Greece + 8 more

Europe’s Refugee Emergency Response - Update #20, 22 – 28 January 2016

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KEY FIGURES

  • 54,518 Refugees and migrants arriving by sea to Europe in 2016.
  • 236 Refugees and migrants estimated to have died / gone missing at sea in 2016.
  • 2,213 Average daily sea arrivals in Greece from 22 to 28 January 2016.
  • 369,971 UNHCR thermal blankets distributed since the start of the crisis.
  • 47,170 UNHCR sleeping mats distributed since the start of the crisis.
  • USD 235.8M: Total 2016 requirements for UNHCR’s activities in the context of the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for Europe.
  • USD 4.2M: Funding received for UNHCR’s activities in Europe in 2016.

PRIORITIES

  • Boost reception capacity and provide emergency assistance in receiving countries through support for States, civil society and local communities.
  • Strengthen protection systems and prevent refoulement including through presence and capacity building.
  • Increase strategic messaging and advocacy to and about people of concern.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • On 28 January, the heads of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and UNHCR called on governments to scale up efforts to help refugees integrate allowing them to contribute to the societies and economies of Europe. The two organizations co-organised a joint high-level Conference on the integration of beneficiaries of international protection in Paris, have. The OECD and UNHCR stressed not only the moral imperative but also the clear economic incentive to help the millions of refugees living in OECD countries to develop the skills they need to work productively and safely.
  • On 27 January, UNHCR launched a new and innovative information platform reaching out to Eritreans and Somalis who are considering taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean into Europe.
  • “Telling the Real Story” is a collection of testimonies by persons who have made this voyage. This community-based information project counters the narrative of smugglers and traffickers and helps Eritreans and Somalis take an informed decision about traveling to Europe.

  • On 25 January, UNHCR and IOM launched the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) with requirements of USD 550,539,647 (out of which, USD 235.8 million for UNHCR’s activities) to respond to the crisis in Europe, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans route. The RMRP (January to December 2016) reflects the inter-agency planning process and was coordinated by UNHCR and IOM with government representatives and 67 partner agencies in Turkey, Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

OPERATIONAL CONTEXT 

In Greece, arrivals to the shores continue amidst cold temperatures and strong winds. Many boats in distress are aided by the Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex. The transfer of North African nationals from the islands to pre-removal detention facilities on the mainland began: however, many others remain on the islands, particularly on Samos. Another two-day ferry strike was announced by the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation on 27-31 January which negatively affected departures from the island to the mainland. The border crossing between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was intermittently closed, allowing only a limited number of people to cross at any one time. It was closed for most of the day on 27 January, requiring 1,300-1,350 people to remain at the Eidomeni site until crossing resumed later that in the evening. 

On 24 January, following two deadly shipwrecks, hundreds of people protested at the security fence along the land border with Turkey demanding safe routes. On the same day, the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos, warned against recent suggestions that Greece may be expelled from the Schengen area if Greece fails to take more effective action on managing the flow of people through its borders. The Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Nikos Kotzias, requested Frontex support to return to Turkey those people who were ineligible for asylum in Europe, such as those of North African nationality. 

On 27 and 28 January, two new shipwrecks occurred near Kos and Samos islands, taking the lives of at least 26 people. Only 10 survived and many more are missing. Since the beginning of the year, according to the Hellenic Coast Guard, 94 people have lost their lives in the Greek territorial waters (including at least 35 children and 29 women) and over 34 are missing. In Turkish waters, 65 people died and at least 28 are missing. 

During the afternoon and evening of 27 January the borders between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece closed, as a reaction to the closure of the Serbian border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Serbian police monitoring the borderline instructed refugees who were trying to cross to return to the Tabanovce to wait – around 500 individuals spent the night in the transit centre. After the border with Greece re-opened the Chief of Police informed UNHCR that only small groups would be let in on an hourly basis. 

In Serbia, authorities increased their scrutiny of registration documents belonging to refugees and migrants in Sid train station, including confirming the intended country of destination. Some 1,030, taking into account double counting, were not allowed to board the train by Croatian authorities. The Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migrants (SCRM) accommodated them at Sid Refugee Aid Point (RAP). 

In Hungary, there were 168 new arrivals who were apprehended by the police after irregular entry mainly from Serbia. On 22 January, the Prime Minister, Mr. Viktor Orban, said that a fence should be erected on the borders of former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria with Greece to curb the inflow of migrants into Europe. 

In Croatia, the Ministry of Interior confirmed the readmission of 12 people (two Syrians and one Iraqi family) from Slovenia as they stated their intention to apply for asylum in countries other than Germany and Austria. The Minister of Interior in the caretaker government, Mr. Ranko Ostojic, reiterated that Croatia will not become a collection centre for refugees and migrants. 

On 21 January, the Minister of Interior announced that Slovenia will start implementing the policy whereby only those who will seek asylum in Austria or Germany will be registered and allowed to continue their travel to Austria. Some 15 people were returned to Croatia as they intended to seek asylum in countries other than Germany or Austria. The Slovenian police forces were uncertain whether the Croatian authorities will accept their return. The Slovenian authorities provided them with a document which mentioned the reason of return as “lack of valid travel documents” or “lack of visa or resident permit” to their countries of destination. 

Upon arrival at the screening centre in Spielfeld (border crossing to Sentilj) in Austria, refugees and migrants are searched and their documents and country of destination are checked by the police. In case of fraudulent information or documents, they are returned to Slovenia but at any stage can apply for asylum in Austria. Also persons stating another country of destination than Germany or Austria will be returned. Those who want to apply for asylum in Austria or in Germany are given differently colored wrist bands and undergo registration (national fingerprint system) and more detailed checks of their travel documents. After registration, they can either board buses (if arrival numbers are low) or go to the service area where the Red Cross, Caritas and the Army are providing food, medical care and clothes. 

On 26 January, the Austrian Federal Government adopted the draft Asylum Act amendment and submitted it to Parliament. The amendment provides for a so-called ‘temporary asylum’, that is to say a residence permit valid for three years and an automatic review of the continued need for protection afterwards. In addition, restrictions to the right for family reunification, in particular for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, are foreseen. 

In Italy, 2,773 persons arrived by sea on ten vessels, mainly in the ports of Augusta, Pozzallo, Trapani and Lampedusa. On 24 January a Somali man died while crossing, probably due to pre-existing health conditions, in Trapani. 

While relocation cases are being processed by Italy, no departures were recorded in the reporting period. 

As of 27 January 2016, 257 individuals were relocated out of Italy and 157 out of Greece, totaling 414 persons relocated so far to 11 Member States. In terms of places pledged, 16 Member States and Lichtenstein have offered relocation places.