News update – 03 February ’16
Our weekly news update on refugee issues around the world by Isobel Fraser.
Follow Isobel on Twitter @isobelfraser1
- An independent report has found advice issued by the Home Office, identifying Eritrea as a safe country of return for asylum seekers, to have been based upon misleading and biased information. The report criticised the Home Office for basing their advice largely upon a Danish report written in 2014, since discredited by the Danish government, and for overlooking serious human rights abuses in Eritrea. It is believed the advice issued by the Home Office led to a severe drop in the approval rating for asylum claims by Eritreans.
- Four young Syrian men and one mentally handicapped man arrived in Britain from Calais’ “Jungle” camp, after British Immigration judges ruled that the asylum seekers should be allowed to join their relatives in the UK. The refugees’ lawyers argued successfully that there had been bureaucratic delays in processing the group’s asylum claims in France, allowing the group to travel to the UK to claim asylum. The ruling has been seen to set a precedent which may allow at least 200 more refugees from Calais to come to the UK.
- Denmark has approved a law which will enable police to seize cash and valuables from refugees, over the value of £1,000. The Danish government had said the new law mirrored the treatment of Danish citizens applying for benefits however an academic specialist confirmed that the Danish police do not have the right to search Danes, except on rare occasions. The new law also increases the time refugees must wait to apply for family reunification from one year to three; a move criticised by human rights campaigners.
- EU ministers considered extending border checks within Europe for up to a two year period. At a meeting in Amsterdam, interior EU ministers enquired with the European Commission, about the possibility of extending the checks. But EU Migration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, was quick to dispel concerns, writing on twitter: “we are not speaking about the suspension of Schengen”. EU leaders will meet for a summit in Brussels on the 18th of February to discuss the migration crisis.
- The UK Government has announced they will be taking more unaccompanied child refugees from camps bordering Syria and also from within Europe, where children have a family connection to the UK. Vulnerable child refugees will be identified at arrival “hotspots” in Italy and Greece and will not be taken from camps within France such as Calais’ “Jungle” camp. Europol has estimated around 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have gone missing, after arriving in Europe.
- Greece has been given three months to address deficiencies in their handling of refugee influxes, or face up to a two year suspension from Europe’s passport-free zone, known as Schengen. Warnings were made by the European Commission, after inspections carried out by the commission on two Geek islands, found the handling of refugees did not comply with EU guidelines. Greece has come under increasing pressure from EU member states to do more to stem the flow of refugees from Turkey into Greece.
- A party leader from the Dutch coalition government announced that the Netherlands will be pushing for an agreement between EU member states and Turkey, which would allow the return of all asylum seekers from Greece who travel there irregularly. In exchange EU states would agree to relocate up to 250,000 refugees a year from Turkey. Human Rights Watch criticised the moves and said: “EU countries should move swiftly to fulfil their commitments under the [current] relocation plan to alleviate the burden from Greece”.