Article from the Blog Diritti e Frontiere ad ADIF: Elementi per un esposto nei confronti del governo italiano a seguito dell’applicazione del Memorandum d’intesa sottoscritto con il governo di Tripoli il 2 febbraio 2017

An article by Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo from the blog Diritti e Frontiere ad ADIF. (In Italian, use Google translate if needed!)

“… Le intese e gli accordi stipulati tra gli stati dell’Unione europea e i Paesi terzi devono essere valutati in considerazione degli effetti che producono, al di là delle affermazioni formali di rispetto dei diritti umani e delle Convenzioni internazionali, con particolare riguardo al diritto alla vita, all’integrità fisica e psichica ed alla libertà personale di quanti ne subiscono le conseguenze. Gli stessi accordi e protocolli operativi, richiamati dal Memorandum d’intesa firmato da Gentiloni il 2 febbraio scorso, stipulati con precedenti autorità libiche che, a differenza di quelle attuali, controllavano l’intero territorio nazionale, instaurano diversi livelli di coordinamento nelle attività di contrasto dell’immigrazione irregolare che estendono al governo italiano la responsabilità delle gravissime violazioni commesse ai danni dei migranti bloccati in mare e ricondotti nei centri di detenzione, come quello di Zawiya, sotto il controllo diretto ed esclusivo del governo di Tripoli.

Le attività di cooperazione operativa in mare, soprattutto se condotte in acque internazionali, rientranti in quella che è stata riconosciuta in passato come zona SAR affidata alle autorità libiche, implicano conflitti di competenza e ritardi negli interventi di soccorso che sono stati causa di diversi incidenti, con un numero in continuo aumento di morti e di dispersi.

L’allontanamento forzato delle navi delle ONG dal limite delle acque territoriali libiche, per effetto della maggiore presenza di mezzi riconducibili alla Guardia Costiera libica, ha oggettivamente creato le condizioni per soccorsi ritardati e per altre stragi, anche perchè i mezzi libici – in gran parte motovedette donate dagli italiani – non hanno la capienza per imbarcare tutte le persone che si trovano a bordo dei gommoni. Abbiamo testimonianze precise da parte di operatori delle ONG –  divenuti testimoni scomodi che si voleva allontanare con le campagne diffamatorie – secondo le quali i libici sparano dai loro mezzi di soccorso, con le armi leggere di cui sono dotati, sui barconi carichi di migranti per impedire loro di proseguire la rotta verso le acque internazionali. Secondo le testimonianze, si verificano anche conflitti a fuoco tra i trafficanti che “scortano” i migranti e le motovedette di Tripoli, che li vorrebbero bloccare e riportare a terra. Per queste ragioni, ad ogni notizia di un “soccorso” operato da un mezzo libico, con la riconduzione a terra dei superstiti, si accompagna invariabilmente la notizia di un numero imprecisato di morti e dispersi in mare.….”

 

Full text here.

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UN Report Also Documents Grave Human Rights Violations in Libyan Migrant Detention Centres

The Final Report of the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) was transmitted to the UN Security Council on 1 June and recently released. The Final Report addresses a range of issues covered by Resolution 1973, including activities of different Libyan Coast Guard factions (see my post on this from yesterday: UN Report Documents Extensive and Grave Human Rights Violations by Libyan Coast Guard Against Migrants).

The Final Report also addresses the manner in which many migrant detention centres are operated, controlled, and the conditions within. The report discusses links between armed groups and criminal groups in regard to migrant smuggling and the control of migrant detention centres by armed groups and criminal groups. Abuses, which have been well documented previously by many other reports, include deprivation of food and water, lack of access to sanitation, beatings, forced labour, rapes, and other forms of sexual violence.

Some migrant detention centres are operated by armed groups or criminal groups for the purpose of collecting migrants to be sold: sold to other smugglers, sold or used in forced labour (including demining operations), and sold as ‘sex slaves.’ The Report indicates that a migrant detention centre was established in in the Zawiyah refinery and was operated under the control of  the leader of the Petroleum Facilities Guard in Zawiyah, Mohamed Koshlaf. Coastguard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija) reportedly collaborates with Koshlaf in migrant smuggling by, among other things, using a coastguard boat for the purpose of intercepting migrants on board migrant boats operated by smuggling competitors.  There have been reports of deaths and injury of migrants on board the raided migrant boats.

