EU Council Decision establishing EUNAVFOR MED IRINI

COUNCIL DECISION (CFSP) 2020/472 of 31 March 2020 on a European Union military operation in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED IRINI). Full text here.

Excerpts:

Article 1 – Mission

  1. The Union hereby establishes and launches a military crisis management operation to contribute to preventing arms trafficking within its agreed Area of Operation and Area of Interest in accordance with UNSCR 1970 (2011) and subsequent Resolutions on the arms embargo on Libya, including UNSCR 2292 (2016) and UNSCR 2473 (2019). Furthermore, the operation shall contribute to the implementation of UN measures to prevent the illicit export of petroleum from Libya in accordance with UNSCR 2146 (2014) and subsequent Resolutions, in particular UNSCR 2509 (2020) and UNSCR 2510 (2020). In addition, the operation shall assist in the development of the capacities and in the training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy in law enforcement tasks at sea. The operation shall also contribute to the disruption of the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks, in accordance with applicable international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, any relevant UNSCR, and international human rights law as applicable. [***]

Article 4 – Capacity building and training of Libyan Coast Guard and Navy

  1. As a further secondary task, EUNAVFOR MED IRINI shall assist in the development of the capacities and in the training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy in law enforcement tasks at sea, in particular to prevent human smuggling and trafficking.
  2. The task referred to in paragraph 1 shall be carried out on the high seas in EUNAVFOR MED IRINI’s agreed Area of Operation. It may also be carried out in the territory, including the territorial waters, of Libya or of a host third State neighbouring Libya where the PSC so decides following an assessment by the Council on the basis of an invitation by Libya or the host State concerned, and in accordance with international law. [***]

Article 5 – Contributing to disruption of the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks

  1. As another secondary task, and in accordance with UNSCR 2240 (2015), EUNAVFOR MED IRINI shall support the detection and monitoring of human smuggling and trafficking networks through information gathering and patrolling carried out by aerial assets above the high seas, in the agreed Area of Operation.[***]

Full text here.

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Privatized Pushbacks: How the EU and Libya Use Merchant Ships to Block Migrant Boats

Reporting by Patrick Kingsley, New York Times: “[O]ne day a few months ago the Libyan Coast Guard ordered [a German merchant ship] to divert course, rescue 68 migrants in distress in the Mediterranean and return them to Libya, which is embroiled in civil war. The request, which the [merchant ship] was required to honor, was at least the third time that day, Jan. 11, that the Libyans had called on a merchant ship to assist migrants. The Libyans could easily have alerted a nearby rescue ship run by a Spanish charity. The reason they did not goes to the core of how the European authorities have found a new way to thwart desperate African migrants trying to reach their shores from across the Mediterranean. And some maritime lawyers think the new tactic is unlawful. Commercial ships like the [German ship] Panther must follow instructions from official forces, like the Libyan Coast Guard, which works in close cooperation with its Italian counterpart.  Humanitarian rescue ships, on the other hand, take the migrants to Europe, citing international refugee law, which forbids returning refugees to danger. After the Panther arrived in Tripoli, Libyan soldiers boarded, forced the migrants ashore at gunpoint, and drove them to a detention camp in the besieged Libyan capital. ‘We call them privatized pushbacks,’ said Charles Heller, the director of Forensic Oceanography, a research group that investigates migrant rights abuses in the Mediterranean. ‘They occur when merchant ships are used to rescue and bring back migrants to a country in which their lives are at risk — such as Libya.’ [***] Since the 2015 crisis, European governments have frequently stopped the nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the southern Mediterranean — like the Spanish ship, Open Arms — from taking rescued migrants to European ports. European navies and coast guards have also largely withdrawn from the area, placing the Libyan Coast Guard in charge of search-and-rescue. Now Europe has a new proxy: privately-owned commercial ships. And their deployment is contested by migrant rights watchdogs. Although a 1979 international convention on search and rescue requires merchant ships to obey orders from a country’s Coast Guard forces, the agreement also does not permit those forces to pick and choose who helps during emergencies, as Libya’s did. ‘That’s a blatantly illegal policy,’ said Dr. Itamar Mann, an expert on maritime law at the University of Haifa in Israel. [***] Between 2011 and 2018, only one commercial ship returned migrants to Libya, according to research by Forensic Oceanography. Since 2018 there have been about 30 such returns, involving roughly 1,800 migrants, in which merchant ships have either returned migrants to Libyan ports or transferred them to Libyan Coast Guard vessels, according to data collated by The New York Times and Forensic Oceanography. The real number is likely to be higher….” Full story here.

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The EU’s coordinated and unlawful assault on the rights of people crossing the Mediterranean

From the Guardian: “…While the level of violence at Greece’s border with Turkey has shocked many Europeans, Europe’s retreat from refugee rights did not begin last week. Greece’s decision to seal its borders and deny access to asylum is only the most visible escalation of an assault on people’s right to seek protection.

The groundwork for this was laid in the central Mediterranean, where the EU and Italy created a proxy force to do what they could not do themselves without openly violating international laws: intercept unwanted migrants and return them to Libya.

