With the onset of winter across Europe, many fundamental rights risks for migrants and refugees have become increasingly acute. As temperatures continue to drop, timely humanitarian action and adequate shelter are urgently needed – particularly in Bulgaria, Hungary and Greece, where facilities are in poor condition or people are staying in tents.
On this page:
- New arrivals
- Criminal proceedings
- Initial registration and asylum processing
- Reception conditions
- Child protection
- Legal, social and policy responses
- Hate speech and violent crime
- Stakeholders interviewed in November 2016
FRA’s monthly reports highlight key developments in 14 Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. They are published alongside a focus section on a particular topic. Starting in January 2017, extended Member State information will be published in addition to the highlights every third month. No focus section will be published with these reports.
External land and sea borders
Arrivals to Italy and Greece continue to decrease: some 8,680 persons arrive in Italy and some 1,660 in Greece. For Greece, this is a 17 % drop in arrivals compared with November 2016. In 2016, the majority of arrivals to Greece were women and children (58 %).
Many people continue trying to enter Hungary. Some 470 persons enter Hungary irregularly, including 43 children. The Hungarian police prevents 2,290 persons from climbing over the fence – significantly more than in November (1,000). The police also returns 1,400 persons who are apprehended within 8 km of the border to Serbia, where they have to wait to apply for asylum in one of the transit zones; this is slightly more than in November (1,060). Reports continue to emerge about severe violence by the police and local vigilante groups.
Arrivals in Bulgaria further decrease to some 440 persons, who are apprehended at the borders and within Bulgarian territory. A woman from Somalia who tried to reach western Europe is found dead in the Strandzha Mountains in Bulgaria; she presumably froze to death. Several others who are apprehended, including children, suffer from frostbite.
Slovakian authorities apprehend some 260 persons, mainly from the Ukraine.
Internal borders and airports
Sweden receives fewer than 2,000 asylum seekers, the lowest monthly figure in 2016. Among them are more than 740 children, 108 of whom are unaccompanied.
Arrivals in Austria continue at a steady level of some 2,740 persons in December, mainly coming from Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Morocco and Iraq.
According to the Swedish Aliens Act, any person intentionally assisting an alien to unlawfully enter or pass through Sweden shall be sentenced for human smuggling, and subject to imprisonment for up to two years. In Hungary and Poland, facilitation is also punishable without intended or actual profit.
In Sweden, a young man is sentenced to three months in prison for transporting a family with two children, whom he met at a gas station in Denmark, across the bridge to Sweden. He had not received any compensation and wanted to help the children.
In Poland, 25 proceedings for facilitation were launched in 2016; in Hungary, 27 such proceedings were launched between October and December 2016.
In Denmark and Germany, some migrants are prosecuted for trying to facilitate their relatives’ entry into the country. In Denmark, persons who are found guilty of facilitation can be subject to expulsion in addition to a fine or prison sentence.
In France, criminal proceedings are launched against several persons who offered transportation or accommodation to persons irregularly entering France from Italy.
The police in Bulgaria apprehend 111 persons for smuggling. All proceedings concern persons who acted for profit. Prison sentences are issued in several cases of irregular border crossing.
Italy arrests many newly arrived persons for smuggling and some for human trafficking.
Initial registration and asylum processing
At the border
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Italy continue to report that most disembarkations occur outside the hotspot system. Under these circumstances, identification practices are less clear and information on international protection cannot always be provided. This also results from an overall lack of cultural mediators and interpreters.
In Poland, more than 24,000 persons are refused entry at the border. Some 120 persons manage to have their asylum applications registered and some 50 persons their subsequent applications. Border guards reportedly continue to refuse entry to persons wishing to apply for asylum. In Terespol, this affects some 1,000 to 1,500 persons, 60 % of whom are children. NGOs report that only two to three families manage to have their applications officially registered per day, often after submitting them some 30 or more times. Facilities for interviewing applicants at the border do not ensure privacy or confidentiality.
