Category Archives: General

Week in Review – 27 January 2019

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 5,266 in 2019; Deaths Reach 204

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions at 469

 UNHCR update issued 25 January: “So far in 2019, the Libyan Coast Guard rescued/intercepted 469 refugees and migrants. This week, UNHCR recorded an increase in disembarkations in Libya.

On 22 January, UNHCR provided food and water to 141 refugees and migrants who disembarked in Misrata, after being rescued by a merchant vessel, the Lady Sham. The group had been stranded at sea for three days. On 21 January, 106 persons were rescued by a commercial ship, the Gesina Schepera, and disembarked in Alkhoms Naval Base. On 20 January, 152 persons were disembarked in Tripoli. On 19 January, 70 refugees and migrants disembarked at the Tripoli Naval Base….

Since October 2018, UNHCR has registered 3,140 refugees and asylum seekers in detention centres. In January alone, UNHCR registered 328 individuals. This week, UNHCR registered asylum-seekers in Zwara and Azzawya detention centres (100 and 45 km west of Tripoli, respectively). In addition, last week UNHCR visited Al Khoms detention centre (115 km east of Tripoli) and Triq al Sikka detention centre in Tripoli. UNHCR estimates that 5,000 refugees and migrants are detained in Libya of whom 3,800 are of concern to UNHCR….”

Sea Watch-3 stand-off continues with Italy refusing to allow NGO rescue vessel to dock with 47 rescued migrants and refugees

47 rescued migrants and refugees, including unaccompanied children, remain on board the Sea Watch 3 which is currently anchored in Italian waters off Sicily.  UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF and others have expressed great concern over the dangerous physical and psychological conditions on board rescue ship and the need for immediate disembarkation. The rescued persons have been on board for seven days. Sea Watch statement here.

UNHCR appeals for urgent action as new Mediterranean mid-winter deaths reported

UNHCR “is watching with increasing alarm the situation on the Mediterranean, where over the past few days we have seen two shipwrecks, numerous other rescue incidents, a merchant vessel disembarking rescued individuals to Libya, and reports that the Libyan coast guard itself has been unable to respond to incidents within its designated search and rescue region of the Mediterranean because of shortages of fuel….UNHCR believes it has become urgent for States to take action to reassert effective rescue capacity on the Mediterranean by increasing coordinated multi-state rescue, restoring rapid disembarkation in a place of safety, and lifting impediments to the work of NGO rescue vessels. People who don’t have a valid claim to asylum or other forms of international protection must then swiftly be helped to return home. At present, the politicking around sea rescues is preventing serious focus on a solution to the problem. Meanwhile lives are being tragically lost. Politicians must stop using human-beings for political point-scoring, and to instead address this as a humanitarian issue, with saving lives the priority. Reducing arrivals cannot be the only barometer for success when people are drowning on Europe’s doorstep. Of particular concern to us at present is the fate of some 144 rescued refugees and migrants rescued on 20 January by a merchant vessel, the Lady Sham, who last night disembarked in Misrata, Libya under instructions from the Tripoli Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre (JRCC). In Libya’s current context, where outbreaks of violence and widespread human rights violations prevail, no rescued refugees and migrants should be returned there.”

German Defence Minister accuses EUNAVFOR MED command of sabotaging rescue mission by diverting navy vessels to remote locations to avoid migrant boats

From Reuters: “German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said the German navy had rescued a total of 22,000 migrants at sea since 2015, but had recently been sidelined by Italian commanders. ‘For three quarters of a year, the Italian command has been sending our navy to the most remote areas of the Mediterranean where there are no smuggling routes and no migrant flows so that the navy has not had any sensible role for months,’ she said. Berlin this week decided not to replace its ship the Augsburg when its tour ends on Feb. 6, although it said another vessel would be standing by in the North Sea if needed. … According to Italian defence ministry figures, Operation Sophia had rescued only 106 migrants in the past seven months, while Libya’s coast guard has picked up 13,000 in the same period.

Bloomberg article here.

Human Rights Watch report: “‘No Escape from Hell’: EU Policies Contribute to Abuse of Migrants in Libya”

The report was released by HRW on 21 January: “European Union policies contribute to a cycle of extreme abuse against migrants in Libya, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The EU and Italy’s support for the Libyan Coast Guard contributes significantly to the interception of migrants and asylum seekers and their subsequent detention in arbitrary, abusive detention in Libya. The 70-page report, “‘No Escape from Hell’: EU Policies Contribute to Abuse of Migrants in Libya,” documents severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, and lack of adequate health care. Human Rights Watch found violent abuse by guards in four official detention centers in western Libya, including beatings and whippings. Human Rights Watch witnessed large numbers of children, including newborns, detained in grossly unsuitable conditions in three out of the four detention centers. Almost 20 percent of those who reached Europe by sea from Libya in 2018 were children….”

Frontex: Number of irregular crossings at Europe’s borders at lowest level in 5 years

Frontex news release: “[In 2018] the number of illegal border-crossings at Europe’s external borders has fallen by a quarter compared with 2017 to an estimated 150 000, the lowest level in five years. The total for 2018 was also 92% below the peak of the migratory crisis in 2015. The drop was due to the dramatic fall in the number of migrants taking the Central Mediterranean route to Italy. The number of detections of irregular crossings on this route plunged 80% compared to 2017 to slightly more than 23 000.  The Central Mediterranean route saw the smallest number of irregular entries since 2012. The number of departures from Libya dropped 87% from a year ago, and those from Algeria fell by nearly a half. Departures from Tunisia stayed roughly unchanged. Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for a third of all migrants.

Meanwhile, the number of arrivals in Spain via the Western Mediterranean route doubled last year for the second year in a row to 57 000, making it the most active migratory route into Europe for the first time since Frontex began collecting data.

On the Western Mediterranean route, Morocco has become the main departure point to Europe. Most of the migrants on this route originated from sub-Saharan countries, although in recent months the number of Moroccan migrants has increased to become the top reported nationality. They were trailed by Guineans, Malians and Algerians.

The number of detections of illegal border-crossings on the Eastern Mediterranean route rose by nearly a third to 56 000. This was mainly caused by a higher number of migrants crossing the land border between Turkey and Greece, while the total number of detections in the Eastern Aegean Sea was roughly in line with 2017. Nevertheless, the number of arrivals registered in Cyprus more than doubled. Nationals of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq accounted for the largest number of irregular migrants on the sea route in the Eastern Mediterranean, while Turkish nationals were the main nationality on the Turkish-Greek land border….”

ECRE statement: “Deaths and Disputes Continue in the Mediterranean, as Refugees and Migrants are Returned to Abuse”

Tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea continues, with more than 170 people dead or missing in two separate shipwrecks last weekend. A further 144 people that were ‘rescued’ by a cargo vessel were returned to inhumane conditions in Libya.  Meanwhile, naval anti- smuggling operation Sophia remains at risk due to a lack of EU unity regarding the extension of its mandate….”

Article: Climate stress drove wave of Arab Spring refugees

From Reuters: “Severe droughts made more likely by global warming worsened conflict in Arab Spring countries early this decade, forcing people to flee, researchers said on Wednesday, publishing evidence they said proved the connection for the first time. The study used data from asylum applications in 157 countries from 2006-2015, together with an index that measures droughts, as well as figures tracking battle-related deaths, to assess the links between climate change, conflict and migration. The findings, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, showed a particular correlation between climate stresses and conflict in parts of the Middle East and North Africa from 2010–2012, when many countries were undergoing political transformation during the Arab Spring uprisings….”

