Category Archives: Aegean Sea

PACE Rapporteur Strik and HRW Respond to Recent Migrant Boat Tragedies

Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”, issued a statement on Friday in response to the deaths of 61 persons from Syria and other countries (including 31 children) off the Turkish coast and the ongoing migrant boats departing from North Africa:

“In the case of the boat off Turkey, many of those on board are thought to have come from Syria where a humanitarian crisis is in full swing. Asylum seekers from the conflict there are heading not only to neighbouring states but also to the rest of Europe[.]  This is an urgent warning that Europe must give much greater priority to the humanitarian situation evolving in Syria, and find new means to tackle the migration flows between Turkey and Greece – for Turkey’s sake, for Greece’s stake, for Europe’s stake, and for the sake of all those who have lost their lives and who will continue to lose their lives crossing between the two countries. European countries should also be prepared to take their share in the protection of Syrian refugees, as neighbouring countries Jordan and Turkey are facing growing problems in coping with such large numbers. We know that a failure to react adequately to the humanitarian consequences of the Libya conflict caused unnecessary deaths. Let us not repeat those mistakes with the conflict in Syria.”

Human Rights Watch also issued a statement:  “The deaths of so many children should be a wake-up call to EU leaders[.]  Europe can and should do more to limit tragedies like these in the future…. Both Frontex, the EU external borders agency, and a proposed new European External Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) include rescue at sea in their mandates, but lack specific guidelines and procedures to ensure that rescue is the paramount consideration in EU operations at sea. Preventing deaths at sea needs to be at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration…. The EU should also coordinate with Turkish authorities to ensure that there are no gaps in rescue coverage. … Europe squabbled and dragged its feet last year when tens of thousands came by sea to escape chaos and conflict in North Africa…. It needs to live up to European values this time around, and do its utmost to ensure that those fleeing Syria reach safety.”  Human Rights Watch released a briefing paper in August regarding ongoing migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.

Click here for full Statement by Tineke Strik.

Click here for full HRW Statement.

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High Death Toll in Turkish Migrant Boat Sinking Likely Caused by Persons Trapped Below Deck

Last week’s sinking of a migrant boat off the Turkish coast took place about 50 metres from shore.  The high death toll of 61 persons, including 31 children and infants, seems to have occurred in part because many of the boat’s passengers were either trapped or locked below the main deck of the boat.  Some media reports describe the boat, the “Sailor”, as a small fishing boat, but pictures of the accident scene suggest that the boat was probably a pleasure boat.  The boat struck underwater rocks causing it to sink on 6 September.  The boat reportedly departed from Ahmetbeyli and had traveled approximately 25 km along the coastline when it sank near the village of Menderes.  The migrants on board included Syrians, Iraqis, and others.  At least 49 survivors were able to swim ashore.  The boat’s Turkish captain and at least one crew member have been arrested and charged with human smuggling and reckless homicide.  The crew reportedly made no efforts to assist the passengers as the boat was sinking.

Click here, here, here, here, and here for articles.

 

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Frontex to Increase Sea and Air Patrols in Aegean at Greece’s Request

Greek news reports say that Greek officials have made requests to Commissioner Malmström and Frontex for assistance to respond to “increasing migratory pressures on the islands of the Eastern Aegean.”  The Greek islands of Lesvos, Samos, Patmos, Leros and Symi in particular have reportedly seen an increase in the number of persons entering from nearby Turkish territory.  According to the media reports the assistance will include the deployment of “four aerial vehicle[s], four patrol boats, three mobile surveillance units and eight expert officers, whose costs will be covered by EU funds the agency and the European Commission.”

Click here and here for articles. (EL)

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2012 Frontex Annual Risk Analysis

Frontex posted its 2012 Annual Risk Analysis (“ARA”) on its website on 20 April.   (The 2012 ARA is also available on this link: Frontex_Annual_Risk_Analysis_2012.)  The stated purpose of the ARA is “to plan the coordination of operational activities at the external borders of the EU in 2013. The ARA combines an assessment of threats and vulnerabilities at the EU external borders with an assessment of their impacts and consequences to enable the Agency to effectively balance and prioritise the allocation of resources against identified risks….”

Highlights include:

  • 86% of the detections of irregular migrants in 2011 on the EU’s external borders occurred in two areas, the Central Mediterranean (46%) and the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily on the land border between Greece and Turkey (40%);
  • The 64 000 detections in 2011 in the Central Mediterranean were obviously linked directly to the events in North Africa.  The flow of Tunisians was reduced by 75% in the second quarter of 2011 as a result of an accelerated repatriation agreement that was signed between Italy and Tunisia;
  • There is a very high likelihood of a renewed flow of irregular migrants at the southern maritime border.  Larger flows, if they develop, are more likely to develop on the Central Mediterranean route because of proximity to Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt;
  • Irregular migration in the Western Mediterranean towards Spain remains low, but has been steadily increasing and accounted for 6% of the EU’s detections in 2011;
  • Cooperation between Spain and Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali, including bilateral agreements and the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast, are the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on the Western African route in recent years.  The situation remains critically dependent of the implementation of effective return agreements between Spain and western African countries.  Should these agreements be jeopardised, irregular migration is likely to resume quickly;
  • The land border between Greece and Turkey is now an established illegal-entry point for irregular migrants and facilitation networks;
  • According to intelligence from JO Hermes, women embarking from North Africa to the EU are in particular danger of being intimidated by their smugglers and forced into prostitution;
  • Austerity measures being implemented by Member States are likely to adversely affect operational environments of border control by reducing resources and by exacerbating corruption;
  • There is an intelligence gap on terrorist groups active in the EU and their connections with irregular-migration networks.  The absence of strategic knowledge may constitute a vulnerability for internal security.

Selected excerpts from the ARA:

“Executive Summary

[***] Looking ahead, the border between Greece and Turkey is very likely to remain one of the areas with the highest number of detections of illegal border-crossing along the external border. More and more migrants are expected to take advantage of Turkish visa policies and the expansion of Turkish Airlines, carrying more passengers to more destinations, to transit through Turkish air borders and subsequently attempt to enter the EU illegally. [Turkey reported an increase in 2011 of 26% in air passenger flow. See p. 12 of ARA.]

At the southern maritime borders large flows are most likely to develop on the Central Mediterranean route due to its proximity to Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, where political instability and the high unemployment rates are pushing people abroad and where there is evidence of facilitation networks also offering facilitation services to transiting migrants. [***]

There is an increasing risk of political and humanitarian crises arising in third countries which may result in the displacement of large numbers of people in search of international protection towards the land and sea borders of the EU. [***]

Various austerity measures introduced throughout Member States may result in increasing disparities between Member States in their capacity to perform border controls and hence enable facilitators to select those border types and sections that are perceived as weaker in detecting specific modi operandi. Budget cuts could also exacerbate the problem of corruption, thus increasing the vulnerability to illegal activities across the external borders. [***]

3. Situation at the external borders

[***] 3.2 Irregular migration

[***] Consistent with recent trends, the majority of detections [in 2011] were made in two hotspots of irregular migration, namely the Central Mediterranean area and the Eastern Mediterranean area accounting for 46% and 40% of the EU total, respectively, with additional effects detectable across Member States.  [***]

Central Mediterranean route

[***] Initially, detections in the Central Mediterranean massively increased in early 2011, due to civil unrest erupting in the region, particularly in Tunisia, Libya and, to a lesser extent, Egypt. As a result, between January and March some 20 000 Tunisian migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. In the second quarter of 2011 the flow of Tunisian migrants was reduced by 75% following an accelerated repatriation agreement that was signed between Italy and Tunisia. … Since October 2011, the situation has eased somewhat due to democratic elections in Tunisia and the National Transitional Council successfully gaining control of Libya. However, the situation remains of concern, with sporadic arrivals from Tunisia now adding to arrivals from Egypt. There are also some concerns that the flow from Libya may resume. [***]

Eastern Mediterranean route

[***]Undeniably, the land border between Greece and Turkey is now an established illegal-entry point for irregular migrants and facilitation networks. [***]

Western Mediterranean route (sea, Ceuta and Melilla)

Irregular migration across the Western Mediterranean towards southern Spain was at a low level   through most of 2010. However, pressure has been steadily increasing throughout 2011 to reach almost 8 500 detections, or 6% of the EU total. A wide range of migrants from North African and sub-Saharan countries were increasingly detected in this region. It is difficult to analyse the exact composition of the flow, as the number of migrants of unknown nationality on this route doubled compared to the previous quarter. This may indicate an increasing proportion of nationalities that are of very similar ethnicity and/or geographic origin.

The most common and increasingly detected were migrants of unknown nationality, followed by migrants local to the region, coming from Algeria and Morocco. There were also significant increases in migrants departing from further afield, namely countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria and Congo.

