Tag Archives: Frontex

Official Statement: Special meeting of the European Council, 23 April 2015

Full text:

“1. The situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.

2. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria.

3. We today commit to:

Strengthening our presence at sea

a) rapidly reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon by at least tripling the financial resources for this purpose in 2015 and 2016 and reinforcing the number of assets, thus allowing to increase the search and rescue possibilities within the mandate of FRONTEX. We welcome the commitments already made by Member States which will allow to reach this objective in the coming weeks;

Fighting traffickers in accordance with international law

b) disrupt trafficking networks, bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;

c) undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers;

d) at the same time, the High Representative is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible CSDP operation to this effect;

e) use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions;

Preventing illegal migration flows

f) increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes, building on current CSDP operations in the region, as well as on regional cooperation frameworks (Rabat and Khartoum processes); step up dialogue with the African Union at all levels on all these issues;

g) reinforce our political cooperation with African partners at all levels in order to tackle the cause of illegal migration and combat the smuggling and trafficking of human beings. The EU will raise these issues with the African Union and the key countries concerned, with whom it will propose the holding of a summit in Malta in the coming months;

h) step up cooperation with Turkey in view of the situation in Syria and Iraq;

i) deploy European migration liaison officers in key countries to gather information on migratory flows, co-ordinate with national liaison officers, and co-operate directly with the local authorities;

j) work with regional partners in building capacity for maritime border management and search and rescue operations;

k) launch Regional Development and Protection programmes for North Africa and the Horn of Africa;

l) invite the Commission and the High Representative to mobilise all tools, including through development cooperation and the implementation of EU and national readmission agreements with third countries, to promote readmission of unauthorised economic migrants to countries of origin and transit, working closely with the International Organisation for Migration;

m) while respecting the right to seek asylum, set up a new return programme for the rapid return of illegal migrants from frontline Member States, coordinated by FRONTEX;

Reinforcing internal solidarity and responsibility

n) rapid and full transposition and effective implementation of the Common European Asylum System by all participating Member States, thereby ensuring common European standards under existing legislation;

o) increase emergency aid to frontline Member States and consider options for organising emergency relocation between all Member States on a voluntary basis;

p) deploy EASO teams in frontline Member States for joint processing of asylum applications, including registration and finger-printing;

q) set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU, offering places to persons qualifying for protection.

4. The EU institutions and the Member States will work immediately on the full implementation of these orientations. The Presidency and the Commission will present next week a roadmap setting out work up to June.

5. The European Council looks forward to the Commission Communication on a European Agenda for Migration, in order to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive approach to migration. The European Council will remain seized of the situation and will closely monitor the implementation of these orientations. The Council and the Commission will report to the European Council in June.”

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Post Meeting Remarks from Council President Tusk: EU to destroy smugglers’ boats in line with int’l law; triple resources for Frontex Operation Triton; seek better co-operation with countries of origin and transit; coordinate resettlement of more refugees

Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the special European Council meeting on migratory pressures in the Mediterranean – 23/04/2015, 22:00

Full Text:

“Good evening. Today, we discussed the dramatic situation in the Mediterranean at the highest political level. Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration.

Let me be clear. Europe did not cause this tragedy. But that does not mean we can be indifferent. We are facing a difficult summer and we need to be ready to act.

Therefore, leaders have agreed four priority areas for action.
First, leaders have asked the High Representative to propose actions in order to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels before they can be used. Naturally, this will be in line with international law and respect for human rights. We will step up co-operation against smuggling networks by working through Europol, and by deploying immigration officers to third countries.

Second, we have agreed to triple the resources available to Triton, our border mission in the Central Mediterranean, and to enhance its operational capability. The mission will continue to carry out its mandate and respond to distress calls where necessary. I am happy to announce that leaders have already pledged significantly greater support, including many more vessels, aircraft and experts, and money.

Third, we need to limit irregular migration flows and to discourage people from putting their lives at risk. This means better co-operation with the countries of origin and transit, especially the countries around Libya.

Finally, we will do more on refugee protection. The European Union will help front-line Member States under pressure and co-ordinate the resettlement of more people to Europe on a voluntary basis, and with an option for emergency relocation. For those who do not qualify as refugees, we will operate an effective returns policy.
Leaders had no illusions that we would solve this international human emergency today. Therefore, we have tasked the Commission, the Council and the High Representative to step up their work based on what we have now agreed. This issue remains our priority and the European Council will come back to it in June.

