April 2016 highlights

Report covers period 1 - 31 March 2016.

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New arrivals

Arrivals in Greece almost halve compared to previous months, of whom 35 % are children. As of 20 March 2016, following the EU agreement with Turkey, people arriving on the Greek islands are held in closed centres while they wait for their return to Turkey; all arrivals prior to that date are transferred to the mainland.

The number of arrivals doubled in Italy and increased by 40 % in Hungary.

As the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Croatia and Slovenia close their borders far fewer people arrive in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Germany.

Relocation from Greece increases during the reporting period, almost reaching the numbers of the preceding five-month period.

The proportion of young unaccompanied children under the age of 12 years increases among the arrivals in Greece. There is also a rise in the number of unaccompanied girls arriving in Sweden. >

Asylum applications in Greece and Hungary double and remain at a high level in Austria, Germany and Sweden.

Criminal proceedings

In Hungary, almost a third of the arrivals are prosecuted for unauthorised border fence crossing.

Proceedings concerning human trafficking and facilitation of irregular entry or stay increase in Greece and almost double in Austria and Hungary. In Bulgaria, people helping refugees are often sentenced to detention or fines.

Providing help for humanitarian reasons without pay is not clearly exempted from punishment, according to a law in Slovenia.

Initial registration and processing

In Greece, almost a third of the people arriving are registered in March.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, continues to provide information on asylum on the Greek islands but suspends some of its support due to the systematic detention of arrivals.

Several associations in Italy criticise the ‘hotspot’ system for limiting people’s access to international protection.

Slovenia only allows entry to people wishing to seek asylum in Slovenia; police reportedly passed over such requests or discouraged persons to do so.

Most asylum seekers entering Hungary through Serbia are automatically rejected due to the safe third-country rule and are often detained while awaiting removal.

UNHCR and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reportedly have no or limited access to people refused entry or stay in Slovenia.

In Germany, asylum seekers continue to wait up to six months before they are able to register their asylum application.

People detained in Bulgaria have to sign documents that are provided to them only in Bulgarian.

Reception conditions

Between 10,000 and 12,000 people, including around 4,000 children, remain stranded in Idomeni (Greece) where severe deficits persist in water, sanitation, hygiene, healthcare, protection and shelter.

More than 5,000 people are temporarily accommodated in the port of Piraeus (Greece) because they are refusing to leave the port and be transferred to accommodation facilities.

Hotspot facilities in Italy are overcrowded, including the new hotspot in Taranto.

Training courses on adequate reception procedures are organised for professionals in Ancona (Marche, Italy).

Initial reception and registration facilities in Austria, Croatia and Slovenia accommodate only few people or have been closed. Most people have been transferred either to asylum reception or pre-removal facilities in Slovenia.

Conditions in German mass reception facilities remain very poor and do not take into account vulnerabilities.

Reception conditions are not satisfactory for people with disabilities in Hungary. A young Syrian man, whose wheelchair was broken, had to spend 23 days in detention lying on a bed until his lawyer was able to get a donated wheelchair for him.

Asylum seekers are sometimes accommodated in isolated places in Sweden. For example, 600 asylum seekers were placed in an accommodation centre at a ski resort in the very north of Sweden with only 30 persons living in the vicinity.

Violent protests occur regularly in Idomeni (Greece).

Assaults at asylum centres in Sweden cause two deaths.

Municipalities in Italy try to coordinate the reception of asylum seekers since it is not managed nationally. An instruction by the prefect in Sondrio (Italy) to limit asylum seekers’ movement in the city centre and children’s access to parks is withdrawn following criticism by the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration.

Reception facilities in Bulgaria continue to have a shortage of fruit and vegetables.

Child protection

Hundreds of unaccompanied children remain stranded on the Greek islands waiting in first reception, transit and police facilities for their transfer to mainland facilities. Their transfer is delayed since the mainland facilities are overcrowded.

Hotspot facilities in Pozzallo (Italy) continue to accommodate children for several weeks despite poor conditions.

Asylum seeking children in Sweden do not always have access to health, education and social services since they might not be accommodated in the municipality responsible for these services.

Between seven and eight unaccompanied children are reported missing from their accommodation in Sweden each week.

Legal, social and policy responses

Italian and German Interior Ministers propose measures to reform the EU asylum system, including, for example, the creation of an EU agency for asylum policies, a common registration system supported by Frontex and an institutionalised distribution of asylum seekers according to quotas.

Hungary has prepared the infrastructure for new fences at its borders with Romania and Serbia.

Sweden discusses a new law that would suspend basic assistance, including housing, for rejected asylum seekers without children who either did not leave the country voluntarily or received a deportation decision.

Italy prepares a new law authorising the use of force for identifying asylum seekers despite opposition by police trade unions.

Italian courts grant international protection to nationals from countries generally not seen as unsafe, reaffirming the validity of individual situations as grounds for protection.

Italian and Albanian police step up their cooperation in anticipation of increased irregular migration following the Council of the EU agreement with Turkey.

Italian police strictly controls the border with Austria in cooperation with the army. In Hungary, soldiers also support border control.

Government and opposition parties in Slovenia reject a proposal to hold a referendum on limiting the number of asylum seekers, which the largest opposition party put forward.

Plans to decrease the minimum living space granted to detained migrants in Hungary are dropped after harsh criticism by NGOs.

According to polls, a majority of Slovenians support the accommodation of refugees near their own place of residence.

Positive social responses are reported in Austria, Greece, Slovenia and Sweden; these include volunteer work, demonstrations in support of adequate refugee reception, rallies for open borders and other support activities.

Hate speech

The Brussels terrorist attacks of 22 March spark a series of anti-migrant public statements and acts in Bulgaria, Hungary and Sweden.

Many hate crime incidents continue to occur in Austria and Germany.

Uniformed local groups of the Finnish right-wing extremist organisation ‘Soldiers of Odin’ have been patrolling the streets of various Swedish cities with the aim of protecting cities from the alleged criminal behaviour of immigrants.

In Bulgaria, the Prosecutor orders an investigation of a private person who detained migrants on his own initiative, which he filmed and broadcasted.

Some residents in Veroia, northern Greece, protest outside the new accommodation shelter for asylum seekers by throwing heads of dead pigs.