21/09/2022 – 05/10/2022
- EU Member States have until Friday 7 October 2022 to make resettlement pledges, but it looks like they will not manage to meet the commitments. In 2022, Member States made over 20,000 resettlements pledges of which, so far, only 7,240 have been fulfilled. This is particularly worrying as the unmet pledges leave people in a limbo, while the number of refugees in need of resettlement is estimated to increase next year to a total of 2 million people, 36% more than last year. Last year, the EU only resettled 15,660 people.
- The EU Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic published the statement For the rights of the living, for the dignity of the dead – Time to end the plight of missing migrants in Europe, urging Member States to take stock of the often neglected plight of missing migrants and their families.
- A group of MEPs of the Green Party in the EU Parliament submitted parliamentary questions into the use of EU-funded technologies Centaur and Hyperion for behavioural analytics and constant surveillance of Greek camps and conduct behavioural analysis. The MEPs’ inquiry into which EU budget has been used to fund these technologies and whether the Commission can ensure the compliance of these technologies with fundamental rights.
- Statewatch published the draft Council conclusions and Member States comments on the European integrated border management (EIBM) strategy. The documents were circulated ahead of the forthcoming multi-annual policy cycle on European integrated border management. Previously, in May 2022, the Commission published a policy document of the EIBM and now the Council and Parliament should reach conclusions on the Commission’s document. The Commission’s document details that the EIBM is constituted by the “four-tier access control model” meaning measures in third countries, measures with neighbouring third countries, border control measures at the external borders, risk analysis and measures within the Schengen area and return.
- The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre published the report Scrutinising migration surveillance: Human rights responsibilities of tech companies operating in MENA.
- The EU Asylum Agency (EUAA) is facing probe for allegations of nepotism and the mishandling of harassment claims.
- The Green Party of the EU Parliament shared a petition to urge the EU Commission to stop paying for pushbacks at the EU’s borders.
12/09/2022 – 21/09/2022
- The EU Parliament is expected to finalise its end of the Pact by December, as the EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola signed a roadmap with the five rotating EU presidencies (Czech Republic, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, France) to get the pact done before the 2024 EU elections. However, disputes remain among member states especially regarding the question on solidarity and mandatory relocations. In the meantime, the Parliament is insisting on maintaining the package approach of the Pact to leverage against the Council’s willingness to approve those files that deal with security, while ignoring the solidarity aspects found in the other bills.
- On 8 September 2022, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson opened the first High Level Network for returns in a meeting with experts from Frontex, Member States and the European Commission.
- The Czech Presidency of the Council said it is ready to start negotiations with the EU Parliament of the Screening and Eurodac regulations. Also, the Czech Presidency wants to advance on the file of instrumentalisation: in December 2021, the European Commission presented a proposal for a Regulation addressing situations of instrumentalisation in the field of migration and asylum. With this proposal, Member States would be allowed to derogate from their responsibilities under EU asylum law in situations of “instrumentalisation” of migration. Now, the Czech Presidency aims to adopt a common position by December. Several NGOs signed a common statement underlining how the instrumentalization file severely threatens asylum seekers’ and refugees’ rights.
- The EU Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) did not grant the budgetary discharge to Frontex, sending once again a strong signal that the agency needs to undergo systematic changes at the management level and in the way its functions, and needs to put fundamental rights at the centre of its mandate. MEP Tineke Strik also published a comment on how to strengthen the democratic accountability of Frontex, available here.
- The EU is exploring new ways to stop migration in transit countries as part of the so-called Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). According to an internal paper, new ways to curb migration flows would be to send ‘visiting experts’, ‘specialised teams’ and setting up intelligence facilities in countries like Niger, Libya, Mali, Somali, Iraq.
- The New Humanitarian published an investigation that shows how Member States, in particular Italy and Greece, are wrongfully prosecuting people with charges of migrant smuggling. Italy detained more that 2,000 asylum seekers on smuggling charges between 2015 and 2021, while Greece arrested 7,000 people with the same charged between 2015 and 2019. As the investigation shows, “many of those prosecuted have either been wrongly accused or ended up steering a boat through happenstance or coercion”.