Article here.  Abstract: “Despite the lack of robust empirical evidence, a growing number of media reports attempt to link climate change to the ongoing violent conflicts in Syria and other parts of the world, as well as to the migration crisis in Europe. Exploiting bilateral data on asylum seeking applications for 157 countries over the period 2006–2015, we assess the determinants of refugee flows using a gravity model which accounts for endogenous selection in order to examine the causal link between climate, conflict and forced migration. Our results indicate that climatic conditions, by affecting drought severity and the likelihood of armed conflict, played a significant role as an explanatory factor for asylum seeking in the period 2011–2015. The effect of climate on conflict occurrence is particularly relevant for countries in Western Asia in the period 2010–2012 during when many countries were undergoing political transformation. This finding suggests that the impact of climate on conflict and asylum seeking flows is limited to specific time period and contexts.”

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Week in Review – 30 December 2018

 A Review of Events of the Previous

[Two] Week[s] in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 113,145 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,242

Italy: “[S]eaborne irregular arrivals to Italy through almost three weeks of December total just 115 men, women and children – indicating arrivals this month will likely be the lowest of any month since 2013. … Through this date in 2017, Italy recorded 118,914 irregular arrivals of sea-borne migrants and refugees. Arrivals to Italy from North Africa this year are 23.126.”

Spain: “56,480 irregular migrants have reached Spain’s Mediterranean coasts through 19 December – a rate exceeding 1,000 per week through the year. Arrivals to Spain this year through 19 December account for 49.93 per cent of all Mediterranean irregular arrivals to Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.”

Greece:  “31,310 [is] the total number of irregular migrant sea arrivals to Greece through 19 December this year. That surpasses the total (29,501) arriving by sea through all last year. Additionally, over 16,600 irregular migrants have arrived this year in Greece by land.”

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions at or close to 15,000

UNHCR’s recent reports do not report any Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions in December. UNHCR reports a total of 14,795 interceptions so far in 2018. Reuters reports “Libya’s coast guard has intercepted about 15,000 migrants trying to reach Italy by sea this year…” (The Reuters article misreads statistics referenced in the UNSMIL/OHCHR report released on 18 December which refers to 29,000 Libyan Coast Guard interceptions between January 2017 and 30 September 2018, not between January and September 2018. The source of the 29,000 figure is not identified in the UN report.)

Two NGO rescue ships remain stranded at sea

As of 30 December, the Sea Watch rescue ship with 32 rescued people on board and the Sea Eye rescue vessel with 17 rescued people on board continue to be denied permission to land at an EU port.  A third NGO rescue vessel operated by Proactiva Open Arms was allowed to disembark over 300 rescued persons in Spain after sailing for a week from the place of rescue off Libya.

Opinion ‘It’s an Act of Murder’: How Europe Outsources Suffering as Migrants Drown

New York Times Opinion article and short film by Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani, Itamar Mann, Violeta Moreno-Lax and Eyal Weizman: “This short film, produced by The Times’s Opinion Video team and the research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography, reconstructs a tragedy at sea that left at least 20 migrants dead. Combining footage from more than 10 cameras, 3-D modeling and interviews with rescuers and survivors, the documentary shows Europe’s role in the migrant crisis at sea.”

“On Nov. 6, 2017, at least 20 people trying to reach Europe from Libya drowned in the Mediterranean, foundering next to a sinking raft.  Not far from the raft was a ship belonging to Sea-Watch, a German humanitarian organization. That ship had enough space on it for everyone who had been aboard the raft. It could have brought them all to the safety of Europe, where they might have had a chance at being granted asylum. Instead, 20 people drowned and 47 more were captured by the Libyan Coast Guard, which brought the migrants back to Libya, where they suffered abuse — including rape and torture. This confrontation at sea was not a simplistic case of Europe versus Africa, with human rights and rescue on one side and chaos and danger on the other. Rather it’s a case of Europe versus Europe: of volunteers struggling to save lives being undercut by European Union policies that outsource border control responsibilities to the Libyan Coast Guard — with the aim of stemming arrivals on European shores. While funding, equipping and directing the Libyan Coast Guard, European governments have stymied the activities of nongovernmental organizations like Sea-Watch, criminalizing them or impounding their ships, or turning away from ports ships carrying survivors.

More than 14,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the central Mediterranean since 2014. But unlike most of those deaths and drownings, the incident on Nov. 6, 2017, was extensively documented. Sea-Watch’s ship and rescue rafts were outfitted with nine cameras, documenting the entire scene in video and audio. The Libyans, too, filmed parts of the incident on their mobile phones. The research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography of Goldsmiths, University of London, of which three of us — Mr. Heller, Mr. Pezzani and Mr. Weizman — are a part, combined these video sources with radio recordings, vessel tracking data, witness testimonies and newly obtained official sources to produce a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the facts. Opinion Video at The New York Times built on this work to create the above short documentary, gathering further testimonials by some of the survivors and rescuers who were there.

This investigation makes a few things clear: European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation. More worrying, the Libyan Coast Guard partners that Europe is collaborating with are ready to blatantly violate those rights if it allows them to prevent migrants from crossing the sea….”

Full article and film here.

Report from OHCHR and UNSMIL: Migrants and refugees crossing Libya subjected to “Unimaginable Horrors” – calls on EU to reconsider cooperation and assistance to Libya

OHCHR press statementA report “published jointly by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office, covers a 20-month period up to August 2018, and details a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of State officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees. These include unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gang rape, slavery, forced labour and extortion….

‘The overwhelming majority of women and older teenage girls interviewed by UNSMIL reported being gang raped by smugglers or traffickers,’ the report says. UN staff visiting 11 detention centres, where thousands of migrants and refugees are being held, documented torture, ill-treatment, forced labour, and rape by the guards, and reported that women are often held in facilities without female guards, exacerbating the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. Female detainees are often subjected to strip searches carried out, or watched, by male guards.

Those who manage in the end to attempt the perilous Mediterranean sea crossing, are increasingly being intercepted or rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard which then transfers them back to Libya, where many are delivered straight back into the pattern of violations and abuse they have just escaped.

The approximately 29,000 migrants returned to Libya by the Coast Guard since early 2017 were transferred to immigration detention centres run by the Department of Combating Illegal Migration, where thousands remain detained indefinitely and arbitrarily, without due process or access to lawyers or consular services.

The report states Libya cannot be considered a place of safety following rescue or interception at sea, given the considerable risk of being subject to serious human rights abuses, and notes that these ‘pushbacks’ have been considered by the UN Special rapporteur on torture as violations of the principle of non refoulement, which is prohibited under international law.

The report calls on the European Union and its Member States to reconsider the human costs of their policies and efforts to stem migration to Europe and ensure that their cooperation and assistance to the Libyan authorities are human rights-based, in line with their own obligations under international human rights and refugee law, and do not, directly or indirectly, result in men, women and children being trapped in abusive situations with little hope of protection and remedy.

Migrants held in the centres are systematically subjected to starvation and severe beatings, burned with hot metal objects, electrocuted and subjected to other forms of ill-treatment with the aim of extorting money from their families through a complex system of money transfers.

The detention centres are characterized by severe overcrowding, lack of ventilation and lighting, and insufficient washing facilities and latrines.  In addition to the abuses and violence committed against the people held there, many of them suffer from malnutrition, skin infections, acute diarrhoea, respiratory tract-infections and other ailments, as well as inadequate medical treatment. Children are held with adults in same squalid conditions.

The report points to the apparent ‘complicity of some State actors, including local officials, members of armed groups formally integrated into State institutions, and representatives of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence, in the smuggling or trafficking of migrants and refugees.’…”

Full report here.  Infographics summary of report here.

EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia mandate extended until 31 March 2019

The Council of the EU issued the following press statement on 21 December; the Political and Security Committee agreed to extend the mandate on 14 December:

“The Council extended the mandate of the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia until 31 March 2019.  The operation’s core mandate is to contribute to the EU’s work to disrupt the business model of migrant smugglers and human traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean. The operation has also supporting tasks. It trains the Libyan Coastguard and Navy and monitors the long-term efficiency of the training and it contributes to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya. In addition, the operation also conducts surveillance activities and gathers information on illegal trafficking of oil exports from Libya, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions. As such, the operation contributes to EU efforts for the return of stability and security in Libya and to maritime security in the Central Mediterranean region.

EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia was launched on 22 June 2015. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to migration. The Operation Commander is Rear Admiral Credendino, from Italy. The headquarters of the operation are located in Rome.”

COUNCIL DECISION (CFSP) 2018/2055 of 21 December 2018 amending Decision (CFSP) 2015/778 on a European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA) is here.

EU Council adopts decision expanding EUBAM Libya’s mandate to include actively supporting Libyan authorities to disrupt networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism

Outcome of Council Meeting, 17 December 2018 (provisional version) (at p. 11):

FOREIGN AFFAIRSEUBAM Libya – The Council adopted a decision mandating the EU integrated border management assistance mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya) to actively support the Libyan authorities in contributing to efforts to disrupt organised criminal networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism. The mission was previously mandated to plan for a future EU civilian mission while engaging with the Libyan authorities.

The mission’s revised mandate will run until 30 June 2020. The Council also allocated a budget of € 61.6 million for the period from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2020.

In order to achieve its objectives EUBAM Libya provides capacity-building in the areas of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice. The mission advises the Libyan authorities on the development of a national integrated border management strategy and supports capacity building, strategic planning and coordination among relevant Libyan authorities. The mission will also manage as well as coordinate projects related to its mandate.

EUBAM Libya responds to a request by the Libyan authorities and is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to support the transition to a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya. The civilian mission co-operates closely with, and contributes to, the efforts of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

The mission’s headquarters are located in Tripoli and the Head of Mission is Vincenzo Tagliaferri (from Italy). EUBAM Libya

Greek island refugee camps are beyond capacity

From DW: “The already inhumane conditions in migration hotspots on Greek islands have been worsening for months. Here’s what options exist to ameliorate the situation — and why they don’t seem to take. Despite EU efforts, many Greek islands remain accessible to people who are seeking asylum in the European Union. In fact, more people cross from Turkey to the islands in the eastern Aegean Sea than depart from them, creating a growing population in reception centers for whom the authorities have struggled to provide. Migrant reception centers regularly operate beyond their stated capacities, according to an examination of occupancy rates….”

See also Euronews reporting here.

1,100 people – not 800 – now believed to have died in the 18 April 2015 migrant ship wreck off Libya

Article by AP reporters Lori Hinnant, Trisha Thomas, and Krista Larson:  “Before their lives ended in an underwater death trap, before they lined up 100 to a row on a Libyan beach to board a boat with no anchor, the young men from the parched villages of the Sahel had names.  Two forensic investigators, one crisscrossing Africa and another in a university laboratory in Italy, are on a quest against the odds to keep Italy’s promise to find those names. They are tracing the identities of the migrants killed when an overloaded fishing boat went down off the coast of Libya on April 18, 2015, in the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck in living memory.  The pledge was made before Europe turned against migrants, and it just got even harder to keep. Nearing their very first formal identification, one of the investigators made a devastating discovery this month: The vessel carried not 800 people, as initially believed, but nearly 1,100….”

Frontex report: Migratory flows in November

13 December 2018.  “Total lower, Western Mediterranean the most active route – In the first 11 months of 2018, the number of irregular border crossings into the EU fell by 30% from a year ago to about 138 000, mainly because of lower migratory pressure in the Central Mediterranean. A month before the end of the year, 2018 remains on track to see the lowest number of illegal border crossings since 2014….

Western Mediterranean – The Western Mediterranean remained the most active migratory route, accounting for more than half of all monthly detections of illegal border crossings in Europe. In November, the number of irregular migrants taking this route rose 29% from the same month of last year to 4 900. In the first 11 months of 2018, almost 53 000 irregular migrants arrived in Spain via this route, more than double the figure from the same period a year ago. Nationals of Morocco, Guinea and Mali accounted for the highest number of irregular migrants crossing this route this year.

Eastern Mediterranean – In November, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at 2 700, a drop of 42% as compared with November 2017.

However, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first 11 months of the year rose by 30% to around 50 900, mainly because of an increase in crossings at the land borders. The largest number of migrants on this route so far this year were nationals of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Central Mediterranean – The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route in November fell to about 900, down 83% from November 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first 11 months of 2018 fell to roughly 22 800, 80% lower than a year ago. So far this year, Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for more than one-third of all the detected migrants there….”

Algérie – 4000 harraga algériens sont arrivés en Espagne en dix mois

Environ quatre-mille harraga algériens ont réussi à rallier la côte espagnole durant les 10 premiers mois de l’année 2018. C’est que confirment les statistiques du Haut commissariat pour les réfugiés (HCR), précisant que ces migrants clandestins sont arrivés par voie maritime ou terrestre à travers les enclaves de Ceuta et Melilla….”  More reporting here and here.

Amnesty International: MENA governments must end discriminatory crackdowns and abuse of migrants

AI: “Governments across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are collectively failing to protect the rights of migrants in their countries, said Amnesty International, marking International Migrants Day…. In Algeria, a discriminatory crackdown against sub-Saharan migrants, as well as refugees and asylum-seekers, spiked in 2018, with security forces arbitrarily arresting and detaining tens of thousands and unlawfully deporting them to Niger and Mali. Many were expelled even though they had valid visas or consular papers….In neighbouring Morocco, authorities have also stepped up their crackdown against migrants in 2018, partly in an effort to stem irregular migration from Morocco to Spain. Since July, more than 5,000 people have been swept up in often violent raids, placed on buses and then abandoned in areas close to the Algerian border, despite the fact that Morocco introduced new asylum and migration policy commitments in 2013 to bring its practices into line with international standards. In Libya, alongside refugees and asylum-seekers, economic migrants face appalling treatment at the hands of armed groups, militias, smugglers and the Libyan authorities. Thousands are held indefinitely in notorious detention centres where they face systematic abuse, including torture, rape and extortion. …”

IOM: Over 6,600 migration deaths recorded within Africa since 2013

IOM report: “…Though much African migration is regular and takes places within Africa itself, the newly published evidence underscores the monumental risks that migrants can face on their journeys, and just how little we know about them. ‘When people don’t have access to legal migration routes and few reliable records exist, would-be migrants face vulnerability at the hands of human traffickers and smugglers,’ said Dr. Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Data Analysis Centre… Many of the deaths recorded by the Missing Migrants Project are concentrated on routes used by smugglers. Most migration deaths reported within Africa appear to have occurred while migrants are en route to Libya: deaths recorded since 2014 are predominately in the Sahara Desert, northern Niger, southern Libya, and northern Sudan.  The main causes of death recorded indicate that many migrant deaths in Africa are preventable. Starvation, dehydration, physical abuse, sickness and lack of access to medicines are causes of death frequently cited by the migrants who reported deaths on routes within Africa. Involvement with human smugglers and traffickers in human beings can put people in extremely risky situations in which they have little agency to protect themselves, let alone fellow travellers they see being abused….”

