June 2016 highlights

Report covers period 1 - 31 May 2016.

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New arrivals

Some 100 Syrian and Iraqi refugees, including 44 children, arrive in Italy through a church-financed humanitarian corridor.

Arrivals in Italy double and include hundreds of children and many pregnant women. Several shipwrecks occurred and many dead were recovered. Arrivals to Greece remain stable, although the constant flow congests the hotspots on the Greek islands.

On average, 200 people are stopped daily from entering Hungary from Serbia. Push-back incidents and excessive use of force are reported.

No new arrivals take place in Croatia, few are reported from Slovenia. Arrivals to Germany continue to decrease.

A boat carrying asylum seekers trying to reach Sweden from Denmark capsized.

Many migrants are returned on a daily basis from France to Italy. Some reports claim that Austria sent several asylum seekers to Italy although they neither registered there nor travelled through the country.

Fewer than 600 persons have been relocated from Italy and some 1,140 from Greece to other Member States during the past eight months.

Criminal proceedings

In Bulgaria, migrants are punished for irregular border crossings. Seventeen Iraqi and Syrian nationals, who were apprehended when crossing the border, receive a suspended prison sentence ranging from five to six months as well as a fine.

In Italy, a person objecting to boarding a return flight protests against unfair treatment and is charged with obstructing return and damaging property.

Initial registration and processing

Some 8,500 people who arrived on the Greek islands since 20 March remain there without prospects for a solution.

Excessive use of force during registration and identification is increasingly reported from hotspots in Italy.

Applicants for international protection in Milan, Italy, are pre-screened for eligibility by a self-administered form which, depending on the answers provided, may lead to immediate expulsion.

Judges in Italy express concern about the increasing backlog of appeals against negative asylum decisions.

Asylum seekers entering Hungary through Serbia are almost automatically rejected unless they require urgent medical treatment.

In Germany, Syrians are increasingly granted subsidiary protection rather than refugee status. In March, only some 500 Syrians received subsidiary protection, a number which then increased to over 13,000 in April. Following recent legislative changes, subsidiary protection status holders are barred from bringing their family members to Germany for two years.

Germany also faces a significant shortage of interpreters for the asylum procedure, with video interpretation rarely being used. Interpreters are not required to have any special qualifications other than fluency in the language they work in.

In Sweden, people withdrawing their asylum application and leaving the country outnumber those applying for asylum.

Swedish police hires more staff to carry out immigration controls inside the country.

Reception conditions

Due to decreasing arrivals, (initial) reception centres remain sparsely occupied in Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia.

The informal site in Idomeni, Greece, was peacefully evacuated on 24 May. Some of the facilities in northern Greece to which people were brought are in very poor condition.

In Italy, hotspot facilities in Pozzallo and Lampedusa are critically overcrowded, with poor health conditions in Pozzallo, including many cases of scabies, a contagious skin infection. A tuberculosis case is reported at a reception centre in Imperia. A judicial inquiry is launched against the contractor of a facility in Bari for illegal profit making. A reception centre in Ventimiglia has been closed to prevent crossings to France.

Italy adopts a ‘Good Reception Charter’ outlining basic principles such as small-size facilities, cooperation between municipalities and prefectures, and promoting sustainable integration.

Data indicate that upon arrival, migrants are generally in good health, which then significantly deteriorates due to their living conditions and poor access to healthcare.

Italy will provide new arrivals in Lampedusa and Trapani with a health card valid across the EU, which will facilitate the monitoring of migrants’ health conditions. The German Medical Assembly favours a country-wide use of the electronic health card, which so far only some federal states provide to every migrant, irrespective of their legal status.

Transit zones in Hungary along the Serbian border are inadequate. Access is restricted to 20-30 persons, while more than 100 people wait at the fences. Before entering the transit zone, people may have been forced to wait for up to one month without shelter or any facilities in the open air.

Accommodation centres in Sweden report an increase in incidents of violence and assaults.

Reception centres in Bulgaria report a shortage of medical supplies. As in Italy, the infectious skin disease scabies remains a major health problem.

Child protection

Fewer children disappear from transit facilities in Greece, while children disappearing remains common in Sweden and Slovenia. Some children are reported to be exploited in prostitution in Sweden.

In Italy and Greece, many unaccompanied children continue to be accommodated in inadequate hotspot facilities for weeks pending their transfer to other facilities.

Identification of children and families takes a long time in transit zones in Hungary. Some unaccompanied children are left waiting outside the transit zones for days without any care or facilities.

United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and civil society criticised facilities for unaccompanied children in Slovenia and considered them unsuitable.

The German government and federal states’ governments, as well as welfare organisations, discuss a reduction of child welfare services for unaccompanied children. Child welfare organisations, nevertheless, insist on uniform quality standards of childcare.

Legal, social and policy responses

Italy proposes identification at sea on board of vessels as ‘floating hotspots’, but civil society criticised the proposal for a lack of adequate procedural safeguards and for healthcare reasons.

Three out of four enterprises in Germany are involved in refugee aid since most businesses consider immigration as an opportunity for the German labour market, according to a recent Bertelsmann Foundation study.

In Germany, the draft Integration Act proposes deeming asylum requests inadmissible if a third country agrees to take back the person concerned, subsequently circumventing standards for considering a third country as safe.

Public and political debates in Germany increasingly discuss violence against Christians at reception centres despite a lack of reliable data and of similar attention to violence against Muslim refugees.

Germany and Sweden further extend the duration of border controls within the Schengen area, which also continue in Austria.

Sweden launches an ‘effective return process’ initiative aimed at accelerating asylum decisions and returns, increasing detention capacity and deploying increasing numbers of liaison officers to countries of return.

Hate speech

Attacks on reception centres in Germany increased fivefold in 2015 compared with 2014, according to police statistics. Violence against refugees further increased in the first quarter of 2016, despite the significant decrease in new arrivals.

Repeated incidents of hate speech against Muslim asylum seekers and homosexual asylum seekers occur in Umeå, Sweden.