A Review of Events of the Previous
[Two] Week[s] in the Mediterranean
The death toll
Italy: “[S]eaborne irregular arrivals to Italy through almost three weeks of December total just 115 men, women and children – indicating arrivals this month will likely be the lowest of any month since 2013. … Through this date in 2017, Italy recorded 118,914 irregular arrivals of sea-borne migrants and refugees. Arrivals to Italy from North Africa this year are 23.126.”
Spain: “56,480 irregular migrants have reached Spain’s Mediterranean coasts through 19 December – a rate exceeding 1,000 per week through the year. Arrivals to Spain this year through 19 December account for 49.93 per cent of all Mediterranean irregular arrivals to Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.”
Greece: “31,310 [is] the total number of irregular migrant sea arrivals to Greece through 19 December this year. That surpasses the total (29,501) arriving by sea through all last year. Additionally, over 16,600 irregular migrants have arrived this year in Greece by land.”
Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions at or close to 15,000
UNHCR’s recent reports do not report any Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions in December. UNHCR reports a total of 14,795 interceptions so far in 2018. Reuters reports “Libya’s coast guard has intercepted about 15,000 migrants trying to reach Italy by sea this year…” (The Reuters article misreads statistics referenced in the UNSMIL/OHCHR report released on 18 December which refers to 29,000 Libyan Coast Guard interceptions between January 2017 and 30 September 2018, not between January and September 2018. The source of the 29,000 figure is not identified in the UN report.)
Two NGO rescue ships remain stranded at sea
As of 30 December, the Sea Watch rescue ship with 32 rescued people on board and the Sea Eye rescue vessel with 17 rescued people on board continue to be denied permission to land at an EU port. A third NGO rescue vessel operated by Proactiva Open Arms was allowed to disembark over 300 rescued persons in Spain after sailing for a week from the place of rescue off Libya.
Opinion ‘It’s an Act of Murder’: How Europe Outsources Suffering as Migrants Drown
New York Times Opinion article and short film by Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani, Itamar Mann, Violeta Moreno-Lax and Eyal Weizman: “This short film, produced by The Times’s Opinion Video team and the research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography, reconstructs a tragedy at sea that left at least 20 migrants dead. Combining footage from more than 10 cameras, 3-D modeling and interviews with rescuers and survivors, the documentary shows Europe’s role in the migrant crisis at sea.”
“On Nov. 6, 2017, at least 20 people trying to reach Europe from Libya drowned in the Mediterranean, foundering next to a sinking raft. Not far from the raft was a ship belonging to Sea-Watch, a German humanitarian organization. That ship had enough space on it for everyone who had been aboard the raft. It could have brought them all to the safety of Europe, where they might have had a chance at being granted asylum. Instead, 20 people drowned and 47 more were captured by the Libyan Coast Guard, which brought the migrants back to Libya, where they suffered abuse — including rape and torture. This confrontation at sea was not a simplistic case of Europe versus Africa, with human rights and rescue on one side and chaos and danger on the other. Rather it’s a case of Europe versus Europe: of volunteers struggling to save lives being undercut by European Union policies that outsource border control responsibilities to the Libyan Coast Guard — with the aim of stemming arrivals on European shores. While funding, equipping and directing the Libyan Coast Guard, European governments have stymied the activities of nongovernmental organizations like Sea-Watch, criminalizing them or impounding their ships, or turning away from ports ships carrying survivors.
More than 14,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the central Mediterranean since 2014. But unlike most of those deaths and drownings, the incident on Nov. 6, 2017, was extensively documented. Sea-Watch’s ship and rescue rafts were outfitted with nine cameras, documenting the entire scene in video and audio. The Libyans, too, filmed parts of the incident on their mobile phones. The research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography of Goldsmiths, University of London, of which three of us — Mr. Heller, Mr. Pezzani and Mr. Weizman — are a part, combined these video sources with radio recordings, vessel tracking data, witness testimonies and newly obtained official sources to produce a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the facts. Opinion Video at The New York Times built on this work to create the above short documentary, gathering further testimonials by some of the survivors and rescuers who were there.
This investigation makes a few things clear: European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation. More worrying, the Libyan Coast Guard partners that Europe is collaborating with are ready to blatantly violate those rights if it allows them to prevent migrants from crossing the sea….”
