13/02/2023 – 07/03/2023
- One year after the beginning of the Russian invasion, the European Commission plans to propose to member states to extend until March 2025 the temporary protection enjoyed by almost four million people who have taken refuge escaping from the war. According to what was reported by a senior EU source to Spanish newspaper El País. The proposal will be formalised during the Spanish presidency of the European Council, in the second half of the year. A new survey published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights reveals that one in three Ukrainian refugees feel like they are part of the EU communities in which they now live, but the same number would like to return home. Practical challenges for their integration remain concerning education, finding work and making ends meet: almost half of the 14,500 refugees interviewed said that they felt depressed, while 79 percent reported facing financial difficulties, with only around a third enjoying paid employment.
- Politico reported the opinion of Geraldo Vidigal, former World Trade Organisation lawyer, on the EU’s controversial plan to link trade benefits to resettling migrants, that would allow Brussels and EU capitals to make the lower tariffs conditional on third countries taking back undocumented migrants. The plan follows what was discussed during the last EU Council meeting on the possibility to rein in migration through a variety of different tools, including trade and access to visas. According to Vidigal, if the EU pushes ahead with the plan, it could be at risk of breaching global trade rules. The proposal has also been criticised by a group of 20 organisations, that, in a letter sent to the EU Council Members, asked the EU to abandon the plan by arguing that it is counterproductive and that it would put partnerships with third countries at risk.
- On February 24, the Council concluded an agreement with North Macedonia on future operational activities to be carried out in the country by Frontex. The agreement will allow joint operations to be organised and Frontex border management teams to be deployed in North Macedonia. As of 1st April 2023, Frontex will be able to assist North Macedonia in its efforts to manage migratory flows, counter irregular migration, and reinforce border controls cross-border crime, with a view to further enhancing security at the EU’s external borders.
- On February 22, the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) released its figures on the number of asylum applications lodged in the European Union in 2022. According to the data, the asylum applications lodged in the 27 countries, plus Switzerland and Norway, were close to a million. The figures would be the highest since 2016, when an influx of around 1.25 million refugees was recorded, mainly from Syria. EU-wide recognition rates for asylum seekers hovers at 40 percent. This figure has been used to gather support for tighter border controls and offshoring responsibility to countries outside Europe, by claiming that the majority of those who apply for asylum are not in need for protection. Numbers should, however, be treated with caution. As pointed out by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), EUAA statistics do not count migrants acquiring international protection on appeal nor migrants being granted protection status under national law. The 40 percent recognition rate is likely to be higher when one factors in appeals and national forms of protection.
- On February 21, Politico reported the call made by MEP Rasmus Andresen urging the European Commission to enforce border-free Schengen rules. The MEP makes reference to the reintroduction of border checks, justified as temporary measures due to exceptional dangers, in several countries part of the Schengen area such as France and Denmark. However, as Politico points out, Denmark’s “temporary” re-introduction of border checks have been in force for seven years, while France’s effective abolition of Schengen rules for internal borders as well as sea and air travel was adopted in 2015. Germany has also introduced checks along its border with Austria, while Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Austria have only applied “temporary” exemptions.
- Renewed plans for the cooperation between the European Union and Libya under MOCADEM were revealed in a 12-point plan document listing activities aiming to contribute to a more effective Libyan border and migration management, prevent irregular departures and reinforce search and rescue capacities. Such activities include strengthened cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard through training and the provision of material and information, as well as a boosted role for Frontex.
- Save the Children published a report on the selective welcome of migrant children in the European Union. The report highlights the successful strategies adopted to welcome and support refugees from Ukraine, while stressing the shortcomings of the protection offered to other asylum-seeking and migrant children of different nationality.
26/01/2023 – 13/02/2023
- The European Council special meeting concluded on February 10 after two days of intense negotiations. The conclusions that emerged from the European Council meeting declare that the European Union “will step up its action to prevent irregular departures and loss of life, to reduce pressure on EU borders and on reception capacities, to fight against smugglers and to increase returns”. The focus is on strengthening capacity for border controls, increasing returns by using all possible means, including trade and visas, with calls on the European Commission “to immediately mobilise substantial EU funds and means” to help countries bolster their “border protection capabilities and infrastructure, means of surveillance, including aerial surveillance, and equipment”. These words came at the end of a week of heated debates on whether the European Union should directly finance the construction of fences and walls on its borders, something that the Commission had so far refused to do. Austria, backed by the European People’s Party leader Manfred Weber, was leading calls for a change in the Commission’s policy in favour of fences, given its proposal to allocate 2 billion euros to improve and strengthen fences on the border between Turkey and Bulgaria. A few days ahead of the Council meeting, Austria was joined by a group of seven countries, including Denmark, Lithuania, Greece, Latvia, Slovakia, Malta and Estonia, in a letter directed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, asking for tougher border measures. After EU leaders wrapped up their negotiations in Brussels, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer lauded the results. In Nehammer’s telling, the EU pledges to “immediately mobilise substantial EU funds and means” to help countries bolster their “border protection capabilities and infrastructure” meaning that an EU border country like Bulgaria can now use EU funds for border personnel and vehicles, and then use its own funds “to strengthen the border fence.” Von der Leyen, who opposes the EU entering the fence-funding business, said after the meeting that leaders had only agreed to use EU money for infrastructure like cameras, watch towers and vehicles. According to Nehammer, however, in this way, the EU is de facto funding border fences, even if on paper it denies it.