Every day, about 120 persons wait for admission to one of the transit zones at the Hungarian-Serbian border, where admission continues to be restricted to 10 persons a day. Families wait for up to six and a half months for admission, and unaccompanied children typically wait two and a half months, according to NGOs. Despite the weather conditions, people wait for their turn outside the gates of the transit areas for several days, sleeping in self-made tents made of sticks and blankets, to avoid missing their chance for admission.
Amnesty International reports on collective expulsions, immediate returns without individual assessments and police violence in Ceuta and Melilla, Spain.
Some 1,160 persons were relocated from Greece to other EU Member States in December 2016, the majority to France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
In Germany, asylum applications further decrease by almost 20% in November, to some 26,440 applications. Applications from Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians remain the most common. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees delivered a record 86,049 decisions in November. Nonetheless, some 490,000 asylum procedures were still pending in December.
Social workers in Germany report that some persons do not have their travel and other documents because these were withheld during their travel or at the border. Such documents are often difficult to trace because persons are not sure to which authority they submitted their documents, complicating further procedures – including possible return.
Asylum applications in Bulgaria further decrease to 815, and include some 290 from children. Apprehended persons receive insufficient information on their rights. Interpreters are often paid late and not always available beyond registration procedures.
In Finland, asylum applications continue to decrease to some 240 in December. In total, 5,651 persons applied for asylum in Finland in 2016, including more than 400 unaccompanied children.
Compared with 2015, asylum applications in France increased by 10 % in 2016. The majority of applicants come from Afghanistan, Albania, Syria and Sudan. Access to asylum procedures is reportedly difficult in France. Associations and staff without the necessary legal knowledge primarily provide information on asylum, and interpretation is often unavailable.
In Denmark, Moroccans represent the second largest nationality among the asylum seekers (after Syrians) and remain the most common nationality among unaccompanied children in November.
Denmark suspends the transfer of asylum seekers to Hungary under the Dublin Regulation due to the risk of possible rights violations. The majority are informed that their applications will be processed in Denmark because the time limits foreseen in the Dublin Regulation have passed. Other applicants, however, might be transferred as the appeal against this decision remains pending.
Overall numbers of asylum applications in Poland did not change significantly in 2016 (12,180 applications) compared with 2015 (12,060). However, applications from Armenians, Russians, Tajiks, Vietnamese and Turks (mainly Kurds) increased substantially, with Turkish applications increasing five-fold.
Similarly, in Spain, asylum applications in 2016 (14,600) did not substantially exceed 2015 figures. Procedures in some 19,320 cases remain pending.
Fewer than 20 persons applied for asylum in Slovakia in December.
In the Netherlands, 4,020 persons applied for asylum in November 2016. The majority of applications are requests for family reunification, and are mostly filed by Syrians. 59 % of those requesting family reunification are children.
The Netherland’s Ministry of Security and Justice decided that the current situation in Yemen generally constitutes a situation of indiscriminate violence within the meaning of the Qualification Directive (2011/95/EU).
Afghan asylum seekers increasingly receive negative decisions in Austria; many of them obtain subsidiary protection on appeal.
The Swedish Migration Agency publishes a judicial position that deems unsafe several more areas in Afghanistan due to internal conflicts.
Germany returns 34 persons to Afghanistan. Courts cancel several other planned returns to Afghanistan. According to NGO reports, some of the contested cases relate to persons who have been residing in the country for years or belong to minority groups potentially at risk upon return. NGOs and some federal states also express concerns about returns to Afghanistan.
In line with its recent agreement with Afghanistan, Sweden carries out the first “test chartered return flight” to Kabul without any reported incidents.
The police in Sweden asks municipal social services to disclose information on the whereabouts of undocumented families with dependent children. As support from the Swedish Migration Agency ceases, families turn to these social services for help because they see staying in Sweden irregularly as their only option.
