care of this. Similar observations apply to return sponsorship. Under Article 55(4) of the Migration Management Proposal, the support offered by the sponsor to the benefitting State can be rather low key (e.g. “counselling”) and there seems to be no guarantee that the benefitting State will be effectively relieved of the political, administrative and financial costs associated to return. Moving from costs to risks, it is clear that the benefitting State bears all the risks of non implementation – in other words, if the system grinds to a halt or breaks down, it will be Moria all over again. In light of past experience, one can only agree with Thomas Gammelthoft-Hansen that it’s a “big gamble”. Other aspects examined below – the vast margins of discretion left to the Commission, and the easy backdoor opened by the force majeure provisions – do not help either to create predictability.
      Second, as just noted the mechanism gives the Commission practically unlimited discretion at all critical junctures. The Commission will determine whether a Member States is confronted to “recurring arrivals”, “pressure” or a “crisis”. It will do so under definitions so open-textured, and criteria so numerous, that it will be basically the master of its determinations (Article 50 of the Migration Management Proposal). The Commission will determine unilaterally relocation and operational solidarity needs. Finally, the Commission will determine – we do not know how – if “other contributions” are proportional to relocation needs. Other than in the most clear-cut situations, there is no way that anyone can predict how the system will be applied.
      Third: the mechanism reflects a powerful fixation with and unshakable faith in heavy bureaucracy. Protection applicants may undergo up to three “responsibility determination” procedures and two transfers before finally landing in an asylum procedure: Dublin “screening” in the first State, matching, relocation, full Dublin procedure in the relocation State, then transfer. And this is a system that should not “compromise the objective of the rapid processing of applications”(recital 34)! Decidedly, the idea that in order to improve the CEAS it is above all necessary to suppress unnecessary delays and coercion (see here, p.9) has not made a strong impression on the minds of the drafters. The same remark applies mutatis mutandis to return sponsorships: whatever the benefits in terms of solidarity, one wonders if it is very cost-effective or humane to drag a person from State to State so that they can each try their hand at expelling her.
      Lastly and relatedly, applicants and other persons otherwise concerned by the relocation system are given no voice. They can be “matched”, transferred, re-transferred, but subject to few exceptions their aspirations and intentions remain legally irrelevant. In this regard, the “New Pact” is as old school as it gets: it sticks strictly to the “no choice” taboo on which Dublin is built. What little recognition of applicants’ actorness had been made in the Wikstroem Report is gone. Objectifying migrants is not only incompatible with the claim that the approach taken is “human and humane”. It might prove fatal to the administrative efficiency so cherished by the Commission. Indeed, failure to engage applicants is arguably the key factor in the dismal performance of the Dublin system (here, p.112). Why should it be any different under this solidarity mechanism?

      Framing Force Majeure (or inviting defection?)

      In addition to addressing “crisis” situations, the Proposal for a Migration and Asylum Crisis Regulation includes separate provisions on force majeure.

      Thereunder, any Member State may unilaterally declare that it is faced with a situation making it “impossible” to comply with selected CEAS rules, and thus obtain the right – subject to a mere notification – to derogate from them. Member States may obtain in this way longer Dublin deadlines, or even be exempted from the obligation to accept transfers and be liberated from responsibilities if the suspension goes on more than a year (Article 8). Furthermore, States may obtain a six-months suspension of their duties under the solidarity mechanism (Article 9).

      The inclusion of this proposal in the Pact – possibly an attempt to further placate Member States averse to European solidarity? – beggars belief. Legally speaking, the whole idea is redundant: under the case-law of the ECJ, Member States may derogate from any rule of EU Law if confronted to force majeure. However, putting this black on white amounts to inviting (and legalizing) defection. The only conceivable object of rules of this kind would have been to subject force majeure derogations to prior authorization by the Commission – but there is nothing of the kind in the Proposal. The end result is paradoxical: while Member States are (in theory!) subject to Commission supervision when they conclude arrangements facilitating the implementation of Dublin rules, a mere notification will be enough to authorize them to unilaterally tear a hole in the fabric of “solidarity” and “responsibility” so painstakingly – if not felicitously – woven in the Pact.
      Concluding comments

      We should have taken Commissioner Ylva Johansson at her word when she said that there would be no “Hoorays” for the new proposals. Past the avalanche of adjectives, promises and fancy administrative monikers hurled at the reader – “faster, seamless migration processes”; “prevent the recurrence of events such as those seen in Moria”; “critical mass correction mechanism” – one cannot fail to see that the “fresh start” is essentially an exercise in repackaging.

      On responsibility-allocation and solidarity, the basic idea is one that the Commission incessantly returns to since 2007 (here, p. 10): keep Dublin and “correct” it through solidarity schemes. I do sympathize to an extent: realizing a fair balance of responsibilities by “sharing people” has always seemed to me impracticable and undesirable. Still, one would have expected that the abject failure of the Dublin system, the collapse of mutual trust in the CEAS, the meagre results obtained in the field of solidarity – per the Commission’s own appraisal – would have pushed it to bring something new to the table.

      Instead, what we have is a slightly milder version of the Dublin IV Proposal – the ultimate “clunker” in the history of Commission proposals – and an ultra-bureaucratic mechanism for relocation, with the dubious addition of return sponsorships and force majeure provisions. The basic tenets of infra-EU allocation remain the same – “no choice”, first entry – and none of the structural flaws that doomed current schemes to failure is fundamentally tackled (here, p.107): solidarity is beefed-up but appears too unreliable and fuzzy to generate trust; there are interesting steps on “genuine links”, but otherwise no sustained attempt to positively engage applicants; administrative complexity and coercive transfers reign on.

      Pragmatism, to quote again Daniel Thym’s excellent introductory post, is no sin. It is even expected of the Commission. This, however, is a study in path-dependency. By defending the status quo, wrapping it in shiny new paper, and making limited concessions to key policy actors, the Commission may perhaps carry its proposals through. However, without substantial corrections, the “new” Pact is unlikely to save the CEAS or even to prevent new Morias.

      http://eumigrationlawblog.eu/a-fresh-start-or-one-more-clunker-dublin-and-solidarity-in-the-ne

      #Francesco_Maiani

      #force_majeure

    • European Refugee Policy: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Make It Better

      In 2015 and 2016, more than 1 million refugees made their way to the European Union, the largest number of them originating from Syria. Since that time, refugee arrivals have continued, although at a much slower pace and involving people from a wider range of countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

      The EU’s response to these developments has had five main characteristics.

      First, a serious lack of preparedness and long-term planning. Despite the massive material and intelligence resources at its disposal, the EU was caught completely unaware by the mass influx of refugees five years ago and has been playing catch-up ever since. While the emergency is now well and truly over, EU member states continue to talk as if still in the grip of an unmanageable “refugee crisis.”

      Second, the EU’s refugee policy has become progressively based on a strategy known as “externalization,” whereby responsibility for migration control is shifted to unstable states outside Europe. This has been epitomized by the deals that the EU has done with countries such as Libya, Niger, Sudan, and Turkey, all of which have agreed to halt the onward movement of refugees in exchange for aid and other rewards, including support to the security services.

      Third, asylum has become increasingly criminalized, as demonstrated by the growing number of EU citizens and civil society groups that have been prosecuted for their roles in aiding refugees. At the same time, some frontline member states have engaged in a systematic attempt to delegitimize the NGO search-and-rescue organizations operating in the Mediterranean and to obstruct their life-saving activities.

      The fourth characteristic of EU countries’ recent policies has been a readiness to inflict or be complicit in a range of abuses that challenge the principles of both human rights and international refugee law. This can be seen in the violence perpetrated against asylum seekers by the military and militia groups in Croatia and Hungary, the terrible conditions found in Greek refugee camps such as Moria on the island of Lesvos, and, most egregiously of all, EU support to the Libyan Coastguard that enables it to intercept refugees at sea and to return them to abusive detention centers on land.

      Fifth and finally, the past five years have witnessed a serious absence of solidarity within the EU. Frontline states such as Greece and Italy have been left to bear a disproportionate share of the responsibility for new refugee arrivals. Efforts to relocate asylum seekers and resettle refugees throughout the EU have had disappointing results. And countries in the eastern part of the EU have consistently fought against the European Commission in its efforts to forge a more cooperative and coordinated approach to the refugee issue.

      The most recent attempt to formulate such an approach is to be found in the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, which the Commission proposed in September 2020.

      It would be wrong to entirely dismiss the Pact, as it contains some positive elements. These include, for example, a commitment to establish legal pathways to asylum in Europe for people who are in need of protection, and EU support for member states that wish to establish community-sponsored refugee resettlement programs.

      In other respects, however, the Pact has a number of important, serious flaws. It has already been questioned by those countries that are least willing to admit refugees and continue to resist the role of Brussels in this policy domain. The Pact also makes hardly any reference to the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration—a strange omission given the enormous amount of time and effort that the UN has devoted to those initiatives, both of which were triggered by the European emergency of 2015-16.

      At an operational level, the Pact endorses and reinforces the EU’s externalization agenda and envisages a much more aggressive role for Frontex, the EU’s border control agency. At the same time, it empowers member states to refuse entry to asylum seekers on the basis of very vague criteria. As a result, individuals may be more vulnerable to human smugglers and traffickers. There is also a strong likelihood that new refugee camps will spring up on the fringes of Europe, with their residents living in substandard conditions.

      Finally, the Pact places enormous emphasis on the involuntary return of asylum seekers to their countries of origin. It even envisages that a hardline state such as Hungary could contribute to the implementation of the Pact by organizing and funding such deportations. This constitutes an extremely dangerous new twist on the notions of solidarity and responsibility sharing, which form the basis of the international refugee regime.

      If the proposed Pact is not fit for purpose, then what might a more constructive EU refugee policy look like?

      It would in the first instance focus on the restoration of both EU and NGO search-and-rescue efforts in the Mediterranean and establish more predictable disembarkation and refugee distribution mechanisms. It would also mean the withdrawal of EU support for the Libyan Coastguard, the closure of that country’s detention centers, and a substantial improvement of the living conditions experienced by refugees in Europe’s frontline states—changes that should take place with or without a Pact.

      Indeed, the EU should redeploy the massive amount of resources that it currently devotes to the externalization process, so as to strengthen the protection capacity of asylum and transit countries on the periphery of Europe. A progressive approach on the part of the EU would involve the establishment of not only faster but also fair asylum procedures, with appropriate long-term solutions being found for new arrivals, whether or not they qualify for refugee status.

      These changes would help to ensure that those searching for safety have timely and adequate opportunities to access their most basic rights.

      https://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2020/11/5/european-refugee-policy-whats-gone-wrong-and-how-to-make-it-b

  • #CoronaCapitalism and the European #Border_Regime

    As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect people’s lives all over the world, the violence against migrants and refugees has intensified. This article explores #CoronaCapitalism and the Border Regime in a European context. Corporate Watch uses the term “border regime” as a shorthand to mean all of the many different institutions, people, systems and processes involved in trying to control migrants.

    This article only shares the tip-of-the-iceberg of migrant experiences during the coronavirus pandemic and we know there are many other untold stories. If you would like to share your news or experiences, please contact us.

    Mass Containment Camps

    As the world descended into lockdowns in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, tens of thousands of people have been confined in camps in the Western Balkans and Greece, as well as smaller accommodation centres across Europe. New and existing camps were also essentially locked down and the movement of people in and out of camps began to be heavily controlled by police and/or the military.

    The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) has been trying to track what is happening across the Balkans. They write that in Bosnia-Herzegovina, “more than 5,000 people were detained in existing temporary refugee reception centres. They include about 500 unaccompanied minors and several hundred children with families. Persons in need of special care, patients, victims of torture, members of the LGBTQ population, persons diagnosed with mental disorders, and victims of domestic violence have also been locked down into ‘EU-funded’ camps.” Police officers guard the centres and emergency legislation enables them the right to ‘physically force persons trying to leave the centres to return.’

    120,000 people are locked down in containment camps across Greece and the Greek Islands. Disturbing accounts of refugee camps are ever-present but the pandemic has worsened already unbearable conditions. 17,000 refugees live at Moira Refugee Camp where there are 210 people per toilet and 630 people per shower. Coronavirus, uncertainty over suspended asylum applications and the terrible living conditions are all contributing to escalating violence.

    In detention centres in Drama and Athens in Greece, the BVMN report that, “Respondents describe a lack of basic amenities such as running water, showers, or soap. Cramped and overcrowded conditions, with up to 13 inmates housed in one caravan with one, usually non-functioning, toilet. Requests for better services are met with violence at the hands of officers and riot police. On top of this, there have been complaints that no special precautions for COVID-19 are being taken, residents inside told BVMN reporters that sick individuals are not isolated, and are dismissed as having ‘the flu’.”

    While movement restrictions were lifted for Greek residents on 4th May, lockdown is still extended for all camps and centres across Greece and the Islands. This decision triggered thousands of people to protest in Athens. Emergency legislation adopted at the start of March in Greece effectively suspended the registration of asylum applications and implied immediate deportation for those entering the Greek territory, without registration, to their countries of origin or to Turkey.

    Detention and the deportation regime

    While major country-wide lockdowns are an unusual form of restriction of movement, for decades European states have been locking people seeking safety in detention centres. Immigration Removal Centres are essentially prisons for migrants in which people are locked up without trial or time-limit. In the UK the detention system is mostly run for profit by private companies, as detailed in our UK Border Regime book.

    Despite preparing for a pandemic scenario in January 2020, it took public pressure and legal action before the British government released nearly 1000 people from detention centres. As of the end of May, 368 people were still locked up in the profit-making detention centres and many more are living in ‘accommodation centres’ where they have been unable to access coronavirus testing.

    During the pandemic, people have been revolting in several detention centres across France and Belgium. Residents at a refugee centre in Saxony-Anhalt in Germany went on a hunger strike in April to protest against a lack of disinfectant. Hunger strikes have also taken place at detention centres in Tunisia, Cyprus and France.

    Women in a police holding centre for migrants in Greece went on hunger strike in June. In a statement, they wrote: “We will continue the hunger strike until we are free from this captivity. They will either set us free or we shall die”.

    People staged a rooftop protest at a detention centre in Madrid at the start of the outbreak. This was before all the detention centres in Spain were, for the first time in their history, completely emptied. To put this into context, Spain had 6,473 detainees in 2019. Legal challenges have been leveraging the EU Returns Directive which allows detention pending deportation for up to 18 months, but stipulates that if “a reasonable prospect of removal no longer exists…detention ceases to be justified and the person concerned shall be released immediately”.

    With a worldwide reduction in flights, deportations became unfeasible, however, many are afraid that the deportation machine will restart as things “return to normal”.

    Worsening life in the ‘jungle’

    People living in squats and other improvised accommodation have also faced sweeping operations, with people being rounded up and taken to containment camps.

    For those that remained on the street, pandemic restrictions took their toll. In Greece, movement amidst the pandemic was permitted via letters and text messages. For people who did not have the right paperwork, they were fined 150 euros, sometimes multiple times.

    Similarly, in the French city of Calais, people who did not have the right paperwork were commonly denied access to shops and supermarkets, where they may have previously used the bathrooms or bought food to cook. With many volunteer groups unable to operate due to movement restrictions, the availability of food dramatically reduced overnight. Access to services such as showers, phone charging and healthcare also rapidly reduced.

    People in Calais also faced a rise in evictions: 45 evictions were recorded in the first two weeks of lockdown. These expulsions have continued throughout the pandemic. On Friday 10th July 2020, a major police raid in Calais forced more than 500 people onto buses to be taken to ‘reception centres’ across the region.

    In Amsterdam in the Netherlands, some migrants were forced to live in night shelters and made to leave during the daytime – facing constant risks of contracting COVID-19 and police harassment in the city. They protested “I would stay at home if I had one”.

    Many migrant solidarity groups working on the ground lost huge numbers of volunteers due to travel restrictions and health concerns. Access to material donations such as tents, which are commonly collected at the end of festivals, also reduced. A constant supply of these resources is needed because the police routinely take the migrants’ tents away.

    Militarisation of borders

    The pandemic has seen an increase in military forces at borders and camps, persistent police violence and the suspension of ‘rights’ or legal processes. Using ‘State of Emergency’ legislation, the health crisis has been effectively weaponised.

    In March at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe, FRONTEX, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency deployed an additional 100 guards at the Greek Land Border. This is in addition to the agency’s core of 10,000 officers working around Europe.

    In their 2020 Risk Analysis Report, FRONTEX wrote that “the closing of internal borders is binding border guard personnel, which some border authorities have long stopped planning for”. This illuminates a key complexity in border control. For years, Europe has shifted to policing the wider borders of the Schengen Area. As the virus spread between countries within that area, however, states have tried to shut down their own borders.

    Police forces and militaries have become increasingly mobilised to “protect these national borders”. In Slovenia, this meant the military was granted authority to ‘process civilians’ at the border through the government’s activation of Article 37a of the Defence Act. While in Serbia, the army was deployed around border camps to ensure mass containment. 400 new border guards were also dispatched to the Evros land border between Greece and Turkey in addition to an increase in fencing and surveillance technologies.

    Escalating Police Violence

    Although migrants are no strangers to police brutality, national states of emergency have enabled an escalation in police violence. In mid-April an open letter was published by the Eritrean community of the Calais jungle reporting escalating police brutality. It describes the actions of the CRS police (Compagnies républicaines de sécurité); the general guard of the French police, infamous for riot control and repression:

    “They don’t see us as human beings. They insult us with names such as monkey, bitch etc. And for the past few weeks, they have started to threaten our lives by beating us as soon as the opportunity arises. When for example they found a group of two or three people walking towards the food distribution, or in our tents, when we were sleeping. They accelerate in their vehicles while driving in our direction, as if they wanted to crush us. They also took people with them to places far from Calais, and beat them until they lost consciousness.”

    The statement continues with a chronological list of events whereby people were beaten up, hit, gassed, had their arms broken, and were struck on the head so hard they lost consciousness and were taken to hospital by ambulance.

    With fewer people on the streets during the pandemic, police evictions that were not previously possible due to street-level resistance became successful. This was evidenced in the eviction of the Gini occupation at the Polytechnic University in Exarchia, Greece, a location that the police have not dared enter for decades. Dozens of migrant families were rounded up and taken to a detention centre.

    Violent pushbacks across borders

    There has also been an increase in illegal and violent pushbacks. Pushbacks are the informal expulsion (without due process) of individuals or groups to another country. This commonly involves the violent removal of people across a border.

    For example, on April 22nd in North Macedonia, a group of people from Palestine, Morocco and Egypt were pushed back into Greece. Two men were approached by officers in army uniforms and forced onto a bus where officers began to beat them with batons and guns. So much force was used that one man’s arm was fractured. The other members of the small group were later found and abruptly woken by officers. One man was stamped on and kicked across his body and head. Their shoes were removed and they were told to walk the 2km back to the border where they were met with the other group that had been taken there.

    A group of 16 people in Serbia (including one minor) were told they were being taken to a new camp for COVID prevention. They were then forced into a van and driven for nine hours with no stops, toilet or water. They were released at a remote area of hills and told to leave and cross the border to North Macedonia by the officers with guns. When found attempting to cross again days later they were told by police officers, “Don’t come again, we will kill you”.

    In Croatia, police have also started tagging people that they have pushed back with orange spray paint.

    There are also reports that Greek authorities are pushing people back to Turkey. According to the Border Violence Monitoring Network, many people shared experiences of being beaten, robbed and detained before being driven to the border area where military personnel used boats to return them to Turkey across the Evros river. In mid April in Greece, approximately 50 people were taken from Diavata camp in the morning and removed to a nearby police station where they were ordered to lie on the ground – “Sleep here, don’t move”. They were then beaten with batons. Some were also attacked with electric tasers. They were held overnight in a detention space near the border, and beaten further by Greek military officers. The next day they were boated across the river to Turkey by authorities with military uniforms. Another group were taken to the river in the dark and ordered to strip to their underwear.

    As pushbacks continue, people are forced to take even more dangerous routes. In Romania in mid-April, a group were found drowning in the Danube River after their boat capsized. One person was found dead and eight are still missing, while the survivors suffered from hypothermia.

    Danger at Sea

    During the pandemic, increasing numbers of disturbing accounts have been shared by migrants experiencing violence at sea. Between mid March and mid May, Alarm Phone (a hotline for boat people in distress) received 28 emergency calls from the Aegean Sea.

    On the 29th April, a boat carrying 48 refugees from Afghanistan, Congo and Iran, including 18 children, tried to reach Lesvos Island in the early hours of the day. They were pushed back to Turkish waters:

    “We were very scared. We tried to continue towards Lesvos Island. It was only 20 minutes more driving to reach the Greek coast. The big boat let a highspeed boat down, which hunted us down. There were six masked men in black clothes. They stopped us and made many waves. With a long stick they took away our petrol and they broke our engine. They had guns and knives. Then they threw a rope to us and ordered us to fix it on our boat. Then they started pulling us back towards Turkey. After a while they stopped and cut the rope. They returned to the big boat and took distance from us. It was around 6am.

    Then two other boats of the Greek coastguard arrived which were white and grey and drove very fast towards us, starting to make circles around our boat. They created big waves which were pushing us in the direction of Turkish waters. Our boat was taking in water and the kids were screaming. Our boat started breaking from the bottom. We were taking out the water with our boots. We threw all our belongings in the sea to make our boat lighter. Many of us had no life vests. A pregnant lady fainted. The Greeks continued making waves for a long period. A Turkish coastguard boat arrived and stood aside watching and taking photos and videos for more than six hours. Only after 13:30 o’clock the Turkish coastguard boat finally saved us. We were brought to Çanakalle police station and detained for five days.”

    During two months of lockdown, civil monitoring ships (volunteers who monitor the Aegean sea for migrants arriving via boat) were not permitted. In Italy, ports were closed to rescue ships, with many feared lost at sea as a result. Allegations have also emerged that Greece has been using inflatable rafts to deport asylum seekers. These are rafts without motors or propellers that cannot be steered.

    The Maltese Army also hit the headlines after turning away a boat of migrants by gunpoint and giving them the GPS coordinates for Italy. This is after recent reports of sabotaging migrant vessels, and pushing back migrant boats to Libya resulting in 12 people dying. The Maltese government recently signed a deal with the Libyan government to “to coordinate operations against illegal migration”. This includes training the Libyan coastguards and funding for “reception camps”.

    The threat of the virus and worsening conditions have also contributed to a record number of attempts to cross the Channel. The courage and commitment to overcome borders is inspiring, and more successful crossings have taken place during the pandemic. Between March 23rd (when the UK coronavirus lockdown began) and May 11th at least 853 migrants managed to cross the Channel in dinghies and small boats.

    State Scapegoating and the empowerment of the far right

    Far-right politicians and fascist activists have used the pandemic as an opportunity to push for closed borders.

    The election of a new Far Right government in Slovenia in March brought with it the scapegoating of refugees as coronavirus vectors. News conglomerate, NOVA24, heavily publicised a fake news story that the first COVID-19 patient in Italy was a Pakistani person who came via the Balkan route.

    Meanwhile, Hungary’s Government led by Vicktor Orbán moved to deport resident Iranians after claiming they were responsible for the country’s first coronavirus outbreak.

    In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the populist leader of the opposition Lega party tried to blame the movement of migrants from Africa across the Mediterranean as a “major infection threat” shortly before the country was overwhelmed with the pandemic and its rising death toll.

    The racist scapegoating ignores data that proves that initially the virus was transmited predominatnly by tourists’ and business people’s globe-trotting in the service of global capitalism and the fact that those whose movement is restricted, controlled and perilous, who do not have the power and wealth, are the most likely to suffer from the worst effects of both the virus itself and the shut downs.

    The Aftermath of Asylum suspension

    Access to asylum has drastically shifted across Europe with the suspension of many face-to-face application processing centres and appeal hearings. This ‘legal limbo’ is having a severe impact on people’s lives.

    Many people remain housed in temporary accommodation like hotels while they wait for their claim to be processed. This accommodation is often overcrowded and social-distancing guidelines are impossible to follow there. One asylum seeker in South London even shared to The Guardian how two strangers were made to share his double bed for a week in one room. One of the people was later taken to hospital with coronavirus.

    Closed-conditions at Skellig Accomodation Centre, a former hotel in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, Ireland enabled the rapid spread of the virus between the 100 people living there. Misha, an asylum seeker confined there, said she watched in horror as people started falling sick around her.

    “We were sharing bedrooms with strangers. We were sharing the dining room. We were sharing the salt shakers. We were sharing the lobby. We were sharing everything. And if you looked at the whole situation, you cannot really say that it was fit for purpose.”