In 2011, two boats were intercepted in the waters of the Balearic Islands with Algerians on board, having departed from the village of Dellys (Algeria) near Algiers. However, most migrants prefer to target the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

Western African route

The cooperation between Spain and key western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali), including bilateral agreements, is developing. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on the Western African route over the last years, as is the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. Despite a slight increase at the end of 2010, detections on this route remained low in 2011, almost exclusively involving Moroccan migrants.[***]

3.3.4 Trafficking in human beings

[***] According to information received from Member States, the top nationalities detected as victims of human trafficking in the EU still include Brazilians, Chinese, Nigerians, Ukrainians and Vietnamese. In addition, victims from other third countries like Albania, Ghana, Morocco, Moldova, Egypt, Indian, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic have also been reported, illustrating the broad geographical distribution of the places of origin of victims. Most THB cases are related to illegal work and sexual exploitation in Europe.

In some cases, the distinction between the smuggling of migrants and THB is not easily established because some of the migrants are initially using the services of smugglers, but it is only later, once in the EU, that they may fall victim to THB. According to intelligence from JO Hermes, this is particularly the case for women embarking for illegal border-crossing from North Africa to the EU. Once in Europe, some of them are intimated by their smugglers and forced into prostitution.

A worrying trend reported during JO Indalo is the increasing number of detections of illegal border-crossing by minors and pregnant women (see Fig. 15), as criminal groups are taking advantage of an immigration law preventing their return. Although it is not clear whether these cases are related to THB, women and children are among the most vulnerable. Most of these women claimed to be from Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon and were between the fifth and ninth month of pregnancy. Minors were identified as being from Nigeria, Algeria and Congo.

Another modus operandi is for the criminal groups to convince their victim to apply for international protection. Such modus operandi was illustrated by the verdict of a Dutch court case in July 2011, when one suspect was convicted for trafficking of Nigerian female minors. The asylum procedure in the Netherlands was misused by the criminal organisation to get an accommodation for the victims. The victims were forced to sexual exploitation in several Member States. [***]

5. Conclusions

[***] 1. Risk of large and sustained numbers of illegal border-crossing at the external land and sea border with Turkey

The border between Greece and Turkey is very likely to remain in 2013 among the main areas of detections of illegal border crossing along the external border, at levels similar to those reported between 2008 and 2011, i.e. between 40 000 and 57 000 detections per annum. [***]

Depending on the political situation, migrants from the Middle East may increasingly join the flow. In addition, migrants from northern and western Africa, willing to illegally cross the EU external borders, are expected to increasingly take advantage of the Turkish visa policies, granting visas to a different set of nationalities than the EU, and the expansion of Turkish Airlines, to transit through the Turkish air borders to subsequently attempt to enter the EU illegally, either by air or through the neighbouring land or sea borders. As a result, border-control authorities will increasingly be confronted with a wider variety of nationalities, and probably also a greater diversity of facilitation networks, further  complicating the tasks of law-enforcement authorities.

This risk is interlinked with the risk of criminal groups facilitating secondary movements and the risk of border-control authorities faced with large flows of people in search of international protection. [***]

3. Risk of renewed large numbers of illegal border-crossing at the southern maritime border

The likelihood of large numbers of illegal border-crossing in the southern maritime border remains very high, either in the form of sporadic episodes similar to those reported in 2011 or in sustained flows on specific routes originating from Africa.

Irregular-migration flows at the southern maritime borders are expected to be concentrated within one of the three known routes, i.e. the Central Mediterranean route, the Western Mediterranean route or the Western African route. Larger flows are more likely to develop on the Central Mediterranean route than on the other two routes, because of its proximity to Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, where political instability and high unemployment rate among young people is pushing people away from their countries and where there is evidence for well-organised facilitation networks.

On the Western Mediterranean route, the situation remains of concern because of the increasing trend of illegal border-crossing reported throughout 2011. According to reported detections, the situation on the Western African route has been mostly under control since 2008 but remains critically dependant of the implementation of effective return agreements between Spain and western African countries. Should these agreements be jeopardised, irregular migration pushed by high unemployment and poverty is likely to resume quickly despite increased surveillance.

The composition of the flow is dependent on the route and the countries of departure, but includes a large majority of western and North Africans. Mostly economically driven, irregular migration on these routes is also increasingly dependent on the humanitarian crisis in western and northern African countries. Facilitators are increasingly recruiting their candidates for illegal border-crossing from the group that are most vulnerable to THB, i.e. women and children, causing increasing challenges for border control authorities.

4. Risk of border-control authorities faced with large numbers of people in search of international protection

Given the currently volatile and unstable security situation in the vicinity of the EU, there is an increasing risk of political and humanitarian crises in third countries resulting in large numbers of people in search of international protection being displaced to the land and sea borders of the EU. The most likely pressures are linked to the situation in North Africa and the Middle East. In addition, the situation in western African countries like Nigeria may also trigger flows of people in search of international protection at the external borders. [***]

6. Risk of less effective border control due to changing operational environment

At the horizon of 2013, the operational environments of border control are likely to be affected, on the one hand, by austerity measures reducing resources, and on the other hand, by increased passenger flows triggering more reliance on technological equipment.

Austerity measures have been introduced throughout Member States in various forms since 2009. The most obvious examples are found in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the Baltic countries. These measures could result in increasing disparities between Member States in their capacity to perform border controls and hence enabling facilitators to select border types and sections that are perceived as weaker in detecting specific modi operandi.

Budget cuts could also exacerbate the problem of corruption, increasing the vulnerability to illegal activities across the external borders.

Austerity measures will inevitably impact on the efficacy of border-control authorities in detecting and preventing a wide array of illegal activities at the borders, ranging from illegal border-crossing through smuggling of excise goods to THB. [***]

8. Risk of border-control authorities increasingly confronted with cross-border crimes and travellers with the intent to commit crime or terrorism within the EU

[***]There is an intelligence gap on terrorist groups that are active in the EU and their connections with irregular-migration networks. The absence of strategic knowledge on this issue at the EU level may constitute a vulnerability for internal security. Knowledge gained at the external borders can be shared with other law enforcement authorities to contribute narrowing this gap.”

Click here or on this link: Frontex_Annual_Risk_Analysis_2012, for 2012 Frontex ARA.

Click here for Frontex press statement on the 2012 ARA.

Click here for my post on the 2011 ARA.

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Drones for Human Rights

The New York Times on Monday published an opinion article entitled “Drones for Human Rights” by Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Mark Hanis who are the co-founders of the Genocide Intervention Network.

They write that “[d]rones are not just for firing missiles in Pakistan….  It’s time we used the revolution in military affairs to serve human rights advocacy.”  They acknowledge the legal, political, and practical problems of using surveillance drones to monitor human rights abuses, but using the current situation in Syria as an example, argue that one “could record the repression in Syria with unprecedented precision and scope. The better the evidence, the clearer the crimes, the higher the likelihood that the world would become as outraged as it should be. … If human rights organizations can spy on evil, they should.”

Mark Kersten, writing on his Justice in Conflict blog, acknowledges the potential value of drone surveillance, but is generally critical of the proposal: “[I]n the context of ‘drones for human rights’, the risk is that the human gets removed from the experience and accounting of human rights violations. What would seem to matter is not personal experience but the particular configuration of pixels on a screen. This is folly. The process of victims, survivors and witnesses being involved shouldn’t be exchanged for the ‘unprecedented precision and scope’ of the photographs offered by drone technology. If anything, the role of victims, survivors and witnesses in the process of seeking and delivering justice should be enhanced.”

As the NY Times opinion articles points out, surveillance drones are deployed in a variety of non-military missions, including border control.  The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has deployed surveillance drones on the U.S.-Mexican border for years.  Frontex has been exploring the possible use of surveillance drones (unmanned aerial vehicles or UAV) for some period of time.  In January Frontex organised a 3 day live demonstration of UAVs at Greece’s Aktio Air Base where international manufacturers performed a series of test flights over the west coast of Greece.

Surveillance drones could certainly be used for search and rescue operations at sea and along remote international borders.  Could human rights organisations deploy their own drones in an effort to detect and monitor migrant boats as they embark on a dangerous trip across the Mediterranean?  Presumably this could happen, but practical problems, including the expense and legality of such missions, make such a possibility unlikely anytime soon.   But the use of drones by Frontex or national coastguards is not far off and it will be important to ensure that this new capability is used properly and not only as a border control tool to facilitate push-back operations at sea.

Click here for link to NY Times op-ed.

Click here for link to Justice in Conflict blog post.

Click here and here for links to Frontex research regarding drones.

Click here for Guardian article about the UAV industry’s plan for a “public relations effort to counter the negative image of the controversial aircraft.”

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Frontex Quarterly Report for 2011 Q3

The Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) released its 3rd Quarter Report (July-September) for 2011 on 18 January.  (See also  2nd Quarter Report (April-June 2011) and 1st Quarter Report (Jan-March 2011).) The reports contain a significant amount of information, graphs, and statistical tables regarding detections of illegal border crossings, irregular migration routes, detections of facilitators, detections of illegal stays, refusals of entry, asylum claims, and more.

