Week in Review – 09 December 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 109,455 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,160

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions remain at 14,795

UNHCR did not report any new Libyan Coast Guard pull backs over the previous week.  UNHCR reported that “as of 6 December, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) [had previously] rescued/intercepted 14,795 refugees and migrants at sea (10,346 men, 2,172 women and 1,421 children) during 115 sea operations. In November 2018, 546 refugees and migrants were disembarked in Libya. Throughout the year, the majority of refugees and migrants were disembarked at the Tripoli Naval Base (62 per cent) while others disembarked at Al Khums port (19 per cent) and Azzawya (11 per cent).”

EU reportedly to begin sharing sensitive surveillance and intelligence information with Libyan coast guard

From Matthias Monroy (@matthimon): “Libya is to be connected to the European surveillance network ‘Seahorse Mediterranean’ before the end of December this year. This was written by the State Secretary at the German Federal Foreign Office in response to a parliamentary question. Libyan authorities could learn about relevant incidents in the Mediterranean via the new cooperation. The military coastguard, for example, would receive the coordinates of boats with refugees to bring them back to Libya. In ‘Seahorse Mediterranean’ the southern Mediterranean countries of the European Union are joined. In addition to Italy, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, France and Spain, Portugal is also part of the network. It is a multilateral network of some Member States, not an institution of the European Union. ‘Seahorse Mediterranean’, however, it is connected to the EUROSUR system through which the European Union monitors its external borders. EUROSUR is intended to contribute to an ‘integrated European border management’. The EUROSUR system is operated by the new European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) and coordinated through a Situation Centre at the Frontex Border Agency in Warsaw. In this way, information from Frontex can also be fed into ‘Seahorses Mediterranean’. These can be, for example, situation reports or event messages generated from satellite reconnaissance information from the Copernicus programme. Frontex uses surveillance from space to detect suspicious activities at external maritime borders….”  Read full article by Monroy here.

European Commission misleads on reasons for migrant deaths

Article by EUobserver reporter Nikolaj Nielsen (@NikolajNielsen):  An EC spokeswoman blamed rising migrant deaths on the use of less seaworthy boats by smugglers: “‘What we are seeing here is a change of the modus operandi of the smugglers who are now no longer using the same type of vessels,’[.] The spokeswoman did not say why, noting that close to 700,000 lives have been saved since 2015. In September, she had offered an almost identical explanation. But the omission as to why points to a commission that is dealing in half truths. In fact, EU policy is in part responsible for making those boats more dangerous. Up until last year, the EU’s naval operation Sophia had seized over 500 refugee boats. Many more are likely to have since been captured. By destroying these boats, it forces people to turn to less seaworthy and more dangerous alternatives. Europe’s regional director for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Eugenio Ambrosi, offered a similar explanation. ‘When we say we want to disrupt the smuggler business model, we talk about destroying boats in Libya, we talk about destroying the boats, all this makes the smuggler richer,’ he told this website in October….”

UNHCR’s Tripoli “Gathering and Departure Facility” (GDF) now operational

From UNHCR: “On 6 December, UNHCR evacuated 133 refugees and asylum-seekers from the newly opened Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli to the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Niger. All of the evacuees were previously detained in Libyan detention centres and hosted in the GDF prior to their departure. The GDF is the first of its kind in the country and is intended to bring vulnerable refugees to a safe environment while solutions including resettlement, family reunification, or evacuation to other emergency facilities are sought for them. The facility is managed by UNHCR, partner LibAid and the Libyan Ministry of Interior…”

Greece Sea Arrivals Dashboard (November 2018)

From UNHCR: “So far in 2018, a total of 29,567 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece by sea. The majority are from Syria (26%), Afghanistan (26%) and Iraq (19%). More than half of the population are women (23%) and children (37%), while 40% are men. Arrivals in November 2018, at 2,075 decreased in comparison to October, when 4,073 people arrived on the islands. Arrivals during January to November 2018 are 8% higher than those of the same period in 2017. Lesvos has received almost half (47%) of all new arrivals, during 2018, followed by Samos (25%), Dodecanese islands (15%), Chios (12%) and Crete (1%).”