- Several EU Member States have set up internal border checks despite being inside the Schengen area on free movement. Internal border checks started being introduced in 2015 during the so-called “refugee crisis” by countries such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Austria and France. They did so by asking for a derogation from the Schengen rules for two years, and since 2017 they keep extending their temporary border controls for six months at a time. In April 2022, the EU Court of Justice declared these controls illegal, however they are still in place.
- The IRC published a press release urging the EU to expand safe, regular pathways for migration from Africa to Europe and urgently establish an EU-funded SAR mission in the Mediterranean as 875 people have already lost their life in the Central Mediterranean in 2022 alone.
- In the end of August 2022, Lithuania completed a new four-metre-high, 550km-long border fence with Belarus, for the cost of around €150m.
- Statewatch leaked a 2021 report by Frontex where it reports annually to the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of the EU on its cooperation with non-EU countries. The report focuses on “expanding influence in the Western Balkans, information sharing, the expansion of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) to non-EU states, and deportations”. Frontex deployed ‘EU experts’ and members of the standing corps at border crossing points outside the EU, including in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and Ukraine.
- In the end of August 2022, a three-months old baby died in the emergency shelter Ter Apel in the Netherlands. The centre hosts about 2,000 in vulnerable conditions. Previously, the government had announced that it would employ a large cruise ship commissioned by the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers to house 1,000 asylum seekers who have no other housing options.
- Migration Control published an internal document from the EU-Commission, summarising the first meeting of the “Solidarity Platform Pact” held on the 27 June 2022.
- In the beginning of August, Frontex responded to a parliamentary question previously submitted by Left MEP Özlem Demirel on the detection and notification of maritime emergencies by Frontex in the Mediterranean. The answer however only provides a limited outline of the role of the agency in emergency situations at sea.
03/08/2022 – 12/09/2022
- EuroMed Rights prepared a submission to the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families on the draft General Comment No. 6 on the convergence between the Convention and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The submission focuses in particular on objective number 8 of the Global Compact (“Saving lives and developing coordinated international action to trace missing migrants”). Read it here.
- On 28 July 2022, Der Spiegel and Le Monde published the secret European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigation into Frontex, revealing the Agency’s knowledge about the systematic pushbacks carried out by the Greek Coast Guard. Frontex knew about the pushbacks but repeatedly denied them. According to the report, at least six Greek boats, co-financed by Frontex, have been involved in more than a dozen pushbacks between April and December 2020. The German Foreign Minister, during a recent official visit to Greece, denounced that the pushbacks at EU’s external borders are “incompatible with EU law” and refused to meet with the Greek Coast Guard.
- Disclose published a new investigation that shows how the European Union has been developing “artificial intelligence software that supposedly predicts migration flows in order to improve the way migrants are dealt with when they arrive on European soil”. The software is called ‘ITFLOWS’, it costed 5 million EUR and it should become operative in August 2023. However, the predictive capabilities of this AI tool could be misused to restrict the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers and create alarmist narratives around migration. As reported by Disclose, “this programme is due to complete a technical system aimed at monitoring the EU’s borders, in particular those in Spain, Italy and Greece. Funded by the EU’s ‘Horizon 2020’ research and innovation programme, ITFLOWS will takes its place alongside the use of autonomous surveillance drones, lie detectors in border transit zones and software to extract mobile phone data”.
- Statewatch published two action files by the Council of the EU on the deployment of Frontex operations in Senegal and Mauritania to prevent departures along the Canary Route, to increase cooperation on border management and anti-smuggling activities. Statewatch also published a new article analysing the intent of EU Member States to broaden “the access to the EU’s system of “interoperable” databases” in the EU Pact’s screening proposal by “linking it to a centralised register of individuals convicted of criminal offences in EU member states”. This risks further increasing the criminalisation of migration by linking “aspects of the criminal justice system with the EU’s immigration and asylum systems”.
- Migreurop published a positioning paper on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum. Migreurop highlights how many of the proposals presented in the Pact as new, are rather a continuation of an old European approach to migration that focuses on externalization and border militarization and how some of its legislative files are put into practice before the Pact is adopted.
