Tag Archives: North Africa

Statewatch Analysis: The Arab Spring and the death toll in the Mediterranean: the true face of Fortress Europe

Statewatch released an Analysis by Marie Martin entitled “The Arab Spring and the death toll in the Mediterranean: the true face of Fortress Europe.”

Excerpt: “Throughout the uprisings in North Africa, the EU has maintained a discourse of double standards: supporting calls for freedom and democracy but greeting resulting population displacement with hostility. This has contributed to a record number of people dying at Europe’s borders during the first seven months of 2011. It is all about numbers when it comes to migration; about how large a flow came in, how many people asked for protection and how many applicants were “failed” or “rejected.” Numbers quantify the “threat” (e.g. the “invasion” of irregular migrants) and serve as a bargaining tool with third countries (allowing the acceptance of the externalisation of border controls in exchange for facilitating the mobility of a specific number of nationals). Numbers demonstrate whether the target of “x” thousands of annual deportations of irregular migrants is met. Numbers released by public authorities are meant to justify the need for migration policies and to show how efficiently they are implemented. Yet hidden numbers question the legitimacy of these policies – the death toll of people dying at Europe’s borders is such an example. For several years, Gabriele del Grande has monitored the situation at the EU’s external borders and kept a record of the number of deaths occurring in the context of irregular bordercrossings [2] on the Fortress Europe website. According to the website’s latest update, the EU’s borders have never been so “murderous” [3]: there were 1,931 deaths during the first seven months of 2011. [4] In 2008, a petition was brought before the European Parliament by the ProAsyl organisation, denouncing the  deathtrap at the EU’s borders” [5]: it was a particularly “murderous” year, with 1,500 deaths. It is terrifying to realise that this toll was exceeded in the first seven months of 2011. …”

Click here for Analysis.

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Malmström: Europe Failed Refugees in 2011

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström wrote an opinion article in The Times of Malta of 19 January:  “Refugees: How Europe failed- European promises of solidarity with people in need were tested in 2011. It is worrying to note that Europe, collectively, did not pass the test. Now, all member states of the European Union must take responsibility and make sure that 2012 will be a better year for asylum matters. … In the first half of 2011, over 75 per cent of all asylum applications were made in only six EU member states. That leaves a long row of European countries that can and must do more. And as over 700,000 people were forced to flee the violence in Libya, many ended up in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Of the 8,000 people identified by the UN as being in particular need of help, all EU member states only managed to promise to receive 400. Norway, a non EU-country, accepted nearly as many by itself.  Meanwhile, more than 50,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in rickety vessels to the EU. Far too many died trying. Others arrived at the Italian island of Lampedusa and Malta and, at a pledging conference last spring, European countries had the chance to show their solidarity. The result? A mere 300 refugees being relocated from Malta to other member states. …”

Click here for full article.

 

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Amnesty International Report: Year of Rebellion – The State of Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa

Amnesty International this morning released a report entitled “Year of Rebellion – The State of Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa” focusing on the events of 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and Iraq.  Additional chapters in the Report address the “International response”, the “Failure to put human rights first”, “Protection of displaced people”, and “Arms transfers”, among other topics.

Excerpts:

“This report describes the events of this historic, tumultuous year, one which saw so much suffering and sadness but also spread so much hope within the region and beyond, to countries where other people face repression and everyday abuse of their human rights. Amnesty International too was challenged, as never before, to respond to the events by documenting the violations that were committed and, most of all, by mobilizing its members and supporters to extraordinary lengths in support and solidarity with the people in the streets of Cairo, Benghazi, Sana’a, Manama, Dera’a and elsewhere who were truly “in the frontline” in demanding reform, accountability and real guarantees for human rights. This report is dedicated to them, their suffering and their momentous achievements.”

“Protection of Displaced People- … Many of those who fled Libya sought safety in neighbouring countries, mainly in Egypt and Tunisia. However, around 5,000 sub-Saharan refugees and asylum-seekers remain stranded in desert camps in Tunisia and makeshift tents in Saloum, a remote border point in Egypt. When Amnesty International visited the camps in June and July, poor conditions and insecurity prevailed, making life extremely challenging for those living there. Unlike the thousands of migrants who were repatriated during the initial stages of the conflict, these people cannot return to their home countries because they would then be at risk of persecution. Nor can they remain in Egypt and Tunisia, which have been unwilling to offer long-term solutions to refugees. Returning to Libya is also not an option, despite the fall of the al-Gaddafi regime, as Libya cannot currently offer a safe haven for refugees. The only solution is for other countries where they would be safe to resettle them. How many are resettled and how quickly this happens depends on the speed and extent with which the international community fulfils its responsibility to them. So far, the international community’s response has been miserably poor, with European countries offering fewer than 800 resettlement places between them in response to a refugee crisis unfolding on Europe’s doorstep. Many of those who fled Libya attempted the dangerous sea-crossing to Europe, often in overcrowded and barely sea-worthy boats. Among them were people who initially fled from Libya to Tunisia, but then crossed back into Libya frustrated at the lack of durable solutions for refugees in the camps. At least 1,500 men, women and children are estimated to have drowned while attempting this journey. The true total was probably far higher. Governments and institutions failed to put in place effective mechanisms to prevent such deaths at sea, including by increasing search and rescue operations, and by ensuring that rescue operations comply fully with human rights and refugee law….”

