Report covers period 1-31 July 2017.
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Since November 2016, FRA’s monthly reports have highlighted key developments in 14 Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. For this month’s report, no data are available from Finland.
The figures presented in this section partly relate to June 2017.
Some 4,120 persons applied for asylum in Greece, most of them from Syria, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Some 13,170 persons applied for asylum in Italy in June, mainly from Nigeria and Bangladesh. Applicants included over 1,260 children, more than 620 of them unaccompanied. For 6,580 applicants, the authorities took first instance decisions.
The Italian Ministry of Interior reported that, in 2016, migrants and refugees on average lodged their asylum applications 86 days following their arrival; the authorities assessed these within 64 days and, in case of appeals, reviewed the decisions within 86 days. In total, 84 % of applications were rejected; the highest rejection rates concerned Nigerian applicants (90 % of cases), Gambians (85 %) and Malians (84 %). Some 92 % of Afghan applicants received some form of international protection.
Some 15,300 persons, predominantly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, applied for asylum in Germany in June, a decrease of around 8 % from May.
The Netherlands received around 2,360 asylum applications in June, mainly from Syria, as well as Eritrea and Iraq, including 95 unaccompanied children; this is a 16 % decrease compared with May. Furthermore, arrivals under family reunification continued to decrease significantly, and the number of asylum applicants from third countries considered to be safe also dropped significantly in the first half of 2017. Data on the number of residence permits granted under the principle of non-refoulement are not available, according to a response by the Dutch authorities to the UN Committee Against Torture.
With almost 2,310 asylum applications in Sweden – including more than 800 children, of whom 130 arrived unaccompanied – the number remained at a similar level as in June, according to the Swedish Migration Authority. The main countries of origin continued to be Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Austria registered around 1,970 asylum applications in June, mainly from persons from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
About 240 persons applied for asylum in Hungary in July, slightly more than in June (185 persons). They originated predominantly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
In Bulgaria, 235 persons applied for asylum in July, including 153 men (more than 50 of them boys) and around 82 women (some 30 were girls), according to the State Agency for Refugees. Most asylum applicants were from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In June, some 36 unaccompanied children applied for protection in Bulgaria.
In Denmark, around 220 people applied for asylum in July, including 30 unaccompanied children. The top three countries of origin were Syria, Afghanistan and Iran; for unaccompanied children, these were Morocco, Somalia and Eritrea.
Some 1950 persons applied for asylum in Poland in the first half of 2017, less than half than in the same period in 2016. The main countries of origin were Russia and Ukraine.
Asylum applications in Slovakia remained low, with only five applications in July – compared with 17 applications in June.
The Greek Asylum Service trained its case workers on issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons. It also opened a regional office in Crete in July.
Some 52 asylum seekers reached Italy through the humanitarian corridor, created in cooperation with catholic and protestant organisations; some 850 asylum seekers have so far received protection under this framework.
In Hungary, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) continued to criticise the limited access to asylum, which is the result of several measures, namely the further tightened border policy; the restriction of the registration of asylum applications in the transit zones, where opening hours and admissions (10 persons per day) are limited; the consideration of Serbia as a safe third country; lengthy procedures; and the low recognition rate of applications by persons arriving from war zones such as Syria. Only 16 % of Syrian asylum seekers have received international protection in Hungary, according to UNHCR.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee updated a leaflet in eight languages on the asylum procedure, fingerprinting and basic rights for asylum seekers. According to the committee and UNHCR, the Immigration and Asylum Office terminated its cooperation with the committee, claiming that it had “gravely violated” the principles of cooperation by criticising the treatment of asylum seekers in Hungary. As a result, the committee cannot carry out monitoring visits or provide legal assistance to asylum seekers.
Access to asylum also remained restricted in Poland. Border guards continued to disregard the interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which stipulated that Poland should cease to refuse entry to Syrian asylum seekers at the Terespol border crossing point.
Problems in accessing the asylum procedure at the French-Italian border remained, according to the NGOs La ANAFÉ, La Cimade and Roya citizen. Newly arriving migrants were either removed to Italy or detained without receiving information about their rights and without the opportunity to apply for protection. The French border police only allowed people who were, according to their assessment, particularly vulnerable to enter the territory because the authorities are more likely to grant them asylum, ANAFÉ reported.
Delays in processing asylum applications remained significant in France, according to the Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA). However, the examination time was reduced from eight months in 2015 to five months in July 2017, despite a 15 % increase in asylum applications in 2017.
In Germany, Caritas reported insufficient access to independent and early legal counselling. Interviews often take place in remote offices of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, and asylum seekers have to wait for hours without food and water.
In Austria, more than 1,600 asylum applicants have filed complaints about the length of asylum procedures in 2017, according to the Austrian Ombudsman Board.
