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Migration News and Policy Review

6.4.20 - 12.4.20

Week In Summary

This week a laxer border regime for Czechia was announced, while the European Commission recommended an extension to the restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU until 15 May. Meanwhile, the pressures of migration at the EU external borders continue to grow. The situation of people in distress at sea in the central Mediterranean has become more uncertain after Italy, Malta and Libya declared their ports unsafe for the disembarkation of migrants. Furthermore, over the weekend, Greek authorities declared that Turkey was moving refugees from its inland to its western coast, which triggered concerns about a possible resumption of sea crossings.

If you need a recap, here are some of the Consortium's publications you can consult:

Migration news and policy reviews (2020):
From the Consortium's website:
Newsletters:

 TOP STORIES


  • Germany and Luxembourg to accept unaccompanied children from Greek refugee camps
  • Italy, Malta and Libya refuse to allow disembarkation of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean sea
  • Tukey might be pushing migrants towards its western shores

 SOME BORDER RESTRICTION UPDATES



Czechia

 

On 7 April, the Czech government approved a laxer border regime applicable to international travel and the movement of cross-border workers. The measures will be applicable from 14 April. Travels will need to be justifiably necessary and, unless shorter than 24 hours, will require a mandatory quarantine upon return. Cross-border workers were until now affected by different conditions due to the distinct border regulations enforced by each bordering country. Under a new unified system, cross-border workers can spend two weeks working abroad (instead of the previous three-week minimum) and already return to Czechia for a two-week quarantine. Some cross-border workers (e.g. those working on healthcare or rescue services) continue to be exempted from quarantine, to which those employed in critical infrastructure have been added.

Originally, the Central Crisis Staff had proposed to substitute the preventive quarantine for compulsory COVID-19 tests instead. However, the Ministry of Health did not agree with this in the end. Following the new regime, spouses and children of EU citizens residing in Czechia are allowed into the country.
 

Additionally, Austria and Germany have modified their border regimes in recent days, affecting travel from Czechia. From 14 April, most people entering Austria will need to present a certificate of infectiousness. On the other hand, most people entering Germany from 10 April have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.


EU external borders likely to remain closed until 15 May
 


On 8 April, the European Commission invited the 30 EU+ member states to extend the restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU until 15 May, on the basis of the previous restrictions announced on 16 March. While some major airlines have already implemented the new Commission's suggestion by suspending flights until 15 May, it is, eventually, to the discretion of individual states to follow the suggestion. Nevertheless, until now, all member states, except for Ireland, had followed the previously-suggested restrictions.
 

For a summary on border and travel restrictions on Czechia's neighbouring countries, check the Consortium's review from last week.

For the impact of the restrictions on migrant communities across the EU, check this country-report list compiled from PICUM's member organisations.

For a brief overview of the current state of international mobility across the EU, check the Czech Ministry of Interior's website.


 PRESSURE AT THE EU'S EXTERNAL BORDERS


Turkey might be pushing migrants towards its coast near Greek islands

 

News emerged over the weekend of refugees in Turkey traveling towards the country's western shore. While Greek and international media fed into the idea that Turkey was deliberately trying to send COVID-19-infected people into the EU, the Greek migration minister denied that there was any evidence to claim that those concentrating at the borders were indeed infected.

 

An investigative piece by Euractiv, cites high-ranking Greek government officials claiming that migrants had completed their quarantines in Turkey and moved by bus to the seaside towns by Turkish authorities. An NGO operating in the region confirmed this practice and, furthermore, that migrants were being pushed to cross the border against their will. However, IOM Greece claimed not to have any proof of a Turkish-government-enforced movement. 

COVID-19 restrictions used to deny assistance in the Central Mediterranean by Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities

 

From 5 to 11 April, over 1,000 people attempted to cross from Libya into Malta or Italy by boat, according to Alarm Phone. Half of those were returned to Libya, 150 rescued by an NGO vessel, 64 by Maltese armed forces and many of them arrived to Italy autonomously. The restrictions connected to COVID-19 have dilated the rescue gap in the Central Mediterranean over this week as the governments of Italy, Malta and Libya declared their ports unsafe for the disembarkation of migrants.

