Category Archives: News

Satellite Imagery Used by Frontex to Detect and Rescue Migrant Boats

While the use by Frontex of satellite imagery is not new, Frontex released a copy of a satellite image used last week to detect and rescue 370 people on Eurosur Fusion Services imageryboard three inflatable boats off the Libyan coast. (It is unclear whether the image made available by Frontex shows the actual spatial resolution available to Frontex.)

According to Frontex, the imagery is part of “Frontex’s Eurosur Fusion Services … made possible by the cooperation between experts at Frontex and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), Italian authorities and EUNAVFORMED. … The Eurosur [fusion] services already include automated large vessel tracking and detection capabilities, software functionalities allowing complex calculations for predicting positions and detecting suspicious activities of vessels, as well as precise weather and oceanographic forecasts. Fusion Services use optical and radar satellite technology to help locate vessels at sea. Recent upgrades of their technical capabilities make it possible to spot smaller vessels.”

Frontex has used satellite imagery for years, for example in 2008 during Frontex Operation Hera off Mauritania, Amnesty International reported that satellite photos would be presented to Mauritanian authorities to demonstrate that migrants on board a particular migrant boat had departed from Mauritania territory. (Amnesty International, “Mauritania: ‘Nobody Wants to Have Anything to Do With Us,’ Arrests and Collective Expulsions of Migrants Denied Entry Into Europe,” 1 July 2008.)

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UN Security Council to Vote Today, 8 October, on Resolution Authorising EU to Inspect and Seize Vessels on High Seas Suspected of Engaging in Smuggling or Trafficking of Persons

From What’s in Blue: The Security Council “is expected to vote [on 8 Oct. 2015] on a resolution aimed at disrupting human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants on the high seas off the coast of Libya. …

The draft resolution authorises member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking. Furthermore, the draft authorises member states to seize vessels if there is confirmation that they are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya. These authorisations are for a period of one year from the date of the adoption, and the draft stresses how these are given in exceptional and specific circumstances. …

It seems that the two most divisive issues during negotiations related to references to Chapter VII and the use of force. Several Council members, including Chad, Russia and Venezuela, raised concerns over the implications of having a Chapter VII resolution with a broad mandate. Following bilateral negotiations, the draft to be voted on is under Chapter VII but states that this is specifically to put an end to the recent ‘proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and trafficking of persons in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Libya’. …

In relation to the use of force, one of the difficulties was defining the instances in which member states are authorised to use force. The initial draft circulated by the UK included an authorisation to use ‘all necessary measures’ in confronting migrant smugglers or human traffickers. Some Council members wanted further guarantees that this was not a blanket mandate to use force. As a result of the members’ concerns compromise language was added to authorise member states to use ‘all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances’ in confronting them. …

While Council negotiations were put on hold during the high-level debate of the UN General Assembly, amendments were made to the draft in order to secure the consent of the Libyan permanent mission to the UN. …

Some Council members stressed the need to respect international refugee law, as well as the protection of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The draft underscores that it is not intended to undermine the human rights of individuals or prevent them from seeking protection under international human rights law and international refugee law.

The resolution is expected to provide legal backing for the EU NAVFOR MED’s operation in the high seas (which was renamed Operation Sophia on 28 September). … Council negotiations over a draft resolution authorising such an operation earlier this year (April-May) were put on hold following difficulties getting consent from Libyan authorities to operate in the territorial waters of Libya and its shore. Following the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean this summer, EU Council members decided to narrow the scope of the resolution to vessels operating on the high seas off the coast of Libya. A subsequent phase of the deployment of the operation in the territorial waters and on the shore of Libya is likely to be contingent upon the formation of a government of national accord in Libya.”

Full text of What’s in Blue article here.