Full article and film here.
Report from OHCHR and UNSMIL: Migrants and refugees crossing Libya subjected to “Unimaginable Horrors” – calls on EU to reconsider cooperation and assistance to Libya
OHCHR press statement: A report “published jointly by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office, covers a 20-month period up to August 2018, and details a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of State officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees. These include unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gang rape, slavery, forced labour and extortion….
‘The overwhelming majority of women and older teenage girls interviewed by UNSMIL reported being gang raped by smugglers or traffickers,’ the report says. UN staff visiting 11 detention centres, where thousands of migrants and refugees are being held, documented torture, ill-treatment, forced labour, and rape by the guards, and reported that women are often held in facilities without female guards, exacerbating the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. Female detainees are often subjected to strip searches carried out, or watched, by male guards.
Those who manage in the end to attempt the perilous Mediterranean sea crossing, are increasingly being intercepted or rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard which then transfers them back to Libya, where many are delivered straight back into the pattern of violations and abuse they have just escaped.
The approximately 29,000 migrants returned to Libya by the Coast Guard since early 2017 were transferred to immigration detention centres run by the Department of Combating Illegal Migration, where thousands remain detained indefinitely and arbitrarily, without due process or access to lawyers or consular services.
The report states Libya cannot be considered a place of safety following rescue or interception at sea, given the considerable risk of being subject to serious human rights abuses, and notes that these ‘pushbacks’ have been considered by the UN Special rapporteur on torture as violations of the principle of non refoulement, which is prohibited under international law.
The report calls on the European Union and its Member States to reconsider the human costs of their policies and efforts to stem migration to Europe and ensure that their cooperation and assistance to the Libyan authorities are human rights-based, in line with their own obligations under international human rights and refugee law, and do not, directly or indirectly, result in men, women and children being trapped in abusive situations with little hope of protection and remedy.
Migrants held in the centres are systematically subjected to starvation and severe beatings, burned with hot metal objects, electrocuted and subjected to other forms of ill-treatment with the aim of extorting money from their families through a complex system of money transfers.
The detention centres are characterized by severe overcrowding, lack of ventilation and lighting, and insufficient washing facilities and latrines. In addition to the abuses and violence committed against the people held there, many of them suffer from malnutrition, skin infections, acute diarrhoea, respiratory tract-infections and other ailments, as well as inadequate medical treatment. Children are held with adults in same squalid conditions.
The report points to the apparent ‘complicity of some State actors, including local officials, members of armed groups formally integrated into State institutions, and representatives of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence, in the smuggling or trafficking of migrants and refugees.’…”
EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia mandate extended until 31 March 2019
“The Council extended the mandate of the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia until 31 March 2019. The operation’s core mandate is to contribute to the EU’s work to disrupt the business model of migrant smugglers and human traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean. The operation has also supporting tasks. It trains the Libyan Coastguard and Navy and monitors the long-term efficiency of the training and it contributes to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya. In addition, the operation also conducts surveillance activities and gathers information on illegal trafficking of oil exports from Libya, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions. As such, the operation contributes to EU efforts for the return of stability and security in Libya and to maritime security in the Central Mediterranean region.
EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia was launched on 22 June 2015. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to migration. The Operation Commander is Rear Admiral Credendino, from Italy. The headquarters of the operation are located in Rome.”
COUNCIL DECISION (CFSP) 2018/2055 of 21 December 2018 amending Decision (CFSP) 2015/778 on a European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA) is here.
EU Council adopts decision expanding EUBAM Libya’s mandate to include actively supporting Libyan authorities to disrupt networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism
“FOREIGN AFFAIRS – EUBAM Libya – The Council adopted a decision mandating the EU integrated border management assistance mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya) to actively support the Libyan authorities in contributing to efforts to disrupt organised criminal networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism. The mission was previously mandated to plan for a future EU civilian mission while engaging with the Libyan authorities.
The mission’s revised mandate will run until 30 June 2020. The Council also allocated a budget of € 61.6 million for the period from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2020.
