The “return sponsorship” of the EU migration package reverses solidarity. It is no longer about sharing the burden of asylum, but of the burden of deportation.
Remote control and Bible in a cell in the Eisenhüttenstadt detention center Photo: Stafanie Loos
One term stuck to the plans for the new EU asylum system that the EU Commission presented on Wednesday: “return sponsorships”. Were in the net On the same day, he certified that he had the best chances of being voted “Unword of the Year”.
You have to come up with what is behind it first. When people in Brussels talked about “solidarity” in connection with flight and migration, one thing was meant in the past: to distribute the burden of taking in refugees as evenly as possible. This is now being turned around: Solidarity could also mean sharing the burdens of deportations, the commission announced. It’s a remarkably embarrassing political twist.
Governments like Viktor Orbán’s in Hungary thrive on their unwillingness to compromise on the refugee issue. But instead of at least trying to sanction the stance of the Visegrád states plus Austria, the commission now defended them in an ingratiating manner from criticism: “One’s concern is never more legitimate than that of the other. All worries deserve to be tackled, ”said the Commissioner for the Promotion of the European Lifestyle, Margaritis Schinas, on Wednesday.
But the populist whipped up “fear” of alleged foreign infiltration and the willingness to breach human rights are just not as legitimate as the concern to uphold basic and human rights and to share the burdens attached. When the Commission humps before Orbán with demonstrative indifference, it gives up itself as a political actor. The “deportation sponsorships” want to conceal exactly that.
Frontext trains deportation experts
In its pact, the Commission writes that on average around 370,000 asylum applications are rejected in the EU each year, but only around a third of these people are deported. It gives the impression that it is because nobody in the EU cares about deportations and the deportation sponsorships (and an additional “deportation coordinator” to be appointed) remedy this deficiency. This is nonsense.
The burdens of deportations have long been collectivized in Europe: For years, the EU border protection agency Frontex has been upgraded so that more people are deported faster. Today, Frontex coordinates and finances Member States’ deportations. To do this, she chartered aircraft and booked seats on scheduled flights. Frontex helps the national immigration authorities to obtain passports and negotiates with the authorities in the destination countries.
She builds up a pool of specialized deportation experts, known as “escort officers”. This year, Frontex can spend 70 million euros from Brussels on these “return” activities. There will be more next year. And the next but one too.
The fact that “only” a third of all rejected persons are deported each year is not due to the fact that the poor external border states are left alone with the deportations and therefore need sponsorships.
The reason is that many people cannot be deported despite their asylum applications being rejected: Because they are sick or in training, because they are minors, because they come from a war zone, because they do not have a passport, their identity is unclear because legal proceedings are still pending not decided because they went into hiding or because their countries of origin do not take them back.
Some of them are required to leave the country, but they still have rights that may prevent deportation. And that’s right. What effect will the “deportation sponsorships” have?
Disenfranchisement is built in
The commission wants to stipulate that all states should voluntarily meet admission quotas. If they do not do that, they should alternatively deport a number of rejected asylum seekers from the external border states. They have eight months to do this per case. If they don’t succeed, they have to take them in themselves.
Let’s assume that the model of “godfather deportations” can be implemented – and Bulgarian police officers would travel to Valletta, for example, to bring rejected asylum seekers to Ghana from there: It is doubtful that states that have been trying to confront Brussels for years in order not to have to accept refugees, to take care of the rights of those rejected elsewhere.
Otherwise they would have to let them into the country. The disenfranchisement of refugees is already built into the model.
The overcrowded Bira camp on the border with Croatia is tight, but the alternative camp is already full again. Many persevere in the woods.
New people come to Bosnia and Herzegovina every day in the hope of entering the EU Photo: Jana Cavojska / ZUMA / imago
SPLITtaz | While everyone is looking at Lesbos, the situation of migrants on the Balkan route has become quiet. Thereby, 12,000 people who want to go to Europe accumulate in the Bosnian northwestern canton of Una-Sana. As on the Greek islands, they too vegetate under unspeakable circumstances: there is little food and, despite the corona pandemic, hardly any medical care.
