Tag Archives: European Commission

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.

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

European Commission’s Second Biannual Report on Schengen Area

The European Commission released its “Second biannual report on the functioning of the Schengen area” covering the period 1 May 2012-31 October 2012.  (COM(2012) 686 final, 23.11.2012)  The first reporton the Schengen area was released in May of this year.  (COM(2012) 230 final, 16.5.2012)

Here are a few excerpts from the 8 page document:

The Commission intends to present a legislative proposal in early 2013 to replace the Frontex sea border operations rule (Council Decision 2010/252/EU) that was annulled by the Court of Justice on 5 September 2012;

Subsequent to the issuance of a letter of formal notice to Greece in October 2009 in response to “allegations of serious difficulties faced by migrants in applying for asylum and ill-treatment of asylum-seekers, including the turning back of persons who may face serious harm or persecution”, the Commission is continuing to analyse the situation “in the light of constant developments, such as the progress made in the implementation of the Greek National Action Plan.”;

Subsequent to a Commission request to Italy in July 2009 “to provide information on the measures to avoid the risk of refoulement” and the February 2012 European Court of Human Rights decision in the Case of Hirsi v. Italy, “[a]gainst this background, the Commission is now analysing the implications of this ruling on border surveillance operations at sea and on the asylum acquis.

Click  here or here for Second Report.

Click here for First Report.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, European Court of Human Rights, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Judicial, Libya, Mediterranean, Reports

Malta Expresses Interest in Use of Drones for Migrant Surveillance at Sea

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….”

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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Filed under European Union, Frontex, Malta, News

Heinrich Böll Foundation Study: Borderline- The EU’s New Border Surveillance Initiatives, Assessing the Costs and Fundamental Rights Implications of EUROSUR and the ‘Smart Borders’ Proposals

The Heinrich Böll Foundation released a study written by Dr. Ben Hayes from Statewatch and Mathias Vermeulen (editor of The Lift- Legal Issues in the Fight Against Terrorism blog) entitled “Borderline – The EU’s new border surveillance initiatives: assessing the costs and fundamental rights implications of EUROSUR and the ‘Smart Borders’ Proposals.”  The Study was presented to the European Parliament last month.  As Mathias Vermeulen noted in an email distributing the study, “the European Parliament is currently negotiating the legislative proposal for Eurosur, and the European Commission is likely to present a legislative proposal on ‘smart borders’ in September/October.”

Excerpts from the Preface and Executive Summary of the Study:

Preface

The upheavals in North Africa have lead to a short-term rise of refugees to Europe, yet, demonstrably, there has been no wave of refugees heading for Europe. By far most refugees have found shelter in neighbouring Arab countries. Nevertheless, in June 2011, the EU’s heads of state precipitately adopted EU Council Conclusions with far-reaching consequences, one that will result in new border policies ‘protecting’ the Union against migration. In addition to new rules and the re-introduction of border controls within the Schengen Area, the heads of state also insisted on upgrading the EU’s external borders using state-of-art surveillance technology, thus turning the EU into an electronic fortress.

The Conclusions passed by the representatives of EU governments aims to quickly put into place the European surveillance system EUROSUR. This is meant to enhance co-operation between Europe’s border control agencies and promote the surveillance of the EU’s external borders by FRONTEX, the Union’s agency for the protection of its external borders, using state-of-the-art surveillance technologies. To achieve this, there are even plans to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the Mediterranean and the coasts of North Africa. Such high-tech missions have the aim to spot and stop refugee vessels even before they reach Europe’s borders. A EUROSUR bill has been drafted and is presently being discussed in the European Council and in the European Parliament. [***]

EUROSUR and ‘smart borders’ represent the EU’s cynical response to the Arab Spring. Both are new forms of European border controls – new external border protection policies to shut down the influx of refugees and migrants (supplemented by internal controls within the Schengen Area); to achieve this, the home secretaries of some countries are even willing to accept an infringement of fundamental rights.

The present study by Ben Hayes and Mathias Vermeulen demonstrates that EUROSUR fosters EU policies that undermine the rights to asylum and protection. For some time, FRONTEX has been criticised for its ‘push back’ operations during which refugee vessels are being intercepted and escorted back to their ports of origin. In February 2012, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for carrying out such operations, arguing that Italian border guards had returned all refugees found on an intercepted vessel back to Libya – including those with a right to asylum and international protection. As envisioned by EUROSUR, the surveillance of the Mediterranean using UAVs, satellites, and shipboard monitoring systems will make it much easier to spot such vessels. It is to be feared, that co-operation with third countries, especially in North Africa, as envisioned as part of EUROSUR, will lead to an increase of ‘push back’ operations.

Nevertheless, the EU’s announcement of EUROSUR sounds upbeat: The planned surveillance of the Mediterranean, we are being told, using UAVs, satellites, and shipboard monitoring systems, will aid in the rescue of refugees shipwrecked on the open seas. The present study reveals to what extent such statements cover up a lack of substance. Maritime rescue services are not part of EUROSUR and border guards do not share information with them, however vital this may be. Only just recently, the Council of Europe issued a report on the death of 63 migrants that starved and perished on an unseaworthy vessel, concluding that the key problem had not been to locate the vessel but ill-defined responsibilities within Europe. No one came to the aid of the refugees – and that in spite of the fact that the vessel’s position had been known. [***]

The EU’s new border control programmes not only represent a novel technological upgrade, they also show that the EU is unable to deal with migration and refugees. Of the 500,000 refugees fleeing the turmoil in North Africa, less than 5% ended up in Europe. Rather, the problem is that most refugees are concentrated in only a very few places. It is not that the EU is overtaxed by the problem; it is local structures on Lampedusa, in Greece’s Evros region, and on Malta that have to bear the brunt of the burden. This can hardly be resolved by labelling migration as a novel threat and using military surveillance technology to seal borders. For years, instead of receiving refugees, the German government along with other EU countries has blocked a review of the Dublin Regulation in the European Council. For the foreseeable future, refugees and migrants are to remain in the countries that are their first point of entry into the Union.

Within the EU, the hostile stance against migrants has reached levels that threaten the rescue of shipwrecked refugees. During FRONTEX operations, shipwrecked refugees will not be brought to the nearest port – although this is what international law stipulates – instead they will be landed in a port of the member country that is in charge of the operation. This reflects a ’nimby’ attitude – not in my backyard. This is precisely the reason for the lack of responsibility in European maritime rescue operations pointed out by the Council of Europe. As long as member states are unwilling to show more solidarity and greater humanity, EUROSUR will do nothing to change the status quo.

The way forward would be to introduce improved, Europe-wide standards for the granting of asylum. The relevant EU guidelines are presently under review, albeit with the proviso that the cost of new regulations may not exceed the cost of those in place – and that they may not cause a relative rise in the number of asylum requests. In a rather cynical move, the EU’s heads of government introduced this proviso in exactly the same resolution that calls for the rapid introduction of new surveillance measures costing billions. Correspondingly, the budget of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is small – only a ninth what goes towards FRONTEX.

Unable to tackle the root of the problem, the member states are upgrading the Union’s external borders. Such a highly parochial approach taken to a massive scale threatens some of the EU’s fundamental values – under the pretence that one’s own interests are at stake. Such an approach borders on the inhumane.