The strategy has relied on maintaining deniability of responsibility for Libyan coastguard operations. But the connivance revealed in the audio recordings is supported by previously unpublished letters between high-level EU mandarins, confirmed by inside sources and laid bare in emails from the Libyan coastguard, all obtained by the Guardian. Taken together, this evidence threatens to unravel a conspiracy in the Mediterranean that flouts international law in the name of migration control….”

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Migrant Deaths on the Mediterranean Since 2014 Exceed 20,000

From IOM: “A tragic shipwreck off the coast of Libya last month and more than a dozen other recent fatalities elsewhere have pushed the death toll in the Mediterranean Sea to 20,014 since 2014, according to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project. ‘The disappearance and presumed drowning of at least 91 people reported missing aboard a dingy north of Garabulli, Libya, on February 9 is the latest in a series of so-called “ghost boats” that have vanished en-route to Europe, claiming hundreds of lives,’ said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre. … Although the annual number of deaths has decreased every year since 2016 when more than 5,000 lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean, the proportion of deaths compared to attempted crossings rose in both the Central and Western Mediterranean in 2019 compared to previous years – a continuation of the increasing risk of death seen since 2017….”

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Tensions mount at Greek border with Turkey amid contested history of migration in the Aegean

From The Conversation, “Tensions mount at Greek border with Turkey amid contested history of migration in the Aegean“:

“… The Aegean islands were also where boats filled with Greek Orthodox residents of Asia Minor came in the wake of the Convention of the Forced Exchange of Populations of 1923 between Greece and Turkey, signed after the first world war. Following the arrival of more than 1.5 million people in Greece, the population of the islands almost doubled to the extent that many locals still have family members from among the group originally and still known as the ‘Asia Minor refugees’….”

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The linkage between Erdoğan’s decision to open its border with Greece and the Idlib offensive

Reporting by the Guardian, “Erdoğan says border will stay open as Greece tries to repel influx“, discussing the linkage between Erdoğan’s decision to open its border with Greece and the offensive in Idlib:

“…Erdoğan complained that funds transferred to Turkey from the EU to support refugees were arriving too slowly, saying he had asked Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to send them directly to his government.  But the policy shift appears to be intended to force the EU and Nato to support Ankara’s new military campaign in the north-western province of Idlib, Syria’s last rebel stronghold, where thousands of Turkish soldiers are supporting opposition forces facing an onslaught from regime forces backed by Russian air power.  Erdoğan said Turkey could not handle a new wave of migration, in an apparent reference to the growing humanitarian crisis in Idlib. …”

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Report that Libya has ordered coast guard to stop missions

23 February article from the Times of Malta:

“Interception and rescue operations by the Libyan Coast Guard have stuttered in recent weeks following instructions by the Tripoli government to halt all operations at sea, raising questions over the future of Malta’s deal with Libya to minimise the number of arrivals. Times of Malta is informed that the Libyan Coast Guard received orders in the second half of January to halt rescues and stop disembarkation of migrants in Libya.

They have since restarted some interceptions, however, most of the boats that left the coast were not aiming to land in Malta. Back in November, Times of Malta had revealed how Malta had secretly negotiated an agreement with Libya that sees the Armed Forces of Malta coordinating with the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrants headed towards the island and returned to the war-torn North African country….”

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Secret Agreement Between Armed Forces of Malta and Libyan Coastguard to Intercept Migrant Vessels Sailing Towards Maltese SAR Zone

The Sunday Times of Malta reported yesterday that “Malta has secretly negotiated an agreement with Libya that sees the Armed Forces of Malta [AFM] coordinating with the Libyan coastguard to intercept migrants headed towards the island… [A] senior government source [said] … ‘We reached what you could call an understanding with the Libyans. When there is a vessel heading towards our waters, the AFM coordinates with the Libyans who pick them up and take them back to Libya before they come into our waters and become our responsibility[.]’ … A spokesman for UNHCR office in Rome said they had reached out to the Maltese authorities for an explanation and were still waiting for the relevant information to be handed over….”  Reuters reported that “The Malta deal appears to go a step further by encouraging the Libyan coastguard to intervene beyond its own coastal waters, which extend some 22.2 km (14 miles) from its shore, and into the broad search-and-rescue zone operated by Malta.”

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Week in Review – 27 January 2019

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 5,266 in 2019; Deaths Reach 204

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions at 469

 UNHCR update issued 25 January: “So far in 2019, the Libyan Coast Guard rescued/intercepted 469 refugees and migrants. This week, UNHCR recorded an increase in disembarkations in Libya.

On 22 January, UNHCR provided food and water to 141 refugees and migrants who disembarked in Misrata, after being rescued by a merchant vessel, the Lady Sham. The group had been stranded at sea for three days. On 21 January, 106 persons were rescued by a commercial ship, the Gesina Schepera, and disembarked in Alkhoms Naval Base. On 20 January, 152 persons were disembarked in Tripoli. On 19 January, 70 refugees and migrants disembarked at the Tripoli Naval Base….

