Refugee crisis tests Europe on human rights – the Round-up

8 March 2016 by

Photo Credit: The Financial Times

In the news

Stemming migration flows from Turkey has been set as “a priority” at the 7 March emergency summit of EU and Turkish leaders in Brussels. EU officials are seeking to persuade Turkey to enforce the ‘action plan’ signed in November, under which Ankara agreed to curb the number of refugees crossing into Greece in return for three billion euros in aid and the speeding up of its EU membership bid.

However, human rights groups have been critical of the EU focus on ensuring refugees remain in Turkey. Amnesty International warned ahead of the meeting that is was “unacceptable” to expect that responsibility should be carried by a country already hosting three million refugees.

“Using Turkey as a ‘safe third country’ is absurd. Many refugees still live in terrible conditions, some have been deported back to Syria and security forces have even shot at Syrians trying to cross the border,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

The European Commission is later this week due to set out proposals for an overhaul of the current asylum system created by the Dublin III regulation, including the principle that the first country of entry is responsible for the claim of an asylum-seeker. Moves to scrap the principle have been opposed by the UK, which has used the rule to remove more than 12,000 asylum-seekers to other EU countries since 2003.

The Home Office is currently fighting a series of test cases challenging transfers to various other Member States, including Italy and Bulgaria. Lawyers argue that reception conditions in those countries are such as to place returnees at risk of inhuman or degrading treatment, in breach of article 3 of the Convention.

Speaking to the Guardian, Barrister Greg Ó Ceallaigh said that the burden on reception facilities caused by the refugee crisis was having a disproportionately damaging effect on vulnerable people.

“The places they are being sent back to don’t have enough security, there is not enough access to mental health facilities. Inevitably some people are more seriously affected by inadequate reception facilities,” he said.

“It’s become catastrophic, the system is under too much pressure.”

In other news

The Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee has begun an enquiry into homelessness. Nearly Legal reports on the submissions made to the Committee, which illustrate a system “in complete crisis – overwhelmed, unable to cope with rapidly rising demand, let alone provide suitable accommodation.”

The Independent: Justice Secretary Michael Gove has agreed to set out new rules which guarantee the independence of prison inspectors and clarify their relationship with the Ministry of Justice. The announcement comes after criticisms heard by the Justice Select Committee that former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling had failed to respect the independence of the former Chief Inspector of Prisons.

BBC: A revised draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill has incorporated additional safeguards, following concerns by three committees of MPs that it did not do enough to protect privacy. The revised bill clarifies that all interception warrants must be subject to a ‘double-lock’ of ministerial and judicial approval, and sets a time limit on the examination of personal information downloaded from databases.

The Ministry of Defence will not be prosecuted over the deaths of three soldiers on an SAS selection course, on account of its historical grant of legal immunity from prosecution. The Independent reports.

In the courts:

Arlewin v Sweden

The applicant complained that the Swedish courts had dismissed his action for defamation and had thereby denied him a remedy to protect his reputation.

The defamation proceedings arose from the content of a programme broadcast live in Sweden via the UK, which accused the applicant of organised crime. Domestic courts declined jurisdiction in the proceedings upon finding that a UK-based company was responsible for the content.

The Chamber found that apart from the technical detail that the programme had been routed via the UK, the programme and its broadcast were for all intents and purposes entirely Swedish. Instituting defamation proceedings before the British courts was not a reasonable and practicable alternative for the applicant. The legal limitations on his access to the Swedish courts were too far-reaching and could not be considered proportionate.

Accordingly, the Court held that there had been a violation of article 6 of the Convention (access to court).

Hannah Lynes

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