26/05/2021 – 7/06/2021
- On 10 June 2021, the European Parliament (EP), in its plenary session in Strasbourg, will hold an urgent debate on a resolution on the “Breach of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and the use of minors by the Moroccan authorities in the migratory crisis in Ceuta”.
- On 9 June 2021, European Commissioner Johansson will meet with Notis Mitarachi, Minister of Migration and Asylum of Greece and with Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior of France. On the same day, European Commission Vice-President Schinas meets in Rome with Italian Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese, and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio.
- On 7 June 2021, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson was in Libya to meet with Prime Minister Abdul Dbeiba to discuss migration and border management.
- On 4 June 2021, Tunisian President officially met with EU institutions’ representatives in Brussels to discuss, among others, migration management and border controls.
- On 2 June 2021, the European Commission presented a new Strategy on the Schengen area, aiming at ensuring “effective management of the EU’s external borders”.
- On 28 May 2021, the Council of Europe’s Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) discussed the report on “Humanitarian action for refugees and migrants in countries in North Africa and the Middle East”.
- On 27 May 2021, during the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) meeting on the EU Pact on Migration, Greek migration minister said that Greece should not have to integrate refugees but this should be done by other EU Member States.
10/05/2021 – 26/05/2021
- On 25 May 2021, a group of lawyers from Progress Lawyers Network, Greek Helsinki Monitor and front-LEX submitted a legal action to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) against Frontex on behalf of two asylum seekers, an unaccompanied minor and a woman, who have been victims of violence and pushbacks in Lesbos and in the Aegean Sea. According to the lawyers, this is the first time Frontex is taken to the ECJ.
- According to a document obtained by EUobserver on the outcome of IMEX (Expulsions) Working Party discussions on return sponsorship in January 2021, EU Member States have diverging positions regarding the return sponsorship mechanism. For example, frontline Member States consider that 8 months is too long as “irregular migrants cannot be detained for such a long time, and only a shorter deadline can guarantee that they do not abscond.”
- On 17 May 2021, the Council presidency and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a draft directive (EU blue card directive) establishing the entry and residence conditions for highly qualified workers. The new rules will establish more inclusive admission criteria, facilitate intra-EU mobility and family reunification, among others. The agreement (whose rapporteur is Javier MORENO SÁNCHEZ (S&D, ES)) will be voted by the Civil Liberties Committee and in plenary for approval, and by the Council.
- On 20 May 2021, the European Parliament, in plenary, called for increasing legal migration channels by adopting a report whose rapporteur is Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, FR).
- On 27 May 2021, the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) held a public hearing on the Solidarity Mechanisms and on the Procedures at the borders proposed in the new EU Pact on Migration. On 26 May 2021, the LIBE Committee discussed the Activities of the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group.
- On 18 May 2021, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) held a discussion in plenary with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, on the recent deaths in the Mediterranean and search and rescue at sea. A resolution 2021/2690(RSP) on the issue is tabled but no progress has been achieved. On the same day, MEPs discussed the report (A9-0060/2021) Human rights protection and the EU external migration policy, whose rapporteur is Tineke Strik, with the participation of Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi. On 19 May 2021, the EU Parliament adopted Tineke Strik’s report calling for better protection of human rights in EU migration deals with third countries.
- On 26 May 2021, the European Parliament’s Committees on Budgets and on Budgetary Control will have an exchange of views with the European Commission relating to the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation and the development of guidelines for its application.
- On 10 May 2021, UNHCR chief, Filippo Grandi, met with EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson and called for relocations, “more State-led operations to rescue people at sea” and urgent need for the EU Pact on Migration.
- On 20-21 May 2021, Commissioner Ylva Johansson participated in a joint visit to Tunisia with the Italian Government, to discuss migration management with a focus on returns and readmissions.
- Between 10-14 May 2021, EASO Executive Director, Nina Gregori, held a series of meetings in Lisbon and Madrid to discuss EASO’s operational support for Spain’s reception system. EASO is planning to deploy highly-specialised personnel and to support Spain in “enhancing the reception capacity in the Canary Islands; supporting the transition towards a new model for reception in Spain”, among others.
- According to Frontex, the first four months of 2021 saw a third-fold increase in “irregular border crossings” (36,100) compared to the same period in 2020.
- On 17 May 2021, the European Commission appointed first ever anti-racism coordinator, former basketball player Michaela Moua.
