EU Council adopts decision expanding EUBAM Libya’s mandate to include actively supporting Libyan authorities in disrupting networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism

Outcome of Council Meeting, 17 December 2018 (provisional version) (at p. 11):

FOREIGN AFFAIRS – EUBAM Libya – The Council adopted a decision mandating the EU integrated border management assistance mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya) to actively support the Libyan authorities in contributing to efforts to disrupt organised criminal networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism. The mission was previously mandated to plan for a future EU civilian mission while engaging with the Libyan authorities.

The mission’s revised mandate will run until 30 June 2020. The Council also allocated a budget of € 61.6 million for the period from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2020.

In order to achieve its objectives EUBAM Libya provides capacity-building in the areas of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice. The mission advises the Libyan authorities on the development of a national integrated border management strategy and supports capacity building, strategic planning and coordination among relevant Libyan authorities. The mission will also manage as well as coordinate projects related to its mandate.

EUBAM Libya responds to a request by the Libyan authorities and is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to support the transition to a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya. The civilian mission co-operates closely with, and contributes to, the efforts of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

The mission’s headquarters are located in Tripoli and the Head of Mission is Vincenzo Tagliaferri (from Italy). EUBAM Libya

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Week in Review – 16 December 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 111,237 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,216

“This year is the fifth straight during which the arrival of irregular migrants and refugees has topped the 100,000 threshold – although 2018’s total is low compared to those recorded at this time in 2017 (166,737) and 2016 (358,018).”

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions remain at 14,795

According to the UNHCR, there have been no reported Libyan Coast Guard interceptions so far in December.

54 people believed to have been lost at sea without a trace in October

IOM reports that it learned that a boat disappeared without a trace in the Western Mediterranean after departing from Nador, Morocco, more than a month ago. The shipwreck is believed to have occurred between 26 and 27 October, when at least 54 people – including 11 women and three children – are now thought to have lost their lives. Soon after the boat’s departure, the NGO Alarm Phone, which runs a hotline for people crossing the Mediterranean, received a distress call from those onboard. No one on board has been heard from since. Spanish and Moroccan authorities confirmed that they, too, conducted search and rescue operations for this vessel but were unable to locate the boat or any survivors. In the weeks since the boat’s disappearance, dozens of family members have posted on social media channels searching for information about their loved ones. For its part the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, which is in contact with families of those on board, also reported that the boat may have disappeared without a trace.  It has now been over a month since the boat went missing. The fate of these 54 people remains a mystery and a source of agony to the many family members left behind. When a boat vanishes without a trace, it often goes unnoticed and unrecorded by the media or databases….”

90-Day Extension for EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia Remains Under Consideration

Italy has agreed to a 90-day extension of the EUNAVFOR MED mandate in order to permit continued EU negotiations regarding changes to EUNAVFOR MED’s mission, including changes relating to the places rescued migrants could be disembarked. The current mandate expires on 31 December 2018.  Italy has to date refused to agree to a longer extension of the mandate in the absence of changes to the disembarkation rules or to the Dublin Regulation.  Italy’s insistence on changes to disembarkation rules have become less important given the very small numbers of migrants rescued by the EUNAVFOR MED mission.  ANSA reported that the “Italian government decided to extend the mission after a meeting convened by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta, Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, Mission Commander Adm. Enrico Credentino, and Foreign Ministry Secretary General Elisabetta Belloni. … Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta …wished to avoid a brusque closure of the mission….”

It is time for EUNAVFOR MED to drop the “Operation Sophia” name

EUNAVFOR MED is not engaged in search and rescue operations, though it continues to hold itself out as a humanitarian mission.  It was just over three years ago in September 2015 when HR Mogherini announced in a speech that the operation’s official name would include “Operation Sophia”:

“Sophia is a baby who was born on 24 August 2015 at 04.15 am on board the German frigate Schleswig-Holstein, operating in the Central Mediterranean Sea as part of EUNAVFOR MED Task Force. Born from a Somali mother rescued together with other 453 migrants and disembarked on the evening of the same day in the harbour of Taranto, Sophia was named after the German ship dedicated to the Prussian princess Sophia of Schleswig-Holstein. I will suggest to Member States that we change the name of our Operation: instead of calling it EUNAVFOR MED, I suggest we use the name: Sophia. To honour the lives of the people we are saving, the lives of people we want to protect, and to pass the message to the world that fighting the smugglers and the criminal networks is a way of protecting human life.”

The Brussels 2 website reports that EUNAVFOR MED has only rescued 106 migrants over the past five months whereas the Libyan Coast Guard has intercepted and pulled back over 14,000 migrants and refugees in 2018.

Libyan Navy welcomes EU’s halting of NGO rescue boats

From the Libya Observer: “The spokesman for the Libyan Naval forces, Brigadier General Ayoub Qassem, said that the suspension of non-governmental organizations activities in the field of rescuing migrants will be positive to the Libyan Navy….Qassem accused these organizations of being a catalyst for increasing immigration, by transferring migrants to European countries, giving no caution to the thousands who drown, annually, in the sea.”

Cyprus sees sharp increase in arrivals

Article by AP reporter Menelaos Hadjicostis in the Washington Post: “[T]housands of migrants … have slipped into Cyprus this year [from Turkish Cyprus] across its porous 180-kilometer-long (120-mile-long) buffer zone. Migrant arrivals by sea have also increased, turning tiny Cyprus into the EU’s top recipient of asylum-seekers relative to its population size, as other EU countries have tightened their borders.  Government statistics show that about 5,000 people — mostly from Syria but also Somalia, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cameroon — had claimed asylum in Cyprus by the end of August. That’s expected to reach 8,000 by year’s end, up from 3,000 in 2016. While that’s a fraction of the hundreds of thousands seeking asylum in the EU, it’s putting pressure on a country with just over 1 million people….Despite its proximity to the conflict zones of the Middle East, Cyprus received relatively few asylum-seekers during the peak of Europe’s migrant crisis three years ago, when most migrants arrived in Greece and made their way through the Balkans toward countries in northern Europe. An island nation just emerging from a severe economic crisis, Cyprus wasn’t seen as an attractive destination for migrants and refugees seeking shelter and a new life in Europe. But that changed as nations in Europe shut their borders and the economic situation improved….”

See also article by Helena Smith from the Guardian: ‘Cyprus is saturated’ – burgeoning migrant crisis grips island. “The island has exceeded every other EU member state in asylum claims in 2018, recording the highest number per capita with almost 6,000 applications for a population of about 1 million. By August requests were 55% higher than for the same eight-month period in 2017, a figure itself 56% higher than that for 2016, according to the interior ministry….Illicit crossings from the north have made Cyprus’ woes much worse. Reports have increased in recent months of irregular migrants flying into Ercan airport in the Turkish-controlled breakaway state. Hamstrung by politics, not least Turkey’s refusal to recognise the government in the southern part of Cyprus since its 1974 invasion of the island, authorities are unable to send them back….”

EU promises additional emergency funding to Morocco “in response to increased migratory pressure along the Western Mediterranean Route”

Press release from the European Commission: “The EU is intensifying its support to Morocco to address irregular migration in response to increased migratory pressure along the Western Mediterranean Route. The additional funding adopted under the EU emergency Trust Fund for Africa will bring the overall migration-related assistance to Morocco to €148 million in 2018. It will help step up the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings, including through reinforced integrated border management….”

See also ANSA article: Cooperation increases between Spain and Morocco on migration.

European Defence Agency producing geospatial information in support of EUNAVFOR MED operations

The European Defence Agency’s GISMO project (Geospatial Information to Support decision Making in Operations project) is producing geospatial information in support of EUNAVFOR MED operations and aims at full operational capability by mid-2019.  From the EDA:  “Since [2014] and working in partnership with the EU Satellite Centre (EU SatCen), GISMO has produced a first operational output in the form of ‘GeohuB’, a software application which allows for the safe and reliable sharing of geospatial information (GI) within a mission’s operational headquarter. After a successful field trial, GeohuB was successfully deployed in November 2017 to the Italian Operation Headquarters, Rome, in support of EU Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED). In practical terms, this means that operation participants with access to the classified mission network of EUNAVFOR MED’s operational headquarters in Rome can upload, share and manage geospatial data related to the operation…Last June, GISMO started the transition of the GeohuB application from the current status of Initial Operating Capability (IOC) to Full Operating Capability (FOC) by the summer. …”

Speech by MSF president: “Migration is not a crime. Saving lives is not a crime”

MSF International President Dr Joanne Liu’s speech on a panel discussion at the Global Compact on Migration conference in Marrakesh, Morocco: “…Last week MSF was forced to stop search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. A concerted, sinister campaign of legal challenges and administrative obstacles, means the ship we were working aboard—the Aquarius—is no longer authorised to leave port, let alone rescue people at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean. With the sabotage of the Aquarius, gone is the most basic humanitarian and legal commitment: saving lives at sea. Last week, 15 people stranded in a boat off the Libyan coast died of thirst and starvation. How many may be similarly dying or drowning, without anyone even aware?  Citizens and mayors around Europe have mobilised to receive rescued people and to show their humanity. Meanwhile, European governments have refused to provide search and rescue capacity, and – worse – have actively sabotaged the efforts of others to save lives. Saving lives is non-negotiable. Saving lives is what we do, what we will continue to do and fight for, and what we urge you to defend.  Saving lives is indeed a fundamental part of the Global Compact….”

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90-Day Extension for EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia Under Consideration

Italy has agreed to a 90-day extension of the EUNAVFOR MED mandate in order to permit continued EU negotiations regarding changes to EUNAVFOR MED’s mission, including changes relating to the places rescued migrants could be disembarked. The current mandate expires on 31 December 2018.  Italy has to date refused to agree to an extension of the mandate in the absence of changes to the disembarkation rules or the Dublin Regulation.  Italy’s insistence on changes to disembarkation rules have become less important given the very small numbers of migrants rescued by the EUNAVFOR MED mission.  The Brussels 2 website reports that EUNAVFOR MED has only rescued 106 migrants over the past five months whereas the Libyan Coast Guard has intercepted and pulled back over 14,000 migrants and refugees in 2018.

ANSA reported that the “Italian government decided to extend the mission after a meeting convened by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta, Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, Mission Commander Adm. Enrico Credentino, and Foreign Ministry Secretary General Elisabetta Belloni. … Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta …wished to avoid a brusque closure of the mission….

… Meanwhile, in Brussels, negotiations surrounding the renewal of the mission’s mandate are stalled in the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC). A new meeting is scheduled prior to the EU Council on Thursday and Friday. On the table is a possible six-month extension tied to the effort to find a medium-term solution on the issue of ports of disembarkation.”

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Week in Review – 09 December 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 109,455 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,160

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions remain at 14,795

UNHCR did not report any new Libyan Coast Guard pull backs over the previous week.  UNHCR reported that “as of 6 December, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) [had previously] rescued/intercepted 14,795 refugees and migrants at sea (10,346 men, 2,172 women and 1,421 children) during 115 sea operations. In November 2018, 546 refugees and migrants were disembarked in Libya. Throughout the year, the majority of refugees and migrants were disembarked at the Tripoli Naval Base (62 per cent) while others disembarked at Al Khums port (19 per cent) and Azzawya (11 per cent).”