    People were ordered to stay inside, and meanwhile coronavirus testing was delayed. Protests took place inside and locals demonstrated in solidarity outside.

    Asylum seekers in Glasgow have been protesting their accommodation conditions provided by the Mears Group, who Corporate Watch profiled in 2019. Mears Group won a £1.15 billion contract to run the refugee accommodation system in Scotland, Northern Ireland and much of the north of England. Their profiteering, slum landlord conditions and involvement in mass evictions have been met with anger and resistance. The pandemic has only worsened the experiences of people forced to live in Mears’ accommodation through terrible sanitation and medical neglect. Read our 2020 update on the Mears Group here.

    In the UK, the Home Office put a hold on evictions of asylum seekers during lockdown. The Red Cross stated this spared 50,000 people from the threat of losing their accommodation. Campaigners and tenants fear what will happen post-corona and how many people will face destitution when the ban on evictions lifts this August.

    In addition, a face-to-face screening interview is still needed for new asylum claims. This creates an awful choice for asylum seekers between shielding from the virus (and facing destitution) or going to the interviews in order to access emergency asylum support and begin the formal process. While meagre, the £37.75 per week is essential for survival. One of the reasons the Home Office make face-to-face applications compulsory is because of biometric data harvesting e.g. taking fingerprints of asylum seekers. One asylum seeker with serious health problems has had to make three journeys from Glasgow to Liverpool in the midst of the pandemic to submit paperwork.

    Access to food and other support is also very difficult as many centres and support services are closed.

    Barriers to Healthcare

    It is widely recognised that systemic racism has led to the disproportionate deaths of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people throughout the pandemic. Research has shown Black people are four times more likely to die than white people, and Bangladeshi or Pakistani groups are three times more likely. Many people from these communities are migrants, and many work in the National Health Service and social care sector.

    Research by Patients not Passports, Medact, Migrants Organise and the New Economics Foundation has shown that many migrants are avoiding seeking healthcare. 57% of respondents in their research report that they have avoided seeking healthcare because of fears of being charged for NHS care, data sharing and other migration enforcement concerns. Most people are unaware that treatment for coronavirus is exempt from charging. They also often experience additional barriers including the absence of translation and interpretation services, digital exclusions, housing and long distances from care services.

    Undocumented migrants are incredibly precarious. A project worker interviewed for the Patients not Passports Report shared that:

    “One client lived in a care home where she does live-in care and she has been exposed to Corona but has stated that she will not seek treatment and would rather die there than be detained.”

    Elvis, an undocumented migrant from the Philippines, died at home with suspected coronavirus because he was so scared by the hostility of Government policies that he did not seek any help from the NHS.

    For those that do try to access healthcare, issues such as not having enough phone credit or mobile data, not having wifi or laptops for video appointments, and simply not being able to navigate automated telephone and online systems because of language barriers and non-existent or poor translation, are having a very real impact on people’s ability to receive support. Fears of poor treatment because of people’s past experiences of discrimination and racism even if they access the services is another barrier.

    Exploiting Migrant Labour

    The exploitation of migrant labour has always been essential to sustaining capitalist economies. The pandemic generated contradictory responses from politicians and capitalists alike. Germany’s agricultural sector lobbied hard for opening the border after they were closed, leading the country to lift its ban and let in over 80,000 seasonal workers from Eastern Europe. Yet dilapidated living conditions and overcrowding are sparking new COVID-19 outbreaks, such as the 200 workers that contracted the virus at a slaughterhouse in western Germany.

    In mid May, the Italian government passed a law regularising undocumented migrants, whereby undocumented workers have been encouraged to apply for six-month legal residency permits. There are believed to be about 600,000 undocumented workers in Italy but only people doing ‘essential’ work during the pandemic can apply, mostly in the agricultural sector. Thousands of people live in makeshift encampments near fruit and vegetable farms with no access to running water or electricity.

    Working conditions carry risks of violence. On 18 May, five days after Italy’s regularisation law passed, a 33-year old Indian migrant working in a field outside of Rome was fired after asking his employer for a face mask for protection while at work. When the worker requested his daily wage, he was beaten up and thrown in a nearby canal.

    Conclusion

    The coronavirus crisis has exposed and intensified the brutality required to sustain capitalism – from systemic racism, to violent border controls, to slave labour for industrial agriculture, the list goes on. Despite extremely difficult conditions, undocumented migrants have formed strong movements of solidarity and collective struggle in many European countries. From revolts in detention centres to legal actions to empty them, people are continually resisting the border regime. As people reject a ‘return to normal’ post pandemic, the fall of the border regime must be part of a vision for freedom and liberation in a world beyond capitalism.

    https://corporatewatch.org/coronaborderregime
    #capitalisme #covid-19 #coronavirus #frontières #Europe #migrations #violence #asile #réfugiés #camps #camps_de_réfugiés #containment #rétention #campements #technologie #militarisation_des_frontières #Grèce #Turquie #violences_policières #police #refoulements #push-backs #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #santé #accès_aux_soins #travail #exploitation #pandémie #Frontex #confinement #grève_de_la_faim #fermeture_des_frontières

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @thomas_lacroix

  • Deportation Union: Rights, accountability and the EU’s push to increase forced removals

    Deportation Union provides a critical examination of recently-introduced and forthcoming EU measures designed to increase the number of deportations carried out by national authorities and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. It focuses on three key areas: attempts to reduce or eliminate rights and protections in the law governing deportations; the expansion and interconnection of EU databases and information systems; and the increased budget, powers and personnel awarded to Frontex.

    There has long-been coordinated policy, legal and operational action on migration at EU level, and efforts to increase deportations have always been a part of this. However, since the ‘migration crisis’ of 2015 there has been a rapid increase in new initiatives, the overall aim of which is to limit legal protections afforded to ‘deportable’ individuals at the same time as expanding the ability of national and EU authorities to track, detain and remove people with increasing efficiency.

    The measures and initiatives being introduced by the EU to scale up deportations will require massive public expenditure on technology, infrastructure and personnel; the strengthening and expansion of state and supranational agencies already-lacking in transparency and democratic accountability; and are likely to further undermine claims that the EU occupies the moral high ground in its treatment of migrants. Anyone wishing to question and challenge these developments will first need to understand them. This report attempts to go some way towards assisting with that task.


    https://www.statewatch.org/deportation-union-rights-accountability-and-the-eu-s-push-to-increase-fo
    #machine_à_expulser #expulsions #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #UE #EU #rapport #union_européenne #renvois_forcés #rapport #Statewatch #Frontex #database #base_de_données #données_biométriques #Directive_Retour #return-opticon #Joint_return_operations (#JROs) #Collecting_return_operations #National_return_operations #Afghanistan #réfugiés_afghans #European_Centre_for_Returns #statistiques #chiffres #droits_fondamentaux #droits_humains

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @etraces

  • Taking Hard Line, Greece Turns Back Migrants by Abandoning Them at Sea

    Many Greeks have grown frustrated as tens of thousands of asylum seekers languished on Greek islands. Now, evidence shows, a new conservative government has a new method of keeping them out.

    The Greek government has secretly expelled more than 1,000 refugees from Europe’s borders in recent months, sailing many of them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and then abandoning them in inflatable and sometimes overburdened life rafts.

    Since March, at least 1,072 asylum seekers have been dropped at sea by Greek officials in at least 31 separate expulsions, according to an analysis of evidence by The New York Times from three independent watchdogs, two academic researchers and the Turkish Coast Guard. The Times interviewed survivors from five of those episodes and reviewed photographic or video evidence from all 31.

    “It was very inhumane,” said Najma al-Khatib, a 50-year-old Syrian teacher, who says masked Greek officials took her and 22 others, including two babies, under cover of darkness from a detention center on the island of Rhodes on July 26 and abandoned them in a rudderless, motorless life raft before they were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

    “I left Syria for fear of bombing — but when this happened, I wished I’d died under a bomb,” she told The Times.

    Illegal under international law, the expulsions are the most direct and sustained attempt by a European country to block maritime migration using its own forces since the height of the migration crisis in 2015, when Greece was the main thoroughfare for migrants and refugees seeking to enter Europe.

    The Greek government denied any illegality.

    “Greek authorities do not engage in clandestine activities,’’ said a government spokesman, Stelios Petsas. “Greece has a proven track record when it comes to observing international law, conventions and protocols. This includes the treatment of refugees and migrants.”

    Since 2015, European countries like Greece and Italy have mainly relied on proxies, like the Turkish and Libyan governments, to head off maritime migration. What is different now is that the Greek government is increasingly taking matters into its own hands, watchdog groups and researchers say.

    ​For example, migrants have been forced onto sometimes leaky life rafts and left to drift at the border between Turkish and Greek waters, while others have been left to drift in their own boats after Greek officials disabled their engines.

    “These pushbacks are totally illegal in all their aspects, in international law and in European law,” said Prof. François Crépeau, an expert on international law and a former United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

    “It is a human rights and humanitarian disaster,” Professor Crépeau added.

    Greeks were once far more understanding of the plight of migrants. But many have grown frustrated and hostile after a half-decade in which other European countries offered Greece only modest assistance as tens of thousands of asylum seekers languished in squalid camps on overburdened Greek islands.

    Since the election last year of a new conservative government under Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece has taken a far harder line against the migrants — often refugees from the war in Syria — who push off Turkish shores for Europe.

    The harsher approach comes as tensions have mounted with Turkey, itself burdened with 3.6 million refugees from the Syrian war, far more than any other nation.

    Greece believes that Turkey has tried to weaponize the migrants to increase pressure on Europe for aid and assistance in the Syrian War. But it has also added pressure on Greece at a time when the two nations and others spar over contested gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

    For several days in late February and early March, the Turkish authorities openly bused thousands of migrants to the Greek land border in a bid to set off a confrontation, leading to the shooting of at least one Syrian refugee and the immediate extrajudicial expulsions of hundreds of migrants who made it to Greek territory.

    For years, Greek officials have been accused of intercepting and expelling migrants, on a sporadic and infrequent basis, usually before the migrants manage to land their boats on Greek soil.

    But experts say Greece’s behavior during the pandemic has been far more systematic and coordinated. Hundreds of migrants have been denied the right to seek asylum even after they have landed on Greek soil, and they’ve been forbidden to appeal their expulsion through the legal system.

    “They’ve seized the moment,” Professor Crépeau said of the Greeks. “The coronavirus has provided a window of opportunity to close national borders to whoever they’ve wanted.”

    Emboldened by the lack of sustained criticism from the European Union, where the migration issue has roiled politics, Greece has hardened its approach in the eastern Mediterranean in recent months.

    Migrants landing on the Greek islands from Turkey have frequently been forced onto sometimes leaky, inflatable life rafts, dropped at the boundary between Turkish and Greek waters, and left to drift until being spotted and rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

    “This practice is totally unprecedented in Greece,” said Niamh Keady-Tabbal, a doctoral researcher at the Irish Center for Human Rights, and one of the first to document the phenomenon.

    “Greek authorities are now weaponizing rescue equipment to illegally expel asylum seekers in a new, violent and highly visible pattern of pushbacks spanning several Aegean Islands,” Ms. Keady-Tabbal said.

    Ms. al-Khatib, who recounted her ordeal for The Times, said she entered Turkey last November with her two sons, 14 and 12, fleeing the advance of the Syrian Army. Her husband, who had entered several weeks earlier, soon died of cancer, Ms. al-Khatib said.

    With few prospects in Turkey, the family tried to reach Greece by boat three times this summer, failing once in May because their smuggler did not show up, and a second time in June after being intercepted in Greek waters and towed back to the Turkish sea border, she said.

    On their third attempt, on July 23 at around 7 a.m., they landed on the Greek island of Rhodes, Ms. al-Khatib said, an account corroborated by four other passengers interviewed by The Times. They were detained by Greek police officers and taken to a small makeshift detention facility after handing over their identification documents.

    Using footage filmed at this site by two passengers, a Times reporter was able to identify the facility’s location beside the island’s main ferry port and visit the camp.

    A Coast Guard officer and an official at the island’s mayoralty both said the site falls under the jurisdiction of the Port Police, an arm of the Hellenic Coast Guard.

    A Palestinian refugee, living in a disused slaughterhouse beside the camp, confirmed that Ms. al-Khatib had been there, recounting how he had spoken to her through the camp’s fence and bought her tablets to treat her hypertension, which Greek officials had refused to supply her.

    On the evening of July 26, Ms. al-Khatib and the other detainees said that police officers had loaded them onto a bus, telling them they were being taken to a camp on another island, and then to Athens.

    Instead, masked Greek officials transferred them to two vessels that ferried them out to sea before dropping them on rafts at the Turkish maritime border, she and other survivors said.

    Amid choppy waves, the group, which included two babies, was forced to drain the raft using their hands as water slopped over the side, they said.

    The group was rescued at 4:30 a.m. by the Turkish Coast Guard, according to a report by the Coast Guard that included a photograph of Ms. al-Khatib as she left the life raft.

    Ms. al-Khatib tried to reach Greece for a fourth time, on Aug. 6, but said her boat was stopped off the island of Lesbos by Greek officials, who removed its fuel and towed it back to Turkish waters.

    Some groups of migrants have been transferred to the life rafts even before landing on Greek soil.

    On May 13, Amjad Naim, a 24-year-old Palestinian law student, was among a group of 30 migrants intercepted by Greek officials as they approached the shores of Samos, a Greek island close to Turkey.

    The migrants were quickly transferred to two small life rafts that began to deflate under the weight of so many people, Mr. Naim said. Transferred to two other rafts, they were then towed back toward Turkey.

    Videos captured by Mr. Naim on his phone show the two rafts being tugged across the sea by a large white vessel. Footage subsequently published by the Turkish Coast Guard shows the same two rafts being rescued by Turkish officials later in the day.

    Migrants have also been left to drift in the boats they arrived on, after Greek officials disabled their engines, survivors and researchers say. And on at least two occasions, migrants have been abandoned on Ciplak, an uninhabited island within Turkish waters, instead of being placed on life rafts.

    “Eventually the Turkish Coast Guard came to fetch us,” said one Palestinian survivor who was among a group abandoned on Ciplak in early July, and who sent videos of their time on the island. A report from the Turkish Coast Guard corroborated his account.

    In parallel, several rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have documented how the Greek authorities have rounded up migrants living legally in Greece and secretly expelled them without legal recourse across the Evros River, which divides mainland Greece from Turkey.

    Feras Fattouh, a 30-year-old Syrian X-ray technician, said he was arrested by the Greek police on July 24 in Igoumenitsa, a port in western Greece. Mr. Fattouh had been living legally in Greece since November 2019 with his wife and son, and showed The Times documents to prove it.

    But after being detained by the police in Igoumenitsa, Mr. Fattouh said, he was robbed and driven about 400 miles east to the Turkish border, before being secretly put on a dinghy with 18 others and sent across the river to Turkey. His wife and son remain in Greece.

    “Syrians are suffering in Turkey,” Mr. Fattouh said. “We’re suffering in Greece. Where are we supposed to go?”

    Ylva Johansson, who oversees migration policy at the European Commission, the civil service for the European Union, said she was concerned by the accusations but had no power to investigate them.

    “We cannot protect our European border by violating European values and by breaching people’s rights,” Ms. Johansson said in an email. “Border control can and must go hand in hand with respect for fundamental rights.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/world/europe/greece-migrants-abandoning-sea.html?searchResultPosition=1

    #Grèce #refoulement #refoulements #expulsions #Evros #îles #Turquie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-back

    –—

    sur les refoulements dans la région de l’Evros (à partir de 2018), voir aussi :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/710720

    • Message de l’Aegean Boat Report, 12.08.2020 :

      57 people that arrived on two boats on Lesvos north yesterday seems to have disappeared, port police on Lesvos claims there was no arrivals.
      First boat arrived on a Korakas, Lesvos north during the night, locals in the area claims to have heard gunshots coming from Korakas. The boat was carrying 24 people, 7 was picked up by police on arrival location, the rest, 17 people managed to flee to the woods in the dark. Later in the day, the rest was found by port police, transported from the area in a minivan. Question is, where did port police take them? They are not registered as arrived anywhere, neither the quarantine camp in the north or south has any new arrivals registered.
      Second boat landed in Gavathas, Lesvos north west before first light, carrying 33 people. Locals in the area reported on the new arrivals, also these people were taken away by port police, nobody has seen them since, they are not registered anywhere on Lesvos.
      Port police on Lesvos claims that there has been no new arrivals at all yesterday in the north, and that anyone saying otherwise is pushing “fake news”. There are no reports in any local newspaper on arrivals from Lesvos north yesterday, only one boat carrying 55 people that landed in Skala Mistegnon last night.
      Aegean Boat Report has received documentation that proves that these people actually arrived, there is no question about it! Videos, pictures and location data proves that they where there, question is where did port police take them, and why are they not registered anywhere?
      Yesterday before sundown Turkish coast guard picked up 57 people from two life rafts drifting outside Bademli, Turkey. From pictures posted by TCG, Aegean Boat Report has identified 4 people that also are in pictures and videos that ABR received from Korakas yesterday morning, the identification is 100%.
      There is no doubt that the people from the two boats that landed on Lesvos north yesterday was illegal deported by the Greek Coast Guard. They where taken from safety on land on Lesvos, and put back in the sea in life rafts, helplessly drifting, what kind of people would put children adrift at sea, how can they sleep at night.. This is not human behavior, not even animals would be this cruel!
      Many of Aegean Boat Report’s followers have in the past asked “what can we do?”, “how can we stop this?”, and the usual reply was, you can spread the news, share the info. It’s obviously not enough, now the gloves are off, it’s time to take action in a more direct way!
      Aegean Boat Report call’s upon all followers to participate, to make your voice heard, together this voice can make a difference! Pick up your phone and call the port authority of Mytilíni, Lesvos, and demand answers! They will deny any involvement in illegal activities, but we know they are lying!
      Port police Mytilini: +30 2251 040827
      (Number is open 24/7)
      We need them to understand that we don’t tolerate this any longer, and that there are many people all over the world that are watching what they are doing. One call will not change anything, but if 100 people call, 1000 people, perhaps they will start to understand that we do not tolerate this any longer!
      To call any public authority number is a common right, without any conditions or clauses, it’s fully legal activity that can be taken by anyone without any legal consequences. ABR has consulted Greek lawyers on the matter, and it’s totally legal. But ABR ask you to stay clear of all Emergancy channel’s, don’t flood European Emergancy numbers, only use numbers provided her!
      Aegean Boat Report will from now on, in every case regarding pushbacks and other illegal activities, publish the Port Police number of the area the incident has taken place, so that people can call to demand answers. The more people that calls these numbers, asking questions, the better. At some point they will understand that we will not stop before they do!
      These violations of international laws and human rights has been going on for to long, blessed and financed by Europe. The presence of NATO and FRONTEX is massive in the Aegean Sea, they all know what is going on every single day, but they do nothing, they just watch.
      It’s time we make them listen, it’s time to step up and demand answers, it’s time for YOU to take action!!
      Call port police of Mytilíni, tell them how you feel, make your voice heard!
      Port police Mytilini: +30 2251 040827
      Please share this post as much as possible!

      https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/posts/895342667655505

      #Frontex #OTAN #NATO

    • EU: Frontex splashes out: millions of euros for new technology and equipment (19.06.2020)

      The approval of the new #Frontex_Regulation in November 2019 implied an increase of competences, budget and capabilities for the EU’s border agency, which is now equipping itself with increased means to monitor events and developments at the borders and beyond, as well as renewing its IT systems to improve the management of the reams of data to which it will have access.

      In 2020 Frontex’s #budget grew to €420.6 million, an increase of over 34% compared to 2019. The European Commission has proposed that in the next EU budget (formally known as the Multiannual Financial Framework or MFF, covering 2021-27) €11 billion will be made available to the agency, although legal negotiations are ongoing and have hit significant stumbling blocks due to Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and political disagreements.

      Nevertheless, the increase for this year has clearly provided a number of opportunities for Frontex. For instance, it has already agreed contracts worth €28 million for the acquisition of dozens of vehicles equipped with thermal and day cameras, surveillance radar and sensors.

      According to the contract for the provision of Mobile Surveillance Systems, these new tools will be used “for detection, identification and recognising of objects of interest e.g. human beings and/or groups of people, vehicles moving across the border (land and sea), as well as vessels sailing within the coastal areas, and other objects identified as objects of interest”. [1]

      Frontex has also published a call for tenders for Maritime Analysis Tools, worth a total of up to €2.6 million. With this, Frontex seeks to improve access to “big data” for maritime analysis. [2] The objective of deploying these tools is to enhance Frontex’s operational support to EU border, coast guard and law enforcement authorities in “suppressing and preventing, among others, illegal migration and cross-border crime in the maritime domain”.

      Moreover, the system should be capable of delivering analysis and identification of high-risk threats following the collection and storage of “big data”. It is not clear how much human input and monitoring there will be of the identification of risks. The call for tenders says the winning bidder should have been announced in May, but there is no public information on the chosen company so far.

      As part of a 12-month pilot project to examine how maritime analysis tools could “support multipurpose operational response,” Frontex previously engaged the services of the Tel Aviv-based company Windward Ltd, which claims to fuse “maritime data and artificial intelligence… to provide the right insights, with the right context, at the right time.” [3] Windward, whose current chairman is John Browne, the former CEO of the multinational oil company BP, received €783,000 for its work. [4]

      As the agency’s gathering and processing of data increases, it also aims to improve and develop its own internal IT systems, through a two-year project worth €34 million. This will establish a set of “framework contracts”. Through these, each time the agency seeks a new IT service or system, companies selected to participate in the framework contracts will submit bids for the work. [5]

      The agency is also seeking a ’Software Solution for EBCG [European Border and Coast Guard] Team Members to Access to Schengen Information System’, through a contract worth up to €5 million. [6] The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the EU’s largest database, enabling cooperation between authorities working in the fields of police, border control and customs of all the Schengen states (26 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and its legal bases were recently reformed to include new types of alert and categories of data. [7]

      This software will give Frontex officials direct access to certain data within the SIS. Currently, they have to request access via national border guards in the country in which they are operating. This would give complete autonomy to Frontex officials to consult the SIS whilst undertaking operations, shortening the length of the procedure. [8]

      With the legal basis for increasing Frontex’s powers in place, the process to build up its personnel, material and surveillance capacities continues, with significant financial implications.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/june/eu-frontex-splashes-out-millions-of-euros-for-new-technology-and-equipme

      #technologie #équipement #Multiannual_Financial_Framework #MFF #surveillance #Mobile_Surveillance_Systems #Maritime_Analysis_Tools #données #big_data #mer #Windward_Ltd #Israël #John_Browne #BP #complexe_militaro-industriel #Software_Solution_for_EBCG_Team_Members_to_Access_to_Schengen_Information_System #SIS #Schengen_Information_System

    • EU : Guns, guards and guidelines : reinforcement of Frontex runs into problems (26.05.2020)

      An internal report circulated by Frontex to EU government delegations highlights a series of issues in implementing the agency’s new legislation. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the agency is urging swift action to implement the mandate and is pressing ahead with the recruitment of its new ‘standing corps’. However, there are legal problems with the acquisition, registration, storage and transport of weapons. The agency is also calling for derogations from EU rules on staff disciplinary measures in relation to the use of force; and wants an extended set of privileges and immunities. Furthermore, it is assisting with “voluntary return” despite this activity appearing to fall outside of its legal mandate.

      State-of-play report

      At the end of April 2020, Frontex circulated a report to EU government delegations in the Council outlining the state of play of the implementation of its new Regulation (“EBCG 2.0 Regulation”, in the agency and Commission’s words), especially relating to “current challenges”.[1] Presumably, this refers to the outbreak of a pandemic, though the report also acknowledges challenges created by the legal ambiguities contained in the Regulation itself, in particular with regard to the acquisition of weapons, supervisory and disciplinary mechanisms, legal privileges and immunities and involvement in “voluntary return” operations.

      The path set out in the report is that the “operational autonomy of the agency will gradually increase towards 2027” until it is a “fully-fledged and reliable partner” to EU and Schengen states. It acknowledges the impacts of unforeseen world events on the EU’s forthcoming budget (Multi-annual Financial Framework, MFF) for 2021-27, and hints at the impact this will have on Frontex’s own budget and objectives. Nevertheless, the agency is still determined to “continue increasing the capabilities” of the agency, including its acquisition of new equipment and employment of new staff for its standing corps.

      The main issues covered by the report are: Frontex’s new standing corps of staff, executive powers and the use of force, fundamental rights and data protection, and the integration into Frontex of EUROSUR, the European Border Surveillance System.

