Week in Review – 02 December 2018

 A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

 The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 107,216 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,123

15 found dead on stranded vessel off Morocco

The Middle East Eye, via AFP, reported that “Morocco’s navy found the bodies of 15 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa on board a boat stranded at sea for days, a military source told AFP news agency. …The vessel was left drifting for four days following engine failure on its way to Spain, the source told AFP….”

European Parliament Legal Service says disembarkation platforms can lawfully be established outside of EU; Legal Service also says EU law does not apply to migrants rescued on the high seas

The EU Observer reported on the contents of a “10-page confidential report” prepared by the EP’s Legal Service “which attempted to provide a legal analysis of stalled EU plans to set up so-called ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ in north Africa and controlled centres in Europe…. The report broadly rubber stamps the legality of both concepts, but with conditions.  It says ‘controlled centres and/or disembarkation platforms of a similar nature could be, in principle, lawfully established in the European Union territory.’ It states disembarkation platforms ‘could lawfully be established outside of the European Union, in order to receive migrants rescued outside the territory of the Union’s member states.’”

The report “also says EU law does not apply to migrants rescued at high sea, even with a boat flying an EU-member state flag. … EU law is also not applied if the migrant is rescued in the territorial waters of an African coastal state, states the report.”

While no EU state has expressed an interest in establishing formal “controlled centres” and no North African state has been willing to host an EU “disembarkation platform”, “‘the disembarkation arrangement, the discussion, is proceeding in the Council,’ said Vincet Piket, a senior official in the EU’s foreign policy branch, the EEAS.”

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions reach 14,795

UNHCR reports that “as of 30 November, in 2018, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) has rescued/intercepted 14,795 refugees and migrants (10,346 men, 2,172 women and 1,421 children) during 115 sea operations. Since August to date, the number of refugees and migrants disembarked in Libya (2,162 individuals) has considerably decreased when compared to disembarkations in June (3,453 individuals) and July (2,167 individuals). In November, 546 individuals disembarked in Libya. The most recent events took place on 23 November (27 individuals disembarked at the Alkhums Naval Base) and on 24 November (110 individuals disembarked at the Azzawya Refinery Port and 63 in Zwara).”

Migrant flows slow to trickle in Sabratha, former Libyan smuggling hub

From Reuters, article by Aidan Lewis and Ulf Laessing: “Departures of migrant-laden boats to Italy from Sabratha, formerly Libya’s biggest people-smuggling hub, have slowed to a trickle thanks to a security crackdown triggered by European pressure that ejected the city’s top smuggler. … Crossings fell off abruptly in July 2017 after the city’s top smuggler, Ahmed al-Dabbashi – also known as Al-Ammu (the Uncle) – struck a deal with Tripoli authorities under Italian pressure to desist from trafficking migrants. Rival militia ejected Al-Ammu and his followers in fighting two months later, and have since consolidated their position, fending off an attempted comeback by Al Ammu earlier this month….”

Sharp drop in Spanish arrivals

IOM reports “that through Wednesday (28 November) 4,277 men, women and children have arrived as irregular migrants this month [in Spain], or slightly more than 1,000 people per week. This is a sharp drop from October (nearly 2,500 per week) or September (almost 1,900) when deaths at sea were lower, despite the higher arrival volume.”

NGOs resume limited rescue missions in Mediterranean

From Libya Observer: “Sea Watch, Proactiva Open Arms and Mediterranea have launched a joint rescue operation for migrants off the coast of Libya. ‘The fleet of three ships supported by the reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird which was also grounded in Malta, views itself as a civil society response to the European Union’s deadly isolation policy.’ Sea-Watch said.”

Libyan coast guard receives new patrol boat from Italy; V4 states to fund purchase of four additional Libyan patrol boats

The Libya coast guard received its latest new patrol boat from Italy.  And the foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group agreed last week “that their contribution to the Trust Fund for Africa would be used to support the building of the Libyan coast guard’s capacity and to strengthen the border of Libya.”  The former head of Slovak diplomacy Miroslav Lajčák said “that the V4 states will provide 35 million euros to strengthen, among other things, Libya’s coast guard capability, including the purchase and maintenance of four ships, as well as the marine coordination rescue center.”

10-day stand-off ends – rescued migrants disembark from Spanish fishing boat in Malta and will be transferred to Spain

From Reuters: “Eleven migrants rescued off the coast of Libya by a Spanish fishing boat were brought to Malta on Sunday, ending a protracted standoff to find a safe port for the boat. The nine men and two minors were transferred from the Nuestra Madre de Loreto to an [Armed Forces of Malta] vessel…. They were then transferred to Spain following talks between the two countries, the government said. … The fishing boat, Santa Madre de Loreto, rescued 12 migrants in international waters off the coast of Libya 10 days ago. Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms has been assisting the boat and migrants aboard, who it says would not have been safe if they were returned to Libya….”