Berlin/Brussels, May 2012

Barbara Unmüßig

President Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Ska Keller

Member of the European Parliament

Executive Summary

The research paper ‘Borderline’ examines two new EU border surveillance initiatives: the creation of a European External Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) and the creation of the so-called ‘smart borders package’…. EUROSUR promises increased surveillance of the EU’s sea and land borders using a vast array of new technologies, including drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), off-shore sensors, and satellite tracking systems. [***]

The EU’s 2008 proposals gained new momentum with the perceived ‘migration crisis’ that accompanied the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, which resulted in the arrival of thousands of Tunisians in France. These proposals are now entering a decisive phase. The European Parliament and the Council have just started negotiating the legislative proposal for the EUROSUR system, and within months the Commission is expected to issue formal proposals for the establishment of an [Entry-Exit System] and [Registered Traveller Programme]. [***]

The report is also critical of the decision-making process. Whereas the decision to establish comparable EU systems such as EUROPOL and FRONTEX were at least discussed in the European and national parliaments, and by civil society, in the case of EUROSUR – and to a lesser extent the smart borders initiative – this method has been substituted for a technocratic process that has allowed for the development of the system and substantial public expenditure to occur well in advance of the legislation now on the table. Following five years of technical development, the European Commission expects to adopt the legal framework and have the EUROSUR system up and running (albeit in beta form) in the same year (2013), presenting the European Parliament with an effective fait accomplit.

The EUROSUR system

The main purpose of EUROSUR is to improve the ‘situational awareness’ and reaction capability of the member states and FRONTEX to prevent irregular migration and cross-border crime at the EU’s external land and maritime borders. In practical terms, the proposed Regulation would extend the obligations on Schengen states to conducting comprehensive ‘24/7’ surveillance of land and sea borders designated as high-risk – in terms of unauthorised migration – and mandate FRONTEX to carry out surveillance of the open seas beyond EU territory and the coasts and ports of northern Africa. Increased situational awareness of the high seas should force EU member states to take adequate steps to locate and rescue persons in distress at sea in accordance with the international law of the sea. The Commission has repeatedly stressed EUROSUR’s future role in ‘protecting and saving lives of migrants’, but nowhere in the proposed Regulation and numerous assessments, studies, and R&D projects is it defined how exactly this will be done, nor are there any procedures laid out for what should be done with the ‘rescued’. In this context, and despite the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean among migrants and refugees bound for Europe, EUROSUR is more likely to be used alongside the long-standing European policy of preventing these people reaching EU territory (including so-called push back operations, where migrant boats are taken back to the state of departure) rather than as a genuine life-saving tool.

The EUROSUR system relies on a host of new surveillance technologies and the interlinking of 24 different national surveillance systems and coordination centers, bilaterally and through FRONTEX. Despite the high-tech claims, however, the planned EUROSUR system has not been subject to a proper technological risk assessment. The development of new technologies and the process of interlinking 24 different national surveillance systems and coordination centres – bilaterally and through FRONTEX – is both extremely complex and extremely costly, yet the only people who have been asked if they think it will work are FRONTEX and the companies selling the hardware and software. The European Commission estimates that EUROSUR will cost €338 million, but its methods do not stand up to scrutiny. Based on recent expenditure from the EU External Borders Fund, the framework research programme, and indicative budgets for the planned Internal Security Fund (which will support the implementation of the EU’s Internal Security Strategy from 2014–2020), it appears that EUROSUR could easily end up costing two or three times more: as much as €874 million. Without a cap on what can be spent attached to the draft EUROSUR or Internal Security Fund legislation, the European Parliament will be powerless to prevent any cost overruns. There is no single mechanism for financial accountability beyond the periodic reports submitted by the Commission and FRONTEX, and since the project is being funded from various EU budget lines, it is already very difficult to monitor what has actually been spent.

In its legislative proposal, the European Commission argues that EUROSUR will only process personal data on an ‘exceptional’ basis, with the result that minimal attention is being paid to privacy and data protection issues. The report argues that the use of drones and high-resolution cameras means that much more personal data is likely to be collected and processed than is being claimed. Detailed data protection safeguards are needed, particularly since EUROSUR will form in the future a part of the EU’s wider Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE), under which information may be shared with a whole range of third actors, including police agencies and defence forces. They also call for proper supervision of EUROSUR, with national data protection authorities checking the processing of personal data by the EUROSUR National Coordination Centres, and the processing of personal data by FRONTEX, subject to review by the European Data Protection Supervisor. EUROSUR also envisages the exchange of information with ‘neighbouring third countries’ on the basis of bilateral or multilateral agreements with member states, but the draft legislation expressly precludes such exchanges where third countries could use this information to identify persons or groups who are at risk of being subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, or other fundamental rights violations. The authors argue that it will be impossible to uphold this provision without the logging of all such data exchanges and the establishment of a proper supervisory system. [***]”

Click here or here for full text of Study.

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Filed under Analysis, European Union, Frontex, Mediterranean, Reports

EU Court of Justice Advocate General Recommends Annulment of Frontex Sea Borders Rule

ECJ Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi issued an Opinion on 17 April in which he recommended that the European Court of Justice annul Council Decision 2010/252/EU of 26 April 2010 supplementing the Schengen Borders Code as regards the surveillance of the sea external borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by Frontex (Sea Borders Rule).  The Advocate General’s recommendation, issued in the case of the European Parliament v Council of the EU, Case C-355/10, will be considered by the ECJ in the coming weeks.  The case was filed by the European Parliament on 12 July 2010.  A hearing was conducted on 25 January 2012.

The Advocate General’s recommendation is based primarily on the conclusion that the Council adopted the Frontex Sea Borders Rule by invoking a procedure which may only be used to amend “non-essential elements” of the Schengen Borders Code.  The Advocate General concluded that rather than amending “non-essential elements” of the SBC, the Council Decision introduces “new essential elements” into the SBC and amends the Frontex Regulation.  The recommendation calls for the effects of the Sea Borders Rule to be maintained until a new act can be adopted in accordance with ordinary legislative procedures.

[UPDATE:]  Paragraph 64 of the Recommendation explains why the Commission likely sought to implement the Sea Borders Rule through the committee mechanism rather than by pursuing ordinary legislative procedures:

“64.      Firstly, some provisions of the contested decision concern problems that, as well as being sensitive, are also particularly controversial, such as, for example, the applicability of the principle of non-refoulement in international waters (51) or the determination of the place to which rescued persons are to be escorted under the arrangements introduced by the SAR Convention. (52) The Member States have different opinions on these problems, as is evident from the proposal for a decision submitted by the Commission. (Ftnt 53)

Ftnt 53 – Moreover, it would seem that it is precisely a difference of opinion and the impasse created by it which led to the Commission’s choosing to act through the committee mechanism under Article 12(5) of the SBC rather than the ordinary legislative procedure, as is clear also from the letter from Commissioner Malmström annexed to the reply. These differences persist. The provisions of the contested decision concerning search and rescue, for example, have not been applied in Frontex operations launched after the entry into force of the contested decision on account of opposition from Malta.”

While this case presents a procedural question and does not involve a review of any of the substantive provisions of the Sea Borders Rule, the Advocate General’s statement in Paragraph 64 that “the applicability of the principle of non-refoulement in international waters” is a “controversial” position is wrong.  Perhaps the position is still controversial in some circles, but legally, with the important exception expressed by the US Supreme Court, it is clear that non-refoulement obligations apply to actions taken in international waters.

Click here for Opinion of Advocate General Mengozzi, Case C-355/10, 17 April 2012.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

Click here for my last post on the case.

Extensive Excerpts from the Advocate General’s Recommendation:

“1.        In the present proceedings, the European Parliament requests the Court to annul Council Decision 2010/252/EU of 26 April 2010 supplementing the Schengen Borders Code (2) as regards the surveillance of the sea external borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (‘the contested decision’). (3) If the action should be upheld, Parliament requests that the effects of the contested decision be maintained until it shall have been replaced.

