Tag Archives: Migrants

European Migrant Death Database – Deaths at the Borders of Southern Europe

VU University Amsterdam has released a border death database documenting migrant deaths along the Southern European borders.

Here is a web post from DIIS (Danish Institute for International Studies) describing the project: “On 12 May 2015, researchers of VU University Amsterdam 2015-05-12_Border Deaths Org mapreleased a border death database, based on official death records of migrants who died at the Southern European borders in the years 1990-2013. They suggest that European states continue to collect such data supervised by a new European Migrant Death Observatory which is should be part of the Council of Europe.

The database contains individualized information on 3.188 people who died while attempting to reach southern EU countries from the Balkans, the Middle East, and North & West Africa, and whose bodies were found in or brought to Europe. It is unique because it includes – where known – date and place of death, cause of death, gender, age, country of origin, and whether or not the person was identified. Over the past year, 13 researchers visited 563 local civil registries in Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta and Gibraltar and collected information from death certificates. “This database underlines decades of indifference of European states. They had this information all the time, but failed to collect it”, says Professor Thomas Spijkerboer.

The database can be accessed through www.borderdeaths.org

It includes:
o Full database
o Visualization
o Documentary Counting. The Human Costs of Border Control (Pieter Boeles, 2014) about the research project
o Papers on (1) how was the data collected; (2) preliminary findings; (3) identification; (4) policy relevance”

See also: The short documentary Counting the Human Cost of Border Control, in which Thomas Spijkerboer and Tamara Last (Migration Law, VU University Amsterdam) search for traces of those who have died in the civil registries along the Mediterranean coast.

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WikiLeaks Releases Classified Documents Describing EU Plans For Military Strikes Against Libyan Migrant Smugglers

WikiLeaks has released two documents which describe the EU plans for possible military attacks on boats used by migrant smugglers in Libya:

Document 1: “Military Advice on the “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean””(also here)

Document 2: “PMG Recommendations on the draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean” (also here)

WikiLeaks Press Statement:

“EU plan for military intervention against ‘refugee boats’ in Libya and the Mediterranean

Today, WikiLeaks is releasing two classified EU documents, outlining the planned military intervention against boats travelling from Libya to Italy. The more significant of the two documents was written by the combined military defence chiefs of the EU member states. The plan was formally approved by representatives from all 28 countries on 18 May 2015.

Importantly, one of the documents acknowledges that ‘the political End State [of the military intervention] is not clearly defined’ and recommends that the European Commission issue further guidance.

The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure. It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe. The EU member states’ military chiefs advice is that there is a need to:

‘[draw] on the full range of surveillance, intelligence and information capabilities available to MS [member states] and Partners, and supported by Brussels (inter alia EEAS [European External Action Service] Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity – SIAC)’.

The plan also acknowledges the possibility of EU military use of force against groups such as ISIL ‘within the Libyan sovereign area’:

‘the threat to the force should be acknowledged, especially during activities such as boarding and when operating on land or in proximity to an unsecured coastline, or during interaction with non-seaworthy vessels. The potential presence of hostile forces, extremists or terrorists such as Da’esh [ISIL] should also be taken into consideration’.

The documents mark a departure from previous EU military strategy in its overt targeting of civilian infrastructure in Libya. Numerous EU countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom participated in NATO-led air strikes on Libya in 2011.

Human rights organisations have called on the EU not to put the lives of refugees and migrants at risk. The plan acknowledges that the EU risks negative publicity ‘should loss of life be attributed, correctly or incorrectly, to action or inaction by the EU force’. To manage this reputational risk, the documents recommend ‘an EU information strategy from the outset’ in order to ‘facilitate expectation management’. They also acknowledge the ‘need to calibrate military activity’ particularly within Libyan waters or ashore ‘in order to avoid destabilising the political process by causing collateral damage, disrupting legitimate economic activity or creating a perception of having chosen sides’.

Boats transporting people from Libya are the main means for refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa to reach safety in Europe. Since the destruction of the Libyan government in 2011 there has been a sharp increase in the numbers of refugees travelling to Europe from Libya. In 2014 more than 170,000 people are estimated to have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya. In 2014, this made up 60 per cent of the entire irregular migration into the EU.”