The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) publishes a report on a return flight from Italy to Nigeria on 17 December 2015. The CPT recommends ensuring that returns are not carried out if a court has suspended removal, a request for suspending removal is pending before a court, or a request for suspending removal is legally possible.
Police in Lower Austria carries out returns without informing the owners of accommodation facilities in advance in some cases. In one case, a child is taken from school in the middle of a lesson.
Hungary returned 190 persons in December, more than during any other month in 2016. This figure does not include the number of applicants rejected in the transit zones.
In a report on a return flight from Spain, the CPT expresses concern over the lack of adequate notice given to returnees, which should be provided in writing, in a language they understand and several days before the removal. The returnees should also have had access to a lawyer and the possibility to make at least one phone call, free of charge.
Hotspots and immigration detention
Greece increases its accommodation capacity for persons eligible for relocation and for asylum seekers with specific needs – financed through EU funds – to 20,000 places, as planned.
Reception and Identification Centres on the Greek islands remain overcrowded. At the end of December, 15,431 persons were staying on the islands; the islands’ official accommodation capacity is set at 8,480 persons. Occupancy at the Vathi hotspot in Samos exceeds its capacity by about three times – resulting in many persons staying outside the actual accommodation area, without access to electricity or water. Some children have to stay with unrelated adults. Overcrowding in the containers for unaccompanied and separated children increases tensions and the risk of violence and abuse. In the Souda camp in Chios, damage to the water and power supply systems results in insufficient heating for several days, increasing health hazards.
The Greek Minister of Migration Policy announces that special detention facilities will be created on the Greek islands to address cases of delinquency among arrivals and to facilitate further procedures.
A study by ECRE and other NGOs on detention at Italian hotspots states that migrants are unable to challenge detention decisions, and thus maintains that such detention should be deemed arbitrary and, when it exceeds 48 hours, in breach of the Italian Constitution.
In Bulgaria, pre-removal facilities are consistently overcrowded, reaching an occupancy rate of almost 170 %.
A group of 36 Iraqis, including 15 women and 11 children, leave the reception centre in Harmanli, Bulgaria, and are apprehended while attempting to reach Romania. The men are detained in Varna, the women in Dobrich and the children at a social services facility in Dobrich. One woman had to be released twice a day to breastfeed her child before she was eventually released.
In France, house arrest is frequently applied without effectively informing the persons concerned about the legal basis for the measure – asylum law or the continuing state of emergency.
The number of persons held in immigration detention increases in Austria.
Asylum seekers in Poland, including families with children and victims of torture, are often detained pursuant to court decisions for as long as 60 days. The best interests of the child are reportedly not considered in detention decisions.
A regional court in Slovakia rules that the decision to detain a family with children for six months did not take into account the best interests of the child, as repeatedly also criticised by the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Ministry of Interior plans to create a new family detention centre.
The Court of Instruction of Algeciras, Spain concludes that the Aliens Detention Centre (CIE) in Algeciras and annex buildings in Tarifa look like a prison and resemble a penitentiary regime. CIEs have been widely criticised for overcrowding and many other deficiencies – for example, by the Spanish Ombudsperson.
More than 100 persons escape from different CIEs in Spain and several riots take place inside them. The Interior Minister commits to improving the overall regime of the centres and sets up a working group for this purpose, including experts from various ministries and NGOs.
Safety and material conditions
In response to the November riot at the reception centre in Harmanli, Bulgaria, residents are divided by nationality. Persons from Afghanistan are accommodated in outbuildings, some without heating, despite harsh winter conditions. Increasing numbers of Afghan asylum seekers accommodated in Harmanli ask to be returned to their country of origin. While investigations of the riot continue, 21 asylum seekers, including three children, are charged with hooliganism and resistance against public authorities. Meanwhile, 294 police officers receive prizes for professional execution of duties during the riot.
In Italy, resistance against the reception plan approved in September 2016 persists at municipal level. According to this plan, asylum seekers should be distributed among all municipalities at a ratio of 2.5 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants.
