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Statewatch Analysis – “New EU rules on maritime surveillance: will they stop the deaths and push-backs in the Mediterranean?”

Statewatch last month released a new Analysis of the EU Regulation for Frontex-coordinated surveillance of external sea borders which is scheduled for a plenary vote in the European Parliament in April.  The Analysis, written by Prof. Steve Peers, Univ. of Essex Law School, reviews the enhanced protections to be afforded to intercepted or rescued migrants relative to the earlier Council Decision which was annulled by the CJEU.  The Analysis also highlights concerns with various provisions within the Regulation, including:

  • One significant concern with the Regulation is due to the fact that “the Regulation does not contemplate the scenario of migrants being intercepted in the territorial waters of third States.”  (Frenzen’s Note: This raises a serious concern in regard to the push-back and interception practices which have been carried out for many years within the territorial waters of Mauritania and Senegal within Frontex’s Operation Hera.  Additionally, prior to the Libyan revolution, Libya authorised Italy to conduct joint maritime patrols within Libyan territorial waters.  It is safe to assume that Frontex and some EU Member States will continue to seek the ability to intercept migrant boats within the territorial waters of third States.);
  • While the Regulation requires that migrants intercepted in the territorial sea or contiguous zone of an EU Member State be disembarked in that Member State, “this [requirement] is subject to a crucial exception: it is possible under the Regulation that a vessel that has made it this close to a Member State could still be ordered to alter course towards another destination.”;
  • While the bulk of the EU’s asylum legislation does not apply [to interceptions which occur outside of the territorial sea of a Member State,] the EU’s qualification Directive does – since there is nothing in the text of that Directive to limit its territorial scope. But the wording of the Regulation is confusing in this regard, since it does not refer to the detailed text of that Directive but rather to general standards on non-refoulement, which are different from that Directive in some respects….”;
  • Member States are required to “use all means” to identify intercepted migrants, assess their particular circumstances, and inform them of the intended place of disembarkation, in order to give the migrants the opportunity to assert a non-refoulement claim.  The Regulation states that the Frontex operational plan, “where necessary,” must provide for interpreters and legal advisors on shore. “[T]he Council Presidency points out the ‘wiggle room’ granted by the words ‘where necessary’ and ‘use all means.’”

Click here or here for Statewatch Analysis.

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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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Frontex Periodic Update on the Central Mediterranean

As it does periodically, Frontex yesterday released a short update regarding the “Central Mediterranean Route.” The timing of its release presumably had nothing to do with the October 3rd disaster at Lampedusa.  The update makes no reference to deaths or injuries and focuses on illegal border crossing statistics.  (The collection and release of data by Frontex in regard to deaths and injuries would facilitate greater transparency in regard to its border control activities.)

From the update: “Between January and September 2013, more than 31 000 migrants had arrived in the EU using [the Central Mediterranean] route, mainly via Sicily and Lampedusa, but also, to a lesser extent, on the Coasts of Calabria, Puglia and Malta, which is also under increasing migratory pressure. The main nationalities include Eritreans, Somalis and other sub-Saharan Africans, as well as Syrian nationals. It is noteworthy that the migratory pressure over the summer months of 2013 was comparable to the same period in 2011.”

Click here for Update.

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Frontex FRAN Report for Q3 2012

In January of this year, the Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) released its 2012 Third Quarter Report (July – September 2012). (Frontex has since released Reports for Q4 2012 and Q1 2013; we will post summaries of these more recent Reports shortly.)  As in past quarters, the 70-page report provided in-depth information about irregular migration patterns at the EU external borders. The report is based on data provided by 30 Member State border-control authorities, and presents results of statistical analysis of quarterly variations in eight irregular migration indicators and one asylum  indicator.

FRAN Q3 2012 CoverDuring 2012 Q3 several FRAN indicators varied dramatically compared with previous reports, including a significant reduction in detections of illegal border-crossing compared with previous third quarters. In fact, there were fewer detections of illegal border-crossing than in any third quarter since data collection began in early 2008. Additionally, this quarter reported the largest number of applications for asylum since data collection began in early 2008, with Syrians ranking first among nationalities.

Here are some highlights from the Report focusing on the sea borders:

  • “There were 22,093 detections of illegal border-crossing at the EU level, which is considerably lower than expected based on previous reporting periods.”
  • “The majority of detections were at the EU external land (66%), rather than sea border, but this was the lowest proportion for some time due to an increase in detections at the Greek sea border with Turkey [***]. Nevertheless, the Greek land border with Turkey was still by far the undisputed hotspot for detections of illegal border-crossing.”
  • “Overall, in Q3 2012 there were fewer detections of illegal border-crossing than in any previous third quarter, following the launch of two Greek Operations: Aspida (Shield) …  and Xenios Zeus…. Perhaps somewhat predictably, there were increased detections of illegal border-crossing at both the Turkish sea border with Greece and land border with Bulgaria, indicative of weak displacement effects from the operational area.”
  • “[T]here were more than 3 500 reported detections of illegal border-crossing on the main Central Mediterranean route (Italian Pelagic Islands, Sicily and Malta), a significant decrease compared to the same reporting period in 2011 during the peak associated with the Arab Spring, but still the highest reported so far in 2012, and higher than the pre-Arab Spring peak of 2010.”
  • “[D]etections in Italy still constituted more than a fifth of all detections at the EU level. Detections in Apulia and Sicily were actually higher than in the Arab Spring period, and doubled in Lampedusa compared to the previous quarter.”
  • “In July 2012 the facilitation networks targeted Sicily instead of Pantelleria and Lampedusa, as it is harder for the migrants to reach the Italian mainland from the small islands. Migrants claim that the facilitators may start to focus on the southern coast of Sicily, as they expect lower surveillance there.”
  • “[T]here were some significant increases of various nationalities such as Tunisians and Egyptians departing from their own countries, and Somalis and Eritreans departing from Libya.”
  • “Several reports included details of how sub-Saharan migrants were often deceived, over-charged or even left to drown by their facilitators during the embarkation process.”
  • “For some time there has been a steady flow of Afghans and, to a lesser extent, Pakistanis arriving in the southern Italian blue borders of Calabria and Apulia with some very large increases observed during Q3 2012. In fact, according to the FRAN data there were more detections in this region than ever before.”
  • “JO EPN Aeneas 2012 started on 2 July. The operational plan defines two operational areas, Apulia and Calabria, covering the seashore along the Ionian Sea and part of the Adriatic Sea.”
  • “JO EPN Indalo 2012 started in [the Western Mediterranean] on 16 May covering five zones of the south-eastern Spanish sea border and extending into the Western Mediterranean.”
  • “Increased border surveillance along the Mauritanian coast generated by the deployment of joint Mauritanian-Spanish police teams and also joint maritime and aerial patrols in Mauritanian national waters has reduced departures towards the Canary Islands but also may have resulted in a displacement effect to the Western Mediterranean route from the Moroccan coast.”
  • “The good cooperation among the Spanish, Senegalese and Mauritanian authorities and the joint patrols in the operational sea areas and on the coastline of Senegal and Mauritania have resulted in a displacement of the departure areas of migrant boats towards the Canary Islands, with the reactivation of the Western African route (from north of Mauritania to the Western Sahara territory) used by the criminal networks operating in Mauritania.”