Since October 2018, UNHCR has registered 3,140 refugees and asylum seekers in detention centres. In January alone, UNHCR registered 328 individuals. This week, UNHCR registered asylum-seekers in Zwara and Azzawya detention centres (100 and 45 km west of Tripoli, respectively). In addition, last week UNHCR visited Al Khoms detention centre (115 km east of Tripoli) and Triq al Sikka detention centre in Tripoli. UNHCR estimates that 5,000 refugees and migrants are detained in Libya of whom 3,800 are of concern to UNHCR….”

Sea Watch-3 stand-off continues with Italy refusing to allow NGO rescue vessel to dock with 47 rescued migrants and refugees

47 rescued migrants and refugees, including unaccompanied children, remain on board the Sea Watch 3 which is currently anchored in Italian waters off Sicily.  UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF and others have expressed great concern over the dangerous physical and psychological conditions on board rescue ship and the need for immediate disembarkation. The rescued persons have been on board for seven days. Sea Watch statement here.

UNHCR appeals for urgent action as new Mediterranean mid-winter deaths reported

UNHCR “is watching with increasing alarm the situation on the Mediterranean, where over the past few days we have seen two shipwrecks, numerous other rescue incidents, a merchant vessel disembarking rescued individuals to Libya, and reports that the Libyan coast guard itself has been unable to respond to incidents within its designated search and rescue region of the Mediterranean because of shortages of fuel….UNHCR believes it has become urgent for States to take action to reassert effective rescue capacity on the Mediterranean by increasing coordinated multi-state rescue, restoring rapid disembarkation in a place of safety, and lifting impediments to the work of NGO rescue vessels. People who don’t have a valid claim to asylum or other forms of international protection must then swiftly be helped to return home. At present, the politicking around sea rescues is preventing serious focus on a solution to the problem. Meanwhile lives are being tragically lost. Politicians must stop using human-beings for political point-scoring, and to instead address this as a humanitarian issue, with saving lives the priority. Reducing arrivals cannot be the only barometer for success when people are drowning on Europe’s doorstep. Of particular concern to us at present is the fate of some 144 rescued refugees and migrants rescued on 20 January by a merchant vessel, the Lady Sham, who last night disembarked in Misrata, Libya under instructions from the Tripoli Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre (JRCC). In Libya’s current context, where outbreaks of violence and widespread human rights violations prevail, no rescued refugees and migrants should be returned there.”

German Defence Minister accuses EUNAVFOR MED command of sabotaging rescue mission by diverting navy vessels to remote locations to avoid migrant boats

From Reuters: “German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said the German navy had rescued a total of 22,000 migrants at sea since 2015, but had recently been sidelined by Italian commanders. ‘For three quarters of a year, the Italian command has been sending our navy to the most remote areas of the Mediterranean where there are no smuggling routes and no migrant flows so that the navy has not had any sensible role for months,’ she said. Berlin this week decided not to replace its ship the Augsburg when its tour ends on Feb. 6, although it said another vessel would be standing by in the North Sea if needed. … According to Italian defence ministry figures, Operation Sophia had rescued only 106 migrants in the past seven months, while Libya’s coast guard has picked up 13,000 in the same period.

Bloomberg article here.

Human Rights Watch report: “‘No Escape from Hell’: EU Policies Contribute to Abuse of Migrants in Libya”

The report was released by HRW on 21 January: “European Union policies contribute to a cycle of extreme abuse against migrants in Libya, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The EU and Italy’s support for the Libyan Coast Guard contributes significantly to the interception of migrants and asylum seekers and their subsequent detention in arbitrary, abusive detention in Libya. The 70-page report, “‘No Escape from Hell’: EU Policies Contribute to Abuse of Migrants in Libya,” documents severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, and lack of adequate health care. Human Rights Watch found violent abuse by guards in four official detention centers in western Libya, including beatings and whippings. Human Rights Watch witnessed large numbers of children, including newborns, detained in grossly unsuitable conditions in three out of the four detention centers. Almost 20 percent of those who reached Europe by sea from Libya in 2018 were children….”

Frontex: Number of irregular crossings at Europe’s borders at lowest level in 5 years

Frontex news release: “[In 2018] the number of illegal border-crossings at Europe’s external borders has fallen by a quarter compared with 2017 to an estimated 150 000, the lowest level in five years. The total for 2018 was also 92% below the peak of the migratory crisis in 2015. The drop was due to the dramatic fall in the number of migrants taking the Central Mediterranean route to Italy. The number of detections of irregular crossings on this route plunged 80% compared to 2017 to slightly more than 23 000.  The Central Mediterranean route saw the smallest number of irregular entries since 2012. The number of departures from Libya dropped 87% from a year ago, and those from Algeria fell by nearly a half. Departures from Tunisia stayed roughly unchanged. Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for a third of all migrants.

Meanwhile, the number of arrivals in Spain via the Western Mediterranean route doubled last year for the second year in a row to 57 000, making it the most active migratory route into Europe for the first time since Frontex began collecting data.

On the Western Mediterranean route, Morocco has become the main departure point to Europe. Most of the migrants on this route originated from sub-Saharan countries, although in recent months the number of Moroccan migrants has increased to become the top reported nationality. They were trailed by Guineans, Malians and Algerians.

