Push-back, violence, suffering,… the FRA draws a grim picture of the situation of thousands of migrants in Europe

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Brussels, 30 May 2018

Since 2015, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has been collecting information on the situation of migrants in 14 states of the European Union[1].  From one month to the next, the tone hardly evolves towards optimism!

Under the generic heading “tensions at borders and suffering of migrants“, the May 2018 report points out the case of many migrants in several EU Member States (France, Croatia, Spain, Hungary, Poland and Greece) who returned without having had the opportunity to apply for international protection. According to a local NGO, push-back operations in Croatia toward Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are daily, often violent and also affect children. In Hungary, the police themselves admit carrying out brutal expulsions of people in an irregular situation or actions which prevent their entry into the territory (260 people in March-April, a little less than at the beginning of the year).

As for migrants who are already present in the EU, recurrent problems persist, in particular on material reception conditions, due to overcrowding in existing centres or their numerical inadequacy, but also because of the multiplication of detention cases.

In Greece, despite the legislative transposition project of the “Reception Directive” of 2013, no progress seems to have been made: reception and identification centres on the Aegean islands still have twice as many people as places (12,588 people for 6,338 places). In Evros, on the land border with Turkey, where nearly 3,000 people arrived in April, the reception centre had a capacity of only 240 places. Hundreds of people – many of them children – were placed in detention centres of the local police. Data from the Hellenic Police headquarters shows that 8,230 people were placed in custody in the country at the end of May, including 2,701 asylum seekers[2].

The Agency is particularly alarmed by the situation of women and children. It quotes a study that had revealed that 95% of women arriving in Italy had suffered sexual violence during their trip, including 17% in more than one country.

In Spain, NGOs are warning that the reception system is about to collapse, especially in Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao, where many people live on the streets or in homeless shelters for the homeless. In France, despite statements by the Minister of the Home Affairs, several thousand migrants are homeless, particularly in Paris.

The Agency is particularly concerned about the situation of women and children. The Agency cites a study which revealed that 95% of women arriving in Italy had experienced sexual violence during their journey, including 17% of them for which it occurred in more than one country. In Hungary, human trafficking appears to be increasing. Following the European Council Report, the FRA stresses that the authorities’ ability to detect potential victims of trafficking among asylum seekers in transit areas appears to have deteriorated over the last three years; children aged 14-18 in closed institutions are particularly vulnerable.

The Agency also draws attention to the fact that support for unaccompanied children is still very inadequate. This is particularly the case in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Spain where although the overall number of children arriving has decreased by 70% since 2016 (33,000 that year), many still live in inhumane conditions without access to drinking water and sanitation facilities, especially in Italy or on the streets in Spain.

In this context and as part of the actions carried out by European citizens and NGOs, it is welcomed that the FRA mentions the citizens’ initiative in which the AEDH participates: “We are a welcoming Europe, let us help!

[1] Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Nederland, Holland, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

[2] See the press release published by the Council of Europe, following its visit in the region from 10 to 19 April 2018: « Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes preliminary observations after its visit to immigration detention and psychiatric establishments in Greece », in Strasbourg, 1 june 2018 and the preliminary observation report: