Barbara Oomen, Fernand Braudel Fellow, European University Institute &
Ricardo Rodrigues de Oliveira, PhD Researcher, European University Institute

In spite of the quote attributed to Einstein “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”, a large part of the current European debate on relocation is about numbers. Out of 387,739 people requiring international protection who arrived at the borders of the European Union (EU) in 2016, 362,376 travelled by sea through unseaworthy boats and 5,082 were reported dead or missing. This year alone, 58,944 migrants and asylum seekers arrived in Italy and 7,676 in Greece, with numbers rising by the day. 73,900 refugees are stranded in Greece and the Western Balkans. In stark contrast stand the 18,418 people relocated to the other 25 EU Member States following the European Commission’s report of May 2017 on relocation, as opposed to the 160,000 relocations envisaged by the EU.

Even if the European Commission heralded the progress made, the underlying frustration with both the Commission and civil society is palpable. The Commission has already indicated that it will not hesitate to make use of its powers under the Treaties for those which have not complied with the Council decisions, noting that the legal obligation to relocate those eligible will not cease after September, hinting at its preparedness to start infringement proceedings under art. 258 Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). Judges could play a role in enforcing the relocation numbers. After providing a brief background to the relocation decisions and the underlying principles, we remind the upcoming case on relocation filed by Hungary and Slovakia at the European Court of Justice and underline a case started by the NGO “Let’s bring them here” in the Netherlands, both posing the question of what the numbers pledged actually count for.

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By Saša Zagorc,  Associate Professor, University of Ljubljana and Neža Kogovšek Šalamon, Director, The Peace Institute – Institute for Contemporary Social and Political Studies


Since its independence in 1991, Slovenia has already been confronted twice with mass influx of refugees and migrants. The first time was during the war in ex-Yugoslav Republics when 60,000 refugees (equalling 3% of the Slovenian population) found shelter in public and, mostly, private dwellings for several years. The second time was at the occasion of the unprecedented “humanitarian corridor” (analysed in the Peace Institute publication “Razor-Wired: Reflections on Migration Movements through Slovenia in 2015”) during the  2015-2016 European-wide migratory movements, when approximately 500,000 persons transited through Slovenia, but with less than 200 claiming international protection on its territory.

Proponents of both security and human rights concerns believe that Slovenian authorities were caught unprepared at the onset of the last crisis in September 2015 albeit each with a rather different reasons. Driven by the fear of repeated mass migration flows, as well as of border blockages by Austria and non-cooperation on readmission by the Croatian authorities, and with the intent to promote securitization internally and externally by sending a signal to migrants and refugees, the Slovenian Ministry of the Interior proposed amendments to the Aliens Act in mid-October 2016. Continue reading »

By Nikolaos Sitaropoulos, Head of Division and Deputy to the Director, Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

All views expressed herein are strictly personal.

A number of reports by international human rights organisations, like CPT and Amnesty International, have recorded  numerous cases of ill-treatment, including torture, suffered by migrants while under the control of Greek law enforcement officials. Despite the frequent reporting of such incidents there have not been any major cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (‘Strasbourg Court’ or ‘the Court’) until recently. In 2003 the first application (Alsayed Allaham), concerning the ill-treatment of a Syrian migrant by police in Athens, was lodged. The 2007 judgment against Greece in Alsayed Allaham was followed by another judgment in 2012 in the Zontul case condemning Greece once more for failing to investigate the rape of a Turkish asylum-seeking detainee by a coast guard officer in Crete. Both cases demonstrated the need for structural changes in Greek law and practice in order to eradicate impunity and ill-treatment in the law enforcement sector.

In both cases the Court found violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) highlighting faults in judicial and administrative proceedings. In Alsayed Allaham it was noted that the appeal court that acquitted the policeman for ill-treatment relied on testimonies of five eye-witnesses, three of whom were police officers, and gave no credit to medical reports that had verified the applicant’s injuries. In addition, no weight was given to the fact that the Head of the Greek police himself had sanctioned the two policemen involved in the applicant’s ill-treatment. Continue reading »

Par Joanna PétinCentre de Documentation et de Recherches Européennes (CDRE)  


Le Professeur Labayle à la fin de son analyse de l’arrêt C.K. et autres, (C-578-16 PPU) se demandait s’il était« vraiment déraisonnable de penser que la requérante syrienne et son mari, dont l’enfant était né entre temps en Slovénie et qui était vraisemblablement éligible, pouvaient recevoir protection dans cet État en raison de leur vulnérabilité ». Une telle question n’a rien de déraisonnable. Bien au contraire. La prise en compte effective de la vulnérabilité particulière de la requérante mettait en effet à la charge des autorités et des juridictions slovènes une obligation de protection renforcée.