27.04.2021 – 10.05.2021
- On 27 April 2021, the European Commission adopted the EU strategy on voluntary return and reintegration. Frontex will a leading role in returns and it will also take over the activities carried out under the European Return and Reintegration Network by mid-2022. A return coordinator will also be appointed.
- According to an EEAS document seen by the EUobserver, the EU is planning to use the new European Peace Facility to possibly provide the so-called Libyan Coast Guard with more assets, such as patrol boats and planes.
- On 7 May 2021, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson met with Turkish Vice-President, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Interior in Ankara, to discuss migration management, including the EU-Turkey statement. On 23 April 2021, Johansson met with Croatian Prime Minister on migration issues.
- On 6 May 2021, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson declared she wants to “invest much more into community sponsorship“.
- On 21 April 2021, the European Commission presented a revised coordinated plan on Artificial Intelligence (AI) 2021, including a section on applying AI to law enforcement, migration and asylum. Pilot projects will be launched for the use of AI in the field of regular border control, migration and police checks and for a single European migration forecasting system based on the European Commission’s Feasibility study on a forecasting and early warning tool for migration based on artificial intelligence technology (2021).
- FRONTEX: According to a joint investigation between Lighthouse Reportswith Der Spiegel, Libération and ARD Monitor, Frontex is coordinating with the Libyan Coast Guard, while the agency is continuing to deny such cooperation. Member of the European Parliament’s Scrutiny Working Group on Frontex, Erik Marquardt, declared that “this proves that Frontex is breaking international law” and it shows that “Frontex is responsible for returning people to inhumane camps in Libya”. Jonas Grimheden will become Frontex’s fundamental rights officer by June 2021. Of the 40 human rights monitors that the Agency should have been hired by December, only 20 were hired so far. According to the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, Turkish coast guard boats “made dangerous manoeuvres very close to Frontex vessels”.
- From 27 to 28 April 2021, theCouncil of Europe Drafting Committee on Migrant Women (GEC-MIG), which is tasked by the Committee of Ministers to draft a Recommendation on migrant and refugee women, held its fourth meeting via videoconference.
- The Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published a note entitled ‘Initial-reception facilities at external borders: fundamental rights issues to consider’.
- The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers have adopted an Action Plan on Protecting Vulnerable Persons in the Context of Migration and Asylum in Europe (2021-2025).
13.04.2021 – 26.04.2021
- FRONTEX: Following a request from the German left-wing Member of Parliament Ulla Jelpke to the federal government, it has emerged that during Frontex operations in the Aegean sea, the Greek authorities have “intercepted” and pushed back at least 132 refugee boats since March 2020. The General Court of the EU has ruled that Frontex has more than doubled its legal fees in a case it won against two activists, Arne Semsrott and Luisa Izuzquiza, who requested access to documents in 2017 on the Triton Frontex operation. On 22 April 2021, Home Affairs Commissioner Yvla Johansson met with Mr Marko GAŠPERLIN, Chairman of the Frontex Management Board in Ljubljana, Slovenia. On 23 April 2021, the LIBE Working Group on Frontex Scrutiny held a meeting with legal experts and Greek and Hungarian NGOs on pushbacks at the European borders.
- The Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, Michael O’Flaherty, visited the reception facilities on the island of Samos in Greece, highlighting the need to avoid longer stays in such centres. FRA had previously released a note on Initial-reception facilities at external borders: fundamental rights issues to consider.
- According to a European Commission document obtained by Statewatch, a national biometric population database in Senegal will facilitate deportations of Senegalese citizens from the EU.
- On 14 April 2021, the European Commission presented the new EU Strategy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings (2021-2025). It also presented on the same day a new five-year strategy to fight against organised crime.
- The European Parliamentary Research Service released a briefing on Migration and border management: Heading 4 of the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
- On 13 April 2021, the LIBE Committee voted on a report on “New Avenues for Legal Labour Migration” .
- The Transnational Institute published a recent report titled Outsourcing oppression – How Europe externalises migrant detention beyond its shores, shedding light on the links between Europe’s outsourcing of migrant detention to third countries and the notorious conditions within the migrant detention centres.
29.03.2021 – 12.04.2021
- According to a document obtained by Statewatch, the Council Legal Service found that some measures proposed in the EU Pact on Migration & Asylum mix different legal bases and pose problems in terms of EU law.
- One year since the European Commission launched the so-called “Team Europe” to support partner countries’ efforts in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic. The initiative also served to “provide targeted assistance to vulnerable migrants and refugees in North Africa through the EU Trust Fund Africa’s regional emergency response programme”.
