Guest contribution: Tear down Moria!

The Berliner Zeitung asked me to write a guest article on the occasion of 30 years of German unity:
The courage of 1989 should be more important than the fear of 2015. Let's not look the other way when the EU testifies at the external borders.

I am writing these lines on Lesvos, one of the most beautiful places in Europe, which is telling one of its most terrible stories these days. Moria, the largest refugee camp in Europe, has burned down completely. 13,000 people, who were already living in undignified conditions, are now homeless.

For days, local police prevented aid agencies from providing medical care and food to the homeless victims of the fire disaster. Many did not eat or drink for days, and children quenched their thirst with sewage, which left them with severe diarrhea. Police used tear gas on men, women and even children. Burns remained untreated for days.

For 28 years, the Berlin Wall stood as a symbol of repression, lack of freedom and the imprisonment of its own people. The lessons learned from this period are now being sought in vain at Europe's external borders. And walls are also in vogue worldwide. There are now 70 border walls in the world - about five times as many as in 1989. The Berlin Wall no longer exists. But the idea of using a structure to keep out the other, the foreign, the hostile, still thrives in many places.

The happiness of freedom seems forgotten

But why is the desire for freedom not stronger today than the desire for new walls? The wall is a structure that is supposed to protect. But it also keeps one side from seeing the other. In a world that is becoming more and more complex, the desire for new walls is probably not only a desire for security and safety, but also a desire to put up a protective wall against the increasing complexity in order to counter one's own excessive demands by the unknown. The wall not only keeps out the unknown, but also keeps in the known.
Now there is a new Moria. And the conditions are worse than ever. While small children play in the dirt behind barrier tapes and fences, soldiers search for mines and ammunition remnants on the other side. People infected with Corona are locked behind barbed wire with others who are suspected cases. This is a crime.

When the Berlin Wall fell, I was two years old. I couldn't write any texts and I had never read a history book. The Wall, dictatorship and shoot-to-kill orders robbed millions of their freedom. The Wall fell because the idea of democracy tore it down. Now, 30 years later, I am sitting here, and a few miles away democratic states are responsible for the degradation of people. Thirty years later, we seem to have forgotten how lucky we are to be able to share freedom.

I am lucky that I no longer had to consciously experience the dictatorship in the GDR. I am lucky to live in this time, in this Europe. I owe this good fortune to courageous citizens who fought for our freedom. Not by force, but with an idea. The idea that we must build a society on a foundation of the rule of law, human rights and the dignity of every individual - because that is the only way we can build a house that no one can tear down. People took to the streets with this idea, not knowing if it would become a reality. They couldn't know that no shots would be fired. On November 9, 1989, the time finally came. The Wall fell and the world celebrated. But today the Berlin Wall stands again - in Moria.

Moria is a signal to its own population, but also to people on the run: Those who dare to flee to Europe should not rely on their own expectations. The freedom, democracy and rule of law that many seek in Europe should no longer be found by those seeking protection. Instead of a sea rescue in the Mediterranean for people fleeing Libya, we are building a wall of drowned people.

This strategy of degrading external borders follows a simple logic: as long as the Mediterranean and Moria are no more dangerous than the civil war in Libya, the wall of deterrence will not stand firm. If fewer people are to arrive, more must suffer and die.

Is this not a sign that we should be more afraid of ourselves than of the other side beyond the wall? While probably most European leaders advocate the rule of law in speeches, the reality at Europe's external borders looks grim. Instead of using the rule of law to determine what reasons a person has for climbing onto an overcrowded rubber dinghy and risking his or her life for freedom, those seeking protection at the external borders are met with truncheons, tear gas and warning shots. Wall deaths have occurred several times, and some have been shot. "Efficient border management" is the name of the "anti-fascist protective wall" today.

For many, tugboats are the only way

Further fighting words are to stabilize the wall: In October 2015, when the whole world was talking about escape, Manfred Weber, as chairman of the EPP Group, awarded the Robert Schumann Medal to Wolfgang Welsch. Welsch, an escape agent, had helped over 200 people to get out of the GDR and into the Federal Republic. A great achievement.

After the laudatory speech for yesterday's prize-winning refugee, Manfred Weber of the EPP called in the public debate for the "trafficking mafia" of today in the Mediterranean to be combated.

The judgement of the EU governments is clear in its blindness to history: the escape helpers of the past deserved medals for their services on the path from dictatorship to democracy - today, on the other hand, the escape helpers are the culprits for the deaths on our walls and should be fought. A successful escape is no longer celebrated. A successful escape is the failure of the strategy of compartmentalization. The main thing is never again 2015, the main thing is no new wave of refugees.

The traffickers from Libya certainly do not act out of humane motives, but for many refugees they are the only way to get to an asylum procedure in Europe, where protecting the dignity of every single human being is actually the task of all state authority.

Europe shows its ugly side

But state violence at Europe's external borders has degenerated into a worthless zombie with a single goal: Fewer people should come to Europe - whatever the cost. Many speeches, especially since 2015, have repeatedly stressed the need to fight the causes of flight. Since 2015, more than 15 million additional people have fled worldwide.

But how should we deal with the fact that we want to protect human rights, but 80 million refugees worldwide really cannot come to Berlin or Thuringia? "How many millions more are supposed to come?", those who campaign for the human rights of refugees are asked again and again. It is worth considering whether, on the way to the fall of a new wall at the external borders, some of the mental walls that have been erected in people's minds in recent years need to come down first.