The completely overcrowded Bira camp in Bihać was closed on September 7th. The inmates, mainly from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria, were to be transferred to other camps. But many ended up in forests and meadows in the surrounding area. As on the Greek islands, the local population is overwhelmed and has adopted a hostile attitude even after initial helpfulness.
Whereas a year ago the migrants could have hoped to get from Bihać over the mountain border to Croatia, this route is now denied to them. The Croatian police have refined their methods of picking up the migrants and pushing them back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The brutally carried out illegal push-backs have been documented and proven hundreds of times by NGOs such as Amnesty International and journalists.
But this has not changed anything. Brussels and Berlin are silent about the illegal push-backs. The IOM (International Organization for Migration) is trying to set up alternative refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 30 kilometers from Bira, the Lipa camp, which can accommodate 3,000 people. But even this is already hopelessly overcrowded.
Winter is coming
And more people arrive every day who have made it from Greece via North Macedonia, Serbia or Montenegro to Bosnia and Herzegovina and still hope to get to the EU from there. The border between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina has so far proven to be porous. Because most of the border runs between Serbia and the Serbian-dominated state in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the so-called Republika Srpska.
The Serb leader in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, leaves no doubt that Muslim migrants will not be tolerated in his sphere of rule. They are taken by bus to the border with the Muslim-dominated Bosniak-Croatian Federation. So in August the absurd situation arose that the police in Bihać confronted the Bosnian Serb police and tried to prevent people from being deported to their territory.
The poor small towns of Bihać and Velika Kladusa, which had only recovered from the war of the 1990s, are now having to pay for the EU migration policy. The cold winter in the region is coming soon. The situation will become even more dramatic, warns Peter Van der Auweraert, head of the IOM in Bosnia.
The refugees on Lesbos are to be accommodated in a new camp. Possibly a pilot project for a new EU migration policy.
On the way to the new warehouse Photo: ap / dpa
LESBOS / HEIDELBERGtaz | As if they had come straight from a war, hundreds of refugees move to the gate of the new camp on Friday morning on Lesbos, which is a few kilometers outside the island’s capital. They have bundles with them, bags, blankets and sleeping mats, some drag their belongings in garbage cans behind them, others have tied them onto old fruit pallets that they push across the asphalt. Some can only walk with crutches or sticks, others sit in wheelchairs.
Special units of the Greek police had already started on Thursday to round up the people on the streets where they had been waiting since the fire in the Moria camp. The police officers shout “move”, they wear white protective suits and sunglasses.
After over a week with far too little water, food and sleep, many of the refugees are completely exhausted and dehydrated, they lean on their bundles while they wait to be admitted in front of the camp. In the surrounding fields they wash themselves on pipes that transport sewage towards the sea.
The riot and protests of the past few days have given way to an exhausted calm.
According to the latest information from the authorities, there should now be space for 5,000 people in the camp, in tents that the military has set up. 5,000, however, had already moved into the camp on an old shooting range by Thursday evening. 1,000 were waiting in front of the entrance on Friday morning. There are still around 12,000 refugees on the island. Many of them will have to sleep on the floor for a while in the new camp.
The nuclear debate will pick up speed again at the end of September, when the plans for a nuclear repository will be presented. It is often kept secret: A second, significantly larger warehouse for radiation waste is to be built at the same location. Read more in the taz on the weekend of 19./20. September. Also: A Syrian family wants to build their own goat farm in Baden-Württemberg – but then everything goes wrong. And: Franz Müntefering in conversation about old age. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or with a practical weekend subscription. And around the clock on Facebook and Twitter.