The Report is based on data provided by Member States.  The Report states that “Frontex and the Member States are currently harmonising their illegal-migration data, a process that is not yet finalised. Therefore more detailed data and trends in this report should be interpreted with caution and, where possible, cross-referenced with information from other sources.”

Here are extensive excerpts from the Q3 Report:

Executive summary – In Q3 2011 most indicators monitored within FRAN community increased compared to a year ago. For example, detections of illegal border-crossing and refusals of entry both reached much higher levels than in Q3 2010. Moreover, more applications for international protection were submitted than in any other quarter since data collection began in 2008. Consistent with recent years, the majority of illegal border-crossings were limited to a small number of hotspots of irregular migration such as the Eastern and Central Mediterranean routes, accounting for 50% and 33% of the EU total, respectively. However, in Q3 2011 there was also a rise in the importance of the Western Mediterranean route, now representing nearly 10% of the EU total. At the EU level, the most commonly detected migrants were from Afghanistan, yet due to the recent increases in the number of migrants from Pakistan and Nigeria (by seven and ten times compared to Q3 2010, respectively) these nationalities have moved to the second and third position.

In Q3 2011 there were 19 266 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Eastern Mediterranean, a seasonal increase to a level almost exactly comparable with the same period in 2010. As was the case throughout 2010, detections were concentrated at the Greek land border with Turkey, where Afghans accounted for nearly half of all detected migrants. However, at this border section detections of migrants from Pakistan increased massively compared to last year and now rank second….

In contrast to the consistent wave of irregular migration in the Eastern Mediterranean, the situation in the Central Mediterranean has been volatile in 2011, dependent on the political developments and civil unrest across North Africa. For example, civil unrest in this region, particularly in Tunisia, led to a dramatic increase in detections in the Central Mediterranean early in 2011. Consequently, in March 2011 some 14 400 Tunisian migrants arrived in the Italian island of Lampedusa. In April an accelerated repatriation agreement was signed between Italy and Tunisia, which resulted in a 75% reduction in the flow of Tunisians, but the region was then inundated by large numbers of sub-Saharan migrants arriving in Lampedusa, Sicily and Malta, many having been forcibly expelled from Libya by the Gaddafi regime. Since the National Transitional Council successfully gained control of Libya, this flow stopped abruptly in August. However, in Q3 2011 there were 12 673 detections of illegal border-crossing on this route, where Tunisian and sub-Saharan migrants, particularly Nigerians, are still arriving in significant numbers.

In Q3 2011 there were more detections in the Western Mediterranean (3 568) since mid 2008. A wide range of migrants from North African and sub-Saharan countries were increasingly detected in this region. However, it is difficult to analyse the exact composition of the flow as the number of migrants of unknown nationality on this route doubled compared to the previous quarter. This may indicate an increasing proportion of nationalities that are of very similar ethnicity and/or geographic origin.

The flows of migrants arriving in the EU had a significant effect on the number of applications for international protection submitted: in Q3 2011 there were a massive 64 801 applications submitted across Member States. The largest increases in submitted applications were reported by Italy and involved nationals of Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and Pakistan. However, the applications submitted by nationals of Pakistan and Afghanistan also increased across a wide range of other Member States, such as Germany and Austria. In contrast to increasing applications for international protection were fewer detections of facilitators of irregular migration than ever before. This widespread and long decline may be because organized crime groups are increasingly recruiting would-be migrants by offering them legitimate entry to the EU with false or fraudulently obtained documentation. This is less risky and carries lower detection probability for facilitators than, for example, accompanying migrants across the border….

[***]

4.1 Detections of illegal border-crossing – [ … ] The third quarter of each year is usually associated with weather conditions favourable for approaching and illegally crossing the external border of the EU. Correspondingly, conditions that are favourable for illegal border-crossings are also more conducive to detecting them. The combination of these two effects resulted in the highest number of detections in each of the last few years being reported in Q3 2011. In contrast, in 2011 detections were higher in the second than in the third quarter, because of exceptionally high detections in the first half of 2011, rather than particularly low detections in Q3 2011. At the sea border, there were 15 418 detections which is a 44% reduction compared to Q2 2011, but a fivefold increase compared to Q3 2010. In contrast, there were 23 079 detections at the land border which was a 68% increase compared to the preceding quarter, but a 22% reduction compared to Q3 2010. Hence, detections decreased at the sea border, particularly in Italy, and increased at the land border to a level comparable to 2010….

[… ] In the first half of 2011 the situational picture of irregular migration to the EU was dominated by illegal border-crossings reported by Italy. This influx was due to a surge of Tunisians in Q1 and sub-Saharan African migrants in Q2 arriving in the Italian island of Lampedusa in the wake of major civil unrest in North Africa (the so-called Arab Spring), which has now, to some extent, decipitated. Hence, in Q3 2011 detections in Italy halved compared to the previous two quarters yet remained some six times higher than during the same period last year.

At the EU level the most commonly detected migrants came from Afghanistan, constituting a quarter of all detections despite a 15% decrease compared to the previous year (Fig. 3). The majority of Afghan migrants were detected at the border between Greece and Turkey, with the remaining mostly detected at the southern Italian blue border. Throughout 2010 the most commonly detected migrants were from Albania (mostly circular migrants to Greece), representing 25–45% of the EU total, although in many cases individuals may have been detected several times within a given period. However, in Q3 2011 detections of Albanians fell to negligible levels following their visa-free status for travel to the EU granted in December 2010 (Fig. 3).

Without question, detections of migrants from Pakistan and Tunisia have increased more than any other nationality over the last year (Fig. 3). In the case of migrants from Pakistan, in Q3 2011 most were detected at the border between Greece and Turkey, followed by the southern Italian blue border. This detection profile almost exactly mirrors that of migrants from Afghanistan. In contrast, migrants from Tunisia are almost exclusively detected in Italy, followed by Greece. Although detections of migrants from Tunisia increased dramatically compared with a year ago, they fell massively compared to the peak in Q1 2011.

Another notable phenomenon is the increased rate of migrants from Nigeria detected at the blue border (Fig. 3) mostly in Italy, with some evidence for increasing numbers in southern Spain. In the former case most departed from Tunisia, while in Spain most departed from Morocco. This trend is related to the threefold increase in the number of asylum applications submitted by Nigerian migrants almost exclusively in Italy.

Routes – As illustrated in Figure 4, during the first half of 2011 detections of illegal bordercrossing on the Central Mediterranean route, which comprises the blue borders of Italy and Malta, dramatically increased and exceeded those reported from the  Eastern Mediterranean route, which is made up of the land and sea borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus. However, in Q3 2011 detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route, by following a remarkably seasonal pattern, similar to that of 2010, once more exceeded detections on the Central Mediterranean route, where detections fell dramatically compared with the peak in the first six months of 2011.

These routes not only differed in their trends over time but also in the composition of detected nationalities. For example, detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route have, for the last year at least, comprised of large numbers of Asian, North African and sub-Saharan nationalities including increased detections of migrants from Pakistan. In contrast, nationalities detected in the Central Mediterranean have evolved throughout 2011. In Q1 2011 mostly Tunisians were detected after they had departed from their own country; in Q2 2011 reduced but still significant numbers of Tunisians were joined by mix of sub-Saharan Africans, many of whom were forcibly expelled from Libya. In the current reporting period detections of Tunisians remained stable, yet the number of sub-Saharan Africans decreased. Figure 4 also shows that in Q3 2011 detections on the Western Mediterranean route increased, mostly of migrants of unknown nationalities but also of Algerians and Nigerians.

4.1.1 Eastern Mediterranean route – Since data collection began in early 2008, the Eastern Mediterranean has maintained its status as a hotspot of irregular migration. Detections have followed a remarkably seasonal pattern invariably peaking in the third quarter of each year, being concentrated at the border between Greece and Turkey with a shift from the sea border to the land border in early 2010. Afghan migrants have consistently featured highly on the list of most detected nationalities. In 2010 there was an increase in Algerian migrants that has since subsided, but more recently there has been a massive increase in the number of migrants from Pakistan detected on this route.

In the current reporting period, detections of illegal border-crossing on this route increased seasonally and in line with previous years, almost exclusively due to a massive increase in detections at the Greek land border with Turkey, where detections increased from 10 464 to 18 509 over the same period. Based on seasonal pattern of detections in previous years, the increase in pressure on this route during Q3 2011 was not entirely unexpected and reached a level almost exactly comparable to that of a year ago. Indeed, according to data collected during JO Poseidon the average number of detections per day immediately subsequent to the current reporting period exceed that during the same period in 2010, immediately prior to the deployment of the first JO RABIT 2010….