The number of detections of illegal border-crossings on the Eastern Mediterranean route rose by nearly a third to 56 000. This was mainly caused by a higher number of migrants crossing the land border between Turkey and Greece, while the total number of detections in the Eastern Aegean Sea was roughly in line with 2017. Nevertheless, the number of arrivals registered in Cyprus more than doubled. Nationals of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq accounted for the largest number of irregular migrants on the sea route in the Eastern Mediterranean, while Turkish nationals were the main nationality on the Turkish-Greek land border….”

ECRE statement: “Deaths and Disputes Continue in the Mediterranean, as Refugees and Migrants are Returned to Abuse”

Tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea continues, with more than 170 people dead or missing in two separate shipwrecks last weekend. A further 144 people that were ‘rescued’ by a cargo vessel were returned to inhumane conditions in Libya.  Meanwhile, naval anti- smuggling operation Sophia remains at risk due to a lack of EU unity regarding the extension of its mandate….”

Article: Climate stress drove wave of Arab Spring refugees

From Reuters: “Severe droughts made more likely by global warming worsened conflict in Arab Spring countries early this decade, forcing people to flee, researchers said on Wednesday, publishing evidence they said proved the connection for the first time. The study used data from asylum applications in 157 countries from 2006-2015, together with an index that measures droughts, as well as figures tracking battle-related deaths, to assess the links between climate change, conflict and migration. The findings, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, showed a particular correlation between climate stresses and conflict in parts of the Middle East and North Africa from 2010–2012, when many countries were undergoing political transformation during the Arab Spring uprisings….”

Article here.  Abstract: “Despite the lack of robust empirical evidence, a growing number of media reports attempt to link climate change to the ongoing violent conflicts in Syria and other parts of the world, as well as to the migration crisis in Europe. Exploiting bilateral data on asylum seeking applications for 157 countries over the period 2006–2015, we assess the determinants of refugee flows using a gravity model which accounts for endogenous selection in order to examine the causal link between climate, conflict and forced migration. Our results indicate that climatic conditions, by affecting drought severity and the likelihood of armed conflict, played a significant role as an explanatory factor for asylum seeking in the period 2011–2015. The effect of climate on conflict occurrence is particularly relevant for countries in Western Asia in the period 2010–2012 during when many countries were undergoing political transformation. This finding suggests that the impact of climate on conflict and asylum seeking flows is limited to specific time period and contexts.”

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Week in Review – 30 December 2018

 A Review of Events of the Previous

[Two] Week[s] in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 113,145 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,242

Italy: “[S]eaborne irregular arrivals to Italy through almost three weeks of December total just 115 men, women and children – indicating arrivals this month will likely be the lowest of any month since 2013. … Through this date in 2017, Italy recorded 118,914 irregular arrivals of sea-borne migrants and refugees. Arrivals to Italy from North Africa this year are 23.126.”

Spain: “56,480 irregular migrants have reached Spain’s Mediterranean coasts through 19 December – a rate exceeding 1,000 per week through the year. Arrivals to Spain this year through 19 December account for 49.93 per cent of all Mediterranean irregular arrivals to Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.”

Greece:  “31,310 [is] the total number of irregular migrant sea arrivals to Greece through 19 December this year. That surpasses the total (29,501) arriving by sea through all last year. Additionally, over 16,600 irregular migrants have arrived this year in Greece by land.”

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions at or close to 15,000

UNHCR’s recent reports do not report any Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions in December. UNHCR reports a total of 14,795 interceptions so far in 2018. Reuters reports “Libya’s coast guard has intercepted about 15,000 migrants trying to reach Italy by sea this year…” (The Reuters article misreads statistics referenced in the UNSMIL/OHCHR report released on 18 December which refers to 29,000 Libyan Coast Guard interceptions between January 2017 and 30 September 2018, not between January and September 2018. The source of the 29,000 figure is not identified in the UN report.)

Two NGO rescue ships remain stranded at sea

As of 30 December, the Sea Watch rescue ship with 32 rescued people on board and the Sea Eye rescue vessel with 17 rescued people on board continue to be denied permission to land at an EU port.  A third NGO rescue vessel operated by Proactiva Open Arms was allowed to disembark over 300 rescued persons in Spain after sailing for a week from the place of rescue off Libya.

Opinion ‘It’s an Act of Murder’: How Europe Outsources Suffering as Migrants Drown

New York Times Opinion article and short film by Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani, Itamar Mann, Violeta Moreno-Lax and Eyal Weizman: “This short film, produced by The Times’s Opinion Video team and the research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography, reconstructs a tragedy at sea that left at least 20 migrants dead. Combining footage from more than 10 cameras, 3-D modeling and interviews with rescuers and survivors, the documentary shows Europe’s role in the migrant crisis at sea.”

