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9 février 2014 7 09 /02 /février /2014 10:57

After numerous reports from NGOs about the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Bulgaria, and the UNHCR's call, Denmark decided to suspend returning of asylum seekers to Bulgaria under Dublin III regulation. An exception or a first step toward a European attitude ?

From ECRE weekly Bulletin, January 7 2014 :


Denmark suspends returns of asylum seekers to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation

In response to a question from the Danish Parliamentary Committee on Immigration and Integration Affairs on 9 January 2014, the Justice Minister announced on 5 February that returns of asylum seekers under the Dublin Regulation to Bulgaria are suspended. According to the Danish Refugee Council, the authorities have not indicated that they will consequently assume responsibility for cases where Bulgaria is the state identified as responsible for examining the asylum claim.

The Parliamentary Committee asked the Justice Ministry to respond to UNHCR’s call in January 2014 urging Member States to stop sending asylum seekers back to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation. UNHCR and ECRE consider that asylum seekers in Bulgaria face a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment due to deficiencies in Bulgaria’s reception conditions and asylum procedure.

The Minister’s response notes that, in 2013, only 8 asylum seekers were sent to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation and there are currently no such transfers scheduled. Despite referencing a recent UNHCR update highlighting improvements in Bulgaria with regard to registration, food provision and living conditions, the Minister accepts that UNHCR’s observations are ‘a cause for concern’ and concludes that asylum seekers will not be sent back to Bulgaria until more ‘clarity’ is available.

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5 février 2014 3 05 /02 /février /2014 19:58

From Utrinski Vesnik, Le Courrier des Balkans propose an overview of the migrations situation in Macedonia, with especially a large growing of Syrian refugees number :


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3 février 2014 1 03 /02 /février /2014 08:21
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28 janvier 2014 2 28 /01 /janvier /2014 09:39

On the ECRE (European Council on Refugees and Exiles) website, an interview of Irena Zdravkova, from Mecedonian Young Lawyers Association, giving an overview about asylum in Macedonia :


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27 janvier 2014 1 27 /01 /janvier /2014 16:51

January 21 morning, the Greek coastguard intercepted a fishing boat carrying 28 exiles near the island of Farmakonisi in Greek territorial waters. They drive back to Turkish waters illegally. They pull too fast the fishing boat in rough seas, it capsises, three women and nine children drown without coastguards do nothing to save them.

ECRE summaries the situation in its weeckly bulletin :


"12 refugees die during alleged push-back operation off Greek island

12 refugees, including several children, died this week when their vessel sank near a Greek island while being towed by the Greek Coast Guard.

According to the survivors, the Greek coast guard vessel was towing the boat toward the Turkish coast at high speed when the boat capsized. The survivors have declared that the refugees were beaten by the coast guards to prevent them from leaving their sinking vessel and boarding the Greek coast guard boat and that no attempt was made by the coast guard to save the people drowning.

In contrast to the survivors’ accounts, the Greek Port Authority has alleged that due to bad weather conditions the Coast Guard had launched a rescue operation to tow the boat toward the Greek island of Farmakonisi. According to the Greek authorities, during the operation a large number of those on board gathered on one side of the boat, which resulted in its overturning and sinking.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Niels Muiznieks stated: “I am shocked and distressed by the new tragedy which occurred near Farmakonisi in which a number of migrants, including possible asylum seekers, have drowned or have gone missing in what appears to be a case of a failed collective expulsion. The Greek government has pledged last week to put an end to the illegal practice of collective expulsions and effectively investigate all such cases. I urge them to implement their promise”.

In a report published in November, Pro Asyl detailed how refugees attempting to cross the EU’s external borders with Turkey are systematically pushed back from Greek territorial waters, the Greek islands and from the land border. The Pro Asyl report specifically outlined violations that had occurred on or in the proximity of Farmakonisi.

During an interview, Ministry Miltiadis Varvitsiotis accused Commissioner Muiznieks of “wanting to create a political issue in Greece” and stated: “There is a daily battle in the Aegean Sea. The battle has to do with two things. First of all, we send a message that our borders are not an unfenced backyard and that anyone who takes a boat can get into Greece. In addition, we follow all the rules of European Union law and national law.”

ECRE Member Greek Council for Refugees is currently providing social, legal and psychological support to the survivors.

NGOs, UNHCR, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights have all called for an investigation of the circumstances that caused such loss of life. ECRE and Pro Asyl have reiterated that push-backs are illegal, endanger people’s lives and have to end immediately.