Excerpts from the Final Report:

Summary

[***] Armed groups and criminal networks continue to exploit different sources of financing,  such  as  the  smuggling  of  migrants  and  fuel. The Panel has identified networks along the western coastline, which are active in both.

[***]

V. Acts that violate applicable international human rights law or international humanitarian law or acts that constitute human rights abuses

[***]

A.  Kidnappings, arbitrary detention and torture

[***]

2. Western Libya

[***]

93. Armed groups affiliated with the National Salvation Government were involved in several cases of kidnapping and The Presidential Security, headed by Mohammad Salem Dimona, used detention centres in the Felah area (the detention centre of the Department for Combating Illegal Migration) and in the Rixos Hotel area (see annex 26). Dimona, who moved to Tripoli International Airport in  March  2017,  was  directly  responsible  for  the  kidnapping  of  several individuals, including high-profile figures.

[***]

E. Human rights violations against migrants

104.  Abuses against migrants were widely reported, including executions, torture and deprivation of food, water and access to sanitation. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also reported enslavement of sub-Saharan migrants.35 Smugglers, as well as the Department to Counter Illegal Migration and the coastguard, are directly involved in such grave human rights violations (see also para. 245).

105.  Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija), and other coastguard members, are directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats using firearms. In Zawiyah, Mohammad Koshlaf opened a rudimentary detention centre for migrants in the Zawiyah refinery. The Panel collected information on abuses against migrants by several individuals (see annex 30). In addition, the Panel collected reports of poor conditions in migrant detention centres in Khums, Misratah and Tripoli (see para. 93 and annex 31).

[***]

VI.  Implementation of the arms embargo

[***]

E.  International support for Libya

[***]

1. Training activities

Coastguard

[***]

152.  Neither the coastguard nor the navy has been notified to the Committee [established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya] as part of the security forces under the control of the Government of National Accord, and the issue of control is further highlighted by multiple reports of criminal activities involving the coastguard (see para. 104), most notably by UNSMIL: “Migrants, as well as representatives of international non-governmental organizations that carry out search and rescue operations, have also recounted dangerous, life -threatening interceptions by armed men believed to be from the Libyan coastguard. After interception, migrants are often beaten, robbed and taken to detention centres or private houses and farms, where they are subjected to forced labour, rape and other sexual violence.”

[***]

IX.  Financing of armed groups

[***]

B.  Migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons

255.  Migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons is integrated with  other smuggling activities, such as smuggling of arms, drugs and gold. Armed groups actively participate in the smuggling or take a cut of the profits. Smuggling occurs virtually uncontested because of the lack of reliable security forces.

1. Western Libya

256.  Arriving from Agadez in the Niger, migrants are gathered in warehouses located in Qatrun, Awbari, Sabha and Murzuq, where several groups make a profit from facilitation. Tebu and Tuareg smugglers “facilitate” migrant crossings of the southern border. Tebu leaders, such as Adamu Tchéké and Abu Bakr al-Suqi, collect tolls in cash for travel from the border to Sabha. Tuareg leaders, such as Cherif Aberdine,84 control the route to Murzuq.

257.  In Sabha, members of the Awlad Suleiman tribe are reportedly organizing the smuggling. From Ghadamis to Bani Walid and Nalut, the Zintanis Mohamed Maatoug and Ali Salek are frequently mentioned as major transporters of migrants (and cannabis).

258.  On the coast, the main facilitators are based in Zawiyah, Zuwarah and Sabratah. They include the armed group commanders Mohamed Koshlaf and Ahmed Dabbashi (alias Amu). Coastguard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija) collaborates with Koshlaf (see paras. 59, 105 and 245). 85 The main departure site appears to be Talil Beach, in the resort complex in Sabratah.

 2. Eastern Libya

259.  The eastern route is managed by “fixers” from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, who identify candidates for departure and handle the finances. Libyans organize transportation within their territory. Migrants who have taken this route systematically report that uniformed men were overseeing their movements.

