An Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) maritime squadron conducted its first joint training exercise this week with the Libyan Navy since the overthrow of the previous Libyan government. An AFM offshore patrol vessel and 46 AFM personnel engaged in training exercises in the Tripoli Harbour and off the Libyan coast. Among the exercises practiced were “pre-boarding interrogation techniques via radio, approach to a suspected vessel and the conduct of the subsequent boarding and verification operations.” Maltese officials said they hope “such training exchanges become a regular feature of the bilateral relationship.” Media reports quoted an anonymous military source as saying that “[t]he training exercise will focus on patrolling the Libyan border because this is where most of the illegal migration problems begin, resulting in an influx of migrants into Malta and Lampedusa.”
Category Archives: News
Armed Forces of Malta and Libyan Navy Engage in Joint Training Operation – Migrant Patrols a Focus of Training
A boat carrying Syrians sank off the coast of the Karpas Peninsula in Northern Cyprus earlier this week. Six people are reported dead, including two children. Two survivors were reportedly arrested on human smuggling charges. The boat is reported to have left the Syrian port city of Latakia which is approximately 100 km from the closest parts of Northern Cyprus.
400 Migrants Reach Lampedusa Over Past Weekend; Detention Centre Over Capacity; Former Interior Minister Maroni Calls for Resumption of Italy’s Push-Back Practice
Two large migrant boats reached Lampedusa over the past weekend. One of the boats was carrying about 250 persons, believed to be Sub-Saharan Africans, and is thought to have departed from Libya. The boat was a 15 meter wooden fishing vessel and appears to be one of the first non-inflatable boats used in many months. A second boat carrying about 125 Tunisians arrived around the same time. Smaller boats carrying mostly Tunisians have been steadily reaching Lampedusa in recent weeks. In response to the apparent increase in the numbers of persons reaching Lampedusa, former Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni (Northern League) wrote on his Facebook page and called for a resumption of Italy’s Push-Back practice to halt new boats. (“Tornano i barconi a Lampedusa. RESPINGIMENTI, come facevo io, questo serve per fermare l’invasione.”) Given the decision in the Hirsi case by the European Court of Human Rights, Italy is not likely to resume the push-back practice. 81 Sub-Saharan migrants on a disabled boat were rescued by Italian authorities on Monday. The detention centre on Lampedusa is over its 350 person capacity and Italian authorities have begun to transfer migrants to facilities elsewhere.
A rescue operation that began last week off Malta was successful in saving 158 persons on board two separate migrant boats. Six persons died. Two fell into the sea and were lost while being transferred from their boat to a passing merchant ship, the Victoria VI. Two died on board the migrant boat before the rescue. And two died after the rescue. The 68 survivors were rescued by the Victoria VI on 14 August. They were then transferred to AFM vessels and taken to Malta. An AFM patrol boat rescued 90 other migrants from a second boat on 15 August. The migrants are reportedly from Somalia and Eritrea.
A third boat carrying 77 migrants was rescued yesterday, 20 August, by the AFM.
Pictures below from 20 August 2012 rescue.
A boat carrying about 160 persons, including 124 Syrians, was intercepted near Crotone in southern Italy. Italian authorities arrested two Turkish nationals on board the vessel who are suspected of human smuggling. It is doubtful that the boat sailed from Syria which is a distance of about 1,800 km by sea from this part of Italy. Reuters quoted a local Italian official as saying that most migrant boats that reach the area originate from Greece.
Malta Today reported last week that the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) “have expressed interest in benefitting from a European Union-sponsored project involving the deployment of unmanned drones to assist in migrant patrols at sea.” “An AFM spokesman told Malta Today that while the armed forces are ‘fully involved in the development of the system’ it is however ‘not participating in the testing of such drones.’”
The use of drones for land and sea border surveillance is contemplated by the EU Commission’s EUROSUR proposal which is currently being considered by the European Parliament. The Heinrich Böll Foundation’s recent report, “Borderline – The EU’s new border surveillance initiatives”, noted that “[w]hile FRONTEX has demonstrated a great amount of interest in the use of drones, it remains to be seen whether the agency will purchase its own UAVs. According to the 2012 FRONTEX Work Programme, the agency’s Research and Development Unit is currently engaged in a nine-month study to ‘identify more cost efficient and operational effective solutions for aerial border surveillance in particular Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) with Optional Piloted Vehicles (OPV) that could be used in FRONTEX Joint Operations (sea and land).’”
