Question: Security situation in Afghanistan

Together with the Social Democrat Bettina Vollath and the left-wing Clare Daly, I tabled a question to the Commission on the advance of the Islamists as early as 30 June, six weeks before the Taliban invaded Kabul. Unfortunately, the Commission took more than 10 weeks to answer our question. These and other questions can be found in full on the homepage of the European Parliament.

Our request

Since the withdrawal of US and NATO troops, violence and clashes have been steadily increasing. As a result, foreign embassies have started to withdraw their staff and close their offices. Despite the deteriorating security situation, the Commission and Afghanistan signed the Joint Declaration on Cooperation in the Field of Migration in April 2021. However, in terms of its content and purpose, it does not address recent developments at all and only provides for a limited review of the current security situation.

1. will the Commission involve Parliament in future decisions relating to this Joint Declaration and report on the results of monitoring the implementation of the Joint Declaration?

2. what is the Commission's assessment of the security situation in Afghanistan in the light of the escalating violence and what consequences does this assessment have for repatriations to Afghanistan?

3. in view of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, how does the Commission intend to enable Afghans, in particular local NATO troop personnel, to seek refuge legally in the EU?

Commission's reply

In its answer, the Commission acknowledges that the Member States do not currently intend to carry out repatriations. However, the Commissioner responsible, Ylva Johansson, only made this statement three days after the Taliban captured Kabul, although it was clear long before that that Afghanistan was not safe enough to deport. Specifically, the Commission's response states:

„The Commission shall report regularly to the European Parliament on the state of play of the negotiations on EU readmission agreements and arrangements. The last meeting, held on 23 March 2021, also discussed returns to Afghanistan and the forthcoming signing of the Joint Declaration on Afghan-EU Cooperation on Migration.

In view of the rapidly deteriorating security situation and the fall of the Afghan Government, the Commission considers that the current situation in Afghanistan clearly does not provide guarantees for the respect of fundamental rights and the safety of returnees. For further details, see Commissioner Johansson's statement on the situation in Afghanistan of 18 August 2021.. The Commission acknowledges that Member States do not intend to carry out returns to Afghanistan.

The United States, as well as some countries deploying NATO forces, are implementing programmes to assist local Afghan staff who have worked with them and are seeking protection from possible Taliban reprisals following the withdrawal of foreign forces, including through resettlement. Concrete actions in this context will be implemented for local staff employed in the EU Delegation and in the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) field office in Kabul.“

Question: Arrest of Dutch journalist Ingeborg Beugel

The Journalist Ingeborg Beugel was arrested on the Greek island of Hydra in early June for harboring a young Afghan. If convicted, she faces up to a year in prison. She says that the accusations against her are unjustified and that the young man is a refugee and not an illegal migrant. The two MEPs Dietmar Köster and Rosa D'Amato have written the following question on this, which I have also signed and supported. These and other questions can be found in full on the homepage of the European Parliament.

Question to the Commission

Directive 2002/90/EC, which defines the offence of facilitating the unauthorised residence of foreign nationals in the territory of a Member State, provides for penalties to be imposed where a person intentionally facilitates the unauthorised residence of another person for financial gain.

The Union institutions have deliberately distinguished smuggling from acts of active solidarity by members of civil society, which are not only without consequences for the legal procedures for examining asylum applications, but also actually facilitate administrative activities relating to refugees.

On 13 June 2021, a Dutch journalist reporting on refugee flows was arrested in Greece under Article 29(6) of Law 4251/2014 for providing refuge to an Afghan refugee, despite the fact that the procedure concerning the refugee's lawful stay had not yet been completed. She now faces imprisonment, although it does not appear - nor does it appear from the indictment - that her intention was to profit from hosting the refugee in her home.

In view of the above, would the Commission answer the following question:

What measures will the Commission take to ensure that acts of active solidarity are not disapproved of and repressed by Member States, particularly as these acts differ substantially from those described in Directive 2002/90/EC?

Commission's reply

The Commission has assessed the implementation of Council Directive 2002/90/EC of 28 November 2002 defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence, including an evaluation on this basis. The Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of the Directive and verify the conformity of national legislation with the EU legal framework. Under the Treaties, the Commission has no specific powers to investigate individual cases. In line with its general policy on infringements, the Commission focuses enforcement actions primarily on cases where there appears to be a systematic breach of EU law. It is the responsibility of national authorities to investigate and prosecute cases related to facilitation of irregular stay.

