Justice and Home Affairs: Thousands of Afghans stranded in Greece, Austria calls Balkan mini-summit (EurActiv)
Thousands of refugees were left stranded in Greece yesterday (22 February) after Macedonia abruptly closed it border to Afghans, creating a fresh bottleneck as European countries scramble to respond to the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Overall, some 8,000 people were trapped on Greece’s northern frontier and at the port of Piraeus after Macedonia introduced the measure on Sunday in a bid to stem an unrelenting influx of migrants. Desperate to get through, hundreds of Afghans staged a sit-down protest in an area of no-man’s land and occupied the railway line connecting the two countries, holding makeshift signs that read: “We can’t go back” and “Why racism?”
Dozens of Afghan children also carried signs with the words: “Help us cross border” […]

Justice and Home Affairs: Nigerians arrive in Italy via Libya, says Frontex (EurActiv)
Frontex, the EU border management agency, said some 5,600 refugees, mostly Nigerians, arrived in Italy last month by boat, after crossing the Mediterranean. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán was quoted as saying that 50 million of Nigerians could arrive in Italy via Libya. Frontex said that Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans accounted for the most of the 68,000 people that reached Greece last month, while some 5,600 – mostly Nigerians – arrived via Italy, attributing the drop of those arriving, mostly by boat, to the weather.
More than a million refugees reached Europe last year, mainly via Greece after traveling across the Mediterranean, from Turkey. This number, however, is likely to be dwarfed this year, after the weather improves. At the recent EU summit on 19 February, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told the press that EU leaders had mentioned the previous night, during the summit, “apocalyptic figures” of expected future migration to Europe […]

Justice and Home Affairs: Forget Brexit, it’s the Franco-German impasse that could turn the EU (NewEurope)
The real obstacle to deeper European integration is not the Brexit – British Prime Minister David Cameron won a deal to enshrine formally Britain’s semi-detached status in the 28-member bloc. According to an analysis from the Reuters news agency, the real threat is the long-running Franco-German impasse on how to make the euro zone stronger and more sustainable. It is the breakdown of Franco-German leadership in the euro zone – the economic core of the 60-year-old European project – that worries the architects of European integration. Paris and Berlin have long slept in the same bed with very different dreams […]

Justice and Home Affairs: Austrian restrictions trigger domino effect across Balkan refugee route (EurActiv)
Afghan asylum seekers seeking to travel through the Balkans to northern Europe were barred from entering Macedonia yesterday (21 February), after Austria introduced a similar restriction, creating a domino effect along the so-called Balkan migrant route.
“We were warned this morning that Macedonian authorities would no longer let Afghans pass,” a Greek police official told AFP, adding that Macedonia justified its move by claiming that Serbia had made a similar decision. The development came after Austria on Friday (19 February) introduced a daily limit on refugees entering and registering in the country, triggering EU fears of a domino effect along the so-called Balkan ‘migrant’ route.
On Sunday (21 February), Afghans seeking to enter Macedonia through the Idomeni border crossing were pushed back, while only Syrians and Iraqis were allowed through […]

Migration: Austria plans Western Balkan meeting on migrant caps (EuObeserver)
Austria is asking Western Balkan nations and Bulgaria to meet to discuss the migrant crisis, ahead of a gathering of EU interior ministers in Brussels.
The move follows Austria’s decision last week to cap the daily number of asylum applications to 80, and allow 3,200 migrants to travel through its territory each day.
The decision roused fears of bottlenecks along the Balkan route and further border clamp downs and drew sharp criticism from Germany and the European Commission.
The Austria meeting will take place on Wednesday (24 February) and will be attended by ministers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, reports Reuters […]

Migration: Migrants cutting holes in Hungary’s efforts to keep them out (NewEurope)
The razor wire fence built by Hungary to stop migrants and refugees from crossing the border from neighbouring Serbia is not impenetrable. Police arrested 550 people getting through in January and more than 1,200 were caught in the first three weeks of February.
As reported by the BBC, Hungary caused controversy with the barrier, completed in September. While the number of people crossing from Serbia dropped after Hungary built the fence along the 175km border, police say migrants are cutting through or climbing over the barrier. Many are from Pakistan, Iran and Morocco, who are no longer admitted through other routes, reported the BBC. But the majority of migrants and refugees have headed for countries like Germany and Sweden via Hungary and Austria after crossing from Turkey to Greece […]

Migration: Macedonia border move strands migrants in Greece (EuObserver)
Thousands of refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece after Macedonia restricted border crossings on Monday (22 February).
Macedonia decided over the weekend not to let through Afghan nationals and tightened entry for Syrians and Iraqis travelling from Greece, creating a bottleneck.
On Tuesday, Greece police started to remove migrants from its border with Macedonia, according to Reuters, as officials in Athens called on Macedonia to ease the restrictions.
Slovenia in the meantime authorised the army to help manage the flow of migrants crossing the Croatian border into Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone […]

Migration: FYROM, Serbia close borders to Afghan refugees (NewEurope)
Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) closed their borders to refugees coming from Afghanistan, and now thousands of people in need are awaiting at the Greece-FYROM’s buffer zone at Idomeni.
Greek news agency, ANA-MPA, reported that according to the latest police figures, over 2,000 refugees are currently waiting at Idomeni camp. Moreover, 62 buses with roughly 3,000 persons are parked at the nearby gas station, 20 km from the Greek-FYROM border, awaiting official authorization to continue their trip.
In the meantime, about 4,000 people are stranded at the Piraeus Port in Athens, Greece as the Greek police forbids them to board on buses destined for the Greece-FYROM borders […]

Refugee Crisis: An average of two refugee children have drowned every day since September 2015 (NewEurope)
As the refugee influx in the EU is rising, more and more refugee children are losing their live in the dangerous crossing. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) together with its UN Partners urged the EU authorities to better protect the people in need who risk their lives every day to cross into European territory. An average of two children have drowned every day since September 2015, according to IOM, UNHCR, and UNICEF. Since last September, when the tragic death of toddler Aylan Kurdi captured the world’s attention, more than 340 children, many of them babies and toddlers, have drowned in the eastern Mediterranean. The total number of children who have died may be even greater, because some of the bodies are lost at sea […]

Global Europe: EU rules prevent sharing of refugee fingerprints (EurActiv)
According to EU rules, only the fingerprints of migrants who apply for asylum are shared among the member countries, which basically means that privacy concerns don’t allow the use of the vast majority of migrants’ fingerprints taken.
On the Austrian-Slovenia border, one of the last stops on the migrant route to Germany, a policeman explains that after his 12-hour shift taking new arrivals’ fingerprints, most are lost minutes after they are taken.
“We are not allowed to save the fingerprints,” the Austrian policeman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said as he sat in a tent at the Spielfeld border crossing. “We do what we’re asked to do […]”

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