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At time of writing, eight member states and the EU had yet to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treaty on combatting and preventing violence against women. Expand Women celebrate the result of the referendum on liberalizing abortion law, in Dublin, Ireland, May 26, In Ireland, a referendum in May overturned a near-total abortion ban, and in December parliament finalized approval of legislation legalizing access to abortion was pending before parliament.
The initiative aimed to restrict legal abortions carried out in situations of severe fetal anomaly, the grounds for over 95 percent of legal abortions performed in Poland.
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EU institutions stepped up their responses to conduct by EU governments that threatens the rule of law and other EU founding values. Poland and Hungary were subject to the political mechanism contained in article 7 of the EU treaty for posing such threats. At time of writing, EU European affairs ministers had convened two hearings in June and September with the government of Poland to discuss the issues.
In October, the EU Court of Justice ordered Poland to suspend application of the Law on the Supreme Court that would remove sitting judges from their posts until a final decision on the case. At time of writing, the EU Court of Justice had yet to hear the merits of either case. In July, the EU Court of Justice ruled that national courts can block otherwise automatic extradition requests made by Poland on a case by case basis if it is determined that the defendant would not receive fair trial guarantees.
In September, the European Parliament decided by a two-thirds majority to activate article 7 over the situation in Hungary. The parliament expressed concerns on a wide range of issues, including judicial independence, freedom of expression, freedom of association, academic freedom, and the rights of migrants and asylum seekers.
In November, the European Parliament adopted a resolution expressing concern over legislative reforms in Romania that undermine the independence of the judiciary and threaten the ability of NGOs to operate. In May, the European Commission proposed that the next EU budget starting in should link distribution of EU funds to member states to their respect for rule of law.
The killing of three journalists in member states raised troubling questions about protection of media freedom in the EU. All three were working on exposing corruption or fraud allegations. None of the cases had been resolved at time of writing. In September, the commission published a draft regulation that, if passed, would turn these measures into law, including large fines for internet companies that failed promptly to remove content deemed illegal. The court also determined that national investigations in both countries were ineffective, calling for a renewal of the investigations to identify and punish responsible officials.
In March, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a request by the Irish government to reconsider the landmark case Ireland v UK on prohibited interrogation techniques used by British security forces in Northern Ireland in the s. Ireland had sought to reopen the case in light of evidence that the UK withheld information which could have altered the finding that the methods were ill-treatment rather than torture.
By September, at least 12 member states had reported transposing into domestic law the EU directive to combat terrorism. The directive contains provisions that undermine free expression and freedom of movement.
According to the minister of interior, 3, migrants and asylum seekers crossed into Croatia between January and August, with claiming asylum. Authorities granted people asylum and 21 subsidiary protection during the same period. In August, UNHCR reported allegations that since January around 2, asylum seekers and migrants had been pushed back by Croatian police to Bosnia and Herzegovina, hundreds of cases of denied access to asylum procedures, and over allegations of police violence and theft.
The same month, a group of members of the European Parliament from 11 EU states jointly requested the European Commission to urgently investigate the allegations, with the Council of Europe human rights commissioner echoing that call in October. A draft law on foster care tabled by the government in May would prioritize placement of adults with disabilities in foster care, including without their consent, in contradiction to the CRPD. It remained pending at time of writing.
A government funded study published in July found that almost all Roma in the country live in poverty and less than a third finish primary school. A campaign starting in May for a public referendum to reduce the number of seats for ethnic Serbs in the Croatian parliament and limit them from voting on the budget and government formation raised alarm among Serb community leaders and NGOs.
Authorities were reviewing the proposal at time of writing. In the same period, courts convicted only four people for war-related crimes and the prosecution of other cases moved slowly. In August, France adopted a flawed asylum and immigration law. The French Ombudsman, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and NGOs criticized the law for undermining access to asylum, including by weakening appeal rights and safeguards for those subject to accelerated asylum procedures.
The law failed to ban detention of migrant children, despite six European Court of Human Rights rulings that such detention by France violated their rights. Authorities cleared the camps in late May and early September respectively. Living conditions for migrants and asylum seekers in the Calais area remain squalid and harassment of aid workers there by police continued. Child protection authorities in Paris continued to use flawed age assessment procedures for unaccompanied migrant children, excluding many from care they need and are entitled to, leaving hundreds homeless.
NGOs remain concerned that judges could narrowly interpret the humanitarian exception in a way that permits prosecutions. France pledged to resettle 3, refugees from that region before October In November, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a 69 percent increase in antisemitic attacks in the first nine months of compared to The National Commission on Human Rights reported in March that violent anti-Muslim acts had increased in by 8 percent compared to The welcome decision to include access to inclusive education in the national strategy for autism launched in April stood in contrast to a housing law adopted in October that would reduce the obligation to ensure that new housing is wheelchair accessible.
In August, France adopted a new sexual violence law aimed at tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence against children.
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The law makes street harassment an offense, raises the statute of limitation on sex crimes against children from 20 to 30 years, and gives judges the power to rule on a case by case basis that sex by an adult with a child under 15 is rape but falls short of criminalizing all such sex with a child under 15 as rape. France accepted recommendations to stop ethnic profiling in identity checks but failed to take legislative steps to end such practices.