In early March 2020, when Erdogan declared the borders to Europe were now open and 15,000 people were pushed to the border, the world watched this supposedly peaceful Europe show its ugly side. Erdogan abused the people as a weapon. Yet we did not disarm him with a democratic response. Europe simply shot back.

The shooting with ammunition and tear gas was justified above all by the fact that these were not "real refugees from Syria". Apart from the fact that the reasons for flight are examined in asylum procedures and not in border skirmishes, the absence of Syrian refugees was particularly striking. For years, there were warnings of a rush of millions of people sitting on packed suitcases in Turkey. And then, despite the opening of the border, only a handful of the 3,500,000 Syrian refugees we feared arrive? How can that be?

The future is never easy

The answer is simple: there are not these millions of people who are rushing to Europe. 3.5 million fathers, mothers and children from Syria are not fleeing. They are living in Turkey. They are not fleeing to Europe because they do not want to flee to Europe.

In reality, the fear articulated by governments of a loss of control at Europe's external borders is a metaphor for the fear of losing control over their own electoral outcomes. Too often and for too long, this fear has paralysed the will to overcome challenges. But when democratic governments - as in asylum policy - create the impression of a house in danger of collapsing, there's no need to be surprised when the population starts looking for another home.

Those who want to tear down the walls at the borders must first and foremost tear down the desire for new walls. Not with violence, but with a thought. Just as courageous people took to the streets against an unjust state back then, our powerful ideas of freedom, dignity and the rule of law must once again tear down the injustice in our own Europe today. Then the Wall will fall too.

The future is never easy, because we do not know it. But we should do everything we can in the present so that later we can proudly tell our grandchildren about the past. About when we were the brave ones in 2020 who rebelled against the wall in our heads and at our external borders. From when we finally understood that we don't protect our prosperity, freedom and security by taking it all away from others. From when Moria burned down and from the ashes arose the power to learn what we already knew in 1989. From when we learned that the courage of 1989 was more important than the fear of a new 2015.

This article is for the Day of German Unity in the Berliner Zeitung erschienen.

Migration pact – Why the EU Commission's proposal does not prevent another Moria

The EU Commission's proposal for the migration pact won't prevent another Moria. On the contrary, it would cast the model of the Greek mass camps in legal form. Border procedures and closed camps at the external borders would become the norm in Europe. The failure of the Dublin system would be perpetuated and escalated, further without a mandatory solidary reception of refugees. Germany is also threatened with considerable tightening of asylum law. The Commission's proposal on asylum procedures tightens up the 2016 Asylum Package II and casts it in European law.

European values are being damaged

With the Pact, the EU Commission has set itself the ultimate goal of European unification at any price. In order to achieve this, it accepts that refugee protection and our common European values will be severely damaged. Instead of orderly and fair procedures throughout Europe, the Pact will exacerbate the crisis at the external borders. The Pact must now be discussed and agreed in the European Parliament and among Member States in the Council. We Greens will campaign in the negotiations to end the systematic suffering of those seeking protection at the EU's external borders. A fair and humanitarian European asylum system must emerge from the ashes of Moria.

At this link you will find our proposal for a fair asylum system in Europe.

Border procedures: mass detention of refugees

According to the EU Commission's proposal, all persons who want to enter the EU without valid papers or are apprehended should be taken to closed camps under detention conditions. This also applies to those rescued from distress at sea. Those arriving must first undergo a preliminary examination, which must be completed within five days. This includes registration as well as a health check and a security check in European border and security databases.

The pre-screening should also record what type of procedures the arrivals
and whether they will continue to be held under detention conditions:

– A normal asylum procedure should only be given to those who come from a country with a recognition rate of more than 20 per cent, i.e. when at least everyr fifth asylum seeker from this country in the EU as a refugeer is recognised.

– A fast-track asylum procedure under detention conditions at the border (border procedure) must be undergone by anyone who comes from a country with a recognition rate of less than 20 per cent, anyone who poses a security risk or anyone who provides false information about their identity.

People from a previously safe country of origin (e.g. the Balkans) or from a safe third country (e.g. Syrians arriving via Turkey) must also go through a fast-track asylum procedure, but not necessarily at the border.

– Those who do not apply for asylum should be deported directly from the camp.

The Commission is thus significantly expanding the detention of refugees. According to the Commission's plans, most fast-track procedures are to be carried out in closed camps at the border. Only unaccompanied minor refugees and children under 12 and their families are exempt from this. They will be housed in an open facility during their fast-track asylum procedure, just like asylum seekers going through a normal asylum procedure. under this procedure, more than half of irregular arrivals would have had to go through a border procedure under detention conditions in 2017 and 2018 because they came from countries with a recognition rate defined as low. In 2019, by contrast, more people in need of protection arrived from countries with higher recognition rates.

Detention of asylum seekers to be extended

With its proposal, the Commission wants to send a signal of deterrence. In order to do so, it accepts that the protection of refugees and their human dignity will be undermined. It wants to drastically triple the detention period from the current 4 weeks for border procedures to 12 weeks in the future. Only if the asylum procedure cannot be completed in this time will the asylum seekers be placed in normal refugee accommodation.