The Federal Agency for Protection of the Constitution and Combating Terrorism started investigations against staff of the Human Rights Association Austria (Verein Menschenrechte Österreich) for allegedly having promised a positive asylum decision for money. This organisation, which the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the European Union fund, provides legal advice to asylum seekers.
The Spanish Ministry of Interior accepted most of the Ombuds institution’s recommendations for improving the processing of asylum claims, including to: inform applicants at all stages of the possibility to receive free legal assistance; adapt information provided to persons with low levels of education and in consideration of gender; incorporate qualified interpreters into the Asylum and Refuge Office staff; avoid stopping procedures indefinitely or due to developments in the conflict in the country of origin; and grant child applicants the same protection as parents, even if one parent does not consent due to absence or if the mother obtained protection from gender-based violence.
UNHCR in Spain expressed concern over the management of mixed migration flows and reaffirmed the importance of making safe legal pathways available in view of a 200 % increase in arrivals to Spain in 2017, amounting to more than 10,750 arrivals in total.
The State Secretary for Security and Justice in the Netherlands rejected a proposal to integrate the procedures for victims of human trafficking and asylum seekers into a single procedure.
In Sweden, long asylum procedures continued to affect the health and well-being of asylum applicants, particularly young persons, according to the National Board of Health and Welfare.
More than 550 persons returned voluntarily from Greece, primarily to Pakistan, Algeria and Georgia. The National Commission for Human Rights in Greece expressed concern over pushback incidents reported from the Evros river region, noting that such incidents violate international and human rights law.
Hungary returned some 100 persons, including 20 rejected asylum seekers. Individuals who did not arrive through Serbia are sometimes nonetheless “returned” to the Serbian side outside of the transit zones at the Hungarian border.
As in previous months, forced returns from France to Afghanistan continued, according to La Cimade.
French authorities deported an Albanian asylum seeker while his asylum claim was still being processed by the OFPRA and without waiting for his first interview, for which the date had already been set before the deportation, La Cimade reported. Also in France, the border police allegedly tried to force a Congolese national to board a plane and when he refused, took him to a border police office and punched him in the face, neck and back before he was deported, according to the National Association of Border Assistance for Foreigners.
Poland returned some 360 persons, including one to Afghanistan.
In Germany, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees continued to inform asylum applicants about the voluntary return programme StarthilfePlus and offered financial incentives to already leave the country during the asylum procedure, regardless of the possible outcome of the application, Caritas reported.
In Austria, 344 voluntary departures and 556 forced returns took place in June, according to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. During the first half of 2017, 150 Afghans returned voluntarily and 300 Afghans were forcibly removed.
The Austrian police allegedly used physical violence when deporting a Chechen family with six children. The police claimed that they were injured by the migrants when trying to take them out of their home.
After an unaccompanied Afghan child, who had voluntarily returned to Kabul from Austria, was abandoned by his family upon his arrival in Kabul, Asylum Coordination Austria recommended introducing guidelines for counselling unaccompanied children if they wish to return voluntarily to ensure consideration of the best interests of the child.
The NGO Prime reported several returns from the Netherlands to Afghanistan. Residents of the family location for irregular migrants at Burgum in the Netherlands opposed the transfer of an Afghan family to the closed pre-removal facility for families in Zeist, arguing that Afghanistan was not a safe country for return. The family was transferred to the closed facility on the same day and returned to Afghanistan several days later. Similarly, upon the transfer of an Afghan family from the family location in Emmen to the closed pre-removal facility for families in Zeist, children at the location at Emmen demonstrated against the return of the family, who belong to the Shiite Hazara minority.
In response to a question by a Dutch Member of Parliament about returns to Afghanistan, the Dutch State Secretary for Security and Justice refused to suspend the return of all children, young adults and vulnerable groups to Afghanistan.
In Spain, the supervisory judge of the Aliens Detention Centres of the Madrid Court of Instruction required the director of the centre to inform detainees of their return at least 12 hours in advance, including the destination and time of arrival of the return flight so that they can inform their families. As a Senegalese returnee resisted his return aboard the plane to Dakar, several passengers reportedly intervened, trying to prevent the return.
The Danish National Police conducted 65 forced returns, and four rejected asylum seekers returned voluntarily from Denmark, according to the Ministry of Justice.
The UN Human Rights Committee stated that Denmark would violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights if it were to return two specific Egyptian nationals, because the decision-makers did not adequately examine their claims of rape and torture, which they said prompted their flight from Egypt. The Danish Refugee Appeals Board reopened the case.
The Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights deemed the conditions at the departure centre Kærshovedgård to be worse than in a prison. The Association of Immigration Lawyers announced that it would challenge the legality of the conditions.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) stopped providing support for voluntary returns in Denmark due to a lack of financial resources. The Danish Red Cross expressed concern that the National Police would now manage voluntary returns alone.
