Tag Archives: United States

Malta Expresses Interest in Use of Drones for Migrant Surveillance at Sea

Malta Today reported last week that the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) “have expressed interest in benefitting from a European Union-sponsored project involving the deployment of unmanned drones to assist in migrant patrols at sea.”  “An AFM spokesman told Malta Today that while the armed forces are ‘fully involved in the development of the system’ it is however ‘not participating in the testing of such drones.’”

The use of drones for land and sea border surveillance is contemplated by the EU Commission’s EUROSUR proposal which is currently being considered by the European Parliament.  The Heinrich Böll Foundation’s recent report, “Borderline – The EU’s new border surveillance initiatives”, noted that “[w]hile FRONTEX has demonstrated a great amount of interest in the use of drones, it remains to be seen whether the agency will purchase its own UAVs. According to the 2012 FRONTEX Work Programme, the agency’s Research and Development Unit is currently engaged in a nine-month study to ‘identify more cost efficient and operational effective solutions for aerial border surveillance in particular Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) with Optional Piloted Vehicles (OPV) that could be used in FRONTEX Joint Operations (sea and land).’”

The United States has been using drones for some years now to monitor land and sea borders and is currently planning to expand the use of drones in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico despite serious questions that are being raised about the effectiveness of surveillance drones operating over the sea. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article the Predator drones that are currently being operated by the Department of Homeland Security over the Caribbean “have had limited success spotting drug runners in the open ocean. The drones have largely failed to impress veteran military, Coast Guard and Drug Enforcement Agency officers charged with finding and boarding speedboats, fishing vessels and makeshift submarines ferrying tons of cocaine and marijuana to America’s coasts.”  “‘I’m not sure just because it’s a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that it will solve and fit in our problem set,’ the top military officer for the region, Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, said recently. …  For the recent counter-narcotics flights over the Bahamas, border agents deployed a maritime variant of the Predator B called a Guardian with a SeaVue radar system that can scan large sections of open ocean. … But test flights for the Guardian [drone] showed disappointing results in the Bahamas, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the program who were not authorized to speak publicly.  During more than 1,260 hours in the air off the southeastern coast of Florida, the Guardian assisted in only a handful of large-scale busts, the officials said….”

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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Filed under European Union, Frontex, Malta, News

UNHCR: More people are risking lives in the Caribbean to reach safety

Full text of 13 July 2012 statement: UNHCR is very concerned by the loss of life we are seeing in maritime incidents in the Caribbean among people trying to escape difficult conditions in Haiti.

On Tuesday July 10, a woman drowned when a boat carrying more than 100 Haitian migrants ran aground near the Bahamas. In an earlier tragedy, on June 12, more than a dozen Haitians lost their lives in Bahamian and US waters while trying to reach the shores of Florida. These events are a reminder of the extremes that people in difficult situations sometimes resort to.

Continuing difficulties in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake are leading thousands of Haitians to flee their homeland each year, often in unseaworthy vessels. Although no firm statistics exist, it is estimated that hundreds of deaths occur yearly as a result.

US Coast Guard data shows that since December 2011 over 900 people have been found on boats in rescue or interception operations including some 652 Haitians, 146 Cubans and 111 people from the Dominican Republic. [See US Coast Guard statistics here.]

Inside Haiti, internal displacement remains significant with 421,000 individuals still living in camps in and around Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in the country. The political situation remains tense, and a rise is reported in criminality and insecurity. A cholera outbreak has continued.

UNHCR is also concerned about countries that are returning the Haitians to Haiti, ignoring an earlier joint-appeal by UNHCR and OHCHR asking states not to return Haitians, for humanitarian reasons, without adequate individual protection screening. The joint call was made in view of the daunting humanitarian challenges that Haiti still faces, exacerbated by the January 2010 earthquake.

UNHCR continues to advocate for the inclusion of adequate protection safeguards for individuals apprehended at sea, and hopes that such tragedies can be avoided in the future through enhanced international cooperation in the region.

Click here for statement.

Click here for link to US Coast Guard “Alien Migrant Interdiction” statistics page.

