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EUROPEAN CRISIS: Key Developments of the Past 48

February 15, 20161
Merkel Backs No-Fly Zone in Syria; Rejects Full
Border Controls in Germany: Merkel today backed a call
from Turkey for a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, saying it
would alleviate the situation of displaced Syrians. "In the
current situation it would be helpful if there could be such
an area, where none of the parties are allowed to launch
aerial attacks, that is to say, a kind of no-fly zone," she told
Stuttgart Zeitung. She acknowledged it was impossible to
negotiate with "terrorists from the Islamic State, adding:
But if it's possible for the anti-Assad coalition and the
Assad-supporters to come to an agreement, that would be
At a campaign rally in Baden-Wurttemberg today,
Merkel also chided fellow leaders focused only on
border controls as a response to the crisis: Everyone
wants to protect the outer border of the EU against
uncontrolled migration, she said, but not everyone is
telling me how exactly were supposed to do that.

Contributions from IMI, OSIFE, and MENA/SWA.


She underscored that Europe cant afford to reverse

free travel and commerce to ward off refugees,
rejecting a reinstatement of full-fledged border
controls in Germany that some in her coalition
advocate. Evoking her life behind the Berlin Wall, she
said: I always say, I lived in the GDRthe border
controls were even better there. (G. Maniatis)
Kerry Warns of Near Existential Threat to the EU,
Saying This Is Our Problem: US Secretary of State
Kerry praised Merkel's "great courage" during Europe's
refugee crisis, while warning that the influx posed a "near
existential threat" to the continent. "We are facing the
gravest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II,"
he said at the Munich Security Conference. "The US
understands the near existential nature of this threat to the
politics and fabric of life in Europe. We are not saying,
'This is your problem, not ours'. This is our problem. And
that is why we are joining now and enforcing a NATO
mission to close off a key access route, adding: "And we
will join you in other ways to stem this tide because of the
potential of its damage to the fabric of a united Europe."
Russian PM Medvedev took a far darker view in
Munich, charging that "it's quite simply stupid to open
Europe's doors wide and invite in everyone who wants
to come to your country, and added: "European
migration policy is a total failure, all that is absolutely

UNHCR chief Grandi said at the same conference: "If

Europe organizes itself, it can cope. That is my firm
conviction. But he underscored that, the West has
been too weak and too late in supporting Jordan,
Lebanon, and Turkey to take care of the refugees in
those states. There has been woefully inadequate
investment in neighboring countries." (G. Maniatis)
Nearly 60% of Refugees Arriving in 2016 Are Women &
Children: Over 80,000 refugees and migrants arrived in
Europe by boat during the first six weeks of 2016 and over
400 have died trying to cross. The majority of those
arriving in January 2016, nearly 58%, were women and
children; one in three people arriving to Greece were
children as compared to just 1 in 10 in September 2015.
Over 91% of those arriving in Greece come from the
world's top ten refugee producing countries, including
Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 56 per cent of
January arrivals to Greece were from Syria. (G. Maniatis)
Visegrad 4 Yield to Merkel, Postpone Border Plans Till
March: The leaders of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the
Czech Republic have deferred to March plans to demand
that the border between Greece and the rest of EU be
sealed, allowing time for Athens, Istanbul, and Berlin to
make progress on plans to halt the inflow of refugees. The
decision by the most powerful countries in eastern Europe
to hold off on their plans to push for a fence between
Greece and Bulgaria is a victory for Germany. The four
countries have called for a permanent barrier on Greeces
northern border, in effect cutting the country out of the

Schengen free-movement zone. An alternative back-up

planready for implementationshould be developed in
case the progress in border protection and co-operation
with Turkey falls short of expectations, they said in Prague
today. (G. Maniatis)
EIB Head Calls for Enormous Investment in
Frontline Countries: European Investment Bank President
Werner Hoyer urged EU leaders to consider tapping
investors to help fund aid projects in nations near Syria as a
way for Europe to ease its refugee crisis. The destabilizing
effects of the migration flows go well beyond the Syrian
refugee crisis, he said. If this is to be approached in a
serious fashion, it has an enormous finance-policy
dimension that hasnt been sufficiently addressed so far.
The EIB could provide as much as 23 billion of financing
to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa over the next
five years if the banks governing bodies agreed. (G.
European Commission Provides Modest New Funding
to Macedonia, Greece: The European Commission said
today it would give 10 million to Macedoniato improve
border checks, surveillance and registration, and to combat
human traffickingand 12.7 million in emergency
funding to Greece to set up 8,000 reception places on the
mainland, helping it reach its goal of accommodating
50,000 refugees. The 10 million to Macedonia aims to
improve. (G. Maniatis)