The Slovak Ministry of Interior announced plans to intensify restraint measures during forced returns, such as the use of handcuffs, increasing the number of policemen during boarding, and regulating the boarding process of each returnee individually, following an incident at the Vienna airport. Two men from Morocco who were about to be deported escaped from the police at the airport. The flights were delayed a couple of minutes, until the men were found. According to the Human Rights League, they were moved back to a police detention centre in Medveďov (Slovakia) and placed in an isolation room for almost three weeks, without access to legal assistance.
The Greek Reception and Identification Centres in the Aegean islands continued to be severely overcrowded, accommodating 14,244 persons despite having capacity for only 8,685 persons. Seven NGOs expressed concern over the handover of responsibilities for the support services on the Aegean islands to the authorities and a possible deterioration of living conditions, access to basic services and protection for unaccompanied children. On mainland Greece, the total capacity of accommodation facilities was 53,914, while some 35,060 persons were placed there.
In response to unrest in the centre in Moria, Lesvos, the police used teargas and arrested more than 30 persons. NGOs jointly criticised violence by the police as well as by civilians, who attacked asylum seekers without intervention by the police. Amnesty International called on the authorities to urgently investigate the allegations of police violence during the protest. In addition, 19 members of parliament from the SYRIZA party tabled a parliamentary question on the allegations of police violence reported from Moria. Human Rights Watch reported deteriorating mental health conditions of asylum seekers in Lesvos. The municipality of Chios Island evacuated asylum seekers who had camped at the beach for months, and brought them to Souda and Vial camps, as well as to Greek mainland facilities.
By the end of July, some 17,460 persons had been relocated from Greece, according to IOM and UNHCR, and some 7,940 from Italy.
The campaign “Welcome Taranto” criticised the poor reception conditions at the hotspot, stating that its inhabitants were exposed to emissions of chemical substances from the local industry.
The Italian Ministry of Interior reported the availability of some 26,010 places in the reception system in 2016. Nearly 2,900 children were accommodated, compared to 977 in 2015. Most asylum seekers and refugees stayed in Lazio and Sicily.
In Prato, Italy, almost 100 asylum seekers were expelled from the reception facility for returning too late and attending less than 70 % of the mandatory Italian language classes. In Florence, the local prefect decided to exclude asylum seekers from reception facilities as soon as they were granted humanitarian protection, leaving them de facto without assistance.
In Hungary, some 180 asylum seekers stayed in the Tompa transit zone and 280 stayed in the transit zone in Röszke, which was extended to accommodate 450 persons. Asylum seekers, including children in families and unaccompanied children above 14 years of age, were accommodated in shipping containers with only one window and largely without air conditioning, surrounded by high razor fences. Reception conditions in the transit zones have reportedly been inhumane, not offering shade or other protection from the heat; interpreters have been insufficiently available, leaving asylum seekers unable to communicate with the police, medical and other support staff. The area for walking and playing outside the containers is very limited. Some 450 persons – mostly families from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, including some 30 unaccompanied children – continued to wait for admission to the transit zones in Serbian shelter facilities.
Persons trying to cross the border fences at the Hungarian border continued to report severe violence by the police, according to NGOs. The police registered more than 90 persons as having crossed the border irregularly and intercepted 745 persons trying to climb the fences, less than in June (1,017). According to UNHCR, around 50 persons were apprehended at the Hungarian side of the fence and immediately returned to the Serbian side.
The maximum capacity of the open refugee camps in Hungary remained at 480 beds; only 83 places were occupied, mostly by families who have been granted protection and unaccompanied children below 14 years of age.
Reception capacity in France was at 70,000 to 80,000 places, according to La Cimade, whereas close to 110,000 people were in need of accommodation. With approximately 20 % of the reception places occupied by people who are not applicants for asylum (e.g. their request for asylum was not yet recorded or a status was already granted or refused), only between 50 to 60 % of applicants could be accommodated.
Living conditions in informal camps in the north of France (Calais) and in the south (Menton) remained problematic. Human Rights Watch reported that police forces in Calais regularly used pepper spray on migrants, including children while they were sleeping or eating or otherwise posed no threat. The police also confiscated sleeping bags, blankets and clothes.
The French Council of State upheld a ruling of the Administrative Court of Lille ordering the local authorities to provide water points, sanitary facilities and meals. The Mayor of Calais had refused to implement the required measures and the Calais Council and the Prefecture of Pas-de-Calais lodged an appeal against the measures. On the same day, the Minister of the Interior announced that he would open two new centres in Troisvaux (Pas-de-Calais) and Bailleul (Nord). The Mayor of Calais however confirmed her refusal to apply the prescribed measures.
In Austria, sufficient places in reception facilities have been available for around 70,000 people, according to the Ministry of the Interior. To avoid reception facilities being closed due to the low numbers of new arrivals, authorities in Carinthia prohibited asylum seekers from living in private accommodation.