In order to achieve its objectives EUBAM Libya provides capacity-building in the areas of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice. The mission advises the Libyan authorities on the development of a national integrated border management strategy and supports capacity building, strategic planning and coordination among relevant Libyan authorities. The mission will also manage as well as coordinate projects related to its mandate.
EUBAM Libya responds to a request by the Libyan authorities and is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to support the transition to a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya. The civilian mission co-operates closely with, and contributes to, the efforts of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.
The mission’s headquarters are located in Tripoli and the Head of Mission is Vincenzo Tagliaferri (from Italy). EUBAM Libya”
Greek island refugee camps are beyond capacity
From DW: “The already inhumane conditions in migration hotspots on Greek islands have been worsening for months. Here’s what options exist to ameliorate the situation — and why they don’t seem to take. Despite EU efforts, many Greek islands remain accessible to people who are seeking asylum in the European Union. In fact, more people cross from Turkey to the islands in the eastern Aegean Sea than depart from them, creating a growing population in reception centers for whom the authorities have struggled to provide. Migrant reception centers regularly operate beyond their stated capacities, according to an examination of occupancy rates….”
See also Euronews reporting here.
1,100 people – not 800 – now believed to have died in the 18 April 2015 migrant ship wreck off Libya
Article by AP reporters Lori Hinnant, Trisha Thomas, and Krista Larson: “Before their lives ended in an underwater death trap, before they lined up 100 to a row on a Libyan beach to board a boat with no anchor, the young men from the parched villages of the Sahel had names. Two forensic investigators, one crisscrossing Africa and another in a university laboratory in Italy, are on a quest against the odds to keep Italy’s promise to find those names. They are tracing the identities of the migrants killed when an overloaded fishing boat went down off the coast of Libya on April 18, 2015, in the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck in living memory. The pledge was made before Europe turned against migrants, and it just got even harder to keep. Nearing their very first formal identification, one of the investigators made a devastating discovery this month: The vessel carried not 800 people, as initially believed, but nearly 1,100….”
Frontex report: Migratory flows in November
13 December 2018. “Total lower, Western Mediterranean the most active route – In the first 11 months of 2018, the number of irregular border crossings into the EU fell by 30% from a year ago to about 138 000, mainly because of lower migratory pressure in the Central Mediterranean. A month before the end of the year, 2018 remains on track to see the lowest number of illegal border crossings since 2014….
Western Mediterranean – The Western Mediterranean remained the most active migratory route, accounting for more than half of all monthly detections of illegal border crossings in Europe. In November, the number of irregular migrants taking this route rose 29% from the same month of last year to 4 900. In the first 11 months of 2018, almost 53 000 irregular migrants arrived in Spain via this 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 November, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at 2 700, a drop of 42% as compared with November 2017.
However, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first 11 months of the year rose by 30% to around 50 900, mainly because of an increase in crossings at the land borders. The largest number of migrants on this route so far this year were nationals of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Central Mediterranean – The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route in November fell to about 900, down 83% from November 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first 11 months of 2018 fell to roughly 22 800, 80% 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….”
Algérie – 4000 harraga algériens sont arrivés en Espagne en dix mois
“Environ quatre-mille harraga algériens ont réussi à rallier la côte espagnole durant les 10 premiers mois de l’année 2018. C’est que confirment les statistiques du Haut commissariat pour les réfugiés (HCR), précisant que ces migrants clandestins sont arrivés par voie maritime ou terrestre à travers les enclaves de Ceuta et Melilla….” More reporting here and here.