260.  The coordination in the border region of Kufrah is supposedly organized among the Tebus, Zways and elements of the Rapid Support Forces in the Sudan deployed along the border with the Sudan.86

261.  Up until 2016,  most of the  migrants  were  taken  from  Kufrah to Ajdabiya, where they were kept under the authority of the commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, Ibrahim Jadhran. One Eritrean, detained for a year in Ajdabiya, told  the  Panel  that  migrants were  used  by  the  Petroleum  Facilities  Guard  for demining operations without any military training or protective gear. The Petroleum Facilities Guard finally transferred him to another armed group in Sabratah.

262.  The Panel is investigating a number of bank transfers from relatives of migrants located in Sweden. These deposits are being made to Swedish bank accounts of the migrant smugglers for onward transfers through hawala systems located in the  Sudan  and  in  Dubai,  United Arab  Emirates,  where  the  money  is laundered.

[***]

Annex 17    Links between armed groups, criminal groups and the Coast guard in Zawiya

1. Sources provided the Panel with a detailed description of the modus operandi of smuggling networks in Zawiya.

2. Competition over the control of the fuel smuggling business in Zawiya has deepened historic tribal divisions between Awlad Bu Hmeira and Awlad Saqr in Zawiya. Since 2012, the Nasr Brigade, under the command of Mohammad Koshlaf from the Awlad Bu Hmeira tribe, has been in control of the Zawiya refinery. Koshlaf’s monopoly over the refinery has since been disputed by Awlad Saqr and the allied armed groups of Othman al-Lahab and al-Khadrawi.

3. In late 2014, the expansion of the migrant smuggling and human trafficking business in Zawiya further increased the competition. The commander of the al-Nasr brigade opened a detention centre in Zawiya. The Panel received information that the detention centre, commanded by a former army Colonel, Fathi al-Far, is used to ‘sell’ migrants to other smugglers. Meanwhile, Koshlaf also became active in migrant smuggling.

4. Since 2014, Koshlaf’s network gained influence over the coast guard operations in Zawiya, notably through the officer Abd al-Rahman Milad (also from the Awlad Bu Hmeira tribe). In 2015, The Zawiya coast guard’s patrol boat (see photograph below), operated by Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias al-Bija), was involved in intercepting migrants and transferring them to the al-Nasr detention centre. An armed group from Awlad Saqr, also involved in the migrant smuggling business, attempted to take over control of the boat in March 2016.

5. Repeated violent clashes in Zawiya in 2016 and 2017, between armed groups controlled by Ibrahim Hneish and Mohammad Koshlaf on one side and al-Khadrawi and al-Lahab on the other, show how strong the competition over the criminal business is.

6. According to several sources, competing groups have regularly targeted migrants under the custody of their rivals, provoking death and injury of several migrants.

7. Shaaban Hadiya’s armed group involvement in the smuggling business, if any, is unclear. However, a commander of Hadiya’s group was seen by Panel’s sources fighting alongside Ibrahim Hneish, which might indicate links between Shaaban Hadiya and the Koshlaf clan.

8. Koshlaf’s al-Nasr brigade in Zawiya collaborates with  the  al-Haboutate  brigade  of Warshafana, in organizing the migrant smuggling. Reportedly, this has led to the opening of the coastal road between Zawiya and Tripoli over the last few weeks.

[***]

Annex 30    Human rights violations against migrants in Zawiya

1. Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias al-Bija) is the head of the Zawiya branch of the coast guard. He obtained this position thanks to the support of Mohammad Koshlaf and Walid Koshlaf. Both had leverage over the coast guard hierarchy, according to internal sources in the coast guard.

2. Fathi al-Far, a former army colonel, is the head of al-Nasr detention centre. The centre is under the de facto control of al-Nasr Brigade of Mohammad Koshlaf. The Panel collected testimonies of the inhumane detention conditions at al-Nasr, which is not suitably equipped to hold migrants. Women and children live in critical conditions.

3. In addition, many migrants are frequently beaten, while others, notably women from sub- Saharan countries and Morocco, were sold on the local market as ‘sex slaves’.

4. Tareq al-Hengari is also a member of the coast guard. He shot at migrants’ boats at sea, causing the death of an unknown number of migrants, in an attempt to undermine the smuggling business of Koshlaf’s competitors.

[***]”

Final Report here.

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UN Report Documents Extensive and Grave Human Rights Violations by Libyan Coast Guard Against Migrants

The Final Report of the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) was transmitted to the UN Security Council on 1 June and recently released. The Final Report addresses a range of issues covered by Resolution 1973, including activities of different Libyan Coast Guard factions.