[***]

4.1.2 Central Mediterranean route – Irregular migration in the Central Mediterranean has fluctuated in size and composition during 2011, depending on the political and civil unrest across North Africa. Initially detections in the Central Mediterranean massively increased in early 2011 due to civil unrest in the region, particularly in Tunisia, Libya and, to a lesser extent, Egypt. As a result, in Q1 some 20 000 Tunisian migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. In Q2 2011 the flow of Tunisian migrants was reduced by 75% following an accelerated repatriation agreement that was signed between Italy and Tunisia. However, the region was then inundated by large numbers of sub-Saharan migrants detected across the region, many claiming to have been forcibly expelled from Libya by the Gaddafi regime. In the current reporting period irregular migration in the region has eased somewhat due to democratic elections* in Tunisia and the National Transitional Council successfully gaining control of Libya. However in Q3 2011 arrivals increased from Egypt and subsequent to the reporting period there was some indication that the flow from Libya has been reinstated.

According to the FRAN data, in Q3 2011 there were more than 12 500 reported detections of illegal border-crossing on the Central Mediterranean route, a 50% decrease compared to the ‘peak’ reported during the first and second quarter of 2011, but still massively increased compared to the background detections throughout all of 2010. Most detections in the Central Mediterranean region were reported from the Italian Pelagic Islands, where detections also fell by a half compared to the previous quarter. In some areas the decrease was even more marked.  For example, in Sicily detections fell by 75% such that in Q3 2011 a stable trend of Egyptians and Tunisians constituted nearly all detections. Detections  ell to an even greater extent in Malta.

4.1.3 Western Mediterranean route – Irregular migration across the Western Mediterranean towards southern Spain was at a low level through most of 2010 averaging just over a thousand detections per quarter. However, pressure has been steadily increasing throughout 2011 until the current reporting period when there were more than 3 500 detections of illegal border-crossing – an increase of two thirds compared to Q3 2010. As a result, the Western Mediterranean is now the third largest point of entry for illegal bordercrossing into the EU. The most common and the most increasingly detected migrants were of unknown nationalities, followed by migrants local to the region from Algeria and Morocco. There were also significant increases in migrants from further afield such as Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria and Congo.

4.1.4 Western African route – The cooperation and bilateral agreements between Spain and the rest of the Western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali) are developing steadily. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on this route over the last year, as is the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. Despite a slight increase in Q4 2010, detections on this route remained low and totalled at just 50 detections of exclusively Moroccan migrants in Q3 2011.

[***]”

Click here for Frontex Press Statement.

Click here for Q3 Report.

Click here for previous post on Q1 and Q2 Reports.

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Frontex Quarterly Reports for 2011 Q1 and Q2

The Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) released its 2nd Quarter Report (April-June) for 2011 on 4 October.  The 1st Quarter Report (Jan-March 2011) was released on 21 July.  As always, while the information is a few months old, the reports contain a significant amount of information, graphs, and statistical tables regarding detections of illegal border crossings, irregular migration routes, detections of facilitators, detections of illegal stays, refusals of entry, asylum claims, and more.

Here are extensive excerpts from the Q2 Report:

“Executive summary

In Q2 2011, all Frontex irregular-migration indicators increased compared to the previous quarter. The most important indicator, detections of illegal border-crossing, increased to a level not seen since Q3 2008 and correspondingly asylum applications are now at nearly the highest level since data collection began. What’s more, migration pressure at the border from migrants attempting to enter and stay in the EU increased even more than EU-level figures suggest, as they are offset against extensive reductions in Albanian circular migration.

In 2011 there were major and extensive developments in irregular-migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings: the first was seasonally increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a wide variety of migrants continued to be detected at very high levels. The second, and the undeniable hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of sub-Saharan migrants landed in Italy and Malta mostly having been forcibly expelled from Libya. [***]

4. Main points Q2 2011

  • All irregular migration indicators increased relative to the previous quarter
  • Compared to a year ago, there were significant EU-level increases in several irregular migration indicators, such as detections of illegal border-crossing, clandestine entries, and refusals of entry. There were also increased asylum applications
  • Despite detections of Afghan migrants falling by a third compared to last year, they were still the most common nationality detected illegally crossing the EU external border. Most were previously resident as refugees in Iran
  • In contrast, detections of all the other highly-ranked nationalities (Tunisians, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Ghanaians) increased massively relative to the same period last year
  • In total there were over 40 000 detections of illegal border-crossings, a 50% increase compared to Q2 2010. These were the result of two simultaneous but independent routes of irregular migration: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Central Mediterranean routes:

1. In the Eastern Mediterranean:

– There were over 11 000 detections of illegal border-crossing, almost exclusively at the Greek land border with Turkey, which is comparable with the same period in 2010

– This flow currently attracts migrants from north Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia

– Groups of Dominicans were detected travelling to Turkey to enter the EU via the Greek land border

– Secondary movements are assumed from detections of (i) illegal border-crossings in the Western Balkans, (ii) false documents on flights to major EU airports from Turkey as well as Greece, and (iii) landings in southern Italy from Greece, Turkey and Albania

2. In the Central Mediterranean:

– Following a bilateral return-agreement between Italy and Tunisia, the massive influx of Tunisians to Lampedusa reported in the previous quarter decreased, but remained significant

– A very wide range of sub-Saharan Africans were detected on this route, some having been forcibly departed from Libya

– Italy reported more detections of illegal border-crossing in Sicily than ever before, a three-fold increase compared to the previous quarter; the increased flow was composed of migrants from Côte d’Ivoire as well as Tunisia and a range of other nationalities

– There were also increased detections of Egyptian migrants and facilitators landing in Sicily and Southern Italy from Egypt

– Italy and Malta reported huge increases in the number of asylum applications submitted by sub-Saharan African migrants. In Italy increases were particularly marked for Nigerians and Ghanaians

  • Following their new visa-free status, fewer Albanians were detected illegally crossing the EU border, and illegally staying within the EU (both mainly in Greece). Instead they were increasingly refused entry to Greece and they were also increasingly detected at the UK border, either as clandestine entry or using false documents
  • There was an increased flow of Georgian migrants towards Belarus (air and land), with increased illegal entries and asylum applications in Poland and Lithuania
  • In Q2, Libya was the most significant source of irregular migration to the EU. However, more recently the ability of the Gaddafi regime to forcibly expel its migrant population to the EU has become compromised; the situation remains dynamic and uncertain[.]

4.1 Detections of illegal border-crossing

At the EU level, in Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since Q3 2008. The total of 41 245 detections during this reporting period is a 25% increase compared the previous quarter and a 53% increase compared to the same period last year (Fig. 2). Without question there were major and extensive developments in illegal migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings. The first was increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a range of Asian, north African and sub-Saharan African migrants were increasingly detected at very high levels. The second, and the undisputed hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was at the Italian islands in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of Tunisians, Nigerians and other sub-Saharan migrants landed in small sea vessels, the majority of which in Q2 had been forcibly departed from Libya.

Figure 2 shows the evolution of the FRAN indicator 1A – detections of illegal border-crossing, and the proportion of detections between the land and sea borders of the EU per quarter since the beginning of 2008. In Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since the peak of Q3 2008 nearly three years ago. Compared to a year ago, detections at the EU land border decreased by 42% to 13 742 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to fewer detections of Albanian nationals following their new visa-free status; elsewhere at the land border (including Greece) trends were roughly stable. In contrast, at the sea border detections increased nine-fold to some 27 500 detections (Fig. 2), the vast majority of which (95%) were in the central Mediterranean, forming the major development in irregular migration to the EU in 2011.

[***]

At the EU level, detections of illegal border-crossing increased by 53% compared to a year ago (Fig. 3). However, this level masks a lot of variation among Member States. First, and most importantly to the current situation, was a 4 200% increase in detections of almost exclusively African migrants in Italy. Related to this central Mediterranean flow, was a concurrent and massive increase in detections reported from Malta (from 0 to 710), and also increases further west into Spain (+61%). As a result, all these countries have seen increases in other indicators such as asylum applications of the most common nationalities (see relevant sections). [***]

Routes

As illustrated in Figure 4, for just the second time since records began in early 2008, in Q2 2011 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, which comprises the blue borders of Italy and Malta, exceeded those reported from both the (i) Eastern Mediterranean route of the land and sea borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, and (ii) circular migration from Albania to Greece.

Without question, in Q2 2011 the single most important irregular-immigration route in terms of detections of illegal border-crossing was the Central Mediterranean route, where detections increased in the beginning of 2011 to previously unprecedented levels (Fig. 4). In the first quarter of 2011, and uniquely compared to previous surges of illegal immigration, this flow was restricted to a single nationality – Tunisian, most of whom were responding to civil unrest in their home country by leaving towards the Italian Island of Lampedusa. In response to this almost unmanageable influx of irregular migration at a single and isolated location, a bilateral return agreement was signed between Italy and Tunisia, which allowed for the accelerated repatriation of newly arrived individuals. Hence, during the current reporting period, the flow of Tunisian migrants fell from over 20 200 in the previous quarter to 4 300 in Q2 2011.