Here are excerpts from the Report focusing on the sea borders:

“Overall, in Q3 2012 there were fewer detections of illegal border-crossing than in any previous third quarter, following the launch of two Greek Operations: Aspida (Shield), which involved the deployment of ~1 800 Greek police officers to the Greek land border with Turkey, and Xenios Zeus, which focused on the inland apprehension of illegally staying persons. The much-increased surveillance and patrolling activities at the Greek-Turkish land border, combined with the lengthening of the detention period to up to 6 months, resulted in a drastic drop in the number of detections of irregular migrants from ~2 000 during the first week of August to below ten per week in each of the last few weeks of October. Perhaps somewhat predictably, there were increased detections of illegal border-crossing at both the Turkish sea border with Greece and land border with Bulgaria, indicative of weak displacement effects from the operational area….

Despite the clear impact of the Greek operational activities on the number of detections of illegal border-crossing, there is little evidence to suggest that the absolute flow of irregular migrants arriving in the region has decreased in any way. In fact, document fraud on flights from Istanbul increased once the Greek operations commenced. Hence, there remains a very significant risk of a sudden influx of migrants immediately subsequent to the end of the operations.”

[***]

4.1 Detections of Illegal border-crossing

“Overall, in Q3 2012 there were 22 093 detections of illegal border-crossing at the EU level, which is considerably lower than expected based on detections during previous quarters. In fact, there were fewer detections of illegal border-crossing than in any third quarter since data collection began in early 2008. The particularly low number of detections was due to vastly increased operational activity at the Greek land border with Turkey since 30 July 2012, and also to the overlapping effects of the end of the Arab Spring in its initial countries (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia) and far fewer detections of circular Albanian migrants illegally crossing the border into Greece.

The majority of detections were at the EU external land (66%), rather than sea border, but this was the lowest proportion for some time due to an increase in detections at the Greek sea border with Turkey – probably the result of a weak displacement effect from the land border. Nevertheless, the Greek land border with Turkey was still by far the undisputed hotspot for detections of illegal border-crossing.”

[***]

2012 Q3 Illegal Border Crossings“Figure 4 shows the evolution of the FRAN Indicator 1A – detections of illegal border- crossing, and the proportion of detections between the land and sea borders of the EU per quarter since the beginning of 2008. The third quarter of each year is usually influenced by weather conditions favourable for both approaching and illegally crossing the external border of the EU. Moreover, good conditions for illegal border-crossing also make it easier to detect such attempts. The combination of these two effects means that the third quarter of each year is usually the one with very high, and often the highest number of detections.”

[***]

4.2 Routes

“… As illustrated in Figure 8, in the third quarter of 2012 the most detections of illegal border-crossings were reported on the Eastern and Central Mediterranean routes, which is consistent with the overall trend for most third quarters in the past. However, on the Eastern Mediterranean route the summer peak of detections, which has been remarkably consistent over recent years, was much lower than expected following increased operational activity in the area resulting in far fewer detections during the final month of the quarter.

In the Central Mediterranean, increased detections of several nationalities illegally crossing the blue border to Lampedusa and Malta, as well as increased landings in Apulia and Calabria from Greece and Turkey, combined to produce the highest number of detections both before and after the prominent peak reported during the Arab Spring in 2011.

In Q3 2012, there were 11 072 detections of illegal border-crossing on the Eastern Mediterranean route, a 75% reduction compared to the same period in 2011, and most other third quarters (Fig. 8). Nevertheless this route was still the undisputed hotspot for illegal entries to the EU during the current reporting period, mostly because of vastly increased detections of Syrian nationals.”

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 1.45.32 PM[***]

4.2.1 Eastern Mediterranean Route

“…Italian Ionian coast: For some time there has been a steady flow of Afghans and, to a lesser extent, Pakistanis arriving in the southern Italian blue borders of Calabria and Apulia with some very large increases observed during
Q3 2012. In fact, according to the FRAN data there were more detections in this region than ever before. The most commonly detected migrants were from Afghanistan, which is a significant but steady trend. In contrast detections of migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Syria have increased very sharply since the beginning of 2012.

JO EPN Aeneas 2012 started on 2 July. The operational plan defines two operational areas, Apulia and Calabria, covering the seashore along the Ionian Sea and part of the Adriatic Sea. As mentioned in previous FRAN Quarterlies,
the detections at the Greek-Turkish land border are directly correlated with detections in the Ionian Sea. In 2011, it was estimated that more than 15% of migrants reported at the Greek-Turkish land border were afterwards detected in Apulia and Calabria.”

[***]

4.2.2 Central Mediterranean Route

“… According to FRAN data, in Q3 2012 there were just 3 427 reported detections of illegal border-crossing on the main Central Mediterranean route (Italian Pelagic Islands, Sicily and Malta), a significant decrease compared to the same reporting period in 2011. However, this figure was still the highest reported so far in 2012, and was higher than the peak in 2010. Additionally, there were some significant increases in various nationalities.

On the Central Mediterranean route, detections of migrants from Tunisia continued to in crease from 82 during the last quarter of 2011 to over 1 000 in Q3 2012. Tunisians were not the only North African nationality to feature in the top five most detected nationalities in the Central Mediterranean region, as Egyptians were also detected in significant and increasing numbers (287). The fact that fewer Egyptians than Tunisians were detected in the Central Mediterranean should be interpreted in light of Egypt being eight times more populous than Tunisia, which shows that irregular migration pressure from Egypt is proportionally much lower than that from Tunisia.

Also significant in the Central Mediterranean during the third quarter of 2012 were detections of Somalis (854) and, following recent increases, also Eritreans (411). Somalis have been detected in similarly high numbers during previous reporting periods (for example over 1 000 in Q2 2012) but there were more Eritreans detected in Q3 2012 than ever before.

Some Syrian nationals were also detected using the direct sea route from Turkey to Italy but these tended to arrive in Calabria…..”

[***]

4.2.3 Western Mediterranean Route

“In 2011, irregular migration in the Western Mediterranean region increased steadily from just 890 detections in Q1 2011 to 3 568 detections in the third quarter of the year. A year later in Q3 2012, detections dropped to just over 2 000 detections, which was, nevertheless, the highest level so far in 2012.

As has been the case for several years, most of the detections involved Algerians (859) followed by migrants of unknown nationality (524, presumed to be sub-Saharan Africans). Algerians were mostly detected in Almeria
and at the land border with Morocco, the migrants of unknown nationality were mostly reported from the land borders.

JO EPN Indalo 2012 started in this region on 16 May covering five zones of the south-eastern
Spanish sea border and extending into the Western Mediterranean.

In Q3 2012, there were far fewer Moroccan nationals detected (79) compared to Q3 2011. Most were detected just east of the Gibraltar Strait, between Tangiers and Ceuta. According to the migrants’ statements, the area between Ksar Sghir and Sidi Kankouche is the most popular departing area among Moroccans who want to cross the Gibraltar strait (10.15 NM distance). The boats used for the sea crossing were toy boats bought by the migrants in a supermarket for EUR ~100….

Increased border surveillance along the Mauritanian coast generated by the deployment of joint Mauritanian-Spanish police teams and also joint maritime and aerial patrols in Mauritanian national waters has reduced departures towards the Canary Islands but also may have resulted in a displacement effect to the Western Mediterranean route from the Moroccan coast.”

[***]

4.2.4 Western African Route

“In the third quarter of 2012, there were just 40 detections of illegal border-crossing in this region, almost exclusively of Moroccan nationals but with an influx of Senegalese nationals….

The good cooperation among the Spanish, Senegalese and Mauritanian authorities and the joint patrols in the operational sea areas and on the coastline of Senegal and Mauritania have resulted in a displacement of the
departure areas of migrant boats towards the Canary Islands, with the reactivation of the Western African route (from north of Mauritania to the Western Sahara territory) used by the criminal networks operating in Mauritania.”