- During the negotiations, EU leaders also discussed the possibility to rein in migration through a variety of different tools, including trade and access to visas. The meeting conclusions encourage EU and Member States’ engagement with countries of origin and transit through mutually beneficial partnerships “to prevent irregular departures and loss of life, to reduce pressure on EU borders and on reception capacities, to fight against smugglers and to increase returns.” At the same time, the document envisions the possibility for the Commission and the Council of “introducing restrictive visa measures in relation to third countries that do not cooperate on returns”.
- Ahead of the special European Council meeting, Amnesty International and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) both provided detailed recommendations to EU institutions and leaders on how to address migration in an effective, sustainable and human rights compliant manner.
- Ahead of the meeting, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, had encouraged Member States and European Institutions to avoid a “Fortress Europe” mentality and to recognise the many benefits offered by legal migration. A different approach was taken by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who, in a letter sent to EU heads of state ahead of the Special European Council, reportedly called Member States to take “immediate action” against irregular migration and “to work together to strengthen controls at the EU’s external borders along with return procedures”.
- On February 7, Statewatch published a draft action file on Libya, that was claimed to be circulating within the European Council. The document indicates that there will be a fresh push to improve the ability of Libyan authorities to control the country’s southern borders and to prevent refugees from leaving the country by sea.
- On 30 January, Frontex deputy director, Uku Särekanno revealed to MEPs Frontex’s plans to spend around €100m on returning migrants in 2023. Särekanno also noted that “for this year you will see a very significant increase of return operations and also hopefully the number of people who will be returned”. A report, published by Statewatch, also reveals that the EU’s border agency will be able to access vast quantities of data once the EU’s policing and migration databases are fully operational. The briefing considers the agency’s use of data from two different perspectives – operational and statistical – and provides an overview of the agency’s role in the EU’s emerging “travel intelligence” architecture. Data was also mentioned in the conclusions of the European Council meeting, that encourage the Council and the Commission “to develop a common situational awareness, to improve monitoring of data on reception capacities and on migratory flows and detect new migratory trends more quickly, both into and within the European Union”.
- The European Commission opened infringement procedures against Belgium, Greece, Spain and Portugal for failing to adequately transpose the provisions of the Reception Directive that lays down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection. The Commission also opened an infringement procedure by sending letters of formal notice to Greece, Portugal and Finland for failing to transpose all provisions of the Qualification Directive, concerning the standards for the qualification of third-country nationals and stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection. The Directive aims to ensure that Member States apply common criteria for the identification of persons in need of international protection, as well as to ensure the minimum level of benefits available for those persons in all Member States. The countries have now two months to respond to the arguments raised against them. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.
- On January 31, Statewatch published the operational conclusions reached at an extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council that took place on November 25. The document reveals the lack of real implementation of the voluntary solidarity mechanism, established last June, that envisioned the possibility for Member States to offer relocations, financial contributions and other measures of support to other Members in need. As of December 1, 2022, only 207 people had been transferred, all of them from Italy, with the Commission noting that across the “Med5” countries (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain) there were “around 600 pre-acceptances but very few transfers, leading to a rather disappointing result for the end of 2022.”
- A Dutch non-paper calls for more control on Member States to see if each apply the Dublin Regulation appropriately. The proposal calls the EU Commission to prepare periodic reports with recommendation on Dublin implementation and monitoring the application of the Dublin regulation. The proposal also calls for using more the conditionality of returns in trade deals between the EU and third countries.
- The EU Commission published a policy document on an operational strategy for more effective returns. The document highlights 6 flagship workstreams:
- Targeted operational joint return operations to defined third countries, facilitated by the Commission and the European External Action Service and implemented by Member States as well as Frontex in the next weeks.
- By the end of 2023, develop analyses and situational awareness on the functioning of return, to enable proactive planning and to develop a common understanding of good performance in the return domain, with the participation of all relevant stakeholders.
- Doubling the number of third countries covered by the Frontex Joint Reintegration Services and its full use by all Member States by the end of 2023.
- The expansion of the digitalisation efforts on readmission through the Readmission Case Management Systems’ roll out for all relevant third countries and Member States.