Click here for Report.

Click here for AI Press Release.

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ICMC Europe Report: “MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe”

ICMC has released a 150+ page report entitled “MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe.”  I have just started reading the report and may post some additional excerpts in the coming days.  Here is an excerpt from the Foreword and Introduction:

“In the first months of 2011 alone, more than 2,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea. More than 2,500 unaccompanied children arrived just on Italian shores. Tragic, chronic figures like these are urgent and continuous reminders of the need for another approach to human mobility that goes far beyond simple enforcement and fundamentally recognises the rights to life and protection for all.

It is not so much the arrivals of migrants and refugees that should be put to question, but rather the response mechanisms which very often fail as much in the fields of prevention and rescue as in the processes deciding where and how people are permitted to move, disembark, stay or return. Protection today is provided only for a limited number of boat people who need it, and governed by systems of access and identification that are far too limited. Correct identification, differentiation and referral systems are needed for all migrants in distress and from the very moment of their arrival, not only because they are human beings, but also because such approaches reflect the quality of our societies….”

Scope of this report – Gathering the results of nearly a half thousand surveys of first responders and other actors as well as the migrants themselves, this report examines what happens—or does not happen— to identify migrants in need of protection and assistance upon their arrival in Europe. In particular, it sheds light on the mechanisms developed, and gaps both in practice and in policy in responses to boat people and other migrants arriving in mixed migratory movements in four countries at Europe’s Southern door: Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.

Although rescue at sea at one end and voluntary or enforcement-related return at the other are highly relevant topics and areas of research per se, DRIVE has focused on the situation of migrants at point of arrival. As such, the project and this report look at first responses in the phase immediately upon and surrounding arrival, and then to identification, differentiation and referral mechanisms for legal protection and/or further assistance in subsequent phases following arrival.

The principal focus of the project was on boat arrivals, but the shift in routes in Greece during the project period and the sharp increase in land border crossings there compelled reflection upon responses to migrants crossing land borders as well as those arriving by sea. While the project maintained its focus on arrivals by sea, one of its findings is that most of the laws, policies, procedures and responses applicable to boat people pertain equally to those arriving across land borders—in particular, steps on identification, differentiation and referral for protection and assistance.

The DRIVE project set out to promote protection of the rights of all migrants in these situations, especially the most vulnerable, regardless of their immigration status. Nevertheless, the project has highlighted four groups whose members have come to be defined to a varying extent as having specific rights or special needs under international and European legal instruments: asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, children, and victims of torture. It merits emphasising however, that other migrants also have special needs because of particular vulnerabilities,- notably people with serious health problems, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children and persons who have been subjected to or witnessed torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence.

Structure of this report – The report is composed of four main parts, plus annexes:

Part 1: Building policy responses to boat people and others arriving in mixed migration flows – Within this first part, Chapter 1 provides a brief history of the policy evolution and the organizations involved in the area of mixed migration. Chapter 2 gives an overview of legal obligations relating to the rights of the migrants composing these arrivals. The third chapter provides an analysis of the EU policy and legal framework with regards to mixed migration arrivals at its borders.

Part 2: A focus on post-arrival identification, differentiation and referral for assistance and protection – The first chapter explains what is meant and implied by “identification, differentiation and referral”in mixed migration contexts, the concept at the core of the DRIVE study. The second chapter seeks to focus on the legal obligations of member states to conduct identification of people in need of protection at the border, with in-depth legal analysis of the rights and state obligations that international and EU law articulate for asylum seekers, children, and victims of human trafficking and torture.

Part 3: What happens to people arriving irregularly by boat in Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain? – The first chapter gives a snapshot of the trends and figures of arrivals in the Mediterranean region. In Chapter 2, the summaries of the four country reports (each presented in its entirety in an annex) then provide a look at the procedures and practices on the ground for first reception, identification and referral. The third chapter presents the results of the extensive migrants surveys that the DRIVE project conducted in the four countries in an effort to give voice to the beneficiaries themselves. Chapter 4 concludes with a comparative analysis identifying the main gaps and challenges in those countries.

Part 4: Conclusions and recommendations – The focus on the four countries enabled consideration of practices and procedures which could either improve the quality of the process or prevent people from accessing protection and assistance. Recommendations therefore seek to address how identification, differentiation and referral can be improved in the Mediterranean, including how the international and European legal and policy framework can address this question in a more comprehensive manner.

Annexes: Detailed mapping of the situation in Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain are attached in the annexes, as well as a presentation of some relevant tools and guidelines….”

Click here for Report.

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

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

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

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

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DIIS Seminar: “The Lesser Evil”? Policy Logics and Practices of Removal and Detention in the Euro-Mediterranean Area (Copenhagen, 6 Oct)

The Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) will hold a seminar (English) in Copenhagen on 6 October 2011, 14.00-17.00.  Advance registration is required.  Registration deadline is Wednesday, 5 October 2011 at 12.00 noon.  Click here for more information.

From the DIIS announcement:  “The arrival of more than 45,000 African boat migrants and asylum seekers in Italy this year has caused much public and political attention in Europe. One response is to call for increased sea patrols to prevent irregular crossings of the Mediterranean Sea. Another response is detention, deportation and forced removal of irregular migrants and rejected asylum seekers who have reached Europe. Such practices are already important objectives in European migration management and policies but are likely to become even more significant in coming negotiations with North African migrant sending and transit countries.