In addition, the Commission's guidelines on the application of the above-mentioned Directive invite Member States to also make use of the possibility to distinguish between acts committed for the purpose of humanitarian assistance and acts committed to facilitate irregular entry or transit, in order to exempt the former acts from criminalisation. The Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of EU legislation to ensure that proportionate, effective and dissuasive criminal sanctions are introduced, while avoiding the potential criminalisation of those providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in distress.

This is the current situation on Lesvos

I travelled to Lesvos in July to see what the current situation is in the new Mavrovouni camp after the fire in Moria. I also met with the Frontex field force to discuss the current situation and the pushbacks by the Greek Coast Guard. And I visited various NGOs and civil society actors who are fighting to change the situation politically, but also make offers so that refugees have the possibility to get through their difficult everyday life a little better.

In the On the night of September 8-9, the Moria camp burned down completely. At the time, 12,600 people were living there in cramped quarters in undignified conditions. The camp is a symbol of the failure of European refugee policy, which fails to guarantee people fair asylum procedures and respect their human dignity. Nine months after the fire in the Moria refugee camp, six young Afghans are sentenced to long prison terms for arson. And this despite the fact that none of the witnesses present saw them on the alleged night of the crime. The trial and the verdict have come under criticism.

The new Moria 

The new Mavrovouni camp was built on the site of a former military training area. Around 4350 people currently live here in containers and tents, without running water or electricity. They can only leave the camp, which is bordered by barbed wire and walls, to a limited extent.

With Tareq Alaows I visited the new camp at the end of July. The last time Tareq was on Lesbos was in 2015. As a Syrian refugee, he slept on the street and tried to get on from here. Today he lives in Germany and is active in the Seebrücke and the Green Party. 

Photo: Janka Schubart

Manos Logothetis showed us around the camp; he is the Secretary General of the Ministry of Migration and therefore responsible for the camps in Greece. Also present were the local representative of the European Commission and the director of the camp, who was also responsible for the former Moria. In response to questions about the lead contamination of soilthe access of NGOs to the camp and the massive Restriction of freedom of movement they answered evasively. Greece, unlike Germany, has no problem with walls, Logothetis said when asked why a refugee camp is walled off. In his opinion, one must also protect the local population from the refugees. 

Conditions in Mavrovouni 

The summers on Lesbos are very hot and the temperatures sometimes rise to 40°C. In Mavrovouni there is hardly any shade. The tents are in the full sun and it is dry as dust. The dust settles on everything and is everywhere. In the camp I visited a family in a tent to talk to them about the situation. It was even hotter inside than outside. I found it almost unbearable after just a few minutes. The people there have to spend their lives in such tents, where it is too hot in summer and where they freeze in winter. With the location right on the coast, the tents also don't protect enough from wind and water. Medical care is poor. Shortly before we visited the camp, a three-month-old infant died. According to local news, the child was reportedly vomiting the night before he died, but was not taken to a doctor in time

Large construction site 

The camp is currently a large construction site as water and power lines are being laid and housing containers are to be erected. The commission and the Greek government have promised that no one will freeze in tents this winter. I really hope that they will keep this promise. Every year since 2015, people on the island have had to freeze in tents during the winter. 

Although Mavrovouni was only intended as a temporary emergency solution after the fire in Moria and there are already plans for the construction of a new camp, the camp is being expanded. The reason for this is that the construction of the new camp will still take some time and the people cannot continue to live without running water and electricity until then. In addition, the current camp will remain in place and serve as another emergency solution in case more people arrive on the island again. It is unclear whether the new camp will actually be built and whether refugees will ever be housed there. On Lesvos, there is a dispute between two municipalities on the issue and only a very narrow majority in favour of building a new camp. In September, the Commission was still promising that Mavrovouni would be a temporary camp. I therefore find it strange that construction is now taking place everywhere there and that it will probably continue to operate for a long time to come. 