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9.        The contested decision was adopted on the basis of Article 12(5) of the SBC, in accordance with the procedure provided for in Article 5a(4) of the comitology decision … [***]

10.      According to recitals (2) and (11) of the contested decision, its principal objective is the adoption of additional rules for the surveillance of the sea borders by border guards operating under the coordination of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (‘the Agency’ or ‘Frontex’), established by Regulation 2007/2004 (‘the Frontex Regulation’). (9) It consists of two articles and an annex divided into two parts entitled ‘Rules for sea border operations coordinated by the Agency’ and ‘Guidelines for search and rescue situations and for disembarkation in the context of sea border operations coordinated by the Agency’. Under Article 1, ‘[t]he surveillance of the sea external borders in the context of the operational cooperation between Member States coordinated by the … Agency … shall be governed by the rules laid down in Part I to the Annex. Those rules and the non-binding guidelines laid down in Part II to the Annex shall form part of the operational plan drawn up for each operation coordinated by the Agency.’

11.      Point 1 of Part I to the Annex lays down certain general principles intended, inter alia, to guarantee that maritime surveillance operations are conducted in accordance with fundamental rights and the principle of non-refoulement. Point 2 contains detailed provisions on interception and lists the measures that may be taken in the course of the surveillance operation ‘against ships or other sea craft with regard to which there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that they carry persons intending to circumvent the checks at border crossing points’ (point 2.4). The conditions for taking such measures vary depending on whether the interception takes place in the territorial waters and contiguous zone of a Member State (point 2.5.1) or on the high seas (point 2.5.2). Point 1 of Part II to the Annex lays down provisions on units participating in the surveillance operation in search and rescue situations, including with regard to communicating and forwarding information to the rescue coordination centre responsible for the area in question and the coordination centre of the operation, and defines certain conditions for the existence of an emergency (point 1.4). Point 2 lays down guidelines on the modalities for the disembarkation of the persons intercepted or rescued.

II –  Procedure before the Court and forms of order sought

12.      By act lodged at the Registry of the Court of Justice on 12 July 2010, the Parliament brought the action which forms the subject-matter of the present proceedings. The Commission intervened in support of the Council. At the hearing of 25 January 2012, the agents of the three institutions presented oral argument.

13.      The Parliament claims that the Court should annul the contested decision, rule that the effects thereof be maintained until it is replaced, and order the Council to pay the costs.

14.      The Council contends that the Court should dismiss the application as inadmissible or, in the alternative, as unfounded and order the Parliament to pay the costs.

15.      The Commission requests the Court to dismiss the application and order the Parliament to pay the costs.

III –  Application

A –    Admissibility

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23.      For all the reasons set out above, the application must, in my view, be declared admissible.

B –    Substance

24.      The Parliament considers that the contested decision exceeds the implementing powers conferred by Article 12(5) of the SBC and therefore falls outside the ambit of its legal basis. In that context it raises three complaints. Firstly, the contested decision introduces new essential elements into the SBC. Secondly, it alters essential elements of the SBC. Thirdly, it interferes with the system created by the Frontex Regulation. These complaints are examined separately below.

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3.      First complaint, alleging that the contested decision introduces new essential elements into the SBC

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61.      Given both the sphere of which the legislation in question forms part and the objectives and general scheme of the SBC, in which surveillance is a fundamental component of border control policy, and notwithstanding the latitude left to the Commission by Article 12(5), I consider that strong measures such as those listed in point 2.4 of the annex to the contested decision, in particular those in subparagraphs (b), (d), (f) and g), and the provisions on disembarkation contained in Part II to that annex, govern essential elements of external maritime border surveillance. These measures entail options likely to affect individuals’ personal freedoms and fundamental rights (for example, searches, apprehension, seizure of the vessel, etc.), the opportunity those individuals have of relying on and obtaining in the Union the protection they may be entitled to enjoy under international law (this is true of the rules on disembarkation in the absence of precise indications on how the authorities are to take account of the individual situation of those on board the intercepted vessel), (47) and also the relations between the Union or the Member States participating in the surveillance operation and the third countries involved in that operation.

62.      In my view, a similar approach is necessary with regard to the provisions of the contested decision governing interception of vessels on the high seas. On the one hand, those provisions expressly authorise the adoption of the measures mentioned in the preceding paragraph in international waters, an option which, in the context described above, is essential in nature, irrespective of whether or not the Parliament’s argument is well founded, that the geographical scope of the SBC, with regard to maritime borders, is restricted to the external limit of the Member State’s territorial waters or the contiguous zone, and does not extend to the high seas. (48) On the other hand, those provisions, intended to ensure the uniform application of relevant international law in the context of maritime border surveillance operations, (49) even if they do not create obligations for the Member States participating in those operations or confer powers on them, other than those that may be deduced from that legislation, do bind them to a particular interpretation of those obligations and powers, thereby potentially bringing their international responsibility into play. (50)

63.      Two further observations militate in favour of the conclusions reached above.

64.      Firstly, some provisions of the contested decision concern problems that, as well as being sensitive, are also particularly controversial, such as, for example, the applicability of the principle of non-refoulement in international waters (51) or the determination of the place to which rescued persons are to be escorted under the arrangements introduced by the SAR Convention. (52) The Member States have different opinions on these problems, as is evident from the proposal for a decision submitted by the Commission. (53)

65.      Secondly, a comparison with the rules on border checks contained in the SBC shows that the definition of the practical arrangements for carrying out those checks, in so far as they concern aspects comparable, mutatis mutandis, to those governed by the contested decision, was reserved to the legislature, and this is so notwithstanding the fact that the Commission expressed a different opinion in the proposal for a regulation. (54)

66.      In the light of all the preceding provisions, I consider that the contested decision governs essential elements of the basic legislation within the meaning of the case-law set out in points 26 to 29 of this Opinion.

67.      Therefore, the Parliament’s first complaint must, in my opinion, be upheld.

4.      Second complaint, alleging that the contested decision alters essential elements of the SBC

68.      In its second complaint, the Parliament claims that, by providing that border guards may order the intercepted vessel to change its course towards a destination outside territorial waters and conduct it or the persons on board to a third country [point 2.4(e) and (f) of Part I to the annex], the contested decision alters an essential element of the SBC, that is to say, the principle set out in Article 13, under which ‘[e]ntry may only be refused by a substantiated decision stating the precise reasons for the refusal.’

69.      The Parliament’s argument is based on the premise that Article 13 is applicable to border surveillance too. This interpretation is opposed by both the Council and the Commission, which consider that the obligation to adopt a measure for which reasons are stated pursuant to that provision exists only when a person who has duly presented himself at a border crossing point and been subject to the checks provided for in the SBC has been refused entry into the territory of Union.

70.      The Parliament’s complaint must, in my view, be rejected, with no need to give a ruling, as to the substance, on the delicate question of the scope of Article 13 SBC on which the Court will, in all likelihood, be called to rule in the future.