The United States has been using drones for some years now to monitor land and sea borders and is currently planning to expand the use of drones in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico despite serious questions that are being raised about the effectiveness of surveillance drones operating over the sea. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article the Predator drones that are currently being operated by the Department of Homeland Security over the Caribbean “have had limited success spotting drug runners in the open ocean. The drones have largely failed to impress veteran military, Coast Guard and Drug Enforcement Agency officers charged with finding and boarding speedboats, fishing vessels and makeshift submarines ferrying tons of cocaine and marijuana to America’s coasts.” “‘I’m not sure just because it’s a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that it will solve and fit in our problem set,’ the top military officer for the region, Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, said recently. … For the recent counter-narcotics flights over the Bahamas, border agents deployed a maritime variant of the Predator B called a Guardian with a SeaVue radar system that can scan large sections of open ocean. … But test flights for the Guardian [drone] showed disappointing results in the Bahamas, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the program who were not authorized to speak publicly. During more than 1,260 hours in the air off the southeastern coast of Florida, the Guardian assisted in only a handful of large-scale busts, the officials said….”
Frontex reports a 3% decrease in the number of irregular migrants arriving by boat in Spain over the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011: 2,637 in 2011 versus 2,559 in 2012. Most migrant boats attempt to reach the Spanish mainland along the coasts of Andalusia and elsewhere in eastern Spain. Frontex reports an increase of 6.5% in the number of migrants reaching the Spanish mainland, but this increase is offset by a reduction in the number of migrant arrivals in the Canary Islands.
EFE quoted Gil Arias, Frontex deputy director, as stating that “[t]he decline [in Spain] is in line with the trend of the EU…” where there has been an overall reduction of more than 50% in the number of irregular migrants crossing land and sea borders of Member States during the same six month period: 74,200 in 2011 versus 36,741 in 2012. Arias noted that the number of arrivals in Spain is “insignificant” relative to the overall EU, accounting for about 7% of the EU total with Italy accounting for 12% and Greece 67%.
Note that there are other media reports which provide slightly different figures from those reported by Frontex. Europapress reported that an estimated 3,000 migrants have been rescued so far this year (apparently though late July) along the Andalusian coast by rescue services.
European Ombudsman Opens Public Consultation on Frontex and EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; NGOs and Public Invited to Submit Comments
Text of 19 July 2012 press release from the European Ombudsman: “The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has invited individuals, NGOs, and other organisations active in the area of fundamental rights protection to submit comments in his ongoing inquiry concerning the EU Borders Agency, Frontex. Frontex coordinates the operational cooperation between Member States in the field of border security. In March 2012, the Ombudsman asked Frontex a number of questions about the implementation of its fundamental rights obligations. Frontex replied in May 2012. Comments on Frontex’s response can be submitted to the Ombudsman until 30 September 2012.
Fundamental rights organisations and NGOs invited to submit comments
In 2009, the Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding on Frontex, which is based in Warsaw. Since then, a number of civil society organisations have questioned whether Frontex is doing enough to comply with the Charter, for example, in its deployment of EU border guards to Greece where migrant detainees were kept in detention centres under conditions which have been criticised by the European Court of Human Rights.
In October 2011, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a Regulation setting out additional specific fundamental rights obligations for Frontex. In March 2012, the Ombudsman asked Frontex a number of questions about how it is fulfilling these obligations, including the obligation to draw up a fundamental rights strategy, as well as codes of conduct applicable to its operations.
Frontex submitted its opinion in May 2012. It explained that, since 2010, it has developed a fundamental rights strategy, as well as a binding code of conduct for those participating in its activities. Frontex also listed other measures it is currently taking to ensure full respect for fundamental rights.
The Ombudsman considers that, before proceeding further, it would be useful to seek information and views from NGOs and other organisations active in the area of fundamental rights protection. He therefore invites interested parties to make observations on Frontex’s opinion. The Ombudsman has also invited the EU Fundamental Rights Agency to give its views.
All documents related to the inquiry, including Frontex’s opinion, are available at: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/cases/correspondence.faces/en/11757/html.bookmark ”
From the Ombudsman’s website:
What the Ombudsman is looking for
The present inquiry concerns the implementation by Frontex of its fundamental rights obligations. The Ombudsman would, therefore, be highly interested in receiving feedback from interested parties, such as NGOs and other organisations specialised in the areas covered by his inquiry, on Frontex’s answers to the questions he put to it.