      The new standing corps

      Recruitment

      A new standing corps of 10,000 Frontex staff by 2024 is to be, in the words of the agency, its “biggest game changer”.[2] The report notes that the establishment of the standing corps has been heavily affected by the outbreak of Covid-19. According to the report, 7,238 individuals had applied to join the standing corps before the outbreak of the pandemic. 5,482 of these – over 75% – were assessed by the agency as eligible, with a final 304 passing the entire selection process to be on the “reserve lists”.[3]

      Despite interruptions to the recruitment procedure following worldwide lockdown measures, interviews for Category 1 staff – permanent Frontex staff members to be deployed on operations – were resumed via video by the end of April. 80 candidates were shortlisted for the first week, and Frontex aims to interview 1,000 people in total. Despite this adaptation, successful candidates will have to wait for Frontex’s contractor to re-open in order to carry out medical tests, an obligatory requirement for the standing corps.[4]

      In 2020, Frontex joined the European Defence Agency’s Satellite Communications (SatCom) and Communications and Information System (CIS) services in order to ensure ICT support for the standing corps in operation as of 2021.[5] The EDA describes SatCom and CIS as “fundamental for Communication, Command and Control in military operations… [enabling] EU Commanders to connect forces in remote areas with HQs and capitals and to manage the forces missions and tasks”.[6]

      Training

      The basic training programme, endorsed by the management board in October 2019, is designed for Category 1 staff. It includes specific training in interoperability and “harmonisation with member states”. The actual syllabus, content and materials for this basic training were developed by March 2020; Statewatch has made a request for access to these documents, which is currently pending with the Frontex Transparency Office. This process has also been affected by the novel coronavirus, though the report insists that “no delay is foreseen in the availability of the specialised profile related training of the standing corps”.

      Use of force

      The state-of-play-report acknowledges a number of legal ambiguities surrounding some of the more controversial powers outlined in Frontex’s 2019 Regulation, highlighting perhaps that political ambition, rather than serious consideration and assessment, propelled the legislation, overtaking adequate procedure and oversight. The incentive to enact the legislation within a short timeframe is cited as a reason that no impact assessment was carried out on the proposed recast to the agency’s mandate. This draft was rushed through negotiations and approved in an unprecedented six-month period, and the details lost in its wake are now coming to light.

      Article 82 of the 2019 Regulation refers to the use of force and carriage of weapons by Frontex staff, while a supervisory mechanism for the use of force by statutory staff is established by Article 55. This says:

      “On the basis of a proposal from the executive director, the management board shall: (a) establish an appropriate supervisory mechanism to monitor the application of the provisions on use of force by statutory staff, including rules on reporting and specific measures, such as those of a disciplinary nature, with regard to the use of force during deployments”[7]

      The agency’s management board is expected to make a decision about this supervisory mechanism, including specific measures and reporting, by the end of June 2020.

      The state-of-play report posits that the legal terms of Article 55 are inconsistent with the standard rules on administrative enquiries and disciplinary measures concerning EU staff.[8] These outline, inter alia, that a dedicated disciplinary board will be established in each institution including at least one member from outside the institution, that this board must be independent and its proceedings secret. Frontex insists that its staff will be a special case as the “first uniformed service of the EU”, and will therefore require “special arrangements or derogations to the Staff Regulations” to comply with the “totally different nature of tasks and risks associated with their deployments”.[9]

      What is particularly astounding about Frontex demanding special treatment for oversight, particularly on use of force and weapons is that, as the report acknowledges, the agency cannot yet legally store or transport any weapons it acquires.

      Regarding service weapons and “non-lethal equipment”,[10] legal analysis by “external experts and a regulatory law firm” concluded that the 2019 Regulation does not provide a legal basis for acquiring, registering, storing or transporting weapons in Poland, where the agency’s headquarters is located. Frontex has applied to the Commission for clarity on how to proceed, says the report. Frontex declined to comment on the status of this consultation and any indications of the next steps the agency will take. A Commission spokesperson stated only that it had recently received the agency’s enquiry and “is analysing the request and the applicable legal framework in the view of replying to the EBCGA”, without expanding further.

      Until Frontex has the legal basis to do so, it cannot launch a tender for firearms and “non-lethal equipment” (which includes batons, pepper spray and handcuffs). However, the report implies the agency is ready to do so as soon as it receives the green light. Technical specifications are currently being finalised for “non-lethal equipment” and Frontex still plans to complete acquisition by the end of the year.

      Privileges and immunities

      The agency is also seeking special treatment with regard to the legal privileges and immunities it and its officials enjoy. Article 96 of the 2019 Regulation outlines the privileges and immunities of Frontex officers, stating:

      “Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union annexed to the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and to the TFEU shall apply to the Agency and its statutory staff.” [11]

      However, Frontex notes that the Protocol does not apply to non-EU states, nor does it “offer a full protection, or take into account a need for the inviolability of assets owned by Frontex (service vehicles, vessels, aircraft)”.[12] Frontex is increasingly involved in operations taking place on non-EU territory. For instance, the Council of the EU has signed or initialled a number of Status Agreements with non-EU states, primarily in the Western Balkans, concerning Frontex activities in those countries. To launch operations under these agreements, Frontex will (or, in the case of Albania, already has) agree on operational plans with each state, under which Frontex staff can use executive powers.[13] The agency therefore seeks an “EU-level status of forces agreement… to account for the partial absence of rules”.

      Law enforcement

      To implement its enhanced functions regarding cross-border crime, Frontex will continue to participate in Europol’s four-year policy cycle addressing “serious international and organised crime”.[14] The agency is also developing a pilot project, “Investigation Support Activities- Cross Border Crime” (ISA-CBC), addressing drug trafficking and terrorism.

      Fundamental rights and data protection

      The ‘EBCG 2.0 Regulation’ requires several changes to fundamental rights measures by the agency, which, aside from some vague “legal analyses” seem to be undergoing development with only internal oversight.

      Firstly, to facilitate adequate independence of the Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO), special rules have to be established. The FRO was introduced under Frontex’s 2016 Regulation, but has since then been understaffed and underfunded by the agency.[15] The 2019 Regulation obliges the agency to ensure “sufficient and adequate human and financial resources” for the office, as well as 40 fundamental rights monitors.[16] These standing corps staff members will be responsible for monitoring compliance with fundamental rights standards, providing advice and assistance on the agency’s plans and activities, and will visit and evaluate operations, including acting as forced return monitors.[17]

      During negotiations over the proposed Regulation 2.0, MEPs introduced extended powers for the Fundamental Rights Officer themselves. The FRO was previously responsible for contributing to Frontex’s fundamental rights strategy and monitoring its compliance with and promotion of fundamental rights. Now, they will be able to monitor compliance by conducting investigations; offering advice where deemed necessary or upon request of the agency; providing opinions on operational plans, pilot projects and technical assistance; and carrying out on-the-spot visits. The executive director is now obliged to respond “as to how concerns regarding possible violations of fundamental rights… have been addressed,” and the management board “shall ensure that action is taken with regard to recommendations of the fundamental rights officer.” [18] The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in the Regulation.

      The state-of-play report says that “legal analyses and exchanges” are ongoing, and will inform an eventual management board decision, but no timeline for this is offered. [19] The agency will also need to adapt its much criticised individual complaints mechanism to fit the requirements of the 2019 Regulation; executive director Fabrice Leggeri’s first-draft decision on this process is currently undergoing internal consultations. Even the explicit requirement set out in the 2019 Regulation for an “independent and effective” complaints mechanism,[20] does not meet minimum standards to qualify as an effective remedy, which include institutional independence, accessibility in practice, and capacity to carry out thorough and prompt investigations.[21]

      Frontex has entered into a service level agreement (SLA) with the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) for support in establishing and training the team of fundamental rights monitors introduced by the 2019 Regulation. These monitors are to be statutory staff of the agency and will assess fundamental rights compliance of operational activities, advising, assisting and contributing to “the promotion of fundamental rights”.[22] The scope and objectives for this team were finalised at the end of March this year, and the agency will establish the team by the end of the year. Statewatch has requested clarification as to what is to be included in the team’s scope and objectives, pending with the Frontex Transparency Office.

      Regarding data protection, the agency plans a package of implementing rules (covering issues ranging from the position of data protection officer to the restriction of rights for returnees and restrictions under administrative data processing) to be implemented throughout 2020.[23] The management board will review a first draft of the implementing rules on the data protection officer in the second quarter of 2020.

      Returns

      The European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN) – a network of 15 European states and the Commission facilitating cooperation over return operations “as part of the EU efforts to manage migration” – is to be handed over to Frontex. [24] A handover plan is currently under the final stage of review; it reportedly outlines the scoping of activities and details of “which groups of returnees will be eligible for Frontex assistance in the future”.[25] A request from Statewatch to Frontex for comment on what assistance will be provided by the agency to such returnees was unanswered at the time of publication.

      Since the entry into force of its new mandate, Frontex has also been providing technical assistance for so-called voluntary returns, with the first two such operations carried out on scheduled flights (as opposed to charter flights) in February 2020. A total of 28 people were returned by mid-April, despite the fact that there is no legal clarity over what the definition “voluntary return” actually refers to, as the state-of-play report also explains:

      “The terminology of voluntary return was introduced in the Regulation without providing any definition thereof. This terminology (voluntary departure vs voluntary return) is moreover not in line with the terminology used in the Return Directive (EBCG 2.0 refers to the definition of returns provided for in the Return Directive. The Return Directive, however, does not cover voluntary returns; a voluntary return is not a return within the meaning of the Return Directive). Further elaboration is needed.”[26]

      On top of requiring “further clarification”, if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it is acting outside of its legal mandate. Statewatch has launched an investigation into the agency’s activities relating to voluntary returns, to outline the number of such operations to date, their country of return and country of destination.

      Frontex is currently developing a module dedicated to voluntary returns by charter flight for its FAR (Frontex Application for Returns) platform (part of its return case management system). On top of the technical support delivered by the agency, Frontex also foresees the provision of on-the-ground support from Frontex representatives or a “return counsellor”, who will form part of the dedicated return teams planned for the standing corps from 2021.[27]

      Frontex has updated its return case management system (RECAMAS), an online platform for member state authorities and Frontex to communicate and plan return operations, to manage an increased scope. The state-of-play report implies that this includes detail on post-return activities in a new “post-return module”, indicating that Frontex is acting on commitments to expand its activity in this area. According to the agency’s roadmap on implementing the 2019 Regulation, an action plan on how the agency will provide post-return support to people (Article 48(1), 2019 Regulation) will be written by the third quarter of 2020.[28]

      In its closing paragraph, related to the budgetary impact of COVID-19 regarding return operations, the agency notes that although activities will resume once aerial transportation restrictions are eased, “the agency will not be able to provide what has been initially intended, undermining the concept of the EBCG as a whole”.[29]

      EUROSUR

      The Commission is leading progress on adopting the implementing act for the integration of EUROSUR into Frontex, which will define the implementation of new aerial surveillance,[30] expected by the end of the year.[31] Frontex is discussing new working arrangements with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL). The development by Frontex of the surveillance project’s communications network will require significant budgetary investment, as the agency plans to maintain the current system ahead of its planned replacement in 2025.[32] This investment is projected despite the agency’s recognition of the economic impact of Covid-19 on member states, and the consequent adjustments to the MFF 2021-27.

      Summary

      Drafted and published as the world responds to an unprecedented pandemic, the “current challenges” referred to in the report appear, on first read, to refer to the budgetary and staffing implications of global shut down. However, the report maintains throughout that the agency’s determination to expand, in terms of powers as well as staffing, will not be stalled despite delays and budgeting adjustments. Indeed, it is implied more than once that the “current challenges” necessitate more than ever that these powers be assumed. The true challenges, from the agency’s point of view, stem from the fact that its current mandate was rushed through negotiations in six months, leading to legal ambiguities that leave it unable to acquire or transport weapons and in a tricky relationship with the EU protocol on privileges and immunities when operating in third countries. Given the violence that so frequently accompanies border control operations in the EU, it will come as a relief to many that Frontex is having difficulties acquiring its own weaponry. However, it is far from reassuring that the introduction of new measures on fundamental rights and accountability are being carried out internally and remain unavailable for public scrutiny.

      Jane Kilpatrick

      Note: this article was updated on 26 May 2020 to include the European Commission’s response to Statewatch’s enquiries.

      It was updated on 1 July with some minor corrections:

      “the Council of the EU has signed or initialled a number of Status Agreements with non-EU states... under which” replaces “the agency has entered into working agreements with Balkan states, under which”
      “The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in any detail in the Regulation beyond monitoring the agency’s ’compliance with fundamental rights, including by conducting investigations’” replaces “The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in the Regulation”
      “if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it further exposes the haste with which legislation written to deny entry into the EU and facilitate expulsions was drafted” replaces “if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it is acting outside of its legal mandate”

      Endnotes

      [1] Frontex, ‘State of play of the implementation of the EBCG 2.0 Regulation in view of current challenges’, 27 April 2020, contained in Council document 7607/20, LIMITE, 20 April 2020, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/may/eu-council-frontex-ECBG-state-of-play-7607-20.pdf

      [2] Frontex, ‘Programming Document 2018-20’, 10 December 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/frontex-programming-document-2018-20.pdf

      [3] Section 1.1, state of play report

      [4] Jane Kilpatrick, ‘Frontex launches “game-changing” recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards’, Statewatch Analysis, March 2020, http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-355-frontex-recruitment-standing-corps.pdf

      [5] Section 7.1, state of play report

      [6] EDA, ‘EU SatCom Market’, https://www.eda.europa.eu/what-we-do/activities/activities-search/eu-satcom-market

      [7] Article 55(5)(a), Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex 2019 Regulation), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [8] Pursuant to Annex IX of the EU Staff Regulations, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:01962R0031-20140501

      [9] Chapter III, state of play report

      [10] Section 2.5, state of play report

      [11] Protocol (No 7), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.C_.2016.202.01.0001.01.ENG#d1e3363-201-1

      [12] Chapter III, state of play report

      [13] ‘Border externalisation: Agreements on Frontex operations in Serbia and Montenegro heading for parliamentary approval’, Statewatch News, 11 March 2020, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/frontex-status-agreements.htm

      [14] Europol, ‘EU policy cycle – EMPACT’, https://www.europol.europa.eu/empact

      [15] ‘NGOs, EU and international agencies sound the alarm over Frontex’s respect for fundamental rights’, Statewatch News, 5 March 2019, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/mar/fx-consultative-forum-rep.htm; ‘Frontex condemned by its own fundamental rights body for failing to live up to obligations’, Statewatch News, 21 May 2018, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2018/may/eu-frontex-fr-rep.htm

      [16] Article 110(6), Article 109, 2019 Regulation

      [17] Article 110, 2019 Regulation

      [18] Article 109, 2019 Regulation

      [19] Section 8, state of play report

      [20] Article 111(1), 2019 Regulation

      [21] Sergio Carrera and Marco Stefan, ‘Complaint Mechanisms in Border Management and Expulsion Operations in Europe: Effective Remedies for Victims of Human Rights Violations?’, CEPS, 2018, https://www.ceps.eu/system/files/Complaint%20Mechanisms_A4.pdf

      [22] Article 110(1), 2019 Regulation

      [23] Section 9, state of play report

      [24] ERRIN, https://returnnetwork.eu

      [25] Section 3.2, state of play report

      [26] Chapter III, state of play report

      [27] Section 3.2, state of play report

      [28] ‘’Roadmap’ for implementing new Frontex Regulation: full steam ahead’, Statewatch News, 25 November 2019, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/nov/eu-frontex-roadmap.htm

      [29] State of play report, p. 19

      [30] Matthias Monroy, ‘Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders’, Statewatch Analysis, February 2020, http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-354-frontex-drones.pdf

      [31] Section 4, state of play report

      [32] Section 7.2, state of play report
      Next article >

      Mediterranean: As the fiction of a Libyan search and rescue zone begins to crumble, EU states use the coronavirus pandemic to declare themselves unsafe

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/eu-guns-guards-and-guidelines-reinforcement-of-frontex-runs-into-problem

      #EBCG_2.0_Regulation #European_Defence_Agency’s_Satellite_Communications (#SatCom) #Communications_and_Information_System (#CIS) #immunité #droits_fondamentaux #droits_humains #Fundamental_Rights_Officer (#FRO) #European_Return_and_Reintegration_Network (#ERRIN) #renvois #expulsions #réintégration #Directive_Retour #FAR (#Frontex_Application_for_Returns) #RECAMAS #EUROSUR #European_Aviation_Safety_Agency (#EASA) #European_Organisation_for_the_Safety_of_Air_Navigation (#EUROCONTROL)

    • Frontex launches “game-changing” recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards

      On 4 January 2020 the Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) adopted a decision on the profiles of the staff required for the new “standing corps”, which is ultimately supposed to be staffed by 10,000 officials. [1] The decision ushers in a new wave of recruitment for the agency. Applicants will be put through six months of training before deployment, after rigorous medical testing.

      What is the standing corps?

      The European Border and Coast Guard standing corps is the new, and according to Frontex, first ever, EU uniformed service, available “at any time…to support Member States facing challenges at their external borders”.[2] Frontex’s Programming Document for the 2018-2020 period describes the standing corps as the agency’s “biggest game changer”, requiring “an unprecedented scale of staff recruitment”.[3]

      The standing corps will be made up of four categories of Frontex operational staff:

      Frontex statutory staff deployed in operational areas and staff responsible for the functioning of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) Central Unit[4];
      Long-term staff seconded from member states;
      Staff from member states who can be immediately deployed on short-term secondment to Frontex; and

      A reserve of staff from member states for rapid border interventions.

      These border guards will be “trained by the best and equipped with the latest technology has to offer”.[5] As well as wearing EU uniforms, they will be authorised to carry weapons and will have executive powers: they will be able to verify individuals’ identity and nationality and permit or refuse entry into the EU.

      The decision made this January is limited to the definition of profiles and requirements for the operational staff that are to be recruited. The Management Board (MB) will have to adopt a new decision by March this year to set out the numbers of staff needed per profile, the requirements for individuals holding those positions, and the number of staff needed for the following year based on expected operational needs. This process will be repeated annually.[6] The MB can then further specify how many staff each member state should contribute to these profiles, and establish multi-annual plans for member state contributions and recruitment for Frontex statutory staff. Projections for these contributions are made in Annexes II – IV of the 2019 Regulation, though a September Mission Statement by new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urges the recruitment of 10,000 border guards by 2024, indicating that member states might be meeting their contribution commitments much sooner than 2027.[7]

      The standing corps of Frontex staff will have an array of executive powers and responsibilities. As well as being able to verify identity and nationality and refuse or permit entry into the EU, they will be able to consult various EU databases to fulfil operational aims, and may also be authorised by host states to consult national databases. According to the MB Decision, “all members of the Standing Corps are to be able to identify persons in need of international protection and persons in a vulnerable situation, including unaccompanied minors, and refer them to the competent authorities”. Training on international and EU law on fundamental rights and international protection, as well as guidelines on the identification and referral of persons in need of international protection, will be mandatory for all standing corps staff members.

      The size of the standing corps

      The following table, taken from the 2019 Regulation, outlines the ambitions for growth of Frontex’s standing corps. However, as noted, the political ambition is to reach the 10,000 total by 2024.

      –-> voir le tableau sur le site de statewatch!

      Category 2 staff – those on long term secondment from member states – will join Frontex from 2021, according to the 2019 Regulation.[8] It is foreseen that Germany will contribute the most staff, with 61 expected in 2021, increasing year-by-year to 225 by 2027. Other high contributors are France and Italy (170 and 125 by 2027, respectively).

      The lowest contributors will be Iceland (expected to contribute between one and two people a year from 2021 to 2027), Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg. Liechtenstein is not contributing personnel but will contribute “through proportional financial support”.

      For short-term secondments from member states, projections follow a very similar pattern. Germany will contribute 540 staff in 2021, increasing to 827 in 2027; Italy’s contribution will increase from 300 in 2021 to 458 in 2027; and France’s from 408 in 2021 to 624 in 2027. Most states will be making less than 100 staff available for short-term secondment in 2021.

      What are the profiles?

      The MB Decision outlines 12 profiles to be made available to Frontex, ranging from Border Guard Officer and Crew Member, to Cross Border Crime Detection Officer and Return Specialist. A full list is contained in the Decision.[9] All profiles will be fulfilled by an official of the competent authority of a member state (MS) or Schengen Associated Country (SAC), or by a member of Frontex’s own statutory staff.

      Tasks to be carried out by these officials include:

      border checks and surveillance;
      interviewing, debriefing* and screening arrivals and registering fingerprints;
      supporting the collection, assessment, analysis and distribution of information with EU member and non-member states;
      verifying travel documents;
      escorting individuals being deported on Frontex return operations;
      operating data systems and platforms; and
      offering cultural mediation

      *Debriefing consists of informal interviews with migrants to collect information for risk analyses on irregular migration and other cross-border crime and the profiling of irregular migrants to identify “modus operandi and migration trends used by irregular migrants and facilitators/criminal networks”. Guidelines written by Frontex in 2012 instructed border guards to target vulnerable individuals for “debriefing”, not in order to streamline safeguarding or protection measures, but for intelligence-gathering - “such people are often more willing to talk about their experiences,” said an internal document.[10] It is unknown whether those instructions are still in place.

      Recruitment for the profiles

      Certain profiles are expected to “apply self-safety and security practice”, and to have “the capacity to work under pressure and face emotional events with composure”. Relevant profiles (e.g. crew member) are required to be able to perform search and rescue activities in distress situations at sea borders.

      Frontex published a call for tender on 27 December for the provision of medical services for pre-recruitment examinations, in line with the plan to start recruiting operational staff in early 2020. The documents accompanying the tender reveal additional criteria for officials that will be granted executive powers (Frontex category “A2”) compared to those staff stationed primarily at the agency’s Warsaw headquarters (“A1”). Those criteria come in the form of more stringent medical testing.

      The differences in medical screening for category A1 and A2 staff lie primarily in additional toxicology screening and psychiatric and psychological consultations. [11] The additional psychiatric attention allotted for operational staff “is performed to check the predisposition for people to work in arduous, hazardous conditions, exposed to stress, conflict situations, changing rapidly environment, coping with people being in dramatic, injure or death exposed situations”.[12]

      Both A1 and A2 category provisional recruits will be asked to disclose if they have ever suffered from a sexually transmitted disease or “genital organ disease”, as well as depression, nervous or mental disorders, among a long list of other ailments. As well as disclosing any medication they take, recruits must also state if they are taking oral contraceptives (though there is no question about hormonal contraceptives that are not taken orally). Women are also asked to give the date of their last period on the pre-appointment questionnaire.

      “Never touch yourself with gloves”

      Frontex training materials on forced return operations obtained by Statewatch in 2019 acknowledge the likelihood of psychological stress among staff, among other health risks. (One recommendation contained in the documents is to “never touch yourself with gloves”). Citing “dissonance within the team, long hours with no rest, group dynamic, improvisation and different languages” among factors behind psychological stress, the training materials on medical precautionary measures for deportation escort officers also refer to post-traumatic stress disorder, the lack of an area to retreat to and body clock disruption as exacerbating risks. The document suggests a high likelihood that Frontex return escorts will witness poverty, “agony”, “chaos”, violence, boredom, and will have to deal with vulnerable persons.[13]

      For fundamental rights monitors (officials deployed to monitor fundamental rights compliance during deportations, who can be either Frontex staff or national officials), the training materials obtained by Statewatch focus on the self-control of emotions, rather than emotional care. Strategies recommended include talking to somebody, seeking professional help, and “informing yourself of any other option offered”. The documents suggest that it is an individual’s responsibility to prevent emotional responses to stressful situations having an impact on operations, and to organise their own supervision and professional help. There is no obvious focus on how traumatic responses of Frontex staff could affect those coming into contact with them at an external border or during a deportation. [14]

      The materials obtained by Statewatch also give some indication of the fundamental rights training imparted to those acting as deportation ‘escorts’ and fundamental rights monitors. The intended outcomes for a training session in Athens that took place in March 2019 included “adapt FR [fundamental rights] in a readmission operation (explain it with examples)” and “should be able to describe Non Refoulement principle” (in the document, ‘Session Fundamental rights’ is followed by ‘Session Velcro handcuffs’).[15] The content of the fundamental rights training that will be offered to Frontex’s new recruits is currently unknown.

      Fit for service?

      The agency anticipates that most staff will be recruited from March to June 2020, involving the medical examination of up to 700 applicants in this period. According to Frontex’s website, the agency has already received over 7,000 applications for the 700 new European Border Guard Officer positions.[16] Successful candidates will undergo six months of training before deployment in 2021. Apparently then, the posts are a popular career option, despite the seemingly invasive medical tests (especially for sexually active women). Why, for instance, is it important to Frontex to know about oral hormonal contraception, or about sexually transmitted infections?