This seminar examines practices of deportation, readmission and detention from a policy and migrant perspective. It will address the following questions: What are the policy logics and readmission agreements in the Euro-Mediterranean area? How is detention and deportation of irregular migrants carried out? And how do deported migrants deal with their situation?”

Click here for more information.

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Análisis del Real Instituto Elcano: La crisis en el Norte de África y su impacto en la inmigración irregular a la Unión Europea (by Frontex Dep. ED Gil Arias)

Real Instituto Elcano has published an analysis regarding the situation in North Africa and its impact on irregular immigration to the EU.  The analysis was written by Frontex’s Deputy Executive Director Gil Arias.

Of particular interest is the analysis regarding what Frontex believes might occur in regard to migrant flows from Libya under two different scenarios: Gadafi remaining in power or ultimately being removed from power (see Google translation of excerpt below):

“… En el caso de que el régimen de Gadafi recupere el control, la UE y sus Estados Miembros no podrán reanudar la cooperación con un régimen totalmente desacreditado. Se producirá el cese en la aplicación de acuerdos de cooperación policial que en el pasado (desde mayo de 2009) sirvieron para detener los flujos de inmigración irregular desde Libia hacia Italia y Malta. La posibilidad de que ciudadanos de otros países africanos bloqueados en Libia sean obligados o “ayudados” a emigrar a la UE no debe descartarse. De hecho, Gadafi ha amenazado con “abrir la puerta” de la inmigración ilegal hacia Europa.

La OIM estima la cifra de extranjeros presentes en Libia entre 0,5 y 1,5 millones. No obstante, no todos serian candidatos a la inmigración ilegal. Se trata fundamentalmente de trabajadores empleados por empresas extranjeras asentadas en el país, por lo que su intención primaria no sería la emigración a la UE y por otra parte una buena parte de ellos ya han abandonado Libia.

En el peor de los casos, la consecuencia de ese “abrir la puerta” sería la reactivación de los flujos por vía marítima hacia Lampedusa y Malta (eventualmente también Creta, que se encuentra a 200 km de distancia de la costa libia) en un escenario similar al de 2008 (40.000 inmigrantes llegaron a Italia y Malta, con origen en las costas libias) agravado por el efecto adicional de la inestabilidad en el país. Su destino principal serían los países con presencia importante de ciudadanos norteafricanos (Italia, Francia, España, Bélgica y el Reino Unido). El destino de los nacionales de países subsaharianos se encontraría más repartido por toda la UE.

Si Gadafi es derrocado resultará clave la capacidad y rapidez de la oposición para reorganizarse. La oposición se encuentra, por el momento, bastante desorganizada y es probable que se produzcan luchas internas por el poder, especialmente por el control de los campos petrolíferos. Ello podría conducir a un estado persistente de disturbios y a una ausencia de control por un largo periodo de tiempo.

La eventual reactivación de las rutas migratorias hacia la UE dependerá de la capacidad del nuevo régimen para imponer la ley y el orden en el país así como el control efectivo sobre los 2.000 km de costas y 4.000 km de fronteras terrestres libias. En el peor de los escenarios podría darse una situación similar a la de Somalia.

En este escenario, la economía libia puede deteriorarse y elevarse los niveles de desempleo. Actualmente se desconoce la tasa de desempleo en Libia, pero se presume baja. Previsiblemente, la mayoría de los trabajadores desempleados intentará regresar a sus países, pero parte de ellos (sobre todo los nacionales de países inseguros) buscaran otras oportunidades, entre ellas la emigración clandestina a la UE.

La ausencia de ley y orden, especialmente la ausencia de control sobre las fronteras marítimas, llevará rápidamente a las mafias al tráfico de inmigrantes hacia la UE. Los candidatos serían primariamente trabajadores desempleados no deseosos de volver a sus países (mayormente de África Occidental y Oriental, pero eventualmente también libios, egipcios, argelinos y tunecinos). Esta situación impediría, por otra parte, el retorno de quienes fuesen detectados cruzando ilegalmente las fronteras exteriores de la UE.

En tales circunstancias se puede prever un flujo constante de inmigración ilegal durante meses, mayoritariamente por vía marítima, pero también por vía aérea a través de Turquía. La duración en el tiempo de este escenario dependerá de la rapidez con la que la UE o los Estados Miembros y las nuevas autoridades sean capaces de restablecer la cooperación. En este sentido, serán determinantes los acuerdos de readmisión efectivos.

Por último, ha de tenerse también en cuenta el riesgo marginal de que los vencedores realicen acciones de persecución sobre los partidarios de Gadafi, lo que provocaría la huida de éstos del país en busca de refugio….”

Google translation of the above excerpts (NB – this is only a rough translation):

“…In the case of Qaddafi’s regime  regaining control, the EU and its Member States shall not resume cooperation with a discredited regime. Termination will occur in the implementation of agreements on police cooperation in the past (May 2009) served to stop the flow of illegal immigration from Libya to Italy and Malta. The possibility for citizens from other African countries locked in Libya are forced or “helped” to migrate to the EU can not be ruled out. In fact, Gaddafi has threatened to “open the door” of illegal immigration into Europe.