EU reportedly to begin sharing sensitive surveillance and intelligence information with Libyan coast guard

From Matthias Monroy (@matthimon): “Libya is to be connected to the European surveillance network ‘Seahorse Mediterranean’ before the end of December this year. This was written by the State Secretary at the German Federal Foreign Office in response to a parliamentary question. Libyan authorities could learn about relevant incidents in the Mediterranean via the new cooperation. The military coastguard, for example, would receive the coordinates of boats with refugees to bring them back to Libya. In ‘Seahorse Mediterranean’ the southern Mediterranean countries of the European Union are joined. In addition to Italy, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, France and Spain, Portugal is also part of the network. It is a multilateral network of some Member States, not an institution of the European Union. ‘Seahorse Mediterranean’, however, it is connected to the EUROSUR system through which the European Union monitors its external borders. EUROSUR is intended to contribute to an ‘integrated European border management’. The EUROSUR system is operated by the new European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) and coordinated through a Situation Centre at the Frontex Border Agency in Warsaw. In this way, information from Frontex can also be fed into ‘Seahorses Mediterranean’. These can be, for example, situation reports or event messages generated from satellite reconnaissance information from the Copernicus programme. Frontex uses surveillance from space to detect suspicious activities at external maritime borders….”  Read full article by Monroy here.

European Commission misleads on reasons for migrant deaths

Article by EUobserver reporter Nikolaj Nielsen (@NikolajNielsen):  An EC spokeswoman blamed rising migrant deaths on the use of less seaworthy boats by smugglers: “‘What we are seeing here is a change of the modus operandi of the smugglers who are now no longer using the same type of vessels,’[.] The spokeswoman did not say why, noting that close to 700,000 lives have been saved since 2015. In September, she had offered an almost identical explanation. But the omission as to why points to a commission that is dealing in half truths. In fact, EU policy is in part responsible for making those boats more dangerous. Up until last year, the EU’s naval operation Sophia had seized over 500 refugee boats. Many more are likely to have since been captured. By destroying these boats, it forces people to turn to less seaworthy and more dangerous alternatives. Europe’s regional director for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Eugenio Ambrosi, offered a similar explanation. ‘When we say we want to disrupt the smuggler business model, we talk about destroying boats in Libya, we talk about destroying the boats, all this makes the smuggler richer,’ he told this website in October….”

UNHCR’s Tripoli “Gathering and Departure Facility” (GDF) now operational

From UNHCR: “On 6 December, UNHCR evacuated 133 refugees and asylum-seekers from the newly opened Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli to the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Niger. All of the evacuees were previously detained in Libyan detention centres and hosted in the GDF prior to their departure. The GDF is the first of its kind in the country and is intended to bring vulnerable refugees to a safe environment while solutions including resettlement, family reunification, or evacuation to other emergency facilities are sought for them. The facility is managed by UNHCR, partner LibAid and the Libyan Ministry of Interior…”

Greece Sea Arrivals Dashboard (November 2018)

From UNHCR: “So far in 2018, a total of 29,567 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece by sea. The majority are from Syria (26%), Afghanistan (26%) and Iraq (19%). More than half of the population are women (23%) and children (37%), while 40% are men. Arrivals in November 2018, at 2,075 decreased in comparison to October, when 4,073 people arrived on the islands. Arrivals during January to November 2018 are 8% higher than those of the same period in 2017. Lesvos has received almost half (47%) of all new arrivals, during 2018, followed by Samos (25%), Dodecanese islands (15%), Chios (12%) and Crete (1%).”

Increasing numbers of Algerian “harraga” leaving by sea

From El Watan: “Le phénomène de la harga de plus en plus alarmant : Le grand naufrage. Le phénomène de l’émigration clandestine (appelée communément la «harga») prend une ampleur sans précédent ces dernières années, en Algérie. … Au niveau de l’Oranie, les jeunes en partance pour les côtes ibériques, à bord d’embarcations de fortune, prennent le large, le plus souvent, à partir de Ghazaouet, Mostaganem, Oran, et, à un degré moindre Aïn Témouchent. Rien que dans la nuit de dimanche à lundi derniers, ils étaient 97 harraga à avoir été interceptés par les gardes-côtes, au large de différentes plages de l’ouest du pays. Dimanche dernier à 1h, 34 autres harraga, à bord de deux embarcations pneumatiques, ont été sauvés in extremis par les gardes-côtes, tandis que les corps de deux d’entre eux ont été repêchés sans vie….”

Voir également: “Migration : Harraga, nouvelle ruée sur la grande bleue. Le phénomène des harraga connaît depuis quelques semaines une accélération remarquée. Les conditions climatiques et la vigilance des gardes-côtes ne constituent plus un frein pour les jeunes et les moins jeunes qui tentent de rejoindre la rive nord de la Méditerranée sur des embarcations de fortune au péril de leur vie….”

Disturbing words from Danish Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg regarding rejected asylum seekers: “They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that.”

From the New York Times: “Denmark plans to house the country’s most unwelcome foreigners in a most unwelcoming place: a tiny, hard-to-reach island that now holds the laboratories, stables and crematory of a center for researching contagious animal diseases. As if to make the message clearer, one of the two ferries that serve the island is called the Virus. ‘They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that,’ the immigration minister, Inger Støjberg wrote on Facebook.  On Friday, the center-right government and the right-wing Danish People’s Party announced an agreement to house as many as 100 people on Lindholm Island — foreigners who have been convicted of crimes but who cannot be returned to their home countries. Many would be rejected asylum seekers….”

EUNAVFOR MED Sophia completes training module for Libyan Coast Guard personnel

EUNAVFOR MED completed the training of the latest cohort of Libyan personnel who will return to Libya to crew Libyan patrol boats.  The training included significant emphasis on gender issues, important yes, but not the main concern with Libya-EU pull back practices. From EUNAVFOR MED: “With the positive conclusion of this module, a total of 320 Libyan Coastguard and Navy personnel trained by EUNAVFOR Med has been achieved.”

According to EUobserver, Libyan personnel trained by EUNAVFOR MED are supposedly subjected to a robust vetting process: “The vetting is said to be carried out by EU states, international law enforcement agencies and Sophia. When EUobserver asked how many they have refused to train, a spokesperson for the EU’s foreign policy branch, the EEAS, said the figures are ‘restricted information’. When EUobserver filed a freedom of information request for the same data from the EEAS, it said such figures are not being held. Qassim Ayoub, spokesperson for Libya’s coast guard, told [EUobserver] earlier this year that people who are refused training are returned to their jobs in the Libyan Coast Guard.”

MSF statement: Aquarius forced to end operations as Europe condemns people to drown

As refugees, migrants and asylum seekers continue to die in the Mediterranean Sea, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its partner SOS MEDITERRANEE have been forced to terminate operations by the search and rescue vessel Aquarius. Over the past two months, with people continuing to flee by sea along the world’s deadliest migration route, the Aquarius has remained in port, unable to carry out its humanitarian work. This is the result of a sustained campaign, spearheaded by the Italian government and backed by other European states, to delegitimise, slander and obstruct aid organisations providing assistance to vulnerable people. Coupled with the EU’s ill-conceived external policies on migration, this campaign has undermined international law and humanitarian principles. With no immediate solution to these attacks, MSF and SOS MEDITERRANEE have no choice but to end operations by the Aquarius. ‘This is a dark day,’ says Nelke Manders, MSF’s general director. ‘Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others’ attempts to save lives. The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed.’…”

New drone deployments: Frontex surveillance drone in Lampedusa and French police drones over Calais

Via Jane’s Defence Weekly: Frontex demos unmanned Falco EVO for EU maritime border surveillance – The Falco EVO UAV being used by Frontex to demonstrate the use of unmanned aircraft to patrol the EU’s maritime borders….

The Selex Galileo Falco EVO has been selected by the European Union’s Frontex border control agency to explore the use of medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for maritime border surveillance….”

Via The Telegraph: “Police in Calais are using drones to locate migrants preparing to cross the Channel by boat, so that they can be arrested before they reach the water. In an escalation of security measures, the remotely controlled aerial vehicles have been seen flying low above the main Calais Migrant camp and sweeping across nearby beaches. … The move has come after a recent spike in attempted crossings of the English Channel by predominantly Iranian migrants….”

African migrants turn to deadly ocean route to Canary Islands as options narrow

Via Reuters: “Many migrants see the chain of islands off the Moroccan coast as the only viable option left as the European Union spends millions of dollars cutting off land routes through north Africa. They consider it a launchpad for asylum in mainland Europe…. Over 1,200 migrants arrived in the Canary Islands between Jan. 1 and Nov. 14, Spanish Interior Ministry data show, the highest in nine years and a four-fold increase over the same period in 2017….”

HRW calls on Greece and EU to move asylum seekers on Aegean Islands to mainland

Human Rights Watch: “The Greek government and its European Union partners should urgently ensure that all asylum seekers on the Aegean islands are transferred to suitable accommodation on the mainland or relocated to other EU countries as winter approaches, 20 human rights and other organizations said today. Despite the Greek government’s recent efforts to transfer asylum seekers from the islands to more suitable accommodation in the mainland, as of December 3, 2018, over 12,500 people were still living in tents and containers unsuitable for winter in five EU-sponsored camps known as hotspots on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos, and Leros – almost triple their capacity. In addition to serious overcrowding, asylum seekers continue facing unsanitary and unhygienic conditions and physical violence, including violence based on gender….”

2018 Migrant Arrivals to Yemen Approach 150,000

IOM’s “Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) forecasts a 50 per cent year-on-year rise over 2017 in migrant arrivals to Yemen – with nearly 150,000 migrants expected to enter the country in 2018. This, despite the ongoing conflict in Yemen and deadly perils along migration routes across the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea. … Today, an estimated 92 per cent of its incoming migrants are Ethiopian nationals, with Somalis accounting for the rest. In 2017, an estimated 100,000 migrants reached Yemen. …The upsurge in Yemen’s migrant arrivals exceeds 2018 arrivals to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea (107,216 arrivals this year)….”

International Maritime Organization: statement and resources re unsafe mixed migration by sea

From IMO:  “In order to address the safety of life at sea and search and rescue issues arising from unsafe migration by sea, IMO has been working with its partner organizations in the UN system as well as other international bodies to develop and update guidance for shipmasters and Governments. An information sharing platform has been established. IMO urges concerted action by the international community to tackle unsafe, mixed migration by sea, in the Mediterranean and other sea areas and has been actively addressing the issue at its own Committee meetings as well as through joint meetings on the matter with UN partners and other relevant international organizations.

Guidance on Rescue at Sea – Rescue at Sea:  A guide to principles and practice as applied to refugees and migrants  has been prepared jointly by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The guide is available in six languages…”

Separated at sea: during rescue operation in March, Sierra Leonean father rescued by NGO vessel Aquarius, 10 year-old son taken by Libyan Coast Guard vessel

From the Guardian, by Lorenzo Tondo (@lorenzo_tondo): “One night in March, a packed dinghy was afloat in the Mediterranean. Thirty metres ahead was a rescue ship but giving chase was a Libyan coastguard vessel. If it reached the boat it would send its passengers back to Libya and into militia-run detention centres. So they paddled harder, using their hands and feet. Among them were a father and his 10-year-old son, Chica and Alfonsine Camara. The dinghy crashed into the rescue ship and dozens were thrown into the sea, Chica among them. He looked around frantically for Alfonsine, who had been at his side since leaving Sierra Leone. He screamed as he saw him on the dinghy, now drifting dangerously towards the Libyans. In a matter of seconds, the fates of a father and son were decided – one human drama among the thousands on the perilous sea routes to Europe….”

