European migrant crisis – Wikipedia

The European migrant crisis,[2][3][4][5][6] also known as the refugee crisis,[7][8][9][10] was a period characterised by high numbers of people arriving in the European Union (EU) from across the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southeast Europe.[11][12] The migrant crisis (officially from 2015 to 2019[13]) was part of a pattern of increased immigration to Europe from other continents which began in the mid-20th century.[14] Between January 2015 and March 2016, according to the UNHCR, the top three nationalities among over one million Mediterranean Sea arrivals were Syrian refugees (46.7%), Afghan refugees (20.9%) and Iraqi refugees (9.4%).[15] Opposition to immigration in many European countries appeared to result partly from the socio-economic threat they were perceived to represent.[14] According to the President of the EC in November 2015, there was a "race against time" to save the "Schengen Agreement".[16] The number of illegal crossings fallen from 1.8 million in 2015 to 204,219 in 2017.[17] In March 2019, the EC declared the migrant crisis to be at an end.[13]

The majority of people arriving in Italy and Greece especially have been from countries mired in war (Syrian civil war (2011present), War in Afghanistan (2001present), Iraqi conflict (2003present)) or which otherwise are considered to be 'refugee-producing' and for whom international protection is needed. However, a smaller proportion is from elsewhere, and for many of these individuals, the term 'migrant' would be correct." Immigrants (a person from a non-EU country establishing his or her usual residence in the territory of an EU country for a period that is, or is expected to be, at least twelve months) include asylum seekers and economic migrants.[18] Some research suggested that record population growth in Africa and the Middle East was one of the drivers of the crisis,[19] and it was also suggested that global warming could increase migratory pressures in the future.[20][21][22] In rare cases, immigration has been a cover for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants disguised as refugees or migrants.[23][24]

Most of the migrants came from regions south and east of Europe, including the Greater Middle East and Africa.[25] Of the migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015, 58% were males over 18 years of age (77% of adults), 17% were females over 18 (22% of adults) and the remaining 25% were under 18.[26] By religious affiliation, the majority of entrants were Muslim, with a small component of non-Muslim minorities (including Yazidis, Assyrians and Mandeans). The number of deaths at sea rose to record levels in April 2015, when five boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people.[27] The shipwrecks took place in a context of ongoing conflicts and refugee crises in several Asian and African countries, which increased the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2014 to almost 60 million, the highest level since World War II.[28][29]

Between 2007 and 2011, large numbers of migrants from the Middle East and Africa crossed between Turkey and Greece, leading Greece and the European Border Protection agency Frontex to upgrade border controls.[34] In 2012, immigrant influx into Greece by land decreased by 95 percent after the construction of a fence on that part of the GreekTurkish frontier which does not follow the course of the Maritsa River.[35] In 2015, Bulgaria followed by upgrading a border fence to prevent migrant flows through Turkey.[36][37]

Between 2010 and 2013, around 1.4 million non-EU nationals, asylum seekers and refugees not included, immigrated in the EU each year, while around 750,000 of such non-EU nationals emigrated from the EU in those years, resulting in around 650,000 net immigration each year, but decreasing from 750,000 to 540,000 between 2010 and 2013.[30]

Prior to 2014, the number of asylum applications in the EU peaked in 1992 (672,000), 2001 (424,000) and 2013 (431,000). In 2014 it reached 626,000.[38] According to the UNHCR, the EU countries with the biggest numbers of recognised refugees at the end of 2014 were France (252,264), Germany (216,973), Sweden (142,207) and the United Kingdom (117,161). No European state was among the top ten refugee-hosting countries in the world.[28]

Prior to 2014, the number of illegal border crossings detected by Frontex at the external borders of the EU peaked in 2011, with 141,051 total (sea and land combined).[39]

According to Eurostat, EU member states received over 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015, more than double that of the previous year. Four states (Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Austria) received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications in 2015, with Hungary, Sweden and Austria being the top recipients of asylum applications per capita.[40] More than 1 million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, considerably dropping to 364,000 in 2016.[41] Numbers of arriving migrants fell again in 2017.[42]

In 2010 the European Commission commissioned a study on the financial, political and legal implications of a relocation of migrants in Europe.[43] The report concluded that there were several options for dealing with the issues relating to migration within Europe, and that most member states favoured an "ad hoc mechanism based on a pledging exercise among the Member States".[43]

Article 26 of the Schengen Convention[44] says that carriers which transport people into the Schengen area shall if they transport people who are refused entry into the Schengen Area, be responsible to pay for the return of the refused people, and pay penalties.[45] Further clauses on this topic are found in EU directive 2001/51/EC.[46] This has had the effect that migrants without a visa are not allowed on aircraft, boats or trains going into the Schengen Area, so migrants without a visa have resorted to migrant smugglers.[47] Humanitarian visas are in general not given to refugees who want to apply for asylum.[48]

The laws on migrant smuggling ban helping migrants to pass any national border if the migrants are without a visa or other permission to enter. This has caused many airlines to check for visas and refuse passage to migrants without visas, including through international flights inside the Schengen Area. After being refused air passage, many migrants then attempt to travel overland to their destination country. According to a study carried out for the European Parliament, "penalties for carriers, who assume some of the control duties of the European police services, either block asylum-seekers far from Europe's borders or force them to pay more and take greater risks to travel illegally".[49][50]

Factors cited as immediate triggers or causes of the sudden and massive increase in migrant numbers in the summer of 2015 along the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan route (Turkey-Greece-North Macedonia-Serbia-Hungary) include:

The opening of the North Macedonia route enabled migrants from the Middle East to take very short, inexpensive voyages from the coast of Turkey to the Greek Islands, instead of the far longer, more perilous, and far more expensive voyage from Libya to Italy. According to the Washington Post, in addition to reducing danger, this lowered the cost from around $56,000 to $23,000.[51]

On 18 June 2015 the government of North Macedonia announced that it was changing its policy on migrants entering the country illegally. Previously, migrants were forbidden from transiting North Macedonia, causing those who chose to do so to take perilous, clandestine modes of transit, such as walking along railroad tracks at night. Beginning in June, migrants were given three-day, temporary asylum permits, enabling them to travel by train and road.[52][51]

In the summer of 2015, the situation on the western Balkan route worsened. Several thousand people passed through North Macedonia and Serbia every day, and more than 100,000 by July. [53] Hungary started building the border fence with Serbia. Both states were overwhelmed organizationally and economically. In August 2015, a police crackdown on migrants crossing from Greece failed in North Macedonia, causing the police to instead turn their attention to diverting migrants north, into Serbia.[54] On 18 October 2015, Slovenia began restricting admission to 2,500 migrants per day, stranding migrants in Croatia as well as Serbia and North Macedonia.[55][56] The humanitarian conditions were catastrophic; Refugees were waiting for illegal helpers at illegal assembly points without any infrastructure.[57][58]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed Europe and the United States for the migrant crisis, saying most of the refugees are fleeing the "terrorism" that he accuses the West of fomenting by supporting elements of the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, the Syrian government announced increased military conscription, and simultaneously made it easier for Syrians to obtain passports, leading Middle East policy experts to speculate that he was implementing a policy to encourage opponents of his regime to "leave the country".[51]

NATO's four-star General in the United States Air Force commander in Europe stated on the issue of indiscriminate weapons used by Bashar al-Assad, and the non-precision use of weapons by the Russian forces are the reason which cause refugees to be on the move.[59] Gen. Philip Breedlove accused Russia and the Assad regime of "deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve".[59]

Europe needs to fulfil its humanitarian duty, helping those fleeing for their lives, and as a Christian-Democrat, I want to reiterate that is not Christian rights, but human rights that Europe invented. But we also need to better secure our external borders and make sure that asylum rules are used properly and not abused.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament.

Slavoj iek identifies a "double blackmail" in the debate on the migrant crisis: those who argue Europe's borders should be entirely opened to refugees, and those who argue that the borders should be closed completely.[60][pageneeded]

European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said that the European Commission "does not care about the political cost" of its handling of the migration crisis, because it's there for five years to do its job "with vision, responsibility and commitment" and what drives it "is not to be re-elected", and invited European national leaders to do likewise and stop worrying about reelection.[61][62]

On 31 August 2015, according to The New York Times, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union, in some of her strongest language theretofore on the immigrant crisis, warned that freedom of travel and open borders among the 28 member states of the EU could be jeopardised if they did not agree on a shared response to this crisis.[63]

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republicans and former French president, compared EU migrant plan to "mending a burst pipe by spreading water round the house while leaving the leak untouched".[64] Following German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow tens of thousands of people to enter Germany, Sarkozy criticised her, saying that it would attract even greater numbers of people to Europe, where a significant part would "inevitably" end up in France due to the EU's free movement policies and the French welfare state. He also demanded that the Schengen agreement on borderless travel should be replaced with a new agreement providing border checks for non-EU citizens.[65]

Italian Prime Minister and Secretary of the Italian Democratic Party Matteo Renzi said the EU should forge a single European policy on asylum.[66] French Prime Minister Manuel Valls of the French Socialist Party stated, "There must be close cooperation between the European Commission and member states as well as candidate members."[67] Sergei Stanishev, President of the Party of European Socialists, stated:

At this moment, more people in the world are displaced by conflict than at any time since the Second World War. ... Many die on the approach to Europe in the Mediterranean yet others perish on European soil. ... As social democrats the principle of solidarity is the glue that keeps our family together. ... We need a permanent European mechanism for fairly distributing asylum-seekers in European member states. ... War, poverty and the stark rise in inequality are global, not local problems. As long as we do not address these causes globally, we cannot deny people the right to look for a more hopeful future in a safer environment.[68]

According to The Wall Street Journal, the appeal of Eurosceptic politicians has increased.[69]

Nigel Farage, leader of the British anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party and co-leader of the eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, blamed the EU "and Germany in particular" for giving "huge incentives for people to come to the European Union by whatever means" and said that this would make deaths more likely. He claimed that the EU's Schengen agreement on open borders had failed and that Islamists could exploit the situation and enter Europe in large numbers, saying that "one of the ISIL terrorist suspects who committed the first atrocity against holidaymakers in Tunisia has been seen getting off a boat onto Italian soil".[70][71] In 2013, Farage had called on the UK government to accept more Syrian refugees,[72] before clarifying that those refugees should be Christian due to the existence of nearer places of refuge for Muslims.[73]Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front and co-president of the former Europe of Nations and Freedom (EMF) grouping, accused Germany of looking to hire "slaves" by opening its doors to large numbers of asylum seekers among a debate in Germany whether there should be exceptions to the recently introduced minimum wage law for refugees.[74][75] Le Pen also accused Germany of imposing its immigration policy on the rest of the EU unilaterally.[76] Her comments were reported by the German[77] and Austrian press,[78] and were called "abstruse claims" by the online edition of Der Spiegel.[79] Centreright daily Die Welt wrote that she "exploits the refugee crisis for anti-German propaganda".[80]

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (a member of the former EMF grouping), who is known for his criticism of Islam, called the influx of people an "Islamic invasion" during a debate in the Dutch parliament, speaking about "masses of young men in their twenties with beards singing Allahu Akbar across Europe".[81] He also dismissed the idea that people arriving in Western Europe via the Balkans are genuine refugees, stating: "Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia are safe countries. If you flee them then you are doing it for benefits and a house."[82]

After the migrant shipwreck on 19 April 2015, Italy's Premier Matteo Renzi spoke by telephone to French President Franois Hollande and to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.[83][84] They agreed to call for an emergency meeting of European interior ministers to address the problem of migrant deaths. Renzi condemned human trafficking as a "new slave trade"[85] while Prime Minister Muscat said 19 April shipwreck was the "biggest human tragedy of the last few years". Hollande described people traffickers as "terrorists" who put migrant lives at risk. The German government's representative for migration, refugees and integration, Aydan zouz, said that with more migrants likely to arrive as the weather turned warmer, emergency rescue missions should be restored. "It was an illusion to think that cutting off Mare Nostrum would prevent people from attempting this dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean", she said.[86][87][87][88] Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, called for collective EU action ahead of a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday 20 April.[88][89]

In a press conference, Renzi confirmed that Italy had called an "extraordinary European council" meeting as soon as possible to discuss the tragedy,[90] various European leaders agreed with this idea.[91][92] Cameron tweeted on 20 April that he "supported" Renzi's "call for an emergency meeting of EU leaders to find a comprehensive solution" to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.[93] He later confirmed that he would attend an emergency summit of European leaders on Thursday.[94]

On 20 April 2015, the European Commission proposed a 10-point plan to tackle the crisis:[95]

A year after the 10-point plan was introduced[when?], the European Commission also began the process for reforming the Common European Asylum system.