- Frontex hired the head of the Greek National Transparency Authority (NTA) Angelos Binis as Head of Internal Audit. The two agencies have had past disagreements and tensions over the treatment of migrants in the Mediterranean.
- The Dutch government proposes to detain migrants and refugees on cruise ships to “solve” the issue of overcrowded refugee camps. Three ships have already been commissioned, and they could host up to 3,000 refugees. The government said that refugees from Ukraine will however not be put on the ships.
- On 15 July 2022, the EU and Niger launched a “new operational partnership to tackle migrant smuggling” which seems yet another example of the EU’s approach of externalisation of migration control to third countries, and its focus on securitising borders rather than offering legal pathways for migration.
- Spain will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union as of July 2023 and has already published the calendar of informal Ministerial meetings in Spanish regions. The one of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will take place on 20-21 July 2023.
- The Ombudsman asked the EU Commission how it can ensure that fundamental rights are being respected in the new centers that were opened in the Greek islands. The new centers, called Multi-Purpose Reception and Identification Centres, were constructed and are run by the Commission, which is also responsible to oversee how Greece spends the EU funds on them.
- Frontex will end its border surveillance operation in Lithuania, following a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in June 2022 that accused the country’s policies of mass detention and poor asylum procedure laws on a case of migrants who entered Lithuania from Belarus in 2021. The agency says that this move was not motivated by the ECJ ruling, but by a willingness to move Frontex operations from “quieter areas” to the Central Mediterranean and possibly return to Hungary.
- Between the 11-12 July 2022, the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers held an informal meeting in Prague where they discussed, among other things, a timeline for building the new architecture of IT systems and their interoperability in the Justice and Home Affairs area, which are considered crucial for the management of the external borders, as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine for future migration patterns.
- The European Commission and Morocco renewed their partnership on migration, focused on combating smuggling and trafficking networks, “support for border management, enhanced police cooperation (including joint investigations), awareness-raising on the dangers of unlawful migration and enhanced cooperation with EU agencies responsible for home affairs”.
- In the beginning of July 2022, former Frontex CEO Fabrice Leggeri was prevented from attending a meetingthe EuropeanParliament Budgetary Control Committee by some of the committee’s coordinators. Allegedly, Leggeri wanted to attend the meeting to defend himself against a report from the EU’s anti-fraud office on Frontex role in illegal pushback operations.
- On 1 July 2022, Czech Republic took over the rotating presidency of the Council after France. So far, it seems that the Czech Presidency will not focus too much on further progressing on the EU Pact on Migration & Asylum, which was also a reason why France put pressure to reach an agreement on the Temporary Solidarity Mechanism, on the Screening and Eurodac files before the end of its term. The key priorities for the Czech presidency will be: managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war recovery; energy security; strengthening Europe’s defense capabilities and cyberspace security; strategic resilience of the European economy; resilience of democratic institutions.
- Reporting Democracy issued a publication detailing the close cooperation between Frontex and Europol in developing new, expanded programmes for the collection of data from migrants and refugees to feed into Europol’s criminal database, in breach of the EU data protection laws. Their cooperation started in 2015 in the wake of the so-called “refugee crisis” and the terrorist attacks that took place in Europe, through the programme known as PeDRA, or ‘Processing of Personal Data for Risk Analysis’. However, in 2021 Frontex former CEO Fabrice Leggeri made proposal to drastically expand this programme to collective more sensitive data from migrants and refugees “including genetic data and sexual orientation; to store, analyse and share that data with Europol and security agencies of member states; and to scrape social media profiles, all on the premise of cracking down on ‘illegal’ migration and terrorism”. In December 2021, the Frontex Management Board gave the green light to the plans to expand PeDRA: “Under the new rules, which have yet to enter into force, Frontex border guards will be able to collect a much wider range of sensitive personal data from all migrants, including genetic and biometric data, such as DNA, fingerprints or photographs, information on their political and religious beliefs, and sexual orientation”. According to internal reports, the Frontex Management Board completely neglected the remarks made by its own Data Protection Officer, who explicitly pointed out how this expansion would be in violation of EU data protection law. More recently, in May 2022. Frontex and Europol made a new proposal for a new joint surveillance program at the EU external borders that would implement large-scale profiling of EU and third-country nationals using Artificial Intelligence.