The stand-off had been condemned by MSF and Amnesty International.

Increasing numbers of migrants attempt English Channel crossing

Sky News: “More than 100 migrants have been rescued off the Kent coast this month alone.”

Frontex opens first risk analysis cell in Niger

Frontex press statement: Frontex “opened the first ‘Risk Analysis Cell’ in Niamey in cooperation with Nigerien authorities.  The role of these cells, which are run by local analysts trained by Frontex, is to collect and analyse strategic data on cross-border crime in various African countries and support relevant authorities involved in border management….The Risk Analysis Cell in Niger is the first of eight such cells that was established in the framework of the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC). The remaining ones will be established in Ghana, Gambia, Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria, Guinea and Mali over the next twelve months….”

UNHCR Europe Monthly Report (October 2018) – 34% reduction in arrivals compared to last year

UNHCR: “Between 1 January and 31 October, 104,300 refugees and migrants arrived via the three Mediterranean routes to Europe compared to almost 157,700 arrivals in the same period in 2017. This marks a 34% reduction from the previous year’s arrival figures, showing a continued declining trend of the overall arrivals numbers to Europe. So far in 2018, October has seen the most arrivals in a single month with over 16,310 people reaching Europe. Figures from previous years show that arrivals in October tend to peak in comparison with other autumn months. Most confirmed arrivals so far this year have been to Spain, with some 55,340 arriving by land and sea compared to almost over 40,500 in Greece and some 21,960 in Italy. Primary nationalities amongst arrivals in 2018 so far were Syrians, Guineans, and Moroccans.

  • CYPRUS: Some 460 people arrived to Cyprus by sea thus far in 2018. Syrians make up the majority of those arriving to Cyprus.
  • GREECE: Nearly 41,300 refugees and migrants have arrived by land and sea in Greece with 67% arriving by sea so far in 2018. Arrivals by land and sea this year have increased by around 44% compared to those who arrived in the same period in 2017. … The three top countries of origin of arrivals by sea so far during 2018 were Syrians (27%), Afghans (25%) and Iraqis (19%).
  • ITALY: Almost 21,960 refugees and migrants have arrived in Italy by sea in 2018 by the end of October. Continuing the downwards trend of arrivals compared to the same period in 2017 (over 111,390), just over 1,000 refugees and migrants reached Italian shores in October, an 83% decrease compared to the 5,980 arrivals in October last year. … Among the various nationalities arriving by sea in Italy in October the majority were from Tunisia (22%), followed by Eritrea (14%), and Sudan (7%). …
  • SPAIN: A total of 53,100 refugees and migrants have reached Spain both by land and sea so far in 2018, representing an increase of 150% compared to the same period in 2017 (over 21,200). … The five most common nationalities of sea arrivals in Spain are Moroccans (21%), Guineans (21%), Malians (16%), Ivoirians (8%) and Algerians (7%).”

What happens to the bodies of those who die in the Mediterranean?

Al Jazeera, by Stefania D’Ignoti: “On All Soul’s Day, around three kilometres from the port in the Sicilian city of Catania, the pauper’s grave at the Monumental Cemetery is unusually well-tended, with fresh flowers and beads wrapped around cross-shaped headstones.  Many belong to refugees and migrants who died at sea while trying to reach Europe. Sicilian cemeteries currently host the remains of more than 2,000 of them. … ‘An overall indifference has led to a higher non-identification rate of most bodies,’ says Giorgia Mirto, a Sicilian anthropologist and founder of Mediterranean Missing, a database project collecting names of the identified dead refugees and migrants. ‘They just become statistics instead of humans.’ … ‘Here, migrants become part of the community. I noticed average citizens bringing flowers and praying over their graves,’ she says. ‘[It is] part of a Catholic mindset that instils the idea of taking care of the dead, in place of those who can’t afford or aren’t able to pay a visit.’…”

Concerns over Eritrea’s role in efforts by Africa and EU to manage refugees

Report from The Conversation via ReliefWeb: “Early in 2019 the Eritrean government will take over the chair of the key Africa and European Union (EU) forum dealing with African migration, known as the Khartoum Process. The Khartoum Process was established in the Sudanese capital in 2014. It’s had little public profile, yet it’s the most important means Europe has of attempting to halt the flow of refugees and migrants from Africa. The official title says it all: The EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative. Its main role is spelled out as being:  primarily focused on preventing and fighting migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings. … The African countries chose Eritrea to lead this critical relationship. But it’s been heavily criticised because it places refugees and asylum seekers in the hands of a regime that is notorious for its human rights abuses. Worse still, there is evidence that Eritrean officials are directly implicated in human trafficking the Khartoum Process is meant to end. That the European Union allowed this to happen puts in question its repeated assurances that human rights are at the heart of its foreign policies….”

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