Started in 1999, the European Commission began devising a plan to create a unified asylum system for those seeking refuge and asylum. Named the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the system sought to address three key problems which consisted of asylum shopping, differing outcomes in different EU Member States for those seeking asylum, and differing social benefits in different EU Member States for those seeking asylum.[96]

In an attempt to address these issues, the European Commission created five components that sought to fulfill minimum standards for asylum:[96]

Completed in 2005, the Common European Asylum System sought to protect the rights those seeking asylum. The system proved to create differing implementation across EU states, building an uneven system of twenty-eight asylum systems across individual states. Due to this divided asylum system and problems with the Dublin system, the European Commission proposed a reform of the Common European Asylum System in 2016.[97]

Starting on 6 April 2016, the European Commission began the process of reforming the Common European Asylum System and creating measures for safe and managed paths for legal migration to Europe. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans stated that, "we need a sustainable system for the future, based on common rules, a fairer sharing of responsibility, and safe legal channels for those who need protection to get it in the EU."[98]

The European Commission identified five areas that needed improvement in order to successfully reform the Common European Asylum System:[98]

To create safer and more efficient legal migration routes, the European Commission sought to meet the following five goals:[98]

On 13 July 2016, the European Commission introduced the proposals to complete the reform of the Common European Asylum System. The reform sought to create a just policy for asylum seekers, while providing a new system that was simple and shortened. Ultimately, the reform proposal attempted to create a system that could handle normal and impacted times of migratory pressure.[99]

The European Commission's outline for reform proposed the following:[99]

The 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck involved "more than 360" deaths, leading the Italian government to establish Operation Mare Nostrum, a large-scale naval operation that involved search and rescue, with some migrants brought aboard a naval amphibious assault ship.[101] In 2014, the Italian government ended the operation, calling the costs too large for one EU state alone to manage; Frontex assumed the main responsibility for search and rescue operations. The Frontex operation is called Operation Triton.[102] The Italian government had requested additional funds from the EU to continue the operation but member states did not offer the requested support.[103] The UK government cited fears that the operation was acting as "an unintended 'pull factor', encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths".[104] The operation consisted of two surveillance aircraft and three ships, with seven teams of staff who gathered intelligence and conducted screening/identification processing. Its monthly budget was estimated at 2.9million.[102] Amid an upsurge in the number of sea arrivals in Italy from Libya in 2014, several European Union governments refused to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Frontex's Operation Triton in November 2014. In the first six months of 2015, Greece overtook Italy in the number of arrivals, becoming in the summer of 2015 the starting point of a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkan countries to Northern European countries, mainly Germany and Sweden.

The Guardian and Reuters noted that doubling the size of Operation Triton would still leave the mission with fewer resources than the previous Italian-run rescue option (Operation Mare Nostrum) whose budget was more than 3 times as large, had 4 times the number of aircraft[105] and had a wider mandate to conduct search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean Sea.[106]

On 23 April 2015, a five-hour emergency summit was held and EU heads of state agreed to triple the budget of Operation Triton to 120million for 20152016.[107] EU leaders claimed that this would allow for the same operational capabilities as Operation Mare Nostrum had had in 20132014. As part of the agreement the United Kingdom agreed to send HMSBulwark, two naval patrol boats and three helicopters to join the Operation.[107] On 5 May 2015 it was announced by the Irish Minister of Defence Simon Coveney that the L Eithne would also take part in the response to the crisis.[108] Amnesty International immediately criticised the EU response as "a face-saving not a life-saving operation" and said that "failure to extend Triton's operational area will fatally undermine today's commitment".[109]

On 18 May 2015, the European Union decided to launch a new operation based in Rome, called EU Navfor Med, under the command of the Italian Admiral Enrico Credendino,[110] to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels used by migrant smugglers.[111] The first phase of the operation, launched on 22 June, involved naval surveillance to detect smugglers' boats and monitor smuggling patterns from Libya towards Italy and Malta. The second phase, called "Operation Sophia", started in October, and was aimed at disrupting the smugglers' journeys by boarding, searching, seizing and diverting migrant vessels in international waters. The operation uses six EU warships.[112][113] As of April 2016, more than 13,000 migrants were rescued from the sea and 68 alleged smugglers were arrested in the course of the operation.[114]

The EU seeks to increase the scope of EU Navfor Med so that a third phase of the operation would include patrols inside Libyan waters in order to capture and dispose of vessels used by smugglers.[115][116][117] Land operations on Libya to destroy vessels used by smugglers had been proposed, but commentators note that such an operation would need a UN or Libyan permit.

The Greek islands (Kos, Leros, Chios, for example) serve as main entry points into Europe for Syrian refugees.[118]

The entry routes through the Western Balkan have experienced the greatest intensity of border restrictions in the 2015 EU migrant crisis, according to The New York Times[54] and other sources, as follows:

Beginning in 1999, the Tampere Agenda outlines the EUs policy on migration, presenting a certain openness towards freedom, security, and justice.[128] This agenda focuses on two central issues, including the development of a common asylum system and the enhancement of external border controls.[128] The externalization of borders with Turkey is essentially the transferring of border controls and management to foreign countries, which are in close proximity to EU countries.[129] The EUs decision to externalize its borders puts significant pressure on non-EU countries to cooperate with EU political forces.[130]

Communication on Global Approach to Migration and Mobility" (GAMM). The Migration Partnership Framework introduced in 2016 implements greater resettlement of migrants and alternative legal routes for migration.[128] The Migration Partnership Framework's goals aligns with the EUs efforts throughout the refugee crisis to deflect responsibility and legal obligations away from EU member states and onto transit and origin countries.[128] [131] By directing migrant flows to third countries,[clarification needed] policies place responsibilities on third countries[clarification needed].[131] States with insufficient resources are forced (by law) to ensure the protection of migrants rights, including the right to asylum.[131] Destination states under border externalization strategies are responsible for rights violated outside their own territory.[131] Fundamental rights of migrants can be impacted during the process of externalizing borders.[131] For example, child migrants are recognized to have special status under international law, yet during transit, they are vulnerable to trafficking and other crimes.

Between 11 and 12 November 2015, Valletta Summit on Migration between European and African leaders was held in Valletta, Malta, to discuss the migrant crisis. The summit resulted in the EU setting up an Emergency Trust Fund to promote development in Africa, in return for African countries to help out in the crisis.[132]

According to the Washington Post, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's public pledges (at a time of diplomatic standoff with the government of Hungary at the beginning of September, when tens of thousands of refugees were attempting to cross Hungarian territory without getting processed for asylum application in the country) that Germany would offer temporary residency to refugees, combined with television footage of cheering Germans welcoming refugees and migrants arriving in Munich,[133] persuaded large numbers of people to move from Turkey up the Western Balkan route.[51]

On 25 August 2015 according to The Guardian 'Germany's federal agency for migration and refugees' made it public, that "The #Dublin procedure for Syrian citizens is at this point in time effectively no longer being adhered to". During a press conference, "Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maizire, confirmed that the suspension of the Dublin agreement was "not as such a legally binding act", but more of a "guideline for management practice".[134] Around 24 August 2015, while thousands of migrants tried to reach Western Europe through the Balkans, a considerable proportion of them fleeing the Syrian Civil War, and noticing that most of the burden of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea fell on the peripheral southern EU member states Greece and Italy, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to news media, decided to no longer follow the rule under the 'Dublin' EU regulations for asylum seekers holding that migrants "can apply for asylum only in the first EU member state they enter"[135] (The 'Dublin' regulation actually holds that the migrant should apply for asylum in the first EU country where he was formally registered.)[citation needed] Germany ordered its officers to also process asylum applications from Syrians if they had come through other EU countries.[135] In the night of 4 September 2015, Merkel decided that Germany would admit the thousands of refugees who were stranded in Hungary,[136] in sweltering conditions,[137] and whom the Hungarian prime minister Orban had sent to the Austrian border.[138] With that decision, she reportedly aimed to prevent disturbances at the German borders.[138] The days following that 4 September, tens of thousands of refugees traveled from Hungary via Vienna into Germany.[136][137]

Analyst Will Hutton for the British newspaper The Guardian on 30 August 2015 praised Merkel's decisions on migration policies: "Angela Merkel's humane stance on migration is a lesson to us all The German leader has stood up to be counted. Europe should rally to her side She wants to keep Germany and Europe open, to welcome legitimate asylum seekers in common humanity, while doing her very best to stop abuse and keep the movement to manageable proportions. Which demands a European-wide response ()".[139]

The EU proposed to the Turkish government a plan in which Turkey would take back every refugee who entered Greece (and thereby the EU) illegally. In return, the EU would accept one person into the EU who is registered as a Syrian refugee in Turkey for every Syrian sent back from Greece.[141] 12 EU countries have national lists of so-called safe countries of origin. The European Commission is proposing one, common EU list designating as 'safe' all EU candidate countries (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey), plus potential EU candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.[142] The list would allow for faster returns to those countries, even though asylum applications from nationals of those countries would continue to be assessed on an individual, case-by-case basis.[142] International Law generated during the Geneva Convention states that a country is considered "safe" when there is a democratic system in a country and generally there is: no persecution, no torture, no threat of violence, and no armed conflict.[143]

In November, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoan reportedly threatened to send the millions of refugees in Turkey to EU member states if it was left to shoulder the burden alone.[144] On 12 November 2015, at the end of the two-day summit in Malta, EU officials announced an agreement to offer Turkey 3 billion over two years to manage more than 2 million refugees from Syria who had sought refuge there, in return for curbing migration through Turkey into the EU.[145] The 3 billion fund for Turkey was approved by the EU in February 2016.[146]

In January 2016, the Netherlands proposed that the EU take in 250,000 refugees a year from Turkey in return for Turkey closing the Aegean sea route to Greece, but Turkey rejected the plan.[147] Starting on 7 March 2016, the EU met with Turkey for another summit in Brussels to negotiate further solutions of the crisis. An original plan saw for the closing statement to declare the Western Balkan route closed. However, this was met with criticism from German chancellor Angela Merkel.[148] Turkey countered the offer by demanding a further 3 billion in order to help them in supplying the 2.7 million refugees in Turkey. In addition, the Turkish government asked for their citizens to be allowed to travel freely into the Schengen area starting at the end of June 2016, as well as an increased speed in talks of a possible accession of Turkey to the European Union.[149][150] The plan to send migrants back to Turkey was criticized on 8 March 2016 by the United Nations, which warned that it could be illegal to send the migrants back to Turkey in exchange of financial and political rewards.[151]

On 20 March 2016, an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, aiming to discourage migrants from making the dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece, came into effect. Under its terms, migrants arriving in Greece would be sent back to Turkey if they did not apply for asylum or their claim was rejected, whilst the EU would send around 2,300 experts, including security and migration officials and translators, to Greece in order to help implement the deal.[152]

It was also agreed that any irregular migrants who crossed into Greece from Turkey after 20 March 2016 would be sent back to Turkey, based on an individual case-by-case evaluation. Any Syrian returned to Turkey would be replaced by a Syrian resettled from Turkey to the EU, preferably the individuals who did not try to enter the EU illegally in the past and not exceeding a maximum of 72,000 people.[141] Turkish nationals would have access to the Schengen passport-free zone by June 2016 but this would not include non-Schengen countries such as the UK. The talks aiming at Turkey's accession to the EU as a member began in July 2016, and $3.3 billion in aid was to be delivered to Turkey.[152][153] The talks were suspended in November 2016, following the 2016 Turkish coup d'tat attempt.[154] A similar threat was raised as the European Parliament voted to suspend EU membership talks with Turkey in November 2016: "if you go any further," Erdoan declared, "these border gates will be opened. Neither me nor my people will be affected by these dry threats."[155][156]

Migrants from Greece to Turkey were to be given medical checks, registered and fingerprinted, then bused to "reception and removal" centres.[157][158] and later deported to their home countries.[157] The UNHCR's director Vincent Cochetel claimed in August 2016 that parts of the deal were already de facto suspended because of the post-coup absence of Turkish police at the Greek detention centres to oversee deportations.[159][160]

The UNHCR said it was not a party to the EU-Turkey deal and it would not be involved in returns or detention.[161] Like the UNHCR, four aid agencies (Mdecins Sans Frontires, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children) said they would not help implementing the EU-Turkey deal because blanket expulsion of refugees contravened international law.[162]

Amnesty International said that the agreement between EU and Turkey was "madness", and that 18 March 2016 was "a dark day for Refugee Convention, Europe and humanity". Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey and EU had the same challenges, the same future and the same destiny. Donald Tusk said that the migrants in Greece would not be sent back to dangerous areas.[163]

On 17 March 2017, Turkish interior minister Sleyman Soylu threatened to send 15,000 refugees to the European Union every month, while Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also threatened to cancel the deal.[164][165]

On 9 October 2019, the Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria began. Within the first week and a half 130,000 people were displaced. On 10 October it was reported that President Erdoan had threatened to send "millions" of Syrian refugees to Europe in response to criticism of his military offensive into Kurdish-controlled northern Syria. [166] On 27 February 2020, a senior Turkish official said Turkish police, coast guard and border security officials had received orders to no longer stop refugees land and sea crossings to Europe.[167]

European Union members legally obliged to join Schengen at a future date

Countries with open borders

In the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985, 26 European countries (22 of the 28 European Union member states, plus four European Free Trade Association states) joined together to form an area where border checks on internal Schengen borders (i.e. between member states) are abolished and instead checks are restricted to the external Schengen borders and countries with external borders are obligated to enforce border control regulations. Countries may reinstate internal border controls for a maximum of two months for "public policy or national security" reasons.[168]

The Dublin regulation determines the EU member state responsible to examine an asylum application to prevent asylum applicants in the EU from "asylum shopping", where applicants send their applications for asylum to numerous EU member states to get the best "deal" instead of just having "safety countries",[169] or "asylum orbiting", where no member state takes responsibility for an asylum seeker. By default (when no family reasons or humanitarian grounds are present), the first member state that an asylum seeker entered and in which they have been fingerprinted is responsible. If the asylum seeker then moves to another member state, they can be transferred back to the member state they first entered. This has led many to criticise the Dublin rules for placing too much responsibility for asylum seekers on member states on the EU's external borders (like Italy, Greece, Croatia and Hungary), instead of devising a burden-sharing system among EU states.[170][171][172]