I haven’t had the time to read the full document closely, but some excerpts from the Final Report are set forth below.  The report discusses links between armed groups, criminal groups, and different coast guard factions, including involvement by coast guard factions in migrant smuggling and coast guard factions shooting at or sinking migrant boats operated by competitors. The report makes clear that after interception at sea, migrants are “often beaten, robbed and taken to detention centres or private houses and farms where they are subjected to forced labour, rape and other sexual violence.” The report questions whether any of the coast guard factions are under the control of the Government of National Accord and questions the vetting of the coastguard trainees who are receiving training from EUNAVFOR MED. This information is further reason for the EU and EUNAVFOR MED to immediately suspend all collaboration with the Libyan coast guards and navy.

Excerpts from Final Report:

“[***]

  1. On 17 August 2016, a speedboat attacked a Médecins sans frontières vessel off the Libyan coast. Two coastguard officers from the Dallah coastguard were involved in the attack. The two identified attackers are loyal to Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija), head of the Zawiyah coastguard and involved in smuggling activities.

[***]

  1. [***] Smugglers, as well as the Department to Counter Illegal Migration and the coastguard, are directly involved in [ ] grave human rights violations [against migrants] (see also para. 245).
  1. Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija), and other coastguard members, are directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats using firearms. In Zawiyah, Mohammad Koshlaf opened a rudimentary detention centre for migrants in the Zawiyah refinery. The Panel collected information on abuses against migrants by several individuals (see annex 30). In addition, the Panel collected reports of poor conditions in migrant detention centres in Khums, Misratah and Tripoli (see para. 93 and annex 31).

[***]

  1. Neither the coastguard nor the navy has been notified to the Committee [established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya] as part of the security forces under the control of the Government of National Accord, and the issue of control is further highlighted by multiple reports of criminal activities involving the coastguard (see para. 104), most notably by UNSMIL: “Migrants, as well as representatives of international non-governmental organizations that carry out search and rescue operations, have also recounted dangerous, life -threatening interceptions by armed men believed to be from the Libyan coastguard. After interception, migrants are often beaten, robbed and taken to detention centres or private houses and farms, where they are subjected to forced labour, rape and other sexual violence”
  1. These reports highlight further concerns raised with the Panel over the level of vetting to which [coastguard] trainees have been subject.

[***]

  1. Criminal networks tip off the coastguard to prevent rival gangs from carrying out successful [fuel] smuggling operations. The coastguard in Zawiyah is also involved in the smuggling business.

[***]

  1. As mentioned in paragraph 240, the leader of the Petroleum Facilities Guard inZawiyah, Mohamed Koshlaf, also known as Kasib or Gsab (see paras. 105 and 258), is involved in the procurement of fuel for smugglers. He also commands the so-called militia Nasr. FTNT 81 His brother, Walid Koshlaf, also known as Walid al-Hadi al-Arbi Koshlaf, runs the financial side of the business. The head of the coastguard in Zawiyah, Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija) (see also paras. 59, 105 and 258), is an important collaborator of Koshlaf in the fuel business.

[***]

  1. On the  coast,  the  main  facilitators  [of migrant smuggling] are  based  in  Zawiyah,  Zuwarah  and Sabratah. They include the armed group commanders Mohamed Koshlaf and Ahmed Dabbashi (alias Amu). Coastguard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija) collaborates with Koshlaf (see paras. 59, 105 and 245). FTNT 85  The main departure site appears to be Talil Beach, in the resort complex in Sabratah.

[***]

Annex 17    Links between armed groups, criminal groups and the Coast guard in Zawiya