Lack of perspective

A large part of the people in the camp come from Afghanistan – the most unpeaceful country in the world according to Global Peace Index. With the current Taliban advance, situation on the ground worsens every day. Nevertheless, many residents have received a second rejection of their asylum application and remain in the camp in fear of deportation and without prospects and support. The applications are no longer examined to see whether the people were safe in Afghanistan or Syria, but only whether they were safe in Turkey. This also shrinks their legal prospects. The atmosphere in the camp is extremely tense and the situation has a strong impact on the mental health of the refugees.

Photo: Johanna Feiler

Many people also suffer from physical impairments, some sit in wheelchairs. They can move around the camp only poorly and receive hardly any support. And with some things you also wonder how this could happen. For example, there is a toilet for people with disabilities at the top of the camp, which is hardly accessible with a wheelchair.

Years without education 

Around 40% of the people in the camp are children. Many of them have never attended school. In my conversation with the head of the UNHCR on Lesvos, Astrid Castelein, it became clear that this will not change any time soon. Although attempts are being made to organise informal education for the children, even that is not guaranteed. The goal should be to create formal education and reliable structures for the children. 

In addition, the UNHCR expressed concerns about the limited access to the camp, the accommodation of people in tents in winter and the pushbacks. Neither the UNHCR, nor NGOs or journalists can approach arriving people when the Greek coast guard is on site. 

The situation on Lesbos is frightening. Not because there are too many people in the camp on the island, but because hardly anyone can make the crossing. At present hardly any rubber dinghies reach the island. This is a consequence of the pushbacks by the Greek coast guard. The vast majority of those seeking protection are intercepted and mistreated by the Greek coast guard. They are not allowed to apply for asylum, their boat engines are destroyed, masked men drag them into Turkish waters and leave them there. This is highly criminal, but the inhumane treatment of people in need is now so commonplace that it doesn't even stand out. A 17 year old told me he fled the war in Syria and the first thing he had to do in Europe was run. The police chased him with dogs, wanted to dump him at sea too, but he managed to hide. 

These crimes have been proven a hundred times over, and the EU Commission and the German government have prevented them from having any consequences a hundred times over. At the EU's external borders one can see in fast motion how democratic principles are dissolving and arbitrariness reigns. Those who are not white all too often have no rights at the European external borders. Those who are not white are defenceless against state violence.

Visit to Frontex forces on the ground 

The Frontex forces on the ground also know about the pushbacks, but they systematically look the other way so that they can continue. Frontex's aerial reconnaissance on the ground has been discontinued because it would document too many of the obvious pushbacks and human rights violations and Frontex would then also have to complain about them. 

Many people are forced out of Greek waters in the Aegean. The engines of the boats are dismantled and the people are left adrift in the Aegean, unable to manoeuvre. The role of Frontex in these pushbacks, which are contrary to international law, we have just recently discussed in the Frontex Inquiry Group of the European Parliament investigated. The people who can still reach the island are housed in a quarantine camp far away in the north. 

I have exchanged views with Frontex on the restructuring of the agency and the work of the employees on the ground. Frontex's self-declared role is to assist Member States with border management. While Frontex denies involvement in pushbacks, the fact that they are taking place is hard for Frontex to deny as well. Even if they are not officially allowed to say so, it becomes clear in informal conversations that at least some Frontex officials are of course aware that pushbacks are taking place. The Greek police describe the cooperation with the agency as excellent, but they do not want to reveal details about the working procedures. When I visited a ship of the Italian Financial Guard, which Italy sent to Frontex, I could see for myself how well equipped these ships are. The ship can reach speeds of up to 120 km/h. Despite this, Frontex is conspicuous by its absence in sea emergencies in the Aegean. Many of the Frontex officers only stay on site for a few months and therefore hardly have the opportunity to familiarise themselves properly.

Police arbitrariness and restricted freedom of the press 

There are numerous reports of police violence on the island. Thus, people seeking protection tried to reach the island on a rubber dinghy. At the maritime border between Greece and Turkey, the respective coast guards created waves, which is a common practice. This is just one example of the lack of rule of law in the country. I too witness this time and again, for example when Greek police officers threaten to lock me up because I want to record an interview outside the camp. The freedom of the press is massively restricted. Many members of the press are not allowed access to the new camp. 