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“They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that.” Danish Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg

2018-12-06 Inger StojbergFrom the New York Times:  Denmark Plans to Isolate Unwanted Migrants on a Small Island: “Denmark plans to house the country’s most unwelcome foreigners in a most unwelcoming place: a tiny, hard-to-reach island that now holds the laboratories, stables and crematory of a center for researching contagious animal diseases. As if to make the message clearer, one of the two ferries that serve the island is called the Virus. ‘They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that,’ the immigration minister, Inger Stojberg, wrote on Facebook. On Friday, the center-right government and the right-wing Danish People’s Party announced an agreement to house as many as 100 people on Lindholm Island — foreigners who have been convicted of crimes but who cannot be returned to their home countries. Many would be rejected asylum seekers….”  Full article here. 

 

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Week in Review – 02 December 2018

 A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

 The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 107,216 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,123

15 found dead on stranded vessel off Morocco

The Middle East Eye, via AFP, reported that “Morocco’s navy found the bodies of 15 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa on board a boat stranded at sea for days, a military source told AFP news agency. …The vessel was left drifting for four days following engine failure on its way to Spain, the source told AFP….”

European Parliament Legal Service says disembarkation platforms can lawfully be established outside of EU; Legal Service also says EU law does not apply to migrants rescued on the high seas

The EU Observer reported on the contents of a “10-page confidential report” prepared by the EP’s Legal Service “which attempted to provide a legal analysis of stalled EU plans to set up so-called ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ in north Africa and controlled centres in Europe…. The report broadly rubber stamps the legality of both concepts, but with conditions.  It says ‘controlled centres and/or disembarkation platforms of a similar nature could be, in principle, lawfully established in the European Union territory.’ It states disembarkation platforms ‘could lawfully be established outside of the European Union, in order to receive migrants rescued outside the territory of the Union’s member states.’”

The report “also says EU law does not apply to migrants rescued at high sea, even with a boat flying an EU-member state flag. … EU law is also not applied if the migrant is rescued in the territorial waters of an African coastal state, states the report.”

While no EU state has expressed an interest in establishing formal “controlled centres” and no North African state has been willing to host an EU “disembarkation platform”, “‘the disembarkation arrangement, the discussion, is proceeding in the Council,’ said Vincet Piket, a senior official in the EU’s foreign policy branch, the EEAS.”

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions reach 14,795

UNHCR reports that “as of 30 November, in 2018, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) has rescued/intercepted 14,795 refugees and migrants (10,346 men, 2,172 women and 1,421 children) during 115 sea operations. Since August to date, the number of refugees and migrants disembarked in Libya (2,162 individuals) has considerably decreased when compared to disembarkations in June (3,453 individuals) and July (2,167 individuals). In November, 546 individuals disembarked in Libya. The most recent events took place on 23 November (27 individuals disembarked at the Alkhums Naval Base) and on 24 November (110 individuals disembarked at the Azzawya Refinery Port and 63 in Zwara).”

Migrant flows slow to trickle in Sabratha, former Libyan smuggling hub

From Reuters, article by Aidan Lewis and Ulf Laessing: “Departures of migrant-laden boats to Italy from Sabratha, formerly Libya’s biggest people-smuggling hub, have slowed to a trickle thanks to a security crackdown triggered by European pressure that ejected the city’s top smuggler. … Crossings fell off abruptly in July 2017 after the city’s top smuggler, Ahmed al-Dabbashi – also known as Al-Ammu (the Uncle) – struck a deal with Tripoli authorities under Italian pressure to desist from trafficking migrants. Rival militia ejected Al-Ammu and his followers in fighting two months later, and have since consolidated their position, fending off an attempted comeback by Al Ammu earlier this month….”

Sharp drop in Spanish arrivals

IOM reports “that through Wednesday (28 November) 4,277 men, women and children have arrived as irregular migrants this month [in Spain], or slightly more than 1,000 people per week. This is a sharp drop from October (nearly 2,500 per week) or September (almost 1,900) when deaths at sea were lower, despite the higher arrival volume.”

NGOs resume limited rescue missions in Mediterranean

From Libya Observer: “Sea Watch, Proactiva Open Arms and Mediterranea have launched a joint rescue operation for migrants off the coast of Libya. ‘The fleet of three ships supported by the reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird which was also grounded in Malta, views itself as a civil society response to the European Union’s deadly isolation policy.’ Sea-Watch said.”

Libyan coast guard receives new patrol boat from Italy; V4 states to fund purchase of four additional Libyan patrol boats

The Libya coast guard received its latest new patrol boat from Italy.  And the foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group agreed last week “that their contribution to the Trust Fund for Africa would be used to support the building of the Libyan coast guard’s capacity and to strengthen the border of Libya.”  The former head of Slovak diplomacy Miroslav Lajčák said “that the V4 states will provide 35 million euros to strengthen, among other things, Libya’s coast guard capability, including the purchase and maintenance of four ships, as well as the marine coordination rescue center.”

10-day stand-off ends – rescued migrants disembark from Spanish fishing boat in Malta and will be transferred to Spain

From Reuters: “Eleven migrants rescued off the coast of Libya by a Spanish fishing boat were brought to Malta on Sunday, ending a protracted standoff to find a safe port for the boat. The nine men and two minors were transferred from the Nuestra Madre de Loreto to an [Armed Forces of Malta] vessel…. They were then transferred to Spain following talks between the two countries, the government said. … The fishing boat, Santa Madre de Loreto, rescued 12 migrants in international waters off the coast of Libya 10 days ago. Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms has been assisting the boat and migrants aboard, who it says would not have been safe if they were returned to Libya….”

The stand-off had been condemned by MSF and Amnesty International.

Increasing numbers of migrants attempt English Channel crossing

Sky News: “More than 100 migrants have been rescued off the Kent coast this month alone.”

Frontex opens first risk analysis cell in Niger

Frontex press statement: Frontex “opened the first ‘Risk Analysis Cell’ in Niamey in cooperation with Nigerien authorities.  The role of these cells, which are run by local analysts trained by Frontex, is to collect and analyse strategic data on cross-border crime in various African countries and support relevant authorities involved in border management….The Risk Analysis Cell in Niger is the first of eight such cells that was established in the framework of the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC). The remaining ones will be established in Ghana, Gambia, Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria, Guinea and Mali over the next twelve months….”

UNHCR Europe Monthly Report (October 2018) – 34% reduction in arrivals compared to last year

UNHCR: “Between 1 January and 31 October, 104,300 refugees and migrants arrived via the three Mediterranean routes to Europe compared to almost 157,700 arrivals in the same period in 2017. This marks a 34% reduction from the previous year’s arrival figures, showing a continued declining trend of the overall arrivals numbers to Europe. So far in 2018, October has seen the most arrivals in a single month with over 16,310 people reaching Europe. Figures from previous years show that arrivals in October tend to peak in comparison with other autumn months. Most confirmed arrivals so far this year have been to Spain, with some 55,340 arriving by land and sea compared to almost over 40,500 in Greece and some 21,960 in Italy. Primary nationalities amongst arrivals in 2018 so far were Syrians, Guineans, and Moroccans.

  • CYPRUS: Some 460 people arrived to Cyprus by sea thus far in 2018. Syrians make up the majority of those arriving to Cyprus.
  • GREECE: Nearly 41,300 refugees and migrants have arrived by land and sea in Greece with 67% arriving by sea so far in 2018. Arrivals by land and sea this year have increased by around 44% compared to those who arrived in the same period in 2017. … The three top countries of origin of arrivals by sea so far during 2018 were Syrians (27%), Afghans (25%) and Iraqis (19%).
  • ITALY: Almost 21,960 refugees and migrants have arrived in Italy by sea in 2018 by the end of October. Continuing the downwards trend of arrivals compared to the same period in 2017 (over 111,390), just over 1,000 refugees and migrants reached Italian shores in October, an 83% decrease compared to the 5,980 arrivals in October last year. … Among the various nationalities arriving by sea in Italy in October the majority were from Tunisia (22%), followed by Eritrea (14%), and Sudan (7%). …
  • SPAIN: A total of 53,100 refugees and migrants have reached Spain both by land and sea so far in 2018, representing an increase of 150% compared to the same period in 2017 (over 21,200). … The five most common nationalities of sea arrivals in Spain are Moroccans (21%), Guineans (21%), Malians (16%), Ivoirians (8%) and Algerians (7%).”

What happens to the bodies of those who die in the Mediterranean?

Al Jazeera, by Stefania D’Ignoti: “On All Soul’s Day, around three kilometres from the port in the Sicilian city of Catania, the pauper’s grave at the Monumental Cemetery is unusually well-tended, with fresh flowers and beads wrapped around cross-shaped headstones.  Many belong to refugees and migrants who died at sea while trying to reach Europe. Sicilian cemeteries currently host the remains of more than 2,000 of them. … ‘An overall indifference has led to a higher non-identification rate of most bodies,’ says Giorgia Mirto, a Sicilian anthropologist and founder of Mediterranean Missing, a database project collecting names of the identified dead refugees and migrants. ‘They just become statistics instead of humans.’ … ‘Here, migrants become part of the community. I noticed average citizens bringing flowers and praying over their graves,’ she says. ‘[It is] part of a Catholic mindset that instils the idea of taking care of the dead, in place of those who can’t afford or aren’t able to pay a visit.’…”

Concerns over Eritrea’s role in efforts by Africa and EU to manage refugees

Report from The Conversation via ReliefWeb: “Early in 2019 the Eritrean government will take over the chair of the key Africa and European Union (EU) forum dealing with African migration, known as the Khartoum Process. The Khartoum Process was established in the Sudanese capital in 2014. It’s had little public profile, yet it’s the most important means Europe has of attempting to halt the flow of refugees and migrants from Africa. The official title says it all: The EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative. Its main role is spelled out as being:  primarily focused on preventing and fighting migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings. … The African countries chose Eritrea to lead this critical relationship. But it’s been heavily criticised because it places refugees and asylum seekers in the hands of a regime that is notorious for its human rights abuses. Worse still, there is evidence that Eritrean officials are directly implicated in human trafficking the Khartoum Process is meant to end. That the European Union allowed this to happen puts in question its repeated assurances that human rights are at the heart of its foreign policies….”

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Week in Review – 25 November 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 104,506 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,075

“As colder weather conditions arrive, the sea passage to Europe grows ever deadlier. [IOM] has recorded 2,075 people who have died or gone missing on one of three migratory routes across the Mediterranean in 2018.…”

Mogherini warns that EUNAVFOR MED Sophia operation will end on 31 December in the absence of interim agreement on disembarkation practices

At the conclusion of the 20 November Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) meeting, HR Mogherini warned of the imminent end of the EUNAVFOR MED Sophia operation (the current mandate expires on 31 December 2018):

“I clearly said to the [Defence] Ministers that they either find an interim solution on the issue of disembarkation [of rescued migrants] within the next couple of weeks, or we will need to dismantle the Operation and the Operation will come to an end. … I would now expect Ministers to instruct their ambassadors in the PSC [Political and Security Committee] to work on an interim solution for this particular aspect of the Operation, so that the Operation can continue….