However, civil uprising commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, and its effects on migration in the area, was not limited to Tunisia. For example according to multiple sources, in next-door Libya, migrants from sub-Saharan countries were in Q2 2011 being coerced to move towards the EU by the Gaddafi regime in response to the NATO Operation Unified Protector which commenced on March 27 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Thus, in Q2 2011, besides some continued departures from Tunisia, the flow in the central Mediterranean was composed of a single flow of large numbers migrants from sub-Saharan countries departing Libya in small vessels. [***]

4.1.1 Eastern Mediterranean route

Detections of illegal border-crossings on this route increased seasonally and in line with previous years, from 6 504 in Q1 2011 to 11 137 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to a massive increase in detections at the Greek land border with Turkey, where detections increased from 6 057 to 10 582. [***]

4.1.2 Central Mediterranean route

In Q2 2011 there were 26 167 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, a 10% increase even compared to the ‘peak’ reported during the previous quarter, and evidently a massive increase compared to the negligible detections throughout all of 2010. The vast majority of detections on this route were reported from Italy (25 500) where detections increased by 13% even compared to the ‘influx’ of migrants reported during Q1 2011. In Italy, Central African, Tunisian, Nigerian and Ghanaian were the mostly commonly detected nationalities, 90% of which were detected in the Pelagic Islands (14 300), most notably Lampedusa (Fig. 7). However, in Q2 2011 there were also more detections of illegal border-crossing reported from Sicily (2 260) than ever before; this figure is nearly three times bigger than that reported in the previous quarter and more than twenty times higher than during the same period last year (100). Compared to the previous quarter, in Sicily there were more detections of migrants from a very wide range of countries such as Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire and Tunisia. There were also over 710 detections reported from Malta, which is a sustained peak from the previous quarter (820) and extremely high compared to the negligible detections throughout 2010. In Malta there were much fewer detections of Somalis and Eritreans but there were increased detections of Nigerians and migrants from Côte d’Ivoire. However, migrants from Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt often claim to originate from sub-Saharan Africa in an attempt to appear as refugees, a fact which may render such comparisons of nationalities somewhat misleading.

In the previous FRAN Quarterly (Q1 2011) it was reported a surge of irregular immigration (20 000 detections) on the Central Mediterranean route that was almost entirely restricted to a single nationality: Tunisian (Fig. 8). As a result of this influx, on 20 February the JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011 commenced in the central Mediterranean, and a bilateral agreement was reached between Italy and Tunisia on 5 April 2011, which resulted in the strengthening of police surveillance along the Tunisian coast and regular repatriations of Tunisian nationals from Italy. For example, according to data collected under JO Hermes 2011, some 1 696 Tunisians were repatriated between 5 April and 23 August 2011. The repatriation agreement is probably an effective deterrent, combining as it does, returns and surveillance, however some migrants have reported their boats being spotted by military patrols that did not take any action. According to the FRAN data, in Q2 2011 some 4 286 Tunisian migrants were still detected illegally crossing the border into Italy. Although a massive reduction, this still represents a very large and significant flow of irregular migrants into the EU.

In comparison to the reduction in flow from Tunisia, in Q2 2011 there was a large increase in migrants who had departed from Libya (Fig. 9). The migrants departing from Libya were mostly nationals from countries in the Horn of Africa, the sub-Saharan and Central African regions and, to a lesser extent, Asia. According to intelligence collected during JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011, most of these migrants had already been in Libya for over a year, originally heading to Tripoli via the traditional routes for sub-Saharan and Central African migrants. In Q2 2011, migrants tended to reach Italy on large fishing vessels that had departed directly from Tripoli or the nearby ports of Medina and Janzour. Most of these deported African nationals did not want to leave the country as their standard of living in Libya was high compared to their home countries. Several even stated that they would choose to return to Libya after the war. In Q2 2011 reports suggest that some migrants were instructed to reach embarkation areas on their own but had been caught by the military or police and then detained in camps or disused barracks until they were transported to embarkation areas and onto vessels bound for Italy. In each case the migrants were searched by the military before boarding and all their belongings were confiscated. According to reports, nationals of the sub-Saharan and Central African regions as well as from Horn of African countries have been recruited by the Libyan army/police to manage their compatriot migrants at gathering places or camps. In some cases the destination of vessels from Libya was Sicily, where the flow was characterised by waves of landings. For example there were around 11 landings on 13 May and 7 between 11 and 29 June, with the majority of boats arriving from Libya and Egypt. [***]

4.1.3 Western Mediterranean route

In Q1 2011 there were 1 569 detections of illegal border-crossings on this route to Southern Spain, which is nearly double compared to the previous quarter (890), and more than a 50% increase compared to a year ago (973). Some of this increase is due to better weather conditions at this time of year, but irregular migration pressure on this route is clearly higher than it was at the same time last year. [***]

In the longer-term, irregular immigration to southern Spain has been consistently decreasing since the beginning of 2006. Commonly cited reasons are Frontex Joint Operations in the area, effective bilateral agreements and more recently rising unemployment in Spain, particularly in sectors typified by migrants.* Nationalities traditionally associated with this route were Algerian, Moroccan and Ghanaian. [***]

4.1.4 Western African route

The cooperation and bilateral agreements between Spain and the rest of the Western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali) are developing steadily. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on this route over the last year, as are the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. In Q4 2010 Frontex reported a slight increase in the number of detections of illegal border-crossing at the Canary Islands, from a maximum of 50 during each of the previous 4 quarters, to 113 in Q4 2010. This increased level of detections persisted into the first quarter of this year (154), exclusively due to Moroccan nationals (152) displaced after the dismantling of migrant camps near the dispute Western Saharan region. However, during the current reporting period detections on this route decreased massively to a negligible 24 detections. [***]”

Click here for 2011 Q2 Report.

Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q2 Report.

Click here for 2011 Q1 Report.

Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q1 Report.

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HRW Report: Frontex Exposes Migrants to Abusive Conditions in Greece

Human Rights Watch yesterday issued a report entitled “The EU’s Dirty Hands: Frontex Involvement in Ill-Treatment of Migrant Detainees in Greece” which “assesses Frontex’s role in and responsibility for exposing migrants to inhuman and degrading detention conditions during four months beginning late in 2010 when its first rapid border intervention team (RABIT) was apprehending migrants and taking them to police stations and migrant detention centers in Greece’s Evros region. … ‘Frontex has become a partner in exposing migrants to treatment that it knows is absolutely prohibited under human rights law,’ said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch. ‘To end this complicity in inhuman treatment, the EU needs to tighten the rules for Frontex operations and make sure that Frontex is held to account if it breaks the rules in Greece or anywhere else.’ … ‘It’s a disturbing contradiction that at the same time that the European Court of Human Rights was categorically ruling that sending migrants to detention in Greece violated their fundamental rights, Frontex, an EU executive agency, and border guards from EU states were knowingly sending them there,’ Frelick said. … ‘As new migration crises emerge in the Mediterranean basin and as Frontex’s responsibilities expand, there is an urgent need to shift EU asylum and migration policy from enforcement-first to protection-first.’ Frelick said. ‘This is not only legally required, but the EU, its agencies, and member states can and should respect and meet the EU’s own standards.’”

As the HRW report notes, the humanitarian crisis on the Greece-Turkey land border was many years in the making, but among the contributing factors to the increased flow of migrants seeking to enter the EU at this location, which by November 2010 accounted for 90% of the detected illegal crossings at EU borders, were the enhanced migration control measures in the Central Mediterranean and West Africa, specifically the bi-lateral push-back practice being implemented at the time by Italy and Libya and Spain’s bi-lateral agreements with West African countries.  Increased sea patrols along Greece’s maritime borders also contributed to the shifting of the flow to the land border.

Frontex issued a statement (or click here) responding to the HRW report in which it welcomed the report and said it was “satisfied to note that its comments on the original draft were taken on board. The report now highlights an issue, which we agree, is of great importance. We would like to recall that Frontex fully respects and strives for promoting Fundamental Rights in its border control operations which, however, do not include organisation of, and responsibility for, detention on the territory of the Member States, which remains their exclusive remit. … Frontex was receiving signals of concern from national officers deployed to the region. The Agency has been extremely concerned with the conditions at the detention centres – a point which we raised on several occasions both with the Greek authorities and with the European Commission. Nevertheless, we continue to stress that at the practical level abandoning emergency support operations such as RABIT 2011 is neither responsible, nor does it do anything to help the situation of irregular migrants on the ground….”