Those who are rejected are also to be deported directly from the border camps without being allowed to set foot on European soil. If this is not possible by 12 weeks after the end of the asylum procedure, they are to be transferred to detention centres for deportation. The crucial question, namely how the dovetailing of asylum and deportation procedures is to lead to an increase in the deportation rate, remains unanswered, as does the question of how the Commission intends to ensure that the Member States carry out asylum procedures more efficiently than before. The Commission is creating new camps with the border procedures. But it has no answer as to how a second Moria is to be prevented.

Dublin and refugee distribution: overcrowded camps remain

The EU Commission had declared the Dublin system dead - and yet wants to retain it as a core element of the European asylum system with the pact. What changes with the pact is above all the title. Dublin is now called "Migration Management". The Dublin system is a system of shifting responsibility to member states at the EU's southern external borders. The member state in which ae refugeesUnder the Dublin system, the first person to set foot on European soil is responsible for asylum procedures and accommodation. Instead of finally replacing the system of shifting responsibility with a system of fair sharing of responsibility for those seeking protection in Europe, the Commission wants to cement it with the pact.

In future, member states will have to wait much longer than the current 18 months for ane Asylum seekersn be responsible. The right of other member states to send back refugees who have irregularly moved on to another member state only expires three years after they have been recognised as refugees. The Commission also wants to make it easier for member states to send back asylum seekers who have moved on. Asylum seekers themselves should not receive any support and accommodation if they move on irregularly. One of the few positive aspects in the Commission proposal is the extension of family reunification to

Deportation sponsorships instead of solutions – Southern EU countries continue to be left in the lurch

The Commission's proposal increases the responsibility of southern EU countries such as Greece, Malta, Italy or Spain - without offering them sufficient solidarity. The system of flexible solidarity proposed by the Commission is complex. It amounts to giving member states a whole range of fallback options to avoid having to take in refugees. Solidarity will be obligatory in case of "high migratory pressure", but not the reception of refugees. Member states can, under the Commission's proposal, instead:

– Provide capacity building – such as through the provision of fingerprint scanners for the registration of arrivals.

– provide operational support to these countries – for example by deploying border guardsor asylum expertinside

– by cooperating with third countries, influence the arrival of fewer protection seekers, or

– through so-called return partnerships or also deportation sponsorships – for example by helping Greece to obtain travel documents from the third country to which deportation is to take place, or by ensuring that the country agrees to the return. Only if the person cannot be removed even after eight months does the Member State have to take him or her in.

If the camps are overcrowded, the Commission can insist that member states take in refugees. But even then member states can resort to repatriation partnerships. With this proposal the Commission is going a long way towards accommodating countries like Hungary or Poland, which have boycotted any redistribution up to now - and is accepting that the European asylum system will fail once more. In many cases deportations can't be carried out because the third country in question won't cooperate. The European border protection agency Frontex already has the task of helping member states with deportations. It is completely unclear how return partnerships are supposed to additionally contribute to reducing obstacles to deportation.

The Commission's proposal will not prevent another Moria. The camps at the external borders will remain overcrowded because member states can take in people as they see fit and repatriation partnerships will only lead to more people without the right to stay being sent back in the fewest cases. The losers of the Commission's proposal are the countries at the EU's southern external borders. The profiteers are member states like Germany or Sweden. Because of the tightening of the Dublin rules they can count on being able to shift more of the responsibility for refugees who have moved to their country irregularly to countries like Greece.

The crisis mechanism

In its position on the last Dublin reform in 2018, the European Parliament had called for a fair distribution of asylum seekers from the outset. This is now only found in the Commission's proposal for a crisis mechanism. Once the Commission sets the mechanism in motion, member states will be obliged to take in asylum seekers, recognised refugees and people without the right to stay. Unlike in situations of "high migratory pressure", this also applies to admission directly from border camps.

At the same time, however, border procedures are being drastically extended to all those seeking protection who come from a country with a protection quota of less than 75 percent. Detention in border camps is being prolonged, as is the detention of people without the right to stay. This can lead to people without a prospect of staying being detained at the borders for more than a year. The Commission's proposal also provides for refugees who are manifestly in need of protection to be granted temporary protection status without an asylum assessment. It is unlikely that this proposal will find a political majority in the Council. It's not just countries like Hungary that won't want to accept the Commission deciding when the crisis mechanism is triggered and they are obliged to take people in from the border.

What does the pact mean for Germany?

The Commission's proposal will also lead to more asylum seekers being detained in Germany. Refugees who have bypassed registration at the external border and made their way to Germany will also have to undergo a preliminary examination here - under the same detention-like conditions as at the external borders. The pact proposal also does not rule out the possibility that countries like Germany will drastically expand their special procedures. Germany has already introduced accelerated procedures in "special reception facilities" with the 2016 Asylum Package II. So far, they apply mainly to asylum seekers from safe countries of origin, such as the Balkan countries, and have so far only been carried out at two locations, in Manching/Ingolstadt and Bamberg.

With the pact as proposed by the Commission, the federal government could drastically tighten the conditions in the "special reception facilities" and turn them into closed facilities like those at the external borders. It would have the option of detaining protection seekers who arrive in Germany irregularly from a country with a protection quota of less than 20 percent under the same detention-like conditions as in border procedures.

– So far, asylum seekers in Manching and Bamberg have to live in the camps and are not allowed to leave the district, but they are not locked up.

– The drastic expansion of de facto safe countries of origin to all countries with a protection quota of less than 20 per cent would affect considerably more asylum seekers than before.