The press is banned from the site, as are lawyers, and it is still unclear whether the people who enter the camp will be allowed out. Journalists who are in the vicinity are repeatedly scared away by the police. From the surrounding slopes you can watch people standing in long lines. Water is distributed rationed in bottles. Excavators level the parched bushland, white tents with a blue UN logo are set up. It’s still hotter than 30 degrees, but there’s no cooling. There are no showers and the sea, which is only a few meters away, is inaccessible: the access is blocked with barbed wire.
What is there: A new police station in the camp. 300 officers were transferred there, the police leadership in Athens sent a high-ranking officer as commanding officer.
Everyone who comes to the new warehouse is tested for corona. 150 Covid 19 cases had been discovered by Friday morning. There should be more: As in Moria, it is completely impossible to keep your distance in the new tent camp. The infected are placed in a quarantine area. They received medical help, said UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo.
Refusal of entry
Around 4,000 refugees are still in the hills around the burned down camp or at a roadblock near the island’s capital. They do not want to go to the new camp and fear that they will be locked up there permanently. And the residents are also dissatisfied with the development: The regional council of the North Aegean is considering calling a general strike against the new camp. He demands that all former inmates of Moria be removed from the island. But that’s not what it looks like. In Germany, the government coalition has only agreed to accept 1,553 more refugees from the Greek islands, and “100 to 150” unaccompanied minors from Moria are to be accepted here.
The fire in the Moria camp could, however, have cleared the way for a profound change in the European asylum system, which the German government in particular has been trying to push for some time.
In Berlin, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) called for a new European asylum system on Wednesday. In future, it should be decided at the external border who is in need of protection, and those in need of protection should then be distributed, said Seehofer in the Bundestag. Two thirds of asylum seekers would not be able to enter the country in the first place. “And it makes a difference whether I have a million to distribute in Europe or two or three hundred thousand,” he said. When asked whether he wanted “the asylum procedures no longer to take place in Germany, but rather all in the hotspots themselves, so that only those who are recognized are distributed”, Seehofer said: “The latter is our goal.”
The new camp on Lesbos could become a pilot project for this.
Seehofer had this suggestion scattered last November. The European asylum system should be “reoriented”, it said in a paper by his ministry, which is a kind of timetable for the German EU Council Presidency, which runs until the end of the year. The core of the concept is “binding preliminary reviews” of asylum applications at the external borders in “closed centers”, ie internment facilities. Anyone who submits an unfounded asylum application – for example because of entry from a safe third country, incorrect information about their identity or for other reasons – should not be allowed to enter the country at all, according to the paper.
The camps would thus have a kind of extraterritorial character. “Refusal of entry means return,” it continues. “Frontex has to help with this.” In other words: Anyone who is screened out during the preliminary examination should be deported directly. An EU asylum authority, which has yet to be established, called the “Europan Union Agency for Asylum”, is to decide in which EU country the actual asylum procedure for the rest of the population will be carried out.
“We are abolishing Dublin”
This authority is likely to emerge from an upgrading of the existing European Asylum Support Office EASO, based in Malta. Its spokesman knows about the plans, he doesn’t want to say anything about it. “That is all decided by politics,” he says. But if there are to be “preliminary checks” of asylum applications in the future, “then we would of course be involved”.
The whole thing raises a number of completely unanswered questions, on which the Federal Ministry of the Interior has kept a low profile, even in discussions with NGOs. Because EASO is not allowed – at least on the basis of its current mandate – to make any decisions about who is granted asylum or who is admitted to a procedure. Nor is it clear how refugees can legally defend themselves against a rejection in such a preliminary examination. And what about those who can be rejected but not deported at all? “None of this can be done with previous EU law,” says Franziska Vilmar, asylum expert at Amnesty International.
It is unclear how refugees can defend themselves against rejection
“Castles in the air”, says the lawyer Robert Nestler from the NGO Equal Rights Beyond Borders about the plans for the preliminary checks in camps at the external borders. “Without changing an extremely large number of laws, you will not be able to avoid a regular Greek asylum procedure in such centers in the future either.”
