August 2016 highlights

Report covers period 1 - 31 July 2016.

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New arrivals

Arrivals in Italy increase to some 23,550 in July; many corpses, mostly women, are found at sea. IOM reports that the death toll in the Central Mediterranean reached 2,700 in 2016.

In line with its new policy, Hungary apprehends and transfers some 1,700 people found within 8 km from the border with Serbia to the Serbian side of the border fence without giving them access to asylum procedures.

Multiple cases of violence from Hungary to Serbia are reported, allegedly involving the unleashing of police dogs, the use of pepper spray and beatings.

Hungary refuses entry to some 4,170 people, while apprehensions for unauthorised border crossing increase from 10 % in June to 18 % in July.

Arrivals in Austria, mainly via Hungary, remain substantial at around 150 people per day.

Some 1,810 people arrive in Greece by sea, including around 330 children, mainly from Syria.

Criminal proceedings

Three Syrians are charged with entering Bulgaria as foreign fighters. They had received refugee status in Germany and were travelling to Syria via Bulgaria.

In Hungary, the number of criminal proceedings for border fence related crimes decreases from 401 in June to 154 in July due to the new 8 km policy.

After spending nearly 10 months in prison in poor conditions, a district court in Hungary finds 10 of the 11 refugees – some of whom are seriously ill and with disabilities – who protested against the closure of the southern border in September 2015, guilty for participating in a riot. They are given prison sentences and entry bans, including a ban for 10 years. NGOs criticise the trials.

In Italy, the police identify a major smuggling network operating in North Africa that is selling migrants who fail to pay some EUR 15,000 for their journey to Egyptian criminals for their organs.

Initial registration and processing

The pre-registration exercise, held jointly by the Hellenic authorities and UNHCR on mainland Greece is almost finished with nearly 28,000 registered asylum seekers, including 1,100 unaccompanied and separated children.

Identification and registration practices change in Sicily (Italy) as the capacity of the hotspots is exhausted; arrivals are transferred by bus to other facilities throughout Italy. Their journey can take several hours and passengers are allegedly not allowed to get off to go to the toilet.

In Bulgaria, many asylum seekers disappear before their procedure is closed. Despite increasing requests for Dublin transfers, only few are returned to Bulgaria.

Dublin returns from Austria to Hungary are often impossible due to a lack of cooperation between the two countries.

Asylum applicants in Austria increasingly return voluntarily before receiving a decision, as they may have to wait for a year for their first asylum hearing.

Asylum applications in Germany, especially repeat applications, increase by more than a third in June compared to May and registration of new arrivals remains at a high level.

Family reunification for Syrians in Germany can take nearly two years, with a current waiting time of 15 months for the first interview at the embassy in Beirut.

To speed up the assessment of asylum claims, Italy proposes to replace the hearing of applicants in Italy by an analysis of documents presented by the applicant’s lawyer. Exceptions are only possible in cases of necessity.

Asylum applications in Sweden have stabilised at some 2,000 to 3,000 per month.

Reception conditions

The Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the closure of accommodation centres in Greece due to public health concerns after visiting 16 centres on the mainland.

Pre-removal centres in Bulgaria are overcrowded for the first time in 2016.

At the Hungarian border, many women and children continue to wait for weeks to be admitted to the transit zones without appropriate shelter and sanitary facilities. Around 1,400 people, some 40 % are children, wait behind the fence.

The open camp in Körmed (Hungary) is criticised for its bad conditions as people are accommodated in tents and receive multiple meals at a time, which have to be stored inside the tents without a fridge. A third of the inhabitants suffer from scabies.

A minimum level of privacy is not ensured at a reception centre in Hamburg-Boberg (Germany), where 420 beds are not separated by partitions. Another reception centre for women does not have female security staff on duty.

A Parliamentary Commission of visits the reception centre in Mineo (Sicily, Italy) and recommends its closure due to inadequate conditions. The government had planned to turn the centre into a hotspot facility.

Reception conditions in Italy deteriorate. In Sardinia, the government does not reimburse the municipalities on time putting the whole reception system at risk.

Child protection

More than 1,400 unaccompanied children in Greece are waiting for placement in specialied facilities; among them, 350 are held in hotspots or police detention.

In Palermo (Sicily, Italy), unaccompanied children live in emergency shelters for up to six months without being appointed a guardian or receiving any kind of specific assistance.

Some 400 children demonstrate against poor health and living conditions at the emergency reception centre in Reggio Calabria.

Children in Austria are increasingly accommodated in specialised facilities.

The number of unaccompanied children under the care of the Children and Youth Services in Germany has significantly decreased since the beginning of the year.

In Sweden, health staff increasingly report cases of severe mistreatment of unaccompanied children at accommodation centres, which may possibly occur due to a lack of professional staff.

Legal, social and policy responses

In Greece, the composition of the Asylum Appeals Committees changes. The new committees, which are composed of two administrative judges and a member appointed by UNHCR, will be operational in August.

The Italian authority designated for monitoring forced returns becomes operational and observes a Frontex flight from Rome to Nigeria. The return of two passengers was cancelled as their asylum applications were still pending.

Police in Bulgaria launch apprehension operations near the central mosque in Sofia and detain several foreigners.

The Hungarian government campaigns against EU mandatory relocation quota, emphasising that the terrorist attacks in Western Europe were committed by refugees and asylum seekers.

The German Parliament decides on the new Integration Act, introducing cuts in social benefits if asylum seekers reject mandatory measures, such as German language classes or non-profit jobs.

According to the new Data Exchange Act in Germany, data on profession, education, qualification, health condition and language proficiency are collected and saved in the Central Register of Foreigners, to which a total of 14,000 authorities may request access.

Many rejected asylum seekers in Sweden are expected to lose their daily allowances and accommodation in housing facilities.

Hate speech

After a demonstration against restriction orders on the island of Leros (Greece), some 200 refugees and migrants refuse to return to the hotspot area due to safety concerns regarding conflicts in the hotspot and with the local civilian vigilante groups in the area.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee requests the initiation of proceedings against two militarised NGOs, formed with the aim of illegally detaining refugees. The cases against two refugee hunters in Bulgaria proceed, leading to the confirmation of incitement to discrimination, violence and hatred in one case, and to release under bail in the other.

Hate crime incidents continue to occur in Austria and Germany. Several hate crime incidents occur in Italy, including a case in Fermo, where a Nigerian asylum seeker, reacting to racist insults addressed to his wife, was attacked and killed with an iron pole.

In Hungarian social media, hate speech against refugees and asylum seekers increase.

The police in Karlstad (Sweden) wrongly accuses a group of unaccompanied asylum-seeking boys of sexual harassment during a music festival on their website after they receive 27 notifications of sexual harassment incidents, whereas in fact only two unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were concerned as suspects.