Increasing numbers of Algerian “harraga” leaving by sea

From El Watan: “Le phénomène de la harga de plus en plus alarmant : Le grand naufrage. Le phénomène de l’émigration clandestine (appelée communément la «harga») prend une ampleur sans précédent ces dernières années, en Algérie. … Au niveau de l’Oranie, les jeunes en partance pour les côtes ibériques, à bord d’embarcations de fortune, prennent le large, le plus souvent, à partir de Ghazaouet, Mostaganem, Oran, et, à un degré moindre Aïn Témouchent. Rien que dans la nuit de dimanche à lundi derniers, ils étaient 97 harraga à avoir été interceptés par les gardes-côtes, au large de différentes plages de l’ouest du pays. Dimanche dernier à 1h, 34 autres harraga, à bord de deux embarcations pneumatiques, ont été sauvés in extremis par les gardes-côtes, tandis que les corps de deux d’entre eux ont été repêchés sans vie….”

Voir également: “Migration : Harraga, nouvelle ruée sur la grande bleue. Le phénomène des harraga connaît depuis quelques semaines une accélération remarquée. Les conditions climatiques et la vigilance des gardes-côtes ne constituent plus un frein pour les jeunes et les moins jeunes qui tentent de rejoindre la rive nord de la Méditerranée sur des embarcations de fortune au péril de leur vie….”

Disturbing words from Danish Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg regarding rejected asylum seekers: “They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that.”

From the New York Times: “Denmark plans to house the country’s most unwelcome foreigners in a most unwelcoming place: a tiny, hard-to-reach island that now holds the laboratories, stables and crematory of a center for researching contagious animal diseases. As if to make the message clearer, one of the two ferries that serve the island is called the Virus. ‘They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that,’ the immigration minister, Inger Støjberg wrote on Facebook.  On Friday, the center-right government and the right-wing Danish People’s Party announced an agreement to house as many as 100 people on Lindholm Island — foreigners who have been convicted of crimes but who cannot be returned to their home countries. Many would be rejected asylum seekers….”

EUNAVFOR MED Sophia completes training module for Libyan Coast Guard personnel

EUNAVFOR MED completed the training of the latest cohort of Libyan personnel who will return to Libya to crew Libyan patrol boats.  The training included significant emphasis on gender issues, important yes, but not the main concern with Libya-EU pull back practices. From EUNAVFOR MED: “With the positive conclusion of this module, a total of 320 Libyan Coastguard and Navy personnel trained by EUNAVFOR Med has been achieved.”

According to EUobserver, Libyan personnel trained by EUNAVFOR MED are supposedly subjected to a robust vetting process: “The vetting is said to be carried out by EU states, international law enforcement agencies and Sophia. When EUobserver asked how many they have refused to train, a spokesperson for the EU’s foreign policy branch, the EEAS, said the figures are ‘restricted information’. When EUobserver filed a freedom of information request for the same data from the EEAS, it said such figures are not being held. Qassim Ayoub, spokesperson for Libya’s coast guard, told [EUobserver] earlier this year that people who are refused training are returned to their jobs in the Libyan Coast Guard.”

MSF statement: Aquarius forced to end operations as Europe condemns people to drown

As refugees, migrants and asylum seekers continue to die in the Mediterranean Sea, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its partner SOS MEDITERRANEE have been forced to terminate operations by the search and rescue vessel Aquarius. Over the past two months, with people continuing to flee by sea along the world’s deadliest migration route, the Aquarius has remained in port, unable to carry out its humanitarian work. This is the result of a sustained campaign, spearheaded by the Italian government and backed by other European states, to delegitimise, slander and obstruct aid organisations providing assistance to vulnerable people. Coupled with the EU’s ill-conceived external policies on migration, this campaign has undermined international law and humanitarian principles. With no immediate solution to these attacks, MSF and SOS MEDITERRANEE have no choice but to end operations by the Aquarius. ‘This is a dark day,’ says Nelke Manders, MSF’s general director. ‘Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others’ attempts to save lives. The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed.’…”

New drone deployments: Frontex surveillance drone in Lampedusa and French police drones over Calais

Via Jane’s Defence Weekly: Frontex demos unmanned Falco EVO for EU maritime border surveillance – The Falco EVO UAV being used by Frontex to demonstrate the use of unmanned aircraft to patrol the EU’s maritime borders….