As a final remark, let me repeat that the European Union is completely opposed to the death penalty. It cannot be the answer to drug trafficking. I am referring here to Mr Atlaoui, the French citizen who has been condemned by the Indonesian authorities. Thank you.”

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Frontex Prepared to Immediately Expand Air Surveillance

Frontex Press Statement:

“Frontex is looking forward to implement the conclusions of the European Council to be held this afternoon in Brussels and has already started preparing the implementation of the Home Affairs/Foreign Affairs Council held in Luxemburg on Monday, 20 April, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said.

‘My proposal is to increase as an immediate step air surveillance in the Mediterranean Sea south of Italy and Malta in addition to the vessels currently deployed, which is aimed at enhancing search and rescue capacities in the area,’ Leggeri said.

Leggeri has suggested increasing the aerial assets taking part in the Frontex-coordinated Triton operation also following two incidents when people smugglers have used weapons to reclaim boats following search and rescue operations in which vessels taking part in Triton were involved.

‘Assets co-funded by the agency have helped save thousands of lives in the Mediterranean. Frontex will continue within its mandate to do everything it can to fulfil this responsibility,’ Leggeri said.”

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Text of Draft European Council Statement (via Statewatch)

From Statewatch, here is the text of the Draft European Council Statement that will be considered today:

DRAFT EUROPEAN COUNCIL STATEMENT

1. The situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.

2. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria.

3. We today commit to:

Strengthening our presence at sea

a)rapidly reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon by at least doubling the financial resources for this purpose in 2015 and 2016 and reinforcing the number of assets, thus allowing to increase the search and rescue possibilities within the mandate of FRONTEX; [p.m.: welcome pledges]

Fighting traffickers

b) disrupt trafficking networks, bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;

c) undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers. The High Representative is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible CSDP operation to this effect, in accordance with international law;

d) use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions;

Preventing illegal migration flows

e) increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes in order to prevent potential migrants from gaining access to Mediterranean shores, building on current CSDP operations in the region, as well as on regional cooperation frameworks (Rabat and Khartoum processes); step up dialogue with the African Union at all levels on all these issues;

f) deploy European migration liaison officers in key countries to gather information on migratory flows, co-ordinate with national liaison officers, and co-operate directly with the local authorities;

g) work with regional partners in building capacity for maritime border management and search and rescue operations;

h) launch Regional Development and Protection programmes for North Africa and the Horn of Africa;

i) invite the Commission and the High Representative to mobilise all tools, including through development cooperation, to promote readmission of unauthorised economic migrants to countries of origin, working closely with the International Organisation for Migration;

j) set up a new return programme for the rapid return of irregular migrants from frontline Member States, coordinated by FRONTEX;

Reinforcing internal solidarity

k) set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering at least 5,000 places to persons qualifying for protection;

l) increase emergency aid to frontline Member States and consider options for organising emergency relocation between Member States;

m) deploy EASO teams in frontline Member States for joint processing of asylum applications, including registration and finger-printing.

4.The EU institutions and the Member States will work immediately on the full implementation of these orientations. The European Council looks forward to the Commission Communication on a European Agenda for Migration, in order to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive EU approach to migration. The European Council will remain seized of the situation and will closely monitor the implementation of these orientations. The Council and the Commission will report to the European Council in June.

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Recent UN Security Council Statements on Libya and Migrants

The special meeting of the European Council will occur later today. Based on various press reports, it seems that the EU will decide to pursue several courses of actions in response to the situation in the Mediterranean, including taking steps – presumably by military force – to identify, capture and destroy migrant boats in Libya before the boats are used by smugglers. HR Federica Mogherini will reportedly be instructed to seek authorisation for the military strikes from the UN. (Click here (IT) and here (EN) for articles)  (Here is the Draft European Council Statement via Statewatch.)

The most recent UN Security Council resolution on Libya (Resolution 2213) was adopted on 27 March 2015; the Resolution extended the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until 15 September 2015. The Resolution also took note of, among other matters, the dire situation faced by migrants in Libya and called on the Libyan government to promote and protect “the human rights of all persons in Libya, particularly those of African migrants and other foreign nationals.”