But the EU could not let that stop it. On Wednesday and Thursday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented her migration agenda. The reform package that was actually announced for May is intended to harmonize EU asylum policy more closely – and also to abolish the biggest conflict factor: the Dublin regulation. This stipulates that the states at the external borders are essentially responsible for the incoming refugees. This had repeatedly led to violent disputes within the Union. For years the EU has been working unsuccessfully on a possible reform. Last Wednesday, von der Leyen made a surprisingly clear statement: “We are abolishing Dublin.” Seehofer’s model of preliminary tests would fit into this. Because those who pass these should be distributed to other states. That would relieve the external border states.
“Yes, this is impossible with current EU law. But they will change the law to make it possible, ”says Amandine Bach, migration expert from the Left Group in the EU Parliament. She sees preliminary checks at the external borders as a “central element” of von der Leyen’s migration agenda. A draft of the agenda was punctured in April. “This makes it clear that the Schengen Borders Code, the EASO Regulation and other laws should be changed in order to be able to introduce the model,” says Bach. Entry should only be completed when the examination has shown that an asylum application has a chance of success.
All other refugees are treated as if they had never been there and are deported again before they have even officially entered the EU.
The largest Greek refugee camp Moria on the island of Lesbos was almost completely burned. The 12,600 residents are evacuated.
Moria on Tuesday night: tents and other living areas are on fire Photo: ap
ATHENS / HANOVERdpa / afp / taz | The Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos was almost completely in flames after several fires broke out on Wednesday night. The fire raged on in the early morning hours, fanned by winds of up to 70 kilometers per hour. According to a photographer from the AFP news agency, almost the entire camp was on fire.
According to the fire department, several fires broke out inside the camp as well as in the surrounding countryside. The AFP photographer reported during the night that an olive grove with tented accommodation for refugees outside the main camp was burning.
According to Greek media reports, the authorities began evacuating the camp that night after residential containers caught fire. Initially, there was no information about injuries or even deaths. In tweets from some local aid organizations there was talk of dead and injured, but this was not initially confirmed.
Moria is the largest refugee camp in Greece and Europe. It has been hopelessly overcrowded for years; according to the Greek Ministry of Migration, around 12,600 refugees and migrants have recently been living there – with a capacity of just 2,800 places.
At first it was unclear who started the fires
This was preceded by unrest among the migrants because the camp had been quarantined last week after a first corona case. On Tuesday it was announced that the number of infected people was 35. Some migrants then wanted to leave the camp to avoid contracting the virus, reported the semi-state Greek news agency ANA-MPA. On the other hand, some infected people and their contacts who were supposed to be isolated refused to leave the camp and be brought into isolation.
Whether the fires were started by refugees or islanders remained unclear for the time being – the information on this initially differed. On right-wing socia media accounts, however, one can read of an “attempt at extortion by illegal migrants”, and it is suggested that the fire in Moria was caused by the “We have space” campaign launched a few days earlier in order to take people in from Moria in Germany.
The green MEP Erik Marquardt wrote down Twitter: “I don’t know who started the fire. But I know that many want this degrading place to no longer exist. We failed politically for years. “
After the fire broke out, camp residents threw stones at the firefighters and tried to prevent them from doing the extinguishing work, the chief of operations reported on television. Special units of the riot police were in action. Videos on social networks showed stray, frightened people and also those who sang “Bye-bye, Moria!”.
Corona caused tensions in the camp to explode
Many of the more than 12,000 migrants and refugees who last lived in the camp fled to the surrounding forests and on hills, while others made their way to the island’s capital, Mytilene, according to the Greek media. In places, islanders are said to have opposed them and blocked their way. In the morning it was reported that most of them were waiting on a motorway under police surveillance.
There have always been tensions in Moria, because of the corona problem, the situation has now exploded, Mytilinis Mayor Stratos Kytelis told the Greek state broadcaster ERT. One does not know where the people should be housed now, thousands are homeless. The situation is also an enormous burden for the locals.