Boats 4 People: Mort-e-s et disparu-e-s en mer – le guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens

Mort-e-s et disparu-e-s en mer: La version web du Guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens est désormais disponible en tigrigna!  Publié en plusieurs langues (anglais, italien, français, arabe et tigrinya), le guide d’information pour les familles et leurs soutiens contribue à rendre leur dignité aux personnes disparues ou décédées lors de la traversée de la Méditerranée. Il apporte également un soutien essentiel à leurs proches, car derrière chaque personne disparue en mer, il y a toujours une mère, un père, un∙e conjoint∙e, des enfants, des cousin∙e∙s, des ami∙e∙s, enfermé∙e∙s dans l’attente, l’angoisse et l’espoir.

España: El Defensor insiste en la necesidad de mejorar la primera acogida de personas migrantes que llegan a las costas en situación irregular

“En el Día Internacional de las personas migrantes, … el Defensor del Pueblo (e.f.), Francisco Fernández Marugán, quiere insistir en la necesidad de mejorar la primera acogida y asistencia de las personas que llegan a las costas españolas en situación irregular….”

Statement here.

France: Le Défenseur des droits publie son rapport « Exilés et droits fondamentaux, trois ans après le rapport Calais »

“Le Défenseur des droits constate que les entraves persistantes à l’entrée dans la procédure d’asile, la saturation des dispositifs d’accueil des exilés, leur manque d’informations et le contrôle de leur situation administrative lors de leur mise à l’abri conduisent les campements évacués à systématiquement se reformer et contraignent les exilés à subir des conditions de vie que le Conseil d’État a qualifiées, en 2016 et 2017, de « traitements inhumains ou dégradants ».

Le Défenseur des droits recommande à l’Etat de se conformer au droit positif et de garantir aux exilés un droit inconditionnel à l’hébergement, des conditions de vie dignes ainsi qu’une prise en charge de leur santé, notamment de leurs troubles psychiques nés d’un parcours migratoire et d’un accueil difficiles. Quant aux mineurs, le Défenseur des droits souhaite l’adoption urgente de mesures favorisant la pérennité de leur mise à l’abri, de leur évaluation et de leur prise en charge. Il est également nécessaire de simplifier les procédures d’asile et de réunification familiale, aujourd’hui trop peu accessibles.

À défaut d’une politique nationale assurant un véritable accueil des primo-arrivants, les collectivités locales et les associations caritatives sont contraintes d’agir seules, dans un contexte où se maintient une pénalisation de certains actes de solidarité. Le Défenseur des droits recommande donc d’élargir l’immunité pénale à tous les actes apportés dans un but humanitaire.”

Reports and links here.

New book: “Human Security and Migration in Europe’s Southern Borders”

By Susana Ferreira, NOVA University Lisbon-examines management of migratory flows in the Med within an international security perspective, using Spain and Italy as case studies.

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Opinion ‘It’s an Act of Murder’: How Europe Outsources Suffering as Migrants Drown

New York Times Opinion article and short film by Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani, Itamar Mann, Violeta Moreno-Lax and Eyal Weizman:

This short film, produced by The Times’s Opinion Video team and the research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography, reconstructs a tragedy at sea that left at least 20 migrants dead. Combining footage from more than 10 cameras, 3-D modeling and interviews with rescuers and survivors, the documentary shows Europe’s role in the migrant crisis at sea.”

“On Nov. 6, 2017, at least 20 people trying to reach Europe from Libya drowned in the Mediterranean, foundering next to a sinking raft.  Not far from the raft was a ship belonging to Sea-Watch, a German humanitarian organization. That ship had enough space on it for everyone who had been aboard the raft. It could have brought them all to the safety of Europe, where they might have had a chance at being granted asylum.

Instead, 20 people drowned and 47 more were captured by the Libyan Coast Guard, which brought the migrants back to Libya, where they suffered abuse — including rape and torture.

This confrontation at sea was not a simplistic case of Europe versus Africa, with human rights and rescue on one side and chaos and danger on the other. Rather it’s a case of Europe versus Europe: of volunteers struggling to save lives being undercut by European Union policies that outsource border control responsibilities to the Libyan Coast Guard — with the aim of stemming arrivals on European shores.

While funding, equipping and directing the Libyan Coast Guard, European governments have stymied the activities of nongovernmental organizations like Sea-Watch, criminalizing them or impounding their ships, or turning away from ports ships carrying survivors.

More than 14,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the central Mediterranean since 2014. But unlike most of those deaths and drownings, the incident on Nov. 6, 2017, was extensively documented.

Sea-Watch’s ship and rescue rafts were outfitted with nine cameras, documenting the entire scene in video and audio. The Libyans, too, filmed parts of the incident on their mobile phones.

The research groups Forensic Architecture and Forensic Oceanography of Goldsmiths, University of London, of which three of us — Mr. Heller, Mr. Pezzani and Mr. Weizman — are a part, combined these video sources with radio recordings, vessel tracking data, witness testimonies and newly obtained official sources to produce a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the facts. Opinion Video at The New York Times built on this work to create the above short documentary, gathering further testimonials by some of the survivors and rescuers who were there.

This investigation makes a few things clear: European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation. More worrying, the Libyan Coast Guard partners that Europe is collaborating with are ready to blatantly violate those rights if it allows them to prevent migrants from crossing the sea….”

Full article and film here.

 

 

 

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EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia mandate extended until 31 March 2019

The Council of the EU issued the following press statement today, 21 December; the Political and Security Committee agreed to extend the mandate on 14 December:

“The Council extended the mandate of the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia until 31 March 2019.  The operation’s core mandate is to contribute to the EU’s work to disrupt the business model of migrant smugglers and human traffickers in the Southern Central Mediterranean. The operation has also supporting tasks. It trains the Libyan Coastguard and Navy and monitors the long-term efficiency of the training and it contributes to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya. In addition, the operation also conducts surveillance activities and gathers information on illegal trafficking of oil exports from Libya, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions. As such, the operation contributes to EU efforts for the return of stability and security in Libya and to maritime security in the Central Mediterranean region.

EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia was launched on 22 June 2015. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to migration. The Operation Commander is Rear Admiral Credendino, from Italy. The headquarters of the operation are located in Rome.”

COUNCIL DECISION (CFSP) 2018/2055 of 21 December 2018 amending Decision (CFSP) 2015/778 on a European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA) is here.

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Report from OHCHR and UNSMIL: Migrants and refugees crossing Libya subjected to “Unimaginable Horrors” – calls on EU to reconsider cooperation and assistance to Libya

From the OHCHR press statementA report “published jointly by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office, covers a 20-month period up to August 2018, and details a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of State officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees. These include unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gang rape, slavery, forced labour and extortion….

‘The overwhelming majority of women and older teenage girls interviewed by UNSMIL reported being gang raped by smugglers or traffickers,’ the report says. UN staff visiting 11 detention centres, where thousands of migrants and refugees are being held, documented torture, ill-treatment, forced labour, and rape by the guards, and reported that women are often held in facilities without female guards, exacerbating the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. Female detainees are often subjected to strip searches carried out, or watched, by male guards.

Those who manage in the end to attempt the perilous Mediterranean sea crossing, are increasingly being intercepted or rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard which then transfers them back to Libya, where many are delivered straight back into the pattern of violations and abuse they have just escaped.

The approximately 29,000 migrants returned to Libya by the Coast Guard since early 2017 were transferred to immigration detention centres run by the Department of Combating Illegal Migration, where thousands remain detained indefinitely and arbitrarily, without due process or access to lawyers or consular services.

The report states Libya cannot be considered a place of safety following rescue or interception at sea, given the considerable risk of being subject to serious human rights abuses, and notes that these ‘pushbacks’ have been considered by the UN Special rapporteur on torture as violations of the principle of non refoulement, which is prohibited under international law.