“On Nov. 6, 2017, at least 20 people trying to reach Europe from Libya drowned in the Mediterranean, foundering next to a sinking raft.  Not far from the raft was a ship belonging to Sea-Watch, a German humanitarian organization. That ship had enough space on it for everyone who had been aboard the raft. It could have brought them all to the safety of Europe, where they might have had a chance at being granted asylum. Instead, 20 people drowned and 47 more were captured by the Libyan Coast Guard, which brought the migrants back to Libya, where they suffered abuse — including rape and torture. This confrontation at sea was not a simplistic case of Europe versus Africa, with human rights and rescue on one side and chaos and danger on the other. Rather it’s a case of Europe versus Europe: of volunteers struggling to save lives being undercut by European Union policies that outsource border control responsibilities to the Libyan Coast Guard — with the aim of stemming arrivals on European shores. While funding, equipping and directing the Libyan Coast Guard, European governments have stymied the activities of nongovernmental organizations like Sea-Watch, criminalizing them or impounding their ships, or turning away from ports ships carrying survivors.

More than 14,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the central Mediterranean since 2014. But unlike most of those deaths and drownings, the incident on Nov. 6, 2017, was extensively documented. Sea-Watch’s ship and rescue rafts were outfitted with nine cameras, documenting the entire scene in video and audio. The Libyans, too, filmed parts of the incident on their mobile phones. The research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography of Goldsmiths, University of London, of which three of us — Mr. Heller, Mr. Pezzani and Mr. Weizman — are a part, combined these video sources with radio recordings, vessel tracking data, witness testimonies and newly obtained official sources to produce a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the facts. Opinion Video at The New York Times built on this work to create the above short documentary, gathering further testimonials by some of the survivors and rescuers who were there.

This investigation makes a few things clear: European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation. More worrying, the Libyan Coast Guard partners that Europe is collaborating with are ready to blatantly violate those rights if it allows them to prevent migrants from crossing the sea….”

Full article and film here.

Report from OHCHR and UNSMIL: Migrants and refugees crossing Libya subjected to “Unimaginable Horrors” – calls on EU to reconsider cooperation and assistance to Libya

OHCHR press statementA report “published jointly by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office, covers a 20-month period up to August 2018, and details a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of State officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees. These include unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gang rape, slavery, forced labour and extortion….

‘The overwhelming majority of women and older teenage girls interviewed by UNSMIL reported being gang raped by smugglers or traffickers,’ the report says. UN staff visiting 11 detention centres, where thousands of migrants and refugees are being held, documented torture, ill-treatment, forced labour, and rape by the guards, and reported that women are often held in facilities without female guards, exacerbating the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. Female detainees are often subjected to strip searches carried out, or watched, by male guards.

Those who manage in the end to attempt the perilous Mediterranean sea crossing, are increasingly being intercepted or rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard which then transfers them back to Libya, where many are delivered straight back into the pattern of violations and abuse they have just escaped.

The approximately 29,000 migrants returned to Libya by the Coast Guard since early 2017 were transferred to immigration detention centres run by the Department of Combating Illegal Migration, where thousands remain detained indefinitely and arbitrarily, without due process or access to lawyers or consular services.

The report states Libya cannot be considered a place of safety following rescue or interception at sea, given the considerable risk of being subject to serious human rights abuses, and notes that these ‘pushbacks’ have been considered by the UN Special rapporteur on torture as violations of the principle of non refoulement, which is prohibited under international law.

The report calls on the European Union and its Member States to reconsider the human costs of their policies and efforts to stem migration to Europe and ensure that their cooperation and assistance to the Libyan authorities are human rights-based, in line with their own obligations under international human rights and refugee law, and do not, directly or indirectly, result in men, women and children being trapped in abusive situations with little hope of protection and remedy.

Migrants held in the centres are systematically subjected to starvation and severe beatings, burned with hot metal objects, electrocuted and subjected to other forms of ill-treatment with the aim of extorting money from their families through a complex system of money transfers.

The detention centres are characterized by severe overcrowding, lack of ventilation and lighting, and insufficient washing facilities and latrines.  In addition to the abuses and violence committed against the people held there, many of them suffer from malnutrition, skin infections, acute diarrhoea, respiratory tract-infections and other ailments, as well as inadequate medical treatment. Children are held with adults in same squalid conditions.

The report points to the apparent ‘complicity of some State actors, including local officials, members of armed groups formally integrated into State institutions, and representatives of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence, in the smuggling or trafficking of migrants and refugees.’…”

Full report here.  Infographics summary of report here.

EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia mandate extended until 31 March 2019

The Council of the EU issued the following press statement on 21 December; the Political and Security Committee agreed to extend the mandate on 14 December:

“The Council extended the mandate of the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia until 31 March 2019.  The operation’s core mandate is to contribute to the EU’s work to disrupt the business model of migrant smugglers and human traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean. The operation has also supporting tasks. It trains the Libyan Coastguard and Navy and monitors the long-term efficiency of the training and it contributes to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya. In addition, the operation also conducts surveillance activities and gathers information on illegal trafficking of oil exports from Libya, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions. As such, the operation contributes to EU efforts for the return of stability and security in Libya and to maritime security in the Central Mediterranean region.

EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia was launched on 22 June 2015. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to migration. The Operation Commander is Rear Admiral Credendino, from Italy. The headquarters of the operation are located in Rome.”

COUNCIL DECISION (CFSP) 2018/2055 of 21 December 2018 amending Decision (CFSP) 2015/778 on a European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA) is here.

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

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

FOREIGN AFFAIRSEUBAM 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

Greek island refugee camps are beyond capacity

From DW: “The already inhumane conditions in migration hotspots on Greek islands have been worsening for months. Here’s what options exist to ameliorate the situation — and why they don’t seem to take. Despite EU efforts, many Greek islands remain accessible to people who are seeking asylum in the European Union. In fact, more people cross from Turkey to the islands in the eastern Aegean Sea than depart from them, creating a growing population in reception centers for whom the authorities have struggled to provide. Migrant reception centers regularly operate beyond their stated capacities, according to an examination of occupancy rates….”

See also Euronews reporting here.

1,100 people – not 800 – now believed to have died in the 18 April 2015 migrant ship wreck off Libya

Article by AP reporters Lori Hinnant, Trisha Thomas, and Krista Larson:  “Before their lives ended in an underwater death trap, before they lined up 100 to a row on a Libyan beach to board a boat with no anchor, the young men from the parched villages of the Sahel had names.  Two forensic investigators, one crisscrossing Africa and another in a university laboratory in Italy, are on a quest against the odds to keep Italy’s promise to find those names. They are tracing the identities of the migrants killed when an overloaded fishing boat went down off the coast of Libya on April 18, 2015, in the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck in living memory.  The pledge was made before Europe turned against migrants, and it just got even harder to keep. Nearing their very first formal identification, one of the investigators made a devastating discovery this month: The vessel carried not 800 people, as initially believed, but nearly 1,100….”

Frontex report: Migratory flows in November

13 December 2018.  “Total lower, Western Mediterranean the most active route – In the first 11 months of 2018, the number of irregular border crossings into the EU fell by 30% from a year ago to about 138 000, mainly because of lower migratory pressure in the Central Mediterranean. A month before the end of the year, 2018 remains on track to see the lowest number of illegal border crossings since 2014….

Western Mediterranean – The Western Mediterranean remained the most active migratory route, accounting for more than half of all monthly detections of illegal border crossings in Europe. In November, the number of irregular migrants taking this route rose 29% from the same month of last year to 4 900. In the first 11 months of 2018, almost 53 000 irregular migrants arrived in Spain via this 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 November, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at 2 700, a drop of 42% as compared with November 2017.

However, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first 11 months of the year rose by 30% to around 50 900, mainly because of an increase in crossings at the land borders. The largest number of migrants on this route so far this year were nationals of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Central Mediterranean – The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route in November fell to about 900, down 83% from November 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first 11 months of 2018 fell to roughly 22 800, 80% 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….”

Algérie – 4000 harraga algériens sont arrivés en Espagne en dix mois

Environ quatre-mille harraga algériens ont réussi à rallier la côte espagnole durant les 10 premiers mois de l’année 2018. C’est que confirment les statistiques du Haut commissariat pour les réfugiés (HCR), précisant que ces migrants clandestins sont arrivés par voie maritime ou terrestre à travers les enclaves de Ceuta et Melilla….”  More reporting here and here.

Amnesty International: MENA governments must end discriminatory crackdowns and abuse of migrants

AI: “Governments across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are collectively failing to protect the rights of migrants in their countries, said Amnesty International, marking International Migrants Day…. In Algeria, a discriminatory crackdown against sub-Saharan migrants, as well as refugees and asylum-seekers, spiked in 2018, with security forces arbitrarily arresting and detaining tens of thousands and unlawfully deporting them to Niger and Mali. Many were expelled even though they had valid visas or consular papers….In neighbouring Morocco, authorities have also stepped up their crackdown against migrants in 2018, partly in an effort to stem irregular migration from Morocco to Spain. Since July, more than 5,000 people have been swept up in often violent raids, placed on buses and then abandoned in areas close to the Algerian border, despite the fact that Morocco introduced new asylum and migration policy commitments in 2013 to bring its practices into line with international standards. In Libya, alongside refugees and asylum-seekers, economic migrants face appalling treatment at the hands of armed groups, militias, smugglers and the Libyan authorities. Thousands are held indefinitely in notorious detention centres where they face systematic abuse, including torture, rape and extortion. …”

IOM: Over 6,600 migration deaths recorded within Africa since 2013

IOM report: “…Though much African migration is regular and takes places within Africa itself, the newly published evidence underscores the monumental risks that migrants can face on their journeys, and just how little we know about them. ‘When people don’t have access to legal migration routes and few reliable records exist, would-be migrants face vulnerability at the hands of human traffickers and smugglers,’ said Dr. Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Data Analysis Centre… Many of the deaths recorded by the Missing Migrants Project are concentrated on routes used by smugglers. Most migration deaths reported within Africa appear to have occurred while migrants are en route to Libya: deaths recorded since 2014 are predominately in the Sahara Desert, northern Niger, southern Libya, and northern Sudan.  The main causes of death recorded indicate that many migrant deaths in Africa are preventable. Starvation, dehydration, physical abuse, sickness and lack of access to medicines are causes of death frequently cited by the migrants who reported deaths on routes within Africa. Involvement with human smugglers and traffickers in human beings can put people in extremely risky situations in which they have little agency to protect themselves, let alone fellow travellers they see being abused….”