- According to the German newspaper, Die Welt, EU officials are already applying the visa-readmissions conditionality to 13 countries in Africa and MENA region, including Libya and Egypt, by threatening them with visa restrictions after a lack of cooperation on readmissions.
- Following the meeting in Ankara with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council , Charles Michel, the European Commission announced new funding for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Commission President also asked for a renewal of the infamous EU-Turkey deal, preventing departures from Turkey and for a reactivation of returns from Greece to Turkey, in line with the dangerous logic of externalisation and the return “obsession” in the EU Pact on migration.
- Statewatch dthat Frontex, despite seeking lessons on “how to recruit an informant”, to operate undercover for border controls and for detecting crimes such as migrant smuggling, declared that it “does not recruit informants” and it “conducts interviews with migrants on a voluntary basis where the interviewed person’s identity remains anonymous”.
- In its latest annual report, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) warned that Covid-19 is worsening human trafficking across Europe.
- On 31 March 2021, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has adopted a recommendation to its member States on the development and strengthening of effective, pluralist and independent National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).
- Terre des hommes’ (Tdh) Destination Unknown campaign network published Stories shape societies, a publication comprising hope-based communication guidelines, promoting a change in the narrative on migration and a shift to a more hopeful, positive narrative around children and young people on the move.
09/03/2021 – 29/03/2021
- Five years since the signing of the EU-Turkey deal, Amnesty International is warning against future dangerous migration deals. On 19 March 2021, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel held a video conference with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss “an update” of relations.
- On 23 March 2021, the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee voted to postpone their endorsement of Frontex’s 2019 budget “over concerns about allegations of rights violations”, among others. The Agency’s guards in Greece could be armed by summer 2021. Frontex released figures on the number of “illegal border crossings at Europe’s external borders” which dropped by 40% in 2021, with an increase in the number of crossing attempts in the Central Mediterranean from Libya. On a side note, Frontex is also refusing to release details on its hospitality spending figures (dinners and events).
- Statewatch published a briefing on five agreements concluded by Frontex with states in the Balkans, looking at the provisions of those agreements which could be similar to future EU deals with third countries.
- EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, will visit the Greek Island of Lesvos on 29 March 2021.
- On 22 March 2021, the European Commission announced the first meeting of its so-called “European Contact Group on Search and Rescue for migrants and refugees”, aiming at improving coordination on search and rescue operations.
- On 19-20 March 2021, Interior Ministers from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain, the so-called “Med-5”, met in Greece. In a joint statement, they called on other EU states to “share the migration burden” and they pushed for an “EU-wide repatriation mechanism”. The vice-president of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, and Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, also attended the meeting.
- High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell visited Operations Irini’ headquarters and met Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio. They discussed about Libya, Russia and Turkey. Operation Irini has been extended until 2023.
- The Horizon 2020 project ASILE released an analysis on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum in light of the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees.
- According to the Danish Institute for International Studies, the upcoming EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling 2021-2025 “must rely on the growing evidence-base concerning the structure and organisation of migrant smuggling, as well as rethink the way smuggling research and analysis is produced”.
23/01/2021 – 09/03/2021
- On 12 March 2021, EU Interior Ministers will hold a videoconference on the external aspect of migration, including enhancing cooperation with North African countries. On 15 March 2021, a joint conference of EU foreign affairs and home affairs ministers will take place to discuss the external aspects of the EU’s migration policy, under the new pact on migration and asylum.
- On 9 March 2021, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published a report “A distress call for human rights. The widening gap in migrant protection in the Mediterranean” calling on European countries to urgently change their migration policies which are causing thousands of deaths each year.
- Frontex: On 23 February 2021, the new European Parliament Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) formally began to operate with Roberta Metsola (EPP, MT) as Chair and Tineke Strik (Greens/EFA, NL) as rapporteur who will draft the report with recommendations. The full composition of the FSWG can be found here. The first FSWG meeting was held on 4 March with EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, and Frontex Chief, Fabrice Leggeri. At the same time, on 26 February 2021, right-wing French Members of the European Parliament sent a letter to Ylva Johansson criticising the Commissioner’s attempt to investigate allegations of pushbacks against Frontex Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri. Of a different opinion than Johansson is EU Commission Vice-President, Schinas, who seems to defend Frontex and is against “a narrative that weakens Frontex at a time when we need the agency the most”. On 8 March 2021, the EUobserver revealed that internal Frontex documents (known as “serious incidents reports”), described incidents of illegal pushbacks involving in particular the Hellenic Coast Guard at the Greek-Turkish border. Frontex is trying to use the judgement in February 2020 from the European Court of Human Rights on so-called “hot returns” at the Spanish Moroccan border in Melilla as a legal basis for pushbacks in the Aegean Sea. The European Commission, however, says the Melilla case does not apply to the situation in the Aegean Sea. On 3 March 2021, the European Commission has produced a five-page legal analysis on “The nature and extent of Frontex’s obligations in the context of its implementation of joint maritime operations at the Union’s external sea borders”. On 4 March 2021, Statewatch published Frontex correspondence with national and EU authorities on the alleged complicity in pushbacks in the Aegean region.