The IOM estimates the number of foreigners in Libya between 0.5 and 1.5 million. However, not all candidates would be illegal immigration. These are mainly employed by foreign companies settled in the country, so that their primary intention would not be the migration to the EU and, moreover, a good portion of them have already left Libya.

In the worst case, the consequence of this “open door” would be the reactivation of the flows by sea to Lampedusa and Malta (and possibly Crete, which is 200 km away from the Libyan coast) in a scenario similar to that of 2008 (40.000 immigrants arrived in Italy and Malta, departing from the Libyan coast) aggravated by the additional effect of instability in the country. Its main destination countries would be a significant presence of North African citizens (Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and the UK). The fate of the national sub-Saharan countries would be more distributed throughout the EU.

If Gadhafi is overthrown will be key capacity and speed of the opposition to regroup. The opposition is, at present, quite disorganized and is likely to produce internal power struggles, especially for control of the oilfields. This could lead to a persistent state of unrest and a lack of control over a long period of time.

The eventual recovery of migratory routes towards the EU depends on the ability of the new regime to impose law and order in the country as well as effective control over the 2,000 km of coastline and 4,000 km of land borders Libya. In the worst case scenario could be a situation similar to Somalia.

In this scenario, the Libyan economy may deteriorate and unemployment levels rise. Currently unknown unemployment rate in Libya, but presumably low. Predictably, most unemployed workers try to return to their countries, but some of them (especially insecure country nationals) to seek other opportunities, including illegal migration to the EU.

The absence of law and order, especially the lack of control over maritime borders, whisk the trafficking mafias immigrants into the EU. Candidates would be primarily unemployed workers eager to return to their countries (mostly from West and East Africa, but also possibly Libyans, Egyptians, Algerians and Tunisians). This would prevent, on the other hand, the return of those who were detected illegally crossing the external borders of the EU.

In such circumstances, can provide a steady flow of illegal immigration for months, mostly by sea, but also by air through Turkey. The long life of this scenario depends on the speed with which the EU or the Member States and the new authorities are able to restore cooperation. In this regard, will determine the effective readmission agreements.

Finally, it must also take into account the marginal risk that the winners perform acts of persecution on Gaddafi’s supporters, causing them to flee the country in search of refuge….”

Click here for the Analysis. (ES)

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Europol 2011 Organised Crime Threat Assessment – Illegal Immigration and THB

Europol just issued its 2011 Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) (OCTA_2011-1).  The report contains Europol’s assessments regarding “current and expected trends in organised crime affecting the European Union.”  Among the topics discussed are the facilitation of illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings.

The report notes that the increased control of the external borders of the EU, combined with other immigration controls, has resulted in irregular migrants turning to organised crime groups to facilitate their entry to the EU.  The report notes that increased enforcement activities which successfully reduce illegal immigration in certain areas may result in substantial increases in illegal immigration in other areas.

The report indicates that organised criminal groups are exploiting and will continue to exploit the social and political unrest in North Africa and that organised crime groups are responsible for facilitating the movement of the thousands of Tunisians who have entered Italy.

The report notes that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone “may yield increased illicit traffic through these countries and the possible displacement of illegal immigration flows from the Turkish-Greek border.”

Excerpts from the 38 page report pertaining to the facilitation of illegal immigration:

“[I]ncreasing control of external borders, the introduction of higher quality travel documents and other protective measures implemented by destination countries are making illegal immigration more difficult for individual migrants, forcing them to seek the services of organised crime groups.

International agreements and coordinated law enforcement activities have a significant impact on the flows of illegal immigrants along established routes. In 2010, a sharp reduction in the use of sea routes was accompanied by a substantial increase in illegal overland entries, overwhelmingly concentrated on the Turkish-Greek border.

Besides being the natural gateway for immigrants from the Middle East and Asia, Turkey is now the final step towards the EU for migrants with many other origins, including North and West Africans. Its geographical position, the presence of historical smuggling routes and the comparative ease with which entry visas may be obtained have transformed Turkey into the main nexus point for illegal immigrants on their way to Europe.

[***]

Legislation aimed at safeguarding certain inalienable individual or social rights is manipulated by organised crime groups with specialist expertise. Political asylum requests, and family reunions following marriages of convenience with EU citizens, are among the most frequently abused procedures. In addition, a prevalent tactic is to exploit loopholes and the lack of harmonisation in current legislation.

[***]

Criminal Groups

Organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigrants tend to be structured in loose networks of smaller groups with ethnic or other cultural connections to customers. By the same token, illegal immigrants tend to be recruited by, or approach facilitators from, the same ethnic background. However, few criminal groups have the capacity to manage all stages from source to destination country. The further migrants get from their country of origin, the greater the chance that their facilitators will be of an ethnic origin different from their own. Along the route, small local criminal groups receive and house transiting illegal immigrants, facilitating their passage to the next stage. In the often extended time between stages, transiting migrants are frequently exploited in illicit labour, thus marking a point of contact between illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings (THB).

Organised crime groups in destination countries play a fundamental role in the smuggling of migrants. Criminals, often legitimately resident in the EU, facilitate the last step of the migrants’ journey, in some cases collecting final instalments of transportation fees, and are in an ideal position to profit from newly arrived migrants, sometimes employing forms of exploitation typical of THB.