Due to decreasing arrivals, the reception capacity in the Netherlands will be reduced to 31,000 places across 61 reception centres by the end of 2017. Relocation figures to the Netherlands remained low. Only some 2,100 persons were actually relocated, even though 9,000 places had been agreed to, because fewer people than expected qualified and applied for asylum, according to the broadcasting organisation NOS.
The overall capacity of reception centres in Bulgaria was 5,190 places. 31 % of the centres were occupied (with 1,605 asylum seekers staying there). Some additional 420 asylum seekers were living outside the centres, at so-called ‘external addresses’, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
Reception capacity in Spain amounted to around 5,140 places. Only one organisation provides support to victims of torture and/or traumatised persons.
In Denmark, reception centres had a total capacity for approximately 1,830 persons and were occupied by around 190 migrants, including around 40 separately accommodated unaccompanied children, the Danish Immigration Service reported.
The Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) recently raised alarm about the high prevalence of child trafficking in Europe, reminding states that a protective environment is essential to reduce the vulnerability of children.
In Greece, a survey on the needs of refugee women living in organised accommodation structures was published. The National Confederation for People with Disabilities drafted a programme aimed at overcoming problems and discrimination faced by refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities. The Ministry of Health has expanded its medical support to the refugee population on the eastern Aegean islands, announcing the recruitment of 395 staff to reinforce the capacity of the primary health system in Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros. According to a report by Doctors without Borders, the standards of care and protection for vulnerable persons in Lesvos have drastically deteriorated.
According to IOM, the number of potential victims of human trafficking arriving in Italy increased by 600 % in the past three years – possibly affecting 80 % of girls arriving from Nigeria, as their arrivals increased nearly 10-fold in the past three years.
According to NGOs and UNHCR in Poland, special needs of asylum seekers are often not identified and victims of torture are kept in detention despite opinions from psychologists voicing opposition to their detention.
In Germany, the lack of effective procedures for identifying people with specific needs and insufficient safeguards for vulnerable persons during the registration, asylum and return procedures are persisting problems, Caritas and other welfare organisations reported.
The German Government introduced a concept for the protection of (unaccompanied) child victims of trafficking. The aim was to improve and develop support and cooperation structures. For example, an independent national research and rapporteur body, as well as a government coordination centre to combat trafficking in human beings, were established.
During the past months, six out of 11 special care facilities in Austria were closed due to the low number of vulnerable persons in need, according to the Ministry of the Interior. On the other hand, in Styria, psychological support services were not sufficiently available, particularly for children, Caritas Styria reported.
Asylum seekers in Spain were no longer referred to reception facilities upon submitting their applications, and instead were referred only after their interviews with the Asylum and Refuge Office took place, according to NGOs.
Several asylum-seeking families in Zaragoza, Spain, reported to the mayor and regional government that their vulnerable situations had not been taken into account adequately, resulting in reduced financial support, lack of subsidies for specialised medical treatments and lack of subsidies for education, e.g. school materials, lunches, nursery schools and extracurricular activities.
Universities in Andalusia, Galicia and Madrid organised support and scholarships for refugee students.
The majority of asylum seekers arriving in Hungary suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or trauma, but were not referred to specialised facilities, according to the Cordelia Foundation, the only organisation providing assistance to such persons. The foundation had no access to the transit zones. Staff who identified asylum seekers suffering from PTSD or trauma in open camps or detention centres could not treat them effectively due to the prison-like conditions and the uncertainty regarding the outcomes of the long asylum procedures, resulting in aggression, depression and suicide attempts.
Access to care remained difficult or even impossible for victims of trauma and torture in France, in particular for those not accommodated in reception facilities or those who do not speak French, France Terre d'Asile pointed out.
Specialised care facilities and support services for victims of torture and trauma were still not sufficiently available in Germany. The rejection rate of applications for psychotherapy for asylum seekers was about ten times higher than for persons under the statutory health insurance, according to the National Working Group Psychosocial Centres for Refugees and Victims of Torture.
In Sweden, there are several centres specialised in psychological care of victims of torture or trauma, run by the Swedish Red Cross, but not in all regions of Sweden and not always with interpreters for all languages. The government allocated SEK 40 million per year (some EUR 4,170,400) between 2017-2020 for measures aimed at increasing the availability of care and treatment for traumatised asylum seekers.
In Austria, no specialised care facilities for victims of torture and/or trauma were available, according to the Austrian Red Cross.
In response to findings of the UN Committee Against Torture, the Dutch government stated that asylum seekers have access to preventive and curative health care, but there are no specific policies for applicants who have experienced torture, rape or other forms of serious violence. The government’s reply did not refer to the possibility of offering a forensic medical examination to asylum seekers if considered relevant for the assessment of their application, according to the Aliens Circular. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service had special procedural instructions on when and how to offer such an examination.