On 21 April, after the most recent migrant boat accident, the Security Council released a Press Statement regarding the boat accident and “expressed their concern at the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants…”

The press statement is not a formal statement from the Security Council, but may provide some limited insight into how members of the Security Council view the relationship between the flow of migrant boats and a possible threat to international peace and security and how the Security Council might respond to the EU request.

Full Text of the 21 April 2015 Press Statement:

“Security Council Press Statement on Recent Maritime Tragedy in Mediterranean Sea

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Dina Kawar (Jordan):

The members of the Security Council deplored the recent maritime tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea that resulted in hundreds of casualties, and extended their deepest condolences to all those affected and to their families.

The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants, condemned and deplored the said acts and underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice.

The members of the Security Council called for the full implementation by State Parties of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The members of the Security Council expressed their strong support to countries in the region affected by the smuggling of migrants and emphasized the need to step up coordination of international efforts in order to strengthen a global response to this common challenge, and in order to protect these vulnerable migrants from being victimized by human traffickers.

The members of the Security Council urged all Member States, including countries of origin and transit, to cooperate with each other and with relevant international and regional organizations, including the IOM [International Organization for Migration], in addressing illicit migration flows, and dismantling smuggling networks in the region.

In that regard, the members of the Security Council urged all States to comply with their applicable obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law.

For information media. Not an official record.”

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The EU’s Proposed Plan to Destroy Migrant Boats in Libya Must be Rejected by the European Council

A plan for EU Member States to capture or destroy the boats used by people smugglers in the Mediterranean is one of ten possible courses of action that will be considered during the Extraordinary European Council Meeting on the Situation in the Mediterranean that will be held on 23 April.

The boat destruction proposal should be rejected for multiple reasons. There is no basis in law for the proposal and it would endanger lives of innocent people including migrants and fishermen, among others. It would certainly have little effect on its intended target, the people smugglers.

EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos described the plan, which has been recommended by the Foreign Affairs Council which met on 20 April, as a civil-military operation which would “capture and destroy vessels used by smugglers.” Avramopoulos reportedly compared the proposed EU boat destruction plan to Operation ATALANTA, the EU’s maritime operation against piracy off Somalia, saying that Atalanta “should inspire us for new operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean.”

As is always the case, the specific details of the proposed plan matter. There are situations where the destruction of a migrant boat under certain circumstances may be perfectly legal and otherwise appropriate. For example after a rescue operation when migrants have been safely removed from an unflagged and unseaworthy vessel, it may be appropriate for that vessel to be destroyed at sea rather than taking it in tow or leaving it adrift and thereby creating a navigational hazard. In such circumstances, there is no reason for an EU coast guard vessel, after migrants have been transferred from a migrant boat, to stand by and allow smugglers to take possession of the now empty migrant boat.

But if the EU boat destruction plan were to authorise the use of armed force to capture or destroy a smuggling boat at sea, particularly in the face of armed resistance from people smugglers, or if it were to authorise the destruction of boats at anchor in Libyan harbours, it is difficult to imagine how such a plan could be carried without endangering the lives of migrants and fisherman and thereby violating international humanitarian and human rights law.

Frontex and Italian patrol boats have already experienced armed threats at sea during rescue operations. One situation occurred on 13 April when armed people smugglers fired into the air to recover an empty migrant boat after an Italian tugboat and the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Týr deployed by Frontex had rescued a group of migrants.  The Frontex vessel did not engage the people smugglers with force and allowed the smugglers to return to Libya with the empty migrant boat. If Frontex vessels or coast guard vessels were now to be called upon to use some level of appropriate force to prevent such incidents, rescue operations would be delayed, further complicated, and the rescued migrants would be placed in danger.

In regard to the possible destruction of boats at anchor in a Libyan harbour, the EU cannot engage in the proposed civil-military operation without having a legal basis to do so. One possible source of authority would be the invocation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter by the UN Security Council, but this would require the finding that the flow of migrant boats constitutes a threat to international peace and security. While the security situation in Libya or Syria might well constitute such a threat, the large scale movement of migrants by people smugglers does not.