- On 25 February 2021, the advocate general for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that the amendments to Hungarian asylum law in 2018, prohibiting asylum seekers who passed through Serbia to apply for international protection in Hungary, violated EU law.
9/02/2021 – 22/01/2021
- On 18 February 2021, the European Commission launched a legal action against Hungary for failing to implement a judgement from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which ruled that legislation on restricting foreign funding of NGOs violated EU law.
- On 18 February 2021, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, visited the Lipa refugee camp in Bosnia stating that more legal pathways are needed. On 20 February 2021, she visited FRONTEX Joint Operation in Kakavia, Albania.
- According to Statewatch, the Council of the European Union is planning to update the ‘Joint Valletta Action Plan’ (JVAP), agreed by European and African heads of state in 2015 for implementing joint activities on migration and asylum.
- The European Ombudsman decided to close a case following a complaint presented by Statewatch in 2019 which called on Frontex and Europol to “improve and update their public registers of documents” and to allow non-EU citizens in non-EU countries to access Frontex’s documents. Frontex refused the latter point. The Ombudsman approved the agency’s stance and decided to close the case.
- On 10 February 2021, the European Commission published findings of the first annual assessment on Enhancing cooperation on return and readmission as part of a fair, effective and comprehensive EU migration policy with third countries.
- On 4 February 2021, Statewatch published the preliminary report of the Frontex Management Board Working Group following allegations of involvement in pushbacks from Turkey to Greece.
- According to Der Spiegel, a team of lawyers wants to take Frontex Chief, Fabrice Leggeri, to the European Court of Justice for the agency’s involvement in human rights violations in the Aegean Sea.
- According to the latest statistics released by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), asylum applications in 2020 were at the lowest level since 2013, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related emergency measures, such as movement restrictions. Syrians are the first nationality of asylum seekers, followed by Afghans and Venezuelans.
26/01/2021 – 8/02/2021
- On 5 February 2021, following an investigation into the links between the European Border Guard Agency and the surveillance and armaments industry, the German ZDF media outlet and the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) revealed breaches of the EU institutions’ rules on lobbying, a lack of transparency and an almost complete absence of concern for the respect of human rights.
- On 27 January 2021, the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, announced that it has suspended operations in Hungary, following a recent ruling from the European Court of Justice condemning Hungary’s practice of pushing migrants back to Serbia. Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for home Affairs, welcomed the suspension of Frontex border operations in Hungary.
- On 29 January 2021, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the Civil Liberties and Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) ccommittees decideed to set up a Frontex Scrutiny Working Group to launch an investigation into Frontex, meaning that there will not be a standard inquiry committee.
- On 20 January 2021, the report on the implementation of Article 43 of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (2020/2047(INI)) was published by the rapporteur, MEP Erik Marquardt. The debate on the report is scheduled in plenary for 8 February 2021.
12/1 2021–25/1 2021
- FRONTEX: On 23 January 2021, Frontex Board of Directors will further investigate five of the 13 cases of pushbacks reported in 2020 from Greece to Turkey in the Aegean Sea. The EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, has opened an investigation into Frontex, over allegations of “harassment, misconduct and migrant pushbacks”. On 13 January 2021, the Interior Committee of the Bundestag, the German Parliament, questioned Frontex Chief on illegal pushbacks. The Director-General of the European Commission’s DG HOME accused Frontex Executive Director of replying in a “misleading manner” when questioned by MEPs about Frontex involvement in pushbacks and the new fundamental rights monitoring framework, in a hearing in December 2020. Frontex has also been accused of serious mismanagement in recruitment processes, including lack of transparency, and for not employing enough fundamental rights officers. In the meantime, Frontex has renewed a contract with an Israeli company to improve its maritime surveillance through an artificial intelligence platform.