Everybody agrees that [EUNAVFOR MED Sophia] has to be kept in place; everybody agrees that the point on disembarkation which is a minor part of a military operation would need to be resolved in the broader context of the Dublin discussions….

Ministers have two choices: to close the [EUNAVFOR MED Sophia] operation or to find an interim solution that only relates to the disembarkation of people that are rescued by Operation Sophia and does not create any precedent for the following-up of the conversation and the decision making on Dublin reform. Any broader solution on the Dublin reform would immediately also apply to the Sophia rules, once Member States get there. But in the meantime, we have to find an interim solution to give clarity to the Operation commander on what to do in case there are some search and rescue activities….”

The Political and Security Committee last week reportedly considered a proposal presented by the European External Action Service to change EUNAVFOR MED’s disembarkation practices.  The proposed change would allow the relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to decide where rescued migrants are to be disembarked and would require new criteria to be considered, including the circumstances of the rescue, the need for EUNAVFOR MED vessels to resume their mission, and principles of efficiency and speed. As a last resort, the proposal would require the country of the MRCC to make available one of its ports for disembarkation, provided that an immediate screening of migrants is organized and an expeditious redistribution of disembarked asylum seekers to other states occurs. Media reports on the proposal here, here, here, here, and here.

Mogherini reminds us that EUNAVFOR MED Sophia is a military operation and is not in the business of SAR – EUNAVFOR MED responsible for only 9% of Mediterranean rescues

In remarks after the 20 November Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) meeting, HR Mogherini also emphasised that the primary mission of EUNAVFOR MED Sophia is not one of Search and Rescue:

“….Operation Sophia is not a search and rescue operation. It is a military operation that has the task to dismantle criminal networks. As a result of that, the overall number of people that have been rescued by Operation Sophia over time represents only 9% of all the people that have been saved in the Mediterranean Sea. This means – because I want to translate things into concrete numbers – in the last 11 months, an average of 180 people per month, divide them by 28 and it is six people per Member State per month. Would you dismantle a military operation in the Mediterranean Sea that is doing what [Operation] Sophia is doing for that number of people?”

Migrant arrivals in Spain remain high and deaths spike; overall arrivals in EU remain low compared to past two years

IOM: As of 18 November, arrivals in “Spain topped 50,962 – more irregular arrivals to Spain through 45 weeks of 2018 than all arrivals during the past three years combined.”  Overall, 2018 is “the fifth straight year [where] arrivals of irregular migrants and refugees [to the EU] have topped the 100,000 mark, although this year’s totals are low compared to those at this time in 2017 (157,323) and 2016 (345,831).”

“[I]rregular migrants to Spain continue to arrive at a rate of over 120 per day during the month of November. October was Spain’s busiest month for sea arrivals on month on record, with migrants or refugees entering by sea at a rate of over 350 people per day.”

Since the beginning of 2018, at least 631 people have lost their lives trying to reach Spain. A recent report by a Spanish foundation for investigative journalism, porCausa.org, found that more than 6,700 people have died or disappeared while trying to reach Spain since 1988. [A]t least 1,144 people died or were lost in the Western Mediterranean in the last five years (data for 1 January 2014 – 21 November 2018), more than half of those – 631 of 1,144 – just in the 325 days of 2018, or almost two victims per day.  [IOM] Missing Migrants also has recorded deaths these years on Spain’s other seaborne migratory route, from the West African mainland to the Islas Canarias. Since 2014, 319 men, women and children have perished on this route.”

“[M]onthly arrivals to Italy have averaged fewer than 2,500 men, women and children entering Italy by sea after departing North Africa since the start of November 2017. July 2017 was the last time monthly sea arrivals of irregular migrants and refugees surpassed 10,000 men, women and children – a total that arrived in 12 of the previous 13 months before that date – and had been arriving regularly in previous years of the Mediterranean emergency.”

No reports of Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions over previous week

UNHCR did not report any new Libyan Coast Guard pull backs, but the Libyan Coast Guard did conduct an operation to forcibly remove 79 migrants and refugees from a commercial vessel docked at Misrata.

Libyan coast guard forcibly removes 79 refugees and migrants from commercial vessel in Misrata

10 days after being rescued at sea by the Nivin, a Panama-flagged commercial vessel, “‘a joint force raided the cargo ship and used rubber bullets and tear gas to force ([migrants and refugees] off the ship),’ the commander of the [Libyan] central region coastguards, Tawfiq Esskair, told Reuters by phone…. Some had been injured during the disembarkation but were now ‘in good condition’ after treatment in hospital, and all had been taken to a detention center in the city, he said.”

Condemnations of the action were made by Human Rights Watch: “‘This is the worst possible conclusion to the desperate plea of the people on board the Nivin to avoid inhuman detention in Libya,’ said Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The situation is the result of efforts by Italy and the European Union to obstruct rescue operations by nongovernmental organizations and empower the Libyan Coast Guard even when Europe knows that Libya is not a safe place.’”; and by

MSF: “We are appalled to see that after 10 days, despite our repeated calls to avoid a violent outcome, no compromise was reached to implement an alternative to detention. What happened instead has once again demonstrated a failure to provide much-needed protection for people seeking safety. The reality today is that people being intercepted at sea and brought back to Libyan shores in violation of international law and maritime conventions are left with no other option than indefinite arbitrary detention. This tragic situation is the result of deliberate and concerted efforts by Europe to prevent refugees, migrants and asylum seekers from reaching its doorsteps at any cost.”

UNHCR does not consider Libya safe place for disembarkation and calls for end to detention of refugees and migrants intercepted by Libyan coast guard

Roberto Mignone, UNHCR’s Chief of Mission in Libya: “It is reprehensible that [refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan coast guard] are detained instead of protected. This is despite the fact that viable alternatives to detention within Libya can be found, including through a Gathering and Departure Facility that [UNHCR has] been waiting to open since July, which could offer immediate protection and safety for those most vulnerable….”

“In light of the dangers for refugees and migrants in Libya, UNHCR does not consider it to be a safe place for disembarkation and also has advised against returns to Libya following search and rescues at sea.”

Full statements here and here.

Calais: Worsening living conditions and a steep increase in Channel crossings

InfoMigrants article by Bahar MAKOOI: “The situation in Calais is growing tenser by the day. The number of migrants trying to cross the English Channel is increasing as the freezing cold weather is contributing to the rapidly deteriorating living conditions. Last week, more than 60 migrants illegally made their way into Britain from France, and at least two-thirds of them are believed to have made the perilous crossing by sea, the Guardian newspaper reported on November 18. Although authorities seem to have good idea of the number of successful crossings, the number of fatal attempts have proven more difficult to quantify. On Sunday, the body of a migrant was found stuck under a truck in the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone. And on October 2, the body of a migrant who had gone missing a week before was fished out of the canal in Calais….”

Al Jazeera Q&A: Morocco’s border chief hits back at criticism over migrants

Interview by Faras Ghani Khalid Zerouali, Morocco’s border control chief.  Full interview here.

[***] Al Jazeera: How much is it costing Morocco to patrol the border and the sea?

Zerouali: If we talk just about the north apparatus – I’m talking 13,000 guards in the north, equipment, basically functioning from Oujda to Tangier and down south to Kenitra, around 1,100km in total – that’s costing Morocco more than 200m euros ($228m) annually.

Now that the pressure is increasing, the EU proposed financing part of the effort. We’re talking about around 140m euros ($160m). But we said it should not be one shot but sustainable assistance.

Al Jazeera: This is costing a lot. Do you see another solution?

Zeoruali: We shouldn’t be afraid of migration, it’s not a problem. It’s not a mathematical equation. It’s a human matter that needs to be managed. We have to delve into the real causes and things that push people or the ones that attract them.

It costs around 4,000 to 7,000 euros ($4,600 to $8,000) to attempt to reach Spain. It’s not only the poor people who are migrating. One of the factors if the emergence of GoFast boats and that’s coming from the other side. Another factor is some NGOs who are not serious about what they do.

[***]

Al Jazeera: What about Moroccans who want to cross into Spain? Has that been looked into?

Zerouali: In 2002-03, we used to intercept around 20,000 migrants and 18,000 of those used to be Moroccans. This year has been an exception; but say 2015, out of 65,000 there were only 5,000 Moroccans. This year, because of GoFast again, the Moroccan figure is 12-13,000 out of 70,000 interceptions. [***]”

Christian Science Monitor: “In high stakes experiment, EU migration policy moves front lines to Niger”

Article by Peter Ford (@peterfordcsm):

“…As divisive political tensions around migrants rise in Europe, governments there are making their broadest-ever bid to choke off the flow close to its source. … [Niger] has become ‘a centerpiece of EU policy’ in northwest Africa, says the European ambassador to Niger, Denisa-Elena Ionete…. ‘Europe has long been an important partner of ours,’ explains Nigerien Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum in an interview. ‘Being helpful to the EU is somehow giving them something back’ in return for their longstanding aid. There is little doubt that the new policy has helped cut the number of illegal migrants heading north very substantially. The International Organization for Migration counted 334,000 of them passing through Niger in 2016 and fewer than 50,000 so far this year. A foreign aid worker estimates that there are likely no more than 300 migrants at any one time hiding in houses in Agadez now, compared to at least 2,000 before the law came into effect. ‘The law has had an impact,’ says Harouna Aggalher, a field officer in Agadez for the International Rescue Committee, a New York based non-profit…. That doesn’t mean that they have all got out of the business. Smugglers are taking new and rarely used routes, or simply trusting their GPS and satellite phones and heading into uncharted desert…. ‘People die by the hundreds in the desert,’ says Ahmadou Bossi, commander of the Agadez National Guard contingent, whose patrols have come across three abandoned truckloads of migrants by chance this year. That makes Johannes Claes, the local representative of Doctors of the World, a Belgian NGO that helps migrants, wonder about European policy. ‘If you see the problem as just one of stopping migrant flows, it is a success,’ he says. ‘But if you are causing human suffering and migrants to die, you should consider whether your policy is working.’…”

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Week in Review – 18 November 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM:  Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 103,347 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,054

New EUNAVFOR MED disembarkation policy under consideration which could end practice of disembarkations in Italy

According to Italian media reports (here, here, and here), the European External Action Service has presented a proposal to the Political and Security Committee to change EUNAVFOR MED’s disembarkation practices.  EUNAVFOR MED’s current mandate expires in December. The proposed change would allow the relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to decide where rescued migrants are to be disembarked and would require new criteria to be considered, including the circumstances of the rescue, the need for EUNAVFOR MED vessels to resume their mission, and principles of efficiency and speed. As a last resort, the proposal would require the country of the MRCC to make available one of its ports for disembarkation, provided that an immediate screening of migrants is organized and an expeditious redistribution of disembarked asylum seekers to other states occurs.

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions reach 14,595

UNHCR reports that “as of 14 November, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) has rescued/intercepted 14,595 refugees and migrants (10,184 men, 2,147 women and 1,408 children) at sea.”

EUNAVFOR MED close to completing training for 300 Libyan coast guard and navy personnel

EUNAVFOR MED’s training of Libyan coast guard personnel continues.  The latest training segment is scheduled to be completed on 14 December at which time EUNAVFOR MED will have trained over 300 Libyan Coastguard and Navy personnel.