Greek Hotspots to Open Ahead of Thursday EU

Summit: Greece will open four migrant registration centers
on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Leros, and Samos in time
for a EU summit this week. The centers were supposed to
open late last year but have faced repeated delays. Each
facility will have enough prefab housing to accommodate
1,000 arrivals for three days, during which they will be
registered, have their fingerprints taken, and be sorted
between those eligible for asylum in the EU and those who
face eventual deportation. Security checks will attempt to
prevent the entry of jihadists. While Greece has
acknowledged delays in the opening of the centerscalling
in the army to help complete themthe government insists
it is already registering migrants with the help of 400 staff
from Frontex. (G. Maniatis)
Cologne Police Confirm New Years Eve Suspects Were
Primarily Refugees, After Contradictory Reports:
Cologne prosecutor Ulrich Bremer said 73 suspects have
been identified so far, most of them from North Africa. A
total of 1,075 criminal complaints have been filed,
including 467 alleging crimes of a sexual nature ranging
from insults to rape. "The overwhelming majority of
persons fall into the general category of refugees," Bremer
told The Associated Press, saying recent reports describing
only three of the suspects as refugees were "total
nonsense. (G. Maniatis)

Man Arrested as Suspect in New Asylum Center

Murder: A man has been stabbed to death and three more
injured during a brawl at an asylum center on Swedens
east coast, in the worst violence yet connected to last year's
record intake of refugees. Police on Sunday charged one
man for murder and attempted murder. The brutal stabbing
of Alexandra Mezher, a 22-year-old social worker, at a
youth asylum centre in Molndal, near Gothenburg last
month shocked Sweden. (G. Maniatis)
First Female-Led Mosque in Scandinavia Opens:
Scandinavias first female-led mosque has opened in
Copenhagen, in a bid to challenge patriarchal structures
and create debate and dialogue, its founder said. Sherin
Khankan, born in Denmark to a Syrian father and a Finnish
mother, said that while all activities at the Mariam mosque
except Friday prayers would be open to both men and
women, all imams would be female. We have normalized
patriarchal structures in our religious institutions. Not just
in Islam, but also within Judaism and Christianity and other
religions. And we would like to challenge that, she said.
Reactions from the citys Muslim community had mostly
been positive, with negative feedback moderate, she said.
Khankan, a well-known commentator and author in
Denmark, said there was an Islamic tradition allowing
women to be imams and that most of the criticism was
based on ignorance. (G. Maniatis)

Lebanon's defence minister, Samir Moqbel, urged the
European Union to speed up assistance for Syrian
refugees in his country, stating that "we need the help now
and not in one year." (S. Han)
President Bashir al-Asaad blames Europe: In an
interview in Damascus with Agency France Presse, Syrian
President Bashir al-Assad blamed Europe for the flood of
Syrian refugees. Assad stated that European governments
had "been a direct cause for the emigration of these people,
by giving cover to terrorists in the beginning and through
sanctions imposed on Syria." (S. Han)
UNRWA delivers aid: Over the weekend, the UN Relief
and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) as
able to distribute aid to a number of Palestinian refugee
camps near Damascus for the first time in 6 months.
UNRWA provided 1,200 family food parcels from a
distribution point in Yalda, and hopes to reach 6,000
families by the end of the week. (S. Han)
Financial Times: Russia accused of weaponising Syria

Diplomats fear Russia seeking leverage through attacks

despite ceasefire deal
Russia is deliberately attacking civilians in northern
Syria in an attempt to intensify the refugee crisis,
western diplomats and politicians have warned, in a
sign that a fragile ceasefire agreement for the warravaged country is crumbling before it begins.
A pivotal part of Russias strategy was to exacerbate
the refugee crisis and use it as a weapon to divide the
transatlantic alliance and undermine the European
project, US Senator John McCain said in a speech at
an annual security conference in Munich on Sunday.
Two senior politicians from close US allies and a
senior European intelligence official echoed Mr
McCains remarks, reflecting the bleak mood among
western defence chiefs, diplomats and political leaders
gathered for the conference.
Moscow was weaponising the refugee crisis for
leverage, one of the politicians warned. According to a
European official, facilities such as bakeries and
hospitals were being hit in an attempt to force the local
population into capitulation and increase the flow of
refugees towards Turkey and Europe.
Washington Post: In Europe, the refugee crisis as art
From Banksy to Ai Weiwei, the regions refugee crisis
is becoming the muse of artists who are drawing their