The prefecture of Brindisi, Italy, signed a protocol with local authorities to improve the procedure of appointing guardians for unaccompanied children and reception conditions and to establish a monitoring system guaranteeing adequate protection of rights.
The Hungarian authorities continue to assign guardians only to unaccompanied children under the age of 14. Older children have to stay in the transit zones until their asylum claim is processed.
Poland continues to lack an effective system for appointing guardians and for referrals to child protection authorities. NGOs generally lack the funds to represent children.
Some 35,000 unaccompanied children and some 23,600 young adults were under the protection of the youth welfare offices or private guardians in Germany in July.
Guardians in Austria are overburdened, with an estimated 50 to 200 children per guardian, according to Asylum Coordination Austria.
Access to guardians varies greatly in Sweden’s 290 municipalities, but the lack of resources for supervision of the guardians is an overall concern, according to the Chief Guardian Committee.
In Greece, some 1,350 unaccompanied children continued to wait for accommodation in specialised facilities. The total number of available places remained at 1,226. In total, some 2,350 unaccompanied children were estimated to be residing in the country.
Human Rights Watch reported from Lesvos that unaccompanied children were registered as adults and left in vulnerable situations as they often lived in camps without specific services or protection, adequate sanitary conditions, basic resources or access to schooling.
According to the Greek Ombudsman, many unaccompanied children were held in police stations in northern Greece for several weeks in inappropriate conditions. The NGO Arsis reported inhumane living conditions at the Amygdaleza pre-removal centre, affecting 25 unaccompanied children, with a lack of cleaning staff, dirty or broken toilets, and mattresses on the floor without linens; one child attempted to commit suicide. Safe zones at sites in Elaionas or Schisto have not yet been established. The NGO additionally reported procedural issues, such as the use of “childhood tests” by the police to determine the age of children, the lack of appointment of guardians, and lacking psychological support and interpretation.
An educational project (“Step2School”) in Athens, Greece, aims to prepare refugee and migrant children for the coming school year. The US Embassy in Athens offered 200 education scholarships to refugees at US-affiliated colleges in Athens and Thessaloniki.
According to UNHCR, children constitute 15 % of all arrivals in Italy, an overwhelming share of whom are unaccompanied (94 %). According to the Italian Ministry of Interior, more than 12,580 unaccompanied children arrived in Italy in 2017.
Some 50 asylum seekers, mainly children, protested against reception conditions in Bologna, where they live in overcrowded facilities together with adults. In Corigliano Calabro, more than 110 unaccompanied children were still waiting for adequate accommodation; some of them had been accommodated in a local sports facility, while others absconded.
In Hungary, children in families and unaccompanied children above the age of 14 continued to be accommodated in the transit zones rather than being placed in other facilities with child-specific services. Incidents of police violence also affected unaccompanied children, who subsequently decided to resort to using human smugglers, according to UNHCR.
Care for unaccompanied children in Calais, as requested by the Public Defender of Rights in France, remained insufficient. Several associations published a joint statement condemning the shortcomings in the provision of support, in particular the persistently poor co-operation between the police and social services and the fact that children were accommodated in hotels with no support and no access to school.
Unaccompanied children often had to wait for more than 15 months for their asylum interview in Austria, according to Asylum Coordination Austria. The Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum created focal points with specially trained staff for particularly complicated asylum cases involving children.
Several voluntary activities, such as donations, city tours, recreational and educational activities for asylum-seeking children were organised by civil society organisations and schools in Bulgaria.
Municipalities in Sweden continued to have sufficient capacity to receive unaccompanied children because there have been fewer new arrivals, according to the National Board of Health and Welfare. Some schools and specially assigned accommodation centres for unaccompanied children therefore closed down. The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden expressed concern that these facilities could not be re-opened quickly enough to respond should there be a sudden increase in the number of asylum-seeking children.
The psychological health of young asylum seekers and migrants, especially unaccompanied children, remained the main fundamental rights concern for the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden. Children were afraid of age assessments that would deem them to be 18 or above, which would mean losing their privileges as children. Some reportedly chose homelessness over moving to the Swedish Migration Agency’s accommodation centres for adults.
Children’s individual needs based on their gender, age, sexual orientation, disability or severe trauma are not sufficiently examined in Sweden, the Ombudsman for Children noted. Furthermore, he noted that children are not sufficiently heard in the asylum procedure.
A new compensation system for unaccompanied children entered into force in Sweden, granting municipalities a standard sum per child.
The number of children arriving in Spain on small boats increased significantly, according to the Jesuit Refugee Service. Many children waiting to enter Spain in Ceuta and Melilla remained unidentified and without access to asylum or other protection, UNICEF reported.
According to the Danish Immigration Service, unaccompanied child siblings were separated and placed in separate facilities in two cases.