      When asked by Statewatch if Frontex provides in-house psychological and emotional support, an agency press officer stated: “When it comes to psychological and emotional support, Frontex is increasing awareness and personal resilience of the officers taking part in our operations through education and training activities.” A ‘Frontex Mental Health Strategy’ from 2018 proposed the establishment of “a network of experts-psychologists” to act as an advisory body, as well as creating “online self-care tools”, a “psychological hot-line”, and a space for peer support with participation of psychologists (according to risk assessment) during operations.[17]

      One year later, Frontex, EASO and Europol jointly produced a brochure for staff deployed on operations, entitled ‘Occupational Health and Safety – Deployment Information’, which offers a series of recommendations to staff, placing the responsibility to “come to the deployment in good mental shape” and “learn how to manage stress and how to deal with anger” more firmly on the individual than the agency.[18] According to this document, officers who need additional support must disclose this by requesting it from their supervisor, while “a helpline or psychologist on-site may be available, depending on location”.

      Frontex anticipates this recruitment drive to be “game changing”. Indeed, the Commission is relying upon it to reach its ambitions for the agency’s independence and efficiency. The inclusion of mandatory training in fundamental rights in the six-month introductory education is obviously a welcome step. Whether lessons learned in a classroom will be the first thing that comes to the minds of officials deployed on border control or deportation operations remains to be seen.

      Unmanaged responses to emotional stress can include burnout, compassion-fatigue and indirect trauma, which can in turn decrease a person’s ability to cope with adverse circumstance, and increase the risk of violence.[19] Therefore, aside from the agency’s responsibility as an employer to safeguard the health of its staff, its approach to internal psychological care will affect not only the border guards themselves, but the people that they routinely come into contact with at borders and during return operations, many of whom themselves will have experienced trauma.

      Jane Kilpatrick

      Endnotes

      [1] Management Board Decision 1/2020 of 4 January 2020 on adopting the profiles to be made available to the European Border and Coast Guard Standing Corps, https://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Key_Documents/MB_Decision/2020/MB_Decision_1_2020_adopting_the_profiles_to_be_made_available_to_the_

      [2] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [3] Frontex, ‘Programming Document 2018-20’, 10 December 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/frontex-programming-document-2018-20.pdf

      [4] The ETIAS Central Unit will be responsible for processing the majority of applications for ‘travel authorisations’ received when the European Travel Information and Authorisation System comes into use, in theory in late 2022. Citizens who do not require a visa to travel to the Schengen area will have to apply for authorisation to travel to the Schengen area.

      [5] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [6] Article 54(4), Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [7] ‘European Commission 2020 Work Programme: An ambitious roadmap for a Union that strives for more’, 29 January 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_124; “Mission letter” from Ursula von der Leyen to Ylva Johnsson, 10 September 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/mission-letter-ylva-johansson_en.pdf

      [8] Annex II, 2019 Regulation

      [9] Management Board Decision 1/2020 of 4 January 2020 on adopting the profiles to be made available to the European Border and Coast Guard Standing Corps, https://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Key_Documents/MB_Decision/2020/MB_Decision_1_2020_adopting_the_profiles_to_be_made_available_to_the_

      [10] ‘Press release: EU border agency targeted “isolated or mistreated” individuals for questioning’, Statewatch News, 16 February 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/feb/eu-frontex-op-hera-debriefing-pr.htm

      [11] ‘Provision of Medical Services – Pre-Recruitment Examination’, https://etendering.ted.europa.eu/cft/cft-documents.html?cftId=5841

      [12] ‘Provision of medical services – pre-recruitment examination, Terms of Reference - Annex II to invitation to tender no Frontex/OP/1491/2019/KM’, https://etendering.ted.europa.eu/cft/cft-document.html?docId=65398

      [13] Frontex training presentation, ‘Medical precautionary measures for escort officers’, undated, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/eu-frontex-presentation-medical-precautionary-measures-deportation-escor

      [14] Ibid.

      [15] Frontex, document listing course learning outcomes from deportation escorts’ training, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/eu-frontex-deportation-escorts-training-course-learning-outcomes.pdf

      [16] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [17] Frontex, ‘Frontex mental health strategy’, 20 February 2018, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/89c168fe-e14b-11e7-9749-01aa75ed71a1/language-en

      [18] EASO, Europol and Frontex, ‘Occupational health and safety’, 12 August 2019, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/17cc07e0-bd88-11e9-9d01-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-PDF/source-103142015

      [19] Trauma Treatment International, ‘A different approach for victims of trauma’, https://www.tt-intl.org/#our-work-section

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/frontex-launches-game-changing-recruitment-drive-for-standing-corps-of-b
      #gardes_frontières #staff #corps_des_gardes-frontières

    • Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders (27.02.2020)

      Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.

      It is not easy to obtain majorities for legislation in the European Union in the area of migration - unless it is a matter of upgrading the EU’s external borders. While the reform of a common EU asylum system has been on hold for years, the European Commission, Parliament and Council agreed to reshape the border agency Frontex with unusual haste shortly before last year’s parliamentary elections. A new Regulation has been in force since December 2019,[1] under which Frontex intends to build up a “standing corps” of 10,000 uniformed officials by 2027. They can be deployed not just at the EU’s external borders, but in ‘third countries’ as well.

      In this way, Frontex will become a “European border police force” with powers that were previously reserved for the member states alone. The core of the new Regulation includes the procurement of the agency’s own equipment. The Multiannual Financial Framework, in which the EU determines the distribution of its financial resources from 2021 until 2027, has not yet been decided. According to current plans, however, at least €6 billion are reserved for Frontex in the seven-year budget. The intention is for Frontex to spend a large part of the money, over €2 billion, on aircraft, ships and vehicles.[2]

      Frontex seeks company for drone flights

      The upgrade plans include the stationing of large drones in the central and eastern Mediterranean. For this purpose, Frontex is looking for a private partner to operate flights off Malta, Italy or Greece. A corresponding tender ended in December[3] and the selection process is currently underway. The unmanned missions could then begin already in spring. Frontex estimates the total cost of these missions at €50 million. The contract has a term of two years and can be extended twice for one year at a time.

      Frontex wants drones of the so-called MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) class. Their flight duration should be at least 20 hours. The requirements include the ability to fly in all weather conditions and at day and night. It is also planned to operate in airspace where civil aircraft are in service. For surveillance missions, the drones should carry electro-optical cameras, thermal imaging cameras and so-called “daylight spotter” systems that independently detect moving targets and keep them in focus. Other equipment includes systems for locating mobile and satellite telephones. The drones will also be able to receive signals from emergency call transmitters sewn into modern life jackets.

      However, the Frontex drones will not be used primarily for sea rescue operations, but to improve capacities against unwanted migration. This assumption is also confirmed by the German non-governmental organisation Sea-Watch, which has been providing assistance in the central Mediterranean with various ships since 2015. “Frontex is not concerned with saving lives,” says Ruben Neugebauer of Sea-Watch. “While air surveillance is being expanded with aircraft and drones, ships urgently needed for rescue operations have been withdrawn”. Sea-Watch demands that situation pictures of EU drones are also made available to private organisations for sea rescue.

      Aircraft from arms companies

      Frontex has very specific ideas for its own drones, which is why there are only a few suppliers worldwide that can be called into question. The Israel Aerospace Industries Heron 1, which Frontex tested for several months on the Greek island of Crete[4] and which is also flown by the German Bundeswehr, is one of them. As set out by Frontex in its invitation to tender, the Heron 1, with a payload of around 250 kilograms, can carry all the surveillance equipment that the agency intends to deploy over the Mediterranean. Also amongst those likely to be interested in the Frontex contract is the US company General Atomics, which has been building drones of the Predator series for 20 years. Recently, it presented a new Predator model in Greece under the name SeaGuardian, for maritime observation.[5] It is equipped with a maritime surveillance radar and a system for receiving position data from larger ships, thus fulfilling one of Frontex’s essential requirements.

      General Atomics may have a competitive advantage, as its Predator drones have several years’ operational experience in the Mediterranean. In addition to Frontex, the European Union has been active in the central Mediterranean with EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. In March 2019, Italy’s then-interior minister Matteo Salvini pushed through the decision to operate the EU mission from the air alone. Since then, two unarmed Predator drones operated by the Italian military have been flying for EUNAVFOR MED for 60 hours per month. Officially, the drones are to observe from the air whether the training of the Libyan coast guard has been successful and whether these navy personnel use their knowledge accordingly. Presumably, however, the Predators are primarily pursuing the mission’s goal to “combat human smuggling” by spying on the Libyan coast. It is likely that the new Operation EU Active Surveillance, which will use military assets from EU member states to try to enforce the UN arms embargo placed on Libya,[6] will continue to patrol with Italian drones off the coast in North Africa.

      Three EU maritime surveillance agencies

      In addition to Frontex, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) are also investing in maritime surveillance using drones. Together, the three agencies coordinate some 300 civil and military authorities in EU member states.[7] Their tasks include border, fisheries and customs control, law enforcement and environmental protection.

      In 2017, Frontex and EMSA signed an agreement to benefit from joint reconnaissance capabilities, with EFCA also involved.[8] At the time, EMSA conducted tests with drones of various sizes, but now the drones’ flights are part of its regular services. The offer is not only open to EU Member States, as Iceland was the first to take advantage of it. Since summer 2019, a long-range Hermes 900 drone built by the Israeli company Elbit Systems has been flying from Iceland’s Egilsstaðir airport. The flights are intended to cover more than half of the island state’s exclusive economic zone and to detect “suspicious activities and potential hazards”.[9]

      The Hermes 900 was also developed for the military; the Israeli army first deployed it in the Gaza Strip in 2014. The Times of Israel puts the cost of the operating contract with EMSA at €59 million,[10] with a term of two years, which can be extended for another two years. The agency did not conclude the contract directly with the Israeli arms company, but through the Portuguese firm CeiiA. The contract covers the stationing, control and mission control of the drones.

      New interested parties for drone flights

      At the request of the German MEP Özlem Demirel (from the party Die Linke), the European Commission has published a list of countries that also want to use EMSA drones.[11] According to this list, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal and also Greece have requested unmanned flights for pollution monitoring this year, while Bulgaria and Spain want to use them for general maritime surveillance. Until Frontex has its own drones, EMSA is flying its drones for the border agency on Crete. As in Iceland, this is the long-range drone Hermes 900, but according to Greek media reports it crashed on 8 January during take-off.[12] Possible causes are a malfunction of the propulsion system or human error. The aircraft is said to have been considerably damaged.

      Authorities from France and Great Britain have also ordered unmanned maritime surveillance from EMSA. Nothing is yet known about the exact intended location, but it is presumably the English Channel. There, the British coast guard is already observing border traffic with larger drones built by the Tekever arms company from Portugal.[13] The government in London wants to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel. The drones take off from the airport in the small town of Lydd and monitor the approximately 50-kilometre-long and 30-kilometre-wide Strait of Dover. Great Britain has also delivered several quadcopters to France to try to detect potential migrants in French territorial waters. According to the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais, eight gendarmes have been trained to control the small drones[14].

      Information to non-EU countries

      The images taken by EMSA drones are evaluated by the competent national coastguards. A livestream also sends them to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw.[15] There they are fed into the EUROSUR border surveillance system. This is operated by Frontex and networks the surveillance installations of all EU member states that have an external border. The data from EUROSUR and the national border control centres form the ‘Common Pre-frontier Intelligence Picture’,[16] referring to the area of interest of Frontex, which extends far into the African continent. Surveillance data is used to detect and prevent migration movements at an early stage.

      Once the providing company has been selected, the new Frontex drones are also to fly for EUROSUR. According to the invitation to tender, they are to operate in the eastern and central Mediterranean within a radius of up to 250 nautical miles (463 kilometres). This would enable them to carry out reconnaissance in the “pre-frontier” area off Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Within the framework of EUROSUR, Frontex shares the recorded data with other European users via a ‘Remote Information Portal’, as the call for tender explains. The border agency has long been able to cooperate with third countries and the information collected can therefore also be made available to authorities in North Africa. However, in order to share general information on surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea with a non-EU state, Frontex must first conclude a working agreement with the corresponding government.[17]

      It is already possible, however, to provide countries such as Libya with the coordinates of refugee boats. For example, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the nearest Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) must be informed of actual or suspected emergencies. With EU funding, Italy has been building such a centre in Tripoli for the last two years.[18] It is operated by the military coast guard, but so far has no significant equipment of its own.

      The EU military mission “EUNAVFOR MED” was cooperating more extensively with the Libyan coast guard. For communication with European naval authorities, Libya is the first third country to be connected to European surveillance systems via the “Seahorse Mediterranean” network[19]. Information handed over to the Libyan authorities might also include information that was collected with the Italian military ‘Predator’ drones.

      Reconnaissance generated with unmanned aerial surveillance is also given to the MRCC in Turkey. This was seen in a pilot project last summer, when the border agency tested an unmanned aerostat with the Greek coast guard off the island of Samos.[20] Attached to a 1,000 metre-long cable, the airship was used in the Frontex operation ‘Poseidon’ in the eastern Mediterranean. The 35-meter-long zeppelin comes from the French manufacturer A-NSE.[21] The company specializes in civil and military aerial observation. According to the Greek Marine Ministry, the equipment included a radar, a thermal imaging camera and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for the tracking of larger ships. The recorded videos were received and evaluated by a situation centre supplied by the Portuguese National Guard. If a detected refugee boat was still in Turkish territorial waters, the Greek coast guard informed the Turkish authorities. This pilot project in the Aegean Sea was the first use of an airship by Frontex. The participants deployed comparatively large numbers of personnel for the short mission. Pictures taken by the Greek coastguard show more than 40 people.

      Drones enable ‘pull-backs’

      Human rights organisations accuse EUNAVFOR MED and Frontex of passing on information to neighbouring countries leading to rejections (so-called ‘push-backs’) in violation of international law. People must not be returned to states where they are at risk of torture or other serious human rights violations. Frontex does not itself return refugees in distress who were discovered at sea via aerial surveillance, but leaves the task to the Libyan or Turkish authorities. Regarding Libya, the Agency since 2017 provided notice of at least 42 vessels in distress to Libyan authorities.[22]

      Private rescue organisations therefore speak of so-called ‘pull-backs’, but these are also prohibited, as the Israeli human rights lawyer Omer Shatz argues: “Communicating the location of civilians fleeing war to a consortium of militias and instructing them to intercept and forcibly transfer them back to the place they fled from, trigger both state responsibility of all EU members and individual criminal liability of hundreds involved.” Together with his colleague Juan Branco, Shatz is suing those responsible for the European Union and its agencies before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Soon they intend to publish individual cases and the names of the people accused.

      Matthias Monroy

      An earlier version of this article first appeared in the German edition of Le Monde Diplomatique: ‘Drohnen für Frontex Statt sich auf die Rettung von Bootsflüchtlingen im Mittelmeer zu konzentrieren, baut die EU die Luftüberwachung’.

      Note: this article was corrected on 6 March to clarify a point regarding cooperation between Frontex and non-EU states.

      Endnotes

      [1] Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard, https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/PE-33-2019-INIT/en/pdf

      [2] European Commission, ‘A strengthened and fully equipped European Border and Coast Guard’, 12 September 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/soteu2018-factsheet-coast-guard_en.pdf

      [3] ‘Poland-Warsaw: Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) for Medium Altitude Long Endurance Maritime Aerial Surveillance’, https://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:490010-2019:TEXT:EN:HTML&tabId=1

      [4] IAI, ‘IAI AND AIRBUS MARITIME HERON UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEM (UAS) SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED 200 FLIGHT HOURS IN CIVILIAN EUROPEAN AIRSPACE FOR FRONTEX’, 24 October 2018, https://www.iai.co.il/iai-and-airbus-maritime-heron-unmanned-aerial-system-uas-successfully-complet

      [5] ‘ European Maritime Flight Demonstrations’, General Atomics, http://www.ga-asi.com/european-maritime-demo

      [6] ‘EU agrees to deploy warships to enforce Libya arms embargo’, The Guardian, 17 February 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/17/eu-agrees-deploy-warships-enforce-libya-arms-embargo

      [7] EMSA, ‘Heads of EMSA and Frontex meet to discuss cooperation on European coast guard functions’, 3 April 2019, http://www.emsa.europa.eu/news-a-press-centre/external-news/item/3499-heads-of-emsa-and-frontex-meet-to-discuss-cooperation-on-european-c

      [8] Frontex, ‘Frontex, EMSA and EFCA strengthen cooperation on coast guard functions’, 23 March 2017, https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-emsa-and-efca-strengthen-cooperation-on-coast-guard-functions

      [9] Elbit Systems, ‘Elbit Systems Commenced the Operation of the Maritime UAS Patrol Service to European Union Countries’, 18 June 2019, https://elbitsystems.com/pr-new/elbit-systems-commenced-the-operation-of-the-maritime-uas-patrol-servi

      [10] ‘Elbit wins drone contract for up to $68m to help monitor Europe coast’, The Times of Israel, 1 November 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/elbit-wins-drone-contract-for-up-to-68m-to-help-monitor-europe-coast

      [11] ‘Answer given by Ms Bulc on behalf of the European Commission’, https://netzpolitik.org/wp-upload/2019/12/E-2946_191_Finalised_reply_Annex1_EN_V1.pdf

      [12] ‘Το drone της FRONTEX έπεσε, οι μετανάστες έρχονται’, Proto Thema, 27 January 2020, https://www.protothema.gr/greece/article/968869/to-drone-tis-frontex-epese-oi-metanastes-erhodai

      [13] Morgan Meaker, ‘Here’s proof the UK is using drones to patrol the English Channel’, Wired, 10 January 2020, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/uk-drones-migrants-english-channel

      [14] ‘Littoral: Les drones pour lutter contre les traversées de migrants sont opérationnels’, La Voix du Nord, 26 March 2019, https://www.lavoixdunord.fr/557951/article/2019-03-26/les-drones-pour-lutter-contre-les-traversees-de-migrants-sont-operation

      [15] ‘Frontex report on the functioning of Eurosur – Part I’, Council document 6215/18, 15 February 2018, http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6215-2018-INIT/en/pdf

      [16] European Commission, ‘Eurosur’, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/border-crossing/eurosur_en

      [17] Legal reforms have also given Frontex the power to operate on the territory of non-EU states, subject to the conclusion of a status agreement between the EU and the country in question. The 2016 Frontex Regulation allowed such cooperation with states that share a border with the EU; the 2019 Frontex Regulation extends this to any non-EU state.

      [18] ‘Helping the Libyan Coast Guard to establish a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre’, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2018-000547_EN.html

      [19] Matthias Monroy, ‘EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean’, 7 July 2018, https://digit.site36.net/2018/07/03/eu-funds-the-sacking-of-rescue-ships-in-the-mediterranean

      [20] Frontex, ‘Frontex begins testing use of aerostat for border surveillance’, 31 July 2019, https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-begins-testing-use-of-aerostat-for-border-surveillance-ur33N8

      [21] ‘Answer given by Ms Johansson on behalf of the European Commission’, 7 January 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2019-002529-ASW_EN.html

      [22] ‘Answer given by Vice-President Borrell on behalf of the European Commission’, 8 January 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2019-002654-ASW_EN.html

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/drones-for-frontex-unmanned-migration-control-at-europe-s-borders

      #drones

    • Monitoring “secondary movements” and “hotspots”: Frontex is now an internal surveillance agency (16.12.2019)

      The EU’s border agency, Frontex, now has powers to gather data on “secondary movements” and the “hotspots” within the EU. The intention is to ensure “situational awareness” and produce risk analyses on the migratory situation within the EU, in order to inform possible operational action by national authorities. This brings with it increased risks for the fundamental rights of both non-EU nationals and ethnic minority EU citizens.

      The establishment of a new ’standing corps’ of 10,000 border guards to be commanded by EU border agency Frontex has generated significant public and press attention in recent months. However, the new rules governing Frontex[1] include a number of other significant developments - including a mandate for the surveillance of migratory movements and migration “hotspots” within the EU.

      Previously, the agency’s surveillance role has been restricted to the external borders and the “pre-frontier area” – for example, the high seas or “selected third-country ports.”[2] New legal provisions mean it will now be able to gather data on the movement of people within the EU. While this is only supposed to deal with “trends, volumes and routes,” rather than personal data, it is intended to inform operational activity within the EU.

      This may mean an increase in operations against ‘unauthorised’ migrants, bringing with it risks for fundamental rights such as the possibility of racial profiling, detention, violence and the denial of access to asylum procedures. At the same time, in a context where internal borders have been reintroduced by numerous Schengen states over the last five years due to increased migration, it may be that he agency’s new role contributes to a further prolongation of internal border controls.

      From external to internal surveillance

      Frontex was initially established with the primary goals of assisting in the surveillance and control of the external borders of the EU. Over the years it has obtained increasing powers to conduct surveillance of those borders in order to identify potential ’threats’.

      The European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) has a key role in this task, taking data from a variety of sources, including satellites, sensors, drones, ships, vehicles and other means operated both by national authorities and the agency itself. EUROSUR was formally established by legislation approved in 2013, although the system was developed and in use long before it was subject to a legal framework.[3]

      The new Frontex Regulation incorporates and updates the provisions of the 2013 EUROSUR Regulation. It maintains existing requirements for the agency to establish a “situational picture” of the EU’s external borders and the “pre-frontier area” – for example, the high seas or the ports of non-EU states – which is then distributed to the EU’s member states in order to inform operational activities.[4]

      The new rules also provide a mandate for reporting on “unauthorised secondary movements” and goings-on in the “hotspots”. The Commission’s proposal for the new Frontex Regulation was not accompanied by an impact assessment, which would have set out the reasoning and justifications for these new powers. The proposal merely pointed out that the new rules would “evolve” the scope of EUROSUR, to make it possible to “prevent secondary movements”.[5] As the European Data Protection Supervisor remarked, the lack of an impact assessment made it impossible: “to fully assess and verify its attended benefits and impact, notably on fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to privacy and to the protection of personal data.”[6]

      The term “secondary movements” is not defined in the Regulation, but is generally used to refer to journeys between EU member states undertaken without permission, in particular by undocumented migrants and applicants for internal protection. Regarding the “hotspots” – established and operated by EU and national authorities in Italy and Greece – the Regulation provides a definition,[7] but little clarity on precisely what information will be gathered.

      Legal provisions

      A quick glance at Section 3 of the new Regulation, dealing with EUROSUR, gives little indication that the system will now be used for internal surveillance. The formal scope of EUROSUR is concerned with the external borders and border crossing points:

      “EUROSUR shall be used for border checks at authorised border crossing points and for external land, sea and air border surveillance, including the monitoring, detection, identification, tracking, prevention and interception of unauthorised border crossings for the purpose of detecting, preventing and combating illegal immigration and cross-border crime and contributing to ensuring the protection and saving the lives of migrants.”

      However, the subsequent section of the Regulation (on ‘situational awareness’) makes clear the agency’s new internal role. Article 24 sets out the components of the “situational pictures” that will be visible in EUROSUR. There are three types – national situational pictures, the European situational picture and specific situational pictures. All of these should consist of an events layer, an operational layer and an analysis layer. The first of these layers should contain (emphasis added in all quotes):

      “…events and incidents related to unauthorised border crossings and cross-border crime and, where available, information on unauthorised secondary movements, for the purpose of understanding migratory trends, volume and routes.”

      Article 26, dealing with the European situational picture, states:

      “The Agency shall establish and maintain a European situational picture in order to provide the national coordination centres and the Commission with effective, accurate and timely information and analysis, covering the external borders, the pre-frontier area and unauthorised secondary movements.”

      The events layer of that picture should include “information relating to… incidents in the operational area of a joint operation or rapid intervention coordinated by the Agency, or in a hotspot.”[8] In a similar vein:

      “The operational layer of the European situational picture shall contain information on the joint operations and rapid interventions coordinated by the Agency and on hotspots, and shall include the mission statements, locations, status, duration, information on the Member States and other actors involved, daily and weekly situational reports, statistical data and information packages for the media.”[9]

      Article 28, dealing with ‘EUROSUR Fusion Services’, says that Frontex will provide national authorities with information on the external borders and pre-frontier area that may be derived from, amongst other things, the monitoring of “migratory flows towards and within the Union in terms of trends, volume and routes.”