“These are European borders, managed with European money, and with the support of the EU border agency Frontex. The EU has a responsibility to take all measures needed to ensure that life is given priority and fundamental rights are respected at its borders”, said ECRE’s Secretary General Michael Diedring. “At the time of the Greek Presidency all efforts should be taken to protect life and stop these human rights violations”.

The European Commission has allocated almost € 227,576,503 million for Greece under the Return Fund and the External Borders Fund between 2011 and 2013."

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20 janvier 2014 1 20 /01 /janvier /2014 21:40

Moria detention center on the island of Lesbos, a delegation of the ecologist party has discovered 8 minors detained for over 22 days and one for 16 days, in contradiction with international standards. This detention center is funded by the European Union.

Source : Okeanews http://www.okeanews.fr/20140115-des-mineurs-afghans-detenus-depuis-plus-20-jours-au-centre-de-detention-de-moria-sur-lile-de-lesbos#axzz2qwkcoJyP

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18 janvier 2014 6 18 /01 /janvier /2014 20:10

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe calls out the Greek authorities about the refoulement of migrants at the border, among other Syrian refugees:

Greece must end collective expulsions

Letter to Greek Ministers

Strasbourg 14/1/2014

"The large number of reported collective expulsions by Greece of migrants, including a large number of Syrians fleeing war violence, and allegations of ill-treatment of migrants by members of the coast guard and of the border police raise serious human rights concerns. I call on the Greek authorities to carry out effective investigations into all recorded incidents and take all necessary measures in order to end and prevent recurrence of such practices", said Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, releasing today a letter sent on 5 December, 2013 to the Greek Ministers of Public Order and Citizen Protection, Mr Nikolaos Dendias, and of Shipping and the Aegean, Mr Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.

The Commissioner notes the recent adoption of legislative measures aimed at protecting migrants', including minors', access to health and social care in initial reception centres. However, he underscores that collective expulsions of foreign nationals violate international and European human rights law and raise very serious issues of compatibility with the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in the UN Refugee Convention, by which Greece is bound.

"In addition to being incompatible with international human rights and refugee law, collective expulsions of migrants are also ineffective, given that people facing desperate situations cannot really be prevented from migrating. To uphold its human rights obligations, Greece has to radically change its migration policy and practice. This is all the more necessary now that Greece has taken on additional responsibilities by holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. I therefore welcome as a first positive step the Greek authorities' ongoing investigations on push-backs and alleged ill-treatment of migrants, as well as their commitment to share with me the outcome of these investigations."

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17 janvier 2014 5 17 /01 /janvier /2014 13:47

Following the deterioration of the refugees reception conditions in Bulgaria, Amnesty International and the Council of Europe's Humans Rights Commissionner recommand to stop Dublin transfers to this country.

More information on :


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16 janvier 2014 4 16 /01 /janvier /2014 19:02

Due to non-compliance with standards of reception of asylum seekers and procedural safeguards, ECRE (European Council on Refugees and Exiles) request, as the High Commissioner for Refugees of the United Nations, stopping Dublin transfers to Bulgaria, as well as the implementation of new European rules when a country does not meet its obligations refugee.

Below the ECRE press release in English, and an article from Courrier des Balkans here in French:


ECRE joins UNHCR in calling on EU Member States to stop sending asylum seekers to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation

This week, ECRE has joined UNHCR in urging EU countries not to send asylum seekers to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation.

In its Observations on the Current Situation of Asylum in Bulgaria, UNHCR considers that asylum seekers in Bulgaria face a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment due to systemic deficiencies in reception conditions and asylum procedures in the country. In such circumstances, the halting of Dublin transfers to Bulgaria is required by judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, as well as by Article 3(2) of the Dublin III Regulation. Alongside this legal prohibition, UNHCR and ECRE underline that such a suspension would demonstrate the commitment of Member States to the fundamental EU principle of solidarity.

UNHCR describes the receptions conditions for asylum seekers in Bulgaria as ‘deplorable’ and ‘at variance with the right to human dignity and respect for privacy’. UNHCR’s analysis is in line with the findings of ECRE’s Asylum Information Database (AIDA) Country Report on Bulgaria, updated by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee in December 2013. Asylum seekers in Bulgaria reside in overcrowded and understaffed reception centres, especially since the sharp increase in applications since August 2013, mainly by Syrians.

