Category Archives: Frontex

Panel Discussion: “Heading to Europe: Safe Haven or Graveyard?,” Radboud University Nijmegen, 16 May

From the organizers:

The Interest Group on Migration and Refugee Law of the European Society of International Law, the Centre for Migration Law of the Radboud University Nijmegen and the Amsterdam Center for International Law of the University of Amsterdam are pleased to announce ‘Heading to Europe: Safe Haven or Graveyard?’, a panel discussion on migration by sea in the Mediterranean. The panel discussion will be held on 16 May 2014 at the Radboud University Nijmegen.

The year of 2013 has demonstrated that the tragedy of thousands of migrants and refugees drowning on the shores of Europe is now a common occurrence. The fate of those who perished near the Italian island of Lampedusa has brought the urgency of the situation into focus. The aim of the panel discussion is to provide an overview of the legal rules and processes applicable to migration by sea in the Mediterranean and to reflect on their wider sociological implications.

The panel discussion consists of two panels, each followed by a plenary discussion. In the first panel, legal experts working in the field of academia and at stakeholder organizations (e.g. UN Refugee Agency, Council of Europe, European Union) focus on legal aspects of boat migration in the Mediterranean. The second panel brings together scholars and practitioners with first-hand experience from transit countries to discuss the sociological effects of the legal rules and processes. Click here for the complete program, and here for more information on the panelists.

The organizing partners cordially invite interested scholars, governments officials, practitioners and advanced students to join in the panel discussion ‘Heading to Europe: Safe Haven or Graveyard?’. Active participation in the discussion is strongly encouraged. Participation is free of charge. For participation, please register at the bottom of this page. For inquiries, please contact Lisa-Marie Komp at

Location is the CPO-zaal, Spinozagebouw at the Radboud University in Nijmegen (Montessorilaan 3).



Filed under Colloques / Conferences, Council of Europe, European Union, Frontex, Mediterranean

“Mediterranean flows into Europe: Migration and the EU’s foreign policy” – Analysis by European Parliament DG for External Policies

The EP’s Directorate-General for External Policies just released an Analysis, “Mediterranean flows into Europe: Migration and the EU’s foreign policy,” in which it reviews the EU’s external policies and instruments relating to migration in the Mediterranean, including the Mediterranean Task Force established after 3 October 2013 tragedy at Lampedusa in which over 350 people died.

The Analysis describes the serious shortcomings of the security-driven approach that has been taken by the EU. Noting, for example, that “it is unclear whether the militarisation of EU border management (resulting from a tighter relation between the CSDP and Frontex) will actually save lives or create even more danger for migrants” and that “[t]he increasing militarisation of the issue of irregular migration was underscored in December 2013, when the European Council called for the establishment of an EU Maritime Security Strategy by June 2014 as well as for increased synergies between the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and freedom/security/justice actors to tackle illegal migration.”

The Analysis discusses possible ways in which the European Parliament might play a more significant role in the shaping of future policies:

“The coming months – which will include the European elections and the June 2014 Council – present an important opportunity for the EP to engage politically with the topic of migration in the Mediterranean. As outlined above, numerous EU external policies and instruments deal with migration in the region; […]

All should incorporate respect for human rights as a central concern and pursue the overall goals of prevention, protection and solidarity. The EP has tools at hand to contribute effectively to those objectives. The EP should use its co-decision powers to ensure the inclusion of human rights provisions in all migration-related legislation, and its power of consent to guarantee that international agreements contain effective human rights guarantees. The EP’s budgetary powers also allow the institution to link assistance to third countries to proper human rights monitoring mechanisms.

Most pressingly, the EP should advocate the implementation of the actions recommended by the Mediterranean Task Force set up by the Commission. The EP should also use the opportunities generated by inter-parliamentary relations (such as the 27th ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in March and the EU-Africa summit in April) to engage in a dialogue about migration with third countries. This dialogue should foster cooperation in the management of regular migration and in the fight against irregular migration and trafficking networks, with special emphasis on the need to prevent migrants from embarking on dangerous journeys to the EU.

