Week in Review– 14 October 2018

The death toll

IOM:  Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 88,049 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,783

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions exceed 14,000 and are increasing in frequency

According to UNHCR, Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) Pull Backs reached 14,156 as of 11 October. Interceptions are increasing in October (884 as of 11 Oct.) compared to August (552) and September (1,265). “So far in 2018, the LCG recovered 99 bodies from the sea.”

Discussions continue regarding expanded mandate of European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX)

In September the European Commission proposed a new and greatly expanded mandate for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. The proposal includes an expansion of the standing corps to FRONTEX to 10,000 operational staff, encompassing the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) into the Agency’s frame, and giving the Agency a wider scope for action with countries that are not neighbouring countries. It was decided at last week’s Justice and Home Affairs Council Meeting to continue work on the proposal at the “technical level.” “[S]everal ministers mentioned the need to take a practical approach, by firstly looking at the supporting tasks to be carried out by the agency to respond to operational needs, taking account of national responsibility. On this basis, the question of structure and size of the staff, as well as the budget and timing could then be approached.”

For analysis, see “The next phase of the European Border and Coast Guard: towards operational effectiveness” in EU Law Analysis by Mariana Gkliati, PhD researcher at Leiden University.

EUNAVFOR MED continues training of Libyan Coast Guard and Navy personnel

EUNAVFOR MED launched a new training module for 69 Libyan trainees at the Italian Navy Training Centre in La Maddalena.  “The course, hosted by the Italian Navy, will last 8 weeks, and it will provide knowledge and training in relation to the general activity on board an off shore patrol vessel and lessons focused on Human Rights, Basic First Aid, Gender Policy and Basic English language.  Additionally, with the positive conclusion of these two courses, the threshold of 305 Libyan Coastguard and Navy personnel trained by EUNAVFOR Med will be reached. Moreover, further training modules are planned in Croatia and other EU member states in favour of a huge number of trainees. From October 2016, SOPHIA is fully involved in the training of the Libyan Coastguard and Navy; the aim of the training is to improve security of the Libyan territorial waters and the Libyan Coastguard and Navy ability to perform the duties in their territorial waters, with a strong focus on respect of human rights, including minors and women’s rights, and the correct handling of migrants in occasion of search and rescue activities to save lives at sea.”

For more background see Bruxelles 2 which notes, among other things, the slow 7-week vetting process to identify suitable Libyan candidates for training.

For second time in two weeks Moroccan navy opens fire on migrant boat

 A Moroccan Royal Navy vessel fired on a migrant boat last week wounding a 16-year old boy. The Moroccan Navy killed a woman two weeks ago in a similar incident.

 Also in Morocco, the Moroccan NGO El Grupo Antirracista de Acompañamiento y Defensa de Extranjeros y Migrantes (Gadem) denounced the forced transfer of 7,700 sub-Saharans to the south of the country.  According to Gadem, the forced displacements of migrants began in June and have not stopped.

 UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants criticises EU migration policies towards Niger

Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights, issued a report at the conclusion of a recent visit to Niger: “Niger has become a major transit country for migrants travelling north and to the Mediterranean. More recently, especially since 2014, Niger has become a transit country for returnees, most of them expelled or forced to return, from Algeria and Libya. These returns have put a lot of pressure on Niger, which according to many interlocutors has become “a permanent transit centre” and “the Southern border of Europe” as a result of migration policies adopted in Niger and by third countries, with serious consequences for the human rights of migrants and questions as to their effectiveness and sustainability.”

“One of the main measures adopted by the national authorities in respect to migration is the Law concerning the illicit smuggling of migrants (Law No. 2015-36) of 26 May 2015. According to official authorities and IOM data, since its implementation in 2016 the number of migrants who migrate north to Algeria, Libya and the Mediterranean has significantly decreased (e.g. from 333,891 in 2016 to 43,380 in 2018, according to IOM data based on monitoring trends in Arlit and Seguedine). While IOM data suggests that onward movement to North Africa may have slowed down, it does not reflect the number of people who still move on shifting routes as a consequence of tighter controls that lead migrants to move around data collection points.”

“In reality, the implementation of the law has resulted in a de facto ban of all travel north of Agadez, e.g. in violation of the freedom of movement of ECOWAS nationals. Further, the lack of clarity of the law and its implementation as a repressive – instead of protection – measure has resulted in the criminalization of all migration upwards and has pushed migrants into hiding, which renders them more vulnerable to abuse and human rights violations.”

“Indeed, according to various sources, the law has not stopped or decreased migration, but instead it has pushed it underground and diverted the migration routes from Niger to the north through Chad and Sudan, or to the Western Mediterranean route.”