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5.      Third complaint, alleging that the contested decision amends the Frontex Regulation

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82.      However, the fact remains that Article 1 of the contested decision substantially reduces the latitude of the requesting Member State and, consequently, that of the Agency, potentially interfering significantly with its functioning. An example of this is provided by the events connected with the Frontex intervention requested by Malta in March 2011 in the context of the Libyan crisis. The request by Malta, inter alia, not to integrate into the operational plan the guidelines contained in Part II to the annex to the contested decision met with opposition from various Member States and involved long negotiations between the Agency and the Maltese Government which prevented the operation from being launched. (62)

83.      In actual fact, the annex to the contested decision as a whole, including the non-binding guidelines – whose mandatory force, given the wording of Article 1, it is difficult to contest – (63) is perceived as forming part of the Community measures relating to management of external borders whose application the Agency is required to facilitate and render more effective under Article 1(2) of the Frontex Regulation. (64)

84.      Furthermore, the non-binding guidelines contained in Part II to the annex to the contested decision relating to search and rescue situations govern aspects of the operation that do not fall within Frontex’s duties. As the Commission itself points out in the proposal on the basis of which the contested decision was adopted, Frontex is not an SAR agency (65) and ‘the fact that most of the maritime operations coordinated by it turn into search and rescue operations removes them from the scope of Frontex’. (66) The same is true with regard to the rules on disembarkation. None the less, the contested decision provides for those guidelines to be incorporated into the operational plan.

85.      On the basis of the foregoing considerations, I consider that, by regulating aspects relating to operational cooperation between Member States in the field of management of the Union’s external borders that fall within the scope of the Frontex Regulation and, in any event, by laying down rules that interfere with the functioning of the Agency established by that regulation, the contested decision exceeds the implementing powers conferred by Article 12(5) of the SBC.

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C –    Conclusions reached on the application

89.      In the light of the foregoing, the action must, in my view, be allowed and the contested decision annulled.

IV –  Parliament’s request that the effects of the contested decision be maintained

90.      The Parliament requests the Court, should it order the annulment of the contested decision, to maintain the effects thereof until a new act be adopted, pursuant to the power conferred on it by the second paragraph of Article 264 TFEU. That provision, under which ‘the Court shall, if it considers this necessary, state which of the effects of the act which it has declared void shall be considered as definitive’ has also been used to maintain temporarily all the effects of such an act pending its replacement. (68)

91.      In the present case, annulment pure and simple of the contested decision would deprive the Union of an important legal instrument for coordinating joint action by the Member States in the field of managing surveillance of the Union’s maritime borders, and for making that surveillance more in keeping with human rights and the rules for the protection of refugees.

92.      For the reasons set out, I consider that the Parliament’s application should be granted and the effects of the contested decision maintained until an act adopted in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure shall have been adopted.

[***]”

Click here for Opinion of Advocate General Mengozzi, Case C-355/10, 17 April 2012.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

Click here for previous post on topic.

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Statewatch Analysis: The EU’s self-interested response to unrest in north Africa: the meaning of treaties and readmission agreements between Italy and north African states

Statewatch released an Analysis by Yasha Maccanico entitled “The EU’s self-interested response to unrest in north Africa: the meaning of treaties and readmission agreements between Italy and north African states.”  The Analysis provides a description of Italy’s responses to the migrant arrivals in 2011 caused by the unrest in North Africa.

Excerpts:  “The ‘crisis’ reveals questionable practices and routine abuses – The measures adopted in response to the increasing number of migrants arriving from north African countries serve to highlight a number of practices that have become commonplace in Italy in recent years.

The first of these is a widening of the concept of ‘emergency.’ Calling an emergency gives the government a wider remit to derogate from specified laws so as to resolve situations that cannot be dealt with through ordinary measures….

Although the situation in north Africa was worrying, the emergency was called when slightly over 5,000 migrants had arrived. An analysis by Massimiliano Vrenna and Francesca Biondi Dal Monte for ASGI notes that the government has repeatedly called and extended states of emergency since 2002 to deal with immigration, which is treated as though it were a “natural calamity” even when there is a wholly predictable influx of people from third countries. The urgent need specified in decrees declaring a state of emergency is to conduct ‘activities to counter the exceptional – later referred to as massive – influx of immigrants on Italian territory’ (as happened on 11 December 2002, 7 November 2003, 23 December 2004, 28 October 2005, 16 March 2007, 31 December 2007, 14 February 2008 for Sicily, Calabria and Apulia and was extended to the whole nation on 25 July 2008 and 19 November 2009), stemming from a prime ministerial decree of 20 March 2002. Thus, Vrenna and Biondi Dal Monte’s observation that the emergency is ‘structural’ appears well-founded. It has serious repercussions for the treatment of migrants (see below) and the awarding of contracts outside of normal procedures, with the involvement of the civil protection department whose competencies have been expanding considerably.

The second practice involves the expulsion, refoulement or deportation of migrants outside the limits and procedures established by legislation for this purpose. The failure to identify people, to issue formal decisions on an individual basis to refuse them entry or expel them, or to give them the opportunity to apply for asylum or other forms of protection, was a key concern when boats were intercepted at sea and either the vessels or their passengers were taken back to Libya between May and September 2009, when 1,329 people were returned. These rights were also denied to people arriving from Egypt and Tunisia in application of readmission agreements in the framework of the fight against illegal migration. Their presumed nationality was deemed sufficient to enact expulsions to these countries, because ongoing cooperation and good relations with Italy appeared sufficient to indicate that they were not in need of protection, regardless of the situation in their home countries. ….

The third practice is the ill-treatment of migrants held in detention centres. Without dealing with this issue in depth, it is worth noting that what could be viewed as arbitrary detention is occurring on a large scale, in the absence of formal measures decreeing detention and without the possibility of appealing against decisions. In fact, after landing, migrants are summarily identified as either ‘illegal’ migrants or asylum seekers, largely on the basis of their nationality….”

Click here for Analysis.

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EJML Article, B Nascimbene and A Di Pascale: “The ‘Arab Spring’ and the Extraordinary Influx of People who Arrived in Italy from North Africa”

The latest edition of the European Journal of Migration and Law, Volume 13, Number 4, contains an article by Bruno Nascimbene, Professor of European Union Law, Faculty of Law, University of Milan, and Alessia Di Pascale, Research Fellow, European Union Law, Faculty of Law, University of Milan, entitled “The ‘Arab Spring’ and the Extraordinary Influx of People who Arrived in Italy from North Africa”.

Abstract: “The ‘Arab spring’ which spread in early 2011 and the consequent exceptional influx of people that arrived on the Italian coasts from North Africa put the national reception and asylum systems under particular pressure, also raising the debate on the status to be attributed to these people. Faced with a situation out of the ordinary, Italy immediately addressed a request for help to the European Union, which has revealed the difference of views and mistrust existing between Member States in relation to these issues. This episode also calls into question the scope and effectiveness of the EU migration management framework, particularly in case of strong and unexpected pressure, and its implementation in a true spirit of solidarity.”

Click here for link.  (Subscription or payment required.)

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Malmström: Commission Hopes Migration Talks With Libya Will Begin Soon

In response to a parliamentary question submitted by Italian MEP Fiorello Provera (EFD, Northern League) regarding the “control of migratory flows in the southern Mediterranean”, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström provided a written response on 25 October in which she stated that “[t]he Commission hopes [migration discussions] will start as soon as possible with the Libyan authorities.”

In his question, MEP Provera praised the Italy-Libya Friendship Agreement:  “In an example of successful migration control, Italy and Libya signed a friendship treaty in 2008, which included measures to put Libya in charge of its 2 000 km coastline to stem the flow of illegal migrants into the EU. The agreement had an enormous impact: in 2008, 40 000 migrants attempted to cross illegally into Italy, but according to The Economist, the number of migrants was reduced to 4 406 in 2010. However, following the popular uprising against Gaddafi forces at the start of 2011, 27 000 immigrants managed to cross from Libya into Europe.”

Full text of Ms Malmström’s written response:   “The Commission would like to underline that the discussions which were held on 4 October 2010 in Tripoli by the Members of the Commission responsible for Home Affairs and Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy took place in a context, and with interlocutors, which have profoundly changed.