Amnesty International: MENA governments must end discriminatory crackdowns and abuse of migrants
AI: “Governments across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are collectively failing to protect the rights of migrants in their countries, said Amnesty International, marking International Migrants Day…. In Algeria, a discriminatory crackdown against sub-Saharan migrants, as well as refugees and asylum-seekers, spiked in 2018, with security forces arbitrarily arresting and detaining tens of thousands and unlawfully deporting them to Niger and Mali. Many were expelled even though they had valid visas or consular papers….In neighbouring Morocco, authorities have also stepped up their crackdown against migrants in 2018, partly in an effort to stem irregular migration from Morocco to Spain. Since July, more than 5,000 people have been swept up in often violent raids, placed on buses and then abandoned in areas close to the Algerian border, despite the fact that Morocco introduced new asylum and migration policy commitments in 2013 to bring its practices into line with international standards. In Libya, alongside refugees and asylum-seekers, economic migrants face appalling treatment at the hands of armed groups, militias, smugglers and the Libyan authorities. Thousands are held indefinitely in notorious detention centres where they face systematic abuse, including torture, rape and extortion. …”
IOM: Over 6,600 migration deaths recorded within Africa since 2013
IOM report: “…Though much African migration is regular and takes places within Africa itself, the newly published evidence underscores the monumental risks that migrants can face on their journeys, and just how little we know about them. ‘When people don’t have access to legal migration routes and few reliable records exist, would-be migrants face vulnerability at the hands of human traffickers and smugglers,’ said Dr. Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Data Analysis Centre… Many of the deaths recorded by the Missing Migrants Project are concentrated on routes used by smugglers. Most migration deaths reported within Africa appear to have occurred while migrants are en route to Libya: deaths recorded since 2014 are predominately in the Sahara Desert, northern Niger, southern Libya, and northern Sudan. The main causes of death recorded indicate that many migrant deaths in Africa are preventable. Starvation, dehydration, physical abuse, sickness and lack of access to medicines are causes of death frequently cited by the migrants who reported deaths on routes within Africa. Involvement with human smugglers and traffickers in human beings can put people in extremely risky situations in which they have little agency to protect themselves, let alone fellow travellers they see being abused….”
Boats 4 People: Mort-e-s et disparu-e-s en mer – le guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens
Mort-e-s et disparu-e-s en mer: La version web du Guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens est désormais disponible en tigrigna! Publié en plusieurs langues (anglais, italien, français, arabe et tigrinya), le guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens contribue à rendre leur dignité aux personnes disparues ou décédées lors de la traversée de la Méditerranée. Il apporte également un soutien essentiel à leurs proches, car derrière chaque personne disparue en mer, il y a toujours une mère, un père, un∙e conjoint∙e, des enfants, des cousin∙e∙s, des ami∙e∙s, enfermé∙e∙s dans l’attente, l’angoisse et l’espoir.
España: El Defensor insiste en la necesidad de mejorar la primera acogida de personas migrantes que llegan a las costas en situación irregular
“En el Día Internacional de las personas migrantes, … el Defensor del Pueblo (e.f.), Francisco Fernández Marugán, quiere insistir en la necesidad de mejorar la primera acogida y asistencia de las personas que llegan a las costas españolas en situación irregular….”
France: Le Défenseur des droits publie son rapport « Exilés et droits fondamentaux, trois ans après le rapport Calais »
“Le Défenseur des droits constate que les entraves persistantes à l’entrée dans la procédure d’asile, la saturation des dispositifs d’accueil des exilés, leur manque d’informations et le contrôle de leur situation administrative lors de leur mise à l’abri conduisent les campements évacués à systématiquement se reformer et contraignent les exilés à subir des conditions de vie que le Conseil d’État a qualifiées, en 2016 et 2017, de « traitements inhumains ou dégradants ».
Le Défenseur des droits recommande à l’Etat de se conformer au droit positif et de garantir aux exilés un droit inconditionnel à l’hébergement, des conditions de vie dignes ainsi qu’une prise en charge de leur santé, notamment de leurs troubles psychiques nés d’un parcours migratoire et d’un accueil difficiles. Quant aux mineurs, le Défenseur des droits souhaite l’adoption urgente de mesures favorisant la pérennité de leur mise à l’abri, de leur évaluation et de leur prise en charge. Il est également nécessaire de simplifier les procédures d’asile et de réunification familiale, aujourd’hui trop peu accessibles.
À défaut d’une politique nationale assurant un véritable accueil des primo-arrivants, les collectivités locales et les associations caritatives sont contraintes d’agir seules, dans un contexte où se maintient une pénalisation de certains actes de solidarité. Le Défenseur des droits recommande donc d’élargir l’immunité pénale à tous les actes apportés dans un but humanitaire.”
Reports and links here.
New book: “Human Security and Migration in Europe’s Southern Borders”
By Susana Ferreira, NOVA University Lisbon-examines management of migratory flows in the Med within an international security perspective, using Spain and Italy as case studies.