[***]

——————-

Click here or here here for Frontex FRAN Report for Q3 2012.

Click here for previous post summarizing Frontex FRAN Report for Q2 2012.

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Italy Diverts Additional Commercial Ships to Rescue Migrants

The Italian news agency AGI reported that Italian search and rescue authorities yesterday diverted two commercial ships, the Patroclus, a Maltese oil tanker, and the Cdry White, an Italian cargo ship, to assist with the rescue of two groups of migrants.  The first group of approximately 76 migrants was rescued about 40 miles from Tripoli by an Italian coastguard vessel; the group was then transferred to the Cdry White.  The Patroclus appears to have directly rescued a group of approximately 97 migrants south of Lampedusa.  AGI reported that the two commercial ships are sailing to Trapani and Pozzallo in Sicily to disembark the rescued migrants.

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Italy Conducted De Facto Push-Back of Migrants By Ordering Cargo Ship to Rescue and Transport Migrants to Libya

Just over a week ago Italian search and rescue authorities directed two commercial ships, an oil tanker and a cargo ship, to rescue two groups of migrants in distress off the Libyan coast.  After taking the migrants on board, both ships were ordered to transport the migrants to Libya.  One ship’s captain complied with the order and 96 migrants were turned over to Libyan authorities; the other captain refused and a several day stand-off between Malta and Italy resulted before Italy agreed to allow the migrants to be disembarked on Italian territory (see Malta Today: Malta blocks rescue ship from entering Malta waters; Malta orders ship to sail to Libya; Conditions on rescue ship worsen). 

The incident involving the two ships was by no means rare and what transpired raises a host of important issue. It is obviously good that one ship was permitted to disembark the rescued migrants on Italian territory.  But what transpired with the second ship that returned the rescued migrants to Libya is extremely problematic and amounted to a push-back.  Neither Italy nor Malta should be able to evade their responsibilities to consider asylum claims by ordering commercial ships to engage in rescue operations and then issuing orders to those commercial ships to return potential asylum seekers to a country such as Libya which is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.

I copy below my recent commentary from Malta Today:

Was the captain of the Salamis right?

We asked Prof. Niels Frenzen about the legal implications of commercial ships effecting the rescue of migrants at sea on behalf of coastal states.

One week ago Italian search and rescue authorities directed two commercial ships, the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Salamis and the Turkish cargo ship Adakent, to divert from their courses to rescue two groups of migrants in distress off the Libyan coast.  Rescues like this take place almost daily, though most are conducted by national armed forces or coastguards.  Rescue operations conducted by commercial vessels raise different legal issues, one of the most important and problematic being where are the rescued persons to be disembarked.

And while disputes periodically arise between Italy and Malta when patrol boats belonging to the armed forces of one country have sought to disembark rescued persons in the other country – usually due to disagreement as to where the closest safe port is located in relation to the place of rescue – at the end of the day if the stand-off is not resolved, an AFM or Guardia di Finanza patrol boat is always able to disembark rescued survivors in their respective home ports.  This is not the case when commercial ships rescue survivors as was demonstrated by Malta’s decision not to permit the Salamis to enter Maltese waters for the purpose of disembarking the 102 rescued migrants.

Some government officials characterised the initial decision of the captain of the Salamis to attempt to disembark the rescued migrants in Malta as a violation of international law.  Such an assertion is inaccurate and fails to take into consideration the complicated framework of different international laws – search and rescue, human rights, and refugee – which come in to play when migrants are rescued or otherwise encountered in international waters, particularly when it is likely that there are asylum seekers or other persons in need of protection among the rescued persons. 

While Malta’s decision to bar the Salamis attracted significantly more international media attention than the events pertaining to the Adakent, these two incidents and the different resolutions highlight important legal issues.  After the two ships rescued and took on board the different groups of migrants, Italian authorities instructed both ships to disembark the rescued migrants in Libya because the migrants had departed from Libya.  The Adakent sailed to Tripoli – its planned destination before the rescue – and turned 96 rescued migrants over to Libyan authorities.  The captain of the Salamis disregarded Italy and Malta’s orders to sail to Libya and continued to sail towards Malta – its planned destination before the rescue.

Both ship captains properly carried out their clear legal obligation under international law to rescue the stranded migrants. The more difficult legal question is where should the rescued persons be taken once rescue operations are completed.  While international law does not explicitly answer the question, it does impose the obligation on a ship’s captain to disembark persons only in “a place of safety.” Since the 102 migrants rescued by the Salamis included Eritreans and Ethiopians it is clear that many of them were asylum seekers and therefore the captain was legally obligated to ignore the Italian and Maltese orders that the migrants be returned to Libya.

Assuming some or all of the 96 migrants rescued by the Adakent were also asylum seekers, the Adakent’s captain likewise should have disregarded Italian instructions to return the migrants to Libya.  Both the UNHCR and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have issued guidelines to ship captains addressing the situations faced by the Salamis and Adakent.  The guidelines are based on the Search and Rescue Convention and the Refugee Convention and provide that if there is some reason to believe that a rescued person is an asylum seeker, the captain is obligated to take that fact into consideration when making a decision as to where to disembark the survivor.

Malta and Italy are well aware that many if not most migrants departing Libya by boat are asylum seekers and are also aware that many of the asylum claims will be granted if the asylum seeker is successful in lodging an application.  Had these two rescues been carried out by AFM or Guardia di Finanza patrol boats rather than the two commercial ships, the patrol boats would have been under a clear legal obligation to disembark the rescued migrants in a location where asylum or other claims for international protection could be properly considered.

The 2012 decision in the Hirsi v Italy case by the European Court of Human Rights condemned the Italian push-back practice which resulted in asylum seekers being returned to Libya without being given an opportunity to make asylum claims.  Neither Italy nor Malta can evade their responsibilities to consider asylum claims by diverting commercial ships to engage in rescue operations and then issuing orders to those commercial ships to return potential asylum seekers to a country such as Libya which is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and does not provide an adequate alternate procedure to consider claims for protection.

There can be honest disagreement about where rescued migrants are to be disembarked as long as the survivors will be safe and protected when disembarked.  The Search and Rescue Convention obligates countries to coordinate and cooperate among themselves to permit rescuing ships to disembark rescued persons. Malta and Italy as sovereign countries have the right to control their borders, but this sovereign power has to be applied in manner that is consistent with international human rights and refugee law by which they have agreed to be bound.

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Frontex FRAN Report for Q2 2012

On 10 October Frontex released its FRAN (Frontex Risk Assessment Network) Quarterly Report for the Second Quarter of 2012 (April-June). As is always the case, the 70 page report contains a significant amount of information, graphs, and statistical tables regarding detections of illegal border crossings (land, air, and sea), irregular migration routes, detections of facilitators, detections of illegal stays, refusals of entry, asylum claims, returns, information regarding other illegal border activities, and more.  Here are some highlights (focusing on the sea borders):

Malta-  There was a significant increase in the number of Somalis reaching Malta. “Taking into account the professional planning of the trips, it is assumed that the modus operandi has changed and that Malta is now targeted on purpose, thereby replacing Italy as the preferred destination country for this nationality. The reason for this change has not yet been confirmed; however, in the past Malta resettled some Somali migrants in the United States and in some EU Member States, which might be acting as a pull factor.”