- Finalisation by Frontex of the digitalisation gap analysis for all Member States by the end of 2023.
- Return counselling to be established as a professional competence in all Member States.
- On 12 January 2023, the EU Commission registered a European citizens’ initiative titled “Article 4: Stop torture and inhuman treatment at Europe’s borders”. Now, the organisers of the initiative have six months to open the signature collection. If a European Citizens’ Initiative receives one million statements of support within one year, from at least seven different Member States, the Commission will have to react.
- UNHCR has presented a roadmap for the EU to better protect migrants and asylum seekers’ rights, especially target the current Swedish Presidency of the Council, and the upcoming Spanish one. Among the different recommendations, UNHCR also demands better transparency on the use of the 10% NDICI budget allocated to migration because at the moment it is not possible to track how the money is spent.
- On 1 January 2023, Sweden assumed the Presidency of the EU Council until the 30th of June 2023. Its four priorities are: security, resilience, prosperity and democratic values and rule of law. Regarding migration, the Swedish Presidency’s Programme highlights the importance of cooperation with third countries, especially on returns, as well as the intention to progress on the EU Pact of Migration and Asylum to conclude negotiations within this parliamentary term.
- On 20 December 2022, the EU Council approved the revised Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) in which there will also be “a new link between the trade preferences granted to beneficiary countries and their cooperation on migration and the readmission of own nationals ‘illegally’ present in the EU”.
- The EU and African partners have launched two Team Europe Initiatives focused on the Atlantic/Western Mediterranean and the Central Mediterranean migratory routes. The Initiatives aim to implement the external dimension of the EU Pact on Migration. This webpage helps tracking all the EU’s Team Europe Initiatives.
- Hans Leijtens has been appointed as the new Director of Frontex. He is a senior Dutch official and former commander of the military police in the Netherlands. In mid-December, a German based NGOs published over 4,000 documents of Frontex, including Freedom of Information Requests, which the agency calls Public Access to Documents (PAD)s.
- Human Rights Watch and Border Forensic released a new investigation called “Airborne Complicity: Frontex Aerial Surveillance Enables Abuse” highlighting the role of Frontex in the Central Mediterranean. Frontex has contracts with private companies to operate a remote-piloted Heron drone and several piloted planes out of airports in Malta and Italy. All these aircraft monitor a specific section of the Central Mediterranean. The investigation shows how Frontex presence in the airspace above the Central Mediterranean most likely aid the Libyan authorities in intercepting migrants’ boats and pulling them back to inhuman detention centres.
- In mid-December 2022, the former Czech Presidency of the Council and the EU Parliament concluded negotiations and reach an agreement on the Reception Conditions Directive & Union Resettlement Framework.
- In mid-December 2022, Migreurop hosted a public webinar on the issue of criminalisation of migrants and people defending migrants’ rights. The webinar is available here.
25/11/2022 – 13/12/2022
- On 7 December 2022, at the COREPER meeting, Member States discussed the Instrumentalisation Regulation. The following day, during the Justice and Home Affairs meeting, ministers discussed the Instrumentalisation Regulation but did not reach a majority, showing that at least some Member States do find the proposal quite dangerous as it allows for serious derogations from the right to asylum. At the meeting, ministers also discussed the external dimension of migration and stepping up return policies.
- On 5 December 2022, the EU Commission published an Action Plan on Western Balkans. The Action Plan contains 5 pillars: strengthening border management along the routes; swift asylum procedures and support reception capacity; fighting migrant smuggling; enhancing readmission cooperation and returns; achieving visa policy alignment. In total, there are 20 operational measures, which include: the expansion of Frontex operations in the region; the implementation of the roadmap on Dublin transfers and Eurodac registrations to prevent secondary movements; the establishment of a Europol Operational Taskforce; Eu support to Balkan countries to step up returns; and finally Commission states that “All Western Balkans partners should align their visa policy with the EU as a matter of priority”.
- On 29 November 2022, Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson hosted High-Level Forum on Legal Pathways. 16 EU Member States have pledged only 15,847 places for resettlement for 2023 (they were 30, 000 in 2022) and 13,260 for humanitarian admission – 12,000 of which were pledges by Germany.
- In the Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) meeting on 25 November 2022, ministers discussed the latest updates on migratory routes. In the meeting’s conclusions they highlight the need to improve cooperation with third countries by using all tools and leverages including visa leverage and the need to have predictable visa conditionality mechanism in exchange for cooperation on returns. They also highlight the need to reach an agreement on the Instrumentalization Regulation, as well as the need to better implement the Dublin Regulation in particular to address secondary movements within the EU.
- In a hearing at the EU Parliament on 30 November 2022, MEPs strongly criticizes the three aspiring candidates for the role of new CEOs of Frontex: Terezija Gras (formerly working in Croatian Ministry of Interiors), Aija Kalnaja (current interim director of Frontex) and Hans Leijtens (currently in Frontex management board).