– The time limit for fast-track asylum procedures is currently one week and could be extended to 12 weeks under the pact.

The Commission's proposals from 2016 on the accommodation of asylum seekers and on asylum procedures, which are now also to be adopted with the pact, already amount to a significant tightening. The new proposals threaten to further undermine refugee protection.

Rescue at sea will not be strengthened

As part of the pact, the Commission has published two non-binding recommendations on the criminalisation of NGOs and on sea rescue. However, this does not strengthen the rescue of refugees. The Commission recommends that member states should not criminalise sea rescue NGOs for saving human lives. At the same time, however, sea rescue NGOs should be held to a higher standard.

The Commission wants closer cooperation between coastal states and flag states such as Germany, under whose flag NGO ships rescue people in the Mediterranean. They should ensure that safety at sea is increased and that "relevant rules on migration management" are observed, for example against people smuggling. The Commission's recommendation is thus along the same lines as the German government.

It had already increased the security requirements for NGO rescue ships a few months ago, thus taking smaller NGO ships out of circulation. According to the Commission's proposal, refugees rescued from distress at sea will in future be treated in the same way as asylum seekers at land borders: they will have to undergo a preliminary examination under detention-like conditions and remain at the border during the asylum procedure
if they come from a country with a recognition rate of less than 20 per cent.

As long as they are in the border camp, they will not be redistributed to other Member States. The solidarity-based distribution of rescued persons to other member states is supposed to work in a similar way as in the case of high "migration pressure". Member states do not have to take in rescued persons, but can instead also take on deportation partnerships or send border guards.

Fire in Moria – call for emergency evacuation and relocation

169 MEPs signed the call for immideate action on Moria. This is the letter:

Vice-President Margaritis Schinas
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson
Federal Minister for the Interior, Horst Seehofer

Brussels, 11 September 2020

Dear Vice President Schinas,
Dear Commissioner Johansson,
Dear Minister Seehofer,

The fire in the EU's biggest refugee camp Moria is a humanitarian disaster and a disaster for Europe as a whole. For far too long, Europe has ignored that the camp was heavily overcrowded and that people had to stay in Moria for years under slum-like circumstances. They had no access to proper sanitary facilities nor to appropriate accommodation. When Covid-19 broke out, not just the infected persons were put under quarantine, but the entire camp. More than 12,000 people were locked in a place where they had no possibility to protect themselves from the virus. The catastrophe was predictable. It is a shame for Europe that it was not prevented.

After Moria burnt down, more than 12,000 people are now stranded without even a tent or a roof over their heads. They urgently need our help. We, the undersigning MEPs urge you to provide immediate humanitarian and medical help, to evacuate the people as quickly as possible and to provide a sustainable solution for the people of Moria by relocating them to other Member States.

We call on you to support Greece with corona tests of all asylum seekers and locals on the island and with medical personnel and equipment for people with severe disease progression.

Many of us, including the President of our House, have already at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis called for an evacuation of the camp and the relocation of asylum seekers from Moria to avoid an outbreak. We acknowledge that it is a challenge to evacuate now more than 12.000 persons at once and encourage you to look into all possibilities. People who cannot be immediately transferred to the mainland could also preliminarily be accommodated in cruise ships, which due to Covid-19 are currently out of operation, before they are relocated. In any case, we call on you to support Greece in providing emergency accommodation for the people of Moria where they can protect themselves from the virus.

We further urge you to ensure the relocation of asylum seekers from Moria to other Member States. Taking care of the people of Moria is not just the responsibility of Greece. Moria is a European refugee camp, and Europe has to stand by its responsibility. Many municipalities and regions in Europe have long declared their willingness to receive asylum seekers from Greece.

Since Wednesday night, thousands of people went on the streets to show their solidarity with the people of Moria and to call for their swift relocation. We fully support their call. We call on you to uphold our common European values and to relocate the people of Moria to places where they can find safety and dignified living condition.

Reconstructing Moria is not a solution, nor is it as a solution to create similar conditions in other camps. It will only lead to the same problems that have caused the catastrophe.

We call on you to ensure that the upcoming Pact on Migration and Asylum will be based on solidarity and the fair sharing of responsibilities among Member States. We must make sure that a humanitarian disaster like in Moria will never happen again.

We urge you to do everything possible to help the people of Moria and to show European solidarity!