Spain-  “In this region there was a new modus operandi involving facilitators dropping off migrants in the Chafarinas Islands, a Spanish archipelago 2 nautical miles away from the Moroccan coastline.”

“As reported in the previous FRAN Quarterly, in February 2012 Moroccan and Spanish Ministers of Interior signed a police agreement to create two joint police stations in the Spanish (Algeciras) and Moroccan (Tangiers) territories to cooperate by exchanging operational information and best practices between different police services.”

Italy-  “Throughout the quarter, Italy and Tunisia cooperated efficiently to repatriate Tunisian nationals and so most migrants typically arrived undocumented to delay readmission.”

Central Mediterranean-    “[D]etections in the Central Mediterranean showed a seasonal increase but were much reduced (-86%) compared with the dramatic peak during the same period in 2011. Indeed, in the second quarter of 2012 detections in this region resembled the pre-Arab Spring levels reported during the summer of 2010. … The Central Mediterranean was recently affected by increased detections of Somalis, and a steady trend of Tunisians and Egyptians.”

“In Q2 2012, there were no Joint Operations running in the Central Mediterranean Sea, therefore Frontex and the FRAN community are unable to utilize intelligence obtained through the direct debriefing of migrants. However, valuable information has been obtained from interviews carried out by the Maltese authorities. Such preliminary interviews revealed that some of the Somali migrants arriving in Malta had been promised that they would be brought to Italy. They departed from an unknown location in Libya and travelled for up to three days in boats before either being intercepted by Maltese authorities or reaching the shore. The average fare was said to be around USD 1 000 per person.”

“Subsequent to the reporting period, JO Hermes 2012 was launched on 2 July and is currently planned to run until 31 October 2012 as a continuation of the deployment of JO Hermes Extension 2011, which ended just before the reporting period, on 31 March 2012. JO Hermes 2012 has been established to support the Italian authorities in tackling maritime irregular migration along the coasts of Sicily, Pantelleria and the Pelagic islands (Lampedusa, Linosa, Lampione).”

Western Mediterranean -   “Detections in the Western Mediterranean were almost equally comparable to Q2 2011…”

“JO EPN Indalo 2012 started on 16 May and is currently scheduled to run until 31 October 2012. So far the number of irregular migrants apprehended in the operational areas is almost double that of the same period in 2011. Analysis of the information provided by the Spanish authorities also indicates a new increasing trend in the number of Algerian and Moroccan migrants per boat since the beginning of 2012.”

Western Africa –  “[D]etections increased to a large degree, yet from lower bases, on the … Western African route (+29%).” “In the second quarter of 2012, there were just 31 detections of illegal border-crossing in this region, almost exclusively of Moroccan nationals.”

“As reported in previous FRAN Quarterlies, the Western African route from the north of Mauritania to the Western Sahara territory is being reopened by illegal migration facilitation networks. It has been inactive for years but recently an estimated 2 000 sub-Saharans (particularly from Senegal) settled in the Western Saharan coastal cities of El Aaioún and Dakhla and in the last few months ~20 000 Senegalese nationals have entered Mauritania along these routes to the north.”

“During the reporting period there was no Frontex operation relevant for the Western African Route.”

Eastern Mediterranean-  “Subsequent to the reporting period (July 2012), JO EPN Aeneas 2012 was launched and is currently scheduled to run until the end of October 2012. There are two operational areas, Apulia and Calabria, covering the seashore along the Ionian Sea and part of the Adriatic Sea.”

Here are extensive excerpts from the Report with a focus on the sea borders:

“Executive summary

Taken as a whole, in Q2 2012, detections of illegal border-crossing were reduced by nearly half compared to the same quarter in 2011 due to the simultaneous effects of the winding down of the Arab Spring and fewer Albanian circular migrants entering Greece. However, detections at the undisputed long-term hotspot for irregular migration – the Greek land border with Turkey – were some 25% higher than during the same period in 2011 due to increased detections of migrants from Bangladesh and particularly Syria. [***]

In the Central Mediterranean, where detections peaked in 2011 during the Arab Spring, migrants from Somalia were increasingly detected in Malta. Specifically, in May 2012 the arrival of Somali migrants in Malta increased significantly while Italy registered a decrease in the number of Somali migrants apprehended in Sicily and the Pelagic Islands. The detected Somalis were mainly young males many of whom had been imprisoned by police or military forces during their travels through Libya. Taking into account the professional planning of the trips, it is assumed that the modus operandi has changed and that Malta is now targeted on purpose, thereby replacing Italy as the preferred destination country for this nationality. The reason for this change has not yet been confirmed; however, in the past Malta resettled some Somali migrants in the United States and in some EU Member States, which might be acting as a pull factor. Also, there is some evidence that facilitation networks located in Malta have tried to forward migrants to Sicily. [***]

The Western Mediterranean route was apparently dominated by local migrants from Morocco and Algeria but with large numbers of unknown nationalities it is assumed that local migrants were also accompanied by long-distance migrants probably from sub-Saharan Africa. In this region there was a new modus operandi involving facilitators dropping off migrants in the Chafarinas Islands, a Spanish archipelago 2 nautical miles away from the Moroccan coastline. [***]

4.1 Detections of illegal border-crossing

Overall, in Q2 2012 there were 23 092 detections of illegal border-crossing at the EU level, which is a considerable if somewhat expected seasonal increase compared to the previous quarter, and a 44% decrease compared to the same period in 2011 amidst the influx of migrants during the Arab Spring. Taken as a whole, detections of illegal border-crossing in Q2 2012 were lower than in any other second quarter since FRAN reporting began. Most probably, the low number of detections was due to the overlapping effects of the end of the Arab Spring in its initial countries (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia) and far fewer detections of circular Albanian migrants in Greece. The vast majority of detections were at the EU external land border (77%). [***]

[***] Ranked third among border sections [after the Greece-Turkey land border and the Greece-Albania border section] in Q2 2012 was the blue border of Sicily, where Tunisians, Egyptians and Somalis were increasingly detected. [***]

Figure 2 shows the evolution of the FRAN Indicator 1A – detections of illegal border-crossing, and the proportion of detections between the land and sea borders of the EU per quarter since the beginning of 2008. The second quarter of each year is usually associated with improving weather conditions more favourable for approaching and illegally crossing the external border of the EU. Moreover, conditions that are more favourable for illegal border-crossing are also more favourable for detection. The combination of these two effects tends to produce the highest number of detections during the second quarter of each year. [***]

 2012-10-10_Frontex_FRAN_Q2_2012-FIG_2

Without question, during the second quarter of 2012 the migrants that were detected with the most increasing frequency were those from Bangladesh (+35%), Somalia (+62%), Algeria (+88%) and Syria (+639%) (Fig. 5). In fact, more migrants from Syria were detected than ever before (2 024). Detections of most of these nationalities were concentrated at the Greek land border with Turkey, with the exception of Somalis, who were mostly detected in Malta. Indeed, Somalis were particularly notable in that their detections were distributed across a very wide range of locations; as well as Malta and the Greek land border with Turkey, they were also detected in Sicily, Lampedusa and the Slovakian land border with the Ukraine. [***]

[M]igrants from Algeria were not only increasingly detected at the Greek land bor[d]er with Turkey, but also in the Spanish maritime region of Almeria and at the Romanian land border with Serbia.The latter case is assumed to represent secondary movements through the Western Balkans region.

4.2 Routes

In 2011, detections of illegal border-crossing on the Central Mediterranean route peaked briefly during the period of turbulent sociopolitical developments in North Africa, known as the Arab Spring. In contrast, on the Eastern Mediterranean route, detections have followed a remarkably seasonal pattern over the last two years. Throughout 2011 detections in the Western Mediterranean (land and sea borders with Spain) steadily increased.