The present inquiry is not intended to examine and solve individual cases involving Frontex’s fundamental rights obligations. Such cases can of course be submitted to the Ombudsman through individual complaints. A complaint form that can be used for this purpose is available on this website.
How to contribute
Comments should be sent to the Ombudsman by 30 September 2012.
- By letter: European Ombudsman, 1 avenue du Président Robert Schuman, CS 30403, F – 67001 Strasbourg Cedex, France;
- By fax: +33 (0)3 88 17 90 62;
- By e-mail: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/shortcuts/contacts.faces
Click here for press release.
Click here for all documents related to the inquiry.
Click here for Frontex’s 17 May 2012 response.
Full text of 13 July 2012 statement: UNHCR is very concerned by the loss of life we are seeing in maritime incidents in the Caribbean among people trying to escape difficult conditions in Haiti.
On Tuesday July 10, a woman drowned when a boat carrying more than 100 Haitian migrants ran aground near the Bahamas. In an earlier tragedy, on June 12, more than a dozen Haitians lost their lives in Bahamian and US waters while trying to reach the shores of Florida. These events are a reminder of the extremes that people in difficult situations sometimes resort to.
Continuing difficulties in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake are leading thousands of Haitians to flee their homeland each year, often in unseaworthy vessels. Although no firm statistics exist, it is estimated that hundreds of deaths occur yearly as a result.
US Coast Guard data shows that since December 2011 over 900 people have been found on boats in rescue or interception operations including some 652 Haitians, 146 Cubans and 111 people from the Dominican Republic. [See US Coast Guard statistics here.]
Inside Haiti, internal displacement remains significant with 421,000 individuals still living in camps in and around Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in the country. The political situation remains tense, and a rise is reported in criminality and insecurity. A cholera outbreak has continued.
UNHCR is also concerned about countries that are returning the Haitians to Haiti, ignoring an earlier joint-appeal by UNHCR and OHCHR asking states not to return Haitians, for humanitarian reasons, without adequate individual protection screening. The joint call was made in view of the daunting humanitarian challenges that Haiti still faces, exacerbated by the January 2010 earthquake.
UNHCR continues to advocate for the inclusion of adequate protection safeguards for individuals apprehended at sea, and hopes that such tragedies can be avoided in the future through enhanced international cooperation in the region.
Click here for statement.
Click here for link to US Coast Guard “Alien Migrant Interdiction” statistics page.
1000+ Migrants / 44 Boats Reach Andalusian Coast in First Half of 2012; Frontex JOs Indalo and Minerva Underway
Europa Press reported that 1,037 migrants on board 44 boats have been detected arriving on the Andalusian coast from 1 January 2012 to 9 July 2012. Most of the arrivals have occurred in the provinces of Granada and Almeria. Frontex’s 2012 Joint Operation Indalo, which began in May , is focused on detecting irregular migration in the Western Mediterranean and specifically on migration from Morocco and Algeria towards Andalusia. The ABC newspaper reported that some Spanish officials are again concerned that the Frontex enforcement efforts will divert migrant boats further north along the coast of Alicante. The first boat of the year was detected arriving on the Alicante coast on 9 July. ABC reported that a source with the Guardia Civil predicted that the numbers of boats attempting to reach Alicante would be less this year due to the stabilizing of conditions in North Africa and the poor Spanish economy. Frontex’s Joint Operation Minerva will launch on 13 July and is focused on increased surveillance and inspection of passengers arriving in Spain by ferry from Morocco and arrivals in Ceuta.
Statement from PACE Rapporteur Tineke Strik on Most Recent Deaths in Mediterranean Sea: “When will this ever end?”
Full Text (FR ci-dessous): Strasbourg, 11.07.2012 – “Yet again, a dinghy with 55 people on board drifted for 15 days on the Mediterranean. This time, only one person survived. When will this ever end?,” today asked Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”. She expressed her great sadness and anger over the deaths of another 54 boat people fleeing Libya towards Italy.