Although the tentative list of common actions identified in October 2010 (1) may still represent a basis for future cooperation between the EU and Libya in the areas of migration, asylum, visa policy and border management, it is clear that the pattern and content of this future cooperation will have to be substantially revised on the basis of new discussions. The Commission hopes these will start as soon as possible with the Libyan authorities.

The revision of the cooperation with Libya, in any case, is necessary also to take into account several important changes which have taken place not only in Libya but also in the EU since the spring.

In particular, the European Council of 24 June 2011 which approved a new policy approach towards the Southern Mediterranean countries. This approach will be characterised by the launch of a Dialogue on Migration, Mobility and Security with these countries aimed at reinforcing cooperation and strengthening relations with Europe’s southern neighbours.

(1) ‘common actions aimed at preventing irregular migration, addressing more effectively its consequences and root causes, promoting the use of the regular channels of migration and mobility, avoiding further loss of migrants’ lives as well as to protecting their fundamental rights’.”

Click here for Question and here for Answer.

Click here for article. (EN)

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HRW Report: Frontex Exposes Migrants to Abusive Conditions in Greece

Human Rights Watch yesterday issued a report entitled “The EU’s Dirty Hands: Frontex Involvement in Ill-Treatment of Migrant Detainees in Greece” which “assesses Frontex’s role in and responsibility for exposing migrants to inhuman and degrading detention conditions during four months beginning late in 2010 when its first rapid border intervention team (RABIT) was apprehending migrants and taking them to police stations and migrant detention centers in Greece’s Evros region. … ‘Frontex has become a partner in exposing migrants to treatment that it knows is absolutely prohibited under human rights law,’ said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch. ‘To end this complicity in inhuman treatment, the EU needs to tighten the rules for Frontex operations and make sure that Frontex is held to account if it breaks the rules in Greece or anywhere else.’ … ‘It’s a disturbing contradiction that at the same time that the European Court of Human Rights was categorically ruling that sending migrants to detention in Greece violated their fundamental rights, Frontex, an EU executive agency, and border guards from EU states were knowingly sending them there,’ Frelick said. … ‘As new migration crises emerge in the Mediterranean basin and as Frontex’s responsibilities expand, there is an urgent need to shift EU asylum and migration policy from enforcement-first to protection-first.’ Frelick said. ‘This is not only legally required, but the EU, its agencies, and member states can and should respect and meet the EU’s own standards.’”

As the HRW report notes, the humanitarian crisis on the Greece-Turkey land border was many years in the making, but among the contributing factors to the increased flow of migrants seeking to enter the EU at this location, which by November 2010 accounted for 90% of the detected illegal crossings at EU borders, were the enhanced migration control measures in the Central Mediterranean and West Africa, specifically the bi-lateral push-back practice being implemented at the time by Italy and Libya and Spain’s bi-lateral agreements with West African countries.  Increased sea patrols along Greece’s maritime borders also contributed to the shifting of the flow to the land border.

Frontex issued a statement (or click here) responding to the HRW report in which it welcomed the report and said it was “satisfied to note that its comments on the original draft were taken on board. The report now highlights an issue, which we agree, is of great importance. We would like to recall that Frontex fully respects and strives for promoting Fundamental Rights in its border control operations which, however, do not include organisation of, and responsibility for, detention on the territory of the Member States, which remains their exclusive remit. … Frontex was receiving signals of concern from national officers deployed to the region. The Agency has been extremely concerned with the conditions at the detention centres – a point which we raised on several occasions both with the Greek authorities and with the European Commission. Nevertheless, we continue to stress that at the practical level abandoning emergency support operations such as RABIT 2011 is neither responsible, nor does it do anything to help the situation of irregular migrants on the ground….”

Here is Cecilia Malmström’s comment from her blog on the HRW report (translated from Swedish by Google translate):

“I also had a long meeting [on 21 September] with Human Rights Watch who has published a highly critical report on the asylum system in Greece . They argue that the EU agency Frontex, by its presence legitimizes the poor conditions at the border of Greece. We are well aware of the totally unacceptable situation at the reception centres in Greece and I am very frustrated that the situation is so slow to improve, especially in Evros. But probably the situation would have been even worse if Frontex had not been in place. We continue to put pressure on Greece and the new regulatory framework for Frontex, which I have proposed and was adopted by Parliament last week to strengthen its work on human rights significantly. The report will also be discussed in the FRONTEX Agency board meeting next week.”   (“Jag hade också ett långt möte med Human Rights Watch som har publicerat en mycket kritisk rapport om asylsystemet i Grekland . De menar att EU-organet Frontex genom sin närvaro legitimerar de usla förhållandena vid gränsen i Grekland. Vi är väl medvetna om den helt oacceptabla situationen vid mottagningscentren i Grekland och jag är väldigt frustrerad över att det går så långsamt att förbättra situationen särskilt i Evros. Men troligen hade situationen varit ännu värre om inte Frontex hade varit på plats. Vi fortsätter att sätta press på Grekland och i det nya regelverk för Frontex som jag har föreslagit och som Europaparlamentet antog förra veckan stärks arbetet med mänskliga rättigheter väsentligt. Rapporten skall också diskuteras på Frontex styrelsemöte nästa vecka.”)

Excerpts from the HRW Report:

Key Recommendations

To the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council

  • Amend the Frontex Regulation to make explicit, and thereby reinforce, the obligation not to expose migrants and asylum seekers to inhuman and degrading detention conditions.
  • Amend proposed Frontex Regulation Art. 26a to empower the Fundamental Rights Officer to refer Frontex to the Commission for investigation and where appropriate infringement proceedings in the event that the Frontex executive director fails to suspend operations despite persistent and serious violations of the Charter and/or in the event that members states and their agents persistently violate the Charter during Frontex operations.

To Participating European States 

  • Suspend any participation in Frontex operations that fail to adhere to binding international human rights standards.
  • Instruct border guards deployed on Frontex missions on their obligations under international law. Ensure that border guards are trained and conversant regarding all rules and standards pertaining to the transfer and treatment of detainees.

To the Frontex Management Board

  • Suspend the deployment of EU border guards to Greece unless migrant detainees can be transferred to facilities elsewhere in Greece (or outside of Greece) that meet EU and international standards or until the conditions of detention in the Evros region where migrants are currently detained are improved and no longer violate European and international standards.
  • Intervene with Greek officials and monitor compliance to ensure that migrants apprehended by guest guards are transferred to detention facilities that comply with European and international standards.
  • Conduct thorough assessments of the risk that human rights violations may occur before engaging in joint operations or deploying RABIT forces.

To Greece

  • Implement the recently adopted asylum reform package as fully and as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure access to asylum procedures at the border and in the border region.
  • Reduce overcrowding by using alternative facilities and alternatives to detention as much as possible.
  • Immediately improve detention conditions, and immediately create open reception centers for asylum seekers and members of vulnerable groups, such as children.”

Click here for HRW Report.

Click here for HRW Press Release.

Click here or here for Frontex response.

Click here (EN) and here (EN) and here (FR) for articles.

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Malmström’s “Unfortunate Voyage to Libya”

An editorial by Annika Ström Melin in Dagens Nyheter (Sweden) summarised by Presseurop:

“‘An unfortunate voyage to Libya’ headlines the Dagens Nyheter editorial, which looks back on European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström’s visit to Libya in October 2010. [***] In practice [the agreement signed by the Commissioner in Libya] amounted to employing Gaddafi as an EU border guard, notes the Stockholm daily [***].  ‘It is easy to be clever with the benefit of hindsight,’ remarks the daily, ‘but the agreement with Gaddafi was already scandalous when it was signed. Today Cecilia Malmström will have to provide full information about the consequences of this meeting. Was there a dialogue? Where did the money go?’ In conclusion, Dagens Nyheter affirms that the entire EU should ask itself the question of how it came to sign a treaty with Gaddafi.”