In addition, UNHCR cites the risk of lengthy and arbitrary detention due to delays and to the absence of a clear basis for detention in Bulgarian law. Another critical problem is the denial of access to a fair and effective asylum determination procedure, which leaves asylum seekers sent to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation at risk of refoulement to their countries of origin.

ECRE criticises the draft law in Bulgaria amending the Asylum Act, which foresees widespread detention of asylum seekers, contrary to international EU norms and standards, and allows the detention of unaccompanied children.

ECRE reminds European states that they are precluded as a matter of law from returning anyone under the Dublin mechanism, or any bilateral agreement, if this would create a risk of a violation of any of the obligations they have undertaken under the European Convention on Human Rights or the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. ECRE also endorses UNHCR’s statement that a Dublin transfer may be precluded by the risk of a rights violation ‘even in the absence of systemic deficiencies’ in the responsible country’s asylum system.

It is recommended that Bulgaria adopt a crisis management plan, in accordance with Article 33 of the Dublin III Regulation, to reinforce EU efforts to improve the situation in Bulgaria. Such a plan would require Bulgaria to report regularly to the Commission and the European Asylum Support Office as well as inform the European Parliament of any progress made.

ECRE also notes the growing number of cases in which national courts have ordered suspension of Dublin transfers to EU Member States, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Italy. As a result, ECRE calls on the EU institutions to recognise the failures of the current system and seize the opportunity of the upcoming discussions on the EU’s strategic guidelines for the Post-Stockholm era to fundamentally review the principles underlying the Dublin system.

For further information:

Asylum Information Database (AIDA), Country Report on Bulgaria, December 2013
AIDA, UNHCR: all transfers to Bulgaria should be halted due to a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment, 3 January 2014
Novinite, Boris Cheshirkov, UNHCR Bulgaria: We Need Burden Sharing, Not Burden Shifting, 23 October 2013
ECRE, Bulgaria urged to clamp down on xenophobic violence against migrants and refugees, 6 December 2013
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Bulgaria's Interior Ministry Violates Rights of Syrian Refugees, 28 October 2013
ECRE, BHC demands resignation of Bulgaria’s Agency for Refugees over treatment of Syrians, 26 September 2013

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6 janvier 2014 1 06 /01 /janvier /2014 08:51

Due to the situation of asylum seekers and refugees in Bulgaria and to the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment, the UNHCR calls to temporary stop to transfer asylum seekers according to the Dublin regulation :


UNHCR calls for temporary halt to Dublin transfers of asylum-seekers back to Bulgaria
Friday 3, January 2014

GENEVA, January 3 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency today issued a position paper urging States participating in the Dublin Regulation to temporarily suspend transfers of asylum-seekers back to Bulgaria. The agency concluded that asylum-seekers in Bulgaria face a genuine risk of inhuman or degrading treatment due to systemic deficiencies in reception conditions and asylum procedures.

“Asylum-seekers in Bulgaria routinely lack access to basic services, such as food and healthcare; face lengthy delays in registration which subsequently deprive them of their basic rights; and are at risk of arbitrary detention,” said UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch at a press briefing in Geneva today. He added, “there are serious challenges to access fair and effective asylum procedures alongside ongoing reports of push backs at the border”.

The Dublin Regulation provides for a system to determine responsibility for examining asylum claims lodged in EU Member States and other States that are party to the Dublin regulation according to specific criteria. It aims to ensure that each claim is fairly examined by a State to deter multiple applications and enhance efficiency.

“Despite progress in recent years, and improved reception conditions over the past few weeks, there are significant gaps in the implementation of laws and policies on international protection in Bulgaria,” UNHCR spokesman Baloch told journalists. These gaps have worsened with the increase in the numbers of asylum-seekers arriving in recent months, particularly those fleeing the conflict in Syria. In 2013, over 9,000 people sought asylum in Bulgaria, up from an annual average of 1,000 asylum-seekers since its accession to the EU in 2007.

UNHCR urged the Bulgarian authorities to take immediate steps to improve deplorable conditions to ensure respect for the rights of asylum-seekers and people in need of international protection. The agency proposed to re-assess the situation as of 1 April 2014. The three-month period will provide an opportunity for the Bulgarian authorities and their partners — including the European Commission, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), NGOs and UNHCR — to work together to improve the reception conditions and asylum procedures.

“In the meantime, refraining from transferring asylum-seekers would also represent an important demonstration of solidarity at this juncture,” UNHCR’s spokesman said.

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