As illustrated in Figure 6, the Eastern and Central Mediterranean routes reported the most detections of illegal border-crossing in the second quarter of 2012, and were characterized with seasonal increases consistent with previous years, aside the Central Mediterranean region during the Arab Spring.

2012-10-10_Frontex_FRAN_Q2_2012-FIG_6

In Q2 2012, there were 14 125 detections of illegal border-crossing on the Eastern Mediterranean route, an increase of 27% compared to the same period in 2011 (Fig. 6) rendering this region the undisputed hotspot for illegal entries to the EU during the current reporting period. Elsewhere, detections in the Central Mediterranean showed a seasonal increase but were much reduced (-86%) compared with the dramatic peak during the same period in 2011. Indeed, in the second quarter of 2012 detections in this region resembled the pre-Arab Spring levels reported during the summer of 2010. Detections in the

Western Mediterranean were almost equally comparable to Q2 2011, whereas detections increased to a large degree, yet from lower bases, on the Eastern Borders route (+103%), Western Balkans route (+50%) and Western African route (+29%).

These routes not only differed in their magnitudes over time but also in the composition of detected nationalities. Consistent with previous periods, detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route were dominated by migrants from Afghanistan, and more recently Bangladesh, Algeria and Syria. The Central Mediterranean was recently affected by increased detections of Somalis, and a steady trend of Tunisians and Egyptians. [***]

[T]he Western Mediterranean route was apparently dominated by local migrants from Morocco and Algeria but with large numbers of unknown nationalities it is assumed that local migrants are also accompanied by other long-distance migrants probably from sub-Saharan Africa. The exception was the much less used Western African route, which was exclusively affected by local migrants from Morocco.

4.2.1. Eastern Mediterranean route

Since data collection began in early 2008, the Eastern Mediterranean has maintained its status as a major hotspot of irregular migration. Detections have followed a remarkably seasonal pattern invariably peaking in the third quarter of each year and concentrated at the border between Greece and Turkey, with a shift from the sea border to the land border visible in late 2009 (Fig. 7). Unusually, at the end of 2011 detections of illegal border- crossing on the Eastern Mediterranean rote remained almost constant between the third and final quarters of the year, resulting in the first recorded example of a sustained peak of detections at that time of year. This was due to an unexpected increase in detections at the Greek land border with Turkey, particularly in October. [***]

2012-10-10_Frontex_FRAN_Q2_2012-FIG_7

Italian Ionian Coast: For some time there has been a steady flow of Afghans and, to a lesser extent, Pakistanis arriving in the Southern Italian blue borders of Calabria and Apulia with some increases during Q2 2012.

Subsequent to the reporting period (July 2012), JO EPN Aeneas 2012 was launched and is currently scheduled to run until the end of October 2012. There are two operational areas, Apulia and Calabria, covering the seashore along the Ionian Sea and part of the Adriatic Sea.

According to Croatian open sources* in July, some 65 Asian and African migrants presumed to be heading to Italy were found drifting some 47 nautical miles south of Dubrovnik due to a broken engine (Fig. 12). They had been drifting for two days. The migrants, who had departed from Greece, did not want to be rescued by the Croatian authorities as they wanted to go to Italy. After several hours of negotiations, the authority for search and rescue towed the sailing boat to the nearest Croatian port.

There was also a recent increase in the numbers of Bangladeshis, Iraqis, Moroccans and Syrians arriving in Apulia from Greece but these detections were in much lower numbers than other nationalities. [***]

4.2.2. Central Mediterranean route

Irregular migration in the Central Mediterranean massively fluctuated in size and composition during 2011, largely due to the political and civil unrest across North Africa, particularly in Tunisia and Libya. Since Q4 2011, the situation has significantly improved following better cooperation between Italian and Tunisian authorities concerning the return of Tunisian nationals.

According to FRAN data, in Q2 2012 there were just 3 685 reported detections of illegal border-crossing on the Central Mediterranean route, a massive decrease compared to the peak in last year in Q2 2011 but an increase compared to late 2011 and early 2012. The increase was almost entirely due to more detections of migrants from Somalia (1 094) combined with a steady stream of migrants still arriving from Tunisia. Several nationalities previously detected in high numbers particularly in 2011 were not detected in significant numbers, including Bangladeshis (72) and Nigerians (19).

Migrants from Somalia – During May 2012, the arrival of Somali migrants in Malta increased significantly while

Italy registered a decrease in the number of Somali migrants apprehended in Sicily and the Pelagic Islands. In most cases, groups of males, females and minors (or families) were found on board rubber dinghies with outboard motors. A few of the boats were detected in Italian territorial waters in some distress after the migrants had called the Italian authorities for help using satellite telephones. The boats that recently headed for Malta were either intercepted by Maltese patrol boats or made it to the island without being intercepted.

Detected Somalis were mainly young males (aged 18–24) with secondary education and low or no income. The main reason for the migration was socio-economic, but in some cases it was military conflict. In Q2 2012, there were no Joint Operations running in the Central Mediterranean Sea, therefore Frontex and the FRAN community are unable to utilize intelligence obtained through the direct debriefing of migrants. However, valuable information has been obtained from interviews carried out by the Maltese authorities. Such preliminary interviews revealed that some of the Somali migrants arriving in Malta had been promised that they would be brought to Italy. They departed from an unknown location in Libya and travelled for up to three days in boats before either being intercepted by Maltese authorities or reaching the shore. The average fare was said to be around USD 1 000 per person.

Migrants from Tunisia – Most Tunisian migrants detected arriving in the Central Mediterranean Region were young (18–35 years) unmarried males with a primary level of education and low previous incomes (EUR 80–180 per month). All interviewed migrants declared to have relatives or friends already in the EU, especially in Italy, and they arrived on boats containing on average 20 migrants (Fig. 13).

Throughout the quarter, Italy and Tunisia cooperated efficiently to repatriate Tunisian nationals and so most migrants typically arrived undocumented to delay readmission. Subsequent to the reporting period, JO Hermes 2012 was launched on 2 July and is currently planned to run until 31 October 2012 as a continuation of the deployment of JO Hermes Extension 2011, which ended just before the reporting period, on 31 March 2012. JO Hermes 2012 has been established to support the Italian authorities in tackling maritime irregular migration along the coasts of Sicily, Pantelleria and the Pelagic islands (Lampedusa, Linosa, Lampione).

4.2.3. Western Mediterranean route

Irregular migration in the Western Mediterranean region increased throughout 2011 from just 890 detections in Q1 2011 to 3 568 detections in Q3. In Q2 2012, there were 1 549 detections which almost exactly corresponds to the number of detections the year before in Q2 2011 (1 569). As was the case a year ago, most detections were of Algerians followed by migrants of unknown nationalities (presumed to be sub-Saharan Africans) and Moroccans.

Recently, the size of the sub-Saharan population coming from Algeria has increased in different settlements adjacent to the Melilla border fence. Criminal networks operate more easily in this north eastern region of Morocco and the Spanish authorities treat a large-scale illegal crossing of the fence to the Spanish side as a real possibility. Attempts to cross have been made in the past involving groups of dozens or even hundreds.