Click here for Presseurop article.

Click here for Dagens Nyheter editorial.  (SV)

Click here and here for my previous posts on the Commissioner’s trip to Libya.

[UPDATE 25 August - Click here for Malmström's response to the editorial.]

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Malmström Makes Some Correspondence Public and Searchable Via Internet

I am not sure for how long this has been available, but Commissioner Malmström noted in a blog post yesterday that she is making some (emphasis on “some”) of her public correspondence available on-line: “… I am posting my correspondence online (the correspondence with private persons is excepted). I am trying to get more Commissioners to do the same and I am striving for a greater transparency throughout the Commission. There is much more to do in this respect….”

The correspondence is being made available via “CAROL“: “CAROL is a prototype register where you can find Commissioner Malmström’s correspondence. This site is a pilot project of the European Commission promoting transparency and access to information and is bound by the general rules on access to Commission documents.”

I have spent a little time searching and accessing a few of the posted documents. There appear to be at least 2,100 documents that have been identified as of 7 July, but for many of the listed documents there is no associated document that can be read. In these cases it is unclear whether a decision has been made to simply identify the existence and subject matter of the particular document without releasing the document itself or whether the document will be posted in the future once it is scanned – to be seen. The documents date from April 2010 to the present. This is clearly a positive step in the right direction and let’s hope that more documents will be made public and easily accessible.

Click here or here for links to the search pages. (Note that entering some search criteria on the first link will result in an advance search page appearing, where you can search using more specific criteria. Clicking on the second link should open the advanced search page.)

Here is a sample of what I reviewed when searching for documents relating to the EU-Libya Framework negotiations in 2010:

Letter from the Commissioner dated 15 July 2010 addressed to:

“Mr Michael SCHÖPF, Regional Director

Mr Stefan KEßLER, Senior Policy & Advocacy Officer

JESUIT REFUGEE SERVICE-EUROPE AISBL, BRUXELLES

[***]

As you may know, the European Council, in the context of the fight against irregular immigration and taking into consideration the global approach to migration, tasked last year the Commission to step up the dialogue and cooperation with transit countries in the Mediterranean, in particular Libya. The Commission considers that it is through dialogue and cooperation with Libya that the EU can improve the situation, in particular for persons in need of international protection.

We consider that the conclusion of the EU-Libya Framework Agreement, which will commit partners to respect a number of important principles and pave the way for a more structured dialogue with Libya, will provide a more effective framework for inter alia establishing an effective system of protection of persons in need of international protection in Libya.

Pending such outcome, the Commission intervenes in Libya by providing its financial support to UNHCR and its local partner organisations, which are active in visiting and screening migrants in detention centres, and in identifying and assisting those out of them that are in need of international protection.

Finally, in your letter you mention also the forced returns to Libya of migrants intercepted at high sea which were carried out by Italy from May 2009, asking the Commission to call on this Member State to suspend this activity. The Commission has already drawn the attention of the Italian authorities on the risks that forced returns embodied as regard the possibility to violate the principle of non-refoulement and the migrants’ human rights in case certain safeguards were not taken. On the basis of the information available to the Commission, since August 2009 no more forced returns have been carried out by Italian authorities, and the migrants that subsequently were intercepted or rescued at high sea by the latter were all brought to Italian territory.

Yours sincerely,

s/

Cecilia MALMSTRÖM”

Click here or here for links to the search pages. (Note that entering some search criteria on the first link will result in an advance search page appearing, where you can search using more specific criteria. Clicking on the second link should open the advanced search page.)

Click here for the Commissioner’s blog post.

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European Commission: Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum for 2010

The Commission released its second Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum for 2010 on 24 May (COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL).  Accompanying the 12 page Report is an 82 page Staff Working Paper.  Excerpts from the Commission press release regarding the Report:

“On Asylum:

  • Negotiations on all asylum legislative proposals must be finalised by the end of 2012, as agreed by the European Council.
  • The recent events in the Southern Mediterranean confirm the necessity of having in place a common asylum system at EU level. This implies better EU legislation, strengthened practical cooperation coordinated by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), concrete solidarity between Member States and increased cooperation with third countries.
  • Agreement must be reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the EU joint resettlement scheme.
  • The EU relocation pilot project with Malta, the legislative reforms adopted by Greece and the ongoing support the country has received in the implementation of the Action Plan are concrete examples of the combination of responsibility and solidarity that are needed to build the Common European Asylum System.”

“On preventing irregular migration:

  • Member States must fully transpose the Employer Sanctions Directive by July 2011, which is essential for preventing irregular migration and for the credibility of legal migration.
  • Member States must step up measures against trafficking in human beings, including assistance given to victims under Directive 2004/81/EC with a view to dismantling networks of traffickers while strengthening rights of the victims.
  • Member States must fully transpose and implement the Return Directive and continue to make use of the opportunity offered by this Directive to foster voluntary departure as the preferred return option.
  • The use of joint return flights should be continued, by making full use of the European Return Fund and FRONTEX coordination, and including the presence of forced return monitors as required under the Return Directive.
  • Member States should systematically add entry bans in the Schengen Information System in order to give full effect to the European dimension of entry bans issued under the Return Directive.”

“On effective Border Control:

  • The European Parliament and the Council must agree on the proposed amendment to the FRONTEX Regulation as soon as possible, to provide a proper legal basis to strengthen the functioning of the agency.
  • All Schengen border-crossing points should be properly equipped, border surveillance properly ensured, and border guards trained to use new IT tools, as stipulated in the Schengen Border Code.
  • The feasibility of setting up a European Borders Guard System should be considered.
  • Local Schengen cooperation must be fully exploited in order to ensure a fully harmonised and streamlined visa procedure, in particular for the benefit of bona fide travellers.
  • Member States should continue to prepare the ground for establishing EUROSUR, the entry/exit system and the registered traveller programme.
  • To better coordinate the checks at the external borders the Commission will present proposals in 2012, in order to improve interagency cooperation between FRONTEX, EUROPOL, national customs and police authorities.”

I have reproduced about half of the Annual Report here, but have not had time to begin reading the Staff Working Paper.

Excerpts from Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum (2010):

“[***]

The present Annual Report is presented in response to the request made by the European Council when adopting the 2008 Pact on Immigration and Asylum[1] and covers the developments during 2010 in the implementation of the Pact and the relevant priorities of the Stockholm Programme adopted in 2009[2], both at the EU and the national level. The report has been prepared on the basis of Member States’ contributions and other information, in particular reports from the National Contact Points (NCPs) of the European Migration Network (EMN).

The report summarises and assesses developments at the EU and the national level[3], and puts forward recommendations for future action.

II. Entering and Residing in the EU

[***]

1. Legal migration – ensuring a legal way to enter the EU

[***]

2. Asylum – granting international protection and ensuring solidarity

In 2009 Member States recorded 266 400 asylum applications, the number in 2010 was 257 815, a slight decrease of 3%. While Poland, Italy, Hungary and Malta received less asylum-seekers in 2010 than in 2009, significant increases were recorded in Germany, Belgium and Sweden.

In 2010, the most important countries of citizenship of asylum-seekers in the EU were, in order: Afghanistan (20 580), Russia (18 500), Serbia (17 715, excluding Kosovo*[4]), Iraq (15 800) and Somalia (14 350).