The dialogue should also seek to frame Mediterranean migration within a wider perspective, possibly in the following ways:

  • Steer away from excessively militarised and security-centred approaches. The EP should ensure that strict human rights standards are respected in the fight against organised crime and smugglers’ networks, and that a clear distinction is drawn between criminal networks and their victims. The EU should prevent the criminalisation of migrants and of humanitarian organisations supporting migrants.
  • Highlight the importance of good governance, and of good migration governance more specifically. By reinforcing the EU’s Regional Development and Protection Programmes, for example, the Union can develop a comprehensive and long-term framework to develop and enhance the capacities of migration management and national asylum systems in Mediterranean countries.
  • Demand full respect for humanitarian law, refugee protection and human rights (including the rights of non-nationals) in crisis situations, and stress that humanitarian access must be guaranteed to provide life-saving supplies.
  • Recognise the importance and challenges that South-South and intra-African migration represent for countries in the southern Mediterranean, rather than focussing solely on the (much smaller) flows towards the EU.
  • Encourage further research on the migration-development nexus and explore the positive impact of human mobility on socioeconomic development.
  • Encourage EU Member States to facilitate and speed up their procedures to grant asylum and EU protected status, whilst better differentiating between refugees and irregular migrants. The EP should respect the competence of the Member States in this regard, but could also encourage Member States – in cooperation with the UNHCR – to increase their quotas for resettling refugees not adequately protected in third countries. The EP should support the Mediterranean Task Force’s proposed feasibility study on the joint processing of protection claims outside the EU, and the Commission’s proposal to move towards a common approach for humanitarian permits and visas.

All these actions would contribute to reshaping the EU’s external action related to migration, notably in the Mediterranean. They would also enhance the EU’s credibility vis-à-vis those third countries that accept significant number of migrants and refugees, and that most directly bear the consequences of their neighbours’ conflicts. (This is the case today for Lebanon and Turkey, as a result of the Syrian civil war). A modified EU approach could also project a more nuanced and positive view of migration – a change that might, in turn, influence the way migration is perceived more broadly within the EU.”

Click here or here for the Analysis.


Filed under Analysis, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, Turkey

Interview with Frontex Director Laitinen

Several months ago the Finnish newspaper Fifi Voima published an interview with Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen.  It is an interesting article if you read Finnish or use a translator (unfortunately Google translate does not handle Finnish well).

One interesting point from the article is Director Laitinen’s clear insistence that Frontex is not legally capable of violating human rights.  This is not a new position on the part of Frontex, but the Director is very emphatic in his position.  When asked about who could be held responsible for rights violations that might occur during Frontex coordinated joint operations, the Director indicated that Frontex is of the opinion that the operation and any potential human rights violations taking place are the responsibility of the Member States, not Frontex .

[Kenen vastuu?

Frontex koordinoi EU:n jäsenmaiden yhteisiä operaatioita maalla, merellä ja ilmassa. Käytännössä kyse on siitä, että esimerkiksi suomalaiset rajavartijat partioivat Välimerellä ja saksalaiset Kreikan ja Turkin rajalla paikallisten mukana. Kunkin operaation johdossa on yksi EU-valtio.

Frontexin kanta on, että operaatiosta ja niissä tapahtuvista mahdollisista ihmisoikeusloukkauksista ovat vastuussa jäsenmaat, ei Frontex.

Ilkka Laitinen ei esimerkiksi anna takuita siitä, etteikö hänen johtamansa viraston koordinoimissa operaatioissa ole käännytetty laittomasti siirtolaisveneitä Välimerellä. Hän perustelee tätä sillä, että vastuu toimista on jäsenmailla.]

Click here for link to article “Miehemme rajalla.”



Filed under Frontex, News

Statewatch Analysis – “New EU rules on maritime surveillance: will they stop the deaths and push-backs in the Mediterranean?”