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Filed under Caribbean - West Indies, Data / Stats, Haiti, News, UNHCR

Transatlantic Trends: Immigration Survey 2011 / US and European Public Opinion

Transatlantic Trends has released a public opinion survey: “The results of the 2011 Transatlantic Trends: Immigration survey captures U.S. and European public opinion on a range of immigration and integration issues.  The most important highlights of this year’s survey show

  • 1) there is a remarkable stability of general immigration opinions over time,
  • 2) the public supports European Union burden-sharing on migration resulting from the Arab Spring and increasingly favors European responsibility for setting immigrant admissions numbers, and
  • 3) the public tends to favor highly educated immigrants but still prefers immigrants with a job offer.

Now in its fourth year, Transatlantic Trends: Immigration (TTI) measures public opinion on immigration and integration issues on both sides of the Atlantic. The countries included in the 2011 version of the survey were the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain…. [***]

Key Findings of the Survey – General Perceptions – Stability in Public Opinion: Basic public stances on immigration have not changed notably in the last year, even in Europe where the perceived threat of movement resulting from the Arab Spring was a central issue. Immigration remained a second order concern for the public, following the economy and unemployment. Perceptions of immigration as a problem or opportunity have changed little since 2008, the first year of the survey. In 2011, 52% of Europeans and 53% of Americans polled saw immigration as more of a problem than an opportunity, with the strongest pessimism in the United Kingdom (68%)…. [***]

Forced Migration, the Arab Spring, and Burden-sharing – Sympathy for Forced Migration for Various Reasons. The public was sympathetic to the plight of migrants forced to flee their homes for a number of reasons: to avoid persecution, armed conflict, and natural disaster. Fewer but still a majority of respondents were also in favor of accepting migrants seeking to avoid poverty. Respondents in Spain (76%), Italy (68%), and the United States (64%) were the most supportive of those fleeing poor economic conditions, compared to a European average of 58%.

Key Findings of the Survey – Forced Migration, the Arab Spring, and Burden-Sharing – Dealing with the Arab Spring:  Europeans in general were very open to helping countries in North Africa and the Middle East experiencing the turmoil and aftermath of the Arab Spring with either trade (84% in favor) or development aid (79% in favor), though they were wary of opening their labor markets to migrants from the region (47% in favor) and would prefer that migrants who were admitted stay only temporarily. Eighty percent of European respondents supported European burden-sharing to cope with the flows emanating from the region….[***]“

Click here for TTI Key Findings statement.

Click here for TTI Report.

Click here for TTI Topline Data.

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Filed under Analysis, Data / Stats, European Union, France, Germany, Italy, News, Reports, Spain, UK, United States

Office of Legal Counsel (US Dept of Justice) 1994 Legal Opinion, “Whether the Interdiction of Undocumented Aliens Within United States Territorial Waters Constitutes an Arrest Under Section 287(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act”

This post will be of little interest to most people, but I wanted to give an online home to this US Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) legal opinion issued on April 22, 1994 [22 April 1994 OLC Opinion] and which we obtained last month pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to OLC in September 2009.

The legal opinion, “Whether the Interdiction of Undocumented Aliens Within United States Territorial Waters Constitutes an ‘Arrest’ Under Section 287(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” concludes that “[t]he interdiction within the territorial waters of the United States of illegal aliens entering or attempting to enter the United States is not an ‘arrest’ of such aliens within the meaning of INA § 287(a)(2).”

By concluding that an interdiction within US territorial waters does not constitute an arrest under US immigration laws, the 1994 legal opinion re-affirmed a 1993 OLC legal opinion that aliens interdicted within the 12 mile territorial sea zone are not entitled to hearings before an immigration judge which in turn means that such aliens are not able to seek protections under US immigration law, including protection against refoulement. The 1993 memo stated, inter alia, that “the State Department has advised us of its view that the United States’s international law obligations under the Protocol do not require it to provide … hearings to aliens who have merely arrived in its territorial waters.”

This rationale was extended by a 1996 OLC legal opinion to interdictions that occur within the “internal waters” of the US.  “Internal waters” under US law include such bodies of water as “the straits between the Florida Keys [and] portions of the Chesapeake Bay.”

