Hundreds of refugees are living in appalling conditions in Bulgarian reception centers where there is a disastrous lack of medical care, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today, following assessments it carried out in the Bulgarian capital Sofia and Haskovo Province.
Nearly 10,000 migrants have arrived in Bulgaria since January. Most are Syrian refugees who made a difficult journey around border controls along the Bulgaria-Turkey frontier. MSF calls on Bulgarian and European authorities to rapidly improve conditions for asylum seekers.
"Despite some measures taken by the Bulgarian authorities, the reception conditions remain unacceptable", said Ioanna Kotsioni, head of mission for MSF in Bulgaria. "These people live in overcrowded centers, sometimes with just one toilet for 50 people. Even more worrying is the concern for families who do not receive enough food to eat".
On arrival in Bulgaria, hundreds of migrants find their only option is to sleep outside in unheated tents, while others crowd together in school classrooms because reception centers do not have adequate capacity. […]
Urgent action is needed from the Bulgarian authorities to improve conditions at an emergency accommodation centre for asylum seekers near the Turkish border, Amnesty International said after scores of its residents – including people who fled armed conflict in Afghanistan and Syria – staged a protest today.
As many as 100 people threatened to launch a hunger strike in protest at the deplorable living conditions at Harmanli camp, south-eastern Bulgaria, where around 1,000 asylum-seekers are being detained on a former military base.
"It is appalling that people seeking refuge in the European Union are being trapped in limbo in such awful conditions with winter rapidly approaching. The Bulgarian asylum system has a burgeoning crisis with a backlog of applications – the authorities must act fast to ensure they don’t have a humanitarian crisis on their hands too", said Barbora Černušáková, EU team researcher at Amnesty International, who visited Harmanli camp last week. […]
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) today declined to hold that the criminalization of consensual same-sex activity constitutes "persecution" for the purposes of EU asylum law, showing it is out of step with international human rights and refugee law, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists said.
In X, Y and Z v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel the Luxembourg-based CJEU considered three joined cases arising from asylum requests lodged in the Netherlands by nationals of Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda. The three men claimed that they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their – undisputed – same-sex sexual orientation and the fact that sex between men is criminalized in their home countries.
"The Court skirted around the real issue in this case and missed a key opportunity to state clearly that to criminalize consensual same-sex conduct ultimately amounts to criminalizing people for who they are and, therefore, amounts to persecution per se, regardless of how often sentences of imprisonment are enforced", said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty International's Head of Refugee and Migrants' Rights. […]
European Union heads of state meeting in Brussels on October 24 and 25, 2013, should urgently adopt measures to improve sea rescues of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach Europe, Human Rights Watch said today. The summit should also pledge more measures to facilitate access for refugees from Syria and protect their rights as they increasingly turn to dangerous boat migration.
EU leaders agreed to discuss boat migration in the Mediterranean at the already-scheduled European Council summit after more than 360 people, mostly Eritreans and Somalis, died when their boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa on October 3. Just over a week later, on October 11, another boat capsized in the Sicilian channel. At least 36 bodies were recovered, and 206 Syrians and Palestinians were rescued.
"EU leaders should move beyond expressions of regret and commit to concrete actions to help prevent more deaths of migrants at sea", said Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Western Europe director at Human Rights Watch. "New proposals for increased monitoring of the Mediterranean need to focus on saving lives, not barring entry to the EU". […]
The political parties of the German Bundestag have markedly different priorities regarding human rights protections, Human Rights Watch said today. The differences are especially marked on issues of EU asylum policy, relations with Russia, and internet freedom. Prior to the September 22, 2013 Bundestag elections, Human Rights Watch asked the parties about their positions on a range of human rights issues.
"The parties’ answers regarding key human rights issues provide important insights into how German human rights policy could take shape after the elections", said Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch. "We hope this information will be helpful to voters in deciding which party to support". […]