My visit to non-governmental organisations

But there are also many projects and organizations on the island that do not accept this situation and want to continuously improve the situation on the island. One example is the Community Center of One Happy Familynot far from the new camp. There are sports activities, a cybercafé, a library, a workshop, a safe space for women* and girls, psychosocial counselling, a garden, a café, a playroom for children and more. The center is managed by refugees and international volunteers. It is located within walking distance from the camp and offers many recreational and educational opportunities. It is also much more comfortable than the camps. One problem, however, is that many of the camp's residents are not able to use the facilities, or only to a limited extent. This is because they are not always allowed to go out when they want to or because they have to queue for a long time in the camp for everything, especially food, and thus lose time. When they are allowed to leave the camp, many use the time and their little money to buy more food and things that are needed in everyday life. 

Photo: Johanna Feiler

There is also a permaculture farm, numerous department stores, legal advice in the Legal Center Lesvos and much more. In the school of Wave of Hope painting courses are held and the pictures of the refugees are exhibited. On Lesvos the concentration of NGOs is quite high, on other islands like Chios and Samos the situation is different. 

The misery is politically intended 

The situation on the ground is absurd: for example, there are numerous water and soap dispensers in a donation-filled warehouse next to Mavrovouni, just waiting to be connected and set up in the camp. But the camp management prohibits the dispensers from being transferred to the camp.

There is a lot of solidarity with the refugees at Europe's external borders. This is shown by the many donations, the NGOs and also the many cities and municipalities that show solidarity and voluntarily agree to take in more refugees from the external borders. But they are not allowed to. 

The people on Lesbos would not have to live on dust-dry ground without water and electricity, isolated in tents without medical care. On the contrary, there is a political will for people to live in misery. This undignified situation at our external borders is created to deter. The situation on the ground is deliberately kept so bad that others do not apply for asylum in the EU because they are afraid that they will end up in these camps. It is a disgrace that we treat people who need our help in this way at our external borders. Yet we should actually be proud of helping people and taking in refugees. 

Inquiry: 130 dead in the Mediterranean

In April at least 130 people after a shipwreck off the coast of Libya. This tragedy, like many others before it, could and should have been avoided. I have therefore put the following three questions to the Commission in a question. These and other questions can be found in full on the homepage of the European Parliament. far were the Frontex and Operation Irini vessels from the location of the vessel and were they informed of the search and rescue operations?

2.Did any surveillance aircraft call the distressed vessel?

3. what action will the Commission take against Italy and Malta, which ignored distress calls and allowed over 130 people to die?

Commission's reply

The Commission's response is that it is not the task of Operation Irini to rescue people in distress at sea. The EU does not currently have a sea rescue mission either, which is why the NGOs are on the ground, but the national authorities also have a duty to rescue. The Commission's assertion that the Italian and Maltese authorities did not have any operational resources at their disposal does not strike me as credible. The Maltese authorities have hardly been actively involved in rescuing people from their sea rescue zone for years.

Here is the Commission's full reply:

The main task of Operation IRINI is to ensure the implementation of the arms embargo against Libya. The sea-based assets of Operation IRINI are mostly deployed in the eastern part of their area of operation, where the violations of the arms embargo are most frequently committed. They were informed of the incident after the fact by the Italian Maritime Rescue Control Centre. At the time of the incident, the nearest sea-based Operation IRINI asset was more than 300 nautical miles away and the nearest air-based asset was 180 nautical miles away from the scene of the incident.

In accordance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, the airborne assets of Operation IRINI shall relay all information on distress situations at sea to all competent sea rescue coordination centres. The operational coordination of search and rescue operations shall be the responsibility of the Member States without operational involvement of the Commission.

The shipwreck in question occurred on 21/22 April 2021. The Libyan, Italian and Maltese rescue coordination centres were informed of a ship in distress by an aircraft from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), and the Libyan Coast Guard took over the coordination of the rescue operation and the search of the sighting area. Ocean Viking and three merchant vessels were diverted by the Italian Maritime Rescue Control Centre to provide assistance. A second Frontex aircraft was deployed to speed up the search.

The Italian and Maltese authorities had no means of intervention available in the vicinity of the incident. In the end, given the extremely unfavourable weather conditions, no ship was able to arrive in time.

Question: Does the EU support closed mass camps in Greece?