Aid organizations have been calling for the camp to be evacuated for some time. Several German federal states had agreed to accept people from the camp. However, this failed due to the resistance of the Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU).
Pistorius demands dissolution
Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Boris Pistorius called for the camp to be closed after the outbreak of the fires. “I call on the federal government and the European states to dissolve the camp and to distribute the people across the EU so that they can then go through their asylum procedure in Europe,” said the SPD politician on Wednesday. “The fire in the Moria camp on Lesbos is a tragedy. It hits the weakest. “The overcrowded camp is the” symbol of the failure of European refugee policy. It has made the local people into prisoners ”.
Pistorius emphasized: “My thoughts are with the people who are confronted with the next disaster in an already hopeless situation.” He called on EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the member states to do everything possible to help the people. He also called for a system of refugee distribution to be implemented during the German EU Council Presidency that “finally gives clear answers to the questions that have been known for years”. This system must “drastically” hold EU states liable for those who, contrary to Europe’s humanitarian principles, are not prepared to accept people.
“During my two visits to Lesbos, the situation in Moria was already completely unacceptable, after this fire now before winter it is time to put an end to this unworthy, life-threatening spectacle,” said Pistorius. “The EU must be measured by how it deals with the weakest.”
Private aid organizations are now banned in the Bosnian border region with Croatia. The situation is becoming increasingly hopeless for the refugees.
Queuing for clothes in the Miral camp in the Bosnian town of Velika Kladuša in early March Photo: Antonio Bronic / Reuters
BERLINtaz | The situation of refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the EU’s external border with Croatia continues to deteriorate. The canton of Una-Sana, in which the refugee camps Bira in Bihać and Miral in Velika Kladuša are located, banned private aid organizations on Wednesday from continuing to support people in their desperate situation.
This is reported by the organization SOS Bihać, which it claims to be one of the last two remaining private organizations that are still active in the region. The prohibition does not apply to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Red Cross as long as they only work in the official camps.
Due to the corona pandemic, Bosnia and Herzegovina has closed its borders, international aid workers have mostly left the country. The around ten thousand refugees who stranded around Bihać on their way from Afghanistan or Syria to the EU are dependent on private help.
Zlatan Kovacevic from SOS Bihać is one of the few who are still active on site. He explains on the phone that many of the refugees lived in old factory buildings or in the woods because they were closer to the Croatian border than the IOM camps. “The Red Cross was supposed to distribute food there and help injured people, but they never did. Only SOS Bihać was always in the old buildings. “
New camp with uncertain standards
Because of the ban, Kovacevic and his colleagues are now tied. Aid is now completely prohibited on the routes towards the Croatian border. People who are injured while trying to cross the border now have to drag themselves back through kilometers of forests to the camps to be able to expect help.
Kovacevic tells of an incident on Wednesday when five people managed to cross the Croatian border. “They were stopped by officials and had to wait several hours in the rain. When they were brought back to Bihać, Bosnian police officers burned their belongings. I am now forbidden to help you. “
The situation should actually improve as of this Friday. According to SOS Bihać, the previous IOM camps Bira and Miral will then be closed. A resident told the taz at the end of March of the poor conditions in the Bira camp, where there was not enough food or soap and people were locked up most of the time.
All refugees are now to be brought to the IOM camp Lipa, 30 kilometers from Bihać. “We hoped that everything would be better there, that the camp would meet international standards,” says Dirk Planert, who works with SOS Bihać and has been involved in the area since the wars in the 1990s. But it turned out that the warehouse with a capacity for 6,000 people is much too small.
For Planert, it is clear that Bosnian politicians are deliberately escalating the situation in the camps and at the border in order to create a mood against refugees and thereby win votes. Local elections are held in Bosnia and Herzegovina in autumn. “The Bosnian security minister wants people to leave on their own,” says Planert.