- The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will decide on the appeals filed by the NGO Sea-Watch to the administrative court in Palermo, Italy, against the detention of their rescue ships Sea-Watch 3 and Sea-Watch 4.
- The European Commission sent a formal notice to Hungary for ignoring a recent ECJ verdict ruling that, among other things, the push backs to Serbia were illegal under EU law. The NGO the Hungarian Helsinki Committee reported that push backs to Serbia continued also after the ECJ ruling, amounting to “2,300 people being pushed back” since then.
- On 28-29 January 2021, EU Interior Ministers will attend an informal meeting on migration held by the Portuguese presidency.
21/12 2020 –12/1 2021
- As Portugal took over the EU Presidency on 1 January 2021, until June 2021, Portuguese Interior Minister, Eduardo Cabrita, has already held talks with his Greek counterpart, before discussing also with Spain, Italy and Malta soon on the migration file. According to Portugal, “solidarity cannot be voluntary”
08/12 – 21/12
- On 9 December 2020, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union reached an agreement on the priorities of the new Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) which will amount to EUR 9.882 billion. According to the legislators, among the priorities, the new AMIF will “support third-country nationals to effectively integrate and be socially included, contribute to the fight against irregular migration” and ensure returns and reintegration in third countries. 63.5% of the funds will be allocated to programmes that are jointly managed by the EU and the member states, while 36.5% will be directly managed by the EU.
- On 10 December 2020, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union reached an agreement on the border management fund for 2021-2027, amounting to EUR 6.241 billion. 10% of the fund will be spent for visa policy in national programmes.
- On 17 December 2020, the Council of the European Union adopted the regulation laying down the EU’s Multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027, with a significant increase in funding in the areas of migration and border management which will amount to €22.7 billion.
- On 18 December 2020, EU Member States’ ambassadors endorsed the provisional agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council Presidency on the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). The NDICI will amount to a total of EUR 79,462 million for the next 7 years, of which EUR 6,358 million will be allocated to “thematic programmes”, including migration.
- On 16 December 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a resolution on the implementation of the Return Directive, noting that “an effective return policy is one of the key elements of a well-functioning EU asylum and migration policy”, and stressing the importance of prioritising voluntary returns and safeguarding fundamental rights when applying EU legislation on returns. On the same day, MEPs adopted another resolution on the 2013 Dublin III Regulation, calling for fairer rules on responsibility sharing among EU Member States.
- On 14 December 2020, EU Interior Ministers discussed the EU Migration Pact giving a strong focus on the external dimension of the Pact. The Commission presented a “non-paper” on the way forward focussing mainly on the external dimension and as a result of negotiations with partner countries. The German Presidency presented a progress report and the negotiations will continue in 2021 under the Portuguese Presidency.
24/11 – 08/12 2020
- On 3 December 2020, a new programme, co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, to promote fair labour migration was launched in Tunis, Tunisia. The programme, called THAMM, will be implemented in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt and will involve the International Organisation for Migration, the International Labour Organisation and the Belgian Development Agency, Enabel.
- On 25 November 2020, the leaders of Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta signed a joint declaration calling for more “solidarity” towards EU first-entry countries from other EU Member states. They called for clearer rules to be included in the migration Pact and rejected the idea of large detention centres at external borders.
- On 1 December 2020, Members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee called for “a sustainable solidarity mechanism among EU member states” in a draft resolution. The objective is to overcome the 2013 Dublin III Regulation, which imposes the excessive use of the first country of entry criterion. They also stressed that the right to family reunification and protection of children should be prioritised.
- On 25 November 2020, in an unexpected and worrying move, the European Parliament’s Development Committee adopted a report “Improving development effectiveness and efficiency of aid” which included a clause on making EU aid to developing countries conditional on their compliance with EU migration control objectives.
- The EU Fundamental Rights Agency published its latest report on fundamental rights of refugees, asylum applicants and migrants at the European borders.
- The European Data Protection Supervisor published its opinion on the EU Pact on migration from the privacy and data protection perspective.
- Some Members of the European Parliament from the Greens, S&D and GUE groups, want to pursue a formal inquiry into Frontex, EU member states, and the European Commission following evidence-based allegations of illegal pushbacks. The S&D group also asked for the resignation of Frontex Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri, while an internal letter from Frontex to the EU Commission shows that Germany was involved in an unlawful pushback by Greek coast guards in the Aegean Sea.