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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov: Russia ready to support Security Council Resolution approving coercive measures by EU only if measures strictly regulated and leave no space for equivocal interpretation

During an interview on Russia’s Channel One “Sunday Time” programme, on 13 September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “that Russia stands ready to approve coercive measures only if they are strictly regulated and set out in every detail in the resolution, leaving no space for any equivocal interpretation.” Lavrov was critical of how Western countries had in the past interpreted UN Security Council resolutions and said that the US and European states had in the past engaged in “illegitimate actions in violation of the UN Security Council mandate [which] turned Libya into a ‘blackhole’ now used by terrorists of all kinds.” Lavrov also called for more information regarding what the EU planned to do with refugees found on board intercepted vessels and what would happen to suspected criminals encountered at sea.

Excerpt from the Channel One programme (English translation from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs):

“[***]EU countries have already asked the UN Security Council to help them draft a resolution enabling the navy of EU states to intercept illegal vessels in the Mediterranean carrying migrants who are transferred to Europe illegally. As for coercive measures, many in Europe are talking about not just arresting vessels in the open [high] sea, but also want to operate in territorial waters and onshore (in Libya, for instance), using force if it turns out that a vessel is seized illegally and is not registered. Some even want a Security Council mandate to ‘get rid’ of these vessels, as they say. Do they want to sink these vessels? This issue raises a lot of questions. As we have said time and again, knowing how our Western partners sometimes interpret UN Security Council resolutions, that Russia stands ready to approve coercive measures only if they are strictly regulated and set out in every detail in the resolution, leaving no space for any equivocal interpretation. First, the resolution could concern arresting suspicious vessels in the open [high] sea. When a vessel is flying the flag of a country, its arrest should be coordinated with the country in question. If a vessel bears no identification marks, coordination is not required and it should be stopped and inspected to establish who owns it and what is on board. Second, on top of strictly regulating these actions, it has to be understood what will happen with refugees if they are on board the vessel. The EU has yet to answer these questions. [The EU] also does not have an idea of what to do with the criminals behind this business who are captured on board a vessel. This does not just concern those executing these activities, but also those who engineer the process in some other country. A comprehensive approach is needed, and hasty solutions should be avoided. Of course, in all of those debates, we want to make our partners learn the lesson of their earlier deeds. Everyone should understand from where these migrant waves are coming and why.

… It is not uncommon that attempts to settle political crises are fuelled by momentary political gain without thinking about the implications of an action or initiative on the situation in general. Libya, where the decision was taken to topple a dictator, provides a good example. This has overshadowed all other thoughts and assessments. I spoke with our US and European colleagues who took part in this effort, showing that their thoughtless and illegitimate actions in violation of the UN Security Council mandate turned Libya into a ‘blackhole’ now used by terrorists of all kinds. The country has two parliaments and two governments with their own military. Apart from these structures, there are 35 armed groups that obey neither Tobruk, nor Tripoli. Illegal arms are flowing from Libya to many other countries. According to the UN, these weapons have travelled a long way and are used in a dozen African countries. Libya also serves as the primary transit hub in terms of human trafficking.

The response by my colleagues was telling. They acknowledge the facts and that they committed mistakes. They had the same arguments when Iraq was on the brink of dissolution. It was a mistake for the United States, but they proposed not to delve too much into the past. I strongly believe that unless we learn the lessons of history and do our homework, we will constantly face new crises, resulting in destructive, utterly negative and dangerous consequences, such as the current refugee flows. These issues will be subject to a detailed, substantive discussion in the UN Security Council. [***]”