Hungary closes the reception centre in Bicske, where conditions were considered best. Residents were moved to other centres in remote locations, including the Körmend tent camp, where conditions are extremely poor. A local priest takes in eight inhabitants from Körmend as they could no longer bear the freezing temperatures in the camp.
France launches a tender for some 5,350 places in emergency shelter for asylum seekers and applicants under house arrest. Due to the limited reception capacity, asylum seekers continue to be placed in emergency shelters – such as hotels – which further limits their access to information, legal advice and support.
In Germany, some asylum applicants are still accommodated in emergency shelters that are not suited for long-term accommodation.
UNHCR criticises the conditions at the reception centres (CETIs) in Ceuta and Melilla, Spain as unsuitable for asylum seekers.
Healthcare and basic services
Police in Brindisi, Italy dismantle an informal settlement due to inadequate hygiene conditions and health risks. Support organisations continue to provide basic legal and healthcare assistance at Tiburtina railway station in Rome, to which many asylum seekers moved after the Baobab reception centre was dismantled.
People waiting outside the transit zones at the Hungarian-Serbian border cannot sleep due to freezing temperatures; every second person is sick, many with fever and signs of flu or colds.
Following the transfer of some 8,000 persons from informal camps in France to reception and orientation centres, ensuring access to asylum procedures, healthcare and schooling has become difficult, particularly in view of limited staff. The circular on the dismantling of the camp in Calais only foresees some “educational and sports activities” and “learning French” for unaccompanied children.
Access to education for children seeking international protection in Germany remains unsystematic. Meanwhile, limitations on access to healthcare and the local authorities’ discretion regarding authorising medical treatment reportedly have particularly adverse effects on persons with disabilities.
Language barriers pose an overarching problem in Slovakia. Requalification courses and school education, which are formally open to refugees, are in practice inaccessible without knowledge of Slovak.
The Greek authorities have started to transfer to the mainland vulnerable persons who are not subject to return under the EU-Turkey statement. This may, however, not benefit persons with less visible vulnerabilities, such as victims of torture or persons with mental health problems.
Vulnerable persons make up almost half of the migrants in the area of Ventimiglia and Como, Italy, according to a recent report. Migrants and asylum seekers in the region lack basic legal and humanitarian assistance and wait for extremely long periods before their applications are assessed. In Bologna (Emilia-Romagna), a reception centre accommodating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers will open shortly.
Italy issues guidelines for the identification of victims of trafficking among applicants for international protection.
Germany establishes coordinators in accommodation facilities at selected locations to promote the implementation of minimum protection standards at the local level. The systematic identification of single women, pregnant women and children in reception facilities improves, according to NGOs. However, identifying persons with less visible protection needs remains a challenge.
Reception centres in Finland cannot always ensure sufficient privacy and safety for women and children. No special measures are in place for identifying child victims of sexual violence or abuse. Victims of trafficking are not treated consistently when decisions on residence permits are taken, according to the Non-discrimination Ombudsman.
Conditions for vulnerable persons are insufficient at centres for temporary stay (CETIs) in Ceuta and Melilla. For example, more than 60 persons who have applied for asylum on grounds of sexual orientation have been waiting for several months to be moved to the peninsula, according to a report by Amnesty International.
In Germany, children made up more than one third (36 %) of all asylum applicants in 2016; more than 10 % were under four years old. Some 50,300 unaccompanied children were under the protection of youth welfare offices as of November 2016, which is similar to the numbers in August.
More than 25,770 unaccompanied children arrived in Italy in 2016.
The number of unaccompanied children applying for asylum in the Netherlands is increasing (233 in November 2016). The majority of them come from Eritrea.
Slovakia discusses legislative changes that would require age assessments of unaccompanied children only when there is a suspicion that the person is an adult.
