E.U. Doubles Up on Returning Migrants From Libya
The E.U. has doubled its target for returning migrants in Libya. The move was announced by the European Commission on December 7 as part of $34 million in new spending.
European leaders have promised to “evacuate” and “rescue” migrants from Libyan detention centers in the wake of reports of slave auctions. The E.U. has already spent significantly on sending migrants who might otherwise come to Europe back to their countries of origin under voluntary schemes.
The E.U. has already used its Trust Fund for Africa to pay for the International Organization for Migration to return 14,000 migrants from Libya. The fund has been tapped again, and another 15,000 people will now be returned by February 2018, a huge ramping up of the program.
Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said, “With our new programs, we will help dismantle criminal networks in North of Africa, support migrants who wish to return to their home countries and facilitate access for migrants to legal advice.”
Part of the new funds allocated included $18 million in support for law enforcement in North Africa to be implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The latest trust fund spending continues to prioritize the removal of migrants and refugees from Libya and security sector support over development assistance.
Greek Island Mayors Lead Protests Over Refugee Containment Policy
Mayors from the Greek islands led a protest in Athens to demand the emptying of refugee camps. The demonstration on December 6 called for an end to the policy of confining new arrivals on five islands.
“Action has to be taken now, before it is too late,” said Panos Pitsios, president of the town council of Mytilene on Lesbos. “We are heading toward an eruption, a situation that is on the verge of getting out of control.”
A proclamation was delivered to Greece’s migration minister, Ioannis Mouzalas, calling for the geographical restrictions on the islands to be lifted.
Islanders are complaining about the appalling conditions and overcrowding as winter sets in, with recent arrivals from Turkey further straining resources. There is strong opposition to the building of more camp capacity as locals resent being used as a buffer zone by the E.U.
Under the E.U.-Turkey deal in March 2016, Greece is obliged to restrict all new irregular arrivals to its islands. The containment is designed to discourage refugees and migrants from making the crossing. In practice, thousands of asylum seekers have been brought to the Greek mainland to ease the overcrowding.
But a late-summer spike in arrivals has overwhelmed the informal process of ferrying people off the islands.
E.U. Refugee Refusenik States to Be Sued in Court of Justice
Three member states will be sued by the E.U. for failing to take in refugees. The European Court of Justice will hear the case against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
The E.U.’s executive committee announced the decision on December 7 after it received “no satisfactory explanation” from the three countries.
The commission said the three “remain in breach of their legal obligations” and “have given no indication that they will contribute to the implementation of the relocation decision.”
The three countries, which along with Slovakia form the Visegrad 4 group, refused to take part in the relocation of asylum seekers from the bloc’s front-line states, Italy and Greece.
The scheme eventually fell far short of its 160,000 target due to trenchant opposition, with Hungary even resorting to a referendum to underline local opposition to hosting refugees.
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