July 2016 highlights

Report covers period 1 - 30 June 2016.

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New arrivals

As in May, some 20,000 people arrive in Italy; many dead are recovered from the sea. Around 80 asylum seekers arrive through a church-financed humanitarian corridor.

Arrivals in Hungary do not decrease despite fences and restrictive admission to the transit zones.

Criminal proceedings

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) that supported migrants and asylum seekers when they arrived in Italy at the end of 2014 is charged with facilitating irregular stay.

According to the law in Hungary, volunteers helping refugees can be considered as facilitators of irregular stay and sentenced to several years of imprisonment.

In Sweden, the police considers the drivers of cars transporting individual asylum seekers across the border as facilitators of irregular entry, and registers between four and five such cases every week.

Criminal proceedings for irregular border crossing drop in Hungary, while all those tried (some 100 people) receive expulsion orders.

Initial registration and processing

Greece starts a large-scale operation to pre-register asylum seekers on the mainland having entered Greece prior to 20 March 2016. People seeking asylum in the country, requesting family reunification or applying for relocation are issued a card that legalises their stay and provides access to basic services.

Along the Hungarian-Serbian border, hundreds of people, including many vulnerable persons, continue to wait up to weeks in inhumane conditions to enter the transit zones – without shelter, sanitary facilities, healthcare or protection from the heat, while only 15 to 30 people are admitted each day.

In Hungary, there are reports of an increase in push-back incidents and abuse by the police and military against people trying to enter Hungary irregularly.

Some 70 Afghan asylum seekers, including 27 children, are sent back from Bulgaria to Greece as they attempt to cross the green border.

Asylum procedures in Germany may be insufficiently quality controlled. Very few asylum decisions are controlled randomly. Inaccuracies occur in the transcriptions of asylum hearings.

In Hungary, many asylum cases are closed as the applicants have left the country. Information and legal aid are insufficiently available to asylum seekers or not provided at all.

Asylum applications in Italy have doubled in the first half of 2016, compared with 2015.

Reception conditions

Reception facilities on the Greek islands are overcrowded and lack sanitation facilities. In Samos, some people have to stay in tents, and clashes regularly break out among inhabitants.

Reception conditions in Italy generally remain very poor while reception staff have been implicated in financial mismanagement.

Several facilities in Germany provide insufficient privacy; some have implemented concepts for violence prevention, protecting women and children in particular. The demand for protected accommodation remains strong as a result of the high number of vulnerable persons.

Asylum seekers held in detention in Hungary, including many women and children, are faced with very poor and deteriorating conditions, including dirty mattresses, limited food, no access to legal advice and excessive charges for phone calls.

Interpreters for healthcare services are insufficiently available in Austria.

Medical staff deciding on access to doctors or hospitals are not always present at reception centres in North Rhine-Westphalia. On the other hand, reception facilities are reported as having improved their healthcare by providing access to a clinic or the presence of health mediators.

There are reports of cost-intensive medical treatment for asylum seekers being increasingly rejected in Germany, as well as seriously ill people being expelled from the country without access to essential treatment.

Child protection

Children make up 40 % of the people waiting to enter the transit zone in Hungary in inhumane conditions. In many cases, they are treated as adults upon entry in the transit zone and prior to a medical age assessment.

Children are hosted together with adults in some facilities in Italy (Calabria and Sicily) and have no access to basic services. In Brindisi, Italy, unaccompanied children are accommodated in tents outside the centre without any support due to overcrowding.

Unaccompanied children arriving in Bulgaria are increasingly young, including four to nine year old children. Problems with appointing guardians and providing specialised accommodation persist.

The municipality of Mantamados, Greece, restricts unaccompanied children from eating in local restaurants and swimming in the sea.

Some 100,000 children, including approximately 9,000 unaccompanied children, applied for asylum in Germany during the first half of 2016.

The capacity for accommodating unaccompanied children in Greece (621 beds) is insufficient.

Incidents of violence by staff and abusive forms of reprimands are reported from child accommodation facilities in Sweden (intimidation) and Lesvos, Greece (violence, degrading treatment).

Material conditions in child accommodation facilities are inadequate in Sweden. The mental health of unaccompanied children is an increasing concern.

Children born in initial reception facilities and refugee shelters in Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart, Germany, do not, in some cases, receive birth certificates and can thus not be formally assigned to their parents. They are also unable to access healthcare, including vaccination programmes. At facilities in Bamberg and Manching, Germany, children receive insufficient food, healthcare and education.

Legal, social and policy responses

A new law in Hungary allows for returning irregular migrants – if apprehended within eight kilometres from the border – to the Serbian side, where they have to wait again for admission to the transit zone.

New legislation in Sweden temporarily restricts the possibility for family reunification and obtaining a residence permit.

In Austria, the region of Upper Austria reduces the benefits granted to refugees to less than the minimum benefits for Austrian nationals, which is below the poverty threshold. Proposals to restrict or withdraw basic care for asylum seekers are also being discussed in the region of Styria (Austria).

A new law in Germany allows pre-emptive undercover infiltration of migrant smuggling networks in order to improve information exchange to combat international terrorism.

The Court of Cassation in Italy confirms the right to health as a sufficient reason to suspend removal.

Oral court hearings on alleged push-backs at the Austrian-Slovenian border establish problematic aspects regarding procedures (extremely short interviews, incorrect translation by lay interpreters).

Greece changes the composition of the three-member Appeals Committees by replacing two lawyers proposed by the National Committee for Human Rights with two judges from the Administrative Court, and abolishes the appellant’s right to request an oral procedure before the Committees. The Appeals Committees examine appeals on inadmissibility decisions and return to Turkey.

Police trade unions in Italy support the proposal of ‘floating hotspots’, which continues to be criticised for a lack of fundamental rights safeguards.

Italy plans to open three new hotspots, in Messina (Sicily), Mineo (Sicily) and Crotone (Calabria). In Messina, the mayor publicly objected to the opening of the hotspot.

Hungary announces it will open a new transit zone in Ásotthalom, with the capacity of receiving up to 15 people a day.

Sweden decides to extend internal border controls until 11 November 2016.

Charges against Bulgarian police are dropped in the case of the Afghan asylum seeker who was shot after crossing the Bulgarian-Turkish border. According to the prosecution, the officer had performed his functions and the death was due to unforeseen circumstances.

Austria accelerates procedures for recognising qualifications obtained abroad.

Public discourse and opinion towards migration is reported to be deteriorating in Austria.

Several large-scale demonstrations against racism take place in cities in Germany ahead of World Refugee Day.

Civil society associations protest against the mayor of Carcare (Liguria), Italy, who refuses to accept people from African countries at local reception centres unless they provide a formal healthcare certificate attesting their good health condition.

Hate speech

Hate crime incidents affecting asylum seekers and refugees in Austria and Germany continue. A newly built refugee home in Upper Austria is burnt down.

Activists and citizens in Bulgaria protest against the Prosecutor’s refusal to open pre-trial proceedings against the Prime Minister after he expressed his thanks to vigilante groups that illegally detain asylum seekers at the border, known as ‘refugee hunters’. The Prosecutor found that the statement could not have a negative effect on a large part of the population, did not intend to incite hostility, hatred or unfair treatment, and only expressed a personal opinion.