social commentaries on larger-than-life urban

canvases. For instance, Ai the Chinese dissident
artist-turned-Berlin transplant orchestrated the
adornment of his adopted citys 19th-century
Konzerthaus this weekend with 14,000 bright-orange
life vests.
Used by some of the Syrians, Iraqis and others
washing up on the shore of the Greek island of Lesbos
on desperate quests for sanctuary in Europe, the
jackets now spiral up the six columns of the concert
hall in a temporary monument to misery and hope.
This is Europe. This is the 21st century, and I dont
think people really get it, Ai said in a phone interview
from Lesbos, where he is working on a new
documentary about the refugee crisis. Where is our
Financial Times: Greece push on migration hotspots
bears fruit on Leros
Aegean island to open showcase registration facility as
Tsipras seeks to fend off Schengen threat
The Aegean island of Leros has a tradition of hosting
hard-pressed outsiders from exiled opponents of
Greeces 1970s military junta to scores of mental
patients at the countrys largest psychiatric asylum.
Many islanders are descendants of Greeks who left
Turkey in a population exchange after a Greek
military defeat in 1922, says Michalis Kolias, the

mayor: We know from our grandparents what being a

refugee means.
Leros, the smallest island on the frontline of the
refugee flows, which received more than 35,000
migrants last yearand 4,000 in January alonehas
performed better than others, he says.
In proportion to our [8,000-strong] population, weve
taken care of more refugees than any other island,
says Matina Katsiveli, a retired magistrate and cofounder of Solidarity Network. Wed been looking
after smaller numbers of Iraqis and Afghans that had
been arriving since the early 2000s. We didnt panic.
In brief
o Islands: Sharp decline in arrivals
o ECRE: New law to include detention regime in
o Eidomeni: GCR calls for protection of those
turned away by Macedonian police
o Eidomeni: Refugees start walking to the border
Belgium: Refugees head to port town in bid to reach
Czech Republic: 2 in 3 oppose accepting refugees
Denmark: Controversial law on confiscating valuables
leads to zero income

Serbia: Refugee dies while trying to reach Hungary

o New questionnaire leads to hundreds of
o Dobova: UNHCR denied access to those refused
onward travel
United Kingdom: Scotland allows medically trained
refugees to use their skills
76,607 refugees arrived by sea in Greece in 2016
(until 13 February)
52 refugees/day entered Hungary on average between
1-14 February
2,158 refugees/day entered Austria on average
between 1-14 February (M. Moschopoulos)
Islands: Sharp decline in arrivals -- UNHCR statistics
show a sharp decline in the number of refugees arriving by
sea at the Greek islands over the past few days. From a
peak of 3,676 daily arrivals on 9 February, the numbers
were reduced to 1,071 on 10 February, 502 on 11 February
and 51 on 14 February. Only fifteen refugees registered at
the Lesvos island hotspot on 14 February, while no
refugees registered on 15 February despite the good
weather conditions in the area. Despite the reduction in
numbers, which may prove temporary as similar sharp

declines have lasted for a few days previously, the Greek

government is finishing a third identification station in the
hotspot which will bring the facilitys capacity to 3,000
refugees per day. A fourth station is under construction to
add an extra 1,000 in capacity. (M. Moschopoulos)
ECRE: New law to include detention regime in
hotspots -- The European Council on Refugees and Exiles
reports that Greece intends to introduce a new detention
regime in the hotspots as part of legislative reforms of the
countrys first reception framework. The plans provide for
freedom of movement restrictions within the hotspots for
an initial period of 3 days [] without a prior
individualised assessment. ECRE states that if the
registration process isnt completed in that timeframe,
there is a possibility of prolonging the restriction on free
movement for a further 25 days which can be appealed.
(M. Moschopoulos)
Eidomeni: GCR calls for protection of those turned
away by Macedonian police -- The Greek Council for
Refugees expressed its deep concern for abusive practices
that refugees are subjected to at the Greek-Macedonian
border, including the arbitrary and unlawful confiscation of
travel documents and other means of identification by
Macedonian border guards. Many of those returned are
forced to board buses to Athens, where they are left in the
downtown without any protection or support. The
organization highlights the impact of these policies on
those of Palestinian origin, who may be refused as a nonrecognized nationality despite having Syrian documents.