Sincerely yours,

Erik MARQUARDT (Greens/EFA), initiator of the letter
Ska KELLER, Co-President of the Greens/EFA
Philippe LAMBERTS, Co-President of the Greens/EFA
Iratxe GARCÍA-PEREZ, President of the S&D group
AUBRY MANON, Co-President of GUE/NGL
Martin SCHIRDEWAN, Co-President of GUE/NGL
Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR, Chair of the LIBE Committee
Maria ARENA, Chair of the DROI Committee
Abir AL-SAHLANI (Renew)
Alexandra GEESE (Greens/EFA)
Alice KUHNKE (Greens/EFA)
Alviina ALAMETSÄ (Greens/EFA)
Andreas SCHIEDER (S&D)
Aurore LALUCQ (S&D)
Benoit BITEAU (Greens/EFA)
Bernard GUETTA (Renew)
Bernd LANGE (S&D)
Bettina VOLLATH (S&D)
Billy KELLEHER (Renew)
Brando BENIFEI (S&D)
Caroline ROOSE (Greens/EFA)
Ciaran CUFFE (Greens/EFA)
Claude GRUFFAT (Greens/EFA)
Claudia GAMON (Renew)
Cornelia ERNST (GUE/NGL)
Damian BOESELAGER (Greens/EFA)
Damien CARÈME (Greens/EFA)
Daniel FREUND (Greens/EFA)
David CORMAND (Greens/EFA)
Deirdre CLUNE (EPP)
Diana RIBA I GINER (Greens/EFA)
Dietmar KÖSTER (S&D)
Ernest URTASUN (Greens/EFA)
Evelyn REGNER (S&D)
Fabienne KELLER (Renew)
Francisco GUERREIRO (Greens/EFA)
Francois ALFONSI (Greens/EFA)
Gabriele BISCHOFF (S&D)
Grace O’SULLIVAN (Greens/EFA)
Gwendoline DELBOS-CORFIELD (Greens/EFA)
Hannah NEUMANN (Greens/EFA)
Hannes HEIDE (S&D)
Heidi HAUTALA (Greens/EFA)
Henrike HAHN (Greens/EFA)
Hildegard BENTELE (EPP)
Irena JOVEVA (Renew)
Isabel SANTOS (S&D)
Ismail ERTUG (S&D)
Jakop DALUNDE (Greens/EFA)
Jan-Christoph OETJEN (Renew)
Jarosław DUDA (EPP)
Jordi SOLÉ (Greens/EFA)
Jutta PAULUS (Greens/EFA)
Karen MELCHIOR (Renew)
Karima Delli (Greens/EFA)
Katarina BARLEY (S&D)
Kathleen VAN BREMPT (S&D)
Kati PIRI (S&D)
Klemen GROSELJ (Renew)
Konstantinos ARVANITIS (GUE/NGL)
Lukasz KOHUT (S&D)
Margarete AUKEN (Greens/EFA)
Margarida MARQUES (S&D)
Maria NOICHL (S&D)
Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques (S&D)
Marie TOUSSAINT (Greens/EFA)
Markéta GREGOROVÁ (Greens/EFA)
Martin HÄUSLING (Greens/EFA)
Massimiliano SMERIGLIO (S&D)
Michael BLOSS (Greens/EFA)
Michèle RIVASI (Greens/EFA)
Milan BRGLEZ (S&D)
Monica Silvana GONZALEZ (S&D)
Monika VANA (Greens/EFA)
Mounir SATOURI (Greens/EFA)
Nico SEMSROTT (Greens/EFA)
Nicolae STEFANUTA (Renew)
Niklas NIENAß (Greens/EFA)
Patricia GUEGUEN (Greens/EFA)
Patrick BREYER (Greens/EFA)
Paul TANG (S&D)
Petra DE SUTTER (Greens/EFA)
Pierfrancesco MAJORINO (S&D)
Rasmus ANDRESEN (Greens/EFA)
Reinhard BÜTIKOFER (Greens/EFA)
Robert BIEDROŃ (S&D)
Romeo FRANZ (Greens/EFA)
Salima YENBOU (Greens/EFA)
Samira RAFAELA (Renew)
Sarah WIENER (Greens/EFA)
Saskia BRICMONT (Greens/EFA)
Sergey LAGODINSKY (Greens/EFA)
Sophie IN’T VELD (Renew)
Sven GIEGOLD (Greens/EFA)
Sylwia SPUREK (S&D)
Tanja FAJON (S&D)
Terry REINTKE (Greens/EFA)
Thomas WAITZ (Greens/EFA)
Tiemo WÖLKEN (S&D)
Tilly METZ (Greens/EFA)
Tineke STRIK (Greens/EFA)
Vera TAX (S&D)
Ville NIINISTÖ (Greens/EFA)
Yannick JADOT (Greens/EFA)

Ongoing human rights violations on the Balkan route

Even if it is less reported now, there are still people trying to flee to the EU via the Western Balkan route. Their situation is worsening, their fundamental rights are being trampled on. I have summarised current developments in the region here.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 

Most refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not want to stay in the country, but try to get from there to Croatia, and then to other EU countries. At present, Bosnia and Herzegovina is Freedom of movement of refugees severely restricted and cantons and entities in one and the same country are trying to push people into each other's part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This is how the Una-Sana Cantonment Police prevents through checkpoints...The refugees enter the canton via the rural roads. However, they cannot return because they are turned back by the border police of Republika Srpska. As a result, people are stranded in no man's land with no access to water or food. It is undignified how these people become victims of the political shenanigans in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where several sides are trying to push the refugees in each other's direction into the other parts of the country. 

So far, they are being cared for in a makeshift manner by the local Red Cross, but also by No Name Kitchen supplied. Hundreds of people are stranded there. 

Violence against refugees is on the rise. Thousands of people are gathering on private Facebook pages to share the locations of refugees and helpers and to call for violence against them.

middle of August residents blocked the entrance to the Miral campso that no further refugees are taken in there. At the end of August, there were Protests against refugees, in which hundreds of people took part.


In Croatia, we have been witnessing for years how refugees are systematically mistreated and illegally beaten into Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. Now reports of torture by police officers are also increasing. Two Croatian police officers were arrested for violence against refugees for tying up and severely torturing 16 people from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

My Irish colleague in the European Parliament, Clare Daly, has also researchedCroatia misused the funds intended for the establishment of an independent mechanism for border surveillance, and this mechanism was not established in the first place. However, this independent mechanism is a condition for Croatia to join the Schengen area. The EU Commission announced an investigation following the lifting of the Corona restrictions.