      Sources of data

      The “situational pictures” compiled by Frontex and distributed via EUROSUR are made up of data gathered from a host of different sources. For the national situational picture, these are:

      national border surveillance systems;
      stationary and mobile sensors operated by national border agencies;
      border surveillance patrols and “other monitoring missions”;
      local, regional and other coordination centres;
      other national authorities and systems, such as immigration liaison officers, operational centres and contact points;
      border checks;
      Frontex;
      other member states’ national coordination centres;
      third countries’ authorities;
      ship reporting systems;
      other relevant European and international organisations; and
      other sources.[10]

      For the European situational picture, the sources of data are:

      national coordination centres;
      national situational pictures;
      immigration liaison officers;
      Frontex, including reports form its liaison officers;
      Union delegations and EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions;
      other relevant Union bodies, offices and agencies and international organisations; and
      third countries’ authorities.[11]

      The EUROSUR handbook – which will presumably be redrafted to take into account the new legislation – provides more detail about what each of these categories may include.[12]

      Exactly how this melange of different data will be used to report on secondary movements is currently unknown. However, in accordance with Article 24 of the new Regulation:

      “The Commission shall adopt an implementing act laying down the details of the information layers of the situational pictures and the rules for the establishment of specific situational pictures. The implementing act shall specify the type of information to be provided, the entities responsible for collecting, processing, archiving and transmitting specific information, the maximum time limits for reporting, the data security and data protection rules and related quality control mechanisms.” [13]

      This implementing act will specify precisely how EUROSUR will report on “secondary movements”.[14] According to a ‘roadmap’ setting out plans for the implementation of the new Regulation, this implementing act should have been drawn up in the last quarter of 2020 by a newly-established European Border and Coast Guard Committee sitting within the Commission. However, that Committee does not yet appear to have held any meetings.[15]

      Operational activities at the internal borders

      Boosting Frontex’s operational role is one of the major purposes of the new Regulation, although it makes clear that the internal surveillance role “should not lead to operational activities of the Agency at the internal borders of the Member States.” Rather, internal surveillance should “contribute to the monitoring by the Agency of migratory flows towards and within the Union for the purpose of risk analysis and situational awareness.” The purpose is to inform operational activity by national authorities.

      In recent years Schengen member states have reintroduced border controls for significant periods in the name of ensuring internal security and combating irregular migration. An article in Deutsche Welle recently highlighted:

      “When increasing numbers of refugees started arriving in the European Union in 2015, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Hungary quickly reintroduced controls, citing a “continuous big influx of persons seeking international protection.” This was the first time that migration had been mentioned as a reason for reintroducing border controls.

      Soon after, six Schengen members reintroduced controls for extended periods. Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway cited migration as a reason. France, as the sixth country, first introduced border checks after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, citing terrorist threats. Now, four years later, all six countries still have controls in place. On November 12, they are scheduled to extend them for another six months.”[16]

      These long-term extensions of internal border controls are illegal (the upper limit is supposed to be two years; discussions on changes to the rules governing the reintroduction of internal border controls in the Schengen area are ongoing).[17] A European Parliament resolution from May 2018 stated that “many of the prolongations are not in line with the existing rules as to their extensions, necessity or proportionality and are therefore unlawful.”[18] Yves Pascou, a researcher for the European Policy Centre, told Deutsche Welle that: “"We are in an entirely political situation now, not a legal one, and not one grounded in facts.”

      A European Parliament study published in 2016 highlighted that:

      “there has been a noticeable lack of detail and evidence given by the concerned EU Member States [those which reintroduced internal border controls]. For example, there have been no statistics on the numbers of people crossing borders and seeking asylum, or assessment of the extent to which reintroducing border checks complies with the principles of proportionality and necessity.”[19]

      One purpose of Frontex’s new internal surveillance powers is to provide such evidence (albeit in the ideologically-skewed form of ‘risk analysis’) on the situation within the EU. Whether the information provided will be of interest to national authorities is another question. Nevertheless, it would be a significant irony if the provision of that information were to contribute to the further maintenance of internal borders in the Schengen area.

      At the same time, there is a more pressing concern related to these new powers. Many discussions on the reintroduction of internal borders revolve around the fact that it is contrary to the idea, spirit (and in these cases, the law) of the Schengen area. What appears to have been totally overlooked is the effect the reintroduction of internal borders may have on non-EU nationals or ethnic minority citizens of the EU. One does not have to cross an internal Schengen frontier too many times to notice patterns in the appearance of the people who are hauled off trains and buses by border guards, but personal anecdotes are not the same thing as empirical investigation. If Frontex’s new powers are intended to inform operational activity by the member states at the internal borders of the EU, then the potential effects on fundamental rights must be taken into consideration and should be the subject of investigation by journalists, officials, politicians and researchers.

      Chris Jones

      Endnotes

      [1] The new Regulation was published in the Official Journal of the EU in mid-November: Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [2] Article 12, ‘Common application of surveillance tools’, Regulation (EU) No 1052/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 establishing the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32013R1052

      [3] According to Frontex, the Eurosur Network first came into use in December 2011 and in March 2012 was first used to “exchange operational information”. The Regulation governing the system came into force in October 2013 (see footnote 2). See: Charles Heller and Chris Jones, ‘Eurosur: saving lives or reinforcing deadly borders?’, Statewatch Journal, vol. 23 no. 3/4, February 2014, http://database.statewatch.org/article.asp?aid=33156

      [4] Recital 34, 2019 Regulation: “EUROSUR should provide an exhaustive situational picture not only at the external borders but also within the Schengen area and in the pre-frontier area. It should cover land, sea and air border surveillance and border checks.”

      [5] European Commission, ‘Proposal for a Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Council Joint Action no 98/700/JHA, Regulation (EU) no 1052/2013 and Regulation (EU) no 2016/1624’, COM(2018) 631 final, 12 September 2018, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2018/sep/eu-com-frontex-proposal-regulation-com-18-631.pdf

      [6] EDPS, ‘Formal comments on the Proposal for a Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard’, 30 November 2018, p. p.2, https://edps.europa.eu/sites/edp/files/publication/18-11-30_comments_proposal_regulation_european_border_coast_guard_en.pdf

      [7] Article 2(23): “‘hotspot area’ means an area created at the request of the host Member State in which the host Member State, the Commission, relevant Union agencies and participating Member States cooperate, with the aim of managing an existing or potential disproportionate migratory challenge characterised by a significant increase in the number of migrants arriving at the external borders”

      [8] Article 26(3)(c), 2019 Regulation

      [9] Article 26(4), 2019 Regulation

      [10] Article 25, 2019 Regulation

      [11] Article 26, 2019 Regulation

      [12] European Commission, ‘Commission Recommendation adopting the Practical Handbook for implementing and managing the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR)’, C(2015) 9206 final, 15 December 2015, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/securing-eu-borders/legal-documents/docs/eurosur_handbook_annex_en.pdf

      [13] Article 24(3), 2019 Regulation

      [14] ‘’Roadmap’ for implementing new Frontex Regulation: full steam ahead’, Statewatch News, 25 November 2019, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/nov/eu-frontex-roadmap.htm

      [15] Documents related to meetings of committees operating under the auspices of the European Commission can be found in the Comitology Register: https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regcomitology/index.cfm?do=Search.Search&NewSearch=1

      [16] Kira Schacht, ‘Border checks in EU countries challenge Schengen Agreement’, DW, 12 November 2019, https://www.dw.com/en/border-checks-in-eu-countries-challenge-schengen-agreement/a-51033603

      [17] European Parliament, ‘Temporary reintroduction of border control at internal borders’, https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2017/0245(COD)&l=en

      [18] ‘Report on the annual report on the functioning of the Schengen area’, 3 May 2018, para.9, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-8-2018-0160_EN.html

      [19] Elpseth Guild et al, ‘Internal border controls in the Schengen area: is Schengen crisis-proof?’, European Parliament, June 2016, p.9, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/571356/IPOL_STU(2016)571356_EN.pdf

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2019/monitoring-secondary-movements-and-hotspots-frontex-is-now-an-internal-s

      #mouvements_secondaires #hotspot #hotspots

  • OP-ed : La guerre faite aux migrants à la frontière grecque de l’Europe par #Vicky_Skoumbi

    La #honte de l’Europe : les #hotspots aux îles grecques
    Devant les Centres de Réception et d’Identification des îles grecques, devant cette ‘ignominie à ciel ouvert’ que sont les camps de Moria à Lesbos et de Vathy à Samos, nous sommes à court de mots ; en effet il est presque impossible de trouver des mots suffisamment forts pour dire l’horreur de l’enfermement dans les hot-spots d’hommes, femmes et enfants dans des conditions abjectes. Les hot-spots sont les Centres de Réception et d’Identification (CIR en français, RIC en anglais) qui ont été créés en 2015 à la demande de l’UE en Italie et en Grèce et plus particulièrement dans les îles grecques de Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros et Kos, afin d’identifier et enregistrer les personnes arrivantes. L’approche ‘hot-spots’ introduite par l’UE en mai 2015 était destinée à ‘faciliter’ l’enregistrement des arrivants en vue d’une relocalisation de ceux-ci vers d’autres pays européens que ceux de première entrée en Europe. Force est de constater que, pendant ces cinq années de fonctionnement, ils n’ont servi que le but contraire de celui initialement affiché, à savoir le confinement de personnes par la restriction géographique voire par la détention sur place.

    Actuellement, dans ces camps, des personnes vulnérables, fuyant la guerre et les persécutions, fragilisées par des voyages longs et éprouvants, parmi lesquels se trouvent des victimes de torture ou de naufrage, sont obligées de vivre dans une promiscuité effroyable et dans des conditions inhumaines. En fait, trois quart jusqu’à quatre cinquième des personnes confinées dans les îles grecques appartiennent à des catégories reconnues comme vulnérables, même aux yeux de critères stricts de vulnérabilité établis par l’UE et la législation grecque[1], tandis qu’un tiers des résidents des camps de Moria et de Vathy sont des enfants, qui n’ont aucun accès à un circuit scolaire. Les habitants de ces zones de non-droit que sont les hot-spots, passent leurs journées à attendre dans des files interminables : attendre pour la distribution d’une nourriture souvent avariée, pour aller aux toilettes, pour se laver, pour voir un médecin. Ils sont pris dans un suspens du temps, sans aucune perspective d’avenir de sorte que plusieurs d’entre eux finissent par perdre leurs repères au détriment de leur équilibre mental et de leur santé.

    Déjà avant l’épidémie de Covid 19, plusieurs organismes internationaux comme le UNHCR[2] avaient dénoncé les conditions indignes dans lesquelles étaient obligées de vivre les demandeurs d’asile dans les hot-spots, tandis que des ONG comme MSF[3] et Amnesty International[4] avaient à plusieurs reprises alerté sur le risque que représentent les conditions sanitaires si dégradées, en y pointant une situation propice au déclenchement des épidémies. De son côté, Jean Ziegler, dans son livre réquisitoire sorti en début 2020, désignait le camp de #Moria, le hot-spot de Lesbos, comme la ‘honte de l’Europe’[5].

    Début mars 2020, 43.000 personnes étaient bloquées dans les îles dont 20.000 à Moria et 7.700 à Samos pour une capacité d’accueil de 2.700 et 650 respectivement[6]. Avec les risques particulièrement accrus de contamination, à cause de l’impossibilité de respecter la distanciation sociale et les mesures d’hygiène, on aurait pu s’attendre à ce que des mesures urgentes de décongestion de ces camps soient prises, avec des transferts massifs vers la Grèce continentale et l’installation dans des logements touristiques vides. A vrai dire c’était l’évacuation complète de camps si insalubres qui s’imposait, mais étant donné la difficulté de trouver dans l’immédiat des alternatives d’hébergement pour 43.000 personnes, le transfert au moins des plus vulnérables à des structures plus petites offrant la possibilité d’isolement- comme les hôtels et autres logements touristiques vides dans le continent- aurait été une mesure minimale de protection. Au lieu de cela, le gouvernement Mitsotakis a décidé d’enfermer les résidents des camps dans les îles dans des conditions inhumaines, sans qu’aucune mesure d’amélioration des conditions sanitaires ne soit prévue[7].

    Car, les mesures prises le 17 mars par le gouvernement pour empêcher la propagation du virus dans les camps, consistaient uniquement en une restriction des déplacements au strict minimum nécessaire et même en deça de celui-ci : une seule personne par famille aura désormais le droit de sortir du camp pour faire des courses entre 7 heures et 19 heures, avec une autorisation fournie par la police, le nombre total de personnes ayant droit de sortir par heure restant limité. Parallèlement l’entrée des visiteurs a été interdite et celle des travailleurs humanitaires strictement limitée à ceux assurant des services vitaux. Une mesure supplémentaire qui a largement contribué à la détérioration de la situation des réfugiés dans les camps, a été la décision du ministère d’arrêter de créditer de fonds leur cartes prépayés (cash cards ) afin d’éviter toute sortie des camps, laissant ainsi les résidents des hot-spots dans l’impossibilité de s’approvisionner avec des produits de première nécessité et notamment de produits d’hygiène. Remarquez que ces mesures sont toujours en vigueur pour les hot-spots et toute autre structure accueillant des réfugiés et des migrants en Grèce, en un moment où toute restriction de mouvement a été déjà levée pour la population grecque. En effet, après une énième prolongation du confinement dans les camps, les mesures de restriction de mouvement ont été reconduites jusqu’au 5 juillet, une mesure d’autant plus discriminatoire que depuis cinq semaines déjà les autres habitants du pays ont retrouvé une entière liberté de mouvement. Etant donné qu’aucune donnée sanitaire ne justifie l’enfermement dans les hot-spots où pas un seul cas n’a été détecté, cette extension de restrictions transforme de facto les Centres de Réception et Identification (RIC) dans les îles en centres fermés ou semi-fermés, anticipant ainsi à la création de nouveaux centres fermés, à la place de hot-spots actuels –voir ici et ici. Il est fort à parier que le gouvernement va étendre de prolongation en prolongation le confinement de RIC pendant au moins toute la période touristique, ce qui risque de faire monter encore plus la tension dans les camps jusqu’à un niveau explosif.

    Ainsi les demandeurs d’asile ont été – et continuent toujours à être – obligés de vivre toute la période de l’épidémie, dans une très grande promiscuité et dans des conditions sanitaires qui suscitaient déjà l’effroi bien avant la menace du Covid-19[8]. Voyons de plus près quelles conditions de vie règnent dans ce drôle de ‘chez soi’, auquel le Ministre grec de la politique migratoire invitait les réfugiés à y passer une période de confinement sans cesse prolongée, en présentant le « Stay in camps » comme le strict équivalent du « Stay home », pour les citoyens grecs. Dans l’extension « hors les murs » du hotspot de Moria, vers l’oliveraie, repartie en Oliveraie I, II et III, il y a des quartiers où il n’existe qu’un seul robinet d’eau pour 1 500 personnes, ce qui rend le respect de règles d’hygiène absolument impossible. Dans le camp de Moria il n’y a qu’une seule toilette pour 167 personnes et une douche pour 242, alors que dans l’Oliveraie, 5 000 personnes n’ont aucun accès à l’électricité, à l’eau et aux toilettes. Selon le directeur des programmes de Médecins sans Frontières, Apostolos Veizis, au hot-spot de Samos à Vathy, il n’y a qu’une seule toilette pour 300 personnes, tandis que l’organisation MSF a installé 80 toilettes et elle fournit 60 000 litres d’eau par jour pour couvrir, ne serait-ce que partiellement- les besoins de résidents à l’extérieur du camp.

    Avec la restriction drastique de mouvement contre le Covid-19, non seulement les sorties du camp, même pour s’approvisionner ou pour aller consulter, étaient faites au compte-goutte, mais aussi les entrées, limitant ainsi dramatiquement les services que les ONG et les collectifs solidaires offraient aux réfugiés. La réduction du nombre des ONG et l’absence de solidaires a créé un manque cruel d’effectifs qui s’est traduit par une désorganisation complète de divers services et notamment de la distribution de la nourriture. Ainsi, dans le camp de Moria en pleine pandémie, ont eu lieu des scènes honteuses de bousculade effroyable où les réfugiés étaient obligés de se battre pour une portion de nourriture- voir la vidéo et l’article de quotidien grec Ephimérida tôn Syntaktôn. Ces scènes indignes ne sauraient que se multiplier dans la mesure où le gouvernement en imposant aux ONG un procédé d’enregistrement très complexe et coûteux a réussi à exclure plus que la moitié de celles qui s’activent dans les camps. Car, par le processus de ‘régulation’ d’un domaine censément opaque, imposé par la récente loi sur l’asile, n’ont réussi à passer que 18 ONG qui elles seules auront désormais droit d’entrée dans les hot-spots[9]. En fait, l’inscription des ONG dans le registre du Ministère s’avère un procédé plein d’embûches bureaucratiques. Qui plus est le Ministre peut décider à son gré de refuser l’inscription des organisations qui remplissent tous les critères requis, ce qui serait une ingérence flagrante du pouvoir dans le domaine humanitaire.

    Car, il faudrait aussi savoir que les réfugiés enfermés dans les camps se trouvent à la limite de la survie, après la décision du Ministère de leur couper, à partir du début mars, les aides –déjà très maigres, 90 euros par mois pour une personne seule- auxquelles ils avaient droit jusqu’à maintenant. En ce qui concerne la couverture sociale de santé, à partir de juillet dernier les demandeurs ne pouvaient plus obtenir un numéro de sécurité sociale et étaient ainsi privés de toute couverture santé. Après des mois de tergiversation et sous la pression des organismes internationaux, le gouvernement grec a enfin décidé de leur accorder un numéro provisoire de sécurité sociale, mais cette mesure reste pour l’instant en attente de sa pleine réalisation. Entretemps, l’exclusion des demandeurs d’asile du système national de santé a fait son effet : non seulement, elle a conduit à une détérioration significative de la santé des requérant, mais elle a également privé des enfants réfugiés de scolarisation, car, faute de carnet de vaccination à jour, ceux-ci ne pouvaient pas s’inscrire à l’école.

    En d’autres termes, au lieu de déployer pendant l’épidémie une politique de décongestion avec transferts massifs à des structures sécurisées, le gouvernement a traité les demandeurs d’asile comme porteurs virtuels du virus, à tenir coûte que coûte à l’écart de la société ; non seulement les réfugiés et les migrants n’ont pas été protégés par un confinement sécurisé, mais ils ont été enfermés dans des conditions sanitaires mettant leur santé et leur vie en danger. La preuve, si besoin est, ce sont les mesures prises par le gouvernement dans des structures d’accueil du continent où des cas de coronavirus ont été détectés ; par ex. la gestion catastrophique de la quarantaine dans une structure d’accueil hôtelière à Kranidi en Péloponnèse où une femme enceinte a été testée positive en avril. Dans cet hôtel géré par l’IOM qui accueille 470 réfugiés de l’Afrique sub-saharienne, après l’indentification de deux cas (une employée et une résidente), un dépistage généralisé a été effectué et le 21 avril 150 cas ont été détectés ; très probablement le virus a été ‘importé’ dans la structure par les contacts des réfugiés et du personnel avec les propriétaires de villas voisines installés dans la région pour la période de confinement et qui les employaient pour divers services. Après une quarantaine de trois semaines, trois nouveaux cas ont été détectés avec comme résultat que toutes les personnes testées négatives ont été placées en quarantaine avec celles testées positives au même endroit[10].

    Exactement la même tactique a été adoptée dans les camps de Ritsona (au nord d’Athènes) et de Malakassa (à l’est d’Attique), où des cas ont été détectés. Au lieu d’isoler les porteurs du virus et d’effectuer un dépistage exhaustif de toute la population du camp, travailleurs compris, ce qui aurait pu permettre d’isoler tout porteur non-symptomatique, les camps avec tous leurs résidents ont été mis en quarantaine. Les autorités « ont imposé ces mesures sans prendre de dispositions nécessaires …pour isoler les personnes atteintes du virus à l’intérieur des camps, ont déclaré deux travailleurs humanitaires et un résident du camp. Dans un troisième cas, les autorités ont fermé le camp sans aucune preuve de la présence du virus à l’intérieur, simplement parce qu’elles soupçonnaient les résidents du camp d’avoir eu des contacts avec une communauté voisine de Roms où des gens avaient été testés positifs [11] » [il s’agit du camp de Koutsohero, près de Larissa, qui accueille 1.500 personnes][12].

    Un travailleur humanitaire a déclaré à Human Rights Watch : « Aussi scandaleux que cela puisse paraître, l’approche des autorités lorsqu’elles soupçonnent qu’il pourrait y avoir un cas de virus dans un camp consiste simplement à enfermer tout le monde dans le camp, potentiellement des milliers de personnes, dont certaines très vulnérables, et à jeter la clé, sans prendre les mesures appropriées pour retracer les contacts de porteurs du virus, ni pour isoler les personnes touchées ».

    Il va de soi qu’une telle tactique ne vise nullement à protéger les résidents de camp, mais à les isoler tous, porteurs et non-porteurs, ensemble, au risque de leur santé et de leur vie. Au fond, la stratégie du gouvernement a été simple : retrancher complètement les réfugiés du reste de la population, tout en les excluant de mesures de protection efficiantes. Bref, les réfugiés ont été abandonnés à leur sort, quitte à se contaminer les uns les autres, pourvu qu’ils ne soient plus en contact avec les habitants de la région.

    La gestion par les autorités de la quarantaine à l’ancien camp de Malakasa est également révélatrice de la volonté des autorités non pas de protéger les résidents des camps mais de les isoler à tout prix de la population locale. Une quarantaine a été imposée le 5 avril suite à la détection d’un cas. A l’expiration du délai réglementaire de deux semaines, la quarantaine n’a été que très partiellement levée. Pendant la durée de la quarantaine l’ancien camp de Malakasa abritant 2.500 personnes a été approvisionné en quantité insuffisante en nourriture de basse valeur nutritionnelle, et pratiquement pas du tout en médicaments et aliments pour bébés. Le 22 avril un nouveau cas a été détecté et la quarantaine a été de nouveau imposée à l’ensemble de 2.500 résidents du camp. Entretemps quelques tests de dépistage ont été faits par-ci et par-là, mais aucune mesure spécifique n’a été prise pour les cas détectés afin de les isoler du reste de la population du camp. Pendant cette nouvelle période de quarantaine, la seule mesure prise par les autorités a été de redoubler les effectifs de police à l’entrée du camp, afin d’empêcher toute sortie, et ceci à un moment critique où des produits de première nécessité manquaient cruellement dans le camp. Ni dépistage généralisé, ni visite d’équipes médicales spécialisées, ni non plus séparation spatiale stricte entre porteurs et non-porteurs du virus n’ont été mises en place. La quarantaine, avec une courte période d’allégement de mesures de restriction, dure déjà depuis deux mois et demi. Car, le 20 juin elle a été prolongée jusqu’au 5 juillet, transformant ainsi de facto les résidents du camp en détenus[13].

    La façon aussi dont ont été traités les nouveaux arrivants dans les îles depuis le début de la période du confinement et jusqu’à maintenant est également révélatrice de la volonté du gouvernement de ne pas faire le nécessaire pour assurer la protection des demandeurs d’asile. Non seulement ceux qui sont arrivés après le début mars n’ont pas été mis à l’abri pour y passer la période de quarantaine de 14 jours dans des conditions sécurisées, mais ils ont été systématiquement ‘confinés en plein air’ à la proximité de l’endroit où ils ont débarqué : les nouveaux arrivants, femmes enceintes et enfants compris, ont été obligés de vivre en plein air, exposés aux intempéries dans une zone circonscrite placée sous la surveillance de la police, pendant deux, trois voire quatre semaines et sans aucun accès à des infrastructures sanitaires. Le cas de 450 personnes arrivées début mars est caractéristique : après avoir été gardées en « quarantaine » dans une zone entourée de barrières au port de Mytilène, elles ont été enfermées pendant 13 jours dans des conditions inimaginables dans un navire militaire grec, où ils ont été obligés de dormir sur le sol en fer du navire, vivant littéralement les uns sur les autres, sans même qu’on ne leur fournisse du savon pour se laver les mains.

    Cet enfermement prolongé dans des conditions abjectes, en contre-pied du confinement sécurisé à la maison, que la plupart d’entre nous, citoyens européens, avons connu, transforme de fait les demandeurs en détenus et crée inévitablement des situations explosives avec une montée des incidents violents, des affrontements entre groupes ethniques, des départs d’incendies à Lesbos, à Chios et à Samos. Ne serait-ce qu’à Moria, et surtout dans l’Oliveraie qui entoure le camp officiel, dès la tombée de la nuit l’insécurité règne : depuis le début de l’année on y dénombre au moins 14 agressions à l’arme blanche qui ont fait quatre morts et 14 blessés[14]. Bref aux conditions de vie indignes et dangereuses pour la santé, il faudrait ajouter l’insécurité croissante, encore plus pesante pour les femmes, les personnes LGBT+ et les mineurs isolés.

