A Review of Events of the Previous
Week in the Mediterranean
The death toll
UNHCR expresses concern over lack of rescue capability in Mediterranean, but condones Libyan coast guard pull back operations
While UNHCR rightly calls for a change in EU practices, it fails to acknowledge or address the serious problems with the Libyan coast guard’s pull back practices in Libyan territorial waters – practices enabled and funded by the EU. UNHCR’s latest statement on this subject condones EU-funded Libyan coast guard pull back practices.
From Jeff Crisp (@JFCrisp): “A simple question for UNHCR and IOM: Should asylum seekers who leave Libya by boat have an opportunity to submit an application for refugee status elsewhere, rather than being summarily intercepted and forcibly returned to and detained in the country of departure? Because UNHCR’s global policy says: ‘persons rescued or intercepted at sea cannot be summarily turned back or otherwise returned to the country of departure, including in particular where to do so would deny them a fair opportunity to seek asylum.’”
UNHCR’s statement: “UNHCR continues to be very concerned about the legal and logistical restrictions that have been placed on a number of NGOs wishing to conduct search and rescue (SAR) operations, including the Aquarius. These have had the cumulative effect of the Central Mediterranean currently having no NGO vessels conducting SAR. Should NGO rescue operations on the Mediterranean cease entirely we risk returning to the same dangerous context we saw after Italy’s Mare Nostrum naval operation ended in 2015 and hundreds of people died in an incident on the central Mediterranean Sea. UNHCR welcomes the rescue efforts of the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG), as without them more lives would have been lost. Nonetheless, with the LCG now having assumed primary responsibility for search and rescue coordination in an area that extends to around 100 miles, the LCG needs further support. Any vessel with the capability to assist search and rescue operations should be allowed to come to the aid of those in need. UNHCR reiterates that people rescued in international waters (i.e. beyond the 12 nautical miles of the territorial waters of Libya) should not be brought back to Libya where conditions are not safe. The largest proportion of deaths have been reported in crossings to Italy, which account for more than half of all deaths reported this year so far, despite Spain having become the primary destination of those newly arrived. More than 48, 000 people have arrived there by sea, compared to around 22,000 in Italy and 27,000 in Greece. There is an urgent need to break away from the current impasses and ad-hoc boat-by-boat approaches on where to dock rescued passengers. UNHCR reiterates that in recent months, together with IOM, we have offered a regional solution that would provide clarity and predictability on search and rescue operations.”
Security Council extends Libya sanctions to persons planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence
The UN Security Council on 5 November extended until 15 February 2020 the mandate of the Panel of Experts who oversee the sanctions targeting the illicit export of oil from Libya and decided that perpetrators of gender-based violence may also be subject to sanctions.
From the UN Press Service: “Adopting resolution 2441 (2018) by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), the Council condemned attempts to export petroleum by entities outside the aegis of Libya’s Government of National Accord. It also reaffirmed the travel ban and assets freeze first laid out in resolution 1970 (2011) (see Press Release SC/101/87/Rev.1 of 26 February 2011), which applies to those engaging in activities that threaten the peace or undermine Libya’s political transition. In renewing the Panel’s mandate, the Council decided that such activities ‘may also include but are not limited to planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence’, and requested that its members include expertise on such violence in accordance with operative paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015).”
Excerpts from Resolution 2441 (2018): “The Security Council, [***] Reaffirming the importance of holding accountable those responsible for violations or abuses of human rights or violations of international humanitarian law, including those involved in attacks targeting civilians and stressing the need to transfer detainees to State authority,[***]
11. Reaffirms that the travel ban and asset freeze measures [***] also apply to individuals and entities determined by the Committee to be engaging in or providing support for other acts that threaten the peace, stability or security of Libya, or obstruct or undermine the successful completion of its political transition, and reaffirms that [***] such acts may also include but are not limited to planning, directing, sponsoring, or participating in attacks against United Nations personnel, including members of the Panel of Experts [***]
and decides that such acts may also include but are not limited to planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence; [***]
14. Decides to extend until 15 February 2020 the mandate of the Panel of Experts [***], decides that the Panel’s mandated tasks shall remain as defined in resolution 2213 (2015) and shall also apply with respect to the Measures updated in this resolution and requests the Panel of experts to include the necessary sexual and gender-based violence expertise, in line with paragraph 6 of resolution 2242 (2015); [***].”
Almost 5500 people held in Libyan Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration detention centres
UNHCR estimates that as of 9 November there are an estimated 5,413 refugees and migrants held in DCIM operated detention centres in Libya of whom 3,988 are persons of concern to UNHCR.
Nearly every woman who makes irregular migrant crossing from Africa to Spain is sexually abused during the journey
From U.S. National Public Radio: “Immigration lawyers and activists say nearly every woman who makes the [irregular] journey [from Africa] to Spain is sexually abused along the way – sometimes they come through sex trafficking mafias, who facilitate the crossing in return for a debt of tens of thousands of dollars. Women sometimes arrive pregnant or with infants conceived on their journey, often a result of rape.”