On a visit to France in May, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism expressed concerns about the counterterrorism law, which incorporates state of emergency powers into ordinary law and includes insufficient safeguards in the use of non-criminal measures against terrorism suspects. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in October she would not seek a fifth term after a poor showing in several state elections by her Christian Democratic Union party and its sister party, the Christian Social Union CSU.
Arrivals of asylum-seekers and migrants fell for the third year in a row, and federal authorities made significant progress clearing a backlog of asylum claims during the year. By the end of July, 96, new asylum-seekers had been registered, decreasing by a sixth from the previous year. In April, the government announced that Germany would accept 4, resettled refugees in and 5, in as a contribution towards an EU program. In July, the government granted admission to up to refugees evacuated to Niger from Libya.
Although fewer than in previous years, attacks on refugees and asylum seekers remained a matter of concern. In the first half of , police recorded attacks on refugees and asylum seekers outside their home, and 77 attacks on refugee shelters. In March, a Dresden judge found eight people from a far-right group guilty of terrorism offences and attempted murder for attacks in on refugee shelters and a local politician supporting newly arrived migrants. In July, a Munich judge found a man guilty of murder, terror offenses, and arson in a case relating to a series of murders carried out by a neo-Nazi group between and Four accomplices were found guilty of lesser charges.
It compels social media companies to take down hate speech and other illegal content or face large fines. German judicial authorities continued their work investigating serious international crimes committed abroad, including in Syria. Although Greece continued to host large number of asylum seekers, it failed to protect their rights.
Overall numbers of arrivals increased compared to the same period in Deficiencies in the reception and asylum system escalated with severe overcrowding, unsanitary, unhygienic conditions, and lack of sufficient specialized care, including medical care, trauma counseling, and psychosocial support.
Physical and gender-based violence were common in asylum camps, and NGOs reported deteriorating mental health conditions among asylum seekers. Most unaccompanied children continued to be placed in camps with adults, in so-called protective police custody or detention or risked homelessness, with authorities failing to resolve a shortage of juvenile shelters or foster care. While the government transferred 18, asylum seekers from islands to mainland Greece following a concerted NGO campaign in November, it refused to implement a binding high court ruling to end the confinement policy for new arrivals, and instead adopted a new law in May to continue it.
On Lesbos, a regional authority inspection in September concluded that the Moria camp, the largest of its kind, presented a danger to public health and the environment, and called on the government to address acute shortcomings or close the camp. Some migrants and asylum seekers trying to cross the land border from Turkey into northeastern Evros region reported being summarily returned to Turkey during the year, sometimes violently. Greece did not address reception needs of newly arriving asylum seekers in the region, despite an increase in arrivals starting in April.
As a result, women and girls were housed with unrelated men in sites for reception or detention of asylum seekers and lacked access to essential services. Less than 15 percent of asylum-seeking children had access to education on the islands, and only one in two on the mainland were enrolled in public schools. Far-right groups continued to campaign against asylum seekers on the islands, and there were media reports of attacks across the country on persons perceived to be migrants or Muslims. Police statistics for hate crimes for released in March showed a marked increase compared to the previous year.
Ahead of the April elections, the government ran a smear campaign on TV, radio, and country-wide billboards targeting civil society organizations working on asylum and migration, and Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros, a key funder. In addition to the smear campaign, which continued after the elections in pro-government media, civil society organizations, particularly those working on asylum and migration, came under increasing government pressure in In June, parliament approved government-proposed amendments to the constitution and other legislation, criminalizing services, advice, and support to migrants and asylum seekers, punishable by up to one-year imprisonment.
The measures came into force in July. At time of writing, no prosecutions had taken place. EU institutions took various enforcement actions against Hungary during the year see Rule of Law section. The country saw a significant decline in asylum applications in in large part because it became almost impossible for asylum seekers to enter the country to seek protection.
By August, authorities had limited daily entry of asylum seekers to asylum seekers per day, leaving thousands stranded in poor conditions in Serbia. In early August, Hungarian authorities denied rejected asylum seekers in the transit zones food.
Following an emergency intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, authorities resumed food distribution. By August, a total of 3, people filed for asylum, and authorities granted international protection to a total of people, of whom 54 received refugee status and received subsidiary protection.
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The July constitutional amendment criminalized homelessness, ignoring criticism in June by the UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing that the plan was cruel and incompatible with human rights law. Homeless people were prosecuted after the law entered into force in October. A coalition government between the anti-immigrant League and the populist Five Star Movement was inaugurated in June. In March, the UN high commissioner for human rights deplored the racism and xenophobia that characterized the election campaign.
By mid-November, only 22, migrants and asylum seekers had reached Italy by sea according to UNHCR, in large part because of measures to prevent arrivals already put in place by the outgoing government. In contrast, during the whole of , , people arrived. Almost immediately upon taking power, the new government began blocking disembarkation of rescued persons in Italian ports.
In November, a Sicilian prosecutor filed to close an investigation, launched in August, into Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for unlawful detention and kidnapping, among other charges, for refusing to allow asylum seekers from an Italian Coast Guard ship disembark, some for as long as 5 days. In June, Italy began systematically handing over coordination of rescues in the Mediterranean to the Libyan Coast Guard, despite concerns over their capacity and the fate of individuals returned to Libya.
In August, parliament approved the supply of 12 boats and training programs for Libyan crews. In November, parliament approved a government decree limiting humanitarian visas and restricting access to specialized reception centers.