  1. Sources provided the Panel with a detailed description of the modus operandi of smuggling networks in Zawiya.
  2. Competition over the control of the fuel smuggling business in Zawiya has deepened historic tribal divisions between Awlad Bu Hmeira and Awlad Saqr in Zawiya. Since 2012, the Nasr Brigade, under the command of Mohammad Koshlaf from the Awlad Bu Hmeira tribe, has been in control of the Zawiya refinery. Koshlaf’s monopoly over the refinery has since been disputed by Awlad Saqr and the allied armed groups of Othman al-Lahab and al-Khadrawi.
  3. In late 2014, the expansion of the migrant smuggling and human trafficking business in Zawiya further increased the competition. The commander of the al-Nasr brigade opened a detention centre in Zawiya. The Panel received information that the detention centre, commanded by a former army Colonel, Fathi al-Far, is used to ‘sell’ migrants to other smugglers. Meanwhile, Koshlaf also became active in migrant smuggling.
  4. Since 2014, Koshlaf’s network gained influence over the coast guard operations in Zawiya, notably through the officer Abd al-Rahman Milad (also from the Awlad Bu Hmeira tribe). In 2015, The Zawiya coast guard’s patrol boat (see photograph below), operated by Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias al-Bija), was involved in intercepting migrants and transferring them to the al-Nasr detention centre. An armed group from Awlad Saqr, also involved in the migrant smuggling business, attempted to take over control of the boat in March 2016.
  5. Repeated violent clashes in Zawiya in 2016 and 2017, between armed groups controlled by Ibrahim Hneish and Mohammad Koshlaf on one side and al-Khadrawi and al-Lahab on the other, show how strong the competition over the criminal business is.
  6. According to several sources, competing groups have regularly targeted migrants under the custody of their rivals, provoking death and injury of several migrants.
  7. Shaaban Hadiya’s armed group involvement in the smuggling business, if any, is unclear. However, a commander of Hadiya’s group was seen by Panel’s sources fighting alongside Ibrahim Hneish, which might indicate links between Shaaban Hadiya and the Koshlaf clan.
  8. Koshlaf’s al-Nasr brigade in Zawiya collaborates with the al-Haboutate brigade of Warshafana, in organizing the migrant smuggling. Reportedly, this has led to the opening of the coastal road between Zawiya and Tripoli over the last few weeks.

[***]

Annex 30    Human rights violations against migrants in Zawiya

  1. Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias al-Bija) is the head of the Zawiya branch of the coast guard. He obtained this position thanks to the support of Mohammad Koshlaf and Walid Koshlaf. Both had leverage over the coast guard hierarchy, according to internal sources in the coast guard.
  2. Fathi al-Far, a former army colonel, is the head of al-Nasr detention centre. The centre is under the de facto control of al-Nasr Brigade of Mohammad Koshlaf. The Panel collected testimonies of the inhumane detention conditions at al-Nasr, which is not suitably equipped to hold migrants. Women and children live in critical conditions.
  3. In addition, many migrants are frequently beaten, while others, notably women from sub- Saharan countries and Morocco, were sold on the local market as ‘sex slaves’.
  4. Tareq al-Hengari is also a member of the coast guard. He shot at migrants’ boats at sea, causing the death of an unknown number of migrants, in an attempt to undermine the smuggling business of Koshlaf’s competitors.

[***]”

Final Report here.

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EJIL: Talk! – Back to Old Tricks? Italian Responsibility for Returning People to Libya

An EJIL: Talk! Blog article by Jean-Pierre Gauci:  “On 10/11 May 2017 various news outlets reported a maritime operation by the Libyan authorities, in coordination with the Italian Search and Rescue Authority, in which 500 individuals were intercepted in international waters and returned to Libya. This operation amounted to refoulment in breach of customary international law and several treaties (including the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights), and an internationally wrongful act is one for which Italy bears international legal responsibility…..

….The European Union and its Member States have consistently sought mechanisms to curtail the number potential asylum seekers arriving to Europe’s shores and in doing so have worked closely with third countries. When such actions, reflective as they are of a broader policy, amount to human rights violations and internationally wrongful act, there is scope for responsibility for the EU States involved – in this case Italy. Italy’s action in this case clearly activate its responsibility for the international wrongful act, both directly through the instruction given (with awareness of the consequences), and through its assistance of Libya in the perpetration of the wrongful act.”

Full post here.

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PACE Committee on Migration Calls on EU to Increase Cooperation with Libyan Coast Guard and Engage With Libya on Conditions in Migrant Detention Centres

The PACE Committee on Migration (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) on 2 June unanimously approved a draft resolution entitled “Human rights implications of the European response to transit migration across the Mediterranean” making a series of recommendations to the EU, Greece, Italy, and Turkey.  The draft resolution is based on the report prepared by Miltiadis Varvitsiotis (Greece, EPP/CD) and will be considered by the Assembly at its next plenary session in Strasbourg, 26-30 June 2017. The draft resolution notes the existence of concerns in both Greece and Italy.