“It is still not safe in Libya and the boats will continue to arrive. Europe knows that. I had hoped my report on the ‘left-to-die boat’ would serve as an eye-opener to prevent such tragedies happening time and time again. States must never hesitate to undertake immediate action to rescue people, even if they think someone else should be responsible: every minute counts,” said Senator Strik.
“Governments in Europe, and not only in the countries on the southern shores of Europe, must react, and take an equal share in the protection of asylum seekers arriving from Africa,” she added.
“It is all the more important that the resolution adopted by the Assembly in April this year is implemented and that the remaining questions are answered by NATO and by European governments. I am therefore now making public my most recent requests to member States and NATO, which remain unanswered,” she concluded.
The UNHCR estimates that this year over 170 people have lost their lives attempting to reach Italy by sea. Over 1 300 have arrived from Libya to Italy, and over 1 000 to Malta.
Strasbourg, 11.07.2012 – « Une fois de plus, un canot pneumatique avec 55 personnes à son bord a dérivé pendant 15 jours en Méditerranée. Cette fois, il n’y a eu qu’un seul survivant. Quand cela s’arrêtera-t-il ? », s’interroge Tineke Strik (Pays-Bas, SOC), l’auteur du rapport de l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe (APCE) « Vies perdues en Méditerranée : qui est responsable ? ». Elle a exprimé aujourd’hui sa profonde tristesse et sa colère à l’annonce de la mort de 54 personnes qui fuyaient la Libye pour l’Italie.
« La situation en Libye n’est toujours pas sûre et d’autres bateaux continueront d’arriver. L’Europe le sait. J’avais espéré que mon rapport sur le « bateau cercueil » provoquerait une prise de conscience et empêcherait que ces tragédies ne se reproduisent toujours et encore. Les États ne doivent jamais hésiter à prendre des mesures immédiates pour sauver des personnes, même s’ils estiment que quelqu’un d’autre devrait être responsable : chaque minute compte », a déclaré la sénatrice Strik.
« Les gouvernements européens, et pas seulement ceux des pays du rivage sud de la Méditerranée, doivent réagir et prendre une part égale dans la protection des demandeurs d’asile venant d’Afrique », a-t-elle ajouté.
« Il est d’autant plus important que la résolution adoptée par l’Assemblée en avril de cette année soit mise en œuvre et que l’OTAN et les gouvernements européens répondent aux questions encore en suspens. C’est pourquoi je rends publiques mes dernières demandes aux Etats membres et à l’OTAN, qui sont restées sans réponse », conclut-elle.
Le Haut-Commissariat de l’ONU pour les réfugiés estime que plus de 170 personnes ont péri cette année en tentant de gagner l’Italie par la mer. Plus de 1.300 personnes en provenance de Libye sont arrivées en Italie, et plus de 1.000 à Malte.
Boats4People Releases Mapping Platform to Monitor the Maritime Borders of the EU for Violations of Migrants’ Rights
Boats4People announced last week the release of a mapping platform to monitor “in almost real-time reported cases of migrants in distress at sea”. The project is called WatchTheMed and “is a collaboration between the Forensic Oceanography research project at Goldsmiths College and Boats4People, a campaign led by an international coalition of NGOs aiming at bringing an end to the death of migrants at sea and foster solidarity between both sides of the Mediterranean.”
Press Release: 03.07.2012 WatchTheMed
Boats4People Mapping Platform to Monitor the Maritime Borders of the EU for Violations of Migrants’ Rights
While Boats4People’s Oloferne boat is at sea, many other participants are contributing from the land in Italy, Tunisia, across Africa and Europe and even as far as the USA. Amongst them, researchers of the Forensic Oceanography research project at Goldsmiths, University of London, who, in the frame of the B4P campaign, have launched a new online mapping platform to monitor in almost real time the death of migrants and violations of their rights at the Maritime Borders of the EU.
Acting as a “civilian watchtower” over the Mediterranean, WatchTheMed aims to collect all possible sources of information concerning incidents at sea: distress signals send out by Coast Guards, news articles, reports by different partners, testimonies from migrants, satellite imagery. It inscribes these incidents within the complex political ecology of the Mediterranean: overlapping Search and Rescue zones, maritime patrols, radar coverage.
By assembling these multiple sources of information so as to document with the highest possible degree of precision incidents at sea and by spatialising this data, the aim is to develop a new tool to increase accountability in the Mediterranean.