Serbia erects fence to northern Macedonia

The Serbian Government has a new fence erected to northern Macedoniato prevent the entry of refugees. Most of the people now arriving in Serbia via northern Macedonia want to continue quickly in the direction of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. There are currently around 4800 people in Serbian refugee camps themselves. While in 2015 there were no fences and walls between the Western Balkan states and their neighbours, today we have them all over the region.

Floating illegal reception centres in Malta – My question to the Commission

Here you can find my question to the Commission on the floating illegal detention centres in Malta. You can download it here on the homepage of the European Parliament in all 24 official languages of the European Union. In its answer, the Commission states that it expects Malta and other member states to comply with European fundamental rights and international obligations on sea rescue. However, the Commission does not declare itself competent to do anything concrete about it.

My request

After Malta closed its ports to people rescued at sea, more than 400 people fleeing war-torn Libya were detained aboard government-chartered vessels just outside Maltese territorial waters. They had no access to asylum procedures and no contact with monitoring bodies, journalists or lawyers. They were not informed of how long they were detained or why. Under political pressure, the Maltese government finally allowed the people to go ashore after weeks on board.

It is to be welcomed that the Commission has rejected Malta's request to fund the floating reception centres and has instead offered to support the transfer of these people to other Member States. However, I would like to ask the Commission the following questions:

1. whether the Commission considers that a lack of solidarity in the EU exempts Malta from the obligation to comply with EU law?

2. what the Commission will do to ensure that these serious violations of EU asylum law and fundamental rights by Malta do not go unpunished?

3. what measures the Commission will take to ensure that Malta grants access to the asylum procedures provided for in EU law and that the practice of detention at sea is not repeated?

The following is the reply from Ylva Johansson on behalf of the Commission

The Commission recognises the specific situation of Malta; in particular the additional pressures on its already stretched reception system due to an increased influx of refugees and the COVID 19 pandemic. At the same time, the Commission has reiterated that it expects all Member States to comply with their obligations in the field of fundamental rights, to respect the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and all relevant EU and international law, and to take coordinated action to prevent the loss of life at sea, together with all actors involved, including the relevant EU agencies.

The conduct of search and rescue operations is the responsibility of the Member States. The Commission is not competent to coordinate search and rescue operations or to indicate disembarkation points.

The Commission has repeatedly called for persons on board to be disembarked and for those wishing to apply for international protection to be given access to the asylum procedure.

The Commission will continue to do its utmost to provide financial and operational support to those Member States most affected by migratory flows. As part of these measures, it encourages Member States to participate in voluntary relocations as a concrete sign of solidarity with the Member States of disembarkation. The Commission has also held technical meetings to help reduce the pressure on the Maltese reception system by speeding up and coordinating procedures for voluntary relocation and return.

The Commission is currently finalising its reflections on how best to take into account the specificities of search and rescue operations in the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.

Worldwide, 79.5 million people are on the run. These are the causes

The UN refugee agency UNHCR on Thursday released the Global Trend Annual Report. It is the most important overview of flight and displacement worldwide.

The current report shows that 79.5 million people are currently on the run. That is 8.7 million more than in the previous year, more than twice as many as eight years ago and three times as many as after the end of the Second World War. About one in a hundred people in the world are on the run. Around 40 percent of them are under the age of 18. 

46 million people are internally displaced, sheltering in other regions of their country. Turkey (3.6 million) has received the most refugees from abroad. It is followed by Colombia (1.8 million), Pakistan (1.4 million) and Uganda (1.4 million). According to UNHCR, there are currently 1.1 million refugees living in Germany. Less than ten percent of all refugees live in Europe. 

Most refugees who are outside their country of origin come from Syria (6.6 million), Venezuela (3.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.2 million) and Myanmar (1.1 million). According to UNHCR, these five countries alone account for 68 percent of all refugees living outside their home countries.

The causes of flight can be roughly divided into four categories War and violence, Human rights, poverty and climate flight subdivide. For each of these points I have written down something briefly here.

War and violence

War and violence are the main reason why people have to leave their homes. In Syria, after nine years of war, a large part of the population is on the run, while a sustainable peace is not in sight. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Seid Ra’ad al-Hussein described the Syrian war in March 2017 as a "the worst man-made disaster since the end of World War II."

Most Syrian refugees are located in the country itself and in neighbouring countries. So they stay close to home. The poor conditions in the refugee camps, the cold, the lack of food and also the little prospect of a quick return, then led some to also make their way to the EU.

Most asylum seekers in Germany come from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq - i.e. states in which armed conflicts continue to prevail. These are people whose lives are threatened in their homeland or who, for example, evade military service for inhuman regimes. They also include wealthy people who leave everything behind in order to live in peace elsewhere.

German companies sometimes profit directly from war and destruction. Germany exports weapons and armaments worth several billion euros every year, including to dictatorships. According to the current SIPRI Annual Report Germany was the world's fourth largest exporter of arms and armaments between 2015 and 2019. Germany also exports weapons to countries such as Turkey, who used German Leopard 2 tanks in their invasion of Syria in violation of international law.. The former German Development Minister Dirk Niebel (FDP) moved to the German arms company Rheinmetall as a consultant immediately after leaving office.