Here is Cecilia Malmström’s comment from her blog on the HRW report (translated from Swedish by Google translate):

“I also had a long meeting [on 21 September] with Human Rights Watch who has published a highly critical report on the asylum system in Greece . They argue that the EU agency Frontex, by its presence legitimizes the poor conditions at the border of Greece. We are well aware of the totally unacceptable situation at the reception centres in Greece and I am very frustrated that the situation is so slow to improve, especially in Evros. But probably the situation would have been even worse if Frontex had not been in place. We continue to put pressure on Greece and the new regulatory framework for Frontex, which I have proposed and was adopted by Parliament last week to strengthen its work on human rights significantly. The report will also be discussed in the FRONTEX Agency board meeting next week.”   (“Jag hade också ett långt möte med Human Rights Watch som har publicerat en mycket kritisk rapport om asylsystemet i Grekland . De menar att EU-organet Frontex genom sin närvaro legitimerar de usla förhållandena vid gränsen i Grekland. Vi är väl medvetna om den helt oacceptabla situationen vid mottagningscentren i Grekland och jag är väldigt frustrerad över att det går så långsamt att förbättra situationen särskilt i Evros. Men troligen hade situationen varit ännu värre om inte Frontex hade varit på plats. Vi fortsätter att sätta press på Grekland och i det nya regelverk för Frontex som jag har föreslagit och som Europaparlamentet antog förra veckan stärks arbetet med mänskliga rättigheter väsentligt. Rapporten skall också diskuteras på Frontex styrelsemöte nästa vecka.”)

Excerpts from the HRW Report:

Key Recommendations

To the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council

  • Amend the Frontex Regulation to make explicit, and thereby reinforce, the obligation not to expose migrants and asylum seekers to inhuman and degrading detention conditions.
  • Amend proposed Frontex Regulation Art. 26a to empower the Fundamental Rights Officer to refer Frontex to the Commission for investigation and where appropriate infringement proceedings in the event that the Frontex executive director fails to suspend operations despite persistent and serious violations of the Charter and/or in the event that members states and their agents persistently violate the Charter during Frontex operations.

To Participating European States 

  • Suspend any participation in Frontex operations that fail to adhere to binding international human rights standards.
  • Instruct border guards deployed on Frontex missions on their obligations under international law. Ensure that border guards are trained and conversant regarding all rules and standards pertaining to the transfer and treatment of detainees.

To the Frontex Management Board

  • Suspend the deployment of EU border guards to Greece unless migrant detainees can be transferred to facilities elsewhere in Greece (or outside of Greece) that meet EU and international standards or until the conditions of detention in the Evros region where migrants are currently detained are improved and no longer violate European and international standards.
  • Intervene with Greek officials and monitor compliance to ensure that migrants apprehended by guest guards are transferred to detention facilities that comply with European and international standards.
  • Conduct thorough assessments of the risk that human rights violations may occur before engaging in joint operations or deploying RABIT forces.

To Greece

  • Implement the recently adopted asylum reform package as fully and as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure access to asylum procedures at the border and in the border region.
  • Reduce overcrowding by using alternative facilities and alternatives to detention as much as possible.
  • Immediately improve detention conditions, and immediately create open reception centers for asylum seekers and members of vulnerable groups, such as children.”

Click here for HRW Report.

Click here for HRW Press Release.

Click here or here for Frontex response.

Click here (EN) and here (EN) and here (FR) for articles.

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PACE Adopts Resolution and Recommendation Regarding the Interception and Rescue at Sea of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Irregular Migrants

On 21 June 2011, PACE adopted Resolution 1821 and Recommendation 1974 both relating to “the interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants.” 

Here are extensive excerpts:

Provisional edition – The interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants – Resolution 1821 (2011)1

“1.       The surveillance of Europe’s southern borders has become a regional priority. The European continent is having to cope with the relatively large-scale arrival of migratory flows by boat from Africa, reaching Europe mainly through Italy, Malta, Spain, Greece and Cyprus.

[***]

5.       The Assembly notes that measures to manage these maritime arrivals raise numerous problems, of which five are particularly worrying:

5.1.       Despite several relevant international instruments satisfactorily setting out the rights and obligations of states and individuals applicable in this area, interpretations of their content appear to differ. Some states do not agree on the nature and extent of their responsibilities in specific situations and some states also call into question the application of the principle of non-refoulement on the high seas;

5.2.       While the absolute priority in the event of interception at sea is the swift disembarkation of those rescued to a “place of safety”, the notion of “place of safety” does not appear to be interpreted in the same way by all member states. Yet it is clear that the notion of “place of safety” should not be restricted solely to the physical protection of people, but necessarily also entails respect for their fundamental rights;

5.3.       Divergences of this kind directly endanger the lives of the persons to be rescued, in particular by delaying or preventing rescue measures, and are likely to dissuade seafarers from rescuing people in distress at sea. Furthermore, they could result in a violation of the principle of non-refoulement in respect of a number of persons, including some in need of international protection;

5.4.       Although the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member states of the European Union (Frontex) plays an ever increasing role in interception at sea, the guarantees of respect for human rights and obligations arising under international and European Union law in the context of the joint operations it co-ordinates are inadequate;

5.5.       Finally, these sea arrivals place a disproportionate burden on the states located on the southern borders of the European Union. The goal of responsibilities being shared more fairly and greater solidarity in the migration sphere between European states is far from being attained.

6.       The situation is rendered more complex by the fact that these migratory flows are of a mixed nature and therefore call for specialised and tailored protection-sensitive responses in keeping with the status of those rescued. To respond to sea arrivals adequately and in line with the relevant international standards, the states must take account of this aspect in their migration management policies and activities.

[***]

8.       Finally and above all, the Assembly reminds the member states that they have both a moral and legal obligation to save persons in distress at sea without the slightest delay, and unequivocally reiterates the interpretation given by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which states that the principle of non-refoulement is equally applicable on the high seas. The high seas are not an area where states are exempt from their legal obligations, including those emerging from international human rights law and international refugee law.

9.       Accordingly, the Assembly calls on the member states, when conducting maritime border surveillance operations, whether in the context of preventing smuggling and trafficking in human beings or in connection with border management, be it in the exercise of de jure or de facto jurisdiction, to:

9.1.       fulfil without exception and without delay their obligation to save people in distress at sea;

9.2.       ensure that their border management policies and activities, including interception measures, recognise the mixed make-up of flows of individuals attempting to cross maritime borders;

9.3.       guarantee for all intercepted persons humane treatment and systematic respect for their human rights, including the principle of non-refoulement, regardless of whether interception measures are implemented within their own territorial waters, those of another state on the basis of an ad hoc bilateral agreement, or on the high seas;

9.4.       refrain from any practices that might be tantamount to direct or indirect refoulement, including on the high seas, in keeping with the UNHCR’s interpretation of the extraterritorial application of that principle and with the relevant judgements of the European Court of Human Rights;

9.5.       carry out as a priority action the swift disembarkation of rescued persons to a “place of safety” and interpret a “place of safety” as meaning a place which can meet the immediate needs of those disembarked and in no way jeopardises their fundamental rights, since the notion of “safety” extends beyond mere protection from physical danger and must also take into account the fundamental rights dimension of the proposed place of disembarkation;

9.6.       guarantee access to a fair and effective asylum procedure for those intercepted who are in need of international protection;

9.7.       guarantee access to protection and assistance, including to asylum procedures, for those intercepted who are victims of human trafficking or at risk of being trafficked;

9.8.       ensure that the placement in a detention facility of those intercepted – always excluding minors and vulnerable categories –, regardless of their status, is authorised by the judicial authorities and occurs only where necessary and on grounds prescribed by law, that there is no other suitable alternative and that such placement conforms to the minimum standards and principles set forth in Assembly Resolution 1707 (2010) on the detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe;

9.9.       suspend any bilateral agreements they may have concluded with third states if the human rights of those intercepted are not appropriately guaranteed therein, particularly the right of access to an asylum procedure, and wherever these might be tantamount to a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, and conclude new bilateral agreements specifically containing such human rights guarantees and measures for their regular and effective monitoring;

9.10.       sign and ratify, if they have not already done so, the aforementioned relevant international instruments and take account of the Guidelines of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on the Treatment of Persons rescued at Sea;

9.11.       sign and ratify, if they have not already done so, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197) and the so-called “Palermo Protocols” to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000);

9.12.       ensure that maritime border surveillance operations and border control measures do not affect the specific protection afforded under international law to vulnerable categories such as refugees, stateless persons, women and unaccompanied children, migrants, victims of trafficking or at risk of being trafficked, or victims of torture and trauma.

10.       The Assembly is concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the respective responsibilities of European Union states and Frontex and the absence of adequate guarantees for the respect of fundamental rights and international standards in the framework of joint operations co-ordinated by that agency. While the Assembly welcomes the proposals presented by the European Commission to amend the rules governing that agency, with a view to strengthening guarantees of full respect for fundamental rights, it considers them inadequate and would like the European Parliament to be entrusted with the democratic supervision of the agency’s activities, particularly where respect for fundamental rights is concerned.