The report calls on the European Union and its Member States to reconsider the human costs of their policies and efforts to stem migration to Europe and ensure that their cooperation and assistance to the Libyan authorities are human rights-based, in line with their own obligations under international human rights and refugee law, and do not, directly or indirectly, result in men, women and children being trapped in abusive situations with little hope of protection and remedy.

Migrants held in the centres are systematically subjected to starvation and severe beatings, burned with hot metal objects, electrocuted and subjected to other forms of ill-treatment with the aim of extorting money from their families through a complex system of money transfers.

The detention centres are characterized by severe overcrowding, lack of ventilation and lighting, and insufficient washing facilities and latrines.  In addition to the abuses and violence committed against the people held there, many of them suffer from malnutrition, skin infections, acute diarrhoea, respiratory tract-infections and other ailments, as well as inadequate medical treatment. Children are held with adults in same squalid conditions.

The report points to the apparent ‘complicity of some State actors, including local officials, members of armed groups formally integrated into State institutions, and representatives of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence, in the smuggling or trafficking of migrants and refugees.’…”

Full report here.

Infographics summary of report here.

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1,100 people – not 800 – now believed to have died in the 18 April 2015 migrant ship wreck off Libya

Article by AP reporters Lori Hinnant, Trisha Thomas, and Krista Larson:  “Before their lives ended in an underwater death trap, before they lined up 100 to a row on a Libyan beach to board a boat with no anchor, the young men from the parched villages of the Sahel had names.  Two forensic investigators, one crisscrossing Africa and another in a university laboratory in Italy, are on a quest against the odds to keep Italy’s promise to find those names. They are tracing the identities of the migrants killed when an overloaded fishing boat went down off the coast of Libya on April 18, 2015, in the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck in living memory.  The pledge was made before Europe turned against migrants, and it just got even harder to keep. Nearing their very first formal identification, one of the investigators made a devastating discovery this month: The vessel carried not 800 people, as initially believed, but nearly 1,100….”  Worth reading.

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EU Council adopts decision expanding EUBAM Libya’s mandate to include actively supporting Libyan authorities in disrupting networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism

Outcome of Council Meeting, 17 December 2018 (provisional version) (at p. 11):

FOREIGN AFFAIRS – EUBAM Libya – The Council adopted a decision mandating the EU integrated border management assistance mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya) to actively support the Libyan authorities in contributing to efforts to disrupt organised criminal networks involved in smuggling migrants, human trafficking and terrorism. The mission was previously mandated to plan for a future EU civilian mission while engaging with the Libyan authorities.

The mission’s revised mandate will run until 30 June 2020. The Council also allocated a budget of € 61.6 million for the period from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2020.

In order to achieve its objectives EUBAM Libya provides capacity-building in the areas of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice. The mission advises the Libyan authorities on the development of a national integrated border management strategy and supports capacity building, strategic planning and coordination among relevant Libyan authorities. The mission will also manage as well as coordinate projects related to its mandate.

EUBAM Libya responds to a request by the Libyan authorities and is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to support the transition to a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya. The civilian mission co-operates closely with, and contributes to, the efforts of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

The mission’s headquarters are located in Tripoli and the Head of Mission is Vincenzo Tagliaferri (from Italy). EUBAM Libya

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Week in Review – 16 December 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 111,237 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,216

“This year is the fifth straight during which the arrival of irregular migrants and refugees has topped the 100,000 threshold – although 2018’s total is low compared to those recorded at this time in 2017 (166,737) and 2016 (358,018).”

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

According to the UNHCR, there have been no reported Libyan Coast Guard interceptions so far in December.

54 people believed to have been lost at sea without a trace in October

IOM reports that it learned that a boat disappeared without a trace in the Western Mediterranean after departing from Nador, Morocco, more than a month ago. The shipwreck is believed to have occurred between 26 and 27 October, when at least 54 people – including 11 women and three children – are now thought to have lost their lives. Soon after the boat’s departure, the NGO Alarm Phone, which runs a hotline for people crossing the Mediterranean, received a distress call from those onboard. No one on board has been heard from since. Spanish and Moroccan authorities confirmed that they, too, conducted search and rescue operations for this vessel but were unable to locate the boat or any survivors. In the weeks since the boat’s disappearance, dozens of family members have posted on social media channels searching for information about their loved ones. For its part the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, which is in contact with families of those on board, also reported that the boat may have disappeared without a trace.  It has now been over a month since the boat went missing. The fate of these 54 people remains a mystery and a source of agony to the many family members left behind. When a boat vanishes without a trace, it often goes unnoticed and unrecorded by the media or databases….”

90-Day Extension for EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia Remains Under Consideration

Italy has agreed to a 90-day extension of the EUNAVFOR MED mandate in order to permit continued EU negotiations regarding changes to EUNAVFOR MED’s mission, including changes relating to the places rescued migrants could be disembarked. The current mandate expires on 31 December 2018.  Italy has to date refused to agree to a longer extension of the mandate in the absence of changes to the disembarkation rules or to the Dublin Regulation.  Italy’s insistence on changes to disembarkation rules have become less important given the very small numbers of migrants rescued by the EUNAVFOR MED mission.  ANSA reported that the “Italian government decided to extend the mission after a meeting convened by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta, Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, Mission Commander Adm. Enrico Credentino, and Foreign Ministry Secretary General Elisabetta Belloni. … Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta …wished to avoid a brusque closure of the mission….”

It is time for EUNAVFOR MED to drop the “Operation Sophia” name

EUNAVFOR MED is not engaged in search and rescue operations, though it continues to hold itself out as a humanitarian mission.  It was just over three years ago in September 2015 when HR Mogherini announced in a speech that the operation’s official name would include “Operation Sophia”:

“Sophia is a baby who was born on 24 August 2015 at 04.15 am on board the German frigate Schleswig-Holstein, operating in the Central Mediterranean Sea as part of EUNAVFOR MED Task Force. Born from a Somali mother rescued together with other 453 migrants and disembarked on the evening of the same day in the harbour of Taranto, Sophia was named after the German ship dedicated to the Prussian princess Sophia of Schleswig-Holstein. I will suggest to Member States that we change the name of our Operation: instead of calling it EUNAVFOR MED, I suggest we use the name: Sophia. To honour the lives of the people we are saving, the lives of people we want to protect, and to pass the message to the world that fighting the smugglers and the criminal networks is a way of protecting human life.”

The Brussels 2 website reports that EUNAVFOR MED has only rescued 106 migrants over the past five months whereas the Libyan Coast Guard has intercepted and pulled back over 14,000 migrants and refugees in 2018.

Libyan Navy welcomes EU’s halting of NGO rescue boats

From the Libya Observer: “The spokesman for the Libyan Naval forces, Brigadier General Ayoub Qassem, said that the suspension of non-governmental organizations activities in the field of rescuing migrants will be positive to the Libyan Navy….Qassem accused these organizations of being a catalyst for increasing immigration, by transferring migrants to European countries, giving no caution to the thousands who drown, annually, in the sea.”