Since 1992, the US has maintained the position that its obligation to apply Article 33 non-refoulement protection does not extend to persons encountered outside US territory in international waters.  While asserting it is not obligated to extend Article 33 protection to persons encountered in international waters, within the 12 mile territorial sea, or within internal waters, the US does extend Article 33 protection to interdicted migrants on a discretionary case-by-case basis.

Click on this link, 1994 OLC Opinion, for newly released 1994 OLC legal opinion: “Whether the Interdiction of Undocumented Aliens Within United States Territorial Waters Constitutes an ‘Arrest’ Under Section 287(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” Memorandum from Office of Legal Counsel, US Department of Justice (22 April 1994).

Click here for 1993 OLC legal opinion: “Immigration Consequences of Undocumented Aliens’ Arrival in United States Territorial Waters,” Memorandum from Office of Legal Counsel, US Department of Justice (13 October 1993).

Click here for 1996 OLC legal opinion: “Rights of Aliens Found in US Internal Waters,” Memorandum from Office of Legal Counsel, US Department of Justice (21 November 1996).

Click here for Executive Order No 12807 (29 May 1992) containing, inter alia, US interpretation of its Article 33 obligations in regard to persons encountered in international waters.

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Issue Brief- Cutting Off the Flow: Extraterritorial Controls to Prevent Migration

An Issue Brief, “Cutting Off the Flow: Extraterritorial Controls to Prevent Migration,” written by Eleanor Taylor-Nicholson, has been published by the Warren Institute for Law and Social Policy, University of California, Berkeley.  The issue brief was written as a background paper for a conference held by the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley Law School on 22 April 2011.

Excerpt: “… This issue brief explores the extent to which the United States, Europe and European governments have implemented different extraterritorial controls. Although we hear of such controls in the media, how common are they? Who is overseeing them? What do they involve? What are concerns with their use? To answer these questions, this brief presents information on key actors, including individual nation-states and their agents, and on the range of mechanisms used by both. A comparison of two major immigration destinations is included to consider similarities and differences in the use of extraterritorial controls by states.

A review of the literature and media reports finds that extraterritorial controls include a diverse range of measures by different actors, some of which have been extremely controversial, such as maritime interdiction and offshore detention, and others that are more accepted or less understood, such as visa controls and disruption of organized immigration crime. Further, while such controls are now ubiquitous in both regions, their design and implementation generally lack public oversight and accountability mechanisms. They may protect states from security threats, have the potential to provide early protection to people in need, and save traveling migrants in distress. But, if used primarily as an immigration deterrence mechanism, they can cause harm. Indeed they may provide states a means to evade their international obligations or lead to violations of international refugee law and human rights law.

In light of this, we recommend governments conduct a comprehensive and public review of the extraterritorial controls they have in place, taking into consideration international refugee and human rights commitments. We also urge governments to increase the transparency of their immigration control agreements with third parties, including private actors and other states….”

Click here for Issue Brief.

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HRC Adopts Resolution on Migrants and Asylum Seekers Fleeing North Africa; Calls for Inquiry Into Allegations of Failures to Rescue Boats in Distress

The UN Human Rights Council, 17th Session, on Friday, 17 June, adopted a resolution (A/HRC/17/L.13) on Migrants and Asylum Seekers Fleeing from Events in North Africa.  The Resolution recalls states’ obligations under human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, including the obligation of non-refoulement and called for ships patrolling the Mediterranean Sea to provide assistance to non-seaworthy boats leaving North Africa.

The Resolution also calls for “a comprehensive inquiry into the very troubling allegations that sinking vessels carrying migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the events in North Africa were abandoned to their fate despite the alleged ability of European ships in the vicinity to rescue them, and welcomes the call made by the Council of Europe in this regard on 9 May 2011.”  [NB - this quoted text is taken from a 15 June version of the Resolution and may not reflect the final approved language. frenzen]

The Resolution was adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 14 against, and no abstentions:

In favour (32): Angola; Argentina; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brazil; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Cuba; Djibouti; Ecuador; Gabon; Ghana; Guatemala; Jordan; Kyrgyzstan; Malaysia; Maldives; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Nigeria; Pakistan; Qatar; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Thailand; Uganda; Uruguay and Zambia.