Statewatch last month released a new Analysis of the EU Regulation for Frontex-coordinated surveillance of external sea borders which is scheduled for a plenary vote in the European Parliament in April.  The Analysis, written by Prof. Steve Peers, Univ. of Essex Law School, reviews the enhanced protections to be afforded to intercepted or rescued migrants relative to the earlier Council Decision which was annulled by the CJEU.  The Analysis also highlights concerns with various provisions within the Regulation, including:

  • One significant concern with the Regulation is due to the fact that “the Regulation does not contemplate the scenario of migrants being intercepted in the territorial waters of third States.”  (Frenzen’s Note: This raises a serious concern in regard to the push-back and interception practices which have been carried out for many years within the territorial waters of Mauritania and Senegal within Frontex’s Operation Hera.  Additionally, prior to the Libyan revolution, Libya authorised Italy to conduct joint maritime patrols within Libyan territorial waters.  It is safe to assume that Frontex and some EU Member States will continue to seek the ability to intercept migrant boats within the territorial waters of third States.);
  • While the Regulation requires that migrants intercepted in the territorial sea or contiguous zone of an EU Member State be disembarked in that Member State, “this [requirement] is subject to a crucial exception: it is possible under the Regulation that a vessel that has made it this close to a Member State could still be ordered to alter course towards another destination.”;
  • While the bulk of the EU’s asylum legislation does not apply [to interceptions which occur outside of the territorial sea of a Member State,] the EU’s qualification Directive does – since there is nothing in the text of that Directive to limit its territorial scope. But the wording of the Regulation is confusing in this regard, since it does not refer to the detailed text of that Directive but rather to general standards on non-refoulement, which are different from that Directive in some respects….”;
  • Member States are required to “use all means” to identify intercepted migrants, assess their particular circumstances, and inform them of the intended place of disembarkation, in order to give the migrants the opportunity to assert a non-refoulement claim.  The Regulation states that the Frontex operational plan, “where necessary,” must provide for interpreters and legal advisors on shore. “[T]he Council Presidency points out the ‘wiggle room’ granted by the words ‘where necessary’ and ‘use all means.’”

Click here or here for Statewatch Analysis.


Filed under Aegean Sea, Analysis, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Senegal, Spain

EU Mediterranean States Oppose Provisions of Proposed Frontex Sea Borders Regulation Relating to Rescue and Disembarkation

[16 Oct. UPDATE: The document from the six states opposing the proposed Regulation is available here.]

One week ago Commissioner Cecilia Malmström called for an “extensive Frontex search and rescue operation that would cover the Mediterranean from Cyprus to Spain.” Yesterday the ANSA news service reported that all six EU Mediterranean states (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, France and Spain) have voiced opposition to the proposed Frontex Sea Borders Regulation (COM(2013) 197 final) and specifically to Articles 9 and 10 relating to “Search and Rescue Situations” and “Disembarkation.” ANSA reported that the six member states “expressed disapproval of the draft and called it ‘unacceptable for practical and legal reasons’.”  The six countries have reportedly taken the position that there is no need for further regulations pertaining to rescue at sea or post-rescue places of disembarkation since other international laws already “deal ‘amply’ with the matters.”

As you may recall, the earlier version of the Frontex Sea Borders Rule in the form of a Decision was adopted by the European Council in 2010 (Decision 2010/252/EU).  The Decision was subsequently annulled by the Court of Justice of the European Union on the ground that it introduced new essential elements into the Schengen Borders Code by way of the provisions on interception, rescue and disembarkation and that such substantive changes required the consideration and approval of the European Parliament. (European Parliament v Council of the European Union, Case C-355/10, 5 Sept. 2012). The proposed replacement for the annulled Decision is in the form of a Regulation but is fairly similar in content.

While the ANSA report does not identify the specific reasons why the six states are opposing the proposal, one can speculate that the objections to Art. 9, Search and Rescue Situations, may be based on a perception that it would expand the obligation to rescue under certain circumstances.  For example the Article requires that even in the absence of a distress call, a rescue operation might still be required if other factors are present, including:

  • the seaworthiness of the ship and the likelihood that the ship will not reach its final destination;
  • the number of passengers in relation to the type and condition of the ship;
  • the availability of necessary supplies such as fuel, water, food to reach a shore;
  • the presence of passengers in urgent need of medical assistance;
  • the presence of deceased passengers;
  • the presence of pregnant women or children.