Cyprus sees sharp increase in arrivals

Article by AP reporter Menelaos Hadjicostis in the Washington Post: “[T]housands of migrants … have slipped into Cyprus this year [from Turkish Cyprus] across its porous 180-kilometer-long (120-mile-long) buffer zone. Migrant arrivals by sea have also increased, turning tiny Cyprus into the EU’s top recipient of asylum-seekers relative to its population size, as other EU countries have tightened their borders.  Government statistics show that about 5,000 people — mostly from Syria but also Somalia, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cameroon — had claimed asylum in Cyprus by the end of August. That’s expected to reach 8,000 by year’s end, up from 3,000 in 2016. While that’s a fraction of the hundreds of thousands seeking asylum in the EU, it’s putting pressure on a country with just over 1 million people….Despite its proximity to the conflict zones of the Middle East, Cyprus received relatively few asylum-seekers during the peak of Europe’s migrant crisis three years ago, when most migrants arrived in Greece and made their way through the Balkans toward countries in northern Europe. An island nation just emerging from a severe economic crisis, Cyprus wasn’t seen as an attractive destination for migrants and refugees seeking shelter and a new life in Europe. But that changed as nations in Europe shut their borders and the economic situation improved….”

See also article by Helena Smith from the Guardian: ‘Cyprus is saturated’ – burgeoning migrant crisis grips island. “The island has exceeded every other EU member state in asylum claims in 2018, recording the highest number per capita with almost 6,000 applications for a population of about 1 million. By August requests were 55% higher than for the same eight-month period in 2017, a figure itself 56% higher than that for 2016, according to the interior ministry….Illicit crossings from the north have made Cyprus’ woes much worse. Reports have increased in recent months of irregular migrants flying into Ercan airport in the Turkish-controlled breakaway state. Hamstrung by politics, not least Turkey’s refusal to recognise the government in the southern part of Cyprus since its 1974 invasion of the island, authorities are unable to send them back….”

EU promises additional emergency funding to Morocco “in response to increased migratory pressure along the Western Mediterranean Route”

Press release from the European Commission: “The EU is intensifying its support to Morocco to address irregular migration in response to increased migratory pressure along the Western Mediterranean Route. The additional funding adopted under the EU emergency Trust Fund for Africa will bring the overall migration-related assistance to Morocco to €148 million in 2018. It will help step up the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings, including through reinforced integrated border management….”

See also ANSA article: Cooperation increases between Spain and Morocco on migration.

European Defence Agency producing geospatial information in support of EUNAVFOR MED operations

The European Defence Agency’s GISMO project (Geospatial Information to Support decision Making in Operations project) is producing geospatial information in support of EUNAVFOR MED operations and aims at full operational capability by mid-2019.  From the EDA:  “Since [2014] and working in partnership with the EU Satellite Centre (EU SatCen), GISMO has produced a first operational output in the form of ‘GeohuB’, a software application which allows for the safe and reliable sharing of geospatial information (GI) within a mission’s operational headquarter. After a successful field trial, GeohuB was successfully deployed in November 2017 to the Italian Operation Headquarters, Rome, in support of EU Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED). In practical terms, this means that operation participants with access to the classified mission network of EUNAVFOR MED’s operational headquarters in Rome can upload, share and manage geospatial data related to the operation…Last June, GISMO started the transition of the GeohuB application from the current status of Initial Operating Capability (IOC) to Full Operating Capability (FOC) by the summer. …”

Speech by MSF president: “Migration is not a crime. Saving lives is not a crime”

MSF International President Dr Joanne Liu’s speech on a panel discussion at the Global Compact on Migration conference in Marrakesh, Morocco: “…Last week MSF was forced to stop search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. A concerted, sinister campaign of legal challenges and administrative obstacles, means the ship we were working aboard—the Aquarius—is no longer authorised to leave port, let alone rescue people at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean. With the sabotage of the Aquarius, gone is the most basic humanitarian and legal commitment: saving lives at sea. Last week, 15 people stranded in a boat off the Libyan coast died of thirst and starvation. How many may be similarly dying or drowning, without anyone even aware?  Citizens and mayors around Europe have mobilised to receive rescued people and to show their humanity. Meanwhile, European governments have refused to provide search and rescue capacity, and – worse – have actively sabotaged the efforts of others to save lives. Saving lives is non-negotiable. Saving lives is what we do, what we will continue to do and fight for, and what we urge you to defend.  Saving lives is indeed a fundamental part of the Global Compact….”

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90-Day Extension for EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia Under Consideration

Italy has agreed to a 90-day extension of the EUNAVFOR MED mandate in order to permit continued EU negotiations regarding changes to EUNAVFOR MED’s mission, including changes relating to the places rescued migrants could be disembarked. The current mandate expires on 31 December 2018.  Italy has to date refused to agree to an extension of the mandate in the absence of changes to the disembarkation rules or the Dublin Regulation.  Italy’s insistence on changes to disembarkation rules have become less important given the very small numbers of migrants rescued by the EUNAVFOR MED mission.  The Brussels 2 website reports that EUNAVFOR MED has only rescued 106 migrants over the past five months whereas the Libyan Coast Guard has intercepted and pulled back over 14,000 migrants and refugees in 2018.

ANSA reported that the “Italian government decided to extend the mission after a meeting convened by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta, Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, Mission Commander Adm. Enrico Credentino, and Foreign Ministry Secretary General Elisabetta Belloni. … Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta …wished to avoid a brusque closure of the mission….

… Meanwhile, in Brussels, negotiations surrounding the renewal of the mission’s mandate are stalled in the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC). A new meeting is scheduled prior to the EU Council on Thursday and Friday. On the table is a possible six-month extension tied to the effort to find a medium-term solution on the issue of ports of disembarkation.”

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Week in Review – 09 December 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

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

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

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

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

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

European Commission misleads on reasons for migrant deaths

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

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

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

Greece Sea Arrivals Dashboard (November 2018)

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

Increasing numbers of Algerian “harraga” leaving by sea

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

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

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

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

EUNAVFOR MED Sophia completes training module for Libyan Coast Guard personnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Migrant Arrivals to Yemen Approach 150,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that.” Danish Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg

2018-12-06 Inger StojbergFrom the New York Times:  Denmark Plans to Isolate Unwanted Migrants on a Small Island: “Denmark plans to house the country’s most unwelcome foreigners in a most unwelcoming place: a tiny, hard-to-reach island that now holds the laboratories, stables and crematory of a center for researching contagious animal diseases. As if to make the message clearer, one of the two ferries that serve the island is called the Virus. ‘They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that,’ the immigration minister, Inger Stojberg, wrote on Facebook. On Friday, the center-right government and the right-wing Danish People’s Party announced an agreement to house as many as 100 people on Lindholm Island — foreigners who have been convicted of crimes but who cannot be returned to their home countries. Many would be rejected asylum seekers….”  Full article here. 

 

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Week in Review – 02 December 2018

 A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

 The death toll

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

15 found dead on stranded vessel off Morocco

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

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

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

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

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

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions reach 14,795

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

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

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

Sharp drop in Spanish arrivals

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

NGOs resume limited rescue missions in Mediterranean

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

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

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

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

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

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

Increasing numbers of migrants attempt English Channel crossing

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

Frontex opens first risk analysis cell in Niger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Week in Review – 25 November 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 104,506 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,075

“As colder weather conditions arrive, the sea passage to Europe grows ever deadlier. [IOM] has recorded 2,075 people who have died or gone missing on one of three migratory routes across the Mediterranean in 2018.…”

Mogherini warns that EUNAVFOR MED Sophia operation will end on 31 December in the absence of interim agreement on disembarkation practices

At the conclusion of the 20 November Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) meeting, HR Mogherini warned of the imminent end of the EUNAVFOR MED Sophia operation (the current mandate expires on 31 December 2018):

“I clearly said to the [Defence] Ministers that they either find an interim solution on the issue of disembarkation [of rescued migrants] within the next couple of weeks, or we will need to dismantle the Operation and the Operation will come to an end. … I would now expect Ministers to instruct their ambassadors in the PSC [Political and Security Committee] to work on an interim solution for this particular aspect of the Operation, so that the Operation can continue….

