FREE News: 6th January 2015
JHA (immigration, asylum seekers): “Thousands of asylum seekers to be returned to Bulgaria” (Euractiv)
“3600 refugees from third countries will be returned to Bulgaria from other states in the European Union, the government in Sofia announced Monday (5 January). Dnevnik, EurActiv’s partner in Bulgaria, reports. In recent years, Bulgaria has suffered from waves of refugees, mainly due to the civil war in Syria. The most impoverished country in the EU, Bulgaria has a limited capacity to deal with the challenge, and has been criticised by human rights groups for mistreating the flow of refugees.”
“Bulgaria has mobilised hundreds of police to guard the border with Turkey, but the country’s interior ministry now says that the army should be assigned with this task. Asked if building fences was consistent with EU policies, the Commission has conceded that EU countries were free to decide their own border protection measures. However, the EU executive has repeatedly stated that returning asylum seekers was against EU and international law.”
Read here the full article.
JHA (Immigration): “Migrant smugglers using a new route to Europe” (EUObserver)
“BRUSSELS – The EU’s border agency, Frontex, says smugglers are using a new route to get migrants into Europe by loading them onto cargo ships from Turkey to Italy. “There is definitely a new route opening up,” a spokesperson at the Warsaw-based agency told this website on Monday (5 January). Around 17 cargo vessels have been intercepted on the route since July. Frontex says the large cargo ships, measuring around 100 metres in length, are often purchased from scrapyards and then set sail from Mersin port in Turkey. People are paying up to €6,000 to get onboard, around triple the price of those leaving in smaller and more dangerous boats from Libya.
The latest incident occurred last week when the Frontex-led border surveillance operation, Triton, along with the Italian coastguard, intercepted the Ezadeen and Blue Sky M cargo ships. Some 796 migrants were found on the Blue Sky M. Another 359 migrants, including 60 children, were found on the Ezadeen. Italian authorities believe smugglers made up to €3 million from the Ezadeen deal.”
“Around 16,000 people have been rescued in the Mediterranean and 76 traffickers arrested since Triton’s launch last November.”
More on this topic: “Commission steps up response to ‘ghost ships’“
“On 2 January, Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, published a statement in which he highlighted the need to take more decisive action against the “ruthless criminal organisations” which now employ new methods “in order to exploit desperate people who are trying to escape conflict and war”.
According to some press reports, sub-standard cargo ships are bought by traffickers for sums of around €250,000. With 500 migrants paying about €5,000, the profit of one such journey is almost tenfold. The Commission was pressed with questions about how is it possible that the ‘ghost ships’ leave from ports in Turkey. Turkey is a far cry from being a failed state and which aims at having stronger ties with the EU. Also, it is unclear how the traffickers buy and operate the sub-standard ships in spite of existing maritime safety legislation.
Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said that Avramopoulos would present in the course of the current year a new agenda for migration. It would answer new challenges such as the ghost ships. Margaritis Schinas, spokesman of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said that the new type of human trafficking activity was “particularly worrying”. “Europe is doing what we can, there is a scope of doing more, but this requires more money, more means”, he said. The spokespeople acknowledged that the budget of the European agency for the management of external borders Frontex is not sufficient. They also repeated that Frontex was not guarding the EU’s borders, but was putting at the disposal of member states additional means and resources to help them guard their own borders. The Commission didn’t explain if Frontex action, which usually take place in coastal waters, could begin at deep sea, before the ghost ships reach close to EU territory.”
“UK prime minister David Cameron has said he will not rule out an earlier-than-planned referendum on EU membership should he remain in office after the May general election. The idea is to have the in-out referendum before the end of 2017 but Cameron on Sunday (4 January) suggested it could be held at an earlier date after an EU treaty change.
“The referendum must take place before the end of 2017. If we could do that earlier, I’d be delighted, if we could deliver on this referendum then the sooner I can deliver on it the better,” he told the BBC in an interview. The conservative leader wants to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership in the EU in order to take back some decision-making powers from Brussels. Ideas include putting unemployment benefit restrictions on EU nationals in Britain looking for work.”
“Petition to UK government to ratify Istanbul Convention on violence against women”
“By ratifying the Convention, the UK Government will be legally obliged to prevent all forms of violence against women and girls, protect survivors, and prosecute perpetrators. This includes rape and physical violence, female genital mutilation, stalking, forced abortion, so-called ‘honour’ violence and forced marriage. Once the Government has ratified the Convention, it will have to provide general and specialist support services for survivors of violence, such as shelters, sexual violence referral centres, psychological support, free 24/7 helplines, and legal aid. In the UK two women on average are killed by a partner or ex-partner every week. In England and Wales at least 233 women and girls are raped every day and 31% of women have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16. Despite how common violence against women and girls is, efforts to prevent violence against women and girls are scarce and UK sexual violence and domestic abuse support services are in crisis.”
Read the article on change.org link
AFSJ (Data Protection) For an update on the state of play of negotiations on EU data protection law read “The EU data protection regulation after 3 years of negotiation”