[***]”

Provisional edition – The interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants – Recommendation 1974 (2011)1

“[***]

4.       [***] the Assembly reminds the Committee of Ministers of its dual responsibility: to support those member states that are in need, but also to make sure that all human rights obligations are complied with in the context of the interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants, including by guaranteeing to those intercepted access to a fair and efficient asylum procedure.

5.       The Assembly therefore calls on the Committee of Ministers to:

5.1.       include in the training material all necessary elements to enable the trained persons to proceed to a screening assessment of the international protection needs of intercepted persons and to ensure that staff involved in the operations of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member states of the European Union (Frontex) are trained accordingly;

5.2.       define, in close co-operation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), guidelines and standard operating procedures, when interception and rescue at sea takes place, determining minimum administrative procedures to guarantee that those persons with international protection needs are identified and provided with the appropriate protection;

5.3.       continue monitoring the situation of large-scale arrivals of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, and in particular the issue of interception and rescue at sea, including by holding extraordinary meetings on the situation, where appropriate, and use the good offices of the UNHCR with its representative at the Council of Europe, where relevant.”

Click here for full text of Resolution 1821 (2011).

Click here for full text of Recommendation 1974 (2011).

Click here  for speech by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) presenting the Resolution. (Scroll down page for the English text of speech.)

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Interview with Frontex Spokesperson Michal Parzyszek

Frontex spokesperson Michal Parzyszek was interviewed by the Sofia News Agency on 27 May.  Here are some excerpts:

Current Frontex sea operations: “Operation Hera, which is in the territorial waters of Senegal and Mauritania; Operation Indalo in Spanish waters; Operation Hermes in Italian waters; Operation Aeneas in Italian waters; Operation Poseidon in Greek waters.”

Frontex operations in Italy: “The help on part of Frontex in the southern waters, including in Italy, is more on providing risk analysis – to give a better idea of what is going on, and what can happen.  …  So in terms of [Frontez] assets, there are just two airplanes and two boats which are deployed there under Frontex in the waters south of Sardinia and south of Lampedusa.  …  There are 10-15 Frontex experts that are identifying the migrants once they reach the reception facilities there. They are deployed to Caltanissetta, Catania, Trapani, Crotone, and Bari….”

Arrivals to Lampedusa:  “It varies every day. You have days when you have no arrivals, and then suddenly you have 1 000 people arriving to Lampedusa. Since the start of the operation on February 20, 2011, there have been almost 31 000 people that arrived to Lampedusa.”

Irregular migrants prefer entering Greece rather than Bulgaria: “… In the case of Greece, a readmission agreement with Turkey doesn’t truly work; in the case of Bulgaria, the cooperation with Turkey is much better so the Turkish authorities – if they receive proper documentation and justification – they accept people back.  This is a very important element – potential migrants know that if they cross the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, there is high probability that they will be sent back to Turkey so they don’t choose that way….”

(HT to Euro-Police.)

Click here for full interview.

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Europol 2011 Organised Crime Threat Assessment – Illegal Immigration and THB

Europol just issued its 2011 Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) (OCTA_2011-1).  The report contains Europol’s assessments regarding “current and expected trends in organised crime affecting the European Union.”  Among the topics discussed are the facilitation of illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings.

The report notes that the increased control of the external borders of the EU, combined with other immigration controls, has resulted in irregular migrants turning to organised crime groups to facilitate their entry to the EU.  The report notes that increased enforcement activities which successfully reduce illegal immigration in certain areas may result in substantial increases in illegal immigration in other areas.

The report indicates that organised criminal groups are exploiting and will continue to exploit the social and political unrest in North Africa and that organised crime groups are responsible for facilitating the movement of the thousands of Tunisians who have entered Italy.

The report notes that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone “may yield increased illicit traffic through these countries and the possible displacement of illegal immigration flows from the Turkish-Greek border.”

Excerpts from the 38 page report pertaining to the facilitation of illegal immigration:

“[I]ncreasing control of external borders, the introduction of higher quality travel documents and other protective measures implemented by destination countries are making illegal immigration more difficult for individual migrants, forcing them to seek the services of organised crime groups.

International agreements and coordinated law enforcement activities have a significant impact on the flows of illegal immigrants along established routes. In 2010, a sharp reduction in the use of sea routes was accompanied by a substantial increase in illegal overland entries, overwhelmingly concentrated on the Turkish-Greek border.

Besides being the natural gateway for immigrants from the Middle East and Asia, Turkey is now the final step towards the EU for migrants with many other origins, including North and West Africans. Its geographical position, the presence of historical smuggling routes and the comparative ease with which entry visas may be obtained have transformed Turkey into the main nexus point for illegal immigrants on their way to Europe.

[***]

Legislation aimed at safeguarding certain inalienable individual or social rights is manipulated by organised crime groups with specialist expertise. Political asylum requests, and family reunions following marriages of convenience with EU citizens, are among the most frequently abused procedures. In addition, a prevalent tactic is to exploit loopholes and the lack of harmonisation in current legislation.

[***]

Criminal Groups

Organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigrants tend to be structured in loose networks of smaller groups with ethnic or other cultural connections to customers. By the same token, illegal immigrants tend to be recruited by, or approach facilitators from, the same ethnic background. However, few criminal groups have the capacity to manage all stages from source to destination country. The further migrants get from their country of origin, the greater the chance that their facilitators will be of an ethnic origin different from their own. Along the route, small local criminal groups receive and house transiting illegal immigrants, facilitating their passage to the next stage. In the often extended time between stages, transiting migrants are frequently exploited in illicit labour, thus marking a point of contact between illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings (THB).

Organised crime groups in destination countries play a fundamental role in the smuggling of migrants. Criminals, often legitimately resident in the EU, facilitate the last step of the migrants’ journey, in some cases collecting final instalments of transportation fees, and are in an ideal position to profit from newly arrived migrants, sometimes employing forms of exploitation typical of THB.

The most widely reported organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration are of Chinese, Turkish, Albanian, Indian, Iraqi, and Russian origin. Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and some West African groups are among the most capable, managing all successive phases of illegal immigration from source to destination countries. Although these groups may sub-contract part of the transportation or the production of falsified documents, they maintain effective control over the illegal immigrants throughout.

The growing importance of Turkey as a nexus point for migrants is likely to be further exploited by Turkish organised crime groups already extremely skilled in managing routes for illicit commodities and will make the most of their resources and contacts in the EU to maximise profits from this lucrative criminal market….

[***]

Criminal hubs

Political and legislative initiatives impact on regional dynamics, resulting in frequent shifts between hubs and preferred nexus points outside the EU.

Migrant flows across the Mediterranean Sea and illicit entries at the Eastern land borders have both significantly decreased. Greece is now the focus for illegal entry to the EU, and while levels of illegal migration connected with seasonal work patterns between Albania and Greece have decreased in the last year, illicit entries of migrants from Turkey have increased by over 500 per cent between 2009 and 2010

The South East criminal hub is therefore under the heaviest pressure. As a result also of its proximity to the Western Balkans, the hub’s centre of gravity for this criminal problem is currently Greece.

[***]

The Southern criminal hub is a landing zone for many immigrants who have entered the EU through Greece, and who either remain in Italy or proceed to other MS. Illegal immigrants are often exploited or employed by organised crime groups active in the hub.

Emerging and Future Issues

The social and political unrest pervading North Africa since January 2011 is likely to have a significant impact on the internal security of Southern Europe. By exploiting the present political vacuum and the diminution of police capability to maintain public order and combat criminal activity, organised crime groups are facilitating several thousands of illegal immigrants, mainly of Tunisian origin, in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe. This carries an inherent risk to the internal security of the EU.

The large and growing number of illegal immigrants from countries and regions in which Islamist terrorist groups are active – such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia – raises the possibility that channels for illegal immigration will be used increasingly by those seeking to engage in terrorist activity in the EU.

In the absence of any significant harmonisation of standards with regards to visa issue for a variety of purposes (including settlement for marriage and family reunions) a further increase in the abuse of legitimate migration procedures is likely.

The possible accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Zone will greatly widen the Eastern green and blue borders. This has the potential to release the pressure on the Turkish-Greek border, and lead to increased targeting of Bulgaria and the Black Sea coast by illegal immigrants and their facilitators.

Turkish organised crime groups, currently in a dominant position at the biggest nexus point for migrants, will exploit further opportunities for delivering illegal immigrants to the EU by means of the Black Sea and the flourishing Turkish diaspora in Bulgaria….

[***]

… The role of the Western Balkans as a logistical hub will be sustained and may even grow further, while the proposed accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone may yield increased illicit traffic through these countries and the possible displacement of illegal immigration flows from the Turkish-Greek border. In this event, Member States in South East Europe may require additional operational support. In light of the continued prominence throughout the EU of Albanian speaking criminal groups, strategic and operational partnerships with authorities in the Western Balkans will be increasingly important.