- After Member States reached an agreement on the Temporary Solidarity Mechanism, the French Presidency aimed to gather 10,000 relocation pledges from the different Member States.
- The Green party in the EUEuropeanU Parliament published a study of the EU Commission enforcement powers concerning infringement procedures for human rights compliance at external border and also the possibilities for conditionality contained in funding instruments available to Member States for the management of immigration, asylum and the external borders.
07/06/2022 – 27/06/2022
- Frontex does not reveal how it is complying with human rights in its operations of deportation of people from Hungary, despite being told to stop such operations even by its own Fundamental Rights Officers. Despite requests to access documents on the cooperation between Frontex and Hungary, and the general demands to increase Frontex’s transparency, the agency keeps using the excuses that disclosing this information would put migrants’ life in danger because it would be used by smugglers to identify loopholes.
- At the Coreper meeting held on 23 June 2022, Coreper approved the Council mandates to negotiate the Eurodac and Screening regulations. On 15 June 2022, the French Presidency circulated its proposed compromised text on the Screening regulations, which will likely be the basis for the negotiation with the European Parliament. The compromise text shows further reductions to the scope of border monitoring mechanisms. On the same day, the French Presidency circulated a text with proposed mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on Eurodac, proposing to expand the database by introducing new uses, new data categories, and lowering the age limit for inclusion.
- For World Refugee Day, EuroMed Rights published a statement addressing pushback and human rights violation at the EU external borders and highlighted Frontex complicity in this.
- European resettlement programmes are not meeting their targets: in 2022, EU countries committed to receive 20,000 people via resettlements schemes, but so far only 4,075 were admitted.
- On the 10th of June, at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) meeting of the EU Council, Member States adopted an agreement on a temporary EU solidarity mechanism. The mechanism is non-legislative, temporary (duration of one year) and voluntary. This means that relocation of migrants from first-arrival countries is not compulsory, and Member States can decide to give financial contributions instead. 21 states (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein) agreed to it. The solidary mechanism is linked to the Screening and Eurodac regulations which were discussed at the following Coreper meeting of 23 June 2022. Member States also found an agreement on the revised Schengen Border Code.
- On the 3rd-4th June 2022, the Med5 EU Members States (Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Malta) met in Venice. They launched an alarm on food security and migration, saying that the war in Ukraine stopped the exportation of wheat and that will generate a food crisis in Africa and Middle East. According to the Cypriot foreign minister, Med5 countries should expect 150,000 arrivals due to food-shortages. They then expressed support to the “gradual approach” presented at the beginning of the French Presidency for the implementation of the EU Pact and stressed the importance of a mechanism of European solidarity that includes internal redistribution of migrants among Member States.
- The UNHCR reports that 4,8 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded in Europe so far, and about 3.2 million have registered for the Temporary Protection Directive.
- According to Frontex, there has been an 82% increase of arrivals at EU’s external borders between January and May this year compared to the same time last year. The agency also reported that in recent weeks, the number of Ukrainians fleeing the country is lower than the number of those returning to Ukraine. However, according to UNHCR, “some return to check on property or visit family members while others are going to Western Ukraine and areas around Kyiv and Chernihiv intending to stay. Many return to find their homes damaged or struggle to find jobs and are forced to leave again”.
- The UNHCR issued a statement asking for states to lift remaining Covid restrictions which limit access to asylum.
- The UNHCR published a new data visualization showing how Mediterranean crossings have become increasingly fatal. Between 2014 and 2021, more than 24,000 died or went missing in the Mediterranean – 3,231 only in 2021.
- After the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri from his CEO position at Frontex, European Commissioner Ylva Johansson visited the agency headquarters and met with staff, the management board, the fundamental rights office and the data protection officer to stress the message that Frontex must operate in full compliance with the law.
- As part of a new plan to help the countries most affected by the displacement of Ukrainian refugees, the EU has allocated 144.6 million EUR to Poland but the country says the amount is not enough. The Commission also approved Poland’s 36 billion EUR national recovery plan
For the period from June 2021 to May 2022, click here.