JO EPN Indalo 2012 started on 16 May and is currently scheduled to run until 31 October 2012. So far the number of irregular migrants apprehended in the operational areas is almost double that of the same period in 2011. Analysis of the information provided by the Spanish authorities also indicates a new increasing trend in the number of Algerian and Moroccan migrants per boat since the beginning of 2012. The improvement of the weather and sea conditions during the reporting period impacted on the number of boats detected, with a gradual increase of the number of arrivals during the peak period, which according to data from the last two years is from May to October.

Migrants from Algeria – According to information gathered during interviews, most Algerians were single male adults aged 19–36 on average, but there were also a few females and minors in good health. Most migrants belonged to the lower middle class and, despite having a high level of education compared to sub-Saharan nationals, they suffered from a generalised lack of opportunities, welfare and access to public health services. Nearly all the Algerian migrants spoke Arabic with a few French and English speakers, but all were undocumented to avoid repatriation after arriving in Spain. The majority had relatives or friends in EU Member States, mainly in France and Spain, who could help them to find a job and settle within the ethnic communities already established in these countries.

4.2.4. Western African route

In the second quarter of 2012, there were just 31 detections of illegal border-crossing in this region, almost exclusively of Moroccan nationals.

As reported in the previous FRAN Quarterly*, in February 2012 Moroccan and Spanish Ministers of Interior signed a police agreement to create two joint police stations in the Spanish (Algeciras) and Moroccan (Tangiers) territories to cooperate by exchanging operational information and best practices between different police services. The goal of this cooperation is to strengthen the efforts and improve the results against organized crime operating on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar involved in the smuggling of drugs, international terrorism, irregular migration and trafficking in human beings.

Following these developments, both International Police Cooperation Centres became operational during May 2012 (Fig. 14). The International Joint Police Stations are going to be integrated with National Police / Guardia Civil (Spain) and General Direction for National Security (Police) / Royal Gendarmerie (Morocco) staff for a rapid and effective exchange of information.

As reported in previous FRAN Quarterlies, the Western African route from the north of Mauritania to the Western Sahara territory is being reopened by illegal migration facilitation networks. It has been inactive for years but recently an estimated 2 000 sub-Saharans (particularly from Senegal) settled in the Western Saharan coastal cities of El Aaioún and Dakhla and in the last few months ~20 000 Senegalese nationals have entered Mauritania along these routes to the north.

During the reporting period there was no Frontex operation relevant for the Western African Route. [***]”

2012-10-10_Frontex_FRAN_Q2_2012-Annex Table 1_Sea Borders only

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HRW Briefing Paper: Hidden Emergency-Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean

Human Rights Watch released a briefing paper on 16 August entitled “Hidden Emergency-Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.”  The briefing paper, written by Judith Sunderland, a senior researcher with HRW, reviews recent events in the Mediterranean, provides updates on new developments, including the EUROSUR proposal and IMO guidelines that are under consideration, and makes recommendations for how deaths can be minimized.

Excerpts from the Briefing Paper:

“The death toll during the first six months of 2012 has reached at least 170. … Unless more is done, it is certain that more will die.

Europe has a responsibility to make sure that preventing deaths at sea is at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration, not a self-serving afterthought to policies focused on preventing arrivals or another maneuver by northern member states to shift the burden to southern member states like Italy and Malta.

With admirable candor, EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said recently that Europe had, in its reaction to the Arab Spring, ‘missed the opportunity to show the EU is ready to defend, to stand up, and to help.’ Immediate, concerted efforts to prevent deaths at sea must be part of rectifying what Malmström called Europe’s ‘historic mistake.’

Europe’s Response to Boat Migration

[***]

European countries most affected by boat migration—Italy, Malta, Greece and Spain—have saved many lives through rescue operations. But those governments and the European Union as a whole have focused far more effort on seeking to prevent boat migration, including in ways that violate rights. Cooperation agreements with countries of departure for joint maritime patrols, technical and financial assistance for border and immigration control, and expedited readmission of those who manage to set foot on European soil have become commonplace.

The EU’s border agency Frontex has become increasingly active through joint maritime operations, some of which have involved coordination with countries of departure outside the EU such as Senegal. Even though in September 2011 the EU gave Frontex an explicit duty to respect human rights in its operations and a role in supporting rescue at sea operations, these operations have as a primary objective to prevent boats from landing on EU member state territories. This has also prevented migrants, including asylum seekers, from availing themselves of procedural rights that apply within EU territory.

[***]

Italy had suspended its cooperation agreements with Libya in February 2011, and has indicated it will respect the European Court’s ruling and will no longer engage in push-backs. However, past experience suggests that an immigration cooperation agreement signed with the Libyan authorities in April 2012, the exact contents of which have neither been made public nor submitted to parliamentary scrutiny, is unlikely to give migrants’ human rights the attention and focus they need if those rights are to be properly protected.

[***]

Preventing Deaths in the Mediterranean

It may be tempting to blame lives lost at sea on unscrupulous smugglers, the weather, or simple, cruel fate. However, many deaths can and should be prevented. UNHCR’s recommendation during the Arab Spring to presume that all overcrowded migrant boats in the Mediterranean need rescue is a good place to start.

[***]

Recognizing the serious dimensions of the problem, specialized United Nations agencies such as the UNHCR and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), have been working to produce clear recommendations. These include establishing a model framework for cooperation in rescue at sea and standard operating procedures for shipmasters. The latter should include a definition of distress triggering the obligation to provide assistance that takes into account risk factors, such as overcrowding, poor conditions on board, and lack of necessary equipment or expertise. UNHCR has also proposed that countries with refugee resettlement programs set aside a quota for recognized refugees rescued at sea.

The IMO has also been pursuing since 2010 a regional agreement among Mediterranean European countries to improve rescue and disembarkation coordination, as well as burden-sharing. The project, if implemented successfully, would serve as a model for other regions. A draft text for a memorandum of understanding is under discussion. Negotiations should be fast-tracked with a view to implementation as quickly as possible.

If Europe is serious about saving lives at sea, it also needs to amend the draft legislation creating EUROSUR. This new coordinated surveillance system should spell out clearly the paramount duty to assist boat migrants at sea, and its implementation must be subject to rigorous and impartial monitoring. Arguments that such a focus would create a ‘pull factor’ and encourage more migrants to risk the crossing are spurious. History shows that people on the move, whether for economic or political reasons, are rarely deterred or encouraged by external factors.

[***]”

From the HRW press statement:

The “briefing paper includes concrete recommendations to improve rescue operations and save lives:

  • Improve search and rescue coordination mechanisms among EU member states;
  • Ensure that EUROSUR has clear guidelines on the paramount duty of rescue at sea and that its implementation is rigorously monitored;
  • Clarify what constitutes a distress situation, to create a presumption in favor of rescue for overcrowded and ill-equipped boats;
  • Resolve disputes about disembarkation points;
  • Remove disincentives for commercial and private vessels to conduct rescues; and
  • Increase burden-sharing among EU member states.”

Click here or here for HRW Briefing Paper.

Click here for HRW press statement.

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Armed Forces of Malta and Libyan Navy Engage in Joint Training Operation – Migrant Patrols a Focus of Training

An Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) maritime squadron conducted its first joint training exercise this week with the Libyan Navy since the overthrow of the previous Libyan government.  An AFM offshore patrol vessel and 46 AFM personnel engaged in training exercises in the Tripoli Harbour and off the Libyan coast.  Among the exercises practiced were “pre-boarding interrogation techniques via radio, approach to a suspected vessel and the conduct of the subsequent boarding and verification operations.”  Maltese officials said they hope “such training exchanges become a regular feature of the bilateral relationship.”  Media reports quoted an anonymous military source as saying that “[t]he training exercise will focus on patrolling the Libyan border because this is where most of the illegal migration problems begin, resulting in an influx of migrants into Malta and Lampedusa.”