Everybody agrees that [EUNAVFOR MED Sophia] has to be kept in place; everybody agrees that the point on disembarkation which is a minor part of a military operation would need to be resolved in the broader context of the Dublin discussions….

Ministers have two choices: to close the [EUNAVFOR MED Sophia] operation or to find an interim solution that only relates to the disembarkation of people that are rescued by Operation Sophia and does not create any precedent for the following-up of the conversation and the decision making on Dublin reform. Any broader solution on the Dublin reform would immediately also apply to the Sophia rules, once Member States get there. But in the meantime, we have to find an interim solution to give clarity to the Operation commander on what to do in case there are some search and rescue activities….”

The Political and Security Committee last week reportedly considered a proposal presented by the European External Action Service to change EUNAVFOR MED’s disembarkation practices.  The proposed change would allow the relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to decide where rescued migrants are to be disembarked and would require new criteria to be considered, including the circumstances of the rescue, the need for EUNAVFOR MED vessels to resume their mission, and principles of efficiency and speed. As a last resort, the proposal would require the country of the MRCC to make available one of its ports for disembarkation, provided that an immediate screening of migrants is organized and an expeditious redistribution of disembarked asylum seekers to other states occurs. Media reports on the proposal here, here, here, here, and here.

Mogherini reminds us that EUNAVFOR MED Sophia is a military operation and is not in the business of SAR – EUNAVFOR MED responsible for only 9% of Mediterranean rescues

In remarks after the 20 November Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) meeting, HR Mogherini also emphasised that the primary mission of EUNAVFOR MED Sophia is not one of Search and Rescue:

“….Operation Sophia is not a search and rescue operation. It is a military operation that has the task to dismantle criminal networks. As a result of that, the overall number of people that have been rescued by Operation Sophia over time represents only 9% of all the people that have been saved in the Mediterranean Sea. This means – because I want to translate things into concrete numbers – in the last 11 months, an average of 180 people per month, divide them by 28 and it is six people per Member State per month. Would you dismantle a military operation in the Mediterranean Sea that is doing what [Operation] Sophia is doing for that number of people?”

Migrant arrivals in Spain remain high and deaths spike; overall arrivals in EU remain low compared to past two years

IOM: As of 18 November, arrivals in “Spain topped 50,962 – more irregular arrivals to Spain through 45 weeks of 2018 than all arrivals during the past three years combined.”  Overall, 2018 is “the fifth straight year [where] arrivals of irregular migrants and refugees [to the EU] have topped the 100,000 mark, although this year’s totals are low compared to those at this time in 2017 (157,323) and 2016 (345,831).”

“[I]rregular migrants to Spain continue to arrive at a rate of over 120 per day during the month of November. October was Spain’s busiest month for sea arrivals on month on record, with migrants or refugees entering by sea at a rate of over 350 people per day.”

Since the beginning of 2018, at least 631 people have lost their lives trying to reach Spain. A recent report by a Spanish foundation for investigative journalism, porCausa.org, found that more than 6,700 people have died or disappeared while trying to reach Spain since 1988. [A]t least 1,144 people died or were lost in the Western Mediterranean in the last five years (data for 1 January 2014 – 21 November 2018), more than half of those – 631 of 1,144 – just in the 325 days of 2018, or almost two victims per day.  [IOM] Missing Migrants also has recorded deaths these years on Spain’s other seaborne migratory route, from the West African mainland to the Islas Canarias. Since 2014, 319 men, women and children have perished on this route.”

“[M]onthly arrivals to Italy have averaged fewer than 2,500 men, women and children entering Italy by sea after departing North Africa since the start of November 2017. July 2017 was the last time monthly sea arrivals of irregular migrants and refugees surpassed 10,000 men, women and children – a total that arrived in 12 of the previous 13 months before that date – and had been arriving regularly in previous years of the Mediterranean emergency.”

No reports of Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions over previous week

UNHCR did not report any new Libyan Coast Guard pull backs, but the Libyan Coast Guard did conduct an operation to forcibly remove 79 migrants and refugees from a commercial vessel docked at Misrata.

Libyan coast guard forcibly removes 79 refugees and migrants from commercial vessel in Misrata

10 days after being rescued at sea by the Nivin, a Panama-flagged commercial vessel, “‘a joint force raided the cargo ship and used rubber bullets and tear gas to force ([migrants and refugees] off the ship),’ the commander of the [Libyan] central region coastguards, Tawfiq Esskair, told Reuters by phone…. Some had been injured during the disembarkation but were now ‘in good condition’ after treatment in hospital, and all had been taken to a detention center in the city, he said.”

Condemnations of the action were made by Human Rights Watch: “‘This is the worst possible conclusion to the desperate plea of the people on board the Nivin to avoid inhuman detention in Libya,’ said Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The situation is the result of efforts by Italy and the European Union to obstruct rescue operations by nongovernmental organizations and empower the Libyan Coast Guard even when Europe knows that Libya is not a safe place.’”; and by

MSF: “We are appalled to see that after 10 days, despite our repeated calls to avoid a violent outcome, no compromise was reached to implement an alternative to detention. What happened instead has once again demonstrated a failure to provide much-needed protection for people seeking safety. The reality today is that people being intercepted at sea and brought back to Libyan shores in violation of international law and maritime conventions are left with no other option than indefinite arbitrary detention. This tragic situation is the result of deliberate and concerted efforts by Europe to prevent refugees, migrants and asylum seekers from reaching its doorsteps at any cost.”

UNHCR does not consider Libya safe place for disembarkation and calls for end to detention of refugees and migrants intercepted by Libyan coast guard

Roberto Mignone, UNHCR’s Chief of Mission in Libya: “It is reprehensible that [refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan coast guard] are detained instead of protected. This is despite the fact that viable alternatives to detention within Libya can be found, including through a Gathering and Departure Facility that [UNHCR has] been waiting to open since July, which could offer immediate protection and safety for those most vulnerable….”

“In light of the dangers for refugees and migrants in Libya, UNHCR does not consider it to be a safe place for disembarkation and also has advised against returns to Libya following search and rescues at sea.”

Full statements here and here.

Calais: Worsening living conditions and a steep increase in Channel crossings

InfoMigrants article by Bahar MAKOOI: “The situation in Calais is growing tenser by the day. The number of migrants trying to cross the English Channel is increasing as the freezing cold weather is contributing to the rapidly deteriorating living conditions. Last week, more than 60 migrants illegally made their way into Britain from France, and at least two-thirds of them are believed to have made the perilous crossing by sea, the Guardian newspaper reported on November 18. Although authorities seem to have good idea of the number of successful crossings, the number of fatal attempts have proven more difficult to quantify. On Sunday, the body of a migrant was found stuck under a truck in the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone. And on October 2, the body of a migrant who had gone missing a week before was fished out of the canal in Calais….”

Al Jazeera Q&A: Morocco’s border chief hits back at criticism over migrants

Interview by Faras Ghani Khalid Zerouali, Morocco’s border control chief.  Full interview here.

[***] Al Jazeera: How much is it costing Morocco to patrol the border and the sea?

Zerouali: If we talk just about the north apparatus – I’m talking 13,000 guards in the north, equipment, basically functioning from Oujda to Tangier and down south to Kenitra, around 1,100km in total – that’s costing Morocco more than 200m euros ($228m) annually.

Now that the pressure is increasing, the EU proposed financing part of the effort. We’re talking about around 140m euros ($160m). But we said it should not be one shot but sustainable assistance.

Al Jazeera: This is costing a lot. Do you see another solution?

Zeoruali: We shouldn’t be afraid of migration, it’s not a problem. It’s not a mathematical equation. It’s a human matter that needs to be managed. We have to delve into the real causes and things that push people or the ones that attract them.