Round According to Unicef, 2.2 billion people have no access to clean drinking water. The number of people living in extreme poverty will increase due to the global economic crisis caused by Corona. according to the UN and the World Bank, by up to 60 million increase. The achievement of the UN development goals is thus once again moving into the unattainable distance.

The fact that many people have to leave their homeland is also related to our economic system. Thus, especially many people from the small Gambia come to Europe and Germany. There again many can fishermen can no longer secure their livelihoods because the coasts of European companies are empty. be fished.

Human Rights

Many people live in states that unfree and in which they are subject to political persecution or persecution on account of their opinions or their ethnic, religious, cultural or sexual identity. Homosexuality is criminalized in dozens of states, and at least twelve states homosexuality is punishable by death. In 69 states, according to Reporters without Borders "bad" or "very bad" about freedom of the press.

Minorities such as Yezidis in Iraq, Kurds in Turkey, Rohingya in Myanmar, but also Roma in Europe, are denied basic human rights because of their membership in a group. A relatively large number of refugees come from Eritrea, where they flee from so-called "military service", which is often nothing more than forced labour. Meanwhile, it is absurd that with EU funds will be used to finance projects to combat the causes of flight in Eritrea.but in which forced laborers are used.

Climate Escape

Climate change will force many people to leave their homes. Some because their homes will be flooded, others because their fields will dry up. The accumulation of natural disasters means that even more people will be permanently displaced from their homes.

The World Bank expects 140 million climate refugees by 2050, with all other conditions remaining the same. The IOM already estimated in 2008 the number of climate refugees in 2050 to be up to 200 million. And even if we succeed in limiting global warming to "only" two degrees, the Climate Council IPCC that it could lead to 280 million Climate refugees by the year 2100 is coming.

In January 2020 the UN Human Rights Committee found for the first time that the climate crisis can be a reason for asylum and people should not be deported, in case of climate-related danger. So far, neither international nor national asylum rules generally recognise climate change as a reason for flight.

The countries most affected are among the poorest in the world. Positive development will hardly be possible for the people there if the climate catastrophe hits them hardest. This results in instability, which can lead to further causes of flight and thus to further indirect climate refugees. Thus, especially unstable regions also suffer from water shortages, which leads to more conflict, which leads to more people fleeing.

Even in Corona times, the EU must rescue and take in people in distress at sea

The Covid 19 pandemic led to the closure of the EU's external borders and was used as an excuse by Malta and Italy to close their ports to rescue ships. A boat carrying 55 people was ordered by the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) in April to be returned to Libya. Twelve people died of thirst or drowned in the process. Already in February 2020 appeared a Expert opinion of the Heinrich Böll Foundationwhich stated that it is clearly illegal to bring people to Libya.

Prof. Dr. Anuscheh Farahat and Prof. Dr. Nora Markard have now published an update of the study entitled. Closed Ports, Dubious Partners Published. The results were presented in a webinar, where I also spoke and which you can watch under this Link finds.

Since March 2019, neither EU nor national search and rescue vessels have been deployed to prevent further deaths in the Mediterranean. Non-governmental organisations trying to fill this gap, are increasingly criminalised and prosecuted.

Libya is not a safe haven

The update to the study shows why EU states are not exempt from their duty to rescue people in distress at sea and provide them with a safe haven, even in times of pandemic. Covid-19 must not be used as an excuse for allowing people to drown in the Mediterranean. Libya continues not to be a safe haven and returns to Libya, as instructed by Malta, continue to violate existing law.

As the cases of the Alan Kurdi and the Aita Mari show, a quarantine of two weeks for the survivors is quite sufficient to protect the public health of the population of Malta.

Unfortunately, the German government has not put any pressure on Malta to stop this illegal procedure. On the contrary, the Ministry of the Interior has sent a letter to the sea rescue organisations and asked them to stop their activities. In an interview with Tilo Jung, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas even justified Malta closing its ports and also asked them to refrain from sea rescue operations (Video: from 17.38 minute).

The argument that it is unfortunately not possible to save people in the Mediterranean because they could end up in difficult corona situations afterwards is absurd. The pandemic is unfortunately also being used by the German government to try by all means to stop sea rescue so that fewer refugees reach Europe alive.

Andreas Scheuer amends ordinance to make sea rescue more difficult

For several years now, European states have been trying to strengthen human rights observation and to make sea rescue at the EU's external borders more difficult and to criminalise it. Germany has now also issued further rules that could spell the end for the missions of some aid organisations. The model for this approach seems to be the Netherlands where similar reasons were used last year to obstruct sea rescue operations.

The change in law followed a lengthy legal battle. After the Federal Ministry of Transport fixed the observation vessel "Mare Liberum" in April 2019, the association sued and was upheld by the Hamburg Higher Administrative Court in September 2019, so that the ship could continue to operate.

With a current regulation, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer is specifically making humanitarian aid at Europe's external borders more difficult. The German government has been pursuing this goal for some time, but has so far been defeated in court. Now the transport ministry is creating a new legal basis for itself in order to be able to legally detain ships because they cannot meet the new security requirements.

Security concerns are only a pretext

New excuses are always being sought to prevent humanitarian aid at Europe's external borders. Meanwhile legislators are arguing with the safety of people on the water in order to prevent sea rescues. That such arguments are being used in the face of thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean is more than cynical.