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6 Persons Die During Rescue Off Malta; 235 Migrants Reach Malta Over Past Week

A rescue operation that began last week off Malta was successful in saving 158 persons on board two separate migrant boats.  Six persons died.  Two fell into the sea and were lost while being transferred from their boat to a passing merchant ship, the Victoria VI.  Two died on board the migrant boat before the rescue.  And two died after the rescue.  The 68 survivors were rescued by the Victoria VI on 14 August.  They were then transferred to AFM vessels and taken to Malta.  An AFM patrol boat rescued 90 other migrants from a second boat on 15 August.  The migrants are reportedly from Somalia and Eritrea.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

A third boat carrying 77 migrants was rescued yesterday, 20 August, by the AFM.

Click here for AFM press statement and here for article.

Pictures below from 20 August 2012 rescue.

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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….”

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HRW Report on Malta’s Migrant Detention Policy: “Boat Ride to Detention”

Human Rights Watch has issued a report, “Boat Ride to Detention – Adult and Child Migrants in Malta”, documenting the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat in Malta and concluding that the mandatory detention policy violates international law.

Excerpts:

Summary – Malta routinely detains an average of 1,500 people per year, including children, who arrive in the country by boat without permission, or ‘irregularly.’ These are migrants and asylum seekers, typically from Somalia, Eritrea, and other sub-Saharan African countries, who travel to Europe fleeing persecution or in search of a better life. Many have fled violence and conflict, and almost all have made an arduous journey, taking months to cross the Sahara and travel north through Libya. The last stage of that journey is a perilous, multiday trip across the Mediterranean, typically in overcrowded vessels that are not seaworthy, and without enough food, water, or fuel, before they reach Maltese shores or are intercepted at sea by the Armed Forces of Malta.

Boat migrants arriving in Malta are taken straight to detention if they lack an entry visa (as they virtually all do). This report addresses their arbitrary, indiscriminate, and unfair detention. The report focuses on those who arrive in Malta by boat, as migrants who arrive in Malta by air for the most part are not detained, even if they enter under false pretenses or subsequently claim asylum. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are detained for up to 12 months, and migrants who do not apply for asylum, or whose asylum claims are rejected, can be detained for up to 18 months. Under international law migrants who do not have permission to enter or stay in a country may be subject to detention, in certain circumstances, and also may be subject to safeguards. However in Malta, the detention policy operates in an automated, indiscriminate, and blanket manner in violation of international law.

In the course of this virtually automated detention policy, Malta routinely detains unaccompanied migrant children whose age is in question. ‘Unaccompanied children’ are migrants under the age of 18 (typically between 14 and 17) who travel without parents or caregivers. Migrants who claim to be unaccompanied children go through an age determination procedure, which relies on interviews and occasional medical testing to establish age. In 2007 and 2008, for example, around 400 children each year arrived in Malta claiming to be unaccompanied.1 While they register for and undergo the age determination procedure, Malta keeps these children in detention. [***]

While Malta justifies its prolonged detention of migrants as a legitimate response to irregular entry, the practice amounts to arbitrary detention prohibited by international law. Prolonged administrative custody, without the possibility of meaningful review, violates the prohibition on arbitrary detention in article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights has found Malta’s detention policy to violate the European Convention’s provisions on the right to liberty. Children enjoy particular protection under the law: in principle, migrant children should not be detained, and where they are detained it must be as a last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time. [***]

Flawed Maltese and European Migration Policies

Malta’s detention policy is part of flawed approaches to migration, both by Malta itself and by the European Union (EU). The central Mediterranean migration route—typically from Libya to Malta or Italy—is a major entrance point to the EU. Since 2002, approximately 15,000 migrants have reached Malta by this route, some intentionally, many by mistake as they stumble across the small island country while hoping to reach Italy. While the number of migrants arriving in Malta is low in absolute terms, Malta now has the highest number of asylum seekers relative to the national population of any country in the industrialized world. Malta, a country of only 400,000 people, received 20.1 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants in the years 2007-2011, whereas France, the EU member state receiving the largest number of asylum seekers in absolute terms in 2011, received about 3 per 1,000.

Although migrants have been traveling this migration route—in higher or lower numbers— for some ten years, neither Malta nor the EU has developed a sound policy that either respects migrants’ human rights or that addresses the high burden placed on Malta. EU asylum rules mean that member states at EU borders sometimes are forced to assume responsibility for a vastly disproportionate share of migrants and asylum seekers. The Dublin II regulation, promulgated in 2003, mandates that an individual’s asylum application must be processed in the country where the individual first entered the EU. This places an unfair burden on Malta, which must process these asylum applications in-country and which is obliged to accept the return of any asylum seekers whose first port of entry in the EU was Malta.

The EU has taken some steps towards mitigating this burden, for instance by relocating recognized refugees from Malta to other EU states and providing limited financial support. But these steps have been insufficient to assist Malta in meeting migrants’ needs. The case of Malta, like that of Greece, shows the need to revise the Dublin II regulation to permit greater burden sharing in processing and hosting asylum seekers, rather than insisting on the country of first arrival as the primary factor in assessing member state responsibility.

Malta’s arbitrary detention policy, in addition to violating international standards, does not work to deter migrants from landing on its shores. Migrants may not intend to travel to Malta, and indeed the boats in which they travel lack navigational equipment that would enable them to choose their destination. Some migrants Human Rights Watch spoke with said they did not even know that Malta existed as a country before they landed there.

Though Malta’s burden is disproportionately large, detention is neither a legal nor a sound response to boat migration in the central Mediterranean. Both Malta and the EU should enact new policies to respond to their legal obligations to uphold migrants’ rights.

  • Malta should allow detention of migrants only in exceptional circumstances, with individualized determinations, and access to procedures to challenge detention.
  • Malta should treat those who claim to be children as such pending the outcome of age determination proceedings, and release all those with pending claims from detention.
  • The EU should reform the Dublin system by having the Dublin regulation take into account equitable burden-sharing among member countries.

[***]

IV. Conclusion

[***] Malta must revise its migrant detention policies for adult and child migrants alike, and end the continued mental stress imposed on migrants kept in prolonged detention. Maltese laws should allow detention of migrants only in exceptional circumstances, with individualized determinations, and access to procedures to challenge detention.”

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Click here for HRW press release.

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Statement from PACE Rapporteur Tineke Strik on Most Recent Deaths in Mediterranean Sea: “When will this ever end?”

Full Text (FR ci-dessous):  Strasbourg, 11.07.2012 – “Yet again, a dinghy with 55 people on board drifted for 15 days on the Mediterranean. This time, only one person survived. When will this ever end?,” today asked Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”. She expressed her great sadness and anger over the deaths of another 54 boat people fleeing Libya towards Italy.

“It is still not safe in Libya and the boats will continue to arrive. Europe knows that. I had hoped my report on the ‘left-to-die boat’ would serve as an eye-opener to prevent such tragedies happening time and time again. States must never hesitate to undertake immediate action to rescue people, even if they think someone else should be responsible: every minute counts,” said Senator Strik.

“Governments in Europe, and not only in the countries on the southern shores of Europe, must react, and take an equal share in the protection of asylum seekers arriving from Africa,” she added.

“It is all the more important that the resolution adopted by the Assembly in April this year is implemented and that the remaining questions are answered by NATO and by European governments. I am therefore now making public my most recent requests to member States and NATO, which remain unanswered,” she concluded.