In June 2016, the Commission to the European Parliament and Council addressed "inherent weaknesses" in the Common European Asylum System and proposed reforms for the Dublin Regulation.[173] Under the initial Dublin Regulation, responsibility was concentrated on border states that received a large influx of asylum seekers. A briefing by the European Parliament explained that the Dublin Agreement was only designed to assign responsibility, not effectively share responsibility.[174] The reforms would attempt to create a burden-sharing system through several mechanisms. The proposal would introduce a "centralized automated system" to record the number of asylum applications across the EU, with "national interfaces" within each of the Member States.[175] It would also present a "reference key" based on a Member State's GDP and population size to determine its absorption capacity.[175] When absorption capacity in a Member State exceeds 150 percent of its reference share, a "fairness mechanism" would distribute the excess number of asylum seekers across less congested Member States.[175] If a Member State chooses not to accept the asylum seekers, it would contribute 250,000 per application as a "solidarity contribution".[175] The reforms have been discussed in European Parliament since its proposal in 2016, and was included in a meeting on "The Third Reform of the Common European Asylum System Up for the Challenge" in 2017.[176]

Under the Dublin Regulation, an asylum seeker has to apply for asylum in the first EU country they entered, and, if they cross borders to another country after being fingerprinted, they can be returned to the former. As most asylum seekers try to reach Germany or Sweden through the other EU countries in order to apply for asylum there, and as 22 EU countries form the borderless Schengen area where internal border controls are abolished, enforcement of the Dublin Regulation became increasingly difficult during late summer 2015, with some countries allowing asylum seekers to transit through their territories and other countries renouncing the right to return them back or reinstating border controls within the Schengen Area to prevent them from entering. In July 2017, the European Court of Justice upheld the Dublin Regulation, despite the high influx of 2015, giving EU member states the right to deport migrants to the first country of entry to the EU.[177]

Countries responded in different ways:

The table "Expenditure on refugees (caseload) 20152016 (2016 summary)" summarizes the 1.7 million asylum applicants in 2015 will cost 18 billion in maintenance costs in 2016. The total 2015 and 2016 asylum caseload will cost 27.3 billion (27.296 in Mil.) in 2016. In the "Expenditure on refugees (caseload) 20152016 (2016 summary)," Sweden will bear the heaviest cost. [196]

The escalation in April 2015 of shipwrecks of migrant boats in the Mediterranean led European Union leaders to reconsider their policies on border control and processing of migrants.[88] On 20 April the European Commission proposed a 10-point plan that included the European Asylum Support Office deploying teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications.[197] Also in April 2015 German chancellor Angela Merkel proposed a new system of quotas to distribute non-EU asylum seekers around the EU member states.[198]

In September 2015, as thousands of migrants started to move from Budapest to Vienna, Germany, Italy and France demanded asylum-seekers be shared more evenly between EU states. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed to distribute 160,000 asylum seekers among EU states under a new migrant quota system to be set out. Jean Asselborn, the Luxembourg foreign minister, called for the establishment of a European Refugee Agency, which would have the power to investigate whether every EU member state is applying the same standards for granting asylum to migrants. Viktor Orbn, the prime minister of Hungary, criticised the European Commission warning that "tens of millions" of migrants could come to Europe. Asselborn declared to be "ashamed" of Orbn.[199][200] German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that EU members reluctant to accept compulsory migrant quotas may have to be outvoted: "if there is no other way, then we should seriously consider to use the instrument of a qualified majority".[201]




Non-EU state

Leaders of the Visegrd Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) declared in a September meeting in Prague that they will not accept any compulsory long-term quota on redistribution of immigrants.[202] Czech Government's Secretary for European Affairs Tom Prouza commented that "if two or three thousand people who do not want to be here are forced into the Czech Republic, it is fair to assume that they will leave anyway. The quotas are unfair to the refugees, we can't just move them here and there like a cattle." According to the Czech interior minister Milan Chovanec, from 2 September 2015, Czech Republic was offering asylum to every Syrian caught by the police notwithstanding the Dublin Regulation: out of about 1,300 apprehended until 9 September, only 60 decided to apply for asylum in the Czech Republic, with the rest of them continuing to Germany or elsewhere.[203]

Czech President Milo Zeman said that Ukrainian refugees fleeing War in Donbass should be also included in migrant quotas.[204] In November 2015, the Czech Republic started a program of medical evacuations of selected Syrian refugees from Jordan (400 in total). Under the program, severely sick children were selected for treatment in the best Czech medical facilities, with their families getting asylum, airlift and a paid flats in the Czech Republic after stating clear intent to stay in the country. However, from the initial 3 families that had been transported to Prague, one immediately fled to Germany. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stated that this signals that quota system will not work either.[205]

On 7 September 2015, France announced that it would accept 24,000 asylum-seekers over two years; Britain announced that it would take in up to 20,000 refugees, primarily vulnerable children and orphans from camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey; and Germany pledged US$6.7 billion to deal with the migrant crisis.[206][207] However, also on 7 September 2015, both Austria and Germany warned that they would not be able to keep up with the current pace of the influx and that it would need to slow down first.[208]

On 22 September 2015, European Union interior ministers meeting in the Justice and Home Affairs Council approved a plan to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers over two years from the frontline states Italy, Greece and Hungary to all other EU countries (except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom which have opt-outs). The relocation plan applies to asylum seekers "in clear need of international protection" (those with a recognition rate higher than 75 percent, i.e. Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis) 15,600 from Italy, 50,400 from Greece and 54,000 from Hungary who will be distributed among EU states on the basis of quotas taking into account the size of economy and population of each state, as well as the average number of asylum applications. The decision was taken by majority vote, with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia voting against and Finland abstaining. Since Hungary voted against the relocation plan, its 54,000 asylum seekers would not be relocated for now, and could be relocated from Italy and Greece instead.[209][210][211][212] Czech Interior Minister tweeted after the vote: "Common sense lost today."[213] Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is threatening legal action over EU's mandatory migrant quotas at European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.[214] On 9 October, the first 20 Eritrean asylum seekers were relocated by plane from Italy to Sweden,[215] following the EU prerequisite fingerprinting in Italy as the first member country of asylum registration.[216]

On 25 October 2015, the leaders of Greece and other states along Western Balkan routes to wealthier nations of Europe, including Germany, agreed to set up holding camps for 100,000 asylum seekers, a move which German Chancellor Merkel supported.[217]

On 12 November it was reported that Frontex was maintaining combined asylum seeker and deportation hotspots in Lesbos, Greece since October.[218]

On 15 December 2015, the EU proposed taking over the border and coastal security operations at major migrant entry pressure points, via its Frontex operation.[219]

By September 2016 the quota system proposed by EU has been abandoned for the time being, after staunch resistance by Visegrd Group countries.[220][221]

By 9 June 2017, 22,504 people have been resettled through the quota system, with over 2000 of them being resettled in May alone.[222] All relevant countries participate in the relocation scheme with exception of Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary,[223] against whom the European commission has consequentially launched sanctions procedure only to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary.[224]

Historically, migrants have often been portrayed as a "security threat," and there has been much focus on the narrative that terrorists maintain networks amongst transnational, refugee, and migrant populations. This fear has been exaggerated into a modern-day Islamist terrorism Trojan Horse in which terrorists hide among refugees and penetrate host countries.[225] In the wake of November 2015 Paris attacks, Poland's European affairs minister-designate Konrad Szymaski stated that he sees no possibility of enacting the EU refugee relocation scheme,[226] saying, "We'll accept [refugees only] if we have security guarantees."[227]

The attacks prompted European officialsparticularly German officialsto re-evaluate their stance on EU policy toward migrants, especially in light of the ongoing European migrant crisis.[228][229] Many German officials believed a higher level of scrutiny was needed, and criticised the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel defended her stance, and pointed out that a lot of migrants were fleeing terrorism.[229]

In January 2016, 18 of 31 men suspected of violent assaults on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve were identified as asylum seekers, prompting calls by German officials to deport convicted criminals who may be seeking asylum;[230] these sexual attacks brought about a fresh wave of anti-immigrant protests across Europe.[231] Merkel used Wir schaffen das during the violence and crime by the immigrants in Germany, including the 2016 Munich shooting, the 2016 Ansbach bombing, and the Wrzburg train attack.[232]

In 2016, according to the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, officials from Europol conducted an investigation into the trafficking of fake documents for ISIL. They identified fake Syrian passports in the refugee camps in Greece that were destined to supposed members of ISIL, in order to avoid Greek government controls and make their way to other parts of Europe. Also, the chief of Europol said that a new task force of 200 counter-terrorism officers would be deployed to the Greek islands alongside Greek border guards in order to help Greece stop a "strategic" level campaign by ISIL to infiltrate terrorists into Europe.[233]

In October 2016 Danish immigration minister Inger Stjberg authorities reported 50 cases of suspected radicalised asylum seekers at asylum centres. The reports encompassed everything from adult Islamic State sympathisers celebrating terror attacks to violent children who dress up as IS fighters decapitating teddy bears. Stjberg expressed her consternation at asylum seekers ostensibly fleeing war yet simultaneously supporting violence. Asylum centres having detected radicalisation routinely report their findings to police. The 50 incidents were reported between 17 November 2015 and 14 September 2016.[234][235]

In February 2017, British newspaper The Guardian reported that ISIL was paying the smugglers fees of up to $2,000 USD to recruit people from refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon child migrants in a desperate attempt to radicalize children for the group. The reports by counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam indicate that an estimated 88,300 unaccompanied childrenwho are reported as missingwere at risk of radicalization by ISIL.[236]

In December 2015, Hungary challenged EU plans to share asylum seekers across EU states at the European Court of Justice.[237] The border has been closed since 15 September 2015, with razor wire fence along its southern borders, particularly Croatia, and by blocking train travel.[238] The government believes that "illegal migrants" are job-seekers, threats to security and likely to "threaten our culture".[239] There have been cases of immigrants and ethnic minorities being attacked. In addition, Hungary has conducted wholesale deportations of refugees, who are generally considered to be allied with ISIL.[240] Refugees are outlawed and almost all are ejected.[240]

There can be instances of exploitation at the hands of enforcement officials, citizens of the host country, instances of human rights violations, child labor, mental and physical trauma/torture, violence-related trauma, and sexual exploitation, especially of children, have been documented. [241]

On October, 2015 German refugee attack plot was foiled by German police which was a plot by neo-Nazis to attack a refugee center with explosives, knives, a baseball bat and a gun. Nazi magazines and memorabilia from the Third Reich, flags emblazoned with banned swastikas were found. According to prosecutor goal was "to establish fear and terror among asylum-seekers". The accused claimed to be either the members of Die Rechte, or anti-Islam group Pegida (Ngida). [242]

In November 2016, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor issued a report regarding the humanitarian situation of migrants into Greece. It hosts 16.209 migrants on its island and 33.650 migrants on the mainland, most of whom are women and children. Because of lack of water, medical care and security protection witnessed by the Euro- Med monitor team- especially with the arrival of winter, they are at risk of serious deterioration in health, mostly children and pregnant women. 1,500 refugees were, accordingly, moved into other places since their camps were deluged with snow, but relocation of the refugees always came too late after they lived without electricity and heating devices for too long. It also showed that there is a lack of access to legal services and security protection to the refugees and migrants in the camps; there is no trust between the resident and the protection offices, paving a path for some people to report crimes and illegal acts in the camps. In addition, the migrants are subject to regular xenophobic attacks, fascist violence, forced strip searches at the hands of residents and police and detention. The women living in the Athens settlements and the Vasilika, Softex and Diavata camps feel worried about their children as they may be subjected to sexual abuse, trafficking and drug use. As a result, some of the refugees and migrants commit suicide, burn property and protest. Finally, it clarified the difficulties the refugees face when entering into Greece; more than 16,000 people are trapped while waiting for deportation on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, and the number of residents is double the capacity of the five islands.[243]

In August 2017 dozens of Afghani asylum seekers made a demonstration in a square in Stockholm against their pending deportations. They were attacked by a group of 1516 men who threw fireworks at them. Three protesters were injured and one was taken to hospital. None were arrested.[244]

According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 59,500,000 at the end of 2014, the highest level since World War II,[247] with a 40 percent increase taking place since 2011. Of these 59.5million, 19.5million were refugees (14.4million under UNHCR's mandate, plus 5.1million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA's mandate), and 1.8million were asylum-seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). The 14.4million refugees under UNHCR's mandate were around 2.7million more than at the end of 2013 (a 23 percent increase), the highest level since 1995. Among them, Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9million, 1.55million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades. Six of the ten largest countries of origin of refugees were African: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Eritrea.[28][248]

According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 65,600,000 at the end of 2016; the highest level since World War II. Of these 65,600,000, 22.5 million were refugees (17.2 million under UNHCR's mandate, plus 5.3 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA's mandate). 2.8 million of the refugees were asylum seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). The 17.2 million refugees under UNHCR's mandate were around 2.9 million more than at the end of 2014, the highest level since 1992.

As of 2017, 55 percent of refugees worldwide came from three nations: South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria. Of all displaced peoples, 17 percent of them are being hosted in Europe. As of April 2018, 15,481 refugees have successfully arrived to the shores of Europe via sea within the first few months of the year alone. There was an estimated 500 that have died in this year alone. In 2015, there was a total of 1.02 million arrivals by sea. Since then, the influx has steadily decreased but is ongoing nonetheless.[249]

See the original post here:

European migrant crisis - Wikipedia

Asylum Rights Denied, Migrants, Refugees Find Greek Island on the Brink – Balkan Insight

The conservative Greek governments decision to suspend asylum rights followed an order at the end of February from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in neighbouring Turkey for coast guards and border police to stand down and wave refugees and migrants through, ripping up a 2016 deal with the European Union to keep them inside Turkeys borders.

Refugees and migrants headed in droves to the Greek-Turkish border, only to find the Greek side closed. Thousands are now stuck in no mans land. Many have been pushed back with tear gas, and, reportedly, bullets.

Talks between the EU, Greece and Turkey have yet to break the deadlock.

Under the EU-Turkey deal signed in 2016, Ankara was promised six billion euros in aid to accommodate the refugees it prevented from reaching European soil.