The German government is obviously trying to prevent the observation of the human rights situation in the Mediterranean. In speeches, it continues to emphasise the relevance of human rights and sea rescue, but away from the public eye it then does the opposite. Anyone who acts in this way gambles away the credibility of politics.

Preventing sea rescue, firing on those seeking protection, undignified and life-threatening conditions in European refugee camps: when one looks at Europe's external borders and the actions of European states, one unfortunately wonders when the EU member states will have to declare moral insolvency.

You can find more information on the Homepage of Mare Liberum. Details and legal assessments on the amendment of the Ship Safety Regulation, can be found at here.

Our proposal for a fair and efficient asylum system in Europe

With this paper we, the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, present our proposal for the future Common European Asylum System. 

We believe this is necessary because we in Europe are currently not treating refugees with the dignity they deserve.

The Greek islands must not continue to be misused for a hotspot system that inevitably leads to a humanitarian disaster. Nor must people have to spend years there before a decision is made on their asylum application. Instead, we need fast, fair and orderly procedures at the EU's external borders.

This is how we envisage a common European asylum system based on solidarity:

Refugees will be common and open centres registered and also pass through security checks. Asylum applications are processed in a common European database registered and processed.

Shortly after their arrival asylum seekers are interviewed in order to identify specific needs and to determine and to determine the host Member State. The personal connections and The preferences of asylum seekers should be taken into account in the distribution process.

An EU Agency for Asylum is responsible for the final decision on the distribution to other other Member States and the management of the distribution mechanism.

The distribution of asylum seekers should no longer be based on the principle of first entry, whereby the state in which people first set foot on European soil is always responsible for asylum procedures. This system has failed.  

Voluntary and compulsory solidarity

In order to distribute asylum seekers fairly, we would instead like to see a create a two-tier system with positive incentives to strengthen solidarity.

The first stage is based on voluntary solidarity. It is based on the willingness of cities and regions to take in refugees. In Germany alone more than 150 cities, towns and municipalities have declared themselves safe havens. The EU should further promote such willingness to take in refugees by assuming the costs.

The second stage is based on binding solidarity by all EU Member States: If voluntary admission reaches its limits, member states will create new reception places or make a financial contribution to the total cost of admission. If this is not sufficient either, the EU Commission will solve the problem with a yellow card a warning system and takes further action if necessary.

Those who do not want to help must pay

The Commission shall ensure, through a transparent monitoring mechanism, that all Member States comply with the rules of the Common European Asylum System and that asylum seekers everywhere are provided with decent conditions in accordance with common minimum standards.

We need an asylum system that rewards and encourages solidarity, not punishes it. The times when states are ashamed of helping people in need must be over. European values will be abolished if it continues to be worthwhile for EU members to refuse to show any solidarity.Those who want to help must be supported. Those who don't want to help should pay for it.

Question: Situation on the border between Turkey and the EU

In order to be able to exercise my parliamentary control function as a Member of the European Parliament, I have the opportunity to put questions to the European Commission. The Commission must answer these questions.
On 04/03/2020, I asked the Commission the following questions:

Priority question for written answer P-001313/2020 to the Commission

Subject: Situation on the border between Turkey and the EU

Since Turkey's decision to open its borders on Friday, 28 February, the situation on the border between Turkey and the EU at the border between Turkey and the EU. Officials have that a four-year-old Syrian boy has died in the waters off Lesbos. and journalists report that a Syrian refugee was shot dead by border guards. border guards was shot dead. In addition, the Greek government has announced a decision to increase deterrence at the border and to block new asylum applications for one month. The UNHCR estimates that about 1200 people arrived on the East Aegean islands on March 1 and 2. East Aegean Islands on March 1 and 2.

The suspension, albeit temporary, of the right to apply for asylum and any violation of the principle of non-refoulement are unlawful under the Geneva Convention, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on European Union.

1. what the Commission will do to ensure that the EU and its Member States take account of international asylum law and EU asylum law?

2. will it look into the alleged use of violence at the EU-Greece border, including the use of tear gas and the excessive use of physical force by border guards against asylum seekers?

3. what measures the EU will take, in coordination with international organisations, including the UNHCR and the IOM, to alleviate the pressure on Member States of first entry?


Answer given by Commissioner Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission:

According to Article 4 of the Schengen Borders Code[1] Member States must, when carrying out border checks, comply with the relevant Union legislation relating to access to international protection and the principle of Non-rejection act.

The Commission takes seriously all allegations of the use of force at the EU's external borders and understands that the Greek authorities are investigating all cases. Although Member States are responsible for determining which measures are appropriate to prevent unauthorised border crossings, the use of physical force must be justified and proportionate. The Commission is assisting the Greek authorities in de-escalating tensions and restoring calm and order at the border.

On 4 March 2020, the Commission adopted an Action Plan for urgent measures in support of Greece.[2] was presented. Recent achievements of the initiative include the coordinated relocation of around 1600 unaccompanied minors from Greece to other Member States and the transfer of 1000 vulnerable migrants from hotspots to local hotels as part of the measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In addition, the new Migration and Asylum Pact will include proposals for wide-ranging solidarity with Member States of first entry. The Commission continues to work closely with international organisations in this regard, in particular the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which continue to play a crucial role in the implementation of EU assistance to migrants and refugees.

[1] Regulation (EU)2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 establishing a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code).