The objections by the six states to Art. 10 regarding places of disembarkation are most likely due to the states’ conflicting positions regarding where disembarkation should occur.  While Art. 10 creates a procedure for decisions regarding places of disembarkation to be made by participating member states in advance of joint operations, its provisions identify circumstances under which disembarkation in member state may occur when that state is not participating in the joint operation.  Malta and Italy in particular have long disagreed on where disembarkations are to occur.  This long standing disagreement obviously contradicts the claims made by the six opposing states that existing international laws already deal “amply” with the disembarkation issue.

Click here for ANSA article.


Filed under Aegean Sea, Cyprus, European Union, France, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain

Frontex FRAN Report for Q1 2013

In July of this year, Frontex released its first quarter (January – March) 2013 report. As in past quarters, the 70-page report provided in-depth information about irregular migration patterns at the EU external borders. The report is based on data provided by 30 Member State border-control authorities, and presents results of statistical analysis of quarterly variations in eight irregular migration indicators and one asylum  indicator (here is a link to our summary of the 2012 fourth quarter report).

In Q1 2013 all indicators of irregular migration were reduced in comparison with the final quarter of 2012. In most instances these declines were consistent with past documentation of seasonal variation; typically the first few months of each year are associated with reduced pressure at the border compared to other times of the year. Here are some highlights from the report focusing on the sea borders:

  • The Greek operation Aspida (see the 2012 Q4 summary for details) has resulted in a dramatic reduction of irregular migration across the Greek-Turkish border. As a result, one of the three alternative routes increasingly utilized is: migrants leaving the west coast of Turkey to illegally cross the Eastern Aegean Sea towards the Greek Islands. This border section ranked second at the EU level in terms of detections. Syrians and Afghans were both detected at similar frequencies of around 500 each over the three-month period.
  • The JO Poseidon Sea 2012 was also active during the reporting period in order to tackle the flow of irregular migrants penetrating the external EU sea borders in the Eastern Mediterranean mainly from Turkey and, to a lesser extent, from Egypt.
  • Syrians, were increasingly detected at the Greek sea border with Turkey (Eastern Aegean Sea) and the Bulgarian land border with Turkey.

  • There were fewer detections of illegal border-crossing than ever before, with just 9 717 detections. The drop was limited mostly to sea borders.The JO Poseidon Land 2012 was active during Q1 2013.
    Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 12.31.12 PM
    Here are excerpts from the Report focusing on the sea borders:
    4.2 Routes
    • In the Eastern Mediterranean, detections tend to be characterised by Asian and some North African migrants illegally crossing the border from Turkey into Greece. In the second half of 2012 detections were much reduced following increased operational activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where most detections were previously reported (see Section 4.1.1.).
    • On the main Central Mediterranean route, which includes the Italian Pelagic Islands (Linosa, Lampione and Lampedusa) and Malta, most detections tend to be of migrants arriving on boats from North Africa. During the previous quarter there were fewer detections of North African nationalities such as Tunisians and Egyptians but there was a surge of migrants from sub-Saharan countries such as Eritrea, the Gambia and Mali, all of which were detected in much higher numbers during the last there months of 2012 compared with Q3 2012. In the current reporting period, the number of detected Somalis decreased, resulting in the top three nationalities – Somalis, Gambians and Egyptians– being detected at similarly low levels of around 200–250 each over the three-month period (Fig. 5).Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 1.57.51 PM


    4.2.1 Eastern Mediterranean Route
    • In Q1 2013 there were 2 734 detections of il- legal border-crossing on the Eastern Mediterranean route, which was a decrease of 66% compared to the same period in 2012 but nevertheless still constituting nearly 30% of all detections at the EU level. In effect, this route remained the major entry point to the Schengen area.

      With nearly 1 000 detections in Q1 2013, Syrians were by far the most detected nationality on this route. More than half of these detections were in the Eastern Aegean Sea region, with significant numbers also at the Bulgarian land border with Turkey.