The most widely reported organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration are of Chinese, Turkish, Albanian, Indian, Iraqi, and Russian origin. Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and some West African groups are among the most capable, managing all successive phases of illegal immigration from source to destination countries. Although these groups may sub-contract part of the transportation or the production of falsified documents, they maintain effective control over the illegal immigrants throughout.

The growing importance of Turkey as a nexus point for migrants is likely to be further exploited by Turkish organised crime groups already extremely skilled in managing routes for illicit commodities and will make the most of their resources and contacts in the EU to maximise profits from this lucrative criminal market….

[***]

Criminal hubs

Political and legislative initiatives impact on regional dynamics, resulting in frequent shifts between hubs and preferred nexus points outside the EU.

Migrant flows across the Mediterranean Sea and illicit entries at the Eastern land borders have both significantly decreased. Greece is now the focus for illegal entry to the EU, and while levels of illegal migration connected with seasonal work patterns between Albania and Greece have decreased in the last year, illicit entries of migrants from Turkey have increased by over 500 per cent between 2009 and 2010

The South East criminal hub is therefore under the heaviest pressure. As a result also of its proximity to the Western Balkans, the hub’s centre of gravity for this criminal problem is currently Greece.

[***]

The Southern criminal hub is a landing zone for many immigrants who have entered the EU through Greece, and who either remain in Italy or proceed to other MS. Illegal immigrants are often exploited or employed by organised crime groups active in the hub.

Emerging and Future Issues

The social and political unrest pervading North Africa since January 2011 is likely to have a significant impact on the internal security of Southern Europe. By exploiting the present political vacuum and the diminution of police capability to maintain public order and combat criminal activity, organised crime groups are facilitating several thousands of illegal immigrants, mainly of Tunisian origin, in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe. This carries an inherent risk to the internal security of the EU.

The large and growing number of illegal immigrants from countries and regions in which Islamist terrorist groups are active – such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia – raises the possibility that channels for illegal immigration will be used increasingly by those seeking to engage in terrorist activity in the EU.

In the absence of any significant harmonisation of standards with regards to visa issue for a variety of purposes (including settlement for marriage and family reunions) a further increase in the abuse of legitimate migration procedures is likely.

The possible accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Zone will greatly widen the Eastern green and blue borders. This has the potential to release the pressure on the Turkish-Greek border, and lead to increased targeting of Bulgaria and the Black Sea coast by illegal immigrants and their facilitators.

Turkish organised crime groups, currently in a dominant position at the biggest nexus point for migrants, will exploit further opportunities for delivering illegal immigrants to the EU by means of the Black Sea and the flourishing Turkish diaspora in Bulgaria….

[***]

… The role of the Western Balkans as a logistical hub will be sustained and may even grow further, while the proposed accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone may yield increased illicit traffic through these countries and the possible displacement of illegal immigration flows from the Turkish-Greek border. In this event, Member States in South East Europe may require additional operational support. In light of the continued prominence throughout the EU of Albanian speaking criminal groups, strategic and operational partnerships with authorities in the Western Balkans will be increasingly important.

Ongoing political instability in countries close to the borders of the EU and transit areas for illicit commodities has the potential to alter trafficking routes and create new illegal migration flows. In countries such as Tunisia and Egypt the process by which serving regimes are replaced may result in power and investment vacuums in both the public and private sectors. Some of these could be filled by those with sufficient resources to exploit the instability for criminal ends, including EU organised crime groups. In politically fragile environments organised crime can also prosper by providing essential services such as transport infrastructure, and food and fuel supply. The effects of illegal immigration as a result of instability in North Africa – already experienced by Italy – are likely to spread if levels of unrest persist or increase. Should living conditions deteriorate in the longer term, the EU is likely to see an increase also in victims of THB from this region….

[***]”

Click on this link OCTA_2011-1 for OCTA report.

Click here for Europol press release.

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COE Parliamentary Assembly to Hold Urgent Debate on Large-Scale Migrant Arrivals in Southern Europe

From PACE:  “Spring session: 11-15 April 2011 – Debates on the arrival of irregular migrants and asylum seekers on Europe’s southern shores and on the situation in Northern Africa.

Adopting the final agenda of its plenary Spring Session, the Assembly today [11 April] decided to hold, on Thursday 14 April, an urgent debate on the large-scale arrival of irregular migrants on Europe’s southern shores and a current affairs debate on the situation in Northern Africa…..”  Agenda Working documents

From the Agenda:

Thursday 14 April 2011

8.30 a.m. Committees
10 a.m. 1. Debate under urgent procedure: 

The large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores (Doc. )

Rapporteur of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population:

Deadline for tabling amendments: Wednesday 13 April at 12 noon

Debate and vote on a …

2. Current affairs debate: 

The situation in Northern Africa

Discussion

1 p.m. End of the sitting

Click here for link to PACE news page.

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Statement: European Commission’s response to the migratory flows from North Africa

The European Commission released a statement on 8 April summarising its actions.  Excerpts:

“[***]

Measures addressing the migration flows towards the European Union

Urgent measures already undertaken

The massive displacement of populations from several North African countries has been putting the protection and reception systems of some of the EU Member States, in particular in Italy and Malta, under increasing strain. The European Union has responded to these serious challenges in a rapid and effective manner with the aim of stabilizing the situation.