In Hungary, unaccompanied children below the age of 14 continued to be transferred to the children’s home in Fót, from where they typically go missing.
In Germany, some 945 children up to 13 years old and some 5,500 children aged 14 to 17 were registered as missing, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office. Given their high number, the German Child Welfare Association demanded better cooperation between the police, federal authorities, search services such as that of the German Red Cross as well as youth welfare organisations.
According to the Swedish Migration Agency, in Sweden, some 720 children who had applied for asylum have gone missing, 170 of whom were unaccompanied.
In Denmark, some 60 unaccompanied child asylum seekers were registered as missing in the Danish Immigration Service’s Booking System.
The State Secretary for Security and Justice in the Netherlands informed the House of Representatives that 30 children went missing from specialised facilities in 2016, and fewer than five did so in the first quarter of 2017. In all but one case, the children were of Vietnamese nationality. This prompted an agreement with the guardianship institution Nidos, allowing the institution to request placing Vietnamese children in a closed facility for youth care if it considers them at risk of disappearing.
The Slovak Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family stated that, out of 15 unaccompanied children placed in the reception centre Medzilaborce, seven went missing. The position of a psychologist for unaccompanied children was created in the centre and cooperation with the police was intensified to prevent children from going missing.
27 NGOs criticised limitations imposed on the number of asylum seekers transferred from Greece to Germany under the family reunification procedure, alleging that this constituted a de facto violation of the principle of family unity and the best interests of the child and hindered the protection and integration of asylum seekers. Some 100 asylum seekers, including many women and children, protested outside the German Embassy in Athens, complaining about the monthly limit of family reunification transfers agreed on by Germany and Greece.
Access to family reunification remained restricted in Germany, according to NGOs. The right to facilitated reunification has been suspended until March 2018 for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. In addition, the facilitated right does not apply to refugees who request their family to be reunited with them more than three months after their final status determination. Within the regular – not facilitated – family reunification procedure, applicants have to prove that they can cover the cost of living of their family members and that they have sufficient living space for themselves and their families, which has often made family reunification impossible.
Some 3,680 persons were held in pre-removal and detention facilities in Greece.
At the identification and expulsion centre in Brindisi, Italy, some 40 detainees have been accommodated in six overheated tents in generally inadequate conditions. Around half of the detainees had served criminal prison sentences before being detained in the centre, where they are now waiting for their expulsion. Others who arrived by sea sometimes have to wait in the centre for several months before they can move to more suitable accommodations.
Hungary ordered the detention of some 50 persons. As some were released or returned, 30 persons remained in detention at the end of the month, including 23 asylum seekers.
A total of 446 persons were accommodated in detention facilities in Bulgaria (with an occupancy rate of about 47 %), according to the Ministry of the Interior. The majority of these persons were from Afghanistan (about 33 %) and Pakistan (about 20 %).
In Poland, more than 270 persons were placed in immigration detention during the second quarter of 2017. Several NGOs report that legal assistance was not systematically available to asylum seekers in detention and in open centres as available EU funds (Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund) continued to be implemented inefficiently.
Figures for pre-removal detention in Germany could only be provided for three out of 16 Federal States: Ingelheim (Rhineland-Palatinate), where some 40 persons were detained; Eichstätt (Bavaria), where this number was some 80; and Bremen, with three persons in pre-removal detention.
In France, no alternatives to detention, not even for children, were available – even though, according to the law, children could only be detained in exceptional cases, such as when presenting fake identity documents. In practice, children were detained prior to their removal on a regular basis without an individual assessment, as pointed out by the National Association of Border Assistance for Foreigners.
At the French-Italian border, detention was systematically ordered. The Public Defender of Rights and civil society organisations regularly intervened to contest the detention of children. As a result, a family with four children was released. However, another family with an eight-month-pregnant woman and an eight-month-old sick baby had to stay in detention, where the woman had a miscarriage.
In the Netherlands, 330 persons were being held in detention at the beginning of 2017. In 2016, some 2,560 persons were detained, including some 30 unaccompanied children, and some 2,450 persons released from immigration detention. Measures restricting children’s freedom of movement to the municipality of the facility had been applied in 930 cases.
In Spain, the supervisory judge of the Aliens Detention Centres in Madrid ordered several measures to ensure access to asylum, including designating a place in the centre for the submission of applications, the mandatory registration of all applications, and systematic provision of information on asylum procedures to detainees by way of a translated newsletter. The judge further ordered basic healthcare services to be available 24 hours a day, and for all police officers to visibly display their names.
A manager at the immigration detention centre in Kållered, Sweden, allegedly told his staff to provoke mentally unstable detainees until they reacted with violence to have them transferred to other ordinary detention centres to ease the burden on the centre. The Swedish Migration Agency launched an internal inquiry.