Boats 4 People: Mort-e-s et disparu-e-s en mer – le guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens

Mort-e-s et disparu-e-s en mer: La version web du Guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens est désormais disponible en tigrigna!  Publié en plusieurs langues (anglais, italien, français, arabe et tigrinya), le guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens contribue à rendre leur dignité aux personnes disparues ou décédées lors de la traversée de la Méditerranée. Il apporte également un soutien essentiel à leurs proches, car derrière chaque personne disparue en mer, il y a toujours une mère, un père, un∙e conjoint∙e, des enfants, des cousin∙e∙s, des ami∙e∙s, enfermé∙e∙s dans l’attente, l’angoisse et l’espoir.

España: El Defensor insiste en la necesidad de mejorar la primera acogida de personas migrantes que llegan a las costas en situación irregular

“En el Día Internacional de las personas migrantes, … el Defensor del Pueblo (e.f.), Francisco Fernández Marugán, quiere insistir en la necesidad de mejorar la primera acogida y asistencia de las personas que llegan a las costas españolas en situación irregular….”

Statement here.

France: Le Défenseur des droits publie son rapport « Exilés et droits fondamentaux, trois ans après le rapport Calais »

“Le Défenseur des droits constate que les entraves persistantes à l’entrée dans la procédure d’asile, la saturation des dispositifs d’accueil des exilés, leur manque d’informations et le contrôle de leur situation administrative lors de leur mise à l’abri conduisent les campements évacués à systématiquement se reformer et contraignent les exilés à subir des conditions de vie que le Conseil d’État a qualifiées, en 2016 et 2017, de « traitements inhumains ou dégradants ».

Le Défenseur des droits recommande à l’Etat de se conformer au droit positif et de garantir aux exilés un droit inconditionnel à l’hébergement, des conditions de vie dignes ainsi qu’une prise en charge de leur santé, notamment de leurs troubles psychiques nés d’un parcours migratoire et d’un accueil difficiles. Quant aux mineurs, le Défenseur des droits souhaite l’adoption urgente de mesures favorisant la pérennité de leur mise à l’abri, de leur évaluation et de leur prise en charge. Il est également nécessaire de simplifier les procédures d’asile et de réunification familiale, aujourd’hui trop peu accessibles.

À défaut d’une politique nationale assurant un véritable accueil des primo-arrivants, les collectivités locales et les associations caritatives sont contraintes d’agir seules, dans un contexte où se maintient une pénalisation de certains actes de solidarité. Le Défenseur des droits recommande donc d’élargir l’immunité pénale à tous les actes apportés dans un but humanitaire.”

Reports and links here.

New book: “Human Security and Migration in Europe’s Southern Borders”

By Susana Ferreira, NOVA University Lisbon-examines management of migratory flows in the Med within an international security perspective, using Spain and Italy as case studies.

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Opinion ‘It’s an Act of Murder’: How Europe Outsources Suffering as Migrants Drown

New York Times Opinion article and short film by Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani, Itamar Mann, Violeta Moreno-Lax and Eyal Weizman:

This short film, produced by The Times’s Opinion Video team and the research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography, reconstructs a tragedy at sea that left at least 20 migrants dead. Combining footage from more than 10 cameras, 3-D modeling and interviews with rescuers and survivors, the documentary shows Europe’s role in the migrant crisis at sea.”

“On Nov. 6, 2017, at least 20 people trying to reach Europe from Libya drowned in the Mediterranean, foundering next to a sinking raft.  Not far from the raft was a ship belonging to Sea-Watch, a German humanitarian organization. That ship had enough space on it for everyone who had been aboard the raft. It could have brought them all to the safety of Europe, where they might have had a chance at being granted asylum.

Instead, 20 people drowned and 47 more were captured by the Libyan Coast Guard, which brought the migrants back to Libya, where they suffered abuse — including rape and torture.

This confrontation at sea was not a simplistic case of Europe versus Africa, with human rights and rescue on one side and chaos and danger on the other. Rather it’s a case of Europe versus Europe: of volunteers struggling to save lives being undercut by European Union policies that outsource border control responsibilities to the Libyan Coast Guard — with the aim of stemming arrivals on European shores.

While funding, equipping and directing the Libyan Coast Guard, European governments have stymied the activities of nongovernmental organizations like Sea-Watch, criminalizing them or impounding their ships, or turning away from ports ships carrying survivors.

More than 14,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the central Mediterranean since 2014. But unlike most of those deaths and drownings, the incident on Nov. 6, 2017, was extensively documented.

Sea-Watch’s ship and rescue rafts were outfitted with nine cameras, documenting the entire scene in video and audio. The Libyans, too, filmed parts of the incident on their mobile phones.