The draft resolution also contains several misguided recommendations calling on the EU to step up its cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guards and to engage with Libyan authorities to improve conditions in Libyan migrant detention centres.  These particular recommendations are disappointing and disturbing coming from PACE whose mission is to uphold the shared values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

PACE Press Statement here.

Report from Rapporteur Miltiadis Varvitsiotis here.

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Book Launch Event: ‘Boat Refugees’ and Migrants at Sea: A Comprehensive Approach (London, 6 June)

‘Boat Refugees’ and Migrants at Sea: A Comprehensive Approach – Book Launch Event 6 June 2017, 4.45-5.30pm – Woburn Suite, Senate House, London.

All are welcome to attend a book launch event of ‘’Boat Refugees’ and Migrants at Sea: A Comprehensive Approach’, the latest publication in the International Refugee Law Book Series.

The International Refugee Law Book Series is published by Martinus Nijhoff under the auspices of the Refugee Law Initiative. It provides a platform for outstanding new studies of the intersecting legal regimes for the protection of refugees and displaced persons. Monographs and edited volumes in the series aim to advance scholarly and practitioner insight into how ‘refugee law’ is evolving globally, focusing particularly on its interaction with other bodies of international law and manifestation in regions outside Europe.

Book Launch Event – Chair: David Cantor (Refugee Law Initiative) Introduction by Editors: Efthymios Papastavridis / Violeta Moreno-Lax Comment by UN: Francois Crepeau (UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants) Comment by IMO: Jan de Boer (Senior Legal Officer – International Maritime Organisation).

This event will be held from 4.45-5.30pm on 6 June 2017 in the Woburn Suite, Senate House (Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU, UK). Registration is not required.

‘Boat Refugees’ and Migrants at Sea: A Comprehensive Approach Edited by Violeta Moreno-Lax (Queen Mary University of London), and Efthymios Papastavridis (Democritus University of Thrace, the Academy of Athens and Oxford University).

This book aims to address ‘boat migration’ with a holistic approach. The different chapters consider the multiple facets of the phenomenon and the complex challenges they pose, bringing together knowledge from several disciplines and regions of the world within a single collection. Together, they provide an integrated picture of transnational movements of people by sea with a view to making a decisive contribution to our understanding of current trends and future perspectives and their treatment from legal-doctrinal, legal-theoretical, and non-legal angles. The final goal is to unpack the tension that exists between security concerns and individual rights in this context and identify tools and strategies to adequately manage its various components, garnering an inter-regional / multi-disciplinary dialogue, including input from international law, law of the sea, maritime security, migration and refugee studies, and human rights, to address the position of ‘migrants at sea’ thoroughly.

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Refugees International report: “Hell On Earth”: Abuses Against Refugees and Migrants Trying to Reach Europe from Libya

A new report from Refugees International by Izza Leghtas:  “…..Whether they went to Libya to work or just as a place of transit on their way to safety and protection in Europe, migrants and refugees who have spent weeks, months or years in Libya face abuses that include arbitrary detention, torture, unlawful killings, rape, forced labor, kidnapping, and even slavery. Many are held by smugglers for months or detained in official or semi-official detention centers in inhumane conditions where even their most basic rights as human beings are denied. Libya itself has been in turmoil since 2011, with three different governments competing for power and militias and criminal networks operating across the country. More than 60,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe between January 1 and May 24, 2017, with the vast majority landing in Italy. Eager to stem the flow of people using this route, the European Union (EU) and its member states have deployed measures which include training and equipping the Libyan coast guard and promoting returns to people’s countries of origin. As the violence and chaos in Libya continue, the EU must ensure that its actions do not result in refugees and migrants being returned to torture or other forms of ill-treatment in Libya. The EU must make rescue at sea a priority. The EU should also provide solutions for people in need of international protection, including safe and legal paths to protection in Europe while pushing Libya to fully ensure all human rights protections for refugees and migrants in that country…..”

Full report here.

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Monthly SAR activity in Central Mediterranean, by type of rescuer (through April 2017)

2017-04_Guardia Costiera SAR Statistics_from 2016-01_CHART

Source: Guardia Costiera; Excel spreadsheet with data: 2017-04_Guardia Costiera SAR statistics and FRONTEX statistics from 2016-Jan

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More than 30 people dead after falling from migrant boat during SAR operation off Libya

From the Guardian: “More than 30 people have drowned after about 200 people fell from an overcrowded migrant boat off the coast of Libya, the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea…..” Photo from MOAS.eu.