The Selex Galileo Falco EVO has been selected by the European Union’s Frontex border control agency to explore the use of medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for maritime border surveillance….”

Via The Telegraph: “Police in Calais are using drones to locate migrants preparing to cross the Channel by boat, so that they can be arrested before they reach the water. In an escalation of security measures, the remotely controlled aerial vehicles have been seen flying low above the main Calais Migrant camp and sweeping across nearby beaches. … The move has come after a recent spike in attempted crossings of the English Channel by predominantly Iranian migrants….”

African migrants turn to deadly ocean route to Canary Islands as options narrow

Via Reuters: “Many migrants see the chain of islands off the Moroccan coast as the only viable option left as the European Union spends millions of dollars cutting off land routes through north Africa. They consider it a launchpad for asylum in mainland Europe…. Over 1,200 migrants arrived in the Canary Islands between Jan. 1 and Nov. 14, Spanish Interior Ministry data show, the highest in nine years and a four-fold increase over the same period in 2017….”

HRW calls on Greece and EU to move asylum seekers on Aegean Islands to mainland

Human Rights Watch: “The Greek government and its European Union partners should urgently ensure that all asylum seekers on the Aegean islands are transferred to suitable accommodation on the mainland or relocated to other EU countries as winter approaches, 20 human rights and other organizations said today. Despite the Greek government’s recent efforts to transfer asylum seekers from the islands to more suitable accommodation in the mainland, as of December 3, 2018, over 12,500 people were still living in tents and containers unsuitable for winter in five EU-sponsored camps known as hotspots on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos, and Leros – almost triple their capacity. In addition to serious overcrowding, asylum seekers continue facing unsanitary and unhygienic conditions and physical violence, including violence based on gender….”

2018 Migrant Arrivals to Yemen Approach 150,000

IOM’s “Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) forecasts a 50 per cent year-on-year rise over 2017 in migrant arrivals to Yemen – with nearly 150,000 migrants expected to enter the country in 2018. This, despite the ongoing conflict in Yemen and deadly perils along migration routes across the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea. … Today, an estimated 92 per cent of its incoming migrants are Ethiopian nationals, with Somalis accounting for the rest. In 2017, an estimated 100,000 migrants reached Yemen. …The upsurge in Yemen’s migrant arrivals exceeds 2018 arrivals to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea (107,216 arrivals this year)….”

International Maritime Organization: statement and resources re unsafe mixed migration by sea

From IMO:  “In order to address the safety of life at sea and search and rescue issues arising from unsafe migration by sea, IMO has been working with its partner organizations in the UN system as well as other international bodies to develop and update guidance for shipmasters and Governments. An information sharing platform has been established. IMO urges concerted action by the international community to tackle unsafe, mixed migration by sea, in the Mediterranean and other sea areas and has been actively addressing the issue at its own Committee meetings as well as through joint meetings on the matter with UN partners and other relevant international organizations.

Guidance on Rescue at Sea – Rescue at Sea:  A guide to principles and practice as applied to refugees and migrants  has been prepared jointly by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The guide is available in six languages…”

Separated at sea: during rescue operation in March, Sierra Leonean father rescued by NGO vessel Aquarius, 10 year-old son taken by Libyan Coast Guard vessel

From the Guardian, by Lorenzo Tondo (@lorenzo_tondo): “One night in March, a packed dinghy was afloat in the Mediterranean. Thirty metres ahead was a rescue ship but giving chase was a Libyan coastguard vessel. If it reached the boat it would send its passengers back to Libya and into militia-run detention centres. So they paddled harder, using their hands and feet. Among them were a father and his 10-year-old son, Chica and Alfonsine Camara. The dinghy crashed into the rescue ship and dozens were thrown into the sea, Chica among them. He looked around frantically for Alfonsine, who had been at his side since leaving Sierra Leone. He screamed as he saw him on the dinghy, now drifting dangerously towards the Libyans. In a matter of seconds, the fates of a father and son were decided – one human drama among the thousands on the perilous sea routes to Europe….”

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