5,400 refugees and migrants held in Libyan detention centres; UNHCR evacuates 262 refugees and migrants from Libya, including some from detention centres

UNHCR estimates there are “5,400 refugees and migrants are presently held in detention centres in Libya, of whom 3,900 are of concern to UNHCR. Over the past month, UNHCR has registered 2,629 persons of concern in detention centres in and around Tripoli.”

“On 12 November, UNHCR evacuated 262 individuals (139 men, 42 women and 81 children) to its Emergency Transit Mechanism in Niger, in the largest evacuation so far this year. The group included individuals held in detention facilities in and around Tripoli (Zintan, Tajoura, Trik Al Sikka, Al Sabaa, Abu-Salim, Qaser Ben Ghasher) and individuals who were living in the urban community. With this departure, UNHCR has evacuated 2,344 individuals out of Libya (1,937 to Niger, 312 to Italy and 95 to Romania).”

FRONTEX: Migratory flows in October down by a third compared to 2017

FRONTEX news release: “In the first ten months of 2018, the number of illegal border crossings into the EU fell by 31% from a year ago to about 118 900, mainly because of lower migratory pressure in the Central Mediterranean. Two months before the end of the year, 2018 is on track to see the lowest number of illegal border crossings since 2013.  In October, some 16 000 illegal border crossings were detected on the main migratory routes into the EU, close to the figure from the same month of last year.

Western Mediterranean – Last month, the Western Mediterranean migratory route accounted for nearly 60% of all detections of illegal borders crossings into the EU. The number of migrants reaching Europe via this route reached nearly 9 400 in October, more than twice the number from the same month of last year.  In the first ten months of 2018, close to 45 900 irregular migrants arrived through the Western Mediterranean route, more than double the figure from the same period a year ago.  Nationals of Morocco, Guinea and Mali accounted for the highest number of irregular migrants crossing this route this year.

Eastern Mediterranean – In October, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at 5 700, nearly the same as in October 2017. Because of a significant increase of illegal crossings in recent months on the land border with Turkey, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first ten months of the year rose by 37% to around 47 100. The increase at the sea border was lower.  The largest number of migrants on this route so far this year were nationals of Syria and Iraq, although for the second consecutive month Afghans accounted for the most monthly arrivals.

Central Mediterranean – The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route in October fell to about 800, down 87% from October 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first nine months of 2018 fell to roughly 21 600, 81% lower than a year ago. So far this year, Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for more than one-third of all the detected migrants there. They were trailed by nationals of Sudan, Pakistan and Nigeria….”

See also IOM: “IOM … reports that 103,347 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 14 November. Spain topped 50,440 – more irregular arrivals to Spain through 45 weeks of 2018 than all arrivals during the past three years combined. This marks the fifth straight year arrivals of irregular migrants and refugees have topped the 100,000 mark, although this year’s totals are low compared to those at this time in 2017 (156,708) and 2016 (343,158).  For these first two weeks of November irregular sea arrivals to Spain (2,039) continue to at least double the pace of those to Greece (958) and Italy (487). While flows from Africa to Italy remain low by recent standards, irregular sea migration between Turkey and Greece has been getting busier.”

Amnesty International public statement: “Libya: EU’s Patchwork Policy Has Failed to Protect the Human Rights of Refugees and Migrants”

Amnesty International issued a Public Statement on 12 November – excerpts: “Since late 2016, EU Member States – particularly Italy – have implemented a series of measures to close off the migratory routes through Libya and across the Mediterranean, including boosting the capacity of Libyan maritime authorities, in particular the Libyan Coast Guard, to intercept migrants and refugees and bring them back to Libya. These measures – together with deals negotiated by Italy with local authorities and militias in key smuggling cities, the criminalization of NGOs carrying out search and rescue operations at sea and the imposition of a new policy by Italy to refuse disembarkation to people rescued in the high seas – have reduced the numbers of people arriving in Italy, with only 22,232 arriving so far in 2018 compared to the 114,415 who arrived over the same period in 2017, according to data published by the Italian Ministry of Interior.”

“With these measures, European governments have largely achieved their objective of blocking refugees and migrants from crossing into Europe via the central Mediterranean route. However, these policies have in turn left thousands of refugees and migrants to languish in Libya without regular status, either in detention or living undocumented in the shadows, at risk of violence and exploitation by armed groups. They have also damaged the integrity of the overall search and rescue system, increasing the death rate among people engaging in the sea crossing….”

“Amnesty International also urges the EU and its member states to immediately reset their co-operation with Libya on migration, focusing on protecting the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants rather than on their containment in the country. In particular, until Libyan authorities can assert real effective control on the ground and guarantee the protection of the human rights of refugees and migrants in accordance to their legal obligations, no assistance must be offered that may result in further human rights violations and further perpetuate the cycle of violence towards refugees and migrants. Instead, the focus with every effort should be made to help those still languishing in the country to be offered safety in another country….”

“Amnesty International makes the following specific recommendations to EU Governments and Institutions:

  • Reset all co-operation with Libya on migration – in the form of financial, institutional, material, policy and/or capacity support – focusing it on the priority of protecting the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in the country.
  • Make continuing cooperation with the Libyan authorities on migration conditional on concrete and verifiable steps in the areas indicated in the previous section, and specifically towards the prompt release of all refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants being arbitrarily detained and the end of the system of automatic detention; the full and formal recognition of UNHCR; the establishment of adequate human rights monitoring and accountability mechanisms; and the adoption and enactment of new legislation, providing for the decriminalization of irregular entry, stay and exit and ensuring the creation of an asylum system.
  • Open safe and regular routes into Europe, in particular by offering a meaningful number of places for resettlement and alternative pathways to protection to the thousands of people in need of protection and stranded in Libya, and by reviewing migration policies with a view to facilitate regular pathways for would-be migrants. In order to ensure that a bottleneck does not hinder the evacuation from detention for refugees, also take urgent steps to expedite the resettlement process.
  • Ensure that an adequate number of vessels with search and rescue as their primary purpose are deployed along the routes taken by boats carrying refugees and migrants, including near Libyan territorial waters, and refrain from transferring to Libyan authorities the coordination of Search and Rescue operations.
  • Ensure that NGOs can continue to contribute to rescuing refugees and migrants at sea, limit any cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard to cases where their intervention is essential to prevent immediate loss of life and make it conditional on measures to mitigate against the risks of disembarkation in Libya.
  • Refrain from setting policies that expand the use of detention for refugees and migrants and outsource border control responsibilities to countries outside Europe.”

The Administrative Arrangement between Greece and Germany on asylum-seekers

Via Statewatch: “The Administrative Arrangement between Ministry of migration Policy of the Hellenic Republic and the Federal Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Germany has been implemented already to four known cases. It has been the product of bilateral negotiations that occurred after German Chancellor Merkel faced another political crisis at home regarding the handling of the refugee issue. The document which has been the product of undisclosed negotiations and has not been made public upon its conclusion is a brief description of the cooperation of Greek and German authorities in cases of refusal of entry to persons seeking protection in the context of temporary checks at the internal German-Austrian border, as defined in its title. It essentially is a fast track implementation of return procedures in cases for which Dublin Regulation already lays down specific rules and procedures. The procedures provided in the ‘Arrangement’ skip all legal safeguards and guarantees of European Legislation.

RSA and PRO ASYL have decided to publicize the document of the Arrangement for the purpose of serving public interest and transparency.”

Commentary on the Administrative Arrangement via the European Database of Asylum Law website by Stathis Poularakis, Legal advisor – Advocacy Officer Médecins du Monde – Greece here.

Standoff continues – 81 rescued migrants refuse to disembark from merchant ship in Libya

From the Guardian:  Eighty-one migrants have refused to disembark from a merchant ship off the coast of Misrata in Libya, according to reports.  The migrants were rescued by the ship’s crew a week ago on 10 November, 115 miles east of Tripoli, after leaving Libya on a raft.

Fourteen people decided to leave the cargo ship and were transferred to Libya, while the remaining 81 have refused to disembark in Misrata for fear of being sent back to Libyan detention camps.  ‘I prefer to die on this ship,’ one of the migrants told Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) when offered to be transferred to a Libyan medical facility.

MSF’s Twitter account stated that ‘others aboard the ship, including minors, had been imprisoned and tortured for over a year at the hands of human traffickers’. ‘It’s a shame that once again the only response given to people in search of safety is prolonged arbitrary detention in the country they desperately attempt to leave,’ said Julien Raickman, the MSF head of mission in Libya….”

Desperation builds in Libyan migrant detention centres

By Sally Haden in The Irish Times:  “A young Eritrean man tried to take his own life in a Libyan migrant detention centre on Monday, three weeks after a Somali man died by suicide in the same centre, according to detainees who found him there. The Eritrean man’s attempt highlights the growing desperation among refugees and migrants returned to Libya, under EU policies aimed at stopping migration to Europe….”

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New EUNAVFOR MED Sophia disembarkation policy under consideration – would end practice of disembarkations in Italy

According to Italian media reports (here, here, and here), the European External Action Service has presented a proposal to the Political and Security Committee to change EUNAVFOR MED’s disembarkation practices.  EUNAVFOR MED’s current mandate expires in December. The proposed change would allow the relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to decide where rescued migrants are to be disembarked and would require new criteria to be considered, including the circumstances of the rescue, the need for EUNAVFOR MED vessels to resume their mission, and principles of efficiency and speed. As a last resort, the proposal would require the country of the MRCC to make available one of its ports for disembarkation, provided that an immediate screening of migrants is organized and an expeditious redistribution of disembarked asylum seekers to other states occurs.

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Week in Review – 11 November 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous

Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM:  Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 101,185 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,040.

UNHCR expresses concern over lack of rescue capability in Mediterranean, but condones Libyan coast guard pull back operations

While UNHCR rightly calls for a change in EU practices, it fails to acknowledge or address the serious problems with the Libyan coast guard’s pull back practices in Libyan territorial waters – practices enabled and funded by the EU.  UNHCR’s latest statement on this subject condones EU-funded Libyan coast guard pull back practices.

From Jeff Crisp (@JFCrisp): “A simple question for UNHCR and IOM: Should asylum seekers who leave Libya by boat have an opportunity to submit an application for refugee status elsewhere, rather than being summarily intercepted and forcibly returned to and detained in the country of departure? Because UNHCR’s global policy says: ‘persons rescued or intercepted at sea cannot be summarily turned back or otherwise returned to the country of departure, including in particular where to do so would deny them a fair opportunity to seek asylum.’”

UNHCR’s statement: “UNHCR continues to be very concerned about the legal and logistical restrictions that have been placed on a number of NGOs wishing to conduct search and rescue (SAR) operations, including the Aquarius. These have had the cumulative effect of the Central Mediterranean currently having no NGO vessels conducting SAR.  Should NGO rescue operations on the Mediterranean cease entirely we risk returning to the same dangerous context we saw after Italy’s Mare Nostrum naval operation ended in 2015 and hundreds of people died in an incident on the central Mediterranean Sea.  UNHCR welcomes the rescue efforts of the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG), as without them more lives would have been lost. Nonetheless, with the LCG now having assumed primary responsibility for search and rescue coordination in an area that extends to around 100 miles, the LCG needs further support. Any vessel with the capability to assist search and rescue operations should be allowed to come to the aid of those in need. UNHCR reiterates that people rescued in international waters (i.e. beyond the 12 nautical miles of the territorial waters of Libya) should not be brought back to Libya where conditions are not safe. The largest proportion of deaths have been reported in crossings to Italy, which account for more than half of all deaths reported this year so far, despite Spain having become the primary destination of those newly arrived. More than 48, 000 people have arrived there by sea, compared to around 22,000 in Italy and 27,000 in Greece. There is an urgent need to break away from the current impasses and ad-hoc boat-by-boat approaches on where to dock rescued passengers. UNHCR reiterates that in recent months, together with IOM, we have offered a regional solution that would provide clarity and predictability on search and rescue operations.”