Chapter VII has of course been invoked to authorise the EU Operation ATALANTA after the Security Council authorised of the use of force off Somalia in international waters and in Somalian territorial waters (as well as within Somalian territory). But the legal basis for Operation ATALANTA has no relevance to the proposed EU boat destruction plan. The suppression of piracy in international waters is authorised and governed by specialized international law and customary international practice relating to the suppression of piracy. There is no equivalent basis in international law for the suppression of people smuggling.

Chapter VII was likewise invoked in 2011 to authorise the use of force by NATO in Libya. The Security Council again made the necessary determination that the situation in Libya at the time was a threat to international peace. Among the factors referenced by the Security Council in Resolution 1973 was the plight of refugees and foreign workers who were subject to violence and who were forced to flee Libya. The resolution praised Tunisia and Egypt for protecting the fleeing refugees and called on the international community to support the efforts. It would be repugnant if today the ongoing violence in Libya was somehow used as a legal basis for a use of force which would serve to trap and endanger migrants, rather than making them safer.

In addition to the serious legal questions relating to the use of force to capture and destroy smugglers’ boats, there are serious practical concerns. Take the example of the unprecedented boat disaster and the 900 deaths that occurred earlier this week. One of the likely reasons for the massive death toll was the large number of persons who were locked below the main deck of the boat. What precautions would prevent the destruction of a suspected smuggling vessel at anchor with hundreds of people below deck and out of sight? Would the EU boat destruction plan require that any capture or destruction of a suspected smuggling boat be carried out by deploying EU military personnel on the ground in Libya with the resulting ability to more closely inspect a vessel before its destruction? Or would the plan permit destruction of a suspected smuggling boat by armed drones or military aircraft? If the destruction could occur through the use of aircraft, people will be killed, and it is more likely that those who will be killed will be migrants or innocent fisherman and not the people smugglers.

The easiest targets for destruction will be the larger fishing vessels that are being used by the people smugglers. But not so long ago the smuggling boats of choice were the Zodiacs and other large or medium–sized inflatable boats powered by outboard engines. This type of boat can be easily stored in vehicles or storage buildings and quickly moved into the water when needed. It would be an easy tactical shift on the part of the people smugglers to resume the use of inflatables if the larger fishing vessels were no longer obtainable.

The European Council needs to take new and significant steps to respond to this crisis. A focus on people smugglers should certainly be something that is addressed, but while the people smugglers are taking advantage of the crisis, they are not the cause. The EU response needs to instead focus on expanded search and rescue (i.e. Mare Nostrum plus – not Operation Triton plus) and creating alternative safe paths for people to seek protection in the EU or in other appropriate countries. The boat destruction plan should be rejected.

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IOM Report on Recent Use of Cargo Ships to Transport Syrians to Italy

Excerpts from a short IOM report released on 6 January 2015 on the recent use of cargo ships, specifically the Blue Sky M and the Ezadeen, to transport Syrians towards Italy:

“IOM analysts do believe the prospect of single-nationality cargoes – on these latest voyages, migrants fleeing Syria – creates opportunities for smuggling rings to employ certain economies of scale that were not apparent in the more ‘mixed’ passenger manifests seen leaving Egypt and Libya in 2014.”

“‘The predictability of thousands now fleeing Syria every month allows smugglers to plan for a reliable stream of customers, which of course allows them to set a price point,’ explained Joel Millman, a spokesperson for IOM in Geneva. ‘So they can predict how much revenue each trip will bring, and then quickly deploy vessels and crews’. Millman added that Lebanon’s recent decision to require visas of Syrian migrants seeking to enter Lebanon may divert new migrant traffic to Turkey’s coasts, which will swell demand for smugglers’ services.”

“In the last four months of 2014 IOM learned of larger ‘mother’ ships waiting in open water to receive passengers ferried out by smugglers. Larger ships leaving Turkey loaded with migrants from Syria began appearing in greater numbers late last year in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

“Maritime experts calculate that such ships normally would be available for between USD 100,000 and USD 150,000, allowing smugglers to earn upwards of USD 3 million for voyages like the two that ended in recent days, with up to 900 migrants crammed on board.”

“‘This new route is a direct consequence of the Syrian crisis,’ added IOM’s [Federico] Soda. ‘Despite the end of the Mare Nostrum’s rescue-at-sea operations, arrivals continue because of the many crises close to Europe.’”

Click here for report.

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