But Erdogan, under pressure at home over heavy Turkish military losses in Syria, has repeatedly accused Europe of failing to fulfill its financial aid commitments, and threatened to open the border to some 3.6 million Syrian refugees inside Turkey and more migrants from elsewhere.

At the east end of the port of Lesbos, beside a locked gate, visitors came to offer support to those held inside. Among the visitors were migrants and refugees from the Moria camp on Lesbos, Europes largest and most notorious migrant camp where some 20,000 are housed in facilities built for 3,000.

They passed food and clothes over the fence. Others had just come to chat. A Greek policeman smoking nearby glanced over from time to time and told them to move along. Some Afghan children played by the fence, seeing how high they could climb. A young boy came dangerously close to the razor wire running along the top of the fence, before someone spotted him and lifted him down.

Detained in the port, Salem, an 18-year-old Syrian from the northwestern city of Idlib, chatted to her two teenage cousins through the fence. On hearing of Erdogans order, Salem, her mother and her two siblings decided to brave the sea crossing to Lesbos.

I want to see my father in Germany, Salem said. The other side of the fence, her cousins Esma and Isra have already spent six months on Lesbos.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, rights bodies and NGOs have condemned the Greek governments suspension of asylum rights. The watchdog Human Rights Watch said the move flagrantly violates international and European law.

Boats pushed back

Visit link:

Asylum Rights Denied, Migrants, Refugees Find Greek Island on the Brink - Balkan Insight

Failure to fix immigration undermines our ability to mitigate COVID-19 | TheHill – The Hill

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the country and the globe, the Trump administration has enacted a series of travel restrictions with other countries and new measures targeting asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border to combat the crisis.

Although President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe pandemic is bad, we need the capability to measure just how bad Florida governor wants federal disaster area declaration Amash calls stimulus package 'a raw deal' for 'those who need the most help' MORE has claimed that these measures would mitigate the crisis by stopping mass global migration that purportedly spreads COVID-19, they overlook the systemic problems in our health care infrastructure that failed to contain the virus in the country.

Unfortunately, this approach repeats the same mistakes of the administrations asylum policies at the U.S.-Mexico border by focusing on prevention and not the systems capacity to deal with a medical and immigration crisis.

Over the last year, the administration has relied on agreements with other countries to stem the flow of migrants at the southwest border. The "Remain in Mexico" program and the asylum agreement with Guatemala, for example, both allow asylum seekers to be whisked from the border to either wait for a hearing or seek asylum elsewhere. Although these programs led to a decline in arrivals at the Southwest border, the administration did not use that moment to fix the immigration systems problems.

These problems are legion. The immigration court system, which processes asylum cases, continues to be underfunded and understaffed, creating years-long backlogs for these cases. Customs and Border Protections infrastructure continues to lack the capacity to receive and process vulnerable populations like families and children with appropriate medical and humanitarian care.

Finally, the Department of Homeland Security does not have protocols for coordinating processing or managing the transfer of asylum seekers across its agencies or to the Department of Health and Human Services, nor to surge resources at the border to provide humanitarian assistance when needed.

These issues have limited the ability of the system to respond to the health crisis. Migrants in detention facilities face exposure to the virus if an employee contracts the virus and spreads it to their coworkers and detainees. The squalid conditions in the migrant camps on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border also create similar risks, since many migrants do not have access to facilities to take preventative hygiene measures such as washing their hands. And CBP still has to encounter and process arriving migrants in its facilities with limited ability to provide medical care and screening, putting both migrants and CBP agents at risk.

The administration had not taken any meaningful, bipartisan steps to address these institutional problems before the pandemic, creating a two-front battle for the immigration system. Immigration advocates have called ending the Migrant Protection Protocols and releasing migrants in detention to avoid these medical issues. Without institutional and procedural changes that would allow the asylum and border systems to manage the incoming migrants, however, these steps would merely recreate the 2018 and 2019 border crisis.

First, ending MPP would reinitiate the same crisis because we have not constructed enough new border infrastructure to receive vulnerable populations or boosted resources for asylum adjudications and immigration courts to manage a significantly higher volume of cases.

Ending migrant detention would compound this problem, especially if DHS released asylum seekers in the United States without viable alternatives for their medical care and appropriate conditions of release to ensure future appearance at immigration court.

And while Alternatives to Detention programs could mitigate some of these problems, the inability to deploy such measures on a large scale overnight would mean that more migrants would be released into the United States without any oversight by authorities. Without an end-to-end overhaul of our immigration system, these proposed measures would not help with addressing the current pandemic or ensuring that the asylum system operates fairly and efficiently.

A smart response would recognize the need to fix the long-term problems with the immigration system while taking short-term measures to address the public health crisis. In the case of MPP, the United States and Mexico must immediately work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross, and UNICEF to set up proper refugee camps on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border that provides migrants with facilities to meet their health needs.

ICE should immediately surge health care resources to detention facilities and consider release for those who have underlying health conditions that would make them more susceptible to the coronavirus, with necessary monitoring and check-ins.

While these short-term measures would not resolve the problem tomorrow, they would address the immediate challenges while buying time for the government to solve the structural problems in the system. Given the stakes, the administration and Congress cannot delay in fixing these problems to strengthen the immigration system and its ability to help contain the pandemic.

Cristobal Ramn is a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center.


Failure to fix immigration undermines our ability to mitigate COVID-19 | TheHill - The Hill

EU solidarity in the time of coronavirus – Open Democracy

By now you all understood that European solidarity does not exist, Serbias president, Aleksandar Vui, told the nation during a press conference to declare a state of emergency on Sunday evening. It was a fairy tale on paper, he added, and the only country that can help us is China. It was a moment of grand political theatre, delivered with Vuis trademark pauses and profundity, in front of a TV audience eager to learn whether their sons and daughters would be going to school or kindergarten the very next day. Yet it was a moment that captured a sentiment that even Serbias most progressive voices have come to harbour deepening and increasingly fundamental disillusionment with the EU and the European perspective. It is, moreover, a disillusionment that is felt across the Western Balkans.

The timeline for membership of the Union a dream shared by the so-called Western Balkans Six has been stretched to such an extent that it has begun to fray. The start of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania were vetoed by France last autumn, despite the former having changed its name after an historic compromise with Greece. Kosovo still awaits visa liberalisation, even though the Commission determined that it had fulfilled all the stipulated conditions (of which there were plenty). Bosnia and Herzegovinas internal upheavals threaten its own functionality, let alone its prospects of membership. Only Montenegro and Serbia have made some small but tangible progress; often to the chagrin of the others, especially the progress of the latter.

Without either absolving governments for their failures to implement EU conditioned reforms (and their subsequent attempts to distract attention), or romanticising their stated commitments to do so amidst almost constant electioneering, the recalcitrance of certain member states towards admitting new members has hindered progress on numerous fronts.

It is not just the waning of the European perspective, though well-documented, that is driving disillusionment. The regions healthcare systems including those of EU members such as Croatia and Bulgaria have been decimated (especially outside the main urban centres) by the outflow of highly-trained medical personal (doctors, nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists), enticed by opportunities and renumeration in western Europe. Though one cannot begrudge these individuals the professional and life chances they so deserve, nor can the chronic mismanagement and underfunding of these systems be overlooked, it is nonetheless a loss of labour that is both hard to stem and exacting to replace (especially in the absence of sizeable immigration). Demand for such human capital from Europes ageing population is inexhaustible, and many feel these countries should be entitled to direct compensation for their investments. During public health traumas like the Coronavirus, such deficiencies become even more pronounced. There are already too few doctors and nurses, let alone when those on the front-line inevitably fall ill. They will face unimaginable stresses and strains, the result of which will be preventable deaths.

Go here to see the original:

EU solidarity in the time of coronavirus - Open Democracy

Club Med takes on the Frugals in EU ‘corona bond’ bailout battle – Reuters

BRUSSELS/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Leaders of nine EU countries urged the bloc on Wednesday to issue a common debt instrument to cushion their economies from the shock of the coronavirus crisis, challenging Germany and others adamantly opposed to pooling risk across the continent.

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly near the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

European Union finance ministers broadly agreed the previous day on an idea that governments grappling for funds might apply for a credit line worth some 2% of their GDP from a joint bailout fund called the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM).

But there was no agreement on joint debt issuance across the 19 member states that share the euro single currency - long a goal for the Club Med group of mostly southern member states, most prominently Italy, and just as much a red line for a group of wealthier northern countries known as the Frugals.

That left it to the leaders, who will meet in a videoconference summit on Thursday, to thrash out the issue.

Germany was one of the founders of the euro zone, in which the European Central Bank sets monetary policy for all the 19 countries that share the EUs single currency, the euro.

But the ECB, to its regret, has no power over budgets.

ECB chief Christine Lagarde asked the ministers at their meeting on Tuesday to give serious consideration to a joint issue of corona bonds as a one-off, four officials said.

One official said her proposal had run into opposition from Germany, the Netherlands and other northern European countries, but also a lot of support beyond Club Med. Germany and others could block the proposal at Thursdays meeting.

Sources said the German position, as it was in the 2010-2012 euro zone sovereign debt crisis, is that taking part in a mutual bond issue or corona bond is still a step too far, and would be resisted by its parliament and constitutional court.

There is also public opposition to putting German taxpayers money on the line to help countries seen as more spendthrift than Germany, which, alone among euro zone members, runs a balanced budget.

The push-back from northern countries - which sources said included the Netherlands, Finland and Austria - in the face of Europes most serious crisis since World War Two highlights a lack of solidarity that has been undermining the EUs principle of shared values ever since the debt crisis and the migrant crisis of 2015.

Some member states were initially reluctant to share medical equipment with Italy, which has suffered the deadliest outbreak, and several countries have reintroduced border controls - recalling the migrant crisis - inside what is normally the open-frontier Schengen Zone.

In a joint letter ahead of Thursdays virtual summit, nine countries, led by economic heavyweights France, Italy and Spain, called for a common debt instrument issued by a European institution to raise funds on the market.

By givingaclear message thatwearefacingthis unique shockall together, we would strengthen the EU and the Economic and Monetary Union and ... provide the strongest message to our citizens about European determined cooperation and resolve to provide an effective and united response, they said.

The letter was also signed by the leaders of Portugal, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Belgium and Greece.

Officials say the need for a decision on a bailout plan has been reduced by the ECBs announcement of a coronavirus emergency bond-buying program worth 750 billion euros.

Still, the ECB has long sought a euro zone-wide safe asset, arguing that a Euro Bond would be key to crisis-proofing a currency bloc that came close to collapse in the debt crisis only a few years ago.

A German government spokesman, responding to the letter, said it was normal for leaders to put forward proposals ahead of EU summits, but in the end the matter would be decided by all member states. No comment was immediately available from the Netherlands or Austria.

Such an instrument would give Brussels a fiscal lever that could be moved quickly and in tandem with the ECB, which has for years complained that budget policy is out of sync with monetary policy, hindering its economic stimulus efforts.

It would also let commercial banks cut holdings of their home countrys debt, breaking the so-called doom loop between banks and their host country in which any regional debt crisis can quickly morph into a banking crisis as well.

Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Frankfurt, Andrey Khalip in Madrid, Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels and Andreas Rinke in Berlin; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Read this article:

Club Med takes on the Frugals in EU 'corona bond' bailout battle - Reuters

Political Symptoms of a Pandemic: What’s next for the EU? – New Europe

Truth be told, I spend a good part of my day following social media even more so during these past few days of self-isolation in my Brussels apartment.

If I were to identify one prevailing theme among all the memes doing the rounds of Instagram, that would be we all make fun of all those grabbing every last toilet paper roll and pack of linguini from the supermarket rack. But what happens when national Governments across the EU start behaving this way?

Somewhere between European capitals on intensified lockdown and an unavoidable Coronavirus-led recession, the pandemic brings another reality: the return of internal borders and the comeback of the Nation-State.

National Governments stepping up to their financial and organizational strengths, as people are physically distancing themselves to fight the pandemic, is understandable, it makes sense and, if kept within the boundaries of this extraordinary crisis, it is as it should be.

However, there is also an emotional aspect to this development, for which the political ground was already set before this crisis: Rightwing parties and movements loud anti-migrant and anti-refugee voices, calling for walls and the protection of traditional identities, have recently been matched by a left-leaning environmental movement promoting localization and calling for the cut down of air travel.

Politicians across the spectrum understand that people think in stories and when facing a crisis, people often stop believing in those stories. But when you no longer have a story, you cant explain whats happening.

We observed this in the aftermath of the recent financial and migration crisis. In the years between 2008, the beginning of the financial crisis that turned into a political crisis, and 2019 a very large segment of the citizens stopped believing in the story. They felt like they had lost their constants, their traditional points of reference.

Our economies were global, but our politics had remained local.

And their reaction was the one wed have if we had lost our way in a large city; going back to the point where we started, the point where we felt more secure and start over.

The old 20th-century political model of left versus right became largely irrelevant, and the real divide became that of truth versus post-truth and moderates versus extremists.

Now lets come back to the crisis we are currently facing. It has demonstrated the fragility of our global supply chains, be it medical equipment or autarky of food supply and has reinforced emotions of protectionism.

The irony is that most economists would agree its exactly this situation of fighting a global pandemic that should call for a more streamlined form of European governance, with Governments acting together under the coordination of a strong Leadership.

Lets take as an example public health, where, according to the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union only has what in EU jargon we call a shared competence (Art. 168 TFEU). National Governments define and deliver their national health services, while the EU machinery manages a limited budget of less than 100 million Euros per year. The EU doesnt legally have the competence or the budget to act and manage a streamlined European response to the pandemic, yet many were quick to criticize Brussels for not showing leadership in managing the current crisis.

On the other hand, lets look at the EUs response in a field where it does have competence, the monetary union. The European Central Bank was fast to unleash 750 billion Euros in a temporary bond-buying programme to alleviate the impact of the pandemic. Isnt this Leadership?