The Swedish Migration Agency re-registers as adults many children who were earlier assessed and registered as 15- to 16-year-olds. Proving that an individual is a child through a medical assessment remains difficult, as most doctors refuse to carry out such assessments. The Swedish Migration Agency visually assesses the age of all persons claiming to be teenagers and re-registers them as adults if this is “obvious”. There is no standardised method for assessing adulthood.
Questions remain in Sweden regarding the implementation of the recent agreement with Afghanistan, especially concerning children and youths from Afghanistan or from Iran with Afghan descent. Children may be returned if reception by family members, social services or UNHCR can be arranged – even if the children do not know the persons receiving them, but presumably can develop a relationship with them. Many Afghan children were born and raised as undocumented residents in Iran and have no family in Afghanistan.
Child-specific grounds for asylum are insufficiently considered in Sweden, according to NGOs. Children are not always heard in the asylum process and in some cases were unable to communicate with the Swedish Migration Agency.
In Finland, children – including unaccompanied children – increasingly get negative asylum decisions. Interviewers do not always have the necessary training to interview children.
Placement and accommodation
Although Greece’s capacity to accommodate unaccompanied children is increasing, the number of places remains insufficient. At the end of 2016, 1,443 children waited for accommodation, including 309 in closed centres and 15 in protective custody (police stations).
In Italy, unaccompanied children continue to be held at hotspot facilities; x-ray screening is not applied only as a measure of last resort for age assessments; and the appointment of guardians takes a very long time, according to a report by ECRE and other organisations.
Children continue to be held in pre-removal detention in Busmantsi, Bulgaria. Some organisations believe this may have positive implications for their safety in some cases.
In Denmark, unaccompanied children who reach the age of 17 will be transferred from children’s centres to other facilities, although the practical modalities remain unclear.
Cases have been registered involving unaccompanied children who applied for asylum in Sweden and then by mistake crossed the border to Denmark, triggering application of the Dublin Regulation and additional complications.
With more special facilities for unaccompanied children in Sweden being closed, children are transferred to other municipalities and again uprooted, often without sufficient information and preparation. The Red Cross continues to find children who are being hosted in adult facilities.
As the number of unaccompanied children declines in Austria, special reception facilities are reduced from 11 to eight. According to a legal opinion, asylum-seeking children are entitled to the same child and youth welfare benefits as Austrian children; however, they are allocated lower daily rates.
Adult siblings may become guardians for their younger siblings in Austria. While not a frequent practice, a 19-year-old was recently appointed as guardian for an 11-year-old severely traumatised sibling.
Guardians are insufficiently available, assigned late, have different competences and may represent several dozens of children at a time, according to the Finnish Ombudsman for Children. Children are not always heard adequately when changes concerning their placement are decided. Arrangements for permanent accommodation in municipalities often take a long time.
Ad hoc administrators in France are too few in number and represent many children at a time. More than 1,600 children have been placed in reception and orientation centres (CAOMI) and are expected to be transferred across the country.
Many migrant children live on the streets in Melilla, Spain, and often experience severe violence, as a documentary illustrates.
The CJEU rules on Spanish legislation automatically refusing residence permits to parents of Spanish children if the parents have a criminal record. The court finds that it contravenes the TFEU and the Free Movement Directive, which must be implemented in consideration of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, including its Articles 7 and 24 (2).
The ECtHR rules in Khlaifia and Others v. Italy on the holding of irregular migrants who arrived in Italy in 2011 and were subsequently returned to Tunisia. The court finds that their detention violated Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because the legal basis for the detention was unclear and because the migrants were not promptly informed of the reasons for the detention and could not appeal against it.
A court in Milan grants international protection to a Cameroonian victim of gender-based violence even though the territorial commission initially rejected the request.
The Court of Cassation in Italy recognises the possibility of forced marriage as a reason for asylum. It also deems unlawful the detention of a migrant who was not adequately informed about the right to apply for international protection.
