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AYS Daily Digest 13/2/20: The verdict of the ECHR could be used to justify violations in the future

Hungary: in 2019 protection rate dropped down to 12% / Greece has asked Finland to resettle 5,000 unaccompanied minors / SAR crew members honorary citizens of Palermo / The issue of Italian residency permit / Germany will not recognise the ‘flight from climatic conditions and changes’ as a reason for asylum

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It was the 13th of August 2014. A large group of men, desperate to escape the hardships in their home countries, climbed a fence that surrounds Spain’s north African enclave Melilla. They were intercepted by the Spanish Guardia Civil officers who waited at the bottom of the inner fence. Perched for hours on top of the fence, after their limbs went numb they finally climbed down on the Spanish soil. They were immediately handcuffed by and handed over to Moroccan authorities.

Two men from Mali and Ivory Coast, known for legal reasons only as ND and NT, filed a lawsuit against Spain for what many saw as a clear example of unlawful expulsion. The men said they were never given a chance to explain their personal circumstances or receive help from lawyers or interpreters. Nevertheless, the European court of human rights (ECHR) found “no violations” on the part of the Spanish authorities. The case might set a dangerous precedent, allowing member states to claim there are legal ways of entering their countries, even though in reality many are prevented from using legal points of entry.

Similar argument was already raised on January 27th by the Croatian Minister of Interior in front of the LIBE committee of the European Parliament. The Minister claimed “the migrants could approach official border crossings if they wanted to apply for asylum”, but in reality this option has been blocked since March 2016, when the legal and safe corridor of the Balkan route was officially closed.

The same cynical argument is now made by the ECHR, obviously ignoring or being unaware of realities in the field. In reality, access to Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla has been systematically prevented for the Sub-Saharan African population by the Moroccan police, while refugees from the Middle East are often forced to bribe officers in order to be able to access the border post in Melilla, where they can apply for international protection.

“The court considered that the applicants had in fact placed themselves in an unlawful situation when they had deliberately attempted to enter Spain (…) by crossing the Melilla border protection structures as part of a large group and at an unauthorized location, taking advantage of the group’s large numbers and using force. (…) Consequently, the court considered that the lack of individual removal decisions could be attributed to the fact that the applicants — assuming that they had wished to assert rights under the convention — had not made use of the official entry procedures existing for that purpose, and that it had thus been a consequence of their own conduct”, the Court wrote in the verdict.

“That the court has today decided that Spain was within its rights to do this, because the men entered the country irregularly, is truly a blow for refugees and migrant rights. People must have access to asylum procedures and to appeal any decision, regardless of how they entered the country they wish to seek sanctuary in.” — Amnesty International

This bizarrely contradicts their own verdict from 2017, when the Court found “the immediate return to Morocco of sub-Saharan migrants who were attempting to enter Spanish territory in Melilla amounted to a collective expulsion of foreign nationals, in breach of the Convention” in the case of N.D. and N.T. versus Spain.

In today’s press release, ECHR said: “The Court noted that Spanish law had afforded the applicants several possible means of seeking admission to the national territory. They could have applied for a visa or for international protection, in particular at the border crossing point, but also at Spain’s diplomatic and consular representations in their respective countries of origin or transit or else in Morocco.”

This directly contradicts the statement made by the EU Commission in April 2019, in reply to EP’s proposal for humanitarian Visas:

“Moreover, during the negotiations on the said proposal it became apparent that it is politically not feasible to create a subjective right to request admission and to be admitted or an obligation on the Member States to admit a person in need of international protection. Indeed, the Common European Asylum System applies to applications for international protection made in the territory of the Member States and does not cover requests for diplomatic or territorial asylum submitted to representations of the Member States.”, the Commission stated.

In this context, it is also relevant to mention the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) case of X and X versus Belgium.

“Member States are not required, under EU law, to grant a humanitarian visa to persons who wish to enter their territory with a view to applying for asylum, but they remain free to do so on the basis of their national law”, the CJEU argued in the case of a family from Aleppo that tried to ask for a humanitarian visa in the member state’s embassy in Lebanon.

It is extremely worrying that the ECHR, as the institution whose main role is the protection of human rights in the EU, is now becoming a part of the systematic attack against the right to international protection in Europe. Some analysts are already saying this opens the door to the formal introduction of the Australian model, which denies asylum to people that arrive in the country irregularly.

Having in mind the lack of legal options, asylum-seekers’ entry to EU territory is, in most cases, irregular, asylum-seekers formally cannot be refused entrance at borders, nor be returned to a third country if there is a risk of persecution or other serious harm. This principle of non-refoulement was established by the Geneva Refugee Convention in 1951 and has been incorporated into EU law (Article 78(1) TFEU).

However, many countries are not respecting this obligation, either by illegally pushing people back over green borders, or by abusing readmission agreements to get rid of potential asylum seekers.

The verdict of the ECHR, paradoxically, could be used to justify such violations in the future.


According to the Aegean Boat Report five boats have arrived on the Greek Aegean islands, carrying 173 people.

Weather deterioration with intense rainfalls and thunderstorms is forecast for the next couple of days. The barometric low is coming from the North-West and will extend down to the South-East of the country.

Rain and thunderstorms are expected to set in as of Friday morning, February 14, 2020, in the West and North-West and quickly affect almost the entire country.

From Friday night to Saturday, the bad weather front will reach the Aegean Sea and the East mainland.