And lets finally look at the response of Governments imposing restrictions on exports of medical supplies, a position politically understandable, but unreasonable and counter-productive in the case of a global pandemic. Is this really Leadership?

While the coronavirus crisis has temporarily brought our borders back, we should really look at it as an opportunity to strengthen our Union.

Our economies and supply chains will remain global, so lets give the EU the competences and the funds to play an effective role next time around.

Often, I describe the EU as an archaic typewriter in a digital era; It needs to change, it needs to modernize its structures, and it needs to upgrade its role and leadership. But its up to national Governments to provide it with the necessary funds and competencies in order to turn it into a powerful smartphone.

So, truth be told: we are all in this together. Lets begin, citizens and national Governments, by no longer grabbing every last toilet paper roll and pack of linguini from the supermarket rack.

Read more:

Political Symptoms of a Pandemic: What's next for the EU? - New Europe

The hostile environment is being kept in place even amid the coronavirus crisis – LabourList

An elderly woman with lung cancer was told she would have to fly home to Ukraine in order to receive treatment, it has been reported. This would be quite a feat given there are currently no flights going into the country. Confronted with this news, Home Office administrators suggested that she drive instead. This absurd case highlights the intractable and insensitive culture behind day-to-day Home Office bureaucracy, which recently came in for serious criticism with the long-awaited publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned review.

In another sign that the Home Office is intending to carry out business as usual, it hasnt updated its coronavirus immigration advice for the best part of a month. Its determination to maintain the hostile environment, even in these unprecedented times, will surprise nobody who has been closely tracking developments in immigration policy over the past few months.

The pandemic has thrown the UKs hostile environment into the spotlight once again. As the Home Office continues to fly in the face of common sense and humanity, migrants are being left to fend off the impending Covid-19 crisis on their own. As food banks are driven into closure by dwindling volunteer numbers and supermarket shortages, it is undocumented migrants who will be worst affected. There are too many migrants currently on the brink of destitution without recourse to public funds.

The situation in healthcare is equally dire. While the government has confirmed that migrants can get tested for Covid-19 on the NHS at no charge, it has failed to publicise this fact. Equally, if they test negative for coronavirus and require other treatment, they could still incur charges.

Any policy that deters people from seeking medical treatment under the current circumstances is not only inhumane it can also exacerbate the spread of the virus. Pausing the immigration healthcare surcharge to ensure everyone comes forward would make a world of sense not least because the security apparatus surrounding it is so expensive.

Prisons were quickly identified as one area where coronavirus could spread like wildfire without special provisions. It took a while longer for the government to accept the danger posed to people in immigration detention centres, and even longer to publicly acknowledge it. The Home Office has maintained the pretence that it will carry on with deportations as usual but the fact that it cannot do so means it shouldnt be keeping them prisoner in the first place.

The government has now removed some of the most at-risk people from detention centres, but keeping people in such a risky situation seems entirely disproportionate when you remember that their main crime was not being born in this country. We also know that most people who are detained are let out after less than a month, which as one prison inspector noted in 2015 raises questions about the validity of their detention in the first place.

There are even some voices from the Conservative benches that are now recognising problems in our current immigration system as a result of coronavirus. Tory backbencher Steve Double pointed out how workers who were maligned as low-skilled just last month are actually pretty crucial to the smooth running of our country, and called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to think again.

As I pointed out recently in my critique of the points-based immigration system, all work is skilled work when its done well. Coronavirus is reminding everyone that there is no such thing as low-skilled work only low-paid work. As the rich flee the worst-hit areas in London, its the migrant workforce that is keeping the city on its feet.

Why is the Home Office so determined to carry on with business as usual when its clearly dangerous and impractical? It seems obvious to me that the real reason they are so scared about giving ground is that it will show up the monumental pointlessness, waste and tragedy of the current system.

The crisis so far has taught us two important things: that infections do not recognise national borders, and that public health is precisely that public. Its in the interests of all of us to ensure that everyone else has the means to stay healthy during the crisis.

Leaving people without the means to meet their basic needs isnt just a human tragedy during a global pandemic its also a serious public health issue. As activists rally together and sense some cracks in the current immigration infrastructure, it is more important than ever that Labour stands up to oppose the hostile environment.

LabourList has more readers than ever before - but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour's policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

Support LabourList

Read the original post:

The hostile environment is being kept in place even amid the coronavirus crisis - LabourList

Wage subsidy is also for migrant workers who have lost their jobs, say leaders – Stuff.co.nz

Migrant workers who have lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 crisis should contact their employers to obtain government wage subsidies,say political leaders.

With people being made redundant, jobs on hold, and the announcement of several business crisis package for New Zealand, those on work visas say they have not seen dedicated support for their group.

While one in fourmigrant arrivals were on a work visa in 2019,the number of migrant arrivals on work visas increased by 3100 (10 per cent) to 33,400 compared with the previous year.


Labour list MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan talks to Radio Tarana's Vandhna Bhan about migrant workers who have lost jobs during this coronavirus crisis.

There are more migrants arriving every year with the number having doubled between 2010 and 2019.

There'sa significant numberIndians who are currently here on a work visa, but have now lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 crisis, a Radio Tarana survey has found.

READ MORE:* Govt subsidy 'providing support for people who are already out of work'*Live: Coronavirus lockdown updates*Editorial: Welcome to the pandemic police state*Police commissioner pleads with public to play by supermarket rules - people will die*Top cop Mike Bush to lead new taskforce, says police will enforce new rules*Poll shows Kiwis back harsh measures but are extremely worried about virus


National Party leader Simon Bridges.

They work mostly in the hospitality industry and came to New Zealand under the skilled migrant workers shortage list.

Labour MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan advisesthose workers need to speak with their employers for them to apply for a wage subsidy for their workers.

"In terms of migrant workers, that is something the Immigration Minister is aware of and working on so all I can say at this moment is watch this space," Radhakrishnansaid.

Braden Fastier

Labour list MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, at a recent press conference,also pointed to the employer through the wage subsidy plan.

"We're giving greater flexibility to our benefit system," Ardern said.

"We acknowledge this is a time people are experiencing job loss. Our goal is to try keep people connected to their employer through the wage subsidy.

"If that's not happening we have the backup of our welfare system."

National Party leader Simon Bridges, in an interview on Tarana's Sunday@5 programme, said he hoped the issue would be resolved soon.

"There's a real problem here, we're going to have all these sorts of issues," Bridges said.

"We need to work through them urgently and make sure we're not just leaving people languishing there with no money, no support, literally in dire straits.

"We want our Kiwi Indians to stay in New Zealand, to contribute," Bridges said.

"We will get through COVID-19 and we know what a great contribution the Indian community has made so we have got to find ways to support through it in these types of situations where maybe it's not the right visa, maybe it's not the right residency, but we want to keep you here because of the contribution you make."

National MP Dr Paramjeet Parmarsaid the country needed to do all it could to hold on to these workers.

"If people decide to go back home to their countries in this time of crisis because they're not getting any financial support here, then it'll be very hard to bring those workers back when the economy regains and we need those migrant workers in our workforce."

The rest is here:

Wage subsidy is also for migrant workers who have lost their jobs, say leaders - Stuff.co.nz

Coronavirus means the EU will never be the same again – Spectator.co.uk

The European project was built on the idea of rendering future war among European states impossible. The EU is programmed to avoid armed conflict among its member states, a situation that would blatantly undermine its very essence. But who could have predicted that an epidemic would shake its foundations. In the space of a couple of weeks fundamental tenets of the EU project have received a body blow and may not recover from the coronavirus epidemic.

The European Stability Pact requires member states to respect a three per cent budget deficit. France was about to breach that anyway and has used Covid-19 as a cover to go much further, as will Italy, Greece and others. The Pact also requires states national debt to go no higher than 60 per cent of GDP. Many of the northern states have respected that, whereas the southerners have not. Italy and France were already at 130 per cent and 100 per cent respectively before the epidemic, but with full lockdowns those figures will soar. On Friday,the EU bowed to the inevitable and lifted the budget cap, the first time ever. This will inevitably exaggerate the financial mismatch between the EUs north and south that was such a feature of the 2010/12 euro crisis. Of course, it can forcefully be claimed that the exceptional European pandemic requires exceptional measures. Rightly so. But rolling back that debt when the crisis is over will not be easy without stringent austerity measures as meted out to Greece in 2012/13.

Another of the EUs fundamental principles is control of state aid. Goodness knows what a shibboleth that has been in the Brexit negotiations. But expect states such as France, which has statism in its DNA, to go to town on re-nationalising swathes of its industry, beginning with Air France. That is fair enough in times of crisis, but getting those states to relinquish control in better times will be arduous.

The Schengen borderless EU has also been dealt a body blow. Frontiers have been restored across Europe by individual member states and the EU finally and reluctantly agreed to suspend Schengen only this week. Given that many EU states notably in central and eastern Europe have battled with the Commission in wishing to take control of their own borders since the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, expect the return of Schengen to be a struggle for Brussels.

Ironically, freedom of movement, that totem of EU principles, has also ceased, not only between states but within certain states, albeit for sound medical reasons. What has irked many pro-Europeans, and Brussels itself, is that the response to Covid-19 has not been a standard EU-wide procedure. That is because health is not an EU competence. Thus different states have applied different measures to their populations to control the virus.

In broad terms, there are two models. The Italian model of full lock-down, since adopted by Spain then France and Belgium; the UK model of limited restrictions, but refusing general confinement, followed also by Holland and Sweden.

France, after initially rejecting the Italian method then enforcing it like a Jacobin Terror, is particularly upset at this lack of European harmony, as I wrote in The Spectator this week. Could a faint historical pattern be emerging in the choice of national method? Those societies that have traditionally emphasised the liberty of their citizens above equality are rejecting confinement. But suffice to say that the EU has been denied control of one of its founding principles.

A further example of the damage to the European project wrought by the epidemic is the break-down of European solidarity. Never a perfect concept in the first place, that solidarity under crisis is patently ceding to nation state reflexes. Italy, the first into the crisis and woefully lacking in surgical masks and ventilators, was pained by France and Germanys refusal to release some of their stocks.

Finally there is the overarching question of the EUs brittle financial solidarity, or its absence. In the international financial storm that has shaken markets and economies, the weaker individual European member states have until late this week been left to fend for themselvesas Ambrose Evans-Pritchard forcefully pointed out in theDaily Telegraph.Rather than rushing to provide the liquidity and guarantees in the name of monetary union, the European Central Bank dragged its feet, unlike the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England. Worse still, its new president recklessly announced last week at a moment of extreme vulnerability in the bond markets were not here to close spreads, with a detrimental impact on Italian debt. Only, finally, on Thursday did it assume its role as lender-of-last resort for its members. As with the 2008-09 financial crash the parsimonious nations, led by Germany, have been reluctant to bail out the spendthrifts. Now they may be forced into the unthinkable, for Germany at least: debt mutualisation.

What is certain is that some European political parties will be boosted electorally by Europes feebleness in the crisis. Both Matteo Salvini in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France excoriated Brussels weeks ago for refusing to lift the Schengen agreements to stop the virus spreading, according to them, out of pure EU ideology. The forced suspension of many of the EUs fundamental principles is a gift to them. Brussels will struggle to put the genie back in the bottle.

Where all this will leave the European project is a moot point. Debt mutualisation, postponed from 2008/9, is explosive and could make or break the EU. And yet, the history of EU integration is evidence that it thrives on crises as levers for ever-closer union. Frances foreign minister views the epidemic as an opportunity for Europe, failing which she will miss her appointment with history. In which case, president Macrons greater European integration reform programme may actually see the light of day and Europe move to the next level of ever-closer union.

Prof John Keiger is a specialist in French history and the former Research Director in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge

Continued here:

Coronavirus means the EU will never be the same again - Spectator.co.uk

A Closed Border, Dashed Hopes and a Looming Disaster – The New York Times

CIUDAD JUREZ, Mexico Tania Bonilla arrived in this Mexican border city on Wednesday determined to apply for asylum in the United States.

With her 1-year-old in tow, she had defied the odds evading a death sentence by a Honduran gang at home, she said, as well as deportation by the Mexican authorities at the southern border and kidnapping by smugglers en route.

But now, in eyeshot of an international bridge connecting the Mexican city of Ciudad Jurez to the United States, a new and even more serious obstacle presented itself: the coronavirus.

In response to its rapid spread, which has claimed about 13,000 lives worldwide, the United States government announced on Friday that in addition to closing the Mexican border to nonessential traffic, it would shut off access for anyone trying to claim asylum from the border.

In practice, the United States will deport anyone caught crossing between official ports of entry, including those hoping to turn themselves in, denying them access to asylum and potentially sending them back into harms way.

Mexico has not only agreed to accept Mexicans returned under this policy. Its government acknowledged on Saturday that it would take back most Central Americans as well, potentially adding thousands more to the migrant populations already swelling along the border.

The Trump administration decision will also put an end, at least for now, to the hopes of asylum seekers who want to legally enter the United States at official border crossings. That includes thousands who have been waiting, some for months, for the chance to present themselves.

Analysts said this was the first time in memory since the creation of the current asylum system 40 years ago that the United States had shut down access to its program along the border a sign of the deep-seated fear that has prompted the president to close both the northern and southern borders to nonessential traffic.

But others viewed it as an attempt to use a global pandemic as a pretext to summarily block access to the U.S. asylum system for those coming from the south.

I think when you have a crisis of these proportions, its possible to get away with a lot, and thats possibly what they are doing here, said Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

For some migrants, the move felt existential, as though what little hope remained had been plundered by a virus that is far more widespread in the United States than in their own countries.