Bulgaria amends the Foreigners Act, introducing provisions on stateless persons and permitting the use of pre-removal detention for initial identification purposes. Bulgaria also amends the Asylum and Refugees Act, allowing restrictions on asylum seekers’ movements and shortening the waiting period for them to access the labour market.
The Finnish Ombudsman expresses concern about the rapidly implemented amendments to legislation on family reunification, appeal options and detention, and the particularly negative effect on asylum-seeking children.
Finland amends the Aliens Act, allowing for a decentralised handling of appeals against negative asylum decisions by administrative courts of some regions and introducing designated residence as an alternative to detention, including for children.
The Helsinki administrative court overrules a negative asylum decision, holding that, under the particular circumstances of the case (Sunni Muslim fleeing IS-controlled areas), internal relocation in Iraq is no longer an option. Similarly, the Supreme Administrative Court excluded internal relocation in Yemen as a possibility, finding that the escalation of violence posed a serious and individual threat to anyone residing in the area.
The Netherlands plans to oblige asylum seekers who obtain a residence permit to sign a ‘participation declaration’, committing themselves to the values of freedom, equality, solidarity and participation. Municipalities are to be entrusted with implementing the system, but it is not clear what measures would be put in place to enforce the declarations.
The Slovak President rejects a draft law to increase the quorum required for the registration of a religious community, stating that it unduly interferes with fundamental rights and freedoms.
Amendments to the Aliens Law are discussed in Austria. These would allow starting a fast-track procedure to withdraw someone’s refugee status as soon as they are accused of a crime or caught in the act of committing a crime, which could be concluded before the final judgment is issued in the criminal proceedings. UNHCR expresses concern over the planned cancellation of basic care in such cases, as well as about proposed restrictions concerning family reunification, which would require families to cover the high expenses of DNA testing. Other changes foreseen to Austria’s Federal Basic Care Law would allow staff at reception facilities to use coercive power to enforce house rules and prohibitions on entering.
In Denmark, a proposed bill establishes stricter conditions for persons whose application has been rejected but who cannot be removed due to the principle of non-refoulement, and for persons who have committed a criminal offence. A new centre in Kaershovedgaard accommodating these persons receives considerable media criticism for the level of security measures and the quality and quantity of food.
In France, NGOs express concern about a draft law that seeks to create a “decentralised” court room at the Paris airport Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, in which border police could request extensions of detentions in the waiting area.
Sweden extends internal border controls until 11 February 2017.
Germany extends internal border controls at the border with Austria until 12 February 2017. Between January and October 2016, 14,500 persons were refused entry at the German-Austrian border.
In response to the December terrorist attack in Berlin, German politicians are discussing a number of policy and legislative initiatives aimed particularly at stepping up returns. These include a stronger focus on pre-removal detention of rejected asylum seekers and more proactive cooperation with countries of origin.
Since November, one federal state in Germany has tested a new policy of rapid voluntary return, encouraging persons from states considered safe countries of origin to return voluntarily shortly after their arrival, already at the start of the registration procedure. At the same time, another German federal state has introduced the possibility to allow victims of right-wing violence to obtain a temporary right to stay, even if they were previously ordered to leave the country.
Finland adopts an action plan to prevent and control irregular stays; NGOs fear this further marginalises and reduces access to basic services for irregular migrants. Responsibility for ensuring necessary and emergency aid for rejected asylum seekers is assigned to the municipal level. A survey points out challenges children and pregnant women face in accessing the preventive health care to which they are entitled by law.
As of 1 January, the Finnish Immigration Agency assumes responsibility for all immigration matters, including the administration of reception centres and decisions on permit matters, guided by internal security.
Finland adopts a new action plan on combating trafficking.
The government in Finland withdraws a bill on social security benefits based on nationality after the Constitutional Law Committee deems it irreconcilable with the constitutional principle of equality.