Many of those turned back accused of holding fake

documents are allowed transit a few days later with new,
yet identical, documents issued by Greek authorities. GCR
calls on the Greek government and police to present an
action plan to protect these individuals, and unaccompanied
minors in particular, affected by the Macedonian polices
practices, to allow for the speedy reissue of documents
confiscated at the border, and to allow for the correction of
errors during the registration process. (M. Moschopoulos)
Eidomeni: Refugees start walking to the borders again
In response to the restrictions imposed on the crossing of
refugees into Macedonia, our monitors are reporting that
refugees have started walking from Thessaloniki to
Eidomeni at night, as thousands did before the transport of
refugees to the transit camp near the border was allowed.
Many of those rejected at the Macedonian border on the
basis of nationality have stayed in the area trying to cross
the borders with smugglers, hiding in abandoned buildings
and the fields near the main highway. (M. Moschopoulos)
Refugees head to port of Zeebrugge in bid to reach
Britain: Frustrated with the situation in Calais, hundreds of
refugees are moving to the Belgian port city of Zeebrugge
to attempt and reach Britain through the citys passenger
ferry connection to the English port of Hull. Around 450
refugees stopped by Belgian police have made their way to
the town, where the interior ministry has banned the setting
up of tents, forcing hundreds to sleep in dunes. The local

governor drew widespread criticism when he went on

record saying dont feed refugees, otherwise more will
come in response to the movement. The issue was first
highlighted in December 2015 when 62 refugees who had
set up tents in the area were arrested by Belgian police. (M.
2 in 3 Czechs oppose accepting refugees: 65% are
opposed to accepting refugees from warzones according to
a Public Opinion Research Centre poll released on 15
February. The study found that the number is higher than
that of Polish people opposed to accepting refugees (53%),
while 50% of Czechs held this view in September 2015. It
also found that 28% of Czechs believe that refugees should
only be accepted until they are able to return to their
countries of origin. (M. Moschopoulos)
Controversial law leads to zero income: The
controversial legislation which allows police to confiscate
refugee property to compensate for the maintenance costs
of refugees has produced no income since it entered force
on 5 February. When asked what the amount gathered
through the law was, a Danish police spokesperson
responded zero. He added that there have been no
occasions where money or valuables were confiscated.
(M. Moschopoulos)


Refugee dies while trying to reach Hungary: A 30-yearold refugee died on 12 February during an apparent bid to
cross the border with Hungary. The deceased, who had
climbed onto the top of a freight wagon heading to the
border, died after coming in contact with 25,000 volt
electric cables. The death comes as Hungarian police and
military patrols have doubled and hundreds, mostly those
without Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan nationality who are refused
onward travel on the main refugee route, attempt to enter
Hungary despite the border fences and the strict
punishments for those that get caught. Serbias public
broadcaster reported that as many as 104 refugees were
arrested by the Hungarians in a single day. (M.
New questionnaire for refugees leads to hundreds of
pushbacks: Slovenian police at the border with Croatia
introduced a new process on 14 February during which
refugees seeking to enter the country are asked why they
intend to reach their stated country of destination. The
options given are war, study, religious reasons, family
reunification, and job. Those who do not respond with
war are pushed back to Croatia. During a field visit to the
border camp of Dobova, OSIFE staff was told that a Syrian
child travelling with his family was denied passage as he
responded study, leading to the pushing back of the entire


family. 200 people were pushed back to Croatia on 15

February as a result of this practice. (M. Moschopoulos)
Dobova: UNHCR denied access to those refused onward
travel -- In interviews with staff at the registration camp
near Dobova, on the Croatian-Serbian border, we found
that UNHCR staff and those working with affiliated NGOs
are denied access to those that are being detained after
being refused onward travel to Austria. These include
people rejected on the basis of nationality, as only Syrians,
Iraqis or Afghans are allowed through. Moreover, those that
do not indicate they are travelling to Austria or Germany
including a woman travelling with her children to reunite
with her husband in Switzerland are not allowed passage
through Slovenia. Those detained, often without a clear
legal basis, do not have access to independent legal advice.
There are also reports of abuse by foreign police officers
operating in the camp, including a case of a Polish
policeman that hit a refugee who opted not to file a
complaint as he would have to stay in Slovenia for the
duration of the investigation. (M. Moschopoulos)
Scotland allows medically trained refugees to use their
skills -- Via News that Moves: Scotland has introduced a
new program allowing medically trained and qualified
refugees the chance to use their skills. The New Refugee
Doctors Project, run by the Bridges Programmes, in
partnership with the British Medical Association and
Scotlands National Health will begin by offering around

30 medics access to training, language support and

professional mentoring, along with work experience needed
to re-enter their profession. Several of the current doctors
on the program specialize in trauma medicine, pediatrics,
rehabilitation, general practice and prosthetics. (M.