Ongoing political instability in countries close to the borders of the EU and transit areas for illicit commodities has the potential to alter trafficking routes and create new illegal migration flows. In countries such as Tunisia and Egypt the process by which serving regimes are replaced may result in power and investment vacuums in both the public and private sectors. Some of these could be filled by those with sufficient resources to exploit the instability for criminal ends, including EU organised crime groups. In politically fragile environments organised crime can also prosper by providing essential services such as transport infrastructure, and food and fuel supply. The effects of illegal immigration as a result of instability in North Africa – already experienced by Italy – are likely to spread if levels of unrest persist or increase. Should living conditions deteriorate in the longer term, the EU is likely to see an increase also in victims of THB from this region….

[***]”

Click on this link OCTA_2011-1 for OCTA report.

Click here for Europol press release.

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Frontex Announces Expansion of Joint Operation Poseidon Sea to Include Crete and Eastern Portions of Central Mediterranean

Two days after announcing the extension of Joint Operation Hermes and the westward expansion of the operational area of JO Hermes to include the waters around Sardinia, Frontex on 26 March announced the expansion of the operational area of Joint Operation Poseidon Sea to include the waters around Crete.  The expansion is due to the “highly volatile situation in North Africa” and was called for by the European Council’s Conclusions issued at the end of the Council meeting of 24/25 March: “the Commission will make additional resources available in support to [Frontex’s] 2011 Hermes and Poseidon operations and Member States are invited to provide further human and technical resources.”

Excerpts from the Frontex statement:  “March 26, 2011 — Responding to the highly volatile situation in North Africa Frontex extends operational area of its on-going Joint Operation (JO) Poseidon Sea. In the first four weeks of deployment Joint Operation Poseidon Land sees decreasing numbers of arrivals across the land border with Turkey.   In view of potential migratory flows from Libya operational area of JO Poseidon Sea, which covers the Greek islands in the Aegean sea, has been widened to include Crete. On Thursday, 24 February Romanian maritime surveillance vessel and a Portuguese plane were deployed to increase patrolling intensity in this region. [***]”

Click here for Frontex Poseidon Sea press release.

Click here for the Frontex Hermes press release.

Click here for the Council Conclusions.

Click here for previous post on the expansion of JO Hermes.

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Prof. Goodwin-Gill: ‘The Right to Seek Asylum: Interception at Sea and the Principle of Non-Refoulement’

On 16 February Professor Guy S. Goodwin-Gill presented the inaugural lecture of the Fondation Philippe Wiener – Maurice Anspach, Chaire W. J. Ganshof van der Meersch.  The lecture was entitled ‘The Right to Seek Asylum: Interception at Sea and the Principle of Non-Refoulement’.  The complete text of the lecture is available at this link: Goodwin-Gill: The Right to Seek Asylum-Interception at Sea and the Principle of Non-Refoulement.  The complete text also contains a helpful reference list.

I have reproduced several excerpts below:

“Looking at the interception and return measures adopted in the Mediterranean and off the west coast of Africa … one may rightly wonder what has happened to the values and principles considered fundamental to the Member States of the European Union….  [***]

… [I]t is all the more surprising when [European] governments, ministers and officials either pretend that the rules [- including Article 78(1) of the TFEU which requires the Union to develop a common asylum policy with regard to ‘any third country national requiring international protection and ensuring compliance with the principle of non-refoulement’ – policy which ‘must be in accordance with the Geneva Convention… and other relevant treaties’-] do not apply, or seek ways to avoid their being triggered.

In my view, the problems begin at the beginning, just as they commonly do also at the national level. A policy or goal is identified – in this case, reducing the number of irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, leaving the north African coast and heading for Europe – and then belatedly some attempt is made to bend implementation of the policy to fit in with principle and rule. A better approach, in my view, would be to begin with a clear understanding of the applicable law – the prohibition of discrimination, of refoulement, of inhuman or degrading treatment – and then to see what can be done by working within the rules.

Of course, this approach is premised on the assumption that States generally seek to work within the rule of law. It will not likely influence the State determined to deal with the migrant and the asylum seeker arbitrarily, and without reference to principle. Such cases must be confronted head-on, by way of judicial and political mechanisms of control.  [***]

… The problem, though, lies not in formal recognition of protection principles but, as ever, in operationalising the rules – in making protection a reality at the point of enforcement. On the plus side stands a substantial body of legislation: the Frontex regulation itself; the RABIT amendment, with its express insistence on compliance with fundamental rights and conformity with Member States’ protection and non-refoulement obligations; and the Schengen Borders Code, Article 3 of which requires the Code to be applied, ‘without prejudice to the rights of refugees… in particular as regards non-refoulement’. Add to this the April 2010 Council Decision supplementing the Code and dealing specifically with the surveillance of maritime borders and Frontex operations; it is currently being challenged by the Parliament on vires grounds, and it was also objected to by Malta and Italy, mainly for its proposal that in the last resort, rescue cases should be disembarked in the State hosting the Frontex operation. The Decision’s formulation of the applicable law in the matter of protection, however, is unremarkable, restating the principle of non-refoulement and the need to avoid indirect breach, but also providing for those intercepted to have an opportunity to set out reasons why they might be at risk of such a violation of their rights….  [***]

What do we know about either unilateral or Frontex-led interception operations so far? Not as much as we might expect as citizens of a democratic Union bounded by the rule of law and basic principles of good governance, such as transparency and accountability….  [***]

Exactly what Frontex does in an interception context has been questioned. Human Rights Watch has claimed that Frontex has been involved in facilitating interception, though this has been denied. Amnesty International and ECRE note that Frontex has stated that it does not know whether any asylum applications were submitted during interception operations, as it does not collect the data. How, then, should we approach what appears to be wilful ignorance? In the Roma Rights Case in 2004, discrimination on racial grounds was alleged in the conduct of immigration procedures by British officials at Prague Airport, which were intended to prevent potential asylum seekers leaving for the United Kingdom. There, too, the authorities did not keep any records of the ethnic origin of those they interviewed. Finding on the evidence that the government had acted in violation of relevant legislation, the House of Lords called attention to the importance of gathering information, ‘which might have helped ensure that this high-risk operation was not being conducted in a discriminatory manner…’

Given the secrecy attaching to interception operations, and the fact that no data are gathered or retained, it is reasonable to infer that some level of Frontex involvement has occurred, and that, absent evidence to the contrary, the relevant principles of international and EU law have not been observed.  [***]

… The object and purpose of EU operations in maritime areas, therefore, should be first and foremost to ensure protection, and secondarily to manage and prevent irregular migration….

In the absence of effective and verifiable procedures and protection in countries of proposed return, the responsibility to ensure protection remains that of the EU agency or Member State. In practice, this will require that they identify all those intercepted, and keep records regarding nationality, age, personal circumstances and reasons for passage. Given protection as the object and purpose of interception operations, an effective opportunity must be given for objections and fears to be expressed; these must then be subject to rational consideration, leading to the formulation of written reasons in explanation of the next steps. Where this entails return to or disembarkation in a non-EU State, a form of judicial control is required as a necessary safeguard against ill-treatment and the abuse of power – exactly what form of judicial control calls for an exercise of juristic imagination. In the nature of things, such oversight should be prompt, automatic, impartial and independent, extending ideally to the monitoring of interception operations overall….”

Click here or on the following link for complete text: Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, ‘The Right to Seek Asylum: Interception at Sea and the Principle of Non-Refoulement’

I thank Prof. Goodwin-Gill for permitting me to post the text of his lecture.

 

 

 

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Interactive Map: Deaths at Europe’s Borders

From OWNI.eu:  an interactive map showing the 14,000 persons who have died trying to reach Europe since 1988.  “[A]n interactive map as an electronic memorial for these tragedies.”

Click here for link.  The map copied below is not the new Interactive Map.  Click on link for the Interactive Map

Mourir aux portes de l’Europe (carte d’Olivier Clochard)

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JHA Council: Commission is Studying Different Funding Possibilities to Assist with Impact of Migratory Flows from North Africa

A Justice and Home Affairs press release summarizing today’s JHA Council meeting includes the following brief summary regarding the topic of migratory flows from North Africa:

“Over lunch, ministers discussed the situation in Northern Africa, and particularly the situation in Libya and the influx of migrants, above all from Tunisia to Italy. Since the beginning of the year, some 6000 immigrants have arrived mainly to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Following a formal request for help from the Italian Ministry of Interior, received on February 15, Frontex and Italy have started a Joint Operation in the central Mediterranean area on Sunday 20 February. Joint Operation Hermes 2011, originally planned to commence in June, was thus brought forward. Assets and experts for this operation were made available from a large number of EU member states. More information.  In addition to that, the Commission is studying different funding possibilities through various EU instruments, such as the European Refugee Fund, the European Return Fund and the European Border Fund.”

It is unclear whether the JHA Council will address this topic further tomorrow when the Council meeting resumes.

Click here for full JHA press release.

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