“[***] Страны Евросоюза уже обратились в Совет Безопасности ООН с просьбой помочь им разработать резолюцию, которая будет санкционировать действия военно-морских сил ЕС в Средиземном море по перехвату нелегальных конвоев с мигрантами, которых контрабандным путем пытаются переправить в Европу. Что касается каких-то принудительных действий, многие в Европе говорят не только об аресте судов в нейтральных водах, но и о действиях в территориальных водах и на сухопутной территории (той же самой Ливии) с применением силы, если будет выявлено, что судно незаконно захвачено или никем не зарегистрировано. Некоторые даже выступают за то, чтобы получить от Совета Безопасности право, как они формулируют,  от этих судов «избавляться». Топить что ли хотят? В этой связи возникает множество вопросов. Мы уже не раз говорили, что отныне и впредь, наученные тем, как наши западные партнеры, порой, умеют интерпретировать резолюции СБ ООН, мы будем готовы санкционировать принудительные меры только если они будут максимально конкретно и очень строго регламентированы в самой резолюции, не допуская какого-либо двойного толкования.  Во-первых, речь могла бы идти об аресте подозрительных судов в открытом море. Если судно идет под флагом какого-то государства, то остановка судна должна быть с ним согласована. Если судно никак не идентифицировано, тогда такого согласия не требуется, и его нужно остановить и проверить, кому оно принадлежит и что везет. Во-вторых, помимо строгой регламентации этих действий, нужно понять, что будет с беженцами, если они будут обнаружены на этом судне. Пока европейская сторона не может дать нам ответы на эти вопросы. Она также не может ответить, что будет с организовавшими этот бизнес преступниками, которые будут захвачены на этих кораблях. Речь идет не только об исполнителях, но и о тех, кто «кукловодит» этим процессом из какой-то другой страны. Здесь нужен комплексный подход и не нужна спешка. Безусловно, во всей этой дискуссии мы хотим, чтобы наши партнеры извлекали уроки из своей прошлой деятельности. Все должны понимать, откуда  и почему берутся все эти волны беженцев.

Мы сегодня говорили о террористической угрозе и неурегулированных конфликтах. Очень часто предпринимаются попытки урегулировать тот или иной кризис ради достижения какой-то сиюминутной политической цели, абсолютно не уделяя внимание, какое влияние та или иная акция будет оказывать на общую ситуацию. Хорошим примером этого служит Ливия, где  решили свергнуть диктатора. Это затмило все остальные мысли и оценки. Я разговаривал с нашими американскими и европейскими коллегами из тех, кто принимал непосредственное участие в этой акции, и показывал, что именно после их абсолютно бездумных и противоправных действий, совершенных в нарушение мандата Совета Безопасности ООН,  Ливия превратилась в «черную дыру», которую сейчас используют террористы всех мастей. Там есть два парламента и два правительства, у каждого из этих политических органов есть свои вооруженные формирования. Но, кроме этих структур есть еще 35 вооруженных отрядов, которые не подчиняются ни Тобруку, ни Триполи. Из Ливии идет огромный поток нелегального оружия в самые разные страны. По оценкам ООН, это оружие давным-давно появилось и применяется более чем в десяти странах Африки. Через Ливию проходит основной поток контрабандной торговли людьми.

Очень показательна реакция моих коллег, которые признают, что это было, и они тогда ошиблись. То же самое нам говорили после того, как Ирак оказался на грани раскола ­ – американцы ошиблись, но предложили не копаться в истории. А я считаю, что если мы не будем извлекать уроки и делать работу над ошибками, то будем постоянно натыкаться на новые кризисы, которые и дальше будут приносить разрушительные, очень негативные и опасные последствия, такие как нынешние потоки беженцев. Мы планируем предметно и подробно обсуждать эти вопросы в СБ ООН. [***]”

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HRVP Mogherini’s Summary of Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on Refugee Crisis: The meeting “was not an easy one…”

These are excerpts/highlights from comments made by HRVP Federica Mogherini at the conclusion of Saturday’s, 5 September, informal meeting of EU foreign ministers. The full text of her remarks is here.