Security Council extends Libya sanctions to persons planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence

The UN Security Council on 5 November extended until 15 February 2020 the mandate of the Panel of Experts who oversee the sanctions targeting the illicit export of oil from Libya and decided that perpetrators of gender-based violence may also be subject to sanctions.

From the UN Press Service: “Adopting resolution 2441 (2018) by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), the Council condemned attempts to export petroleum by entities outside the aegis of Libya’s Government of National Accord.  It also reaffirmed the travel ban and assets freeze first laid out in resolution 1970 (2011) (see Press Release SC/101/87/Rev.1 of 26 February 2011), which applies to those engaging in activities that threaten the peace or undermine Libya’s political transition. In renewing the Panel’s mandate, the Council decided that such activities ‘may also include but are not limited to planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence’, and requested that its members include expertise on such violence in accordance with operative paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015).”

Excerpts from Resolution 2441 (2018):  The Security Council, [***] Reaffirming the importance of holding accountable those responsible for violations or abuses of human rights or violations of international humanitarian law, including those involved in attacks targeting civilians and stressing the need to transfer detainees to State authority,[***]

11. Reaffirms that the travel ban and asset freeze measures [***] also apply to individuals and entities determined by the Committee to be engaging in or providing support for other acts that threaten the peace, stability or security of Libya, or obstruct or undermine the successful completion of its political transition, and reaffirms that [***] such acts may also include but are not limited to planning, directing, sponsoring, or participating in attacks against United Nations personnel, including members of the Panel of Experts [***]

and decides that such acts may also include but are not limited to planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence; [***]

14.  Decides to extend until 15 February 2020 the mandate of the Panel of Experts [***], decides that the Panel’s mandated tasks shall remain as defined in resolution 2213 (2015) and shall also apply with respect to the Measures updated in this resolution and requests the Panel of experts to include the necessary sexual and gender-based violence expertise, in line with paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015); [***].”

Almost 5500 people held in Libyan Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration detention centres

UNHCR estimates that as of 9 November there are an estimated 5,413 refugees and migrants held in DCIM operated detention centres in Libya of whom 3,988 are persons of concern to UNHCR.

Nearly every woman who makes irregular migrant crossing from Africa to Spain is sexually abused during the journey

From U.S. National Public Radio: “Immigration lawyers and activists say nearly every woman who makes the [irregular] journey [from Africa] to Spain is sexually abused along the way – sometimes they come through sex trafficking mafias, who facilitate the crossing in return for a debt of tens of thousands of dollars. Women sometimes arrive pregnant or with infants conceived on their journey, often a result of rape.”

Mixed Migration Review 2018 – Highlights / Interviews / Essays / Data

From MMC: “This first publication of the annual Mixed Migration Review by the Mixed Migration Centre offers a review of mixed migration around the world focusing on key events and policy developments during the 2017/2018 period. The report includes a series of essays looking at the most salient and polemical issues facing the refugee and migration sectors with respect to mixed flows, as well as a series of interviews with individuals and officials closely associated with or relevant to the sector and its challenges. The report is based on a wide range of research as well as exclusive access to 4Mi data from over 10,000 interviews with refugees and migrants in over twenty countries along seven major migratory routes. In three major sections (the migrants’ world, the smugglers’ world and global debates), the report offers a deep analytical dive into the world of mixed migration. The report does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions or simple conclusions, but raises many difficult questions and treats the mixed migration phenomenon with the complexity it deserves.”

Summary from Reliefweb: “Despite different motives and routes, migrants in mixed migration flows have one thing in common: they experience severe abuses, often as victims of policies trying to stop them and via the smugglers who profit from their movements. But most people would do it again, despite the abuses….”

“Global motivation for migration exceeds the limited possibilities to cross borders. Restrictive policies do not change the scale of migration but how people migrate and the routes they use. If refugees and migrants don’t succeed in the current restrictive environment, they will increasingly need to travel irregularly – with more abuses to follow. The data from the 4MI project with over 10,000 interviews indicates that depending on where migrants and refugees are interviewed, between one third and two thirds of all respondents report having experienced sexual or physical violence, robbery or kidnapping.”

“‘Rather than reducing irregular migration, policy efforts tend to lead smugglers to adapt their routes and methods that make journeys more dangerous for refugees and migrants. At least 60,000 refugees and migrants have died during their journey since the start of this century. But if governments only seek to restrict migration and asylum arrivals, lucrative business opportunities will continue to be available for smugglers. In many locations it occurs with the collusion of state officials who might otherwise interdict smuggling activities,’ says Bram Frouws, head of the Mixed Migration Centre.”

“One of the reasons people on the move are exposed to violations is the dependency on and rise of the migrant smuggling business. In 2016 at least 2.5 million people were smuggled worldwide for an economic return of up to $7 billion. But smugglers are a heterogenous group – as the more than 300 interviews conducted with smugglers by MMC reveals.”

“‘Smugglers are responsible for 50 percent of all incidents of sexual violence, physical violence, robbery and kidnapping reported by refugees and migrants interviewed through MMC’s 4Mi project. But smugglers often provide them their only option to reach safe havens. If people want to migrate, there will be smugglers – and being honest about smuggling also entails recognising that, despite everything, smugglers mostly deliver on their promises.’ says Bram Frouws.” [***]

“‘While irregular migration by sea to the EU has gone down a sense of crisis prevails and most policy initiatives from the EU still aim at keeping people out of Europe. The number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean has decreased in the past two years, but due to actions to stop this migration the mortality rate has increased sharply. Even if people are aware of these risks, this should not impact on their human rights and dignity. And with the joint policy efforts and money spent on combatting migration, it is worth taking this report to policy makers asking the question: Are there not more humane and economically smarter and more rational ways to organize migration?’ ends Bram Frouws.”

100,000 expected to have travelled “eastern route” via Yemen by end of year

From the Guardian: “More than 100,000 people are expected to travel along at least part of this ‘eastern route’ by the end of this year, as many as are anticipated to cross the Mediterranean, according to latest statistics. It is supposed to be the safer option, avoiding a long desert journey, but is lethal enough. Local humanitarian officials and security experts say it is impossible to know how many have been killed in incidents similar to that described by Adam. Estimates range from 150 a year to 10 times as many. ‘There can be up to five or 10 boats leaving every day, sometimes many more … Even if there is just one migrant dying every day that’s too many, but there are likely to be many more deaths that are unaccounted for,’ said Danielle Botti, a Nairobi-based analyst with the Mixed Migration Centre.”

British Institute of International and Comparative Law launches project looking at migrant rescues at sea

The British Institute of International and Comparative Law announced today that it is launching a new project looking at the responsibilities of and implications for private vessels of maritime search and rescue of migrants and refugees. The project, led by Associate Senior Research Fellow Dr Jean-Pierre Gauci, will examine the roles, responsibilities and legal implications for private vessels involved in the rescue of migrants and refugees at sea.

It will examine the commercial and shipping law implications of such rescues and related issues such as delays in disembarkation, as well as the human rights implications including issues that arise from instructions by SAR States to return individuals to countries where their life and liberty might be threatened. The role played by and implications for and of NGO rescue operations will also be considered. The project will entail legal analysis, consultation with relevant stakeholders and the development of guidelines and training.”

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Security Council extends Libya sanctions to persons planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence

The UN Security Council on 5 November extended until 15 February 2020 the mandate of the Panel of Experts who oversee the sanctions targeting the illicit export of oil from Libya and decided that perpetrators of gender-based violence may also be subject to sanctions.

From the UN Press Service: “Adopting resolution 2441 (2018) by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), the Council condemned attempts to export petroleum by entities outside the aegis of Libya’s Government of National Accord.  It also reaffirmed the travel ban and assets freeze first laid out in resolution 1970 (2011) (see Press Release SC/101/87/Rev.1 of 26 February 2011), which applies to those engaging in activities that threaten the peace or undermine Libya’s political transition. In renewing the Panel’s mandate, the Council decided that such activities ‘may also include but are not limited to planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence’, and requested that its members include expertise on such violence in accordance with operative paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015).”

Excerpts from Resolution 2441 (2018):

The Security Council, [***] Reaffirming the importance of holding accountable those responsible for violations or abuses of human rights or violations of international humanitarian law, including those involved in attacks targeting civilians and stressing the need to transfer detainees to State authority,[***]

11. Reaffirms that the travel ban and asset freeze measures [***] also apply to individuals and entities determined by the Committee to be engaging in or providing support for other acts that threaten the peace, stability or security of Libya, or obstruct or undermine the successful completion of its political transition, and reaffirms that [***] such acts may also include but are not limited to planning, directing, sponsoring, or participating in attacks against United Nations personnel, including members of the Panel of Experts [***]

and decides that such acts may also include but are not limited to planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence; [***]

14. Decides to extend until 15 February 2020 the mandate of the Panel of Experts [***], decides that the Panel’s mandated tasks shall remain as defined in resolution 2213 (2015) and shall also apply with respect to the Measures updated in this resolution and requests the Panel of experts to include the necessary sexual and gender-based violence expertise, in line with paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015); [***].”

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Week in Review – 4 November 2018

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 97,857 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,987

30 years ago, 1 November 1988, the first documented death on a Spanish beach

When the body of a Moroccan man washed up on a beach in Tarifa in 1988, no one knew that it would be the first of more than 6,700 fatalities.  It was November 1, 1988, a date that continues to haunt journalist Ildefonso Sena. He took 10 photos of the scene with his Nikon compact camera but only one was needed for the incident to send shock waves through Europe. Without intending to, he had immortalized the first migrant death in the Strait of Gibraltar….”

Associated Press documents over 56,800 migrants dead or missing worldwide, almost double the number of other estimates

“An Associated Press tally has documented at least 56,800 migrants dead or missing worldwide since 2014 — almost double the number found in the world’s only official attempt to try to count them, by the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration. The IOM toll as of Oct. 1 was more than 28,500. The AP came up with almost 28,300 additional dead or missing migrants by compiling information from other international groups, requesting forensic records, missing persons reports and death records, and sifting through data from thousands of interviews with migrants….”

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions reach 14,249; October interceptions 45% less than previous months

UNHCR reports that “as of 29 October, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) rescued/intercepted 14,249 refugees and migrants … during 109 operations. On 26 October, 93 refugees and migrants were disembarked at the Tripoli Naval Base, the majority of whom were from Sudan, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Somalia and Mali. Overall in October, 351 refugees and migrants were disembarked in Libya, which marks a 45 per cent decrease in comparison with previous months (713 individuals in September and 552 individuals in August).”

Tunisian president rejects idea of EU disembarkation centres

Tunisian President, Beji Caid Essebsi, said opening refugee reception centres in countries such as Tunisia was “out of the question.”