    Affronté aux réactions des sociétés locales et à la pression des organismes internationaux, le gouvernement grec a fini par reconnaître la nécessité de la décongestion des îles par le biais du transfert de réfugiés et des demandeurs d’asile vulnérables au continent. Mais il s’en est rendu compte trop tard ; entretemps le discours haineux qui présente les migrants comme une menace pour la sécurité nationale voire pour l’identité de la nation, ce poison qu’elle-même a administré à la population, a fait son effet. Aujourd’hui, le ministre de la politique migratoire a été pris au piège de sa propre rhétorique xénophobe haineuse ; c’est au nom justement de celle-ci que les autorités régionales et locales (et plus particulièrement celles proches à la majorité actuelle), opposent un refus catégorique à la perspective d’accueillir dans leur région des réfugiés venant des hot-spots des îles. Des hôtels où des familles en provenance de Moria auraient dû être logées ont été en partie brûlés, des cars transportant des femmes et des enfants ont été attaqués à coup de pierres, des tenanciers d’établissements qui s’apprêtaient à les accueillir, ont reçu des menaces, la liste des actes honteux ne prend pas fin[15].

    Mais le ministre grec de la politique migratoire n’est jamais en court de moyens : il a un plan pour libérer plus que 10.000 places dans les structures d’accueil et les appartements en Grèce continentale. A partir du 1 juin, les autorités ont commencé à mettre dans la rue 11.237 réfugiés reconnus comme bénéficiaires de protection internationale, un mois après l’obtention de leur carte de réfugiés ! Evincés de leurs logements, ces réfugiés, femmes, enfants et personnes vulnérables compris, se retrouveront dans la rue et sans ressources, car ils n’ont plus le droit de recevoir les aides qui ne leur sont destinées que pendant les 30 jours qui suivent l’obtention de leur carte[16]. Cette décision du ministre Mitarakis a été mise sur le compte d’une politique moins accueillante, car selon lui, les aides, assez maigres, par ailleurs, constituaient un « appel d’air » trop attractif pour les candidats à l’exil ! Le comble de l’affaire est que tant le programme d’hébergement en appartements et hôtels ESTIA que les aides accordées aux réfugiés et demandeurs d’asile sont financées par l’UE et des organismes internationaux, et ne coûtent strictement rien au budget de l’Etat. Le désastre qui se dessine à l’horizon a déjà pointé son nez : une centaine de réfugiés dont une quarantaine d’enfants, transférés de Lesbos à Athènes, ont été abandonnés sans ressources et sans toit en pleine rue. Ils campent actuellement à la place Victoria, à Athènes.

    Le dernier cercle de l’enfer : les PROKEKA

    Au moment où est écrit cet article, les camps dans les îles fonctionnent cinq, six voire dix fois au-dessus de leur capacité d’accueil. 34.000 personnes sont actuellement entassées dans les îles, dont 30.220 confinées dans les conditions abjectes de hot-spots prévus pour accueillir 6 000 personnes au grand maximum ; 750 en détention dans les centres de détention fermés avant renvoi (PROΚEΚA), et le restant dans d’autres structures[17].

    Plusieurs agents du terrain ont qualifié à juste titre les camps de Moria à Lesbos et celui de Vathy à Samos[18] comme l’enfer sur terre. Car, comment désigner autrement un endroit comme Moria où les enfants – un tiers des habitants du camp- jouent parmi les ordures et les déjections et où plusieurs d’entre eux touchent un tel fond de désespoir qu’ils finissent par s’automutiler et/ou par commettre de tentatives de suicide[19], tandis que d’autres tombent dans un état de prostration et de mutisme ? Comment dire autrement l’horreur d’un endroit comme le camp de Vathy où femmes enceintes et enfants de bas âge côtoient des serpents, des rats et autres scorpions ?

    Cependant, il y a pire, en l’occurrence le dernier cercle de l’Enfer, les ‘Centres de Détention fermés avant renvoi’ (Pre-moval Detention Centers, PROKEKA en grec), l’équivalent grec des CRA (Centre de Rétention Administrative) en France[20]. Aux huit centres fermés de détention et aux postes de police disséminés partout en Grèce, plusieurs milliers de demandeurs d’asile et d’étrangers sans-papiers sont actuellement détenus dans des conditions terrifiantes. Privés même des droits les plus élémentaires de prisonniers, les détenus restent presque sans soins médicaux, sans contact régulier avec l’extérieur, sans droit de visite ni accès assuré à une aide judiciaire. Ces détenus qui sont souvent victimes de mauvais traitements de la part de leurs gardiens, n’ont pas de perspective de sortie, dans la mesure où, en vertu de la nouvelle loi sur l’asile, leur détention peut être prolongée jusqu’à 36 mois. Leur maintien en détention est ‘justifié’ en vue d’une déportation devenue plus qu’improbable – qu’il s’agisse d’une expulsion vers le pays d’origine ou d’une réadmission vers un tiers pays « sûr ». Dans ces conditions il n’est pas étonnant qu’en désespoir de cause, des détenus finissent par attenter à leur jours, en commettant des suicides ou des tentatives de suicide.

    Ce qui est encore plus alarmant est qu’à la fin 2018, à peu près 28% des détenus au sein de ces centres fermés étaient des mineurs[21]. Plus récemment et notamment fin avril dernier, Arsis dans un communiqué de presse du 27 avril 2020, a dénoncé la détention en tout point de vue illégale d’une centaine de mineurs dans un seul centre de détention, celui d’Amygdaleza en Attique. D’après les témoignages, c’est avant tout dans les préfectures et les postes de police où sont gardés plus que 28% de détenus que les conditions de détention virent à un cauchemar, qui rivalise avec celui dépeint dans le film Midnight Express. Les cellules des commissariats où s’entassent souvent des dizaines de personnes sont conçus pour une détention provisoire de quelques heures, les infrastructures sanitaires sont défaillantes, et il n’y a pas de cour pour la promenade quotidienne. Quant aux policiers, ils se comportent comme s’ ils étaient au-dessus de la loi face à des détenus livrés à leur merci : ils leur font subir des humiliations systématiques, des mauvais traitements, des violences voire des tortures.

    Plusieurs témoignages concordants dénoncent des conditions horribles dans les préfectures et les commissariats : les détenus peuvent être privés de nourriture et d’eau pendant des journées entières, plusieurs entre eux sont battus et peuvent rester entravés et ligotés pendant des jours, privés de soins médicaux, même pour des cas urgents. En mars 2017, Ariel Rickel (fondatrice d’Advocates Abroad) avait découvert dans le commissariat du hot-spot de Samos, un mineur de 15 ans, ligoté sur une chaise. Le jeune homme qui avait été violement battu par les policiers, avait eu des côtes cassées et une blessure ouverte au ventre ; il était resté dans cet état ligoté trois jours durant, et ce n’est qu’après l’intervention de l’ombudsman, sollicité par l’avocate, qu’il a fini par être libéré.[22] Le cas rapporté par Ariel Rickel à Valeria Hänsel n’est malheureusement pas exceptionnel. Car, ces conditions inhumaines de détention dans les PROKEKA ont été à plusieurs reprises dénoncées comme un traitement inhumain et dégradant par la Cour Européenne de droits de l’homme[23] et par le Comité Européen pour la prévention de la torture du Conseil de l’Europe (CPT).

    Il faudrait aussi noter qu’au sein de hot-spot de Lesbos et de Kos, il y a de tels centres de détention fermés, ‘de prison dans les prisons à ciel ouvert’ que sont ces camps. Un rapport récent de HIAS Greece décrit les conditions inhumaines qui règnent dans le PROKEKA de Moria où sont détenus en toute illégalité des demandeurs d’asile n’ayant commis d’autre délit que le fait d’être originaire d’un pays dont les ressortissants obtiennent en moyenne en UE moins de 25% de réponses positives à leurs demandes d’asile (low profile scheme). Il est évident que la détention d’un demandeur d’asile sur la seule base de son pays d’origine constitue une mesure de ségrégation discriminatoire qui expose les requérants à des mauvais traitements, vu la quasi inexistence de services médicaux et la très grande difficulté voire l’impossibilité d’avoir accès à l’aide juridique gratuite pendant la détention arbitraire. Ainsi, p.ex. des personnes ressortissant de pays comme le Pakistan ou l’Algérie, même si ils/elles sont LGBT+, ce qui les exposent à des dangers graves dans leur pays d’origine, seront automatiquement détenus dans le PROKEKA de Moria, étant ainsi empêchés d’étayer suffisamment leur demande d’asile, en faisant appel à l’aide juridique gratuite et en la documentant. Début avril, dans deux centres de détention fermés, celui au sein du camp de Moria et celui de Paranesti, près de la ville de Drama au nord de la Grèce, les détenus avaient commencés une grève de la faim pour protester contre la promiscuité effroyable et réclamer leur libération ; dans les deux cas les protestations ont été très violemment réprimées par les forces de l’ordre.

    La déclaration commune UE-Turquie

    Cependant il faudrait garder à l’esprit qu’à l’origine de cette situation infernale se trouve la décision de l’UE en 2016 de fermer ses frontières et d’externaliser en Turquie la prise en charge de réfugiés, tout en bloquant ceux qui arrivent à passer en Grèce. C’est bien l’accord UE-Turquie du 18 mars 2016[24] – en fait une Déclaration commune dépourvue d’un statut juridique équivalent à celui d’un accord en bonne et due forme- qui a transformé les îles grecques en prison à ciel ouvert. En fait, cette Déclaration est un troc avec la Turquie où celle-ci s’engageait non seulement à fermer ses frontières en gardant sur son sol des millions de réfugiés mais aussi à accepte les réadmissions de ceux qui ont réussi à atteindre l’Europe ; en échange une aide de 6 milliards lui serait octroyée afin de couvrir une partie de frais générés par le maintien de 3 millions de réfugiés sur son sol, tandis que les ressortissants turcs n’auraient plus besoin de visa pour voyager en Europe. En fait, comme le dit un rapport de GISTI, la nature juridique de la Déclaration du 18 mars a beau être douteuse, elle ne produit pas moins les « effets d’un accord international sans en respecter les règles d’élaboration ». C’est justement le statut douteux de cette déclaration commune, que certains analystes n’hésitent pas de désigner comme un simple ‘communiqué de presse’, qui a fait que la Cour Européenne a refusé de se prononcer sur la légalité, en se déclarant incompétente, face à un accord d’un statut juridique indéterminé.

    Or, dans le cadre de la mise en œuvre de cet accord a été introduite par l’article 60(4) de la loi grecque L 4375/2016, la procédure d’asile dite ‘accélérée’ dans les îles grecques (fast-track border procedure) qui non seulement réduisaient les garanties de la procédure au plus bas possible en UE, mais qui impliquait aussi comme corrélat l’imposition de la restriction géographique de demandeurs d’asile dans les îles de première arrivée. Celle-ci fut officiellement imposée par la décision 10464/31-5-2017 de la Directrice du Service d’Asile, qui instaurait la restriction de circulation des requérant, afin de garantir le renvoi en Turquie de ceux-ci, en cas de rejet de leurs demandes. Rappelons que ces renvois s’appuient sur la reconnaissance -tout à fait infondée-, de la Turquie comme ‘pays tiers sûr’. Même des réfugiés Syriens ont été renvoyés en Turquie dans le cadre de la mise en application de cette déclaration commune.

    La restriction géographique qui contraint les demandeurs d’asile de ne quitter sous aucun prétexte l’île où ils ont déposé leur demande, jusqu’à l’examen complet de celle-ci, conduit inévitablement au point où nous sommes aujourd’hui à savoir à ce surpeuplement inhumain qui non seulement crée une situation invivable pour les demandeurs, mais a aussi un effet toxique sur les sociétés locales. Déjà en mai 2016, François Crépeau, rapporteur spécial de NU aux droits de l’homme de migrants, soulignait que « la fermeture de frontières de pays au nord de la Grèce, ainsi que le nouvel accord UE-Turquie a abouti à une augmentation exponentielle du nombre de migrants irréguliers dans ce pays ». Et il ajoutait que « le grand nombre de migrants irréguliers bloqués en Grèce est principalement le résultat de la politique migratoire de l’UE et des pays membres de l’UE fondée exclusivement sur la sécurisation des frontières ».

    Gisti, dans un rapport sur les hotspots de Chios et de Lesbos notait également depuis 2016 que, étant donné l’accord UE-Turquie, « ce sont les Etats membres de l’UE et l’Union elle-même qui portent l’essentiel de la responsabilité́ des mauvais traitements et des violations de leurs droits subis par les migrants enfermés dans les hotspots grecs.

    La présence des agences européennes à l’intérieur des hotspots ne fait que souligner cette responsabilité ». On le verra, le rôle de l’EASO est crucial dans la décision finale du service d’asile grec. Quant au rôle joué par Frontex, plusieurs témoignages attestent sa pratique quotidienne de non-assistance à personnes en danger en mer voire sa participation à des refoulements illégaux. Remarquons que c’est bien cette déclaration commune UE-Turquie qui stipule que les demandeurs déboutés doivent être renvoyés en Turquie et à cette fin être maintenus en détention, d’où la situation actuelle dans les centres de détention fermés.

    Enfin la situation dans les hot-spots s’est encore plus aggravée, en raison de la décision du gouvernement Mitsotakis de geler pendant plusieurs mois tout transfert vers la péninsule grecque, bloquant ainsi même les plus vulnérables sur place. Sous le gouvernement précédent, ces derniers étaient exceptés de la restriction géographique dans les hot-spots. Mais à partir du juillet 2020 les transferts de catégories vulnérables -femmes enceintes, mineurs isolés, victimes de torture ou de naufrages, personnes handicapées ou souffrant d’une maladie chronique, victimes de ségrégations à cause de leur orientation sexuelle, – avaient cessé et n’avaient repris qu’au compte-goutte début janvier, plusieurs mois après leurs suspension.

    Le dogme de la ‘surveillance agressive’ des frontières

    Les refoulements groupés sont de plus en plus fréquents, tant à la frontière maritime qu’à la frontière terrestre. A Evros cette pratique était assez courante bien avant la crise à la frontière gréco-turque de mars dernier. Elle consistait non seulement à refouler ceux qui essayaient de passer la frontière, mais aussi à renvoyer en toute clandestinité ceux qui étaient déjà entrés dans le territoire grec. Les faits sont attestés par plusieurs témoignages récoltés par Human Rights 360 dans un rapport publié fin 2018 :The new normality : Continuous push-backs of third country nationals on the Evros river. Les « intrus » qui ont réussi à passer la frontière sont arrêtés et dépouillés de leur biens, téléphone portable compris, pour être ensuite déportés vers la Turquie, soit par des forces de l’ordre en tenue, soit par des groupes masqués et cagoulés difficiles à identifier. En effet, il n’est pas exclu que des patrouilles paramilitaires, qui s’activent dans la région en se prenant violemment aux migrants au vu et au su des autorités, soient impliquées à ses opérations. Les réfugiés peuvent être gardés non seulement dans des postes de police et de centres de détention fermés, mais aussi dans des lieux secrets, sans qu’ils n’aient la moindre possibilité de contact avec un avocat, le service d’asile, ou leurs proches. Par la suite ils sont embarqués de force sur des canots pneumatiques en direction de la Turquie.

    Cette situation qui fut dénoncée par les ONG comme instaurant une nouvelle ‘normalité’, tout sauf normale, s’est dramatiquement aggravée avec la crise à la frontière terrestre fin février et début mars dernier[25]. Non seulement la frontière fut hermétiquement fermée et des refoulements groupés effectués par la police anti-émeute et l’armée, mais, dans le cadre de la soi-disant défense de l’intégrité territoriale, il y a eu plusieurs cas où des balles réelles ont été tirées par les forces grecques contre les migrants, faisant quatre morts et plusieurs blessés[26].

    Cependant ces pratiques criminelles ne sont pas le seul fait des autorités grecques. Depuis le 13 mars dernier, des équipes d’Intervention Rapide à la Frontière de Frontex, les Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) ont été déployées à la frontière gréco-turque d’Evros, afin d’assurer la ‘protection’ de la frontière européenne. Leur intervention qui aurait dû initialement durer deux mois, a été entretemps prolongée. Ces équipes participent elles, et si oui dans quelle mesure, aux opérations de refoulement ? Il faudrait rappeler ici que, d’après plusieurs témoignages récoltés par le Greek Council for Refugees, les équipes qui opéraient les refoulements en 2017 et 2018 illégaux étaient déjà mixtes, composées des agents grecs et des officiers étrangers parlant soit l’allemand soit l’anglais. Il n’y a aucune raison de penser que cette coopération en bonne entente en matière de refoulement, entre forces grecques et celles de Frontex ait cessé depuis, d’autant plus que début mars la Grèce fut désignée par les dirigeants européens pour assurer la protection de l’Europe, censément menacée par les migrants à sa frontière.

    Plusieurs témoignages de réfugiés refoulés à la frontière d’Evros ainsi que des documents vidéo attestent l’existence d’un centre de détention secret destiné aux nouveaux arrivants ; celui-ci n’est répertorié nulle part et son fonctionnement ne respecte aucune procédure légale, concernant l’identification et l’enregistrement des arrivants. Ce centre, fonctionnant au noir, dont l’existence fut révélée par un article du 10 mars 2020 de NYT, se situe à la proximité de la frontière gréco-turque, près du village grec Poros. Les malheureux qui y échouent, restent détenus dans cette zone de non-droit absolu[27], car, non seulement leur existence n’est enregistrée nulle part mais le centre même n’apparaît sur aucun registre de camps et de centres de détention fermés. Au bout de quelques jours de détention dans des conditions inhumaines, les détenus dépouillés de leurs biens sont renvoyés de force vers la Turquie, tandis que plusieurs d’entre eux ont été auparavant battus par la police.

    La situation est aussi alarmante en mer Egée, où les rapports dénonçant des refoulements maritimes violents mettant en danger la vie de réfugiés, ne cessent de se multiplier depuis le début mars. D’après les témoignages il y aurait au moins deux modes opératoires que les garde-côtes grecs ont adoptés : enlever le moteur et le bidon de gasoil d’une embarcation surchargée et fragile, tout en la repoussant vers les eaux territoriaux turques, et/ou créer des vagues, en passant en grande vitesse tout près du bateau, afin d’empêcher l’embarcation de s’approcher à la côte grecque (voir l’incident du 4 juin dernier, dénoncé par Alarm Phone). Cette dernière méthode de dissuasion ne connaît pas de limites ; des vidéos montrent des incidents violents où les garde-côtes n’hésitent pas à tirer des balles réelles dans l’eau à côté des embarcations de réfugiés ou même dans leurs directions ; il y a même des vidéos qui montrent les garde-côtes essayant de percer le canot pneumatique avec des perches.

    Néanmoins, l’arsenal de garde-côtes grecs ne se limite pas à ces méthodes extrêmement dangereuses ; ils recourent à des procédés semblables à ceux employés en 2013 par l’Australie pour renvoyer les migrants arrivés sur son sol : ils obligent des demandeurs d’asile à embarquer sur des life rafts -des canots de survie qui se présentent comme des tentes gonflables flottant sur l’eau-, et ils les repoussent vers la Turquie, en les laissant dériver sans moteur ni gouvernail[28].

    Des incidents de ce type ne cessent de se multiplier depuis le début mars. Victimes de ce type de refoulement qui mettent en danger la vie des passagers, peuvent être même des femmes enceintes, des enfants ou même des bébés –voir la vidéo glaçante tournée sur un tel life raft le 25 mai dernier et les photographies respectives de la garde côtière turque.

    Ce mode opératoire va beaucoup plus loin qu’un refoulement illégal, car il arrive assez souvent que les personnes concernées aient déjà débarqué sur le territoire grec, et dans ce cas ils avaient le droit de déposer une demande d’asile. Cela veut dire que les garde-côtes grecs ne se contentent pas de faire des refoulements maritimes qui violent le droit national et international ainsi que le principe de non-refoulement de la convention de Genève[29]. Ioannis Stevis, responsable du média local Astraparis à Chios, avait déclaré au Guardian « En mer Egée nous pouvions voir se dérouler cette guerre non-déclarée. Nous pouvions apercevoir les embarcations qui ne pouvaient pas atteindre la Grèce, parce qu’elles en étaient empêchées. De push-backs étaient devenus un lot quotidien dans les îles. Ce que nous n’avions pas vu auparavant, c’était de voir les bateaux arriver et les gens disparaître ».

    Cette pratique illégale va beaucoup plus loin, dans la mesure où les garde-côtes s’appliquent à renvoyer en Turquie ceux qui ont réussi à fouler le sol grec, sans qu’aucun protocole ni procédure légale ne soient respectés. Car, ces personnes embarquées sur les life rafts, ne sont pas à strictement parler refoulées – et déjà le refoulement est en soi illégal de tout point de vue-, mais déportées manu militari et en toute illégalité en Turquie, sans enregistrement ni identification préalable. C’est bien cette méthode qui explique comment des réfugiés dont l’arrivée sur les côtes de Samos et de Chios est attestée par des vidéos et des témoignages de riverains, se sont évaporés dans la nature, n’apparaissant sur aucun registre de la police ou des autorités portuaires[30]. Malgré l’existence de documents photos et vidéos attestant l’arrivée des embarcations des jours où aucune arrivée n’a été enregistrée par les autorités, le ministre persiste et signe : pour lui il ne s’agirait que de la propagande turque reproduite par quelques esprits malveillants qui voudraient diffamer la Grèce. Néanmoins les photographies horodatées publiées sur Astraparis, dans un article intitulé « les personnes que nous voyons sur la côte Monolia à Chios seraient-ils des extraterrestres, M. le Ministre ? », constituent un démenti flagrant du discours complotiste du Ministre.

    Question cruciale : quelle est le rôle exact joué par Frontex dans ces refoulements ? Est-ce que les quelques 600 officiers de Frontex qui opèrent en mer Egée dans le cadre de l’opération Poséidon, y participent d’une façon ou d’une autre ? Ce qui est sûr est qu’il est quasi impossible qu’ils n’aient pas été de près ou de loin témoins des opérations de push-back. Le fait est confirmé par un article du Spiegel sur un incident du 13 mai, un push-back de 27 réfugiés effectué par la garde côtière grecque laquelle, après avoir embarqué les réfugiés sur un canot de sauvetage, a remorqué celui-ci en haute mer. Or, l’embarcation de réfugiés a été initialement repéré près de Samos par les hommes du bateau allemand Uckermark faisant partie des forces de Frontex, qui l’ont ensuite signalé aux officiers grecs ; le fait que cette embarcation ait par la suite disparu sans laisser de trace et qu’aucune arrivée de réfugiés n’ait été enregistrée à Samos ce jour-là, n’a pas inquiété outre-mesure les officiers allemands.

    Nous savons par ailleurs, grâce à l’attitude remarquable d’un équipage danois, que les hommes de Frontex reçoivent l’ordre de ne pas porter secours aux réfugiés navigant sur des canots pneumatiques, mais de les repousser ; au cas où les réfugiés ont déjà été secourus et embarqués à bord d’un navire de Frontex, celui-ci reçoit l’ordre de les remettre sur des embarcations peu fiables et à peine navigables. C’est exactement ce qui est arrivé début mars à un patrouilleur danois participant à l’opération Poséidon, « l’équipage a reçu un appel radio du commandement de Poséidon leur ordonnant de remettre les [33 migrants qu’ils avaient secourus] dans leur canot et de les remorquer hors des eaux grecques »[31], ordre, que le commandant du navire danois Jan Niegsch a refusé d’exécuter, estimant “que celui-ci n’était pas justifiable”, la manœuvre demandée mettant en danger la vie des migrants. Or, il n’y aucune raison de penser que l’ordre reçu -et fort heureusement non exécuté grâce au courage du capitaine Niegsch et du chargé de l’unité danoise de Frontex, Jens Moller- soit un ordre exceptionnel que les autres patrouilleurs de Frontex n’ont jamais reçu. Les officiers danois ont d’ailleurs confirmé que les garde-côtes grecs reçoivent des ordres de repousser les bateaux qui arrivent de Turquie, et ils ont été témoins de plusieurs opérations de push-back. Mais si l’ordre de remettre les réfugiés en une embarcation non-navigable émanait du quartier général de l’opération Poséidon, qui l’avait donc donné [32] ? Des officiers grecs coordonnant l’opération, ou bien des officiers de Frontex ?