According to the Human Rights League in Slovakia, 27 children in families were held in detention in the first quarter of 2017, for an average length of 19 days. No children were in detention in the second quarter of 2017.
The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) proposed that the CJEU dismiss the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary challenging the legality of the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy, considering the mechanism a proportionate means to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration situation.
The CJEU ruled that Croatia was competent for asylum applications of persons who crossed its borders to Slovenia and then to Austria in 2015 and 2016. The decision will, however, presently only affect a very low number of cases, according to Caritas Vienna.
The German Constitutional Court ruled that the deportation of a terror suspect to Algeria was in compliance with the Constitution.
In a similar case, the European Court for Human Rights (ECtHR) preliminarily stopped the deportation of a Russian citizen pending a decision on the merits. The German Constitutional Court had allowed the deportation before the ECtHR’s preliminary ruling.
The German Act to speed up the deportation of rejected asylum seekers came into effect. It introduces restrictions to several asylum laws, including new powers to examine asylum seekers’ mobile phones. Furthermore, persons scheduled for deportation can be detained if they are considered a threat to public security. Finally, short-term detention immediately before deportation can be extended from a maximum of 4 days to a maximum of 10 days.
Germany also adopted the Network Enforcement Act, which obliges providers of social networks to delete and report unlawful content, such as hate speech, on their website.
An amendment of the police law in Bavaria, Germany, extended the time limit for preventive custody of terror suspects from 14 days to an unlimited time span, if confirmed by a judge every three months. Opposition parties and lawyers strongly opposed the law, deeming it unconstitutional.
The Bulgarian government published a set of draft amendments to the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act for public consultation. NGOs welcomed that the draft introduced new alternatives to pre-removal detention as well as an obligation for unaccompanied children to have a legal representative. On the other hand, NGOs criticised the proposed repealing of the requirement for an individual assessment and a proportionality assessment for placing foreign nationals in short-term detention. The proposed repeal of the requirement for an assessment of the best interests of the child before placing children in short-term immigration detention prompted the most concern.
The Bulgarian government adopted a new regulation on the integration of foreigners. UNHCR Bulgaria condemned the new regulation for not addressing problems refugees face in accessing social housing and family benefits for children.
The Netherlands amended the Aliens Circular allowing for the resumption of returns to Burundi.
The passing of the Amendment Act on Alien Law by the Austrian Parliament in June will need to be repeated due to an error in the publication of the law. However, there are no regular parliamentary sessions before the parliamentary elections in October. The law aims to introduce a new type of residence restriction, restrictions on basic care for persons who have received a negative asylum decision, the acceleration of asylum withdrawal procedures in case of conviction for criminal offences, and a provision allowing the exercise of coercive power by personnel in accommodation facilities.
The Swedish Migration Agency changed its practice regarding asylum seekers from Eritrea following a verdict by the Migration Court of Appeal. The court ruled that a man from Eritrea, who had left Eritrea illegally to escape the national military service, should be granted refugee status (instead of subsidiary protection).
In Slovakia, a draft Act on the Protection and Support of Victims of Crimes, which regulates victims’ rights, has been proposed. It only applies to nationals, meaning asylum seekers cannot benefit from such rights.
The Ministers of the Interior of France, Germany and Italy, and the European Commission, proposed several measures in solidarity with Italy. These include a code of conduct for NGOs operating at sea; increased support to the Libyan coast guard; additional support to IOM and UNHCR for activities in Libya; strengthening the EU strategy on returns; and accelerating relocation. NGOs criticised the measures for externalising migration management to the detriment of fundamental rights and called for an increase in legal avenues to enter Europe.
The code of conduct adopted for NGOs operating at sea prohibits NGOs from entering Libyan territorial waters, foresees the presence of police officers aboard NGO vessels, prohibits NGOs from communicating with smugglers, forbids NGOs to switch off the transponder, and obliges them not to obstruct the Libyan coast guard.
The Italian Ministry of Interior announced the establishment of six new hotspots in the coming months, to be set up in Palermo (Sicily), Syracuse (Sicily), Cagliari (Sardinia), Crotone (Calabria), Reggio Calabria and Corigliano Calabro. Plans for an additional hotspot in Civitavecchia (Lazio) were cancelled as the mayor claimed that technical requirements for such a facility could not be met. The local population had already strongly opposed such plans.
Italy also considered the possibility of issuing temporary visas allowing migrants to travel to other EU Member States.
The police in Hungary launched criminal proceedings against 50 persons suspected of using forged public documents to try to enter Hungary.
The Netherlands launched an information campaign in Albania aimed at dissuading Albanians from coming to the EU for asylum or irregular work.
The Danish Peoples Party (Dansk Folkeparti) praised the use of fences to keep immigrants out in Hungary and the USA, and stated that Europe should do the same.