Right now, I dont know what Im going to do, said Ms. Bonilla, 22, seated on a cinder block outside the state of Chihuahuas migrant affairs offices. Her son played with another group of children whose parents were also fleeing violence. The one thing I cant do is go back.

Equally worrisome are the implications of such a move along the border, particularly in terms of health care, with communities of asylum seekers already writhing under the weight of overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions.

On Saturday, the Mexican government was encouraging migrants to leave a large encampment in the border city of Matamoros, where some 2,000 have been living in tents on a muddy strip of land next to the international bridge.

At least 150 migrants boarded buses at the camp on Saturday and were taken away, though it was unclear whether that was related to the coronavirus. From time to time in recent months, the federal government has provided bus service to migrants seeking to leave northern Mexico and return to Central America.

Mexican officials said the buses on Saturday were provided by the government in response to requests from migrants living at the camp.

Fridays decision by the Trump administration to wall off the border from potential infections seems, for the moment, to fly in the face of transmission patterns.

Helen Perry, executive director of Global Response Management, a nonprofit that runs a clinic at the migrant encampment in Matamoros, said there had been no transmissions of the virus among the migrant population so far, and none of those residing in the camp appeared to show symptoms.

Similarly, in Tijuana and Ciudad Jurez, medical professionals reported no suspected cases.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in the United States dwarfs those in every nation in Latin America and the Caribbean, combined.

Experts say the most likely scenario is that someone coming from the United States will bring the virus into migrant communities living south of the border, sowing devastation among already vulnerable populations.

The migrants havent passed through major cities, airports or been hanging out at cafes, said Mrs. Perry.

What is certain, however, is that the bulk of the new policys burden will be felt on the Mexican side of the border, where shelters are bracing for the new reality.

At a meeting this week in Ciudad Jurez, shelter operators met to discuss group strategies to protect their populations from the virus. Increased use of hand sanitizer, face masks and screening were among the most obvious.

At the Casa del Migrante in Ciudad Jurez, the largest and longest-running shelter in the city, new arrivals will be housed in a separate facility for at least two weeks. But even they cant follow all best practices.

They suggest we put one meter of spacing between the beds, said Blanca Rivera, an administrator there. But we dont have that kind of space.

Sister Adelia Contini, the director of the Madre Asunta Institute shelter in Tijuana, said she was caring for 70 migrants in a center with only 45 beds.

Were not going to receive more people, she said by telephone.

Father Julio Lpez, who runs the Casa del Migrante Nazareth shelter in the city of Nuevo Laredo, said his center lacked basic safety equipment.

We dont have anything, he said.

Dirvin Luis Garca, the deputy director of the Chihuahua population council, which oversees migrant issues for the state, was more blunt still: We are not prepared for this scenario.

In the Matamoros camp, migrants bathe and wash their clothes in the Rio Grande.

Families of four or five occupy tents intended for two people; some are already weakened by respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments.

The crowded conditions, lack of hygiene and dearth of medical supplies practically guarantee that when the virus strikes, it will spread quickly and brutally.

We are preparing the community for what will inevitably happen, said Andrea Leiner, a nurse practitioner who is director of strategic planning for Global Response.

To prepare, the organization has begun distributing vitamin D and zinc in an attempt to boost migrants immune systems.

They are being told to position their tents at least six feet apart, and to open ventilation flaps to let in fresh air.

While many blame the United States for the already difficult conditions along the border, it is not solely responsible for the overcrowding.

Mexicos president, Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador, has taken heat for bending to the will of the United States in ways once unthinkable for a leftist leader, especially one who had vowed to protect migrant rights.

His public assent has helped push shelters beyond capacity, taxed local and state governments, exhausted the resources of charitable groups and strained the good will of residents.

Yet the president has hardly paid a political cost.

His approval ratings remain high among Mexicans, who seem to have given little thought to his migration policy. His administration has been clear that its policy is to maintain good relations with the Trump administration.

For Ms. Bonilla, that policy is a crushing counterpoint to the hope that brought her hundreds of miles north in search of a better life.

Even last October, when thousands of migrants were being sent back to Mexico, her partner had managed to make it across with their daughter. He was living and working in Florida.

She hadnt planned to join him so soon, but in February, she said, Honduran gang members began extorting her. She had started a small business selling coffee, and they wanted her to pay them $400, a relative fortune.

She refused and filed a complaint with the police. Five days later, after the gang found out, they threatened to kill her son in front of her.

An hour later, she fled with her son, carrying their documents, her meager savings and a cellphone. Since then, she has been denied asylum in Mexico, deported and then robbed when she finally did make it to Ciudad Jurez.

In less than a week, she had come to understand the migrants burden: persistence in the face of cruel setbacks and total uncertainty. That felt truer than ever now, as she waited for the new policy to go into effect.

Weve suffered so much on the road, trying to get to this point, to ask for asylum, she said, clutching her son as he tried to wriggle free. To be met with this news, its just devastating.

Right now, I dont know what Im going to do, she added. Like I said, I cant go back. Thats the only thing I cant do.

Caitlin Dickerson contributed reporting from New York.

Read the original here:

A Closed Border, Dashed Hopes and a Looming Disaster - The New York Times

Europeans Erect Borders Against Coronavirus, but the Enemy Is Already Within – The Indian Express

By: New York Times | Brussels | Published: March 16, 2020 1:57:23 pm Sparse crowds at Alexanderplatz, a large public square with shopping, on Sunday afternoon in Berlin, March 15, 2020. In societies where life plays out on the street or in the cafe, where friends are greeted with kisses on the cheeks, the outbreak is creating fear and fragmentation. (Emile Ducke/The New York Times)

The gilded museum of Europe is hollow and echoing. The great squares and stadiums are empty, the museums shut, the churches hesitant about services, the fine restaurants and cool bars shuttered.

The coronavirus is not only spreading but also infecting societies with a sense of insecurity, fear and fragmentation. Above all, it has severed humanity from its conceit of control and of the invincibility of its institutions, science, technology and democracies.

If that is true nearly everywhere the virus goes, it is all the more so in Europe, with its history of Enlightenment, where life is lived, ordinarily, on an intimate scale, bumping shoulders on the street or in the cafe, greeting friends with kisses on the cheeks.

No more. Today, Europeans are told to hide away, erecting borders between countries, inside their cities and neighborhoods, around their homes to protect themselves from their neighbors, even from their grandchildren.

Read| As Europe shuts down, Britain takes a different, and contentious, approach

Confronting a virus that respects no borders, this modern Europe without borders is building them everywhere. But different states have different answers, and each discrete and disparate step has increased the sense of the coming apart, and the feeling that the problem is someone elses creation.

The paradox of a virus that knows no borders is that the solution requires borders, not just between countries but within them, said Nathalie Tocci, an adviser to the European Union. But putting them up in an uncoordinated way doesnt help.

Putting them up at all, in fact, may not make much difference. The invisible threat is already within.

Even so, there is inevitably a turn back to the state for expertise, control and reassurance. As the pandemic spreads from Italy to Spain, France, Germany and beyond, there is a growing sense of the need for harsh, even authoritarian methods, many of them taken from China.

After watching the epidemic in China with extraordinary indifference, Europe has been terrified by Italy. Suddenly, many of the continents countries are trying to lock down, to protect themselves and their citizens. The idea of European solidarity, and of a borderless Europe where citizens are free to travel and work, seems very far away.

Read| Explained: COVID-19 travel restrictions around the world

If the pandemic has the logic of war, requiring strong action, the enemy may be the person standing next to you.

Its not anymore a question of borders between states but between individuals, said Ivan Krastev, who directs the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, and is a permanent fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna.

It is now the individual you fear, Krastev said. Everyone around you may be a danger, carrying the virus. The person may not know hes a danger to you, and the only one who isnt a danger is the one you never meet, the one who stays at home.

The welcoming kiss, la bise, is suddenly dangerous, as is the hug of happiness or condolence.

Krastev has written tellingly about Europes migration crisis, calling it as big a shock as the fall of Communism. But now no one is talking of opening borders, he said.

Follow coronavirus LIVE updates here

Now its not migrants you fear, but everyone, Krastev said.

The narrative of the migrant crisis included metaphors of hordes, invasion and even insects, and claims that migrants were bringing disease. They wanted to come from their wretched lives to a Europe that they considered safe and rich. But it is no longer safe.

Now, migrants will wonder, Is the plague worse than the war? Krastev said. You cannot negotiate with the plague or flee it.

A decade ago, Dominique Mosi, a French political scientist married to an Italian, wrote a book called The Geopolitics of Emotion, explaining the strains caused by globalization in terms of humiliation, hope and fear. Today, he said, the dominating emotion is fear.

The crisis of COVID-19 is adding uncertainty to uncertainty, fear upon fear, accelerating a process of anxiety about a world that is moving too fast, Mosi said, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

With terrorism, economic panic, strategic uncertainty, climate change and migration, he said, the fundamentals seem uncertain and the future unknowable.

Now comes an enemy unseen.

You can put your hand on a door handle and get the virus thats the maximum of fear, he said.

He misses touching and kissing his grandchildren, he said, and begins to think of death.

Yet mobilization of society is even more difficult and necessary because the enemy is invisible, he said. Paris has lived through terrorism and saw 150 killed in one night in 2015, he noted.

It was brutal but visible, he said, whereas in the end, the number of dead from the virus will be much more numerous, but its invisible, and weve never lived through that.

So it is difficult for governments who learned to urge calm on their populations in times of terrorism to now learn how to frighten them into acting for the common good.

During the great Black Death of the 14th century, which took so many lives, people believed that God had condemned those who died and chose whom to spare. But in a secular society, its harder to find the morality in who is dying, Krastev said. Instead you have all these conspiracy theories, with talk of the foreign virus and even a Chinese spokesman suggesting that the U.S. military was to blame.

In 2003, George Steiner, the European philosopher who died last month at 90, wrote a famous essay for the Nexus Institute called The Idea of Europe. But that idea is under threat.

Europes cultural identity, Steiner wrote, is founded on several characteristics largely missing in the United States, where car culture, suburban sprawl and great open spaces engender a sense of separateness.

In Europe, it is a culture of coffee houses and cafes, where people meet, read, write and plot. They are places, Steiner said, for assignation and conspiracy, for intellectual debate and gossip, for the flneur and the poet or metaphysician at his notebook, open to all.

Europes is also a pedestrian culture, founded on squares and small streets, usually named after scholars and statesmen, famous for their works and their massacres. Europe is walked, he wrote, and distances are on a human scale.

Read| Explained: Coronavirus testing in India, elsewhere

In this plague time, with cafes closed and squares empty of residents and tourists, both of those characteristics are destroyed, leading to isolation and loneliness, Krastev said.

But perhaps most important, Steiner wrote, is the European sense of death and decay, which he called an eschatological self-awareness which, I believe, may well be unique to European consciousness.

Deep in Christianity and European philosophy was a more or less tragic finality, he wrote, adding: It is as if Europe, unlike other civilizations, had intuited that it would one day collapse under the paradoxical weight of its achievements and the unparalleled wealth and complication of its history.

These are hardly the end of days, but the mood is grim. Still, it is sometimes broken by surprising acts of common humanity and solidarity, Tocci noted.

An Italian, she is staying at home in Rome with her husband and children, filling out a police form when she ventures out into the street, even to go to the grocery store, and trying to concentrate on the nicer aspects of quarantine.

You rediscover some small things, spending time with the children and the family, keeping up with her father by Skype, noting that for once, social media is proving to be more beneficial than meretricious.

Italians have been singing together from their segregated balconies and displaying a united appreciation for their exhausted medical workers, she noted.

Whats beautiful about it, so far, is that it hasnt led to alienation, Tocci said. People are afraid but mostly showing responsibility and solidarity. There are so many messages going around, some of them full of hilarity and a shared community.

Even on my dreary and empty Brussels street, someone has hung an Italian flag from an apartment window. And there are still, in the grocery stores, where people move silently and carefully around one another, moments of shared emotion. A woman with a full shopping cart was trying to balance a package of toilet paper and dropped her phone. I picked it up and gave it to her, then thought how foolish I had been, but she thanked me and smiled ruefully, understanding the ambivalence.

The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Coronavirus Outbreak News, download Indian Express App.

Go here to see the original:

Europeans Erect Borders Against Coronavirus, but the Enemy Is Already Within - The Indian Express

Migrant camps on Mexican border are scrambling to avert mass infection from coronavirus – Yahoo Finance

Self-isolating isnt straightforward at the encampment in Matamoros, a Mexican border city home to about 2,500 people living in tents, waiting on US asylum and immigration claims.

There are no confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the camp, but humanitarian organizations are working around the clock to prepare for the devastating effect the virus could have if someone does become infected, said Andrea Leiner, director of strategic plans at Matamoros for Global Response Management (GRM), a medical nonprofit. If Covid does come to our camp, the environment is ripe for mass infection and severe illness, she said.

The camps inhabitants, who mostly traveled from Central America in the infamous migrant caravans, now live on a dusty former soccer pitch right next to the Rio Grande. It looks like a little village from hundreds of years ago, when you didnt have running water, you didnt have electricity, you didnt have the basic amenities we think of as being critical or needed in everyday life, said Andrea Rudnik, co-founder of Team Brownsville, a nonprofit providing aid from the US side of the border. Its extremely dusty. When you get onto the river levees, you get hit with waves of dust and dirt in your faceand thats constant.

Mexican media have reported a possible case in the town of Matamoros and a confirmed case in Reynosa, another border town with a large encampment. While US president Donald Trump announced this week he planned to close the border with Mexico, immigration hearings have so far been ongoing. That means migrants living in the camps have been crossing back and forth across the border to attend hearings. Its possible that after their court appointments people could have brought the virus back from the US, where there are far more confirmed cases than in Mexico, said Maureen Meyer, director for Mexico and Migrant Rights at WOLA, a nonprofit focused on human rights in the Americas. It could quickly become a real crisis on the border, she said.