Source: moas.eu all rights reserved

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Amnesty International: Italy may be circumventing obligation to protect persons by facilitating interception of migrant boats by Libya

AI Public Statement: “Amnesty International is deeply concerned that Italian authorities may be attempting to circumvent their obligation to protect people fleeing widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses in Libya by facilitating the interception of refugees and migrant boats by Libyan authorities in the central Mediterranean.

On 10 May 2017 a request for assistance from a refugees and migrant boat to the Italian coastguard resulted in a Libyan coastguard vessel intercepting the boat in distress in international waters and returning up to 500 people to face illegal detention, torture, rape, inhuman and degrading treatment and other grave abuses in Libya.  The incident represented an extremely worrying departure from the procedures so far applied to search and rescue operations of refugees and migrants in the central Mediterranean. …. Read full statement.

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Monthly SAR activity in Central Mediterranean, by type of rescuer (through March 2017)

2017-03_Guardia Costiera SAR Statistics_from 2016-01_CHARTSource: Guardia Costiera; Excel spreadsheet with data: 2017-03_Guardia Costiera SAR statistics and FRONTEX statistics from 2016-Jan

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by | 14 May 2017 · 20:34

Boats 4 People publishes information guide for families of migrants who die or go missing while crossing Central Mediterranean

From FIDH:  “Boats 4 People published an information guide for the families of migrants –and their supporters- who died or went missing while crossing the Central Mediterranean sea on their way to Italy. According to the UNHCR since 2014, more than 12 000 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea during their migration to Europe, 5 022 of them in the year 2016 alone. Most of them remain ‘non-identified’. … The document produced by Boats 4 People about the Italian process to establish the identity of the dead or missing, is the result of nearly 2 years of gathering information from institutional bodies, associations, activists, researchers and practitioners. It has been designed as an implementation step-by-step guide for the families and their supporters, given the indifference of the European countries about migrants’ fate. For these countries, dead migrants are only entitled to being counted and reported for statistics purposes.”

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Mogherini : EU actions are responsible for significant reduction in migrants transiting Niger to Libya

EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini yesterday said that EU actions in Niger, “where more than 80% of the [migrant] flows [to Libya] transit”, have been responsible for a significant reduction in the number of persons reaching Libya:  “I can tell you one number that will strike you probably – in the last 9 months through [EU] action with Niger, we moved from 76 000 migrants passing through Niger into Libya to 6 000.”

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Libya Has Refused “International Requests” to Conduct Military Strikes Against Libyan Militias Engaged in Migrant Smuggling

An April 29th Libya Herald article by Sami Zaptia reported comments made by Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala (Presidency Council / Government of National Accord – PC/GNA) “that Libya has received ‘‘international requests’’ to carry out ‘military strikes within Libya against militias’ engaged in smuggling illegal migrants” and that Libya had refused the requests.

The article does not indicate who made the requests, but the requests probably came from the EU on behalf of the EUNAVFOR MED operation and stemmed from its mandate to disrupt, capture, or dispose of vessels or assets used by smugglers.

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Libyan Coastguard Vessel – in Coordination with Italian SAR Authority – Intercepts Migrant Boat in International Waters and Returns 500 Migrants to Libya; de facto Push-Back

A Libyan coastguard vessel yesterday intercepted a large migrant boat in international waters and returned the approximately 500 migrants to Libya. This incident is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it may represent the first such interception/rescue operation by Libya in international waters in recent years. Second, the Libyan vessel may have been one of coastguard vessels recently donated by Italy and whose personnel have been trained by the EUNAVFOR MED operation, though this is not clear. And third, an NGO rescue vessel operated by Sea-Watch was responding to the migrant vessel and beginning SAR operations, but according to press reports, the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre , directed the Libyan coastguard to assume “on-scene command.”  The result of this was the return of the migrants to Libya.  While this was perhaps not technically a “push-back” operation, the effect is the same. The orders issued by the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre determined where the intercepted/migrants would be taken.

The Libyan coastguard vessel also apparently almost collided with the NGO vessel.

2017-05-10_Sea Watch Vessel and Libya Coastguard Vessel

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