February 2016 highlights

Report covers period 1 - 31 January 2016.

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New arrivals

Arrivals to Greece continue at a high pace, despite rough sea conditions that have caused several shipwrecks. In Italy, arrivals appear to be decreasing. Numerous bodies were recovered in both countries, including a large number of children.

Overall, fewer people are reaching Croatia and moving onward from there, as only Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan nationals are allowed entry. Other nationalities are denied entry or returned.

Almost half of the arrivals in Croatia and Slovenia are children.

More than 2,000 asylum seekers continue to arrive in Germany on a daily basis. On average, some 150 people are refused entry every day, as they do not want to apply for asylum in Germany.

More than 2,000 people are transferred back and forth between Austria and Slovenia for possessing false documents or making inconsistent statements about their name and/or nationality, but eventually all of them are allowed to enter Austria.

At least two people die while trying to cross from Bulgaria into Serbia at -20 degrees Celsius.

Criminal proceedings

Volunteers involved in rescue at sea situations are accused of human smuggling in Greece.

Taxi drivers are arrested in Sweden for bringing migrants across the Öresund bridge from Denmark.

In Hungary, three people are convicted for damaging border fences and unauthorised border fence crossing. One person is sentenced to one and a half years in prison.

Six people are sentenced to a fine and suspended imprisonment for hiding in a vehicle to leave Bulgaria for Germany.

(See also FRA reference material on criminalisation)

Initial registration and processing

The police in Croatia allegedly force four Afghan nationals back to Serbia under threat of coercion.

In Berlin, people continue to wait weeks to be registered as asylum seekers, queueing every day for hours in the cold.

A group of around 20 people is unable to apply for asylum in Slovenia as their return to Croatia has already been initiated. They eventually withdraw their application.

Registration practices in Slovenia risk separating extended families, while measures are taken in Spielfeld (Austria) to prevent this from taking place.

Frontex clarifies that when fingerprinting new arrivals at hotspots, force is only permissible as a last resort and after explaining the reasons for the procedure a number of times.

Simplified registration procedures in Sweden may make it difficult to identify vulnerable people early on in the asylum process.

(See also FRA reference material on provision of information, asylum, borders and immigration and border checks at land borders)

Reception conditions

Asylum seekers are searched for valuables in Bavaria to contribute to reception costs.

In Austria, only vulnerable people are referred to initial reception centres, as these continue to be blocked due to the slow transfer of asylum seekers to other regions.

People arriving in Slovenia only receive food after registration, which takes approximately four hours.

Female refugees in Slovenia have insufficient private facilities to change and breastfeed.

Violent incidents among asylum seekers occur in detention facilities in Hungary and in reception facilities in Germany, where the atmosphere is felt to be frustrating and frightening due to unannounced removals.

In Italy, asylum seekers demonstrate against conditions in centres in Piedmont, Sardinia and Trapani (Sicily).

Trains from Serbia to Croatia are often not heated, affecting people’s health. Buses and trains used for onward transfer in Slovenia are overcrowded and have poor sanitary conditions.

In Austria and Germany, not everyone who arrives undergoes a first health check at the initial reception centres.

In Croatia, some 70 people are detained pending their return to Serbia, but Serbia does not agree to accept them.

Some 400 people, including children, are detained in Slovenia prior to their removal.

In Hungary, approximately 150 people are detained for removal in facilities with poor medical assistance, some without heating. Mistreatment by the police is reported in some cases.

In Sweden, many asylum seekers remain in over-crowded short-term ‘municipal evacuation shelters’ for long periods of time as they wait for permanent accommodation placements for the duration of the asylum process, which can last more than 200 days.

Child protection

Rules concerning unaccompanied children are unclear in Slovenia, with some children detained and others permitted transit.

Some unaccompanied children are at high risk in Germany, where they are detected only after redistribution to other regions, an operation that can take up to several weeks. Facilities for unaccompanied children are insufficient, and children often stay in overcrowded hostels or gyms.

Transit times in Croatia continue to be very short, making it difficult to identify cases of child trafficking and other vulnerable children.

Children at first reception centres do not have access to regular schooling in Bulgaria and in most of the German regions.

In Sweden, unaccompanied children have to wait several months to be assigned a guardian.

(See also FRA reference material on guardianship and separated children as well as ENOC report on safety and fundamental rights at stake for children on the move, January 2016)

Legal, social and policy responses

The Austrian government agrees to accept a maximum of 37,500 asylum seekers in 2016.

Sweden announces it will return 60-80,000 rejected asylum seekers over the next few years.

Croatia, Greece and Slovenia only allow Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan nationals wanting to reach Austria or Germany to cross the border.

Restrictive asylum law amendments are underway in Germany and Slovenia, and have been announced in Sweden.

Public security concerns have increased in response to the sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents in Cologne and other cities on New Year’s Eve, leading to the formation of volunteer vigilante groups or ‘protection squads’ in Austria, Bulgaria and Slovenia.

In Italy, the third hotspot opens in Pozzallo (Sicily) and another potential hotspot at the Austrian border is announced.

Temporary ID-controls are introduced on buses, ferries and trains between Denmark and Sweden. People without adequate identification documents are refused entry into Sweden.

Hate speech

Protests by far right-wing groups and hate crime incidents are increasing in Austria and continue at a high level in Bulgaria, Germany, Italy and Sweden.

A Hungarian government media campaign portrays refugees as potential terrorists and threats to national security.

(See also the FRA Focus 01/2015 on Embedding fundamental rights in the security agenda)

Downloads: 

Monthly data collection on migration situation - February 2016

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