The UNHCR estimates that this year over 170 people have lost their lives attempting to reach Italy by sea. Over 1 300 have arrived from Libya to Italy, and over 1 000 to Malta.

Letter to the Defence Secretary the United Kingdom

Letter to the Defence Minister of Spain

Letter to the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations

PACE Resolution 1872 (2012) (PDF)

Tineke Strik’s full report (PDF)

Strasbourg, 11.07.2012 – « Une fois de plus, un canot pneumatique avec 55 personnes à son bord a dérivé pendant 15 jours en Méditerranée. Cette fois, il n’y a eu qu’un seul survivant. Quand cela s’arrêtera-t-il ? », s’interroge Tineke Strik (Pays-Bas, SOC), l’auteur du rapport de l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe (APCE) « Vies perdues en Méditerranée : qui est responsable ? ». Elle a exprimé aujourd’hui sa profonde tristesse et sa colère à l’annonce de la mort de 54 personnes qui fuyaient la Libye pour l’Italie.

« La situation en Libye n’est toujours pas sûre et d’autres bateaux continueront d’arriver. L’Europe le sait. J’avais espéré que mon rapport sur le « bateau cercueil » provoquerait une prise de conscience et empêcherait que ces tragédies ne se reproduisent toujours et encore. Les États ne doivent jamais hésiter à prendre des mesures immédiates pour sauver des personnes, même s’ils estiment que quelqu’un d’autre devrait être responsable : chaque minute compte », a déclaré la sénatrice Strik.

« Les gouvernements européens, et pas seulement ceux des pays du rivage sud de la Méditerranée, doivent réagir et prendre une part égale dans la protection des demandeurs d’asile venant d’Afrique », a-t-elle ajouté.

« Il est d’autant plus important que la résolution adoptée par l’Assemblée en avril de cette année soit mise en œuvre et que l’OTAN et les gouvernements européens répondent aux questions encore en suspens. C’est pourquoi je rends publiques mes dernières demandes aux Etats membres et à l’OTAN, qui sont restées sans réponse », conclut-elle.

Le Haut-Commissariat de l’ONU pour les réfugiés estime que plus de 170 personnes ont péri cette année en tentant de gagner l’Italie par la mer. Plus de 1.300 personnes en provenance de Libye sont arrivées en Italie, et plus de 1.000 à Malte.

Lettre au Secrétaire d’Etat à la Défense du Royaume-Uni

Lettre au Ministre de la Défense de l’Espagne

Lettre au Secrétaire général adjoint délégué, Division des opérations de l’OTAN

Résolution 1872 (2012) de l’APCE

Rapport intégral de Tineke Strik (PDF)

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Boats4People Releases Mapping Platform to Monitor the Maritime Borders of the EU for Violations of Migrants’ Rights

Boats4People announced last week the release of a mapping platform to monitor “in almost real-time reported cases of migrants in distress at sea”. The project is called WatchTheMed and “is a collaboration between the Forensic Oceanography research project at Goldsmiths College and Boats4People, a campaign led by an international coalition of NGOs aiming at bringing an end to the death of migrants at sea and foster solidarity between both sides of the Mediterranean.”

Press Release: 03.07.2012 WatchTheMed

Boats4People Mapping Platform to Monitor the Maritime Borders of the EU for Violations of Migrants’ Rights

While Boats4People’s Oloferne boat is at sea, many other participants are contributing from the land in Italy, Tunisia, across Africa and Europe and even as far as the USA. Amongst them, researchers of the Forensic Oceanography research project at Goldsmiths, University of London, who, in the frame of the B4P campaign, have launched a new online mapping platform to monitor in almost real time the death of migrants and violations of their rights at the Maritime Borders of the EU.

Acting as a “civilian watchtower” over the Mediterranean, WatchTheMed aims to collect all possible sources of information concerning incidents at sea: distress signals send out by Coast Guards, news articles, reports by different partners, testimonies from migrants, satellite imagery. It inscribes these incidents within the complex political ecology of the Mediterranean: overlapping Search and Rescue zones, maritime patrols, radar coverage.

By assembling these multiple sources of information so as to document with the highest possible degree of precision incidents at sea and by spatialising this data, the aim is to develop a new tool to increase accountability in the Mediterranean.

During the three weeks of the B4P journey, the WatchTheMed platform will be regularly updated. Help us monitor the maritime borders of the EU by reporting an incident, maritime patrols or means of surveillance on the website www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com or send us an email at: obs@boats4people.org.

For more information on the Forensic Oceanography project visit:
http://www.forensic-architecture.org/investigations/forensic-oceanography/

WatchTheMed
Una piattaforma per mappare le violazioni dei diritti dei migranti ai confini marittimi dell’ EU.

WatchTheMed è una collaborazione fra Boats4People e il progetto di ricerca Forensic Oceanography del Goldsmiths College.

WatchTheMed vuole essere uno strumento per mettere fine all’impunità per la morte dei migranti in mare e la violazione dei loro diritti ai confini marittimi dell’UE. Per fare questo, monitora e mappa in tempo (quasi) reale casi di migranti in difficoltà in mare, di violazioni dei loro diritti e di decessi. Questi episodi vengono inscritti nell’ambito della complessa ecologia politica del Mediterraneo, con un attenzione particolare al Canale di Sicilia.

Questa mappa è un progetto pilota partito nel luglio 2012. Aiutaci a monitorare i confini marittimi dell’ Unione Europea, visita il sito www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com.

WatchTheMed
Une plateforme pour cartographier les violations des droits des migrants aux frontières maritimes de l’UE

WatchTheMed est une collaboration entre Boats4People et le projet de recherche Forensic Oceanography de l’Université de Goldsmiths, Londres.

WatchTheMed vise à être un outil pour mettre un terme à l’impunité qui entoure les morts des migrants et les violations de leurs droits aux frontières maritimes de l‘ UE. A cette fin, le projet observe et cartographie en temps presque réel les cas rapportés de détresse, de violations du droit et de morts en mer, et inscrit ceux-ci dans la structure complexe de la Méditerranée, en mettant l’accent sur le Canal de Sicile.
Cette carte est un projet pilote lancé en juillet 2012. Aidez nous à observer les frontières maritimes de l’UE, rapportez un incident en visitant le site www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com.

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UNHCR Reports 54 Persons Dead After Migrant Boat Drifts in Mediterranean for 15 Days

The UNHCR reported yesterday that UNHCR staff interviewed the sole survivor of a migrant boat that departed from Tripoli for Italy in late June with 55 people on board.  The survivor was interviewed in Zarzis, Tunisia. “According to the survivor, there was no water on board and people started to die of dehydration within days. Many drank sea water, including the man who survived. He was rescued [off the coast of Tunisia] floating on the remains of the [inflatable] boat and a jerry can. According to the survivor over half of the deceased were from Eritrea, including three of his relatives.”  According to the UNHCR press statement “[s]o far in 2012, over 1,300 people have arrived by boat from Libya in Italy. A boat, reportedly carrying 50 Eritreans and Somalis, is currently at sea. They refused to be rescued by Maltese military forces [on 9 July].  Over 1,000 people on 14 boats have arrived in Malta from Libya so far this year. Two other boats were intercepted by Maltese authorities, but the majority elected not to be rescued and continued to Italy.  UNHCR Italy estimates that so far this year some 170 people have been declared dead or lost at sea attempting to make the journey from Libya to Europe.”

Click here for UNHCR press statement.

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