The Alien Police Department in Slovakia will move to a remote part of Bratislava, which is difficult to access even with the help of smartphone applications.
An international network of racist and far-right organisations, “Defend Europe”, has rented vessels to try to obstruct save-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea carried out by NGOs. The network’s C-star vessel was expected to dock at the port of Catania (Sicily), Italy, which NGOs and the mayor of Catania urged public authorities, such as the Ministry of Public Transport and Infrastructure, to prevent. NGOs also held a press conference and organised a demonstration condemning the initiative.
Before reaching Sicily, the C-star vessel was stopped, in areas of Cyprus not under the effective control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus, for alleged people smuggling and several members of its crew applied for asylum. The network of racist and far-right organisations claimed that the 20 Sri Lankans among its crew were “apprentice sailors” undergoing training and alleged that NGOs had offered them money if they applied for asylum.
The mayor of Kos, Greece, asked the government to stop transferring returnees to the pre-removal facility in Kos, noting that the island is a tourist destination and not a “warehouse”.
In Germany, the right-wing political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the anti-migrant network Pegida criticised and protested against the newly adopted Network Enforcement Act, claiming it would restrict freedom of expression. At the same time, human rights organisations, such as Reporters without Borders, warned against potentially privatising censorship of expression. The Central Council of Jews welcomed the law as a strong instrument against hate speech in social networks.
In France, non-governmental associations supporting migrants published an article asking the national authorities to make a major change in migration policy towards greater humanity. In particular, they called for an end to police violence, an end to deportations of people originating from countries at war, such as Afghanistan, and an end to the detention of families with children.
275 associations launched the National Citizens’ Conference on the reception and the rights of migrant people in France, aiming to promote exchanges between the authorities and civil society to support migrants. The National Consultative Committee on Human Rights demanded that the government raise the amount of the allowance for asylum applicants and to also grant it to children.
The Foreign Minister of Austria stated that Austria would ‘protect’ the Brenner border crossing point in case of a refugee influx. For this purpose, it would be possible to mobilise some 750 soldiers and four tanks within three days.
The Dutch Council for Refugees and the company Ben&Jerry’s launched the campaign “Together for refugees, home safe home”, urging the Dutch government to increase its resettlement quota from 500 to 5,000.
Several demonstrations against migrants took place in Italy during the reporting period. In Rome, members of the CasaPound Italia party demonstrated for closing the local reception centre and against migration in general. Citizens in Turin similarly demanded the closure of the local reception centre. Arson attacks destroyed a hotel in Brescia that was supposed to accommodate asylum seekers, as well as an encampment hosting 600 migrants in the Calabria region (Reggio Calabria).
In nearby Rome, CasaPound Italia members organised a raid at the beach against street vendors with migrant backgrounds; they were charged with coercion and unauthorised demonstration.
An Ivorian migrant who was legally staying in Italy died from appendicitis after he was first sent home from the hospital and, when he tried to return, a taxi driver and several local police officers allegedly refused to take him back to the hospital.
Firecrackers exploded near a reception centre in the Rome area.
In Germany, eight violent attacks directed against asylum seekers and three arson attacks against reception facilities were reported. The German Federal Criminal Police Office registered 277 offences against migrants, with 56 acts of violence and 50 injured persons, in May 2017.
According to a study in Hungary, nearly 80 % of all comments made online in 2016 about the migration situation were negative, containing racist and xenophobic reactions and hate speech.
The Hungarian government launched a campaign against migration, including slogans such as “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh!” and “National consultation 2017 – 99 % reject illegal migration”, insinuating that György Soros, the American billionaire, was the engine behind the migration situation in Europe.
Inhabitants of Séméac, France, built a 1.80-metre-high and 18-metre-long wall to block access to a hotel that was to be transformed into a reception centre for migrants, according to the Public Defender of Rights.
In Poland, the number of racist, xenophobic and related incidents against migrants has been rising, according to the Association for Legal Intervention and the NGO Hatestop.
In Oisterwijik, the Netherlands, visitors at the annual fair blamed three asylum seekers for alleged indecent behaviour towards women. Upon their return to the asylum centre, 10 locals attacked the asylum seekers, one of whom had to be hospitalised.
The Stockholm District Court convicted three men for carrying out a bomb attack outside an accommodation centre for asylum applicants in Gothenburg, at which a member of staff was seriously injured. They were given prison sentences of between six months and one year and between six months and eight years.
A Bulgarian court acquitted a man who allegedly posted a video showing three Afghan migrants lying tied up on the ground near the Turkish border, ruling that there was insufficient evidence against him.
An increased number of hate speech incidents occurred in Slovakia. These mainly related to a photo of a Muslim woman bathing in Aqua Park in the town of Poprad, dressed in a whole body swimsuit. On the country’s national holiday (July 5), the prime minister said that Europe should be protected from migration and Islam.