ICC Chief Prosecutor said her office continues to collect evidence of alleged crimes committed against migrants transiting through Libya

Fatou Bensouda, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, told the UN Security Council that “her office continues to monitor criminal conduct carried out by members of armed groups in Libya who use violence to exert control over State institutions, commit serious human rights violations and exploit detainees in unregulated prisons and places of detention throughout the country.  She added that she hopes to soon be able to apply for new arrest warrants for such crimes.   She also, she said, continued to receive evidence of alleged crimes committed against migrants transiting through Libya, including killings, sexual violence, torture and enslavement.”

The last NGO migrant rescue ship again loses its flag and cannot sail

Italy is again close to its goal of eliminating NGO rescue vessels in the Mediterranean.  From the Guardian: “Last private search vessel in the Mediterranean unable to sail, with campaigners blaming pressure from Italian government. A desperate search is under way for a country willing to issue a flag to the Aquarius, the last civilian migrant rescue ship operational in the Mediterranean, after its Panamanian flag officially expired this week.  The Aquarius is unable to sail without a flag and is now grounded in Marseilles, starting an effective blackout across the Mediterranean, with no vessels aside from the Libyan coastguard conducting search and rescue operations.  ‘We are in a race against time to find another state willing to issue a flag to the Aquarius,’ said Sophie Beau, co-founder of SOS Méditerranée, the organisation operating the vessel alongside Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)….”

Italian prosecutor orders probe into claim that US navy ship failed to rescue migrant boat

From AFP: “According to La Repubblica newspaper, the prosecutor for the city of Raguse in Sicily had asked investigators to ‘look deeper’ into claims by survivors that the USS Trenton had sailed past their rubber dinghy when it was still afloat on June 12….The dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya with about 118 people on board. It was the same navy ship, the USS Trenton, which later saved 42 of those in the water, survivors have claimed.”  See video of interviews with survivors here.

Morocco imposes new visa rules to deter EU-bound migrants

From Africa Times and Reuters: “The Government of Morocco, under pressure to stem the tide of African migrants crossing into Spain, has established new entry visa rules for travelers from some African nations. Reuters reports that the new requirements apply in up to seven countries that have historically had no visa requirement to visit Morocco. Neighboring Algeria and Tunisia are exceptions to a rule that requires people to fill out an online form at least four days before their trip. Morocco has cracked down on migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea on routes that keep moving west, after first Turkey and Greece, and then Libya, sealed off routes to Europe….”

REACH and Mercy Corps Report: “Tunisia, country of destination and transit for sub-Saharan African migrants”

By REACH in partnership with Mercy Corps: “Summary – Since the early 2000s the number of sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia has been increasing. Official statistics show that between 2004 and 2014 the number of non-Tunisian nationals residing in Tunisia increased by 66%, passing from 35,192 to 53,490 individuals. This excludes, however, the more than 10,000 sub-Saharan migrants in an irregular situation estimated to be living in the country, on whom no reliable and up-to-date statistics are available. Furthermore, between 2016 and 2017 the number of sub-Saharan nationals who were apprehended off the Tunisian coast in an attempt to reach Europe by boat rose from 71 to 271 individuals. While figures on sub-Saharan African apprehensions have remained low overall, the question has arisen whether Tunisia is becoming an increasingly popular destination and transit country for sub-Saharan migrants in the North African region, especially considering the recent developments in Libya and the increase in irregular departures of sub-Saharan and Tunisian migrants to Europe.  In response to the lack of information on sub-Saharan African migration to Tunisia and its most recent dynamics, REACH and Mercy Corps conducted the study ‘Tunisia, country of transit and destination for sub-Saharan African migrants’. Data collection activities took place from 9 August to 2 September 2018 in Tunis, Sfax and Medenine, known for being the three main migration hubs in Tunisia for sub-Saharan migrants. The report also contains reference to data collected by the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4Mi) in 2017 in Tunisia and analysed by REACH. The study aims to analyse the following dimensions of sub-Saharan migration to Tunisia: (1) migration drivers, (2) routes, (3) protection risks faced while en route and (4) living conditions in Tunisia, as well as (5) migratory intentions and (6) mobility to and from Tunisia’s neighbouring countries of sub-Saharan African migrants.”

Statewatch Analysis by Tony Bunyan “From the ‘carrot and stick’ to the ‘stick’ From GAMM (2005) to ‘Partnership Frame works’ (2016) in Africa”

Statewatch Analysis. Nov. 2018: “The EU has finally lost patience with a decade-long approach based on dialogue with countries in Africa calling for the return and readmission of refugees. Under plans adopted by the European Commission on 7 June 2106 the EU is explicitly seeking to exploit Member States’ historical neo-colonial links to try to contain the movement of migrants and refugees….”

EC Migration & Home Affairs: EMN Bulletin, 26 Oct, Latest EU and national developments on migration and asylum (July – Sept. 2018)

The EMN Bulletin provides policymakers and other practitioners with updates on recent migration and international protection policy developments at EU and national level.     1. General policy developments; 2. Implementation of the Common European Asylum System; 3. Unaccompanied Minors and Vulnerable Groups; 4. Legal migration and Integration; 5. Management of EU external borders; 6. Irregular migration and return; 7. Actions Addressing Trafficking in Human Beings; 8. External dimension; Annex on EU & Complementary Statistics, Additional information, other EMN outputs and upcoming events.

EASO publishes judicial analysis on asylum procedures and the principle of non-refoulement.

The analysis is primarily intended for use by members of courts and tribunals of EU Member States concerned with hearing appeals or conducting reviews of decisions on applications for international protection. It aims to provide a judicial analysis on asylum procedures and non-refoulement as primarily dealt with under the Asylum Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU (APD (recast)). It is intended to be of use both to those with little or no prior experience of adjudication in the field of international protection within the framework of the CEAS as well as to those who are experienced or specialist judges in the field. As such, it aims to be a useful point of reference for all members of courts and tribunals concerned with issues related to asylum procedures and non-refoulement. The structure, format and content have, therefore, been developed with this broad audience in mind. Moreover, it is hoped that it will contribute to ‘horizontal judicial dialogue’.”

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Week in Review – 28 October 2018

The death toll

IOM:  Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 95,909 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,969

2018 Migrant Deaths in Western Mediterranean More than Double those Recorded in 2017

IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) team estimates that since the beginning of 2018, 547 people are estimated to have died in the Western Mediterranean / Alboran Sea.  This is more than double the 224 deaths documented in all of 2017.  The Andalusian Association for Human Rights has documented the deaths of over 6,000 people on this route since 1997.  Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Data Analysis Centre, “noted, ‘the increase in recorded deaths in 2018 is linked to the increase in attempted sea crossings from North Africa to Spain compared with the past five years, as well as the number of fatalities in each shipwreck.’ Of the 547 deaths and disappearances recorded so far in 2018, more than half (289) occurred in seven shipwrecks in which more than 20 people died or were lost at sea. Between 2014 and 2017, two or fewer such incidents were recorded each year.”

Junker: EU North African Disembarkation Camps “No Longer on the Agenda”

Reuters reported that “European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday [in Tunis] that a suggestion that the European Union might try to set up migrant camps in North Africa was no longer on the agenda. …In June, a summit of all EU leaders asked the Commission to study ways to set up ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ in North African countries, including Tunisia, for migrants rescued [i.e. intercepted] by European vessels in the Mediterranean….’This [proposal] is no longer on the agenda and never should have been,’ Juncker told a news conference in Tunis with Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.”

Somali man returned to Libya under Italian policy sets himself on fire in Libyan detention centre

The Irish Times reported on “a Somali man [who] set himself on fire in a Libyan detention centre on Wednesday…  The man, who is in his late 20s, reportedly doused himself in petrol from a generator in the centre and lit it, after telling friends he had lost hope of being relocated to a safe country. … IOM spokesman Joel Millman said the detainee had set himself on fire as an ‘act of protest’. …This would be the eighth death in Triq al Sikka [detention] centre this year, according to [another] detainee. Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been returned to Libya since February 2017, when the country’s UN-backed government entered into a deal with Italy to prevent migration to Europe. Italian politicians have called the deal a success, because it has reduced the number of people arriving on their shores. However, for the men, women and children returned to Libya, the situation is bleak.”

Report that Morocco Exchanged Coast Guard Mediterranean Staff with Atlantic Staff in Effort to Disrupt Cooperation with Smuggling Organisations

The German tabloid Bild reported on a BND (German Federal Intelligence Service) report on smuggling operations in Morocco. The report noted that many African nationals are able to enter Morocco without visas.  And while in 2018, “Morocco claims to have prevented 54000 departures from the country, broken up 74 trafficker networks, confiscated 1900 boats, and brought charges against 230 traffickers …, [a]ccording to information available to the BND [certain smugglers] have connections with collaborators within the national authorities. …

Allegedly, the string pullers even receive information about the coast guards’ patrols for a bribe and can thus avoid them. That is why, this summer, the Moroccan government exchanged the coast guard staff in the Mediterranean with that in the Atlantic.”

Morocco Unleashes a Harsh Crackdown on Sub-Saharan Migrants

The New York Times and Voice of American reported on “a widespread crackdown [on] sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco [who] are facing arbitrary arrest, banishment to remote sections of the country and, lately, outright expulsion… Rights advocates contend that the raids, which government officials acknowledge, began in the summer and were coordinated with Spain and the European Union to stem the tide of migrants to the Continent.”

EU and Moroccan officials agreed last week on a $160 million emergency funding package, making the North African country the third largest recipient of EU funds earmarked for that purpose.  Much of that money will go to stepped up border security, according to Morocco’s chief government spokesman, Mustapha El Khalifi. About $50 million will be spent to secure the sea routes to Spain and the extensive desert borders with Algeria and Mauritania. Morocco says it already has 13,000 security personnel deployed to deal with the growing flow of migrants seeking to reach Spain.”

Statewatch Viewpoint by Yasha Maccanico: Morocco: Wherever EU immigration policy rears its ugly head, violence and abuses follow

Statewatch Viewpoint: “In the summer of 2018, after concerted efforts since 2014 by the EU and its Member States to block off the eastern (Turkey to Greece) and central (Tunisia and Libya to Italy) routes across the Mediterranean used by migrants and refugees to reach Europe, there was an increase in crossings using the western route (Morocco, and sometimes Algeria, to Spain). This was accompanied by an increase in deaths at sea and, in Morocco, extensive police operations to remove black African migrants from the north of the country, based on racial profiling and flagrant breaches of human rights….”

New Book: The Jungle: Calais’s Camps and Migrants (La Jungle de Calais) by Michel Agier

Available in November (en francais):  “For nearly two decades, the area surrounding the French port of Calais has been a temporary staging post for thousands of migrants and refugees hoping to cross the Channel to Britain. It achieved global attention when, at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, all those living there were transferred to a single camp that became known as ‘the Jungle’. Until its dismantling in October 2016, this precarious site, intended to make its inhabitants as invisible as possible, was instead the focal point of international concern about the plight of migrants and refugees. This new book is the first full account of life inside the Jungle and its relation to the global migration crisis. Anthropologist Michel Agier and his colleagues use the particular circumstances of the Jungle, localized in space and time, to analyse broader changes under way in our societies, both locally and globally.”