On 28.5.2021 the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum published a tender for the construction of the planned new "multi-purpose reception and identification centres" on Lesvos and Chios. A total of €142 million will be allocated for this purpose. The tender explicitly mentions that these are "closed, controlled structures", which will be 100 % financed with European Union funds.However, the EU Commission has promised that the camps will be open. That is why I have drafted a question to the EU Commission on this matter.. The EU Commission repliedthat they will be open centres in accordance with EU law. The Commission claims the EU-funded camps will be open, the Greek Government says they will be closed. The Commission also says that there have been „significant improvements in terms of water, sanitation, electricity, ballasting and preparation for winter and repair“ . In addition, he said, the Greek government had promised that no one would have to freeze in the camps during the winter. During my last visit two weeks ago, the Mavrovouni camp was still a construction site. I very much hope that the Greek government will keep its promise and that this year, for the first time since 2015, no one will have to freeze in tents.

My request

Subject: Invitation to tender issued by the Greek Ministry of Migration for the construction of closed camps on Lesvos and Chios

On 28.5.2021, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum published a tender for the construction of the planned new "multi-purpose reception and identification centres" on Lesvos and Chios. A total of EUR 142 million will be allocated for this purpose. The tender explicitly mentions that these will be "closed, controlled structures", 100 % of which will be financed with European Union funds. It is also explicitly mentioned that the planned projects will be a direct implementation of EASO standards. The time to completion of the project prescribed in the call for tender is 8 months from the signature of the contract. Accordingly, completion this year seems impossible. Moreover, the resistance on the islands has already prevented any construction progress on Lesbos more than a year ago.

1.What is the current timetable of the Joint Steering Committee regarding the completion of the camps on the islands? the tender incorrect and needs to be corrected or is EU money now being used to build closed warehouses?

3. minimum standards of the Reception Directive continue not to be met in the 'temporary' Mavrovouni camp. How does the Commission justify the fact that, once again next winter, people seeking protection in Europe will have to spend the winter in tents in an undignified camp, despite the fact that promises have been made every year since 2015 to put an end to these conditions?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 23/07/2021

The Commission works through a special task force is working intensively with the Greek authorities to create new multifunctional reception and identification centres on Lesvos and Chios. The construction process of the new facilities is intensively monitored, including through monthly Steering Committee meetings. The tendering process for the new centres on Lesvos and Chios is currently underway.

The Commission has allocated€ 155 million for the establishment of new centres on the islands of Lesvos and Chios. In line with EU law, these will be open centres, subject to the necessary and proportionate access arrangements. They will comprise different areas, including reception and identification structures for new arrivals, accommodation facilities, secure areas for unaccompanied children and young people, recreational areas and removal facilities. Deportation facilities for persons subject to a return order will be closed areas. Persons accommodated in the other areas will be able to enter and leave the premises via an access system with special badges.

Thanks to the joint efforts of the Greek authorities, the Commission and the EU agencies, conditions at the temporary reception facility in Mavrovouni have improved significantly, in particular as regards water, sanitation, electricity, ballasting and preparation for winter and repairs. However, Mavrovouni remains a temporary accommodation facility. The Greek authorities have assured the Commission that no one will spend another winter in tents at Mavrovouni.

Question: Construction of walls around Greek refugee camps

The Greek government is building more and more walls around the mass camps. This separates the refugees from the local population and the camps look more and more like prisons. That is why I together with other Members, asked the Commissionwhat its position is on the construction and whether it will be supported by EU funds. The Commission replies insisted that it supported the construction because it would improve the safety of residents and employees. The commission also recommended a „mixed solution“ of concrete walls and wire mesh fences. After many visits to different camps, I am not convinced by this rationale because most refugees feel confined by the walls and not better protected. Moreover, Greek government officials also openly say that the walls serve to separate the refugees from the population.

My request

Subject: Construction of walls around Greek refugee camps

When the residents of the Ritsona refugee camp in Greece woke up on 4 May 2021, they found that a three-metre-high concrete wall of the type used by the military had been built around their accommodation. This is to separate the 3,000 refugees there from the local population, although the camp is far from Greek towns. According to an advertisement on the Greek website the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 7 000 refugees in three other camps will be treated in the same way. The wall is being built with funds from the Commission's programme to 'assist the Greek authorities in the management of the national system for the reception of asylum-seekers and migrants in need of protection'. The aim of this programme is actually to promote educational measures and contacts with the locals as part of the integration process. Walls achieve exactly the opposite, as bricklayers serve to separate. They turn the refugee camps into de facto prisons, and the refugees' mental health deteriorates considerably as a result. Against this background, the Commission is asked to answer the following questions:

Is the Commission aware of these developments? If so, does it support the construction of concrete walls to enclose Greek refugee camps? Is this construction work in line with the EU's values and objectives and the above programme?