Survival in Moria Camp’s “Olive Grove”

Latitude Adjustment Podcast reports from Lesvos:

Simple wood fires like this are a source of warmth to fight off the damp chill of a rainy evening and a stove top for cooking whatever might be available for dinner. I met these Afghan guys about one minute prior to filming this and was promptly invited to join them for dinner. One of them explained that he’d been in #MoriaRefugeeCamp for 18 months. Their simple tarp hut on the periphery of the “Oliive Grove” was removed from the intense crowding of the camp but on the walk up the hillside I could see and smell human excrement and trash scattered on the ground making it difficult to imagine navigating this terrain in the dark. As I walked around the sprawling Olive Grove puffs of smoke from fires like these rose up all around, and while I saw people carrying wood to fuel their fires, the toxic smoke hanging over much of the camp made it clear that people are burning whatever is available. Respiratory illnesses have been a common complaint.

In front of the Ministry of the Interior, several hundred demonstrators protested against the project of closed centers for refugees on the islands of the Aegean Sea. Feeling of abandonment and exasperation for the islanders faced with an endless migration crisis.

In Athens, according to the new policing scheme launched by the government in Exarchia, Ekathimerini reports that the riot platoons that have become a permanent fixture in the area in recent years will be gradually phased out and replaced by foot patrols, sniffer dogs and aerial surveillance by drone. For the time being, riot officers will only be posted at night outside the offices of the PASOK party on Harilaou Trikoupi Street and at the Culture Ministry on Bouboulinas Street, both favored targets of self-styled anarchists in the area.

60 asylum seekers were given protection in 2019, compared to around 360 in the previous year, the Hungarian media reported. Asylum claims can still only be submitted in two transit zones on the border with Serbia, namely at the border crossings of Röszke and Tompa, and the number of people admitted to enter is limited to 10 persons per day.
As a reminder, the European Court of Human Rights has launched infringement proceedings against Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic because of ongoing practices of reportedly starving asylum seekers in transit zones, keeping asylum seekers for months under internment-like conditions in these transit zones, attempting to deport people without examining their asylum claims, as well as breaking EU law by refusing to comply with a refugee quota program that was introduced in 2015.

The report “ Invisible residences. Survey on housing emergencies in Florence ”is the result of research work supported by IRMI — Interdisciplinary Research Unit on Migration of the University of Florence. The participation of six IRMI trainees in the activities of the MEDU mobile clinic made it possible to identify the problems inherent in the access to the institution of residence by homeless citizens.

MEDU asks that the current access path to the fictitious residence in Italy be reformulated, in order to facilitate the registration of all the people present and residing in the Florentine territory. Specifically, that the procedure be speeded up and that specific and additional documentation regarding the declaration of domicile should not be requested from the homeless.

57% of the users encountered have the residence permit issued by a police headquarters in another city and have been stable on the territory for an average of 2–3 years; of these, 87% do not have the possibility of accessing personal registration and therefore of the local social and health services.

“Misery, suffering and despair do not have a nationality”

‘’For having conducted with courage, and taking full responsibility for doing so, in compliance with constitutional and international regulations concerning rescues at sea, of the obligation to recuse those who are in danger and to bring them to a safe port, out of respect for human rights (…) for having a vision that rejects all forms of egoism, that defends life always and in every way, that tries to prevent anyone from having to face death in the attempt to reach European coasts and in so doing moving forward a battle for all of humanity, making the emergency laws of the sea prevail and hoping that they be respected by all and not be exploited for institutional our political ends’’, the mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando has given honorary citizenship of the city to the crews of three boats who have committed themselves to the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean. Here’s more on the story.

“The federal government does not plan to recognise the ‘flight from climatic conditions and changes’ as a reason for asylum and to make a corresponding change in the law,” they said in a statement. They claim that the people in third countries who leave their homes solely because of the negative consequences of climate change are not refugees in the sense of the Geneva Refugee Convention under current international treaty law.

Read more on the subject in the recent media coverage here.

Greece has asked Finland for assistance in re-settling the approximately 5,000 unaccompanied minors living in refugee camps set up around the country.
“We’ve looked into the possibility of responding to the request for assistance from Greece”, the Finnish Minister of the Interior said.
Greece asked EU member states to receive a minimum of 1,000 underage asylum seekers from the camps as early as in October. France has pledged to receive 400 children from the camps, according to the media reports.

Last fall, the MP from SV (Socialist Left Party] Karin Andersen demanded an answer from then justice minister Jøran Kallmyr from FRP (The Progress Party) in the Norwegian parliament (Stortinget), after rumors began to circulate about an unusual death at the immigration detention center Trandum.

The SV representative had heard that an Iraqi man had died while staying at Trandum, but at that point received assurance from the chief of police that the man died after being hospitalized. It later turned out to be wrong, and that the man actually died at Trandum.

Now SV requires a full investigation. — To misinform the Storting in a case where someone have died in police custody, is very serious. The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Justice knows that, and so should the police. It is about the fundamental trust in our society, says Andersen.

She was called by phonoe on Wednesday evening by the minister of justice Monica Maeland from Høyre (Conservative), who confirmed that the response from her predecessor Kallmyr from last fall was incorrect. Mæland contacted Andersen after a confrontation from Dagbladet to the ministry of justice with the information on the same day. The death is now being investigated by the County Governor of Oslo and Viken, who has opened a supervisory case against the Police Immigration Unit.

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Are You Syrious?

News digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and people on the move, but also for journalists, decision makers and other parties.