In fact, security minister Fahrudin Radončić of the conservative party “Bund für die Better Zukunft” (SBB BiH) told the largest Bosnian daily a few weeks ago Avaz, which he owns: “I will make it so bad for migrants in the entire canton of Una-Sana and in Bihać that no one will come.” Since the minister’s threat, refugees have reported that the local Red Cross has drastically reduced its aid.
The border police are now brutal against the refugees. Beatings and the burning of property are said to be the order of the day. Apparently the government doesn’t want people to leave the country for Croatia.
This change in strategy seems paradoxical, if Bosnia in the past preferred to get rid of the refugees as quickly as possible. But in Bihać some suspect that it could have something to do with the fact that the head of the Bosnian border police is a Bosnian Croatian – with the best contacts to her Croatian colleague on the other side of the border.
The government promised to evacuate refugee children from the Greek islands. But the Ministry of the Interior admits that not a single one is here yet.
Children in the crowded Moria camp on the island of Lesbos Photo: Murat Turemis
BERLINtaz | It was just a small gesture of humanity – but better than nothing. Union and SPD agreed on a coalition decision a month ago to “support Greece in the difficult humanitarian situation of around 1,000 to 1,500 children on the Greek islands”. The children should be flown out and distributed to several European countries.
The coalition promised that Germany would be prepared to “take a reasonable share”. According to the dpa news agency, there were between 250 and 400 people. Even then, time was short: Greek refugee camps, for example on the island of Lesbos, are completely overcrowded, the hygienic conditions are catastrophic. The coalition wrote that it was about children who were seriously ill and in urgent need of treatment. And those who are unaccompanied and younger than 14, most of them girls.
Although the situation has deteriorated dramatically since then due to the corona epidemic, not a single child has yet arrived in Germany. The Federal Ministry of the Interior has now admitted this in response to a request from the Left Party MP Jan Korte, which is available to the taz. “As of March 30, 2020, no asylum seekers had been transferred to the Federal Republic of Germany as part of the aforementioned procedure,” writes the Interior Ministry.
The Ministry apparently sees the responsibility with the EU Commission. The latter took over the coordination for a takeover of minors, the answer says. And: “The European Commission is actively supported in its efforts by the Federal Government.” Originally, eight EU countries had agreed to take part in the campaign.
Left Party: “Government completely fails”
Left-wing politician Korte criticizes the government. “Especially in the Corona crisis, sick and unaccompanied children urgently need protection and our solidarity,” he told the taz. “But unfortunately the federal government completely fails to help the refugees in Greece.” Despite her decision and the willingness of 140 German cities and municipalities to accept refugees, she has not managed to fly a single child out of the hell of the camps until today, so Korte. “From the Federal Government’s perspective, Europe obviously means more than ever today: everyone is next to themselves.”
The process is extremely embarrassing for the coalition. The aid offer decided at the beginning of March was criticized by social organizations and human rights organizations as too small. The number of people to be admitted was “far too low given the unbearable conditions on the Greek islands,” said Caritas President Peter Neher. And now it doesn’t even work smoothly with this little gesture.
But the pressure to help quickly is increasing. A group of over 50 Union MPs appeals to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) to quickly fly out of the children. “In view of the rapid growth of the corona virus worldwide, an immediate admission” of refugee children is “urgently required”, it says in a letter that is available. The situation is unacceptable for Europeans.
Sympathies for humanitarian solo action
One of the signatories is the CDU MP Norbert Röttgen, who is also applying for the CDU chairmanship. “The project must be carried out as quickly as possible,” wrote Röttgen on Twitter. He proposed to take action without other EU countries. “Germany can act, doesn’t have to wait for others.”
There would also be sympathy in the SPD for humanitarian solo action. “If the colleagues of the Union are serious, I suggest: We anticipate our share,” tweets the SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach. “We pretend that the others have already acted.” The children need help.