Like the US government, critics have accused the Mexican government of initially taking a laissez-faire approach to the coronavirus crisis in general. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador spent last weekend, for example, defiantly hugging and kissing supporters. In Matamoros, authorities at first said the crisis wasnt a big deal and mooted measures like displacing those hit by the virus to a different site, Leiner said. But they have since softened their approach and signed off on humanitarian organizations plans, while the head of the local health department has been in constant contact, she said.

But concerns remain that policy could quickly change. As cases start coming up, one thing we were worried about is if we announce any suspected cases or if we notify the authorities, could that then trigger a border closure? Or violence against the camp? Or someone being detained and never seeing their family again? Leiner asked. If were further hampered by border closures or supply lines or medical personnel not being able to cross, that makes the fight ahead of us even more difficult.

Most asylum seekers on the border are young, but their high levels of stress and poor living conditions mean the virus could take a heavy toll on them, said Oscar Misael, an anthropologist at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a research institute studying the border area. Were talking about a population that is obviously at risk because they were already exposed to conditions of vulnerabilitywhether social, legal, or in terms of healthcare, he said.

When Misael surveyed migrants in Reynosa and Matamoros last year, around a third said they had experienced health issues during their journeymany of which were acute respiratory infections. Leiner said most people there are malnourished and nutrient deficient.

GRM has been giving them multivitamins to boost their immune systemsone of three prongs in the strategy to tackle the virus. They have put in place whatever prevention methods are possible, such as moving tents further apart, improving ventilation, and setting up a medical hotline.

People with mild to moderate symptoms will shelter in their tents, while those severely hit will be sent to the local hospital. Once that fills up, GRM will begin treating people in a rudimentary field hospital that can take up to 20 patients. Its in the middle of a muddy field where theres no electricity and no running water, Leiner said. Were clearly not able to provide medical grade oxygen at the quantity where we can ventilate peoplethats just not possible.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief, our free daily newsletter with the worlds most important and interesting news.

More stories from Quartz:

See the rest here:

Migrant camps on Mexican border are scrambling to avert mass infection from coronavirus - Yahoo Finance

Conversations From Calais: the powerful design project giving a voice to refugees – The National

You said you were going back to Syria, reads a poster pasted on a wall on a street in London. I asked you if it was safe there. You answered you didnt care, at least if you died there, it would be with dignity and in your own country, instead of dying here, like an animal.

This heartbreaking extract is from a conversation between a refugee stranded in France and a volunteer aid worker. It is one of about 100 emotional snippets printed on to posters and put up throughout more than 50 cities across five continents and in several languages, as part of a project called Conversations From Calais.

On another poster, the words read: You asked me if I had seen those photos of white people coming to Sudan. You said the white people always looked so happy, smiling with the locals. You said they always felt welcomed in your country, because they were treated as guests in your home. So you asked me why you didnt deserve the same treatment in Europe. I didnt know what to answer.

Mathilda Della Torre, 23, who is studying for a masters degree in graphic communication design in London, launched the project at the end of last year. Through it, she says she hopes to re-humanise the refugee crisis, highlighting the struggles and hardships faced by so many people fleeing their home countries in search of safety and security in Europe.

Two years ago, I decided to go to Calais Refugee Camp with my mum to volunteer after wed attended a pop-up shop run by Help Refugees where you could buy items like notebooks, food or clothes for migrants, Della Torre tells The National. I was so shocked this was happening and that I hadnt been aware of it. I thought everything had ended. I felt embarrassed and naive to be French and not know about this.

Last month, 220 migrants were rescued in the English Channel in the space of 48 hours. Last year, 2,758 boats attempted to cross the Channel illegally a five-fold increase compared to 2018, during which 568 tried to cross. The camp Della Torre visited, which is also known as the Calais Jungle, hosted almost 10,000 refugees at its peak and was cleared by French authorities in October 2016, with about 6,000 people moved. At the time, Frances interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said the country would create accommodation for thousands elsewhere in a bid to unblock Calais.

Soon after, amid failed asylum applications and mounting racism, migrants began gathering in the area again in the hope of making a successful attempt to cross the Channel, eventually forming several smaller camps that are regularly cleared. The French police arrive early in the morning and take away a lot of their belongings, Della Torre explains. The refugees are forced into this cycle of constantly having to find a new place and this is what is so physically and mentally exhausting and damaging.

The evictions are an attempt by authorities to prevent migrants from reaching the UK illegally. In November, Michel Cadot, the head of Pariss police force, said there would now be a permanent police presence deployed in order to stop these camps reforming. He said the evacuations were a bid from the state to take back the public space. The UK-France Co-ordination and Information Centre in Calais which opened in 2018 and is operated by British Home Office border officials, National Crime Agency officers and British immigration enforcement staff backs the strategy. Before the centre opened, UK home secretary at the time, Sajid Javid, said it would allow the UK and France to work even closer in the fight to tackle illegal activity at the border and the crime networks who are putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk.

Della Torre has a different take on the matter, arguing these evictions put even more vulnerable people at risk. Now people are staying under bridges and next to the highway, she says. The evictions are more and more frequent but the number of people is not decreasing. These people are totally dependent on humanitarian organisations. This is what inspired her to begin writing down conversations she had with people stranded in Calais, which led to the idea of creating the posters.

This project is a way of bearing witness, re-humanising the migrant crisis, sharing stories and documenting whats happening

-Mathilda Della Torre

Della Torre recalls a particularly striking conversation she had while volunteering with Help Refugees to distribute clothes. A refugee asked for a specific colour of jumper, but it was no longer available. He said to me but you dont understand, I havent been able to make a choice about my food or my clothes for the past 18 months. I dont have choice in anything I do. I was sent by one smuggler to another, who decided where I was going, and then its charities deciding when Im going to eat, what Im going to eat and where Im going to eat.

After that exchange, Della Torre says she noticed negative coverage in the media about refugees attempting to cross the Channel, as well as an overall lack of media coverage about the situation in Calais. This spurred her decision to travel to Dover, which has a major port for ferries to Calais. She pasted the first 50 posters all across the English town.

An article last autumn portrayed the arrival of migrant boats on the coast of England as an invasion that the country had to strengthen its borders, she says. So I travelled to Dover and put these conversations up using wheat pasting [a liquid adhesive created using wheat flour or starch mixed with water] it is an easy way to gain control of public spaces.

After that she created an Instagram account called Conversations From Calais and in January she launched its website. It allows people from across the world to submit excerpts of their own conversations with refugees, as well as being able to download posters to display where they live.

Another poster reads: You told me you were stuck in the sea for eight hours with your wife and five kids. The boat broke down. It was dark and the kids were crying. I saw the darkness in your eyes as you said you saw death in those waters.

Josh Man-Saif, the community and networks manager for Help Refugees, says Europe should be ashamed of the lack of protection for child refugees who are travelling alone. Two hundred unaccompanied minors are living just 20 miles away from Kent, he says. Under the Dublin Regulation, these children have the legal right to be reunited with family, he says. But with Britain leaving the EU, it means the future of this regulation is uncertain.

The Dubs amendment to the Brexit bill, which would have protected unaccompanied child refugees in Europe without family by transferring them to the safety of the UK, was overturned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Conservative MPs in January. Ministers argued the Brexit bill was not the appropriate place to deal with the issue.

Primary legislation cannot deliver the best outcomes for these children as it cannot guarantee that we reach an agreement, UK Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told Parliament at the time. That is why this is ultimately a matter which must be negotiated with the EU and the government is committed to seeking the best possible outcome in those negotiations.

But Man-Saif says this leaves no mechanism to protect these lost children. The only option for many unaccompanied minors is to use traffickers or try to take other dangerous routes. It means one more lifeline is gone and these children will be forced to take more risks, he says. It means chasing lorries, potentially getting on to a boat in a storm, sleeping outside for months with strangers you dont speak the same language as. So many children disappear.

Since 2016, the spaces available for refugees to camp in have become smaller, he says. They were in the woods and then wastelands in industrial zones, but month by month police and private companies have fenced them off. Now most people are sleeping on the pavement at the side of the road.

Last month, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) released a statement condemning the failure of the French authorities to protect migrant children, specifically those who are unaccompanied. Corinne Torre heads MSFs mission for France and says that with the vast majority of asylum applications from unaccompanied children being rejected, the organisation took the decision to open a day centre in Paris that offers legal support, medical care and a safe, social environment for those aged under 18.

A year after wed opened the centre in 2017, 57 per cent of the unaccompanied minors wed provided legal assistance for were recognised as minors, which shows that evaluations by the French authorities were not done properly, Torre says.

She stresses mental health is a major problem among refugee children and that many of the minors MSF deal with have been kidnapped, tortured or suffered sexual violence, in their home country and during their journey into Europe. We do mobile clinics every week in the north, she says. We can testify that the situation is really bad. It is becoming increasingly complicated because now we have more unofficial camps around France. This includes families with kids, which is unacceptable

. We have more and more vulnerable people. European policies are not working. Everyones protecting their own borders.

It is for these reasons that Della Torre says she feels the work shes doing through Conversations From Calais, no matter how small, is important. Its about giving a voice to migrants, she says. These people feel as though they are being ignored by governments. This project is a way of bearing witness, re-humanising the migrant crisis, sharing stories and documenting whats happening.

Its been a success so far. The project gained momentum after Januarys Refugee Solidarity Summit in Deptford, where her posters were exhibited. A selection of images of the exhibition taken by a visitor garnered almost 12,000 shares online. Its been a bit overwhelming but Ive seen the positive side of social media, Della Torre adds. Seeing there is a need for this project has motivated me to keep going. People still need to be talking about this issue.

Updated: March 22, 2020 08:32 AM

Originally posted here:

Conversations From Calais: the powerful design project giving a voice to refugees - The National

The week in foreign policy – BFPG

This week in foreign policy, and domestic affairs, has been one like no other, with countries across the world introducing unprecedented measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. With news outlets saturated with stories and information relating to the coronavirus, we will continue to bring you foreign policy pieces you might have missed as world activity continues.

Although relegated to a video-conference, EU leaders met this week with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the migrants crisis and the humanitarian situation in Idlib, Syria. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the UKs Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempted to negotiate a resolution to the migrant crisis with Erdogan, as well as coordinate a humanitarian response to the situation in Idlib. Further details available on Euractiv.

Following the courts decision to declare a planned third runway at Heathrow unlawful, the proposed expansion has now been declared to be in a deep freeze, reports CityAM. Stefan Boscia writes that the aviation industrys crisis, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, will likely delay a government decision on the expansion of one of the UKs busiest and most international airports.

Over in the US, the Democratic Primary rumbles on, albeit with a reduction of live debates. Michael OHanlon examines for The Hill how different foreign policy would be under either of the frontrunners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Whilst the candidates appear radically different, OHanlon suggests that upon examining their actions and proposals, their ideas could be reconciled. Many of Sanders specific proposals, for example, rooted in international cooperation, and the fight against climate change, inequality and authoritarianism, are much more mainstream than his favorable comments about Fidel Castro back in the day might suggest, creating overlap with the more centrist Biden.

The coronavirus has piled the pressure on the global economy, and for Iran a nation subject to tough international sanctions and hit particularly hard by Covid-19 the outlook is bleak. Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic Editor at The Guardian, reports that the UK has been pressuring the US behind the scenes to ease sanctions on Iran in order to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak. As 17,361 people in Iran have been infected with the virus, the Iranian embassy in London has appealed for sanctions to be lifted. The World Health Organization has suggested that the Iranian health ministry figures have underestimated the true numbers of those affected by the coronavirus by a fifth, meaning that the strain on the country is even greater.

Whilst the UKs transition period for leaving the EU is still due to expire at the end of this year, the Telegraph suggests that the UK is preparing to seek an extension to this transition period as both the UK and the EU are focused on the coronavirus crisis. The EUs chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been confirmed to have the virus, and his British counterpart, David Frost, is reportedly self-isolating with symptoms, adding further credence to the idea that an extension will be sought before the June deadline expires.

The British Foreign Policy Group is an independent, non-partisan think tank based in London. Through dynamic research, events and networks, we seek to strengthen the UKs international engagement, and advance our understanding of global affairs in the 21st Century.

For more original research, comment and events from the British Foreign Policy Group, sign up to our Newsletter.

See original here:

The week in foreign policy - BFPG

A migration crisis and disagreement with Turkey is the last thing Europe needs right now – CNN

The EU rejects this claim. An EU Commission spokesperson told CNN that the EU was sticking to its side of the deal, pointing out that the EU had committed over $6.6 billion dollars to handling the crisis, $3.5 of which has already been spent. The source pointed out that Turkey's objections might have more to do with the fact that the money does not go directly to the Turkish government.

Whatever the truth, the threat this poses to the EU is significant. Migration has been a hot-button issue in Europe for some time. And the EU's lackluster approach to handling the crisis has left it in a position where a leader like Erdogan can effectively hold a gun to Brussels' head and start making demands.

The 2016 agreement came about after Syria's multi-year civil war saw unprecedented numbers of people fleeing violence trying to enter the EU through Greece's land and sea borders with Turkey.

Migration had become politically toxic among EU member states. Some leaders, most notably Germany's Angela Merkel, were eager to ease the humanitarian crisis, after reports emerged of refugees being subjected to horrendous living conditions and shocking images were published of bodies washing up on European shores after boats -- overloaded with refugees -- sank.

However, welcoming the influx of migrants from Syria aided the growth of Europe's far-right populists. Parties across the bloc used it to bash the EU's refugee policies and argue for tighter border control.