What amount of EU funding is being made available for the construction of concrete walls in Ritsona and other Greek refugee camps?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 06/07/2021

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is implementing the EU-funded emergency project "Support to the Greek authorities in the management of the national system for the reception of asylum seekers and migrants in need of protection", which covers, inter alia, the establishment and operational needs of reception centres in mainland Greece. The project includes the construction or maintenance of fences at the Diavata, Ritsona, Malakasa and Nea Kavala sites, as required by the Greek authorities, aimed at improving the safety of residents and staff.

The Commission and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) were consulted on the technical specifications before the fences were built. The fencing must take into account a number of parameters, in particular fire protection, natural light, non-obstruction of visibility and sufficient distance from the accommodation units. A mixed solution will be implemented, alternating concrete and wire mesh fencing.

The amount contracted for the implementation of the overall project is around EUR 180 million for the period from 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2021, of which around EUR 9 million is for works at the centres (including cleaning, maintenance, repairs and fencing).

On its 70th birthday, the Geneva Convention on Refugees lies dying

Tomorrow we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Refugee Convention (GRC). The Refugee Convention is the most important document for the protection of refugees. A total of 149 states have signed up to it. But in the meantime it has become increasingly obvious that Europe is using force to close itself off instead of helping people in need. This is out of touch with history and a breach of the principles of the rule of law and human rights.

People are drowning at our external borders, even though we could save them. People are abandoned on the open sea and tortured because they want to apply for asylum. The EU pays Islamist militias to drag refugees back to Libya. Pushbacks are carried out by EU states. There have been shootings of refugees from Greece. It is hypocritical for EU governments to celebrate the birthday of the Refugee Convention, because at the EU's external borders they have chosen to replace refugee rights with violent closure.

The CSF emerged from the lessons of the Second World War

When the Geneva Convention on Refugees was adopted 70 years ago, people wanted to take responsibility for those seeking protection after the terrible experiences of the Second World War. We wanted to help people in need and we wanted to achieve political goals under the rule of law and with respect for human rights. At the European external borders, people are now trying with all their might to rid themselves of the responsibility for those seeking protection by depriving them of their rights. It has once again become normal to achieve political goals by degrading people. 

Worldwide, more than 82 million people are on the run. Only a very small proportion of them are fleeing to Europe. It is an indictment that we are throwing our own legal foundations overboard just so that fewer and fewer asylum applications are made in Europe. On its 70th birthday, the Geneva Convention on Refugees is dying. The governments of the member states are capitulating in the face of the asylum policy challenges. Because they cannot agree on a functioning asylum system, they disguise this failure by mistreating and disenfranchising people in need. People are suffering because governments are not doing their job properly.

We call on the Commission to finally take action against Croatia's violent pushbacks

Recently, a shocking research was published by ARD, Lighthouse Reports, SRF, Mirror and Novosti. This broad pan-European network of journalists published new reports of pushbacks by Croatian border guards, in six cases specifically documented with videos. Entire families and vulnerable people are being pushed back across the EU border through the forest. One case involves a pregnant woman in her eighth month with five small children. The six videos show a total of around 65 people, including 20 children, being illegally pushed. Among them even a man with a heart condition and crutches.

Some of these incidents do not even take place near the EU's external border, but people are taken far from the interior of the country to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The pushbacks and violence against refugees are clear violations of European law and have been taking place for years without any serious consequences.

That is why I, together with other MEPs from the Greens, the Left and Social Democrats wrote this letter to the responsible minister, Ylva Johansson, demanding that the Commission finally take action against the systematic pushbacks and violations of human rights..

Open letter to Heiko Maas on deportations to Afghanistan

The Taliban are conquering more and more territory, people are fleeing and the Afghan government asked for a halt to deportations. I have taken all of these events as an opportunity to a letter to Heiko Maas to write. I would ask him to adjust the assessment of the current security situation in the situation report, irrespective of any domestic political motives and in accordance with new findings and developments.