- Frontex is taking two pro-transparency activists to court for not paying the agency EUR 24,000 in legal fees after losing a case last year, when Frontex annual budget for 2020 is EUR 460 million, the EU Observer reports.
In light of the numerous evidence-based allegations of pushbacks carried out by Frontex in the Aegean Sea, the Management Board of Frontex held an extraordinary meeting on 10 November 2020. Among the conclusions, the Management Board asked the Executive Director to “ensure that the internal reporting system is solid and effective in order to allow for an immediate follow-up in case of incidences” and decided to “set up a sub-group to the Management Board to further consider these aspects”. The mandate of the sub-group will be discussed on 25-26 November 2020.
An investigation by The Guardian, published in March 2020, revealed how Frontex was highly involved in pushbacks in the Central Mediterranean, as acting as the “eyes and ears” of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard in detecting migrants at sea. According to the Guardian, EU senior officials “were aware that the scale of their involvement with the Libyans risked making them legally responsible for the fate of returned migrants”. A recent strong condemnation against Frontex came also from MSF, who denounced the Agency’s involvement in refoulement to Libya, failure to save lives at sea and coordinate rescue operation and violation of the international law of the sea for not making sure that a rescue operation leads to a disembarkation to a safe place.
On 19 November 2020, the European Parliament organised a High-level Inter-parliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe, during which the president of the German parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble, said that the EU “has no choice but to work with despotic regimes” and suggested that those migrants who cannot be returned home might be held in “facilities outside Europe”.”
29/10 – 10/11 2020
During the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Friday 13 November 2020, EU interior ministers will likely adopt a “declaration” on the “integration” of migrants and on giving access to authorities to the codes to bypass encrypted apps, according to a document leaked by the Financial Times and the Guardian. The said “declaration” drafted by France, Austria and the German EU Presidency worryingly associates Muslim migrants with a terrorist threat.
On 10 November 2020, the management Board of Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) will have to examine accusations of unlawful pushbacks of migrants in the Aegean Sea.
On 6 November 2020, in its latest migration quarterly bulletin, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights denounces worsening conditions for migrants and refugees in Europe including regarding reception centres and increasing reports of pushbacks and violence at the borders.
15/10 – 26/10 2020
On 20 October 2020, the European Commission launched infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta regarding their investor citizenship schemes. These, often known as “golden passports” schemes, foresee the granting of EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments to people without any genuine link with the Member State concerned. According to the Commission, these schemes undermine the essence of EU citizenship. On 22 October 2020, in a plenary debate, Members of the European Parliament called on Member States to end the “golden passports” schemes currently in place in Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.
On 16 October 2020, the European Commission released a new Financial Tracking Report to monitor the progress of donor funds against their pledges made at the 4th Brussels Conference on ‘Supporting the Future of Syria and the region’ last 30 June 2020. This report highlights that international donors have already fulfilled their 2020 pledges. The financial support mostly goes to Syria and to five neighbouring countries currently hosting refugees (Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt). Nevertheless, funding continues to fall short of needs in all sectors in order to support the more than 11 million people in need in Syria and the 5.6 million refugees in the region.
The Guardian reported that the EU will use drones from Airbus and two Israeli weapons companies to spot refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. This programme will cost a total of EUR 100 million. Starting from next year, the drones will be based either in Greece, Italy or Malta. Some have criticised this programme which could be used by the EU as a way to avoid its search and rescue responsibilities.
28/09 – 12/10
EU Pact on Migration and Asylum: on 8 October 2020, EU interior ministers discussed the EU Pact on Migration and, despite the optimism expressed by Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, Member States seem to have quite polarised positions. “No Member States said they are fully satisfied with everything in the proposal” underlined Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson. According to previous official statements, Germany and France seem to endorse the proposal, while Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta criticise the unchanged first-entry country criterium and the voluntary solidarity mechanism. The Visegrad Group and Austria oppose any redistribution of asylum seekers.
During an interview on the Pact, European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Promoting our European way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, stressed once again the importance of solidarity among Member States. He stated “no pact will be meaningful unless it provides effective solidarity in practice for those member states that by their geography are the most confronted with the migratory challenge”.
Interviewed by Politico, the Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said “the EU’s proposed pact still needs a lot of work” and that “the aim is to have all the migrants moved off the islands by Easter next year, provided there is not a major uptick in arrivals”.
Check EuroMed Rights’ interview on Euronews on the day of the EU interior ministers conference here.
You can watch EuroMed Rights’ video summarising the key aspects of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum below.