Avant toute chose, un rappel des faits s’impose. Mme C.K. et son mari H.F. sont entrés dans l’UE grâce à un visa délivré par les autorités croates. Après être entrés en Slovénie pour y déposer une demande de protection internationale, les époux, dont Mme C.K. enceinte, ont été placés sous le coup d’une procédure Dublin. Classiquement alors, en application du règlement Dublin, une requête de reprise en charge a été adressée à la Croatie, qui cette dernière l’a acceptée. Or, en l’espèce, en raison de son état de santé mentale fragilisé (dépression post-partum et tendances suicidaires périodiques), Mme C.K. alléguait un risque de détérioration grave de son état en cas de transfert. Se posait ainsi la question de la conformité d’un tel transfert au regard du droit de l’UE et du respect des droits fondamentaux de la requérante. Plus précisément, dans des circonstances telles que celles au principal, ce transfert conduit-il à exposer la requérante à un risque de traitement inhumain ou dégradant contraire à l’article 4 de la Charte ? Continue reading »

by Francesco Maiani, Associate Professor at the University of Lausanne, and Véronique Boillet, Assistant Professor at the University of Lausanne



On the 9th February 2014, the Swiss electorate approved the referendum “Against mass immigration”. It thus introduced into the Swiss Federal Constitution a new article 121a which provides that Switzerland must manage immigration “in an autonomous manner” by means of quotas, that it must apply the principle of national preference, and that it may not conclude international agreements which are contrary to these principles. A transitional provision fixed a deadline of three years for the Government to renegotiate current international agreements which are contrary to these principles, and for the Parliament to adopt an implementing law.

Approved by a very small majority, the referendum initiative calls into question the very foundations of Swiss-EU relations. The text of the new article 121a of the Constitution is in effect irreconcilable with the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), which excludes precisely all quotas and all rules of national preference, except on a transitional basis vis-à-vis nationals of new EU Member States (article 10 AFMP). Moreover, the denunciation of the AFMP would entail the automatic denunciation of a series of other agreements of primary importance by means of the “guillotine clause” (article 25 AFMP), and would call into question still more agreements. In practice, this would amount to a complete upturning of the treaty regime which has been patiently built up by Switzerland and the EU over the last twenty years. Continue reading »

par Francesco Maiani, Professeur associé à l’Université de Lausanne et Véronique Boillet, Professeure assistante à l’Université de Lausanne



Le 9 février 2014, l’électorat suisse a approuvé l’initiative populaire « Contre l’immigration de masse ». Il a ainsi inscrit dans la Constitution fédérale suisse (Cst) un nouvel article 121a prévoyant que la Suisse gère « de manière autonome » l’immigration au moyen de contingents, applique le principe de la préférence nationale et refuse la conclusion d’accords internationaux contraires à ces principes. Une disposition transitoire fixait un délai de trois ans au Gouvernement pour renégocier les accords contraires en vigueur, et au Parlement pour adopter une loi d’application.

Approuvée à une très courte majorité, l’initiative a remis en question les fondements mêmes des relations Suisse-UE. Le texte de l’art. 121a Cst est en effet inconciliable avec l’Accord sur la libre circulation des personnes (ALCP), qui exclut précisément tout contingent et toute préférence nationale sauf à titre de mesure transitoire vis-à-vis des ressortissants des Etats nouvellement entrés dans l’UE (v. art. 10 ALCP). Par ailleurs, la dénonciation de l’ALCP entraînerait la dénonciation automatique d’une série d’autres accords de première importance par le jeu de sa « clause guillotine » (art. 25 ALCP), et la remise en question d’autres encore. En pratique, une remise à plat de l’édifice conventionnel patiemment bâti par la Suisse et l’UE pendant les vingt dernières années.
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