  • The meeting  “was not an easy one…”
  • “[W]e need to start using the right words: [the crisis] is partially a migrant flow, but it is mainly a refugee flow, which puts us in a different situation when it comes to our legal and moral duties.”
  • “I hope – finally, finally – we all realise that these people are coming to Europe, not to one or another Member State. … Unfortunately, it took us some months to realise this, but maybe that awareness is finally there.”
  • “We are all facing a … dramatic event. I don’t say an emergency event, because this is not an emergency: it is an urgency we are facing, but it is not something that starts one day and finishes another day. It is here to stay and the sooner we accept it, politically and psychologically, the sooner we will be able to respond in an effective way and manage it in an effective way.”
  • “Now we agreed to strengthen our cooperation – not only within the European Union, but also with the Candidate Countries – on five different levels… Some of them have started already, some of them are going to be further defined … in particular with the package that the Commission is going to adopt in this coming week, with the decisions that the Ministers of Interior and Justice will be called to take within one week, ten days from now.”
  • “[W]e will have a Foreign Affairs Council, a European Council, which for the moment are planned for October…”
  • “[W]e agreed to strengthen cooperation on five different elements[:]
    • First of all, how to ensure better protection to those in need of protection: asylum seekers are entitled to the status of refugee.
    • Second, manage borders in full respect of our values, first of all respect for human rights.
    • Third, fighting against smugglers’ and traffickers’ networks. … And as I did with the Defence Ministers the day before yesterday, today I shared again with the Foreign Ministers my suggestion to transit to phase 2 of this operation, which would allow us to operate in high seas to fight the traffickers and smugglers. And I have found a large consensus about that need for the naval operation. Obviously, we will also need to increase the level of our actions against the traffickers organisations on the mainland, when it comes to the Western Balkans route.
    • Fourth, strengthening our partnership with third countries, mainly countries of origin and transit. Here, obviously, we are working on readmission and return agreements, but not only. We know very well that it is very important for our partners, especially in Africa and the Middle East, to work together with us on economic developments, opportunities for growth and jobs, especially for their young people. …
    • Fifth point, that is maybe the most important, even if it is the most long term plan – it is our common work on what we call the root causes. In this case, that has mainly two aims. One is Libya, when it comes to the Southern corridor. And here, we have re-expressed all our active support to the last phases… hopefully, the last phases of the UN-led negotiations to form a National Unity Government in Libya. … And [the other is] Syria…”

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UNHCR Launches Web Data Portal on Mediterranean Refugee/Migrant Situation

UNHCR has launched a comprehensive data portal on the Mediterranean refugee and migrant situation and the various responses.  The portal contains data, statistical information, maps, reports, situation updates, and other information.



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NY Times: The Outlaw Ocean Series – Murder at Sea, Captured on Video, But Killers Go Free

Murder at Sea, Captured on Video, But Killers Go Free” is the second article in a four article NY Times series, The Outlaw Ocean, by Ian Urbina ( 点击查看本文中文版 ):

“The man bobbing in the sea [likely the Indian Ocean in 2012 or 2013] raises his arms in a seeming sign of surrender before he is shot in the head. … A slow-motion slaughter unfolds over the next 6 minutes and 58 seconds. … Despite dozens of witnesses on at least four ships, those killings remain a mystery. No one even reported the incident — … Law enforcement officials learned of the deaths only after a video of the killings was found on a cellphone left in a taxi in Fiji last year, then posted on the Internet. With no bodies, no identified victims and no exact location of where the shootings occurred, it is unclear which, if any, government will take responsibility for leading an investigation. Taiwanese fishing authorities, who based on the video connected a fishing boat from Taiwan to the scene but learned little from the captain, say they believe the dead men were part of a failed pirate attack. But maritime security experts, warning that piracy has become a convenient cover for sometimes fatal score-settling, said it is just as likely that the men were local fishermen in disputed waters, mutinied crew, castoff stowaways or thieves caught stealing fish or bait. ‘Summary execution, vigilantism, overzealous defense, call it what you will,’ said Klaus Luhta, a lawyer with the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, a seafarers’ union. ‘This boils down just the same to a case of murder at sea and a question of why it’s allowed to happen.’…”


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NY Times: The Outlaw Ocean Series – Stowaways and Crimes Aboard a Scofflaw Ship

The first instalment of a four part NY Times series, The Outlaw Ocean, by Ian Urbina was published yesterday. The first instalment, Stowaways and Crimes Aboard a Scofflaw Ship, follows the activities of one particular ship, including an incident where two stowaways were forced overboard and left adrift on a makeshift raft while the ship was at sea off West Africa. From the NYT: “The Outlaw Ocean series was a deep collaboration, with many parts of the newsroom working with Ian Urbina on a quest to reveal lawlessness on the high seas. The hope for the project was to take readers inside that lawlessness, using video, photography, mapping and design tied closely together.”

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