Read more:

A migration crisis and disagreement with Turkey is the last thing Europe needs right now - CNN

Balkans brace for another migration crisis, urge EU to wake up – EURACTIV

The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIVs media network. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Before you start reading todays edition of the Capitals, we invite you to read the Special Report Europes new Climate Law: Leaving no-one behind?.

Regarding the latest developments at the Greek-Turkish border take a look at the following stories:

Erdogan drops the human bomb on EU

Migrants clash with Greek police, diplomatic efforts underway

EU calls extraordinary foreign ministers meeting on Syria conflict



Following the chaos at the Greek-Turkish land borders, leaders from the Balkan region have urged the EU to take immediate action to prevent a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis.

In Sofia, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is today preparing to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan in Ankara. He called on the EU to do everything and quickly to give Turkey the money it needs to readmit and take care of the refugees.

In Zagreb, Domestic Affairs Minister Davor Bozinovic has said Croatia is ready for another migrant wave at its borders. We have plans in case of escalation, but this is an issue that needs to be addressed diplomatically, he said, adding that the current migration wave is exactly the same as the one in 2015. The EU has not learned its lesson, he emphasised.

In Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic promised on Sunday that Serbia would continue to treat migrants fairly, but warned it would not let them remain trapped in Serbia in large numbers.

Read the full story by Krassen Nikolov, Karla Junicic and EURACTIV Serbia



SPD and Greens call for concrete actions after racist attack. In light of the 19 February shooting in Hanau, Germanys Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens proposed over the weekend concrete steps to address racism in the country. Both parties wish to create an independent Racism Commissioner, and the SPD intends to put the matter on the agenda for the next Grand Coalition committee meeting on 8 March. EURACTIV Germanys Sarah Lawton has the detail.



Gender quota effective for supervisory boards but fails to trickle down. The Austrian quota system came into force in January 2018: All market-listed companies and some non-listed with over 1,000 staff had to have at least 30% of men or women respectively, meaning that not more than 70% could be of the same gender. However, no fines are levied in case of non-compliance; if no fitting candidate had been put into place, the seat would just remain empty. What are the results though? Philipp Grll has more.

Also read: Austria says it will stop any migrants trying to rush its border



Surprise on retirement law. In the midst of a coronavirus crisis, the French government surprised MPs by resorting on Saturday to a procedure that allows a law to be passed in parliament without a vote: Article 49.3 of the Constitution, concerning the law on pensions. EURACTIV France has the story.



Coronavirus crisis talks. Over the weekend, a ministerial emergency meeting convened by Belgian PM Sophie Wilms (MR) to examine measures to be taken in response to the coronavirus crisis. Alexandra Brzozowski reports.



Million euros to find a sustainable solution. Helsinki has launched a competition to find a sustainable urban heating system. The solution must not rely on fossil fuel or biomass fired heating. The aim is to get rid of coal as the main source of district heating for good. Pekka Vnttinen digs deeper.



Bullying row overshadows Johnsons baby. Home Secretary Priti Patel is at the centre of a bullying row after the top official in her department, Sir Philip Rutnam, resigned on Saturday citing a vicious and orchestrated campaign against him by Patel.Benjamin Fox has the story.



Coronavirus school closure. An unnamed secondary school in the east of Ireland is to close for 14 days following the first case of coronavirus in the area. Contact tracing has assessed that close contacts of this patient includes pupils and teachers of a secondary school, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health said.

Public health doctors are in direct contact with pupils, their parents and the staff involved. Patient confidentiality in this case, and in all cases, should be respected. The Department of Health will provide updated information as necessary.(Samuel Stolton | EURACTIV.com)



New coronavirus cases but citizens still not concerned. As coronavirus cases continue to soar in the EU, Spanish Health authorities reported on Sunday a total of 73 new confirmed cases in the Iberian country, EURACTIVs partner EFE reported.Read more in English.



After decades of debate over the best location for a second airport in the Lisbon region, the start of work on the new Montijo airport was scheduled for this year, but a law giving the local authorities involved the right to veto the project threatens to put a brake on the work.

The association of airlines in Portugal (RENA) has recently asked the government and the Lisbon airport concessionaire (ANA) to immediately complete the urgent infrastructure work, in addition to the development of the new airport at Montijo. (Carla Jorge and Jorge Eusbio, Lusa.pt)



Commissions competition watchdog wants to find out if the Italian governments December decision to loan national airline Alitalia 400 million was illegal state aid. Romes 400m loan was ostensibly meant to help Alitalia streamline its operations so that the carrier could find a potential buyer. Sam Morgan has the story. (EURACTIV.com)



Charles Michel heads for Greece. EU Council chief Charles Michel expressed yesterday his full support for Greek efforts to protect the European borders. Closely monitoring the situation on the ground. I will be visiting the Greek-Turkish border on Tuesday, he tweeted.



Opposition rallies. On Saturday, three main opposition candidates held rallies as part of their presidential campaigns. Magorzata Kidawa-Boska (PO), who is closest in the polls behind the incumbent Andrzej Duda, promised to undo many PiS reforms, and restore the rule of law and be a true president, because it is time for Poland to have a female president. EURACTIV Polands ukasz Gadzaa reports from Warsaw.



The art of losing. What would others give for 18%, said Smer-SD party leader and ex-PM Robert Fico in what was supposed to be acknowledgment of his defeat. There are three losers, one winner. You (media) have lost, the third sector has lost and Smer has lost, he added. Fico is not considering leaving the partys chairmanship. However, he might be challenged by the ousted PM Peter Pellegrini, who got more preferential votes than Fico.

Opposition leader wins parliamentary election. The conservative movement Ordinary People (OaNO) party won Saturdays (29 February) parliamentary elections in Slovakia and will be the dominant player in a likely government coalition of opposition parties. Its leader Igor Matovi promises zero tolerance for corruption. Full story here. (Zuzana Gabriov | EURACTIV.sk)



Not having it. Czech MEP Tomas Zdechovsky (Christian Democrats) will take legal steps to defend himself against PM Andrej Babi who called him and another Czech MEP, Mikulas Peksa, traitors. Babi said that Zdechovsky and Peksa act against the Czech government by opening the topic of his suspected conflict of interest in the European Parliament. The PM criticised the two in connection with the fact-finding delegation of the EP, led by Budgetary Control (CONT) chair Monika Hohlmeier, that visited some authorities in order to check Babis conflict of interest in Prague last week. [Full story here]. The suspicion is based on last years European Commission audit report on subsidies from the EUs structural funds.

Coronavirus infection arrives. The health minister has confirmed the first three cases of coronavirus in the Czech Republic. Cases seem not to be connected, but all three patients, one of them a travelling American student, were in Italy recently. Babi has already proposed a ban on direct flights from Milan and Venice. (Ondej Plevk | EURACTIV.cz)



Transition Fund eligibility. Six counties in Romania are eligible for Just Transition Fund projects, according to a preliminary analysis of the European Commission, cited by MEP Siegfried Muresan. Hunedoara, Gorj, Dolj, Prahova, Galati and Mures are the counties that could need the largest support to comply with the targets of the European Green Deal, said Muresan, Parliament rapporteur on the funding for the Green Deal. The Commission plans to allot some 10% of its proposed 7.5 billion Just Transition Fund for Romania projects. (EURACTIV.ro)

More details here



Corona-free area. Slovenian government announced at noon on Sunday that no coronavirus infection has been confirmed in the county. So far, 201 tests have been completed.

Surplus of 11 million in the state budget in January. Slovenias state budget had revenues of 904.5 million in January and expenditure of 893.6 million. The surplus reached 11 million, while last year there was a hole in the budget of 52.4 million. Taxes totalled 839.7 million in January, up 8.4% from last year. (eljko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)



Parliamentary elections in Serbia to be called on 4 March. President Aleksandar Vucic said he would call parliamentary elections in Serbia on 4 March, immediately upon his return from Washington, where he is attending a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Vucic said on 29 February that the election campaign will last 50 days.

When the campaigns last for that long, it is necessary not to rush, you cant reach the campaign peak if you dont have a strategy for that, everyone will have time to prepare one. I hope that the list Im leading will make a good result, he said. (EURACTIV.rs)



Independence Day that Bosnian Serbs dont recognise.As in previous years, ever since the country declared its independence in 1992, only half of BiH is marking Independence Day on 1 March, as the holiday is celebrated mainly by ethnic Bosniaks and Croats and their administrative half of the country. In the other, Serb-dominated half, 1 March is just a regular working day. Republika Srpska instead celebrates 9 January, the date when it was established in 1992. (eljko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)



Urgent parliament session.Kosovo Parliament is set to convene today after opposition MPs asked for an urgent session to discuss the governments proposal on abolishing tariffs with Serbia. The initiative came from former PM Ramush Haraidnajs Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), who continue opposing revocation of tariffs. As PM, Haradinaj introduced in November 2018, a 100% tax on all Serbian imports. Speaker Vjosa Osmani, a member of the LDK, a coalition partner in Albin Kurtis government, said Kosovo cannot hinder its relations with the US only because of the tariffs. Haradinaj has also been criticised by Albanian PM Edi Rama. (eljko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Zoran Radosavljevic, Benjamin Fox]

See original here:

Balkans brace for another migration crisis, urge EU to wake up - EURACTIV

What We’re Watching: Europe’s migrant crisis, Bibi’s win, and Russians standing their ground – GZERO Media

A fresh humanitarian crisis on Europe's doorstep: A dramatic surge of migrants has arrived on Greek shores in recent days, after Turkey abandoned a 2016 deal with the EU under which it has housed some 3.7 million Syrian refugees in exchange for billions of euros in aid. Ankara took this step after a dangerous flare up last week in Syria, where Turkish troops are trying to halt a Syrian assault on Idlib province that's driving more refugees across the Turkish border. Some 10,000 migrants have since tried to breach the Greek border in recent days, leading Greek police to use tear gas and other riot control methods. One child died after a makeshift boat capsized off the Greek island of Lesbos, a main destination for migrants. Meanwhile, Greece's prime minister announced Tuesday that all asylum applications would be frozen while Athens deals with the emergency. Brussels has pledged emergency aid.

Netanyahu wins, but how big? With about 90 percent of votes in from Israel's parliamentary election, its third in less than a year, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party came out victorious, winning four more seats than its rival Blue and White party. At the time of this writing, Netanyahu is still two seats short of a 61-seat parliamentary majority. If Netanyahu, who is set to face a corruption trial on March 17, gets to 61 seats by merging with his allies on the right, he could seek parliamentary immunity from graft charges. But if the tally is a 60-60 split with the opposition, Netanyahu might need to entertain some sort of unity government with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz. While much will be determined in the days ahead, one thing is clear: Netanyahu has won an election that was essentially a referendum on whether his legal troubles ought to disqualify him from leadership.

Putin isn't giving up any ground, literally: Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a flurry of proposed constitutional amendments, including measures that would effectively ban same sex marriage, criminalize blasphemy, and prevent Russia from giving any part of its territory to a foreign power. That last measure will directly affect two major territorial disputes: one with Japan over the fate of islands occupied by Soviet forces during World War Two, and another with Ukraine over the fate of Crimea, which Moscow has politically and economically integrated into Russia since illegally annexing the peninsula in 2014. It seems that even for the country with the largest land territory on earth, every hectare counts.

Continue reading here:

What We're Watching: Europe's migrant crisis, Bibi's win, and Russians standing their ground - GZERO Media

The coronavirus outbreak shows the real limits of a borderless EU – Telegraph.co.uk

The row over border checks is, however, about more than a quick flash of a passport. The response to the migrant crisis has been for governments to reassert their position at a nation-state level, thereby enfeebling the EU rather than strengthening it. It provides a marked contrast with the Eurozone crisis, which highlighted significant weaknesses with the EUs system of economic and monetary union. Back then, the states pulled together to deal with the problem (largely at Greeces expense, of course), introducing the European Stability Mechanism and instigating a banking union. What didnt kill the EU, made it stronger.

In comparison, governments have been willing to jettison Schengen and with it the fundamental EU principle of free movement, for national reasons. It turns out sovereignty matters in countries other than the UK, after all. The migrant crisis could have provided the impetus for member states to seek out ever closer ties, but instead they have ridden roughshod over what was meant to be a core value of EU integration. Little wonder that federalists are so concerned: in 2018, the President of the European Parliament wrote that the situation threatens to destroy the EU.

2020 was supposed to be the year when the Schengen crisis came to an end, with the EU hoping that the border checks would at last be removed. But now we have coronavirus. For France, Germany and the others, this would seem like a dangerous time to belatedly allow people to move without checks. In numerous other states that have continued to adhere to the Schengen rules even in the midst of the migrant crisis, border controls may be introduced for the first time in decades.

See the article here:

The coronavirus outbreak shows the real limits of a borderless EU - Telegraph.co.uk

CNN host compares Bernie Sanders to coronavirus: Can either ‘be stopped?’ – Home – WSFX

CNN host Michael Smerconish warned on Saturday that both Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and the coronavirus could have unpredictable impacts on the 2020 presidential election.

Can either coronavirus or Bernie Sanders be stopped? Smerconish said. A CNN chyron with the same question stayed on-screen while Smerconish discussed factors impacting the race.

A list of intangibles which included the impact of impeachment, a large Democratic field, congested candidate lanes and the looming prospect of no one getting the majority of delegates needed to secure the nomination before the convention, now includes the spread of a deadly virus, he said.



His comments came during South Carolinas Democratic primary.

Sanders has already beat out Biden, the presumptive frontrunner, in the previous three contests raising concerns about Democrats chances in the general election.


President Trump, Smerconish argued, faceshis first national and international crisis while in office in the coronavirus.

Its unclear how Smerconish came to this conclusion given that many have suggested that the southern border experienced a migrant crisis under Trumps presidency.

Read more:

CNN host compares Bernie Sanders to coronavirus: Can either 'be stopped?' - Home - WSFX