Frontex has deployed the Joint Operation EPN Hermes Extension 2011 to assist the Italian authorities in managing the influx of migrants from North Africa, most of whom have been arriving on the island of Lampedusa. This mission was launched on 20 February 2011, only four days after receiving the official request from the Italian authorities, a clear signal of solidarity between Member States. FRONTEX stands ready to continue the mission as long as it will be necessary, and to expand it, provided that Member States will make available the necessary staff, vessels and equipment. In view of the above the Commission is launching the necessary procedures for reinforcing the FRONTEX 2011 budget with an additional EUR 30 million.

Europol has also deployed a team of experts to Italy in order to help the national authorities to assist in detecting and preventing possible criminal of trafficking of human beings.

Regarding the financial needs linked with the displacement, the Commission’s four migration-related funds (the External Borders Fund, Return Fund, Refugee Fund and Integration Fund) are available to Member States. For example, Italy, one of the major beneficiaries of these funds, has been allocated €55 million for 2010 and €75 million for 2011. Moreover, the Commission makes available an additional €25 million of emergency funding which can be quickly mobilised under the External Borders Funds and European Refugee Fund.

What measures could be undertaken in the short-term?

Should the inflow of irregular migrants and possible refugees continue, the Commission envisages a number of short-term measures that might be taken.

Reinforcing Frontex

  • 1) The Joint Operation EPN HERMES Extension coordinated by FRONTEX could be considerably strengthened, with additional technical resources made available by Member States, and adequate financial resources.
  • 2) It is essential that FRONTEX is finally given a stronger operational mandate through a revision of its legal basis, which the Commission tabled in February 2010 (IP/10/184)
  • 3) FRONTEX should speed up negotiations to conclude working arrangements with the countries of origin and transit of irregular migration in the Mediterranean in the region (for example, with Egypt, Morocco and Turkey), and receive a mandate to negotiate similar working arrangements with other relevant countries (for instance Tunisia)

Resettlement of third country nationals

The continuous and possible increase in the flow of refugees (e.g. Somalis, Eritreans etc.), in need of international protection, coming from Libyan territory is an issue of major concern. The EU will not only continue to provide humanitarian assistance through its humanitarian office (ECHO), but it is also ready to offer through the European Refugee Fund financial support in view of facilitating the resettlement of persons in need of international protection. Resettlement represents not only a life-saving measure for the refugees concerned, but is also an important responsibility-sharing gesture towards the countries hosting them. Showing solidarity with the countries neighbouring Libya that are under pressure through resettlement can help to maintain ‘protection space’, as well as contributing to dialogue and cooperation on other issues of migration and border management.

The Commission has therefore been encouraging EU Member States to offer resettlement places, in a spirit of responsibility-sharing and in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A meeting was held with Member States on 25 March at which details of the most urgent needs were explained by the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), both of whom are actively engaged on the ground in the region.

The current crisis in the Mediterranean clearly demonstrates how imperative it is that the Council and the European Parliament make an effort to rapidly reach an agreement on the adoption of the Commission’s proposal for the establishment of an EU joint resettlement programme. This proposal would provide a structured basis for annual priority-setting, and linking those priorities with financial incentives, thereby encouraging more Member States to become involved in resettlement activities, and enhancing practical cooperation between Member States to that end.

Solidarity / Temporary Protection Directive

In the event of a massive inflow of persons who are likely to be in need of international protection, the Commission would expect Member States to demonstrate concrete solidarity with each other by directly assisting the States bearing the greatest burden. This could involve the relocation to other Member States of some persons seeking protection, or who have already received an international protection status.

Concrete assistance could likewise be provided by the newly-created European Asylum Support Office, one of whose central tasks is coordination of assistance to Member States whose asylum systems are under exceptional pressure. This could involve the deployment of so-called ‘asylum support teams’ to reinforce the capacities of a State to process asylum claims and to ensure appropriate reception conditions for asylum seekers.

The Commission would also be ready to consider proposing the use of the mechanism foreseen under the 2001 Temporary Protection Directive (2001/55/EC), if the conditions foreseen in the directive are met. Consideration could only be given to taking this step if it is clear that the persons concerned are likely to be in need of international protection, if they cannot be safely returned to their countries-of-origin, and if the numbers of persons arriving who are in need of protection are sufficiently great. Resort to this mechanism would allow for the immediate protection and reception in the territory of EU Member States for persons concerned, as well as offering a “breathing space” for the national asylum systems of the Member States most directly affected.

[***]“

Click here for full Statement.

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UNHCR Calls on EU to Improve Rescue at Sea Measures; NATO Should Also Actively Participate in Rescue at Sea in Regard to All Overcrowded Boats

UNHCR issued a statement on Friday, 8 April, calling “on the European Union to urgently put into place more reliable and effective mechanisms for rescue-at-sea” in the aftermath of last week’s disaster that saw “[m]ore than 220 Somali, Eritrean and Ivorian refugees drowned early on Wednesday morning when their boat capsized some 39 nautical miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. This is the worst such incident in the Mediterranean in recent years.  ‘It is hard to comprehend that at a time when tens of thousands are fleeing the Libyan conflict and pouring across the land borders into Tunisia and Egypt where they enjoy safety and receive shelter and aid, the protection of people fleeing via Libya’s maritime border does not appear to have the same priority’ said Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller.” “‘We also appeal to shipmasters to continue to render assistance to those in distress at sea. Any overcrowded boat leaving Libya these days should be considered to be in distress’ [, said Feller.]”

