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
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
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.