    Remarquons que les prérogatives de Frontex ne se limitent pas à la surveillance et la ‘protection’ de la frontière européenne : dans une interview que Fabrice Leggeri avait donné en mars dernier à un quotidien grec, il a révélé que Frontex était en train d’envisager avec le gouvernement grec les modalités d’une action communes pour effectuer les retours forcés des migrants dits ‘irréguliers’ à leurs pays d’origine. « Je m’attends à ce que nous ayons bientôt un plan d’action en commun. D’après mes contacts avec les officiers grecs, j’ai compris que la Grèce est sérieusement intéressée à augmenter le nombre de retours », avait-il déclaré.

    Tout démontre qu’actuellement les sauvetages en mer sont devenus l’exception et les refoulements violents et dangereux la règle. « Depuis des années, Alarm Phone a documenté des opérations de renvois menées par des garde-côtes grecs. Mais ces pratiques ont considérablement augmenté ces dernières semaines et deviennent la norme en mer Égée », signale un membre d’Alarm Phone à InfoMigrants. De sorte que nous pouvons affirmer que le dogme du gouvernement Mitsotakis consiste en une inversion complète du principe du non-refoulement : ne laisser passer personne en refoulant coûte que coûte. D’ailleurs, ce nouveau dogme a été revendiqué publiquement par le ministre de Migration et de l’Asile Mitarakis, qui s’est vanté à plusieurs reprises d’avoir réussi à créer une frontière maritime quasi-étanche. Les quatre volets de l’approche gouvernementale ont été résumés ainsi par le ministre : « protection des frontières, retours forcés, centres fermés pour les arrivants, et internationalisation des frontières »[33]. Dans une émission télévisée du 13 avril, le même ministre a déclaré que la frontière était bien gardée, de sorte qu’aujourd’hui, les flux sont quasi nuls, et il a ajouté que “l’armée et des unités spéciaux, la marine nationale et les garde-côtes sont prêts à opérer pour empêcher les migrants en situation irrégulière d’entrer dans notre pays’’. Bref, des forces militaires sont appelées de se déployer sur le front de guerre maritime et terrestre contre les migrants. Voilà comment est appliqué le dogme de zéro flux dont se réclame le Ministre.

    Le Conseil de l’Europe a publié une déclaration très percutante à ce sujet le 19 juin. Sous le titre Il faut mettre fin aux refoulements et à la violence aux frontières contre les réfugiés, la commissaire aux droits de l’homme Dunja Mijatović met tous les états membres du Conseil de l’Europe devant leurs responsabilités, en premier lieu les états qui commettent de telles violations de droits des demandeurs d’asile. Loin de considérer que les refoulements et les violences à la frontière de l’Europe sont le seul fait de quelques états dont la plupart sont situés à la frontière externe de l’UE, la commissaire attire l’attention sur la tolérance tacite de ces pratiques illégales, voire l’assistance à celles-ci de la part de la plupart d’autres états membres. Est responsable non seulement celui qui commet de telles violations des droits mais aussi celui qui les tolère voire les encourage.

    Asile : ‘‘mission impossible’’ pour les nouveaux arrivants ?

    Actuellement en Grèce plusieurs dizaines de milliers de demandes d’asile sont en attente de traitement. Pour donner la pleine mesure de la surcharge d’un service d’asile qui fonctionne actuellement à effectifs réduits, il faudrait savoir qu’il y a des demandeurs qui ont reçu une convocation pour un entretien en…2022 –voir le témoignage d’un requérant actuellement au camp de Vagiohori. En février dernier il y avait 126.000 demandes en attente d’être examinées en première et deuxième instance. Entretemps, par des procédures expéditives, 7.000 demandes ont été traitées en mars et 15 000 en avril, avec en moyenne 24 jours par demande pour leur traitement[34]. Il devient évident qu’il s’agit de procédures expéditives et bâclées. En même temps le pourcentage de réponses négatives en première instance ne cesse d’augmenter ; de 45 à 50% qu’il était jusqu’à juillet dernier, il s’est élevé à 66% en février[35], et il a dû avoir encore augmenté entre temps.

    Ce qui est encore plus inquiétant est l’ambition affichée du Ministre de la Migration de réaliser 11000 déportations d’ici la fin de l’année. A Lesbos, à la réouverture du service d’asile, le 18 mai dernier, 1.789 demandeurs ont reçu une réponse négative, dont au moins 1400 en première instance[36]. Or, ces derniers n’ont eu que cinq jours ouvrables pour déposer un recours et, étant toujours confinés dans l’enceinte de Moria, ils ont été dans l’impossibilité d’avoir accès à une aide judiciaire. Ceux d’entre eux qui ont osé se déplacer à Mytilène, chef-lieu de Lesbos, pour y chercher de l’aide auprès du Legal Center of Lesbos ont écopé des amendes de 150€ pour violation de restrictions de mouvement[37] !

    Jusqu’à la nouvelle loi votée il y a six semaines au Parlement Hellénique, la procédure d’asile était un véritable parcours du combattant pour les requérants : un parcours plein d’embûches et de pièges, entaché par plusieurs clauses qui violent les lois communautaires et nationales ainsi que les conventions internationales. L’ancienne loi, entrée en vigueur seulement en janvier 2020, introduisait des restrictions de droits et un raccourcissement de délais en vue de procédures encore plus expéditives que celles dites ‘fast-track’ appliquées dans les îles (voir ci-dessous). Avant la toute nouvelle loi adoptée le 8 mai dernier, Gisti constatait déjà des atteintes au droit national et communautaire, concernant « en particulier le droit d’asile, les droits spécifiques qui doivent être reconnus aux personnes mineures et aux autres personnes vulnérables, et le droit à une assistance juridique ainsi qu’à une procédure de recours effectif »[38]. Avec la nouvelle mouture de la loi du 8 mai, les restrictions et la réduction de délais est telle que par ex. la procédure de recours devient vraiment une mission impossible pour les demandeurs déboutés, même pour les plus avertis et les mieux renseignés parmi eux. Les délais pour déposer une demande de recours se réduisent en peau de chagrin, alors que l’aide juridique au demandeur, de même que l’interprétariat en une langue que celui-ci maîtrise ne sont plus assurés, laissant ainsi le demandeur seul face à des démarches complexes qui doivent être faites dans une langue autre que la sienne[39]. De même l’entretien personnel du requérant, pierre angulaire de la procédure d’asile, peut être omis, si le service ne trouve pas d’interprète qui parle sa langue et si le demandeur vit loin du siège de la commission de recours, par ex. dans un hot-spot dans les îles ou loin de l’Attique. Le 13 mai, le ministre Mitarakis avait déclaré que 11.000 demandes ont été rejetées pendant les mois de mars et avril, et que ceux demandeurs déboutés « doivent repartir »[40], laissant entendre que des renvois massifs vers la Turquie pourraient avoir lieu, perspective plus qu’improbable, étant donné la détérioration grandissante de rapport entre les deux pays. Ces demandeurs déboutés ont été sommés de déposer un recours dans l’espace de 5 jours ouvrables après notification, sans assistance juridique et sous un régime de restrictions de mouvements très contraignant.

    En vertu de la nouvelle loi, les personnes déboutées peuvent être automatiquement placées en détention, la détention devenant ainsi la règle et non plus l’exception comme le stipule le droit européen. Ceci est encore plus vrai pour les îles. Qui plus est, selon le droit international et communautaire, la mesure de détention ne devrait être appliquée qu’en dernier ressort et seulement s’il y a une perspective dans un laps de temps raisonnable d’effectuer le renvoi forcé de l’intéressé. Or, aujourd’hui et depuis quatre mois, il n’y a aucune perspective de cet ordre. Car les chances d’une réadmission en Turquie ou d’une expulsion vers le pays d’origine sont pratiquement inexistantes, pendant la période actuelle. Si on tient compte que plusieurs dizaines de milliers de demandes restent en attente d’être traitées et que le pourcentage de rejet ne cesse d’augmenter, on voit avec effroi s’esquisser la perspective d’un maintien en détention de dizaines de milliers de personnes pour un laps de temps indéfini. La Grèce compte-t-elle créer de centres de détention pour des dizaines de milliers de personnes, qui s’apparenteraient par plusieurs traits à des véritables camps de concentration ? Le fera-t-elle avec le financement de l’UE ?

    Nous savons que le rôle de EASO, dont la présence en Grèce s’est significativement accrue récemment,[41] est crucial dans ces procédures d’asile : c’est cet organisme européen qui mène le pré-enregistrement de la demande d’asile et qui se prononce sur sa recevabilité ou pas. Jusqu’à maintenant il intervenait uniquement dans les îles dans le cadre de la procédure dite accélérée. Car, depuis la Déclaration de mars 2016, dans les îles est appliquée une procédure d’asile spécifique, dite procédure fast-track à la frontière (fast-track border procedure). Il s’agit d’une procédure « accélérée », qui s’applique dans le cadre de la « restriction géographique » spécifique aux hotspots »,[42] en application de l’accord UE-Turquie de mars 2016. Dans le cadre de cette procédure accélérée, c’est bien l’EASO qui se charge de faire le premier ‘tri’ entre les demandeurs en enregistrant la demande et en effectuant un premier entretien. La procédure ‘fast-track’ aurait dû rester une mesure exceptionnelle de courte durée pour faire face à des arrivées massives. Or, elle est toujours en vigueur quatre ans après son instauration, tandis qu’initialement sa validité n’aurait pas dû dépasser neuf mois – six mois suivis d’une prolongation possible de trois mois. Depuis, de prolongation en prolongation cette mesure d’exception s’est installée dans la permanence.

    La procédure accélérée qui, au détriment du respect des droits des réfugiés, aurait pu aboutir à un raccourcissement significatif de délais d’attente très longs, n’a même pas réussi à obtenir ce résultat : une partie des réfugiés arrivés à Samos en août 2019, avaient reçu une notification de rendez-vous pour l’entretien d’asile (et d’admissibilité) pour 2021 voire 2022[43] ! Mais si les procédures fast-track ne raccourcissent pas les délais d’attente, elles raccourcissent drastiquement et notamment à une seule journée le temps que dispose un requérant pour qu’il se prépare et consulte si besoin un conseiller juridique qui pourrait l’assister durant la procédure[44]. Dans le cas d’un rejet de la demande en première instance, le demandeur débouté ne dispose que de cinq jours après la notification de la décision négative pour déposer un recours en deuxième instance. Bref, le raccourcissement très important de délais introduits par la procédure accélérée n’affectait jusqu’à maintenant que les réfugiés qui sont dans l’impossibilité d’exercer pleinement leurs droits, et non pas le service qui pouvait imposer un temps interminable d’attente entre les différentes étapes de la procédure.

    Cependant l’implication d’EASO dépasse et de loin le pré-enregistrement, car ce sont bien ses fonctionnaires qui, suite à un entretien de l’intéressé, dit « interview d’admission », établissent le dossier qui sera transmis aux autorités grecques pour examen[45]. Or, nous savons par la plainte déposée contre l’EASO par les avocats de l’ONG European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), en 2017, que les agents d’EASO ne consacrait à l’interrogatoire du requérant que 15 minutes en moyenne,[46] et ceci bien avant que ne monte en flèche la pression exercée par le gouvernement actuel pour accélérer encore plus les procédures. La même plainte dénonçait également le fait que la qualité de l’interprétation n’était point assurée, dans la mesure où, au lieu d’employer des interprètes professionnels, cet organisme européen faisait souvent recours à des réfugiés, pour faire des économies. A vrai dire, l’EASO, après avoir réalisé un entretien, rédige « un avis (« remarques conclusives ») et recommande une décision à destination des services grecs de l’asile, qui vont statuer sur la demande, sans avoir jamais rencontré » les requérants[47]. Mais, même si en théorie la décision revient de plein droit au Service d’Asile grec, en pratique « une large majorité des recommandations transmises par EASO aux services grecs de l’asile est adoptée par ces derniers »[48]. Or, depuis 2018 les compétences d’EASO ont été étendues à tout le territoire grec, ce qui veut dire que les officiers grecs de cet organisme européen ont le droit d’intervenir même dans le cadre de la procédure régulière d’asile et non plus seulement dans celui de la procédure accélérée. Désormais, avec le quadruplication des effectifs en Grèce continentale prévue pour 2020, et le dédoublement de ceux opérant dans les îles, l’avis ‘consultatif’ de l’EASO va peser encore plus sur les décisions finales. De sorte qu’on pourrait dire, que le constat que faisait Gisti, bien avant l’extension du domaine d’intervention d’EASO, est encore plus vrai aujourd’hui : l’UE, à travers ses agences, exerce « une forme de contrôle et d’ingérence dans la politique grecque en matière d’asile ». Si avant 2017, l’entretien et la constitution du dossier sur la base duquel le service grec d’asile se prononce étaient faits de façon si bâclée, que va—t-il se passer maintenant avec l’énorme pression des autorités pour des procédures fast-track encore plus expéditives, qui ne respectent nullement les droits des requérants ? Enfin, une fois la nouvelle loi mise en vigueur, les fonctionnaires européens vont-ils rédiger leurs « remarques conclusives » en fonction de celle-ci ou bien en respectant la législation européenne ? Car la première comporte des clauses qui ne respectent point la deuxième.

    La suspension provisoire de la procédure d’asile et ses effets à long terme

    Début mars, afin de dissuader les migrants qui se rassemblaient à la frontière gréco-turque d’Evros, le gouvernement grec a décidé de suspendre provisoirement la procédure d’asile pendant la durée d’un mois[49]. L’acte législatif respectif stipule qu’à partir du 1 mars et jusqu’au 30 du même mois, ceux qui traversent la frontière n’auront plus le droit de déposer une demande d’asile. Sans procédure d’identification et d’enregistrement préalable ils seront automatiquement maintenus en détention jusqu’à leur expulsion ou leur réadmission en Turquie. Après une cohorte de protestations de la part du Haut-Commissariat, des ONG, et même d’Ylva Johansson, commissaire aux affaires internes de l’UE, la procédure d’asile suspendue a été rétablie début avril et ceux qui sont arrivés pendant la durée de sa suspension ont rétroactivement obtenu le droit de demander la protection internationale. « Le décret a cessé de produire des effets juridiques à la fin du mois de mars 2020. Cependant, il a eu des effets très néfastes sur un nombre important de personnes ayant besoin de protection. Selon les statistiques du HCR, 2 927 personnes sont entrées en Grèce par voie terrestre et maritime au cours du mois de mars[50]. Ces personnes automatiquement placées en détention dans des conditions horribles, continuent à séjourner dans des établissements fermés ou semi-fermés. Bien qu’elles aient finalement été autorisées à exprimer leur intention de déposer une demande d’asile auprès du service d’asile, elles sont de fait privées de toute aide judiciaire effective. La plus grande partie de leurs demandes d’asile n’a cependant pas encore été enregistrée. Le préjudice causé par les conditions de détention inhumaines est aggravé par les risques sanitaires graves, voire mortels, découlant de l’apparition de la pandémie COVID-19, qui n’ont malheureusement pas conduit à un réexamen de la politique de détention en Grèce ».[51]

    En effet, les arrivants du mois de mars ont été jusqu’à il y a peu traités comme des criminels enfreignant la loi et menaçant l’intégrité du territoire grec ; ils ont été dans un premier temps mis en quarantaine dans des conditions inconcevables, gardés par la police en zones circonscrites, sans un abri ni la moindre infrastructure sanitaire. Après une période de quarantaine qui la plupart du temps durait plus longtemps que les deux semaines réglementaires, ceux qui sont arrivés pendant la suspension de la procédure, étaient transférés, en vue d’une réadmission en Turquie, à Malakassa en Attique, où un nouveau camp fermé, dit ‘le camp de tentes’, fut créé à proximité de de l’ancien camp avec les containeurs.

    700 d’entre eux ont été transférés au camp fermé de Klidi, à Serres, au nord de la Grèce, construit sur un terrain inondable au milieu de nulle part. Ces deux camps fermés présentent des affinités troublantes avec des camps de concentration. Les conditions de vie inhumaines au sein de ces camps s’aggravaient encore plus par le risque de contamination accru du fait de la très grande promiscuité et des conditions sanitaires effrayantes (coupures d’eau sporadiques à Malakassa, manque de produits d’hygiène, et approvisionnement en eau courante seulement deux heures par jour à Klidi)[52]. Or, après le rétablissement de la procédure d’asile, les 2.927 personnes arrivées en mars, ont obtenu–au moins en théorie- le droit de déposer une demande, mais n’ont toujours ni l’assistance juridique nécessaire, ni interprètes, ni accès effectif au service d’asile. Celui-ci a rouvert depuis le 18 mars, mais fonctionne toujours à effectif réduit, et est submergé par les demandes de renouvellement des cartes. Actuellement les réfugiés placés en détention sont toujours retenus dans les même camps qui sont devenus des camps semi-fermés sans pour autant que les conditions de vie dégradantes et dangereuses pour la santé des résidents aient vraiment changé. Ceci est d’autant plus vrai que le confinement de réfugiés et de demandeurs d’asile a été prolongé jusqu’au 5 juillet, ce qui ne leur permet de circuler que seulement avec une autorisation de la police, tandis que la population grecque est déjà tout à fait libre de ses mouvements. Dans ces conditions, il est pratiquement impossible d’accomplir des démarches nécessaires pour le dépôt d’une demande bien documentée.

    Refugee Support Aegean a raison de souligner que « les répercussions d’une violation aussi flagrante des principes fondamentaux du droit des réfugiés et des droits de l’homme ne disparaissent pas avec la fin de validité du décret, les demandeurs d’asile concernés restant en détention arbitraire dans des conditions qui ne sont aucunement adaptées pour garantir leur vie et leur dignité. Le décret de suspension crée un précédent dangereux pour la crédibilité du droit international et l’intégrité des procédures d’asile en Grèce et au-delà ».

    Cependant, nous ne pouvons pas savoir jusqu’où pourrait aller cette escalade d’horreurs. Aussi inimaginable que cela puisse paraître , il y a pire, même par rapport au camp fermé de Klidi à Serres, que Maria Malagardis, journaliste à Libération, avait à juste titre désigné comme ‘un camp quasi-militaire’. Car les malheureux arrêtés à Evros fin février et début mars, ont été jugés en procédure de flagrant délit, et condamnés pour l’exemple à des peines de prison de quatre ans ferme et des amendes de 10.000 euros -comme quoi, les autorités grecques peuvent revendiquer le record en matière de peine pour entrée irrégulière, car même la Hongrie de Orban, ne condamne les migrants qui ont osé traverser ses frontières qu’à trois ans de prison. Au moins une cinquantaine de personnes ont été condamnées ainsi pour « entrée irrégulière dans le territoire grec dans le cadre d’une menace asymétrique portant sur l’intégrité du pays », et ont été immédiatement incarcérées. Et il est fort à parier qu’aujourd’hui, ces personnes restent toujours en prison, sans que le rétablissement de la procédure ait changé quoi que ce soit à leur sort.

    Eriger l’exception en règle

    Qui plus est la suspension provisoire de la procédure laisse derrière elle des marques non seulement aux personnes ayant vécu sous la menace de déportation imminente, et qui continuent à vivre dans des conditions indignes, mais opère aussi une brèche dans la validité universelle du droit international et de la Convention de Genève, en créant un précédent dangereux. Or, c’est justement ce précédent que M. Mitarakis veut ériger en règle européenne en proposant l’introduction d’une clause de force majeure dans la législation européenne de l’asile[53] : dans le débat pour la création d’un système européen commun pour l’asile, le Ministre grec de la politique migratoire a plaidé pour l’intégration de la notion de force majeure dans l’acquis européen : celle-ci permettrait de contourner la législation sur l’asile dans des cas où la sécurité territoriale ou sanitaire d’un pays serait menacée, sans que la violation des droits de requérants expose le pays responsable à des poursuites. Pour convaincre ses interlocuteurs, il a justement évoqué le cas de la suspension par le gouvernement de la procédure pendant un mois, qu’il compte ériger en paradigme pour la législation communautaire. Cette demande fut réitérée le 5 juin dernier, par une lettre envoyée par le vice-ministre des Migrations et de l’Asile, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, au vice-président Margaritis Schinas et au commissaire aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson. Il s’agit de la dite « Initiative visant à inclure une clause d’état d’urgence dans le Pacte européen pour les migrations et l’asile », une initiative cosignée par Chypre et la Bulgarie. Par cette lettre, les trois pays demandent l’inclusion au Pacte européen d’une clause qui « devrait prévoir la possibilité d’activer les mécanismes d’exception pour prévenir et répondre à des situations d’urgence, ainsi que des déviations [sous-entendu des dérogations au droit européen] dans les modes d’action si nécessaire ».[54] Nous le voyons, la Grèce souhaite, non seulement poursuivre sa politique de « surveillance agressive » des frontières et de violation des droits de migrants, mais veut aussi ériger ces pratiques de tout point de vue illégales en règle d’action européenne. Il nous faudrait donc prendre la mesure de ce que laisse derrière elle la fracture dans l’universalité de droit d’asile opérée par la suspension provisoire de la procédure. Même si celle-ci a été bon an mal an rétablie, les effets de ce geste inédit restent toujours d’actualité. L’état d’exception est en train de devenir permanent.

    Une rhétorique de la haine

    Le discours officiel a changé de fond en comble depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir du gouvernement Mitsotakis. Des termes, comme « clandestins » ont fait un retour en force, accompagnés d’une véritable stratégie de stigmatisation visant à persuader la population que les arrivants ne sont point des réfugiés mais des immigrés économiques censés profiter du laxisme du gouvernement précédent pour envahir le pays et l’islamiser. Cette rhétorique haineuse qui promeut l’image des hordes d’étrangers envahisseurs menaçant la nation et ses traditions, ne cesse d’enfler malgré le fait qu’elle soit démentie d’une façon flagrante par les faits : les arrivants, dans leur grande majorité, ne veulent pas rester en Grèce mais juste passer par celle-ci pour aller ailleurs en Europe, là où ils ont des attaches familiales, communautaires etc. Ce discours xénophobe aux relents racistes dont le paroxysme a été atteint avec la mise en avant de l’épouvantail du ‘clandestin’ porteur du virus venant contaminer et décimer la nation, a été employé d’une façon délibérée afin de justifier la politique dite de la « surveillance agressive » des frontières grecques. Il sert également à légitimer la transformation programmée des actuels CIR (RIC en anglais) en centres fermés ‘contrôlés’, où les demandeurs n’auront qu’un droit de sortie restreint et contrôlé par la police. Le ministre Mitarakis a déjà annoncé la transformation du nouveau camp de Malakasa, où étaient détenus ceux qui sont arrivés pendant la durée de la suspension d’asile, un camp qui était censé s’ouvrir après la fin de validité du décret, en camp fermé ‘contrôlé’ où toute entrée et sortie seraient gérées par la police[55].

    Révélateur des intentions du gouvernement grec, est le projet du Ministre de la politique migratoire d’étendre les compétences du Service d’Asile bien au-delà de la protection internationale, et notamment aux …expulsions ! D’après le quotidien grec Ephimérida tôn Syntaktôn, le ministre serait en train de prospecter pour la création de trois nouvelles sections au sein du Service d’Asile : Coordination de retours forcés depuis le continent et retours volontaires, Coordination des retours depuis les îles, Appels et exclusions. Bref, le Service d’Asile grec qui a déjà perdu son autonomie, depuis qu’il a été attaché au Secrétariat général de la politique de l’Immigration du Ministère, risque de devenir – et cela serait une première mondiale- un service d’asile et d’expulsions. Voilà comment se met en œuvre la consolidation du rôle de la Grèce en tant que « bouclier de l’Europe », comme l’avait désigné début mars Ursula von der Leyden. Voilà ce qu’est en train d’ériger l’Europe qui soutient et finance la Grèce face à des personnes persécutées fuyant de guerres et de conflits armés : un mur fait de barbelés, de patrouilles armés jusqu’aux dents et d’une flotte de navires militaires. Quant à ceux qui arrivent à passer malgré tout, ils seront condamnés à rester dans les camps de la honte.

    Que faire ?