The research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography of Goldsmiths, University of London, of which three of us — Mr. Heller, Mr. Pezzani and Mr. Weizman — are a part, combined these video sources with radio recordings, vessel tracking data, witness testimonies and newly obtained official sources to produce a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the facts. Opinion Video at The New York Times built on this work to create the above short documentary, gathering further testimonials by some of the survivors and rescuers who were there.

This investigation makes a few things clear: European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation. More worrying, the Libyan Coast Guard partners that Europe is collaborating with are ready to blatantly violate those rights if it allows them to prevent migrants from crossing the sea….”

Full article and film here.

 

 

 

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EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia mandate extended until 31 March 2019

The Council of the EU issued the following press statement today, 21 December; the Political and Security Committee agreed to extend the mandate on 14 December:

“The Council extended the mandate of the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia until 31 March 2019.  The operation’s core mandate is to contribute to the EU’s work to disrupt the business model of migrant smugglers and human traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean. The operation has also supporting tasks. It trains the Libyan Coastguard and Navy and monitors the long-term efficiency of the training and it contributes to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya. In addition, the operation also conducts surveillance activities and gathers information on illegal trafficking of oil exports from Libya, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions. As such, the operation contributes to EU efforts for the return of stability and security in Libya and to maritime security in the Central Mediterranean region.

EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia was launched on 22 June 2015. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to migration. The Operation Commander is Rear Admiral Credendino, from Italy. The headquarters of the operation are located in Rome.”

COUNCIL DECISION (CFSP) 2018/2055 of 21 December 2018 amending Decision (CFSP) 2015/778 on a European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA) is here.

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Report from OHCHR and UNSMIL: Migrants and refugees crossing Libya subjected to “Unimaginable Horrors” – calls on EU to reconsider cooperation and assistance to Libya

From the OHCHR press statementA report “published jointly by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office, covers a 20-month period up to August 2018, and details a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of State officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees. These include unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gang rape, slavery, forced labour and extortion….

‘The overwhelming majority of women and older teenage girls interviewed by UNSMIL reported being gang raped by smugglers or traffickers,’ the report says. UN staff visiting 11 detention centres, where thousands of migrants and refugees are being held, documented torture, ill-treatment, forced labour, and rape by the guards, and reported that women are often held in facilities without female guards, exacerbating the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. Female detainees are often subjected to strip searches carried out, or watched, by male guards.

Those who manage in the end to attempt the perilous Mediterranean sea crossing, are increasingly being intercepted or rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard which then transfers them back to Libya, where many are delivered straight back into the pattern of violations and abuse they have just escaped.

The approximately 29,000 migrants returned to Libya by the Coast Guard since early 2017 were transferred to immigration detention centres run by the Department of Combating Illegal Migration, where thousands remain detained indefinitely and arbitrarily, without due process or access to lawyers or consular services.

The report states Libya cannot be considered a place of safety following rescue or interception at sea, given the considerable risk of being subject to serious human rights abuses, and notes that these ‘pushbacks’ have been considered by the UN Special rapporteur on torture as violations of the principle of non refoulement, which is prohibited under international law.

The report calls on the European Union and its Member States to reconsider the human costs of their policies and efforts to stem migration to Europe and ensure that their cooperation and assistance to the Libyan authorities are human rights-based, in line with their own obligations under international human rights and refugee law, and do not, directly or indirectly, result in men, women and children being trapped in abusive situations with little hope of protection and remedy.

Migrants held in the centres are systematically subjected to starvation and severe beatings, burned with hot metal objects, electrocuted and subjected to other forms of ill-treatment with the aim of extorting money from their families through a complex system of money transfers.

The detention centres are characterized by severe overcrowding, lack of ventilation and lighting, and insufficient washing facilities and latrines.  In addition to the abuses and violence committed against the people held there, many of them suffer from malnutrition, skin infections, acute diarrhoea, respiratory tract-infections and other ailments, as well as inadequate medical treatment. Children are held with adults in same squalid conditions.

The report points to the apparent ‘complicity of some State actors, including local officials, members of armed groups formally integrated into State institutions, and representatives of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence, in the smuggling or trafficking of migrants and refugees.’…”

Full report here.

Infographics summary of report here.

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1,100 people – not 800 – now believed to have died in the 18 April 2015 migrant ship wreck off Libya

Article by AP reporters Lori Hinnant, Trisha Thomas, and Krista Larson:  “Before their lives ended in an underwater death trap, before they lined up 100 to a row on a Libyan beach to board a boat with no anchor, the young men from the parched villages of the Sahel had names.  Two forensic investigators, one crisscrossing Africa and another in a university laboratory in Italy, are on a quest against the odds to keep Italy’s promise to find those names. They are tracing the identities of the migrants killed when an overloaded fishing boat went down off the coast of Libya on April 18, 2015, in the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck in living memory.  The pledge was made before Europe turned against migrants, and it just got even harder to keep. Nearing their very first formal identification, one of the investigators made a devastating discovery this month: The vessel carried not 800 people, as initially believed, but nearly 1,100….”  Worth reading.

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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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