Tag Archives: Frontex

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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Filed under Aegean Sea, Frontex, Migrants, Refugees, Reports

Frontex: Preliminary Figures Indicate 270,000 Irregular Migrants and Asylum Seekers Reached EU in 2104 – Double Previous Record Set in 2011

In an interview with EFE, “Frontex Deputy Executive Director Gil Arias Fernandez said the numbers for 2014 nearly doubled the previous record of 141,000 that was registered in 2011 and attributed to spillovers from the Arab Spring. … [Arias Fernandez] noted that the number of immigrants fleeing their countries seeking international protection has increased. ‘A few years ago, immigration for economic reasons was estimated at 50 percent and the same percentage for political refugees, while in 2014 about 80 percent of immigrants to the EU will be asylum seekers,’ he said. Although Frontex will not reveal specific details until mid-January 2014, [Arias Fernandez] said the total figure will likely exceed 270,000 people, as about 260,000 migrants were recorded till November….”

Click here (EN) or here (ES) for articles.

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Frontex Update on Incident Involving Ezadeen Cargo Vessel

Frontex press statement: The cargo vessel was carrying 360 migrants and had departed from Turkey. “People smugglers began using cargo vessels like Ezadeen last summer, and it has now become a new method of bringing migrants to Europe. These decommissioned freighters, up to 75-metre long, depart from Turkey and head for the Italian cost. Some 15 incidents involving cargo ships have taken place since August 2014.”

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UNHCR: Urgent European Action Needed in Mediterranean

Statement by Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Europe Bureau Director, on new boat arrival in Italy:

“The use of larger cargo ships is a new trend, but it is part of an ongoing and worrying situation that can no longer be ignored by European governments. We need urgent European concerted action in the Mediterranean Sea, increasing efforts to rescue people at sea and stepping up efforts to provide legal alternatives to dangerous voyages. Without safer ways for refugees to find safety in Europe, we won’t be able to reduce the multiple risks and dangers posed by these movements at sea.

UNHCR thanks the Italian authorities for their response to these latest incidents, despite the phasing down of the Mare Nostrum operation. We have expressed concerns over the ending of this operation without a similar European search-and-rescue operation to replace it. This will undoubtedly increase the risk for those trying to find safety in Europe.”

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Geneva, William Spindler on mobile +41 79 217 3011, spindler@unhcr.org
In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617, rummery@unhcr.org

Click here for Statement.

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Frontex: Update on Operation Triton; Growing Use of Larger Vessels by Smugglers

Frontex last week released updated information on Operation Triton since its launch on 1 November. Frontex also reported on the growing use by smugglers of older freighters and cargo vessels which are being obtained primarily in south-eastern Turkey and which are being used by smugglers to transport larger numbers of migrants – as occurred yesterday with the rescue of 500-700 migrants on board the Moldovan flagged Blue Sky M between Greece and Italy.

Excerpts from the Frontex statement:

“Since the launch on November 1st of Operation Triton, the Frontex-coordinated mission in the central Mediterranean, some 11,400 migrants have been rescued, about 10,000 of them in situations characterised as “distressed,” in 77 separate Search and Rescue incidents at sea. Although significantly smaller than the number recorded during the August peak – when some 28,000 migrants were detected on this route – this level of traffic is still unprecedented for wintertime….”

“In a rapid adaptation of strategy that has become their hallmark, the smugglers have started using much larger boats. These are typically decommissioned freighters, up to 75m long, procured in the ports of south-eastern Turkey, notably Mersin: a departure point still connected by ferry to the Syrian port of Latakia, making it reachable for the tens of thousands of Syrians still fleeing the conflict in their country. The freighters, repaired and manned by crews sometimes hired from as far away as Russia, are piloted via Cyprus and Crete towards Italy, which remains the EU destination of choice for refugees from the Middle East.”

[Editor’s note: yesterday’s incident involving the rescue by Italian authorities of the Moldovan cargo ship Blue Sky M carrying hundreds of migrants would seem to be one such example; AIS tracking information from Marine Traffic shows that the Blue Sky M spent approximately five days (20-25 December) sailing in circles off the south-eastern Turkish coast before it began sailing towards western Greece. See screen capture of ship’s path from Marine Traffic below.]

“A place on a freighter from Turkey costs at least three times the price of a ticket on the usual sea route from Libya. And yet the migrants are willing to pay. Travelling this way not only circumvents the considerable danger of capsizing in a small boat in rough seas: it also avoids having to go to Libya. The departure point of choice for facilitator networks in 2014, this increasingly lawless North African nation appears to have become too dangerous an operating environment even for the criminal gangs….”

“For all its advantages, though, the new route from Turkey is not without dangers. The engines of the old ships are often highly unreliable. In the last six weeks alone, one freighter has been found drifting near Cyprus; another was rescued 30 miles off Crete; still others, off the Italian coast. The danger of shipwreck is greatly increased by the smugglers’ habit of switching off the freighter’s AIS (the Automatic Identification System with which all boats over 300 tonnes, as well as all passenger ships, are equipped). The effect is to make the boat electronically invisible to the Italian search and rescue authorities – a stratagem that buys time for the smuggling crew to escape by fast launch and thus avoid arrest.”

“Frontex has discerned another worrying recent trend: some 30% of all migrants rescued at sea in September and October were picked up by civilian shipping – the vast majority of them, 52 incidents, off the coast of Libya. The smugglers have learned to time the departure of migrant boats so that they cross the paths of merchant ships heading for the EU. When a distress call is transmitted, the merchant ship, being the nearest, is obliged by international maritime law to go to the rescue – and then disembarks them at the next port of call.”

Click here for full statement.

Screen capture from Marine Traffic showing path of Blue Sky M from 20-25 December 2014.

Screen capture from Marine Traffic showing path of Blue Sky M from 20-25 December 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here or here for the Analysis.

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

Interview with Frontex Director Laitinen

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

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

[Kenen vastuu?

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

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

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

Click here for link to article “Miehemme rajalla.”

 

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