During the three weeks of the B4P journey, the WatchTheMed platform will be regularly updated. Help us monitor the maritime borders of the EU by reporting an incident, maritime patrols or means of surveillance on the website www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com or send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Forensic Oceanography project visit:
Una piattaforma per mappare le violazioni dei diritti dei migranti ai confini marittimi dell’ EU.
WatchTheMed è una collaborazione fra Boats4People e il progetto di ricerca Forensic Oceanography del Goldsmiths College.
WatchTheMed vuole essere uno strumento per mettere fine all’impunità per la morte dei migranti in mare e la violazione dei loro diritti ai confini marittimi dell’UE. Per fare questo, monitora e mappa in tempo (quasi) reale casi di migranti in difficoltà in mare, di violazioni dei loro diritti e di decessi. Questi episodi vengono inscritti nell’ambito della complessa ecologia politica del Mediterraneo, con un attenzione particolare al Canale di Sicilia.
Questa mappa è un progetto pilota partito nel luglio 2012. Aiutaci a monitorare i confini marittimi dell’ Unione Europea, visita il sito www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com.
Une plateforme pour cartographier les violations des droits des migrants aux frontières maritimes de l’UE
WatchTheMed est une collaboration entre Boats4People et le projet de recherche Forensic Oceanography de l’Université de Goldsmiths, Londres.
WatchTheMed vise à être un outil pour mettre un terme à l’impunité qui entoure les morts des migrants et les violations de leurs droits aux frontières maritimes de l‘ UE. A cette fin, le projet observe et cartographie en temps presque réel les cas rapportés de détresse, de violations du droit et de morts en mer, et inscrit ceux-ci dans la structure complexe de la Méditerranée, en mettant l’accent sur le Canal de Sicile.
Cette carte est un projet pilote lancé en juillet 2012. Aidez nous à observer les frontières maritimes de l’UE, rapportez un incident en visitant le site www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com.
The UNHCR reported yesterday that UNHCR staff interviewed the sole survivor of a migrant boat that departed from Tripoli for Italy in late June with 55 people on board. The survivor was interviewed in Zarzis, Tunisia. “According to the survivor, there was no water on board and people started to die of dehydration within days. Many drank sea water, including the man who survived. He was rescued [off the coast of Tunisia] floating on the remains of the [inflatable] boat and a jerry can. According to the survivor over half of the deceased were from Eritrea, including three of his relatives.” According to the UNHCR press statement “[s]o far in 2012, over 1,300 people have arrived by boat from Libya in Italy. A boat, reportedly carrying 50 Eritreans and Somalis, is currently at sea. They refused to be rescued by Maltese military forces [on 9 July]. Over 1,000 people on 14 boats have arrived in Malta from Libya so far this year. Two other boats were intercepted by Maltese authorities, but the majority elected not to be rescued and continued to Italy. UNHCR Italy estimates that so far this year some 170 people have been declared dead or lost at sea attempting to make the journey from Libya to Europe.”
Click here for UNHCR press statement.
The EU Observer reported two weeks ago that Cyprus “is worried that Syrian refugees could arrive en masse in the island-nation and in the EU more broadly if the conflict gets worse [and that Cyprus] is drawing up plans in case Syrian boat refugees arrive on its coast, a Cypriot source told this website.” What these plans may consist of is not clear, but during a recent visit to Malta, Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said that Cyprus and Malta shared “’common worries and interests’ over irregular migration … ‘We’re not racists but we must defend the rights of our countries’.”
While it is conceivable that Syrian refugee boats could head for Cyprus if the number of people forced to flee Syria continues to rise, but, as was the case with Libya, most will likely continue to flee across land borders to neighbouring countries and will not take to the sea. The UNHCR estimates that as of early this month, over 81,000 people have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq and that there are approximately 400,000 internally displaced persons within Syria. To the extent that some may flee Syria by sea, the portion of the island of Cyprus closet to Syria is the northeastern area which is controlled by Turkey.
Cyprus assumes the EU presidency on 1 July.
Click here for UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response Information Sharing Portal.
Frontex Executive Director Ilkka Laitinen is a leading candidate for the recently vacated position of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior in Finland. He was passed over for the position when it was last open. Prior to becoming Frontex’s Director, Laitinen was the Deputy Head of Division, Frontier Guard HQ, in Finland. Laitinen has been the Executive Director of Frontex since its inception in 2005.