 

As reported in the Consortium's last week review, the NGO Sea-Eye had just launched a new maritime rescue mission to the Central Mediterranean called Alan Kurdi. On 6 April, after less than a day in the Libyan Search and Rescue (SAR) zone, the German-flagged vessel conducted two tense operations that rescued about 150 people who were fleeing Libya. During the first rescue, arriving Libyan coast guards fired shots into the air, infusing panic among some of those being rescued by the NGO. During the second rescue, an Italian vessel refused to conduct the operation, leaving it to the NGO instead. Italy and Malta had previously stated that they would not be allowing disembarkation under the present COVID-19 restrictions. After the second rescue took place, the German Ministry of Interior asked Sea-Eye to stop conducting further rescue missions.

 

The Alan Kurdi solicited food, medicine and fuel from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. Italian authorities tried to push the responsibility for responding to that call to their Maltese counterparts, who, in turn, refused to take charge of the situation. Later, the Italian coast guard would evacuate one person from the Alan Kurdi. Malta also refused to attend to a distress call from a boat fleeing Libya on 6 April, which had been at sea for over 40 hours and had been left without fuel. Eventually, the boat managed to reach the island of Lampedusa without assistance.

 

Immediately after these events, on 7 April, Italy declared its ports unsafe for disembarkation of "people rescued from boats flying a foreign flag" (e.g. the Alan Kurdi). Despite the announcement, some boats kept on arriving autonomously at Southern Italy's coasts, which put pressure on the capacities of existing facilities to quarantine the new arrivals, as well as sparkling resentment among the local populations. On 9 April, Malta followed Italy's suit by stating that it would not guarantee the further disembarkation of migrants rescued at sea. Both governments' measures have been framed within the context of the present health crisis triggered by COVID-19 and, therefore, expected to be enforced until border restrictions ease. Also on 9 April, Libya declared its ports unsafe for the disembarkation of migrants. The announcement came as a Libyan coast guard vessel, with 280 rescued people on board, was denied disembarkation at Tripoli's main port and had to remain docked. On 10 April, the migrants escaped the coast guard's vessel as the port was being shelled, with Libyan authorities reportedly capturing 200 escapees.

12 April onboard report from the Alan Kurdi crew, via Sea-Eye (1m39s)
Meanwhile, after 7 days waiting for the identification of a safe port for disembarkation, the Alan Kurdi remained at sea with the 150 rescued people onboard by 12 April. Finally, on that same day, Italy agreed to take in the migrants by having them transferred first into an Italian vessel, where they would keep quarantine before being disembarked.

 

The present status quo creates a tremendous uncertainty around the fate of people in distress at the Mediterranean sea. By Sunday 12, Frontex believed a boat with 85 people to have capsized, after its position had been repeatedly reported to Italian and Maltese authorities.


 EU MIGRATION NEWS


Germany and Luxembourg to take in unaccompanied children refugees from Greece

 

After the first cases of coronavirus were detected in Greek refugee camps and pressure from NGOs mounted, Germany confirmed on 8 April that it will be taking 50 unaccompanied children from the centres by the end of the current week. Equally, Luxembourg is expected to welcome 12 of the minors by 15 April. Responses from other EU countries remain to be seen. The UK's Home Office seems to be, until now, refusing to respond to pleas from NGOs to accept a share of the minors.

EU governments are asking health-trained migrants to help during the pandemic

 

In a recent story for The Guardian, Karen McVeigh and Sam Jones report how different governments across the world are allowing refugees and migrants with a background in health services to help during the pandemic. Following the article's reported stories, here are a few interesting initiatives taken within the EU:

 

 

 

 

The new coronavirus is spreading in Calais' makeshift refugee camps

 

The NGO Care4Calais, reported this week that the number of cases of COVID-19 among the 1000 people sheltered in informal camps in Calais is increasing. The camps lack sanitation, water and food. Already last week, local authorities in Calais and Dunkirk started to relocate people from these makeshift camps into accommodation centres, with some of the camped refugees preferring to continue attempting the cross into the UK rather than staying at a potentially infectious centre. Furthermore, Care4Calais reports that the currently identified centres might be able to host only a third of the existing rough sleeping refugees in Northern France. 

Why the current crisis could be devastating for refugees by Care4Calais (3m1s)
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