Against (14): Belgium; France; Hungary; Japan; Norway; Poland; Republic of Korea; Republic of Moldova; Slovakia; Spain; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom and United States.

Excerpts from the Afternoon 17 June summary of the HRC meeting:

“OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), introducing draft resolution L.13, said the African Group recognized that due to the recent crisis situation in North Africa, migrants had suffered great hardship. Migrants were fleeing, not flowing out of North Africa. People were running away because their lives were at risk. Other root causes for migration did not apply in this case.  This resolution had been difficult to establish. Nigeria thanked all partners for their efforts in developing the draft resolution. The information emanating from North Africa was such that while neighboring countries did quite a lot in accommodating migrants, there were substantial difficulties in traveling from North Africa. Some people had even died at sea. Nigeria took note that some countries did provide assistance through their offices of migration or other mechanisms. The hardship suffered by migrants should be investigated in order to clarify the problems that arose and ensure this situation was not repeated. Nigeria believed that the Special Rapporteur, working with the High Commissioner, would be able to provide information about how to deal with such a situation in the future. The African Group would appreciate if the draft resolution would be approved by consensus.

[***]

ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that the European Union had assisted greatly with the humanitarian effort in Libya. From the outset the European Union had been at the forefront of humanitarian response. The European Union had been active in repatriating third country nationals.  This had been vital in reducing the stress on neighboring countries. The draft text was circulated late. The European Union had engaged in a constructive spirit on the text, while retaining a specific focus that would address the issue at stake in a more balanced and legally accurate manner, notably when referring to issues related to refugee law and law of the sea. It noted that this was particularly true with regard to PP7 and operative paragraphs, which introduced new language that was not consistent with public international law. The resolution did not capture the multi-dimensional aspects of the problem. There was no reference to the overall human rights situation in the region, and therefore the root causes of the plight of migrants.  The resolution did not refer to the responsibility of criminal traffickers and continued to characterize the situation in an unbalanced way. The European Union and its Member States had continued to observe the principle of non-refoulement. Not a single refugee had been subjected to refoulement. The European Union called for a vote and noted that it would vote against the resolution.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L. 13, said the United States shared concern for the migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the violence in Libya. A resolution requiring countries to recognize their obligations under international law and support victims of violence and migrants from Libya was important.  However, this resolution assigned the sole responsibility to countries of destination and avoided reference to the root causes of the problem. The draft resolution used language that misconstrued State obligations and responsibilities regarding those migrants and asylum seekers. The sponsors had delayed introduction of the draft resolution, thus allowing only a restricted period to review and provide comments on the draft resolution. The United States regretted that the manner the resolution was developed belied its importance and sent the wrong message to the Gaddafi forces.”

Click here for UN News Centre summary.

Click here for the AFTERNOON 17 June 2011 summary of the HRC meeting.

Click here or on this link [ L.13 Document As Received ] for Resolution “document as received.”

Click here for Resolution “document as issued.” [NB – this may not be the final approved version.]

Click here  or on this link [ L.13 Oral Revision ] for Resolution “oral revision.”

Click herehere or here for final versions of resolutions when available.  [HRC Extranet registration may be required.]

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Filed under Hungary, Libya, Mediterranean, News, OHCHR, Statements, United Nations, United States

US Govt Chartered Ferry to Attempt Evacuation of US Citizens from Tripoli Wednesday Morning, 23 Feb.

The US State Department issued a statement that a US government charted ferry will attempt to dock at the “As-shahab Port in central Tripoli, located on the sea road across from the Radisson Blu Mahari Hotel, [and depart] for Valletta, Malta on Wednesday, February 23. Processing of passengers will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m. local time.  U.S. citizen travelers wishing to depart should proceed as soon as possible after 9:00 a.m. to the pier and arrive no later than 10:00 a.m.”

Click here for full US Embassy Tripoli Warden Message.

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