      1. East Aegean Sea

        This border section ranked second at the EU level in Q1 2013. The most frequently detected migrants were Syrians and Afghans, followed Sri Lankans, whose number has recently increased.

        The JO Poseidon Sea 2012 was operational throughout the reporting period, focusing on tackling the flow of irregular migrants penetrating the external EU sea borders in the Eastern Mediterranean mainly from Turkey and, to a lesser extent, from Egypt.

        Syrians have been the most commonly detected migrants during the operation so far in 2013. Most were men travelling alone but here were some family units, and all were heading for Sweden or Germany to claim asylum. Once they entered Turkey, those intending to enter the EU travelled to Istanbul in order to make contact with facilitation networks. They stayed in Istanbul for between 1–12 weeks before being taken by van to the west coast of Turkey to depart towards the Greek eastern Aegean Islands.

        Afghans were also detected in this region. Most were previously resident in Iran and had decided to travel to the EU due to deteriorating employment conditions. The Afghan community in Iran can easily find criminal networks that can facilitate them to Turkey and then to Greece. Once in Turkey, the Afghan migrants were transported by public transport to Istanbul and from there mainly by private transportation directly to departure area on the western coast of Turkey, where they boarded rubber boats destined for the Greek eastern Aegean Islands.

    4.2.2 Central Mediterranean Route
    • Since early 2011 migrants from Tunisia have been among the most commonly detected migrants arriving in the Central Mediterranean region but during the first three months of 2013 only 75 Tunisians were detected. In fact nearly all of the top 10 nationalities in Q1 2013 were detected in much lower numbers than during the final quarter of 2012.

      Migrants from Somalia ranked top in the region but were detected at their lowest level for over a year.


      A total of 233 migrants from the Gambia were detected in the Central Mediterranean during Q1 2013 which is the highest ever level for this nationality resulting in them ranking second in this region, followed by 216 Egyptians.

      The JO Hermes 2012 was operational just for the first month of the reporting period. The operation was established to support the Italian authorities in tackling maritime illegal migration on the coasts of Sicily, Pantelleria and the Pelagic Islands (Lampedusa, Linosa, Lampione).

      In January 2013, there was only one incident reported under JO Hermes whereby a total of 35 irregular migrants were detected, 32 of which were Syrian and three were Egyptian. [***] The disembarkation point was near Syracuse but this time the interception took place inland, implying that the facilitators (and probably some migrants) evaded detection.

      The absence of boats from Tunisia and Libya may be due to the bad weather conditions throughout the Mediterranean area.

      Although FRAN data suggest that detections of migrants from Syria were low in this region during the first three months of 2013 (85), there were some reports of boats arriving directly from Syria.

    4.2.3 Western Mediterranean Route
    • In Q1 2013 there were only around 1 000 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Western Mediterranean region, which consists of several areas of the southern Spanish coast as well as the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla, where three-quarters of all detections were reported. At the end of 2012 we reported vastly increased detections of migrants from Chad, Cameroon, Mali and Guinea arriving in the region of Cadiz but this did not continue into the first few months of 2013.

      Analysing the nationalities detected on this route is problematic as half were reported by the Spanish authorities as being of unknown nationality. However, open sources suggest that there have been increased reports of African migrants storming the border fence in Melilla.

    4.2.4 Western African Route
    • In the first quarter of 2013, there were just a few individual detections of illegal border-crossing in this region, which is the same level as during the same period in 2012. During the previous quarter there were 30 or so detections of both Gambians and Moroccans but neither of these nationalities were apparent in the data exchanged for the first three months of 2013. Hence irregular migration pressure on the Western African route in much reduced.


      Click here for a copy of the report.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, Analysis, Data / Stats, European Union, Frontex, General, Mediterranean, Reports

Chappatte on the latest disaster at Lampedusa

© Chappatte - - Used by Migrants At Sea with permission.

© Chappatte – – Used by Migrants At Sea with permission.

© Chappatte - - Used by Migrants At Sea with permission.

© Chappatte – – Used by Migrants At Sea with permission.

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Filed under Cartoon, European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean