Week in Review – 21 October 2018

The death toll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

European Council conclusions on migration, 18 October 2018

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

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

Full document here.

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

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

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

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

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

UNHCR and IOM appeal to EU leaders to tackle Mediterranean deaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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