While NATO was not mentioned in the UNHCR statement, the call for improved measures to save the lives of migrants who flee North Africa by boat should also be heard and considered by the NATO Maritime Command Naples which is conducting the maritime embargo of Libya known as Operation Unified Protector.   NATO has a significant naval force patrolling the area through which migrant boats leaving Libya are passing and this force should be actively engaged in protecting fleeing civilians.  (Click here for earlier post regarding NATO’s maritime embargo.)

While UN Security Council Resolution 1973 does not speak directly to this issue, it does call for the protection of civilians.  Relevant portions from Security Council Resolution 1973:

  • “Expressing [the Security Council's] determination to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian populated areas and the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance and the safety of humanitarian personnel, [***];
  • Reiterating [the Security Council's] concern at the plight of refugees and foreign workers forced to flee the violence in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, welcoming the response of neighbouring States, in particular Tunisia and Egypt, to address the needs of those refugees and foreign workers, and calling on the international community to support those efforts, [***];
  • Protection of civilians – 4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,… [***].”

As with UNHCR’s call to EU states, NATO ships should also render assistance to any migrant boat detected by NATO forces – any overcrowded boat leaving Libya should be considered to be in distress.

Click here for UNHCR statement.

Click here for article.

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500 Migrants Reach Malta from Libya – First Arrivals in 2011

300 migrants arrived in Malta this afternoon.  A second group of approximately 250 is expected to arrive this evening.  The migrants are believed to be Sub-Saharan asylum seekers from Libya.

Under Maltese law, the arriving asylum seekers will be detained.  The law purports to authorise detention for up to 18 months.  Malta’s detention centres are at present largely empty due to the lack of recent migrant arrivals.  COE Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg concluded a visit to Malta just last week.  The Commissioner’s report pertaining to his visit has not yet been released, but a statement was released in which the Commissioner called for “the policy of mandatory detention of all irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, [to] be reconsidered.”

Excerpts from the Statement:

“‘Malta and Europe need each other if the challenges of migration are to be met in a manner that respects human rights,’ said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, following his visit to Malta from 23 to 25 March. According to the Commissioner, Malta needs to move away from a reactive approach to migration and establish a system that is fully in line with European standards concerning the human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. At the same time, a much more generous and collegial approach is needed on the part of other European states, by accepting to host some of the persons to whom Malta has rightly accorded international protection. ‘However, with the exception of France and Germany – and further afield the US – this has not been the case so far.’

The Commissioner underlined that the current uncertainty related to the events in Libya and possible forced migration towards Malta and Europe should not deter the Maltese authorities from undertaking the necessary reforms. ‘Instead this is another reason for more European solidarity to support these reforms’ said the Commissioner, noting also that the substantial decrease in the number of irregular arrivals in Malta over the last two years has taken considerable pressure off Malta.

In this context, the policy of mandatory detention of all irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, should be reconsidered. The Commissioner notes that the mandatory detention of migrants can hardly be reconciled with the requirements set by the European Convention on Human Rights, as also reflected in a July 2010 judgment of the Strasbourg Court in the case of Louled Massoud, which found that Malta had violated the Convention by detaining an asylum seeker, whose claim had been rejected, for almost 18 months. ‘Malta should take all necessary legislative and other measures in order to implement fully and effectively this important judgment of the European Court of Human Rights’ said the Commissioner. Alternatives to the detention of migrants should be provided for in law, in accordance with the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution 1707 (2010). …”

Click here and here for articles.

Click here for the Commissioner’s full statement

Click here for link to Commissioner’s thematic web page on human rights of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

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European Council Meeting Conclusions re Migrant and Refugee Flows from North Africa

While most of the European Council meeting of 24/25 March was devoted to economic policy and the Euro Zone crisis, the Council also considered the situation in Libya and the “Southern Neighborhood.”  The Council’s Conclusions noted that the Commission would be presenting “a Plan for the development of capacities to manage migration and refugee flows in advance of the June European Council.”  The Council conclusions also stated that “Agreement should be reached by June 2011 on the regulation enhancing the capabilities of Frontex. In the meantime the Commission will make additional resources available in support to the agency’s 2011 Hermes and Poseidon operations….”

Excerpts from the Council 24/25 March 2011 Conclusions:

“II. LIBYA / SOUTHERN NEIGHBOURHOOD

18. The European Council discussed the situation in Libya and endorsed the conclusions adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 21 March. Recalling its March 11 Declaration, the European Council expressed its satisfaction after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which expresses the principle of the responsibility to protect, and underlined its determination to contribute to its implementation. It also welcomed the Paris Summit of 19 March as a decisive contribution to its implementation…. [***]

21. The humanitarian situation in Libya and on its borders remains a source of serious concern. The EU will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to all those affected, in close cooperation with all the humanitarian agencies and NGOs involved. The EU has stepped up and will continue its planning on support for humanitarian assistance / civil protection operations, including by maritime means.  [***]

25. The European Council welcomes the recent visit of Presidency and the Commission to Egypt as part of a first phase of consultations to promote a comprehensive approach to migration as between the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood region and the European Union. In this context the European Council invites the Commission to present its proposals on the Global Approach to Migration as well as on the Mobility Partnership well in advance of the June European Council.