In 2010, 55 095 asylum-seekers received a protection status in the EU at first instance (refugee, subsidiary protection or humanitarian). Protection was therefore granted in 25% of decisions taken in first-instance procedures.

In 2009, 7 147 refugees were resettled in the EU from third countries. The figure for 2010 was [until Q3] 3 848.

Legislative progress was slow and difficult in the field of asylum in 2010. The co-legislators agreed on the extension of the scope of the Long-Term Residents Directive to beneficiaries of international protection, and made some progress on the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations as well as on the Qualification Directive. To give an impulse to the stalled negotiations on the Reception Conditions and Asylum Procedures Directives, the Commission will adopt modified proposals on these two instruments in June 2011.

The adoption in 2010 of the Regulation for the creation of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) was a significant development. The Commission is working actively so that the EASO becomes operational in June this year in view of boosting practical cooperation.

Solidarity among Member States is needed as one of the components of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). A pilot project for the relocation from Malta to ten Member States of approx. 250 beneficiaries of international protection is running and will be extended beyond its originally intended duration so as to facilitate the relocation of recently-arrived migrants in need of international protection.

Following the submission of an Action Plan to the European Commission in August 2010, Greece has embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of its asylum and migration system, and has received support from the Commission, the Member States, Norway, the UNHCR and other EU partners. Asylum Expert Teams coordinated by the EASO are now deployed there. Important new legislation has already been adopted by Greece in 2010, and its implementation is underway.

Existing Regional Protection Programmes (RPPs) in Tanzania and Eastern Europe continued; the implementation of a new RPP in the Horn of Africa region started in September, in close cooperation with the UNHCR; and work advanced on the development of another RPP in North-Eastern Africa (Egypt, Libya and Tunisia).

Resettlement is equally essential in this context. Negotiations on the creation of a Joint EU Resettlement Programme must come to an operational and positive end. A strategic approach and political steering on the use of resettlement is needed.

  • Negotiations on all asylum legislative proposals must be finalised by the 2012 deadline.
  • The recent events in the Mediterranean and the need to restructure the asylum systems of some Member States confirm the necessity of creating a common procedure and a uniform status at EU level. This implies better EU legislation, strengthened practical cooperation coordinated by the EASO, a concrete multifaceted commitment to solidarity and an increased investment in cooperation with third countries.
  • Agreement must be reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the EU Joint resettlement scheme.
  • The EU relocation pilot project with Malta, the legislative reforms which have been adopted by Greece and the ongoing support it has received in the implementation of the Action Plan are concrete examples of the combination of responsibility and solidarity that are needed to build the CEAS.

3. Integration – a key element both for migrants and receiving societies

[***]

III. Addressing irregular migration to facilitate regular migration

In 2009, the number of irregularly staying third country nationals apprehended in the EU-27 was about 570 000 (7% less than in 2008). Member States returned about 253 000 third country nationals (4.7% more than in 2008).

In 2010 63% (i.e. about 20 000 detections) of illegal border-crossings into the EU were detected in 3Q2010 at the Greek/Turkey land border.

Effective measures aimed at preventing irregular immigration and at securing safe borders are an essential component of a coherent and credible EU immigration policy, but this policy must be fair and human rights must be respected.

1. Instruments for fighting irregular migration

Two legal key instruments have been adopted in recent years – the Return Directive 2008/115/EC and the Employer Sanctions’ Directive 2009/52/EC. They are in place now, but their state of transposition is far from satisfactory, in particular with respect to the Return Directive, where the implementation deadline passed on 24 December 2010. That is why its full and timely transposition is essential. Those provisions, which directly confer rights on migrants, may be, and already are, invoked in proceedings before national courts, and directly applied at the national level, regardless of whether national transposition legislation is in place.

Reinforced border control and cooperation with third countries, notably via readmission agreements, have already proved their effectiveness, as demonstrated in some Member States which have reported on their deterrent effect and on better-functioning return arrangements. However, there remains room for improving the effectiveness of readmission agreements at the EU level, as set out in the Commission’s Communication on the Evaluation of EU Readmission Agreements (COM(2011)76). It is also clear that the higher number of joint return flights coordinated by Frontex in 2010 have been a success, earning the agency further support and increased financial means. Moreover, the 29 measures agreed by the Council to reinforce the protection of the external borders and combating illegal immigration are now being implemented. In its Staff Working Document[5] on the fulfilment of these 29 measures, the Commission reported in detail on progress achieved with regard to each measure, putting a special emphasis on the role played by Frontex, the development of EUROSUR and the ongoing dialogue on migration with main countries of origin and transit as part of the implementation of the Global Approach. These measures need to be accelerated and given priority.

The Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator appointed by the Commission and a website on fight against trafficking in human beings[6] launched in 2010 have equipped the EU with new powers and ways to fight against this modern form of slavery. The recently adopted implementation report on Directive 2004/81/EC[7] on residence permits for victims of trafficking also called for their more effective protection, which should also help to dismantle networks of traffickers.

  • Member States must fully transpose the Employer Sanctions Directive by July 2011, essential for fighting irregular migration and for the credibility of legal migration.
  • Member States must step up measures against trafficking in human beings, including assistance given to victims under Directive 2004/81/EC with a view to dismantling networks of traffickers while strengthening rights of the victims.
  • The Return Directive must be fully transposed and implemented by the Member States who should continue to make use of the opportunity offered by this Directive to foster voluntary departure as the preferred return option.
  • The use of joint return flights should be continued, by making full use of the European Return Fund and FRONTEX coordination, and including the presence of forced return monitors as required under the Return Diretcive.
  • Member States should systematically add entry bans in the SIS in order to give full effect to the European dimension of entry bans issued under the Return Directive.

2. Effective border control

In 2010 the Commission proposed a Regulation on the establishment of an evaluation mechanism to verify the correct application of the Schengen acquis. In the light of recent experiences, its adoption must be a priority, so that the EU is better equipped to enforce a uniform application of the rules and take the appropriate measures if this would not be the case. Development of the Visa Information System (VIS) continued with the completion of the second and third major testing phases out of a total of four. Final agreement was reached on the technical specifications for the interaction of SIS II with the national systems. Member States continued to prepare the ground for establishing EUROSUR in line with the roadmap. EUROSUR will gradually establish a mechanism whereby Member States’ authorities carrying out border surveillance can cooperate and share operational information with each other and with Frontex, in order to reinforce the control of the external border of the Schengen area, especially its southern maritime and eastern land borders, and step up the fight against irregular migration and cross border crime. During the past year, the EU has faced critical situations at its borders, where it was confronted with high inflows of irregular migrants. This has been, and continues to represent, a major a test for the EU’s ability to react quickly and efficiently, while the Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements have required assistance in a spirit of solidarity. The achievements of Frontex are now broadly recognised and there is widespread agreement on the need to upgrade its role in order to enable it to be more effective.

The results of concerted EU action to tackle border-related crises have been mixed. On the one hand, the EU and the Member States have demonstrated that they are capable of responding decisively to address specific challenges faced by a Member State in effectively controlling its external borders. For the first time, following a request made by Greece related to the pressure on its land borders with Turkey, use was made of Frontex’s Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT). The swift deployment of the RABIT, strongly supported by participating Member States, stabilised the situation and brought down the number of arrivals compared to the peaks in 2010. Malta has recently requested deployment of the RABIT in view of the situation in the southern Mediterranean.