- 190+ CSOs and individuals signed the open letter “The EU AI Act must protect people on the move” demanding more protection for people on the move in the EU AI Act.
05/10/2022 – 02/11/2022
- The Czech Presidency of the European Council is proposing an annual minimum number of relocation pledges for asylum seekers among EU Member States. The proposal seems to be of either 5,000 or 10,000 pledges per year. If the relocations numbers are not met, first entry countries could apply for a reduction of Dublin cases. It is unclear how many Member States are supporting the Czech proposal, as solidarity and responsibility sharing is one of the most difficult aspects where to reach an agreement. Previously, the Czech Presidency proposed to keep the relocation pledges secret: in a proposal from September 2022, the Presidency proposed to have an annual report drafted by the Commission to provide an early warning tool, offer a forecast of potential irregular arrivals, and assess what kinds of solidarity will likely be needed for any particular member state, adding final recommendations for concrete solidarity measures which would however be kept secret. Also, during the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) meeting, member states would be obliged to pledge a contribution which would however remain secret.
- The IOM recorded at least 5,684 deaths on migration routes to and within Europe since the beginning of 2021, and more than 29,000 deaths since 2014. The organisation reported an increase of deaths both on the Central Mediterranean and Atlantic routes, while reminding how these numbers are unfortunately incomplete due to the large number of “invisible shipwrecks”.
- On 24-25 October 2022, the Czech Republic hosted the Prague Process conference on migration. At the end of the conference, ministered agreed on a Join Action Plan for 2023-2027. In the Action Pan they identify six areas for cooperation:
- Preventing and fighting irregular migration and migrant smuggling
- Strengthening capacities in the area of asylum and international protection and expanding protection capacities in the region
- Promoting readmission, voluntary return, and sustainable reintegration
- Addressing legal migration and mobility with a special emphasis on labour migration
- Promoting integration of legally residing migrants in their host societies
- Making migration and mobility positive forces for development
They also endorsed the development of so-called Migration Resource Centres in countries of origin, with the purpose to “provide information on the risks associated with irregular migration, assist with vocational and language training and cooperate with local authorities to share best practices”.
- The EU Parliament has once again voted against the approval of the Frontex budgetary discharge for 2020 in light of the serious concerns of human rights violations that the EU agency is complicit in. The agency is accused of not protecting migrants’ and refugees’ rights and rather being complicit in illegal pushbacks. Moreover, MEPs expressed strong concern on a case of suicide of one of the employees of Frontex, which allegedly followed sexual harassment. There are 17 other accusations of sexual harassments inside the agency.
- The European Ombudswoman, Emily O’Reilly, launched two investigations into Frontex and the European External Action Service (EEAS) “in relation to their support to non-EU countries to develop surveillance capabilities and, in particular, their lack of prior human rights risk and impact assessments”. The investigation on Frontex focuses on the lack human rights risk and impact assessments (HRIA) in relation prior to deploying technical assistance and engaging with non-EU countries for capacity building and training in surveillance techniques. The investigation on the EEAS focuses on whether certain civilian missions carry out human rights risk and impact assessments (HRIA) before providing support such as helping draft surveillance or cybercrime laws or transferring surveillance equipment or know-how to non-EU countries.
- Frontex confirmed that the new Executive Director Aija Kalnaja has now read the classified OLAF report in which the EU anti-fraud agency accuses Frontex of complicity in grave human rights violations and pushback operations in the Aegean. However, the new Director keeps denying any involvement in illegal practices and repeating that the agency is not involved in pushbacks, despite abundant evidence.
- Seven Greek NGOs operating in the Aegean accused Frontex of not using its reporting mechanism on serious incidents (SIR) to report on human rights violations and violations of migrants’ and refugees’ rights. The NGOs report that last time Frontex made use of its SIR mechanism in the area of Samos was in 2019, when they have evidence of at least 34 serious incidents that took place since then and which were not reported. The organisations are now asking the LIBE Committee of the EU Parliament to investigate on other unreported incidents to then mobilise article 46, according to which the activities of the agency can be interrupted if serious and persistent human rights violations are committed.
- Following a EU Commission’s call for evidence on the evaluation of the 2019 Frontex Regulation, different CSOs submitted written inputs highlighting the agency’s issues with compliance with fundamental rights, transparency and accountability: see Statewatch’s contribution here, the Border Violence Monitoring Network’s submission here, PICUM’s submission here.
- In a recent report, Amnesty International shows how Latvian authorities have violently pushed back migrants to the border with Belarus and committed gross human rights violations including secret detention and torture.
- The EU prolonged by 12 months the special protection status for Ukrainian refugees, which now ends in March 2024.
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.