WikiLeaks description of Document 1 -“Military Advice on the “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”” (also here):

“Classified EU plan, approved by EU member states defence chiefs, for a year long (at least) military operation against Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure, including the destruction of docked boats and operations within Libya’s territorial boundaries. The document is significant. It sets out the intent of EU defence chiefs: the EU will deploy military force against civilian infrastructure in Libya to stop refugee flows. Given the previous attacks on Libya by several EU NATO members and Libya’s proven oil reserves, the plan may lead to other military involvement in Libya. Formally, the document is approved Military Advice from the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) on a “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”.

WikiLeaks description of Document 2 – “PMG Recommendations on the draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean” (also here):

“This is the document of recommendations from the Politico-Military Group (PMG) and Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM), who work with the support of the General Secretariat of the Council in the Council of the European Union, to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) on the “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”. On 5th May 2015 the PSC discussed a possible EU military CSPD operation to disrupt human trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean region, including seizure or destruction of shipping vessels, based on a Crisis Management Concept (CMC).”

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Statewatch Analysis: The EU’s Planned War on Smugglers

Statewatch has issued an Analysis, “The EU’s Planned War on Smugglers,” written by Steve Peers, Professor of EU Law, University of Essex:

“The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council is meeting today to discuss the possibility of a military operation in the Mediterranean to take actions against smuggling of migrants. Officially, at least, the purpose of the operation (as defined by EU leaders last month) is to destroy smugglers’ boats. The EU’s High Representative has stated that there will be ‘no boots on the ground’; and as she arrived at the Council meeting today, she referred to authorising an ‘EU operation at sea’. However, it is clear from the documents discussed in the EU’s Political and Security Committee last week that (unless plans have changed radically in the meantime) the High Representative is being “economical with the truth”. The EU action clearly contemplates action by ground forces. Moreover, it anticipates the possible loss of life not only of smugglers but also of Member States’ forces and refugees. In effect, the EU is planning to declare war on migrant smugglers – without thinking through the consequences. [***]”

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EU Foreign Affairs Council Meets 18 May – Will Discuss Destruction of Smuggler Boats

From the European Council web site: “In a joint session, foreign and defence ministers will take stock of action to tackle migration issues. They will also discuss efforts to capture and destroy the vessels of human traffickers before they are used. In addition, ministers will debate the strategic review, an ongoing analysis of the EU’s security environment, and discuss security challenges in the EU’s neighbourhood. They will also prepare the security and defence part of the June European Council.”

Foreign Affairs Council background Brief here.
Politico EU article here.

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German Naval Ships Participating in Mediterranean Rescue Operation Destroy Empty Migrant Boats

Two German naval ships, the Hessen and the Berlin, have been participating in Mediterranean rescue operations since 5 May and have reportedly destroyed five migrant boats (four inflatable and one wooden) after rescue operations were completed and migrants removed from the boats. The boats are destroyed because they might pose a navigational hazard to other vessels and might also be mistaken for a boat in distress. (Wir müssen die Boote zerstören, weil sie auf dem offenen Meer ein Schifffahrtshindernis für andere Boote darstellen. Zum anderen könnte es sein, dass wir ein leeres Boot aus der Luft irrtümlich als ein in Seenot befindliches Boot wahrnehmen und hinfahren, um es zu retten. Das kann wertvolle Zeit kosten, die uns bei der Rettung von besetzten Booten dann verloren geht.)

As I have noted before, there are situations such as these where the destruction of a migrant boat may be perfectly legal and appropriate. Assuming reasonable measures can be taken to avoid or minimize environmental damage, the destruction in international waters of an unflagged and unseaworthy vessel would seem to be legal.

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IOM see inherent risk that EU military action in Libya will endanger migrant lives.

In a statement IOM generally welcomed the European Commission’s proposals on migration. “IOM … supports the renewed focus on disrupting criminal smuggling networks, but has serious concerns about proposals to ‘systematically identify, capture and destroy vessels used by smugglers,’ through EU Common Security and Defense (CSDP) operations. While recognizing the need for a powerful demonstration of the EU’s determination to act, IOM sees inherent risk that military actions, however laudable, could further endanger migrant lives.”

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UN’s Sutherland calls on EU “not to put any refugees or migrants in the line of fire.”

Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Development in a statement welcomed the European Commission’s “European Agenda on Migration” but “urge[d] [EU] Member States not to put any refugees or migrants in the line of fire, and to design any [anti-smuggling] operation in complete conformity with international law.” Sutherland urged the EU to take steps to ensure that Frontex Operations Triton and Poseidon “are at least equal in effect to Mare Nostrum” and “to make search-and-rescue the top priority…”

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