    Certaines analyses convoquent la position géopolitique de la Grèce et le rapport de forces dans l’UE, afin de présenter cette situation intolérable comme une fatalité dont on ne saurait vraiment échapper. Mais face à l’ignominie, dire qu’il n’y aurait rien ou presque à faire, serait une excuse inacceptable. Car, même dans le cadre actuel, des solutions il y en a et elles sont à portée de main. La déclaration commune UE-Turquie mise en application le 20 mars 2016, n’est plus respectée par les différentes parties. Déjà avant février 2020, l’accord ne fut jamais appliqué à la lettre, autant par les Européens qui n’ont pas fait les relocalisations promises ni respecté leurs engagements concernant la procédure d’intégration de la Turquie en UE, que par la Turquie qui, au lieu d’employer les 6 milliards qu’elle a reçus pour améliorer les conditions de vie des réfugiés sur son sol, s’est servi de cet argent pour construire un mur de 750 km dans sa frontière avec la Syrie, afin d’empêcher les réfugiés de passer. Cependant ce sont les récents développements de mars 2020 et notamment l’afflux organisé par les autorités turques de réfugiés à la frontière d’Evros qui ont sonné le glas de l’accord du 18 mars 2016. Dans la mesure où cet accord est devenu caduc, avec l’ouverture de frontières de la Turquie le 28 février dernier, il n’y plus aucune obligation officielle du gouvernement grec de continuer à imposer le confinement géographique dans les îles des demandeurs d’asile. Leur transfert sécurisé vers la péninsule pourrait s’effectuer à court terme vers des structures hôtelières de taille moyenne dont plusieurs vont rester fermées cet été. L’appel international Évacuez immédiatement les centres d’accueil – louez des logements touristiques vides et des maisons pour les réfugiés et les migrants ! qui a déjà récolté 11.500 signatures, détaille un tel projet. Ajoutons, que sa réalisation pourrait profiter aussi à la société locale, car elle créerait des postes de travail en boostant ainsi l’économie de régions qui souvent ne dépendent que du tourisme pour vivre.

    A court et à moyen terme, il faudrait qu’enfin les pays européens honorent leurs engagements concernant les relocalisations et se mettent à faciliter au lieu d’entraver le regroupement familial. Quelques timides transferts de mineurs ont été déjà faits vers l’Allemagne et le Luxembourg, mais le nombre d’enfants concernés est si petit que nous pouvons nous pouvons nous demander s’il ne s’agirait pas plutôt d’une tentative de se racheter une conscience à peu de frais. Car, sans un plan large et équitable de relocalisations, le transfert massif de requérants en Grèce continentale, risque de déplacer le problème des îles vers la péninsule, sans améliorer significativement les conditions de vie de réfugiés.

    Si les requérants qui ont déjà derrière eux l’expérience traumatisante de Moria et de Vathy, sont transférés à un endroit aussi désolé et isolé de tout que le camp de Nea Kavala (au nord de la Grèce) qui a été décrit comme un Enfer au Nord de la Grèce, nous ne faisons que déplacer géographiquement le problème. Toute la question est de savoir dans quelles conditions les requérants seront invités à vivre et dans quelles conditions les réfugiés seront transférés.

    Les solutions déjà mentionnées sont réalisables dans l’immédiat ; leur réalisation ne se heurte qu’au fait qu’elles impliquent une politique courageuse à contre-pied de la militarisation actuelle des frontières. C’est bien la volonté politique qui manque cruellement dans la mise en œuvre d’un plan d’urgence pour l’évacuation des hot-spots dans les îles. L’Europe-Forteresse ne saurait se montrer accueillante. Tant du côté grec que du côté européen la nécessité de créer des conditions dignes pour l’accueil de réfugiés n’entre nullement en ligne de compte.

    Car, même le financement d’un tel projet est déjà disponible. Début mars l’UE s’est engagé de donner à la Grèce 700 millions pour qu’elle gère la crise de réfugiés, dont 350 millions sont immédiatement disponibles. Or, comme l’a révélé Ylva Johansson pendant son intervention au comité LIBE du 2 avril dernier, les 350 millions déjà libérés doivent principalement servir pour assurer la continuation et l’élargissement du programme d’hébergement dans le continent et le fonctionnement des structures d’accueil continentales, tandis que 35 millions sont destinés à assurer le transfert des plus vulnérables dans des logements provisoires en chambres d’hôtel. Néanmoins la plus grande somme (220 millions) des 350 millions restant est destinée à financer de nouveaux centres de réception et d’identification dans les îles (les dits ‘multi-purpose centers’) qui vont fonctionner comme des centres semi-fermés où toute sortie sera règlementée par la police. Les 130 millions restant seront consacrés à financer le renforcement des contrôles – et des refoulements – à la frontière terrestres et maritime, avec augmentation des effectifs et équipement de la garde côtière, de Frontex, et des forces qui assurent l’étanchéité des frontières terrestres. Il aurait suffi de réorienter la somme destinée à financer la construction des centres semi-fermés dans les îles, et de la consacrer au transfert sécurisé au continent pour que l’installation des requérants et des réfugiés en hôtels et appartements devienne possible.

    Mais que faire pour stopper la multiplication exponentielle des refoulements à la frontière ? Si Frontex, comme Fabrice Leggeri le prétend, n’a aucune implication dans les opérations de refoulement, si ses agents n’y participent pas de près ou de loin, alors ces officiers doivent immédiatement exercer leur droit de retrait chaque fois qu’ils sont témoins d’un tel incident ; ils pouvaient même recevoir la directive de ne refuser d’appliquer tout ordre de refoulement, comme l’avait fait début mars le capitaine danois Jan Niegsch. Dans la mesure où non seulement les témoignages mais aussi des documents vidéo et des audio attestent l’existence de ces pratiques en tous points illégales, les instances européennes doivent mettre une condition sine qua non à la poursuite du financement de la Grèce pour l’accueil de migrants : la cessation immédiate de ces types de pratiques et l’ouverture sans délai d’une enquête indépendante sur les faits dénoncés. Si l’Europe ne le fait pas -il est fort à parier qu’elle n’en fera rien-, elle se rend entièrement responsable de ce qui se passe à nos frontières.

    Car,on le voit, l’UE persiste dans la politique de la restriction géographique qui oblige réfugiés et migrants à rester sur les îles pour y attendre la réponse définitive à leur demande, tandis qu’elle cautionne et finance la pratique illégale des refoulements violents à la frontière. Les intentions d’Ylva Johansson ont beau être sincères : une politique qui érige la Grèce en ‘bouclier de l’Europe’, ne saurait accueillir, mais au contraire repousser les arrivants, même au risque de leur vie.

    Quant au gouvernement grec, force est de constater que sa politique migratoire du va dans le sens opposé d’un large projet d’hébergement dans des structures touristiques hors emploi actuellement. Révélatrice des intentions du gouvernement actuel est la décision du ministre Mitarakis de fermer 55 à 60 structures hôtelières d’accueil parmi les 92 existantes d’ici fin 2020. Il s’agit de structures fonctionnant dans le continent qui offrent un niveau de vie largement supérieur à celui des camps. Or, le ministre invoque un argument économique qui ne tient pas la route un seul instant, pour justifier cette décision : pour lui, les structures hôtelières seraient trop coûteuses. Mais ce type de structure n’est pas financé par l’Etat grec mais par l’IOM, ou par l’UE, ou encore par d’autres organismes internationaux. La fermeture imminente des hôtels comme centres d’accueil a une visée autre qu’économique : il faudrait retrancher complètement les requérants et les réfugiés de la société grecque, en les obligeant à vivre dans des camps semi-fermés où les sorties seront limitées et contrôlées. Cette politique d’enfermement vise à faire sentir tant aux réfugiés qu’à la population locale que ceux-ci sont et doivent rester un corps étranger à la société grecque ; à cette fin il vaut mieux les exclure et les garder hors de vue.

    Qui plus est la fermeture de deux tiers de structures hôtelières actuelles ne pourra qu’aggraver encore plus le manque de places en Grèce continentale, rendant ainsi quasiment impossible la décongestion des îles. Sauf si on raisonne comme le Ministre : le seul moyen pour créer des places est de chasser les uns – en l’occurrence des familles de réfugiés reconnus- pour loger provisoirement les autres. La preuve, les mesures récentes de restrictions drastiques des droits aux allocations et à l’hébergement des réfugiés, reconnus comme tels, par le service de l’asile. Ceux-ci n’ont le droit de séjourner aux appartements loués par l’UNHCR dans le cadre du programme ESTIA, et aux structures d’accueil que pendant un mois (et non pas comme auparavant six) après l’obtention de leur titre, et ils ne recevront plus que pendant cette période très courte les aides alloués aux réfugiés qui leur permettraient de survivre pendant leur période d’adaptation, d’apprentissage de la langue, de formation etc. Depuis la fin du mois de mai, les autorités ont entrepris de mettre dans la rue 11.237 personnes, dont la grande majorité de réfugiés reconnus, afin de libérer des places pour la supposée imminente décongestion des îles. Au moins 10.000 autres connaîtront le même sort en juillet, car en ce moment le délai de grâce d’un mois aura expiré pour eux aussi. Ce qui veut dire que le gouvernement grec non seulement impose des conditions de vie inhumaines et de confinements prolongés aux résidants de hot-spots et aux détenus en PROKEKA (les CRA grecs), mais a entrepris à réduire les familles de réfugiés ayant obtenu la protection internationale en sans-abri, errant sans toit ni ressources dans les villes.

    La dissuasion par l’horreur

    De tout ce qui précède, nous pouvons aisément déduire que la stratégie du gouvernement grec, une stratégie soutenue par les instances européennes et mise en application en partie par des moyens que celles-ci mettent à la disposition de celui-là, consiste à rendre la vie invivable aux réfugiés et aux demandeurs d’asile vivant dans le pays. Qui plus est, dans le cadre de cette politique, la dérogation systématique aux règles du droit et notamment au principe de non-refoulement, instauré par la Convention de Genève est érigée en principe régulateur de la sécurisation des frontières. Le maintien de camps comme Moria à Lesbos et Vathy à Samos témoignent de la volonté de créer des lieux terrifiants d’une telle notoriété sinistre que l’évocation même de leurs noms puisse avoir un effet de dissuasion sur les candidats à l’exil. On ne saurait expliquer autrement la persistance de la restriction géographique de séjour dans les îles de dizaines de milliers de requérants dans des conditions abjectes.

    Nous savons que l’Europe déploie depuis plusieurs années en Méditerranée centrale la politique de dissuasion par la noyade, une stratégie qui a atteint son summum avec la criminalisation des ONG qui essaient de sauver les passagers en péril ; l’autre face de cette stratégie de la terreur se déploie à ma frontière sud-est, où l’Europe met en œuvre une autre forme de dissuasion, celle effectuée par l’horreur des hot-spots. Aux crimes contre l’humanité qui se perpétuent en toute impunité en Méditerranée centrale, entre la Libye et l’Europe, s’ajoutent d’autres crimes commis à la frontière grecque[56]. Car il s’agit bien de crimes : poursuivre des personnes fuyant les guerres et les conflits armés par des opérations de refoulement particulièrement violentes qui mettent en danger leurs vies est un crime. Obliger des personnes dont la plus grande majorité est vulnérable à vivoter dans des conditions si indignes et dégradantes en les privant de leurs droits, est un acte criminel. Ceux qui subissent de tels traitement n’en sortent pas indemnes : leur santé physique et mentale en est marquée. Il est impossible de méconnaître qu’un séjour – et qui plus est un séjour prolongé- dans de telles conditions est une expérience traumatisante en soi, même pour des personnes bien portantes, et à plus forte raison pour celles et ceux qui ont déjà subi des traumatismes divers : violences, persécutions, tortures, viols, naufrages, pour ne pas mentionner les traumas causés par des guerres et de conflits armés.

    Gisti, dans son rapport récent sur le hotspot de Samos, soulignait que loin « d’être des centres d’accueil et de prise en charge des personnes en fonction de leurs besoins, les hotspots grecs, à l’image de celui de Samos, sont en réalité des camps de détention, soustraits au regard de la société civile, qui pourraient n’avoir pour finalité que de dissuader et faire peur ». Dans son rapport de l’année dernière, le Conseil Danois pour les réfugiés (Danish Refugee Council) ne disait pas autre chose : « le système des hot spots est une forme de dissuasion »[57]. Que celle-ci se traduise par des conditions de vie inhumaines où des personnes vulnérables sont réduites à vivre comme des bêtes[58], peu importe, pourvu que cette horreur fonctionne comme un repoussoir. Néanmoins, aussi effrayant que puisse être l’épouvantail des hot-spots, il n’est pas sûr qu’il puisse vraiment remplir sa fonction de stopper les ‘flux’. Car les personnes qui prennent le risque d’une traversée si périlleuse ne le font pas de gaité de cœur, mais parce qu’ils n’ont pas d’autre issue, s’ils veulent préserver leur vie menacée par la guerre, les attentats et la faim tout en construisant un projet d’avenir.

    Quoi qu’il en soit, nous aurions tort de croire que tout cela n’est qu’une affaire grecque qui ne nous atteint pas toutes et tous, en tout cas pas dans l’immédiat. Car, la stratégie de « surveillance agressive » des frontières, de dissuasion par l’imposition de conditions de vie inhumaines et de dérogation au droit d’asile pour des raisons de « force majeure », est non seulement financée par l’UE, mais aussi proposée comme un nouveau modèle de politique migratoire pour le cadre européen commun de l’asile en cours d’élaboration. La preuve, la récente « Initiative visant à inclure une clause d’état d’urgence dans le Pacte européen pour les migrations et l’asile » lancée par la Grèce, la Bulgarie et Chypre.

    Il devient clair, je crois, que la stratégie du gouvernement grec s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une véritable guerre aux migrants que l’UE non seulement cautionne mais soutient activement, en octroyant les moyens financiers et les effectifs nécessaires à sa réalisation. Car, les appels répétés, par ailleurs tout à fait justifiés et nécessaires, de la commissaire Ylva Johansson[59] et de la commissaire au Conseil de l’Europe Dunja Mijatović[60] de respecter les droits des demandeurs d’asile et de migrants, ne servent finalement que comme moyen de se racheter une conscience, devant le fait que cette guerre menée contre les migrants à nos frontières est rendue possible par la présence entre autres des unités RABIT à Evros et des patrouilleurs et des avions de Frontex et de l’OTAN en mer Egée. La question à laquelle tout citoyen européen serait appelé en son âme et conscience à répondre, est la suivante : sommes-nous disposés à tolérer une telle politique qui instaure un état d’exception permanent pour les réfugiés ? Car, comment désigner autrement cette ‘situation de non-droit absolu’[61] dans laquelle la Grèce sous la pression et avec l’aide active de l’Europe maintient les demandeurs d’asile ? Sommes-nous disposés à la financer par nos impôts ?

    Car le choix de traiter une partie de la population comme des miasmes à repousser coûte que coûte ou à exclure et enfermer, « ne saurait laisser intacte notre société tout entière. Ce n’est pas une question d’humanisme, c’est une question qui touche aux fondements de notre vivre-ensemble : dans quel type de société voulons-nous vivre ? Dans une société qui non seulement laisse mourir mais qui fait mourir ceux et celles qui sont les plus vulnérables ? Serions-nous à l’abri dans un monde transformé en une énorme colonie pénitentiaire, même si le rôle qui nous y est réservé serait celui, relativement privilégié, de geôliers ? [62] » La commissaire aux droits de l’homme au Conseil de l’Europe, avait à juste titre souligné que les « refoulements et la violence aux frontières enfreignent les droits des réfugiés et des migrants comme ceux des citoyens des États européens. Lorsque la police ou d’autres forces de l’ordre peuvent agir impunément de façon illégale et violente, leur devoir de rendre des comptes est érodé et la protection des citoyens est compromise. L’impunité d’actes illégaux commis par la police est une négation du principe d’égalité en droit et en dignité de tous les citoyens... »[63]. A n’importe quel moment, nous pourrions nous aussi nous trouver du mauvais côté de la barrière.

    Il serait plus que temps de nous lever pour dire haut et fort :

    Pas en notre nom ! Not in our name !

    https://migration-control.info/?post_type=post&p=63932
    #guerre_aux_migrants #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #îles #Evros #frontières #hotspot #Lesbos #accord_UE-Turquie #Vathy #Samos #covid-19 #coronavirus #confinement #ESTIA #PROKEKA #rétention #détention_administrative #procédure_accélérée #asile #procédure_d'asile #EASO #Frontex #surveillance_des_frontières #violence #push-backs #refoulement #refoulements #décès #mourir_aux_frontières #morts #life_rafts #canots_de_survie #life-raft #Mer_Egée #Méditerranée #opération_Poséidon #Uckermark #Klidi #Serres

    ping @isskein

  • EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis

    A new monitoring system for Tunisian coasts should counter irregular migration across the Mediterranean. The German Ministry of the Interior is also active in the country. A similar project in Libya has now been completed. Human rights organisations see it as an aid to „#pull_backs“ contrary to international law.

    In order to control and prevent migration, the European Union is supporting North African states in border surveillance. The central Mediterranean Sea off Malta and Italy, through which asylum seekers from Libya and Tunisia want to reach Europe, plays a special role. The EU conducts various operations in and off these countries, including the military mission „#Irini“ and the #Frontex mission „#Themis“. It is becoming increasingly rare for shipwrecked refugees to be rescued by EU Member States. Instead, they assist the coast guards in Libya and Tunisia to bring the people back. Human rights groups, rescue organisations and lawyers consider this assistance for „pull backs“ to be in violation of international law.

    With several measures, the EU and its member states want to improve the surveillance off North Africa. Together with Switzerland, the EU Commission has financed a two-part „#Integrated_Border_Management Project“ in Tunisia. It is part of the reform of the security sector which was begun a few years after the fall of former head of state Ben Ali in 2011. With one pillar of this this programme, the EU wants to „prevent criminal networks from operating“ and enable the authorities in the Gulf of Tunis to „save lives at sea“.

    System for military and border police

    The new installation is entitled „#Integrated_System_for_Maritime_Surveillance“ (#ISMariS) and, according to the Commission (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2020-000891-ASW_EN.html), is intended to bring together as much information as possible from all authorities involved in maritime and coastal security tasks. These include the Ministry of Defence with the Navy, the Coast Guard under the Ministry of the Interior, the National Guard, and IT management and telecommunications authorities. The money comes from the #EU_Emergency_Trust_Fund_for_Africa, which was established at the Valletta Migration Summit in 2015. „ISMariS“ is implemented by the Italian Ministry of the Interior and follows on from an earlier Italian initiative. The EU is financing similar projects with „#EU4BorderSecurity“ not only in Tunisia but also for other Mediterranean countries.

    An institute based in Vienna is responsible for border control projects in Tunisia. Although this #International_Centre_for_Migration_Policy_Development (ICMPD) was founded in 1993 by Austria and Switzerland, it is not a governmental organisation. The German Foreign Office has also supported projects in Tunisia within the framework of the #ICMPD, including the establishment of border stations and the training of border guards. Last month German finally joined the Institute itself (https://www.andrej-hunko.de/start/download/dokumente/1493-deutscher-beitritt-zum-international-centre-for-migration-policy-development/file). For an annual contribution of 210,000 euro, the Ministry of the Interior not only obtains decision-making privileges for organizing ICMPD projects, but also gives German police authorities the right to evaluate any of the Institute’s analyses for their own purposes.

    It is possible that in the future bilateral German projects for monitoring Tunisian maritime borders will also be carried out via the ICMPD. Last year, the German government supplied the local coast guard with equipment for a boat workshop. In the fourth quarter of 2019 alone (http://dipbt.bundestag.de/doc/btd/19/194/1919467.pdf), the Federal Police carried out 14 trainings for the national guard, border police and coast guard, including instruction in operating „control boats“. Tunisia previously received patrol boats from Italy and the USA (https://migration-control.info/en/wiki/tunisia).

    Vessel tracking and coastal surveillance

    It is unclear which company produced and installed the „ISMariS“ surveillance system for Tunisia on behalf of the ICPMD. Similar facilities for tracking and displaying ship movements (#Vessel_Tracking_System) are marketed by all major European defence companies, including #Airbus, #Leonardo in Italy, #Thales in France and #Indra in Spain. However, Italian project management will probably prefer local companies such as Leonardo. The company and its spin-off #e-GEOS have a broad portfolio of maritime surveillance systems (https://www.leonardocompany.com/en/sea/maritime-domain-awareness/coastal-surveillance-systems).

    It is also possible to integrate satellite reconnaissance, but for this the governments must conclude further contracts with the companies. However, „ISMariS“ will not only be installed as a Vessel Tracking System, it should also enable monitoring of the entire coast. Manufacturers promote such #Coastal_Surveillance_Systems as a technology against irregular migration, piracy, terrorism and smuggling. The government in Tunisia has defined „priority coastal areas“ for this purpose, which will be integrated into the maritime surveillance framework.

    Maritime „#Big_Data

    „ISMariS“ is intended to be compatible with the components already in place at the Tunisian authorities, including coastguard command and control systems, #radar, position transponders and receivers, night vision equipment and thermal and optical sensors. Part of the project is a three-year maintenance contract with the company installing the „ISMariS“.

    Perhaps the most important component of „ISMariS“ for the EU is a communication system, which is also included. It is designed to improve „operational cooperation“ between the Tunisian Coast Guard and Navy with Italy and other EU Member States. The project description mentions Frontex and EUROSUR, the pan-European surveillance system of the EU Border Agency, as possible participants. Frontex already monitors the coastal regions off Libya and Tunisia (https://insitu.copernicus.eu/FactSheets/CSS_Border_Surveillance) using #satellites (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2018-003212-ASW_EN.html) and an aerial service (https://digit.site36.net/2020/06/26/frontex-air-service-reconnaissance-for-the-so-called-libyan-coast-guar).

    #EUROSUR is now also being upgraded, Frontex is spending 2.6 million Euro (https://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:109760-2020:TEXT:EN:HTML) on a new application based on artificial intelligence. It is to process so-called „Big Data“, including not only ship movements but also data from ship and port registers, information on ship owners and shipping companies, a multi-year record of previous routes of large ships and other maritime information from public sources on the Internet. The contract is initially concluded for one year and can be extended up to three times.

    Cooperation with Libya

    To connect North African coastguards to EU systems, the EU Commission had started the „#Seahorse_Mediterranean“ project two years after the fall of North African despots. To combat irregular migration, from 2013 onwards Spain, Italy and Malta have trained a total of 141 members of the Libyan coast guard for sea rescue. In this way, „Seahorse Mediterranean“ has complemented similar training measures that Frontex is conducting for the Coastal Police within the framework of the EU mission #EUBAM_Libya and the military mission #EUNAVFOR_MED for the Coast Guard of the Tripolis government.

    The budget for „#Seahorse_Mediterranean“ is indicated by the Commission as 5.5 million Euro (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2020-000892-ASW_EN.html), the project was completed in January 2019. According to the German Foreign Office (http://dipbt.bundestag.de/doc/btd/19/196/1919625.pdf), Libya has signed a partnership declaration for participation in a future common communication platform for surveillance of the Mediterranean. Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt are also to be persuaded to participate. So far, however, the governments have preferred unilateral EU support for equipping and training their coastguards and navies, without having to make commitments in projects like „Seahorse“, such as stopping migration and smuggling on the high seas.

    https://digit.site36.net/2020/06/28/eu-pays-for-surveillance-in-gulf-of-tunis

    #Golfe_de_Tunis #surveillance #Méditerranée #asile #migrations #réfugiés #militarisation_des_frontières #surveillance_des_frontières #Tunisie #externalisation #complexe_militaro-industriel #Algérie #Egypte #Suisse #EU #UE #Union_européenne #Trust_Fund #Emergency_Trust_Fund_for_Africa #Allemagne #Italie #gardes-côtes #gardes-côtes_tunisiens #intelligence_artificielle #IA #données #Espagne #Malte #business

    ping @reka @isskein @_kg_ @rhoumour @karine4

    –—

    Ajouté à cette métaliste sur l’externalisation des frontières :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/731749#message765330

    Et celle-ci sur le lien entre développement et contrôles frontaliers :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/733358#message768701

  • FRA and Frontex to work together on developing fundamental rights monitors

    Today, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) signed an agreement on developing Frontex’s fundamental rights monitors. Under this agreement, FRA will provide advice and expertise to help set up effective fundamental rights monitoring during Frontex’s operations at EU borders.

    “It is essential that the EU, its Member States and agencies do their utmost to protect people’s fundamental rights. Fundamental rights monitoring of operations at the land and sea borders can help ensure that rights violations do not occur. The fundamental rights monitors are an important preventive tool and FRA will provide its fundamental rights expertise to help establish them. The vacancy notices should be published as soon as possible so the monitors can be deployed”, said FRA’s director Michael O’Flaherty.

    Under this agreement, the Fundamental Rights Agency will help develop a comprehensive manual for the future Fundamental Rights Monitors.

    To guarantee independence, the monitors should work under the overall supervision of the Frontex #Fundamental_Rights_Officer (#FRO) and be able to monitor all Frontex activities.

    FRA and Frontex have already developed the terms of reference of the future monitors, after thoroughly assessing the qualifications needed for their profile. Frontex should publish the vacancy notices as soon as possible.

    https://fra.europa.eu/en/news/2020/fra-and-frontex-work-togethe