On the other hand, one of the lessons learnt from these events is that both increased cooperation and uniform application of the acquis must be better and more effectively ensured by all Member States. Coordinated preventive EU action vis à vis countries of origin is still slow and weak.

  • The European Parliament and the Council must agree on the proposed amendment to the FRONTEX Regulation as soon as possible, to provide a proper legal basis to strengthen the functioning of the agency.
  • All Schengen border-crossing points should be properly equipped, border surveillance properly ensured, and border guards trained to use new IT tools, as stipulated in the Schengen Borders Code.
  • The proposed Schengen evaluation mechanism must be adopted, in order to foster mutual trust between Member States and EU institutions on the correct, uniform and coherent application of the Schengen Acquis.
  • The feasibility of setting up a European Border Guard System should be considered.
  • Local Schengen cooperation must be fully exploited in order to ensure a fully harmonised and streamlined visa procedure in particular for the benefit of bona fide travellers.
  • With a view to developing a fully reliable system of EU border control, Member States should continue to prepare the ground for establishing EUROSUR, and explore the desirability of putting in place an entry/exit system and a registered traveller programme.
  • To better coordinate the checks at the external borders the Commission will present proposals in 2012, in order to improve interagency cooperation between FRONTEX, EUROPOL, national customs and police authorities.

IV. Unaccompanied minors – a specific challenge

[***]

V. The External Dimension of EU migration Policy – The Global Approach

[***]

[1]               http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st13/st13440.en08.pdf.

[3]               A Commission Staff Working Paper provides more detail.

[4]               * Under UNSCR 1244/1999.

[5]               SEC (2010) 1480 final of 26.11.2010.

[7]               COM(2010) 493.”

Click here for Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum (2010)

Click here for Staff Working Paper.

Click here for Press Release.

Click here for 2009 Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum.

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CoE Report Regarding Accession of EU to ECHR

“The seventh working meeting of the CDDH informal working group on the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights (CDDH UE) with the European Commission was held in Strasbourg on 10-13 May 2011” and the report of the meeting was released on 16 May.  The meeting report includes a Draft Revised Accession Agreement (see Appendix III in meeting report).  (HT to @echrnews.)

Click here for meeting report.

Click here for link to web page of CoE Informal Group on Accession of the European Union to the Convention (CDDH-UE).

Click here for submission by the AIRE Centre and Amnesty International to the working group.

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Commission to Adopt New Communication on Migration

The European Voice reported last week that the European Commission will likely adopt a new Communication on migration when the Commission meets on 24 May.  “A communication expected to be adopted by European commissioners … proposes that the countries of the region should receive increased assistance for managing migration in return for commitments to accept repatriated migrants and to tighten border controls. … [The new expected] communication follows a broader communication on migration adopted by the Commission on 4 May. A national diplomat said that the measures outlined in the two communications go ‘in the right direction’ but that the member states were now waiting for actual legislative proposals….”

Click here for EV article.

Click here for Communication on Migration of 4 May.

Click here for previous post regarding Communication of 4 May.

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Extraordinary JHA Council Meeting 12 May

From the Europa web site:  “This Council meeting will focus mainly on migration and border related issues arising from the situation in the Southern neighbourhood region. Ministers will follow up the European Council conclusions of 11 March (EUCO 7/11) and 24-25 March (EUCO 10/11, pt 18-26) and the Council conclusions of 11-12 April 2011 (8909/11). They will also discuss a related communication to be presented by the Commission. The state of play as regards the proposal for modifications to the 2004 regulation that established the European agency for the management of operational cooperation at the external borders of the EU member states (FRONTEX) will also be reviewed at a meeting of the Mixed Committee in the margins of the Council….”

From the Commission’s Memo:

“Main Council agenda items:

[***] The Commission expects the Council to support the main lines of action set out in its 4 May Communication on migration for a more structured, comprehensive response to the challenges and opportunities of migration. These proposals, which come in addition to the urgent short-term measures already taken by the Commission to deal with the migration situation in the Southern Neighbourhood and migration pressures on frontline Member States, will be followed by flanking initiatives in the coming weeks and months. A first series of proposals, notably on integration and migration relations with the Southern Mediterranean, will be submitted to the College for adoption on 24 May.

Background: On the 4th of May 2011 (IP/11/532 and MEMO/11/273), the Commission presented its comprehensive strategy for a common EU asylum and migration policy, also in view of the current developments in the Mediterranean. The initiatives cover various aspects of migration, including provisions for:

  • Effective and credible controls at the EU external border (strengthening of Frontex; exploring the feasibility of creating a European system of borders guards).
  • An improvement of Schengen governance (guidelines to ensure a coherent implementation of the Schengen rules; revised evaluation mechanism based on a Community approach; a possible EU-coordinated mechanism allowing for the temporary reintroduction of controls at the internal borders, as a last resort and under exceptional circumstances)
  • An effective and responsible approach to tackling irregular immigration (effective implementation of EU legislation and rethinking of the EU readmission policy).
  • Promoting mobility in a secure environment (possible development of a ‘new generation’ of border checks; proper use of visa liberalisation combined with safeguards).
  • Achievement of a Common European Asylum Policy (adoption of the Commission proposals already tabled).
  • Further development of common rules on legal migration and an exchange of experience and best practices on the integration of migrants.
  • Deepened relations with third countries in the framework of the Global Approach to Migration, in particular through enhanced dialogues and Mobility partnerships with countries in the Southern Mediterranean.

2. Strengthening Frontex Agency

[***] Commission’s position: The Commission expects that the European Parliament and the Council will deploy all necessary efforts to find an agreement on the Commission’s proposals by the end of June, considering that such an agreement would help Frontex to better assist the EU in facing the current migration situation.

Background: In February 2010 (IP/10/184 and MEMO/10/45), the Commission made proposals to strengthen European Union’s border management agency, Frontex. The proposals include reinforcing the legal framework to ensure full respect of fundamental rights during Frontex activities and enhancing the operational capacity of Frontex to support Member States. With the new proposal, Member States would put more equipment and more personnel at the Agency’s disposal. Frontex would be able to co-lead border patrols operations with EU Member States or lease and buy its own assets (such as vessels or helicopters). It would also be allowed to provide technical assistance to third countries and deploy liaison officers in third countries.

3. Evaluation and future strategy for EU readmission agreements (EURAs)

[***]

Pledging Conference on relocation and resettlement

[***]

Commission’s position: The Commission took the initiative to gather the Ministers, expecting confirmation of their commitment to engage in further relocation of refugees from Malta and to resettle refugees stranded in North Africa. This would demonstrate the concrete solidarity the EU and its Member States are willing to show in times of need, both internally with its own Member States and to its international partners. The Commission is ready to provide funding for the extension of the pilot project of relocation from Malta, as well as for resettlement from North Africa undertaken on a voluntary basis by Member States.

Background: The implementation of the EU relocation pilot project with Malta has been ongoing for more than a year and it has been a success in demonstrating concrete intra-EU solidarity by the relocation of refugees present in Malta to other Member States. In April, the Council adopted conclusions on solidarity, where it reaffirmed the need for solidarity towards Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and welcomed the Commission’s intention to extend the existing pilot project for the relocation of refugees from Malta. Several Member States have announced their intention to participate in this project. In its conclusions, the Council also requested the Commission to facilitate resettlement activities undertaken on a voluntary basis by the Member States, also by means of financial support. The resettlement of refugees stranded in North Africa had already been discussed at a meeting on the 25th of March, with the participation of the UNHCR, during which Member States provided information on their commitments to resettle a number of refugees from the region.”

Click here for Commission’s Memo

Click here for Agenda.

Click here for Background Note.

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