Libyan Coast Guard Receives New Italian Patrol Boat and Visegrád Four States Promise EUR 35 million for Reinforcement of Libyan Coast Guard

Libya’s Coast Guard last week received its newest Italian-made patrol boat which according to the Libyan Coast Guard will be used “for patrols, surveillance, and combating illegal and unlicensed activities at sea.”

Last week the Visegrád Four states committed to using “EUR 35 million intended for North Africa for the reinforcement of the Libyan coast guard in order to stop the flow of illegal migration heading for Europe.”

EUBAM Libya and ICMPD sign MOU

A strategic Partnership Memorandum of Understanding between the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM) and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) was signed to promote a long-term partnership in support of migration governance and integrated border management actions in Libya.”

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Junker: EU North African Disembarkation Camps “No Longer on the Agenda”

Reuters: “European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday that a suggestion that the European Union might try to set up migrant camps in North Africa was no longer on the agenda. …  [T]here has been little appetite in Africa [for the proposal] and EU officials have long questioned the legality and practicality of such camps — a view underlined in Juncker’s blunt reply. ‘This is no longer on the agenda and never should have been,’ Juncker told a news conference in Tunis with Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.”

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Week in Review – 21 October 2018

The death toll

IOM:  Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 91,093 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,852

Frontex: Overall migratory flows in September down by a third; no evidence of “shifting” migratory flows

Frontex reported last week that “in the first nine months of 2018, the number of irregular border crossings into the EU via the top four migratory routes fell by a third from a year ago to about 100,100, mainly because of lower migratory pressure on the Central Mediterranean route. In September, some 12,900 irregular crossings were detected on the main migratory routes into the EU, 21% fewer than in the same month of last year.” “For the third consecutive month, the Western Mediterranean migratory route accounted for half of all detections of illegal borders crossings into the EU. The number of migrants reaching Europe via this [Western] route reached nearly 6 500 in September, four times the number from the same month of last year.”

These numbers do not, however, suggest a shifting of the migration movement from the Central and Eastern Mediterranean routes to the Western Mediterranean route: “Nationals of Morocco, Guinea and Mali accounted for the highest number of irregular migrants crossing [the Western Mediterranean] route this year. People from sub-Saharan countries represented more than three-quarters of all detections in the Western Mediterranean.”  “Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on [the Central Mediterranean] route, together accounting for more than one-third of all the detected migrants there. They were trailed by nationals of Sudan, Pakistan and Nigeria.” ‘The largest number of migrants on [Eastern Mediterranean] route so far this year were nationals of Syria and Iraq, although for the second consecutive month Afghans accounted for the most monthly arrivals.”

“Western Mediterranean- For the third consecutive month, the Western Mediterranean migratory route accounted for half of all detections of illegal borders crossings into the EU. The number of migrants reaching Europe via this route reached nearly 6 500 in September, four times the number from the same month of last year. In the first three quarters of 2018, there were some 35 500 irregular border crossings on the Western Mediterranean route, more than double the figure from the same period a year ago.”

“Eastern Mediterranean- In September, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at some 5 400, 25% less than in September 2017. But mainly because of a significant increase of irregular crossings in recent months on the land border with Turkey, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first nine months of the year rose by 40% to around 40 300.”

“Central Mediterranean- The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route in September fell to about 900, down 85% from September 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first three quarters of 2018 fell to roughly 20 900, 80% lower than a year ago.”

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions reach 14,156; UNHCR evacuates 135 people from migrant detention centre

“As of 19 October, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) rescued/intercepted 14,156 refugees and migrants (9,801 men, 2,126 women and 1,373 children) at sea during 108 operations. So far in 2018, the LCG recovered 99 bodies from the sea. The majority of individuals disembarked in Libya comprised Sudanese (1,847 individuals), Nigerians (1,832 individuals) and Eritreans (1,542 individuals).”  After interception, refugees and migrants are transferred to detention centres. “UNHCR continues to advocate for the release of all of its persons of concern from detention and for alternatives to detention. The situation in Zintan detention centre remains dire, with a partially broken sewage system and very limited access to potable water. The centre holds 1,350 refugees and migrants.”

“On 16 October, UNHCR evacuated 135 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers (127 men, four women and four children) from Tripoli to UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Niger. The group included Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali and Sudanese nationals. This is the first evacuation to take place since June 2018 [ ]” and occurred “amidst an increasingly volatile security situation in Tripoli…  Many of the evacuated had been held in detention centres for several months and were suffering from the effects of malnutrition and poor health.”

European Council conclusions on migration, 18 October 2018

The European Council’s 18 October meeting concluded without any decisions regarding previously discussed “disembarkation platforms” in North Africa and without and statement regarding the proposed expanded mandate of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.  A list of non-specific conclusions was agreed to included:

  • Strengthen “cooperation with countries of origin and transit, particularly in North Africa, as part of a broader partnership”;
  • Step-up “the fight against people-smuggling networks”;
  • Intensify “work with third countries on investigating, apprehending and prosecuting smugglers and traffickers”;
  • Establish a joint task force “at Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre”;
  • Improve monitoring and disruption efforts directed at “smuggling networks’ online communications”;
  • “Develop a comprehensive and operational set of measures to this end by December”.

Full document here.

See also, Reuters, “EU moves closer to overcoming migration feud” and Washington Post, “EU looks to African nations, border control to stop migrants”.

Libyan FM Siala says all North African countries reject EU proposal for “regional disembarkation platforms”

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Al-Taher Siala, Foreign Minister of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord, said “Libya and its north African neighbors are opposed to the EU’s plan for “regional disembarkation platforms” to stem the flow of migrants entering the bloc… All north African countries reject this proposal — Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya, as well,” Siala told the Die Presse newspaper. “Siala estimated that around 30,000 illegal migrants were currently held in detention centers in Libya “and around 750,000 outside.” “Mr Siala said Libya was trying to improve security along its southern border by striking agreements with Chad, Niger and Sudan. He said the EU could also help protect that border by providing technical support such as patrol vehicles, ‘drones, helicopters and perhaps a few light weapons’.”

EU Foreign Affairs Council credits EUNAVFOR MED and EU cooperation with IOM and UNHCR with significant decrease in irregular migration 

The EU Foreign Affairs Council concluded its 15 October meeting crediting EUNAVFOR MED and cooperation with IOM and UNHCR with significantly decreasing irregular migration flows to Europe: “The Council emphasised the significant results delivered through the joint efforts of the EU, its member states and UN agencies. Irregular migration flows to Europe have been significantly decreased, and efforts to better tackle irregular migration and to fight smuggling networks have been considerably strengthened in particular through Operation Sophia. Significant EU funding is also being allocated under a wide range of instruments to projects in countries of origin and transit. Over the past three years the EU Emergency trust fund for Africa has in particular demonstrated its added value as a swift and effective implementation tool in view of addressing the root causes of instability,  forced  displacement  and  irregular  migration  and  to  contribute  to  good  migration management.”

UNHCR and IOM appeal to EU leaders to tackle Mediterranean deaths

In advance of last week’s European Council meeting, the UNHCR and IOM called on the EU “to urgently take steps to address this year’s record rate of drownings on the Mediterranean Sea.”  “The leaders of the two organizations warn that political discourse concerning refugees and migrants, particularly those arriving by boat, has become dangerously toxic in some countries, even at a time when arrivals to Europe are declining. This narrative is stoking unnecessary fears, making it harder for countries to work together and blocking progress towards solutions.”

“The current tenor of the political debate – painting a picture of Europe under siege – is not only unhelpful but completely out of touch with reality,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “Arrival numbers are falling but the rate at which people are losing their lives is on the rise. We cannot forget that we are talking about human lives. Debate is welcome – scapegoating refugees and migrants for political gain is not.”

EUNAVFOR MED Pilot Project – Shipboard Anti-Crime Information Cell established to gather cross-border information re smuggling, trafficking, and terrorism

EUNAVFOR MED activated an “anti-crime information cell” on board the Italian ship San Giusto as part of the EUNAVFOR MED Sophia operation. The project’s trial period will last six months.  “The anti-crime information cell can facilitate the gathering and transfer of information about illegal people trafficking, implementing an embargo  on UN weapons in Libya, the illegal exporting of petroleum from Libya in accordance with UNSCR  2146 (2014) and 2362 (2017), as well as criminal activity related to the security of the operation itself. The participation of Frontex in the anti-crime information cell will serve to develop global intelligence unit for illegal people trafficking and other types of cross-border criminal activities, including terrorism.”

Danish Refugee Council calls for urgent change to the EU’s external migration practices

EU-Libya migration cooperation: Shipwrecked values of humanity: “The Danish Refugee Council calls for an urgent change to the EU’s external migration cooperation in the Central Mediterranean and beyond from policies that focus on securitizing borders to policies that prioritize saving lives; provide effective protection and safe migratory pathways to people on the move; and contribute rather than undermine the long-term goal of stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean.”

Global Detention Project investigation into the role of social media in the context of migration control. “Why Would You Go?”

Part II of the Global Detention Project’s Special Series investigates how new information and communications technologies are used during irregular migration. Featuring on-the-ground reports, the paper examines the diverse ways migrants and refugees put social media to use during their journeys and helps address gaps in current literature regarding the role of digital platforms in contemporary migration contexts.”

“A key finding is that usage of digital tools is far more varied than the extant literature generally reports. Indeed, varying factors including socio-economics, nationality, and smuggling modus operandi considerably affect the use of such resources. Many sources, for example, emphasised the importance of community and diaspora networks during the various stages of their journeys and downplayed the role of social media and smartphones, which were often barely used—and sometimes not at all.”

Part I of the Special Series appeared earlier this year: “A migrant essential or a criminal marketplace? Since the “refugee crisis” exploded across the international media and political landscapes, the role of social media has been repeatedly dissected, argued over, and—more often than not—misunderstood. Although officials and politicians often present new digital platforms as security threats that enable traffickers and illicit enterprises, these technologies also have played a critically important role in aiding refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in need. They help people connect to the outside world from inside detention centres, provide desperately needed information about sources of humanitarian assistance, and enable the creation of digital communities that give migrants and their loved ones’ agency to proactively search out solutions.”

“This [initial] Global Detention Project Special Report is aimed at improving our understanding of how people use social media during their migration journeys, with a special emphasis on their use in the context of detention and migration control in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Part I, “Exposing the ‘Crisis,’” charts the historical relationship between migration and social media, reviewing the various tech responses to the “crisis” and highlighting the importance of human-centred design of new technologies. Two subsequent installments in this series will include on-the-ground reports of the diverse ways people put social media to use during their migration journeys and provide recommendations for human rights practitioners who wish to harness social media in ways that emphasise harm-reduction.”

Migrants who landed on Spain’s North African Chafarinas Islands to be returned to Morocco

EFE reported that “Morocco will admit in the next hours part of the thirty immigrants arrived [last week] in a boat to the Chafarinas Islands, in application of the readmission agreement signed in 1992 between [Spain] and [Morocco].  As reported by the Government Delegation in Melilla, the immigrants “will be readmitted by Morocco in the next few hours in application of the Treaty of Islands and Peñones signed between the Governments of Spain and Morocco in 1992. … With this decision, the Government follows the same pattern as in the last boat that arrived in Chafarinas on June 17, in which 13 immigrants were traveling, of which eight passed to the Moroccan authorities in application of the readmission agreement that exists between Spain and Morocco of 1992.”

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