Tag Archives: Spain

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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Filed under Aegean Sea, Analysis, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Senegal, Spain

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 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

Click here or here for Report.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, Analysis, Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Morocco, Reports, Spain, Tunisia

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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Slight Decrease in Number of Migrants Arriving by Boat in Spain in First Half of 2012

Frontex reports a 3% decrease in the number of irregular migrants arriving by boat in Spain over the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011: 2,637 in 2011 versus 2,559 in 2012.  Most migrant boats attempt to reach the Spanish mainland along the coasts of Andalusia and elsewhere in eastern Spain.  Frontex reports an increase of 6.5% in the number of migrants reaching the Spanish mainland, but this increase is offset by a reduction in the number of migrant arrivals in the Canary Islands.

EFE quoted Gil Arias, Frontex deputy director, as stating that “[t]he decline [in Spain] is in line with the trend of the EU…” where there has been an overall reduction of more than 50% in the number of irregular migrants crossing land and sea borders of Member States during the same six month period: 74,200 in 2011 versus 36,741 in 2012.   Arias noted that the number of arrivals in Spain is “insignificant” relative to the overall EU, accounting for about 7% of the EU total with Italy accounting for 12% and Greece 67%.

Note that there are other media reports which provide slightly different figures from those reported by Frontex.  Europapress reported that an estimated 3,000 migrants have been rescued so far this year (apparently though late July) along the Andalusian coast by rescue services.

Click here, here, here, and here for articles. (ES)

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Filed under Algeria, Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Morocco, News, Somalia, Spain

1000+ Migrants / 44 Boats Reach Andalusian Coast in First Half of 2012; Frontex JOs Indalo and Minerva Underway

Europa Press reported that 1,037 migrants on board 44 boats have been detected arriving on the Andalusian coast from 1 January 2012 to 9 July 2012.  Most of the arrivals have occurred in the provinces of Granada and Almeria.  Frontex’s 2012 Joint Operation Indalo, which began in May , is focused on detecting irregular migration in the Western Mediterranean and specifically on migration from Morocco and Algeria towards Andalusia.  The ABC newspaper reported that some Spanish officials are again concerned that the Frontex enforcement efforts will divert migrant boats further north along the coast of Alicante.  The first boat of the year was detected arriving on the Alicante coast on 9 July.  ABC reported that a source with the Guardia Civil predicted that the numbers of boats attempting to reach Alicante would be less this year due to the stabilizing of conditions in North Africa and the poor Spanish economy.  Frontex’s Joint Operation Minerva will launch on 13 July and is focused on increased surveillance and inspection of passengers arriving in Spain by ferry from Morocco and arrivals in Ceuta.

Click here, here, here, and here for articles. (ES)

Click here and here for Frontex descriptions of 2011 JO Indalo and Minerva.

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PACE Migration Committee Approves Report on “Lives Lost in the Mediterranean” and Calls on NATO and Responsible States to Conduct Full Inquiries into the Failures to Rescue

The report, “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”, was adopted this morning by the PACE Committee on Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.  It will next be debated in a plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly, probably on 24 April.

Here is the full text of the PACE press statement and links to the provisional version of the report:

“Strasbourg, 29.03.2012 – A failure to react to distress calls and a ‘vacuum of responsibility’ for search and rescue are among a ‘catalogue of failures’ which led to the deaths of 63 people fleeing the conflict in Libya by sea during a tragic 15-day voyage in March 2011, according to a committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

A report by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), adopted this morning in Brussels by PACE’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, says Italian search and rescue authorities, NATO, the flag states of naval vessels in the area, the Libyan authorities and reckless smugglers are among those who share responsibility.

The boat, which left Tripoli with 72 people on board a week after the beginning of international air strikes on Libya, washed up on the Libyan coast 15 days later with only nine people still alive – even though distress messages giving its last known position were regularly broadcast to all ships in the area.

NATO ‘failed to react to distress calls’ in a military zone under its control, the committee says, pointing out that the Spanish Navy frigate Méndez Núñez, under NATO command, was reported to be only 11 miles away, although the Spanish authorities dispute the distance. An Italian military vessel, the Borsini, was 37 nautical miles away. Both vessels can carry a helicopter.

The committee says it finds ‘credible’ the testimonies of the nine survivors of the incident, who said that a military helicopter dropped water and biscuits to them and indicated it would return, but never did. On the tenth day of the voyage – with half the passengers dead – they said ‘a large military vessel’ approached, close enough for them to see crew with binoculars, but sailed away without effecting a rescue.

‘Many opportunities of saving the lives of the persons on board were lost,’ the committee concludes. It demands that NATO conduct an inquiry into the incident and provide comprehensive answers to outstanding questions, and calls on the European Parliament to seek further information, including satellite imagery. National parliaments of the states concerned should also carry out inquiries. There should also be an overhaul of maritime regulations to fill the ‘vacuum of responsibility’ when a state cannot carry out search and rescue in its assigned zone, and to deal with the dispute between Italy and Malta over which country should be responsible for disembarkation of those rescued at sea.

The report is due to be debated at the April plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly, probably on Tuesday 24 April.

Full report – provisional version (PDF)

Last letter from NATO (PDF)

Graphic: map showing reconstruction of the voyage and other annexes (PDF)

“Boat people” web file

Video recording of press conference

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