Week in Review – 18 November 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

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

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

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

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions reach 14,595

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Administrative Arrangement between Greece and Germany on asylum-seekers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desperation builds in Libyan migrant detention centres

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

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