“Role of the international donors and in particular the EU – Although key state officials stressed that the objective of reducing migration towards the north is mainly a national policy decision, there is a need to highlight the role and the responsibility of the international community and donors in this respect. Indeed, several sources stated that Nigerien policy on migration is heavily influenced and pushed primarily by the demands of the European Union and its Member States to control migration in exchange for financial support. For instance, the fact that the European Union Trust Fund provides financial support to IOM largely to sensitize and return migrants to their countries of origin, even when the voluntariness in many cases is questionable, compromises its rights-based approach to development cooperation. In addition, from my exchange with the European Union, no support is foreseen for those migrants who are neither refugees nor have agreed to be voluntarily returned to their countries of origin. Furthermore, the EU’s role and support in the adoption and implementation of the law on illicit smuggling of migrants calls into question its ‘do no harm’ principle given the human rights concerns related to the implementation and enforcement of the law.”

“Preliminary Recommendations: To the European Union and its Member States:

  • Integrate rigorous human rights, due diligence, monitoring and oversight mechanisms into all external agreements and initiatives abroad and prioritize projects in Niger that will improve the human rights of migrants;
  • Fully recognize the push and pull factors of irregular migration, and the EU’s responsibility in managing and mitigating them;
  • Take a global leadership role whenever needed in relation to humanitarian and human rights crises and reduce the market for smugglers by increasing, in cooperation with other States, resettlement opportunities;
  • Develop and incentivize other regular and safe migration channels, including for workers with varying skills levels, and look at a variety of options for legal migration, such as humanitarian admission, humanitarian visas, temporary protection, family reunification, economic admissions at all skills levels, as well as for job seeking, student mobility and medical evacuation; and increase the number of migrants admitted under existing regular migration schemes;
  • All EU programs, policies and technical assistance to Niger concerning migration should further the realization of human rights for all migrants, including those that are neither refugees, asylum seekers or AVR applicants, in compliance with international human rights norms and standards.”

2018 migrant arrivals to Spain now exceed 2006 arrivals and the so-called year of the “Crisis of the Cayucos”

“So far this year, 40,209 people have arrived in Spain…”  “The figure exceeds for the first time the one recorded in 2006, when 39,180 people reached the Spanish coast in the so-called ‘crisis of the cayucos.’”

Spain has recently urged the EU to honor its promise to grant Morocco financial aid amounting to €30 million to help curb illegal migration. Earlier in August, EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker promised to release €55 million from the emergency fund to help Morocco and Spain tackle the rise of illegal migration in the Western Mediterranean.

In July, the EU agreed to spend €55 million ($64 million) to help Tunisia and Morocco manage their frontiers. However, none of these promises have been upheld yet as Spain has indeed overtaken Greece and Italy this year with more than 43,000 arrivals mostly through dinghies from Morocco.”

Greece criticizes Turkey for surge in migrant flows via land border

“Athens has lodged complaints with the European Commission and Ankara over the ‘relaxed stance’ of Turkish authorities.”  “Over 11,000 migrants have crossed into Greece through Evros so far in 2018, compared with 5,500 in 2017 and 3,000 in 2016, Migration Policy minister Dimitris Vitsas told local ANT1 TV.”

PBS: Libyan coast remains fertile for ISIS and migrant traffickers

US broadcaster PBS: “Less than two years after Libya with American forces regained control of its coast from Islamic State fighters, the most potent affiliate outside of Iraq and Syria, law enforcement and U.S. policymakers worry about a resurgence.”

EASO: Asylum applications remain stable in the EU throughout summer months

Analysis carried out by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), based on data exchanged by EU+ Member States, reveals that this year, applications for asylum did not increase during the summer months.”  “The main countries of origin of applicants in August were Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran. With the exception of Syrians, all these nationalities lodged more applications for asylum than in July. In particular, nationals of Iraq lodged the most applications (4 020, + 12 % from July) so far in 2018, while levels of applications from Afghan nationals (4 010, – 8 % from July) were also considerable, dropping slightly from July. Turkish nationals continued to lodge a considerable number of applications (2 750, – 4 % from July). Similarly, applications from Iranian nationals rose sharply (2 460, + 19 %), reaching the highest level in almost two years.

In contrast, nationals of several Western African countries lodged fewer applications (between 25 % and 69 %) compared to a year earlier. This contrasts to trends in the past four years, when asylum-related migration from this region tended to rise over the summer months.”

UNHCR urges Australia to evacuate off-shore facilities as health situation deteriorates

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is urging immediate action by the Government of Australia to address a collapsing health situation among refugees and asylum-seekers at off-shore facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Australia remains responsible under International Law for those who have sought its protection. In the context of deteriorating health and reduced medical care, Australia must now act to prevent further tragedy to those forcibly transferred under its so-called “offshore processing” policy. UNHCR renews its call for refugees and asylum-seekers to be moved immediately to Australia, where they can receive adequate support and care.”

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