Mixed Migration Review 2018 – Highlights / Interviews / Essays / Data
From MMC: “This first publication of the annual Mixed Migration Review by the Mixed Migration Centre offers a review of mixed migration around the world focusing on key events and policy developments during the 2017/2018 period. The report includes a series of essays looking at the most salient and polemical issues facing the refugee and migration sectors with respect to mixed flows, as well as a series of interviews with individuals and officials closely associated with or relevant to the sector and its challenges. The report is based on a wide range of research as well as exclusive access to 4Mi data from over 10,000 interviews with refugees and migrants in over twenty countries along seven major migratory routes. In three major sections (the migrants’ world, the smugglers’ world and global debates), the report offers a deep analytical dive into the world of mixed migration. The report does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions or simple conclusions, but raises many difficult questions and treats the mixed migration phenomenon with the complexity it deserves.”
Summary from Reliefweb: “Despite different motives and routes, migrants in mixed migration flows have one thing in common: they experience severe abuses, often as victims of policies trying to stop them and via the smugglers who profit from their movements. But most people would do it again, despite the abuses….”
“Global motivation for migration exceeds the limited possibilities to cross borders. Restrictive policies do not change the scale of migration but how people migrate and the routes they use. If refugees and migrants don’t succeed in the current restrictive environment, they will increasingly need to travel irregularly – with more abuses to follow. The data from the 4MI project with over 10,000 interviews indicates that depending on where migrants and refugees are interviewed, between one third and two thirds of all respondents report having experienced sexual or physical violence, robbery or kidnapping.”
“‘Rather than reducing irregular migration, policy efforts tend to lead smugglers to adapt their routes and methods that make journeys more dangerous for refugees and migrants. At least 60,000 refugees and migrants have died during their journey since the start of this century. But if governments only seek to restrict migration and asylum arrivals, lucrative business opportunities will continue to be available for smugglers. In many locations it occurs with the collusion of state officials who might otherwise interdict smuggling activities,’ says Bram Frouws, head of the Mixed Migration Centre.”
“One of the reasons people on the move are exposed to violations is the dependency on and rise of the migrant smuggling business. In 2016 at least 2.5 million people were smuggled worldwide for an economic return of up to $7 billion. But smugglers are a heterogenous group – as the more than 300 interviews conducted with smugglers by MMC reveals.”
“‘Smugglers are responsible for 50 percent of all incidents of sexual violence, physical violence, robbery and kidnapping reported by refugees and migrants interviewed through MMC’s 4Mi project. But smugglers often provide them their only option to reach safe havens. If people want to migrate, there will be smugglers – and being honest about smuggling also entails recognising that, despite everything, smugglers mostly deliver on their promises.’ says Bram Frouws.” [***]
“‘While irregular migration by sea to the EU has gone down a sense of crisis prevails and most policy initiatives from the EU still aim at keeping people out of Europe. The number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean has decreased in the past two years, but due to actions to stop this migration the mortality rate has increased sharply. Even if people are aware of these risks, this should not impact on their human rights and dignity. And with the joint policy efforts and money spent on combatting migration, it is worth taking this report to policy makers asking the question: Are there not more humane and economically smarter and more rational ways to organize migration?’ ends Bram Frouws.”
100,000 expected to have travelled “eastern route” via Yemen by end of year
From the Guardian: “More than 100,000 people are expected to travel along at least part of this ‘eastern route’ by the end of this year, as many as are anticipated to cross the Mediterranean, according to latest statistics. It is supposed to be the safer option, avoiding a long desert journey, but is lethal enough. Local humanitarian officials and security experts say it is impossible to know how many have been killed in incidents similar to that described by Adam. Estimates range from 150 a year to 10 times as many. ‘There can be up to five or 10 boats leaving every day, sometimes many more … Even if there is just one migrant dying every day that’s too many, but there are likely to be many more deaths that are unaccounted for,’ said Danielle Botti, a Nairobi-based analyst with the Mixed Migration Centre.”
British Institute of International and Comparative Law launches project looking at migrant rescues at sea
“The British Institute of International and Comparative Law announced today that it is launching a new project looking at the responsibilities of and implications for private vessels of maritime search and rescue of migrants and refugees. The project, led by Associate Senior Research Fellow Dr Jean-Pierre Gauci, will examine the roles, responsibilities and legal implications for private vessels involved in the rescue of migrants and refugees at sea.
It will examine the commercial and shipping law implications of such rescues and related issues such as delays in disembarkation, as well as the human rights implications including issues that arise from instructions by SAR States to return individuals to countries where their life and liberty might be threatened. The role played by and implications for and of NGO rescue operations will also be considered. The project will entail legal analysis, consultation with relevant stakeholders and the development of guidelines and training.”