26. The European Council also looks forward to the presentation by the Commission of a Plan for the development of capacities to manage migration and refugee flows in advance of the June European Council. Agreement should be reached by June 2011 on the regulation enhancing the capabilities of Frontex. In the meantime the Commission will make additional resources available in support to the agency’s 2011 Hermes and Poseidon operations and Member States are invited to provide further human and technical resources. The EU and its Member States stand ready to demonstrate their concrete solidarity to Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and provide the necessary support as the situation evolves.  [***]”

Click here for full document.

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Frontex Announces Extension and Expansion of Joint Operation Hermes in Central Mediterranean

On 23 March Frontex announced a 5 month extension of its Joint Operation Hermes.  Frontex also announced a westward expansion of the operational area to include Sardinia, roughly 300 km northwest of Lampedusa.  According to Frontex Director Laitinen, “100 percent [of] the request the Italian authorities [have] made to Frontex” has been satisfied.

Frontex statement in full:

“Warsaw, 23 March 2011 — Due to the notable increase in migratory pressure on Italy and the island of Lampedusa in particular, Frontex has widened the operational area of Joint Operation Hermes and extended its duration for five more months, with the aim of strengthening Europe’s border control response capability in the Central Mediterranean.

‘In close cooperation with the Italian authorities, we have decided to run Joint Operation Hermes until the end of August 2011, and to extend the operational area to include Sardinia, where Frontex has already deployed aerial assets to strengthen the patrolling capacity of the Italian authorities,’ said Frontex Executive Director Ilkka Laitinen.

‘Frontex is closely monitoring the developments in North Africa and stands ready to assist the Member States operationally if requested. We are also continuously developing additional operational responses for potential rapid deployment throughout the Mediterranean if needed,’ he added.

As of 23 March 2011, Lampedusa remained the main destination for migrants from Tunisia. During the previous week alone, 3,230 undocumented persons arrived on the island, bringing the total number of arrivals detected in the whole operational area since Hermes began on 20 February to 9,098. The majority of migrants are young men but 52 women and more than 240 minors were also detected during Italian-led Hermes. At the time of writing the great majority of migrants who recently arrived in Lampedusa claimed to be of Tunisian nationality.

In addition to one aircraft and two vessels already financed and coordinated by Frontex, one Dutch and one Portuguese plane have now arrived in Pantelleria and Sardinia respectively to assist the Italian authorities in strengthening their border control activities.

‘With this equipment and 20 experts currently working in the centres of Bari, Caltanisetta and Crotone, we have satisfied 100 percent the request the Italian authorities made to Frontex,’ Laitinen concluded.

The cost of the first 40 days of the operation amounts to EUR 2.6 mln.”

Click here for statement.

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EMHRN Statement: Italy and EU should suspend all measures of forcible removal towards Tunisia

Press release in its entirety from the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network:

“Brussels, 23 March 2011.  Italy and the other Member States of the EU should suspend all measures of forcible removal towards Tunisia and share in the reinstallation of Libyan and non-Libyan refugees who have to flee Libya

Italian ministers Frattini and Maroni have announced their intention to travel to Tunisia to renew bilateral cooperation on migration issues. In the view of the Euro-Mediterranean Network, in the present circumstances, the ministers’ insistence that the Tunisian authorities must prevent new departures from Tunisia and cooperate in the forcible removal of the Tunisian migrants who have landed in Italy since the beginning of the year, is particularly inappropriate.

The upheavals that are shaking the region at the moment have exposed the short-sightedness and futility of a policy that favours dictators instead of migrants.

Expecting from the Tunisian authorities, first and foremost, a crack down on immigration from third countries and emigration towards the European Union amounts to encouraging them in returning to the authoritarian practices of the former regime. This is not the kind of support Tunisia needs.

In this transition period, Italy and the other member states of the European Union should, on the contrary, suspend all measures imposing the forcible removal of Tunisian nationals towards Tunisia and share in the resettlement of Libyan and non-Libyan refugees who have had to flee Libya, arrived in Tunisia and cannot return to their home country.

While the number of Tunisian migrants who have landed on Lampedusa Island is significant relative to the size and population of the island, it is minuscule, on the European scale, when compared to the scope of the humanitarian emergency confronting Tunisia on its border with Libya. No fewer than 165,000 people have crossed the border at Ras Adjir in an attempt to flee the violence in Libya since 20 February, but no Tunisian official has made inflammatory statements comparing migrants and asylum seekers with criminals or terrorists. Tunisia is forced to cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Tunisian workers, some of whom had been living in Libya for many years, as well as tens of thousands of immigrant workers, mainly from Bangladesh and sub-Saharan countries, who are awaiting repatriation to their countries of origin with assistance from UNHCR and OIM, not to mention Libyans and nationals of countries such as Somalia, Eritrea or Sudan, who for obvious reasons cannot return to their countries of origin, where their lives and physical integrity would be at risk.”

Click here for link.

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