Dear Federal Minister Maas,

the security situation in Afghanistan is dramatic. According to the Global Peace Index, Afghanistan is the most unpeaceful country in the world. Since the start of the peace negotiations between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, the number of civilian victims has continued to rise and fighting has increased. The hectic withdrawal of US and NATO troops poses serious risks to the stability of the country and its civilian population. At the end of June, the Taliban already controlled 157 districts in Afghanistan, twice as many as at the beginning of May. This means that 40% of districts in the hands of the Talibanjust as many are in contention.

Due to the insecurity, many embassies have already recalled their staff; Australia was the first country to even close its embassy in Kabul. The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is also worrying. In 2021, about half of the population, 18.4 million people, will be dependent on humanitarian aid; at the beginning of 2020, the figure was still 9.4 million people. Reasons for this are in addition to the ongoing conflict, natural disasters, chronic poverty, food insecurity and, last but not least, the additional burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a current survey The experiences of Afghans deported from Germany show that they, their relatives and supporters are threatened by violence both by the Taliban and by state actors and their social environment. A large number of the interviewees suffered violence after arriving in Afghanistan due to their previous stay in Europe and the "Westernisation" that went along with it. Securing a livelihood was virtually impossible due to the economic situation and social exclusion, which is why 70% of the interviewees had to leave the country again after a short time. Those who do not have this option are often left with little other way to secure a livelihood than to join warring parties or gangs. Due to the Taliban's control of numerous areas and connecting roads, it is also almost impossible for returnees to reach their provinces of origin.

According to the latest information, an Afghan deported from Germany in February died on 21 June as a result of a grenade. All these findings suggest that the current security situation in Afghanistan and the threat of violence during repatriations make a halt to deportations indispensable. Afghan government also asks for temporary suspension of deportations due to security situation.

Nevertheless, collective deportations from Germany to Afghanistan continue to take place, as was the case most recently on 06.07.2021, They made the following comments in Madrid on 05.07.2021.t: "So far, there has certainly been an increase in violence, which there has also been in the past. If that continues to dramatize, that will also be reflected in our reports." "What impact that will then have on the question of whether people can still be deported to Afghanistan, we will then see. However, with what we have so far in terms of information, I still consider the current practice to be justifiable."

According to the report on the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan relevant to asylum and deportation (as of June 2020 in the version of 14.01.2021), the Federal Foreign Office is "not aware of any cases in which returnees have demonstrably become victims of acts of violence due to their stay in Europe". Furthermore, some areas in Afghanistan are described as safe, and current developments are not taken into account. The basic comments of the report state that in case of sudden changes in the situation, either an ad-hoc report will be prepared or the recipients will be made aware of the lack of timeliness of the report. It is also pointed out that accurate information from Afghanistan is extremely difficult to obtain. Has such an ad hoc report been produced or, in view of the rapidly changing security situation with far-reaching implications, is it pointed out that the report no longer adequately reflects the current situation? I welcome the fact that the Foreign Office situation report is currently being revised. I would ask you to adjust the assessment of the current security situation in the situation report, irrespective of any domestic political motives and in line with new findings and developments, and to send me the latest report.

With kind regards

Erik Marquardt

EU Parliament adopts migration fund: almost €10 billion for asylum, migration and integration

The €9.88 billion Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) for 2021-2027 aims to strengthen the common European asylum policy. We have achieved that funds can be applied for directly by regional and local authorities, so that EU states can no longer so easily prevent funding for committed cities and regions.

As the asylum spokesman for the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, I say this:

„Finally, municipalities can apply directly to the EU Commission for money to take in refugees. This means that municipalities can no longer be so easily prevented from dealing with flight and migration in a spirit of solidarity. It is also a great success that we were able to achieve in the negotiations that the Member States are obliged to allocate at least 15% of their programmes to legal migration and integration. This means that countries can no longer refuse to support migrants if they want to benefit from EU funds. Another success is that 20% of the funds will be spent on humanitarian aid, resettlement and relocation. The fund by no means solves the major problems of European asylum policy, but it is a good step towards rewarding solidarity in asylum policy and improving coexistence on the ground.“

Further information on the AMIF can be found on the Parliament page and on here on my homepage.