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European Agenda on Migration

EU executive says member states should help Italy with migrant relocation

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European countries need to show solidarity towards Italy after the arrival by boat of hundreds of migrants on the country's southern island of Lampedusa at the weekend, the EU's home affairs commissioner said on Monday (10 May).

"When we see...a huge amount of people coming in a very short time there is a need for solidarity towards Italy, and I call on other member states to support with relocation," Ylva Johansson told a news conference.

"I know it's more difficult in the pandemic time but I think it's possible to manage and now it's time ... to show solidarity towards Italy and to help in the situation," she said alongside Filippo Grandi, Commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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Crime

18 arrested for smuggling more than 490 migrants across the Balkan route

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Officers from the Romanian Police (Poliția Română) and Border Police (Poliția de Frontieră Română), supported by Europol, dismantled an organized crime group involved in migrant smuggling across the so-called Balkan route.

The action day on 29 July 2021 led to:

  • 22 house searches
  • 18 suspects arrested
  • Seizure of munitions, five vehicles car, mobile phones and €22 000 in cash

The criminal network, active since October 2020, consisted of Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian and Romanian citizens. The criminal group had cells in the countries across the Balkan route from where regional facilitators managed the recruitment, accommodation and transport of migrants from Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Several criminal cells based in Romania facilitated the border crossing from Bulgaria and Serbia of groups of migrants and arranged their temporary accommodation in the area of Bucharest and in western Romania. The migrants were then smuggled to Hungary on their way to Germany as a final destination. In total, 26 illegal transports of migrants were intercepted and 490 migrants were detected in an attempt to illegally cross the Romanian border. Very well organized, the criminal group was involved in other criminal activities as well, such as drug trafficking, document fraud and property crime.

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Up to €10,000 per migrant

Migrants were paying between €4,000 and €10,000 depending on the trafficking segment. For example, the price for facilitating the crossing from Romania to Germany was between €4,000 and €5,000. The migrants, some of which were families with young children, were accommodated in extremely poor conditions, often with no access to toilets or running water. For the safe houses, the suspects rented accommodations or used the residences of group members, mainly situated in the areas of Călărași County, Ialomița County and Timișoara. In one of the safe houses, measuring about 60 m2, the suspects hid 100 people at the same time. The migrants were then transferred in risky conditions in overcrowded lorries between merchandise and in vans hidden in concealments without proper ventilation. 

Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed one analyst to Romania to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real time to provide leads to investigators in the field. 

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Belarus

US 'concerned' by flow of migrants from Belarus to Lithuania

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Lithuanian army soldiers install razor wire on border with Belarus in Druskininkai, Lithuania July 9, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans

Lithuanian army soldiers install razor wire on border with Belarus in Druskininkai, Lithuania July 9, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans

The United States is concerned about the flow of Middle Eastern and African migrants from Belarus into Lithuania, a US diplomat has said, writes Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Reuters.

Lithuania began building a 550-km (320-mile) razor wire barrier on its border with Belarus on Friday after accusing Belarusian authorities of flying in migrants from abroad to send illegally into the European Union. Read more.

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"We are watching it very closely and with concern", said US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in an interview with Lithuanian news website 15min.lt, published on Sunday (11 July).

He said the "pressure tactic" is comparable to migrant flows from Russia to Finland and Norway in 2015.

"That's something that we call on Belarusian authorities to stop – intentionally pushing migrants from other countries to the Lithuanian border", said Kent.

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European Agenda on Migration

UK Home Office U-turn to allow visa-free work for migrants

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An 11th hour Home Office U-turn will allow migrants to work on offshore wind farms without visas. The last-minute decision to extend the controversial visa waiver has been criticised by one MP and the RMT union.

Hull East MP Karl Turner calls the decision "a further blow to UK seafarers".

“The offshore wind sector is a growing industry and it is vital that British seafarers can compete fairly for these jobs,” he said. “We have a good number of seafarer ratings in my own constituency in east Hull that are unable to compete for these jobs due to being unfairly undercut by foreign non-EU seafarers paid much lesser exploitative rates of pay. The Government needs to end this exploitation immediately and give our own skilled British seafarers the opportunity to compete for these jobs.”

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The Home Office about-face has also been criticized for creating confusion because wind farm operators were advised in January to start preparing their workforces for stricter immigration rules.  

Immigration and visa expert Yash Dubal, director of A Y & J Solicitors, says that his clients have been frustrated by the last-minute nature of the changes.

He explained: “Several had invested time and resources in making alternative arrangements to meet their staffing needs, motivated by a justifiable apprehension that the scheme would end on July 1. Workers’ contracts had not been renewed. They are now frustrated. The decision to extend the waiver also highlights the problem of acute worker shortages within the industry, which is real and ongoing.”

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The Offshore Wind Workers’ Concession (OWWC) exempts migrants working on offshore wind projects in UK territorial waters from the need to get a UK work visa. It was due to expire on 1 July. But on July 2, the Home Office issued a notice extending the scheme for a further year. In a statement it said the concession was ‘outside of the Immigration Rules’ and applies to workers ‘essential to the construction and maintenance of wind farms within UK territorial waters’.

The concession continues to allow foreign national workers leave to enter the UK until 1 July 2022 ‘for the purpose of joining a vessel engaged in the construction and maintenance of a wind farm within UK territorial waters’.

The scheme began in 2017 and had been extended on several occasions. In January, when the controversial new points-based immigration system became law, the Home Office issued a statement to wind farmers reiterating its intention to end the waiver. Officials advised operators to review the status of their workforces. Many employed time and resources to mitigate the changes.

The waiver has previously been criticised by unions who say it takes jobs from British seafarers and allows wind farm operators to employ cheap foreign labour who are often out at sea for 12 hours or more a day and paid less than the UK minimum wage, with some working for less than £4-an-hour.

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