• More than two dozen migrants, including a number of unaccompanied children are stranded in the buffer zone in Cyprus.
  • The Italian government has extended the state of emergency over migrant arrivals for six months.
  • The United States of America and Italy are reportedly working on a plan to swap migrants from Libya and Venezuela.
  • The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has heard cases relating to alleged pushbacks to Türkiye by Greek authorities in 2019 and 2020.
  • A new NGO report has criticised the living conditions in refugee camps on the Greek mainland.

A group of migrants, including a number of unaccompanied children, are stuck in the buffer zone that separates the northern and southern parts of Cyprus. The 27 people, some of whom have been trapped in the buffer zone for more than two weeks, have reportedly approached officials and expressed their desire to apply for international protection in the Republic of Cyprus but to no avail. “The refusal to refer asylum seekers trapped in the buffer zone to national asylum procedures risks chain repatriation to their countries of origin if they return to the occupied northern part of Cyprus, where the absence of an asylum system often leads to the criminalization of asylum seekers for irregular crossing of the UN buffer zone and the issuance of deportation orders against them,” said Katja Johanna Saha from the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Cyprus office. The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) also expressed concern for the health and welfare of the asylum seekers in the buffer zone and advocated for the migrants’ right to asylum applications. “These people need access to asylum procedures as provided for under national, EU and international law,” said Aleem Siddique from UNFICYP. Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters that he would not let the buffer zone become a “new avenue for the passage of illegal migrants”. However, Christodoulides also said that his government would provide any humanitarian assistance required.

The Italian government has extended the state of emergency over migrant arrivals for six months. According to Minister for Civil Protection and Sea Policies Nello Musumeci, the state of emergency was initially declared in April 2023 as a “consequence of the exceptional rise in flows of migrants entering the national territory through Mediterranean migration routes”. The decision to extend it has been criticised by NGOs. “The extension of the state of emergency over migrant flows is senseless propaganda unrelated to reality,” said Filippo Miraglia from the Italian Cultural Recreational Association (ARCI). “For years, governments, especially this one, have avoided planning interventions and instead invented emergencies, actually creating them,” he added.

On 5 June, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visited Albania to inspect the migrant reception centres that are being built under the terms of the Italy-Albania migration agreement. The two centres were originally supposed to open in May, but this has been postponed until 1 August. Meloni expressed her hope that “the agreement for immigrants will be an example for other EU countries as well” and “part of the solution [for migration]” in the EU.

The United States of America (USA) and Italy are reportedly planning a migrant swap programme. According to CBS News, the plans involve Italy and Greece admitting up to 500 migrants processed at immigration offices in the USA. However, the Greek government has denied the claim. “The CBS report is untrue. There is neither an agreement nor a request from the U.S. to resettle legal immigrants in Greece,” Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum Dimitris Kairidis wrote on X. The Italian government said that the CBS report was “misleading” but that Italy could “take about 20 Venezuelans of Italian origin” under such an agreement with the USA, which would in turn host some migrants from Libya. “The hypothesis of a reciprocity agreement is currently being studied, according to which the U.S. would host refugees who are in Libya and desire to go to Europe, while some European Mediterranean States would host a few dozen South American refugees,” Italian government sources told ANSA.

On 4 June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) heard two cases relating to alleged migrant pushbacks by Greek authorities. The applicants were represented by lawyers from Prakken d’Oliveira, the Irish Human Rights Centre and ECRE member organisations the Dutch Refugee Council (DRC) and the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR). The first case (‘A.E. v. Greece’) concerns a woman from Türkiye who was the victim of a pushback in May 2019. The other (‘G.R.J. v. Greece’) involves an unaccompanied child from Afghanistan who was abducted from the reception facility where he had sought asylum and then forcibly expelled to Türkiye. In a press release issued the day before the hearing, the chair of the DRC board, Frank Candel, said: “It is the first time that Greece will be heard in a hearing for a drift back. This case is about more than just this case. Many people have fallen victim to illegal returns in recent years, and this practice is still taking place up until today. With this case we want to help put an end to human rights violations and oppression at our external borders. The violation of fundamental rights of the European Union by an EU-member state seriously undermines the values on which the Union is based”.

A new NGO report has revealed poor living conditions in refugee camps on the Greek mainland. The report by the NGO Refugee Support Aegean found that the reception system in the camps “does not meet the minimum legal standards on dignified living of people seeking protection in Greece, creates serious obstacles in the asylum procedure and the fair and efficient processing of their claims, generates critical psychosocial effects and discourages their integration into Greek society”. It also described the conditions of “surveillance and custody” in most of the mainland camps as being “akin to prison infrastructure”. The report’s authors stated their opposition to the “current Greek strategy of mass accommodation camps, isolated and distanced from society” and called for the “full reinstatement of the model of decentralised, urban reception of asylum seekers, (…) with full use of available EU and domestic funding options and with buy-in from local authorities throughout the Greek territory”.

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