The Netherlands announces additional measures in relation to asylum seekers from countries of origin designated as ‘safe’. In addition to accelerating the asylum procedure for such persons, their right to accommodation in a shelter will be terminated immediately upon a negative asylum decision, and a 2-year EU-wide entry ban will be imposed on rejected asylum seekers coming from such countries.
In Austria, the type of “community services” that are open to asylum seekers as remunerated activities are clarified. The regions of Lower and Upper Austria reduce minimum benefits for refugees.
As part of enhanced efforts to cooperate with countries of origin, political parties in Denmark agree to appoint a special ambassador to focus on supporting returns.
The Council of Ministers in Poland cancels the Polish Migration Policy at the request of the Ministry of Interior.
Responses by civil society, local and political actors
The Greek National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) published a critical report on the management of the migration situation, highlighting – among others – the issues of detention on the islands, provision of services addressing basic needs, and access to international protection. The NCHR and Greek NGOs that are members of the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) also expressed serious concerns about the recommendation of the European Commission to Member States to resume transfers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation.
The Prefect of Bergamo (Lombardy) as well as provincial authorities in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, decide to expel asylum seekers from reception facilities even if final decisions on their appeals are still pending. The municipality of Mira (Veneto) expels five asylum seekers for protesting against reception conditions, particularly the facility management’s decision to close windows with padlocks, and reprimands another ten.
The Pope meets with mayors of several towns across the EU to discuss the importance of protecting asylum seekers.
The US State Department expresses concern over the broad interpretation of terrorism applied in Hungary in the case of a Syrian national involved in clashes between the police and asylum seekers at Roeske in September 2015.
Various associations launch charity campaigns and continue to support children and vulnerable groups in Bulgaria.
Negative reactions to the readmission agreement with Afghanistan are widespread in Sweden. Generally, opponents and supporters of refugees have hardened their positions in the public debate. Petitions are launched against the 2016 changes restricting the rights of refugees, which harm families and children in particular.
During its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Slovakia continues to promote ‘effective solidarity’, which permits each Member State to choose the form of its contribution to addressing the migration situation, rather than setting relocation quotas.
According to opinion polls, the vast majority of the Slovak population feels some fear of refugees; for 48 %, this fear is strong or considerable. The main reason is an expected increase in crime, followed by the refugees’ presumed lack of willingness to adapt to Slovakian life, increased risk of terrorism and financial costs.
The level of violent attacks directed against asylum seekers and reception and accommodation centres in Germany remains high. At least 49 persons are injured during the last quarter of 2016, five of them during arson attacks.
Several arson attacks affect reception centres in France.
Some violent attacks take place in Italy, including protests in Rome against a Moroccan family’s reception in the social housing system. Three adolescents verbally attack a six year old adopted black child near Florence (Tuscany), using racist derogatory language. Lega Nord, the ruling party in Lombardy, Italy, asks municipalities in the region to report all facilities, cultural centres and prayer halls associated with the Muslim community to promote the strict regulation of Islamic worship in the region.
In the Netherlands, a councillor (alderman) of Rotterdam is insulted and attacked by local residents after a discussion on housing refugees in the area. A house inhabited by a refugee is targeted in an arson attack.
NGOs in Denmark report a general increase in negative rhetoric towards migrants and asylum seekers, including among politicians. One MP proposes using warning shots to turn back migrants arriving to Europe by sea.
Several demonstrations – both against and in support of migrants – take place in Denmark, some leading to violence and to arrests.
Proceedings in two cases involving so-called “refugee hunters” start in Bulgaria. Anti-migrant attitudes are mainly displayed online.
Online hate speech against migrants and refugees remains at a high level in Austria, and is reported to increase in Poland.
In response to a racist attack on a PhD student from Nigeria in Warsaw, Poland, students and faculty members write an open letter to the Minister of Science and Higher Education, demanding condemnation of the crime.
Cases of violence among asylum seekers of different nationalities or religions are reported in Finland.
 The information from various stakeholders was centrally reviewed and provided in writing by the Ministry of Security and Justice.