It costs around 4,000 to 7,000 euros ($4,600 to $8,000) to attempt to reach Spain. It’s not only the poor people who are migrating. One of the factors if the emergence of GoFast boats and that’s coming from the other side. Another factor is some NGOs who are not serious about what they do.

[***]

Al Jazeera: What about Moroccans who want to cross into Spain? Has that been looked into?

Zerouali: In 2002-03, we used to intercept around 20,000 migrants and 18,000 of those used to be Moroccans. This year has been an exception; but say 2015, out of 65,000 there were only 5,000 Moroccans. This year, because of GoFast again, the Moroccan figure is 12-13,000 out of 70,000 interceptions. [***]”

Christian Science Monitor: “In high stakes experiment, EU migration policy moves front lines to Niger”

Article by Peter Ford (@peterfordcsm):

“…As divisive political tensions around migrants rise in Europe, governments there are making their broadest-ever bid to choke off the flow close to its source. … [Niger] has become ‘a centerpiece of EU policy’ in northwest Africa, says the European ambassador to Niger, Denisa-Elena Ionete…. ‘Europe has long been an important partner of ours,’ explains Nigerien Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum in an interview. ‘Being helpful to the EU is somehow giving them something back’ in return for their longstanding aid. There is little doubt that the new policy has helped cut the number of illegal migrants heading north very substantially. The International Organization for Migration counted 334,000 of them passing through Niger in 2016 and fewer than 50,000 so far this year. A foreign aid worker estimates that there are likely no more than 300 migrants at any one time hiding in houses in Agadez now, compared to at least 2,000 before the law came into effect. ‘The law has had an impact,’ says Harouna Aggalher, a field officer in Agadez for the International Rescue Committee, a New York based non-profit…. That doesn’t mean that they have all got out of the business. Smugglers are taking new and rarely used routes, or simply trusting their GPS and satellite phones and heading into uncharted desert…. ‘People die by the hundreds in the desert,’ says Ahmadou Bossi, commander of the Agadez National Guard contingent, whose patrols have come across three abandoned truckloads of migrants by chance this year. That makes Johannes Claes, the local representative of Doctors of the World, a Belgian NGO that helps migrants, wonder about European policy. ‘If you see the problem as just one of stopping migrant flows, it is a success,’ he says. ‘But if you are causing human suffering and migrants to die, you should consider whether your policy is working.’…”

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Week in Review – 18 November 2018

A Review of Events of the Previous Week in the Mediterranean

The death toll

IOM:  Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 103,347 in 2018; Deaths Reach 2,054

New EUNAVFOR MED disembarkation policy under consideration which could end practice of disembarkations in Italy

According to Italian media reports (here, here, and here), the European External Action Service has presented a proposal to the Political and Security Committee to change EUNAVFOR MED’s disembarkation practices.  EUNAVFOR MED’s current mandate expires in December. The proposed change would allow the relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to decide where rescued migrants are to be disembarked and would require new criteria to be considered, including the circumstances of the rescue, the need for EUNAVFOR MED vessels to resume their mission, and principles of efficiency and speed. As a last resort, the proposal would require the country of the MRCC to make available one of its ports for disembarkation, provided that an immediate screening of migrants is organized and an expeditious redistribution of disembarked asylum seekers to other states occurs.

Libyan Coast Guard pull backs / interceptions reach 14,595

UNHCR reports that “as of 14 November, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) has rescued/intercepted 14,595 refugees and migrants (10,184 men, 2,147 women and 1,408 children) at sea.”

EUNAVFOR MED close to completing training for 300 Libyan coast guard and navy personnel

EUNAVFOR MED’s training of Libyan coast guard personnel continues.  The latest training segment is scheduled to be completed on 14 December at which time EUNAVFOR MED will have trained over 300 Libyan Coastguard and Navy personnel.

5,400 refugees and migrants held in Libyan detention centres; UNHCR evacuates 262 refugees and migrants from Libya, including some from detention centres

UNHCR estimates there are “5,400 refugees and migrants are presently held in detention centres in Libya, of whom 3,900 are of concern to UNHCR. Over the past month, UNHCR has registered 2,629 persons of concern in detention centres in and around Tripoli.”

“On 12 November, UNHCR evacuated 262 individuals (139 men, 42 women and 81 children) to its Emergency Transit Mechanism in Niger, in the largest evacuation so far this year. The group included individuals held in detention facilities in and around Tripoli (Zintan, Tajoura, Trik Al Sikka, Al Sabaa, Abu-Salim, Qaser Ben Ghasher) and individuals who were living in the urban community. With this departure, UNHCR has evacuated 2,344 individuals out of Libya (1,937 to Niger, 312 to Italy and 95 to Romania).”

FRONTEX: Migratory flows in October down by a third compared to 2017

FRONTEX news release: “In the first ten months of 2018, the number of illegal border crossings into the EU fell by 31% from a year ago to about 118 900, mainly because of lower migratory pressure in the Central Mediterranean. Two months before the end of the year, 2018 is on track to see the lowest number of illegal border crossings since 2013.  In October, some 16 000 illegal border crossings were detected on the main migratory routes into the EU, close to the figure from the same month of last year.

Western Mediterranean – Last month, the Western Mediterranean migratory route accounted for nearly 60% of all detections of illegal borders crossings into the EU. The number of migrants reaching Europe via this route reached nearly 9 400 in October, more than twice the number from the same month of last year.  In the first ten months of 2018, close to 45 900 irregular migrants arrived through the Western Mediterranean route, more than double the figure from the same period a year ago.  Nationals of Morocco, Guinea and Mali accounted for the highest number of irregular migrants crossing this route this year.

Eastern Mediterranean – In October, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at 5 700, nearly the same as in October 2017. Because of a significant increase of illegal crossings in recent months on the land border with Turkey, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first ten months of the year rose by 37% to around 47 100. The increase at the sea border was lower.  The largest number of migrants on this route so far this year were nationals of Syria and Iraq, although for the second consecutive month Afghans accounted for the most monthly arrivals.

Central Mediterranean – The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route in October fell to about 800, down 87% from October 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first nine months of 2018 fell to roughly 21 600, 81% lower than a year ago. So far this year, Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for more than one-third of all the detected migrants there. They were trailed by nationals of Sudan, Pakistan and Nigeria….”

See also IOM: “IOM … reports that 103,347 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 14 November. Spain topped 50,440 – more irregular arrivals to Spain through 45 weeks of 2018 than all arrivals during the past three years combined. This marks the fifth straight year arrivals of irregular migrants and refugees have topped the 100,000 mark, although this year’s totals are low compared to those at this time in 2017 (156,708) and 2016 (343,158).  For these first two weeks of November irregular sea arrivals to Spain (2,039) continue to at least double the pace of those to Greece (958) and Italy (487). While flows from Africa to Italy remain low by recent standards, irregular sea migration between Turkey and Greece has been getting busier.”

Amnesty International public statement: “Libya: EU’s Patchwork Policy Has Failed to Protect the Human Rights of Refugees and Migrants”

Amnesty International issued a Public Statement on 12 November – excerpts: “Since late 2016, EU Member States – particularly Italy – have implemented a series of measures to close off the migratory routes through Libya and across the Mediterranean, including boosting the capacity of Libyan maritime authorities, in particular the Libyan Coast Guard, to intercept migrants and refugees and bring them back to Libya. These measures – together with deals negotiated by Italy with local authorities and militias in key smuggling cities, the criminalization of NGOs carrying out search and rescue operations at sea and the imposition of a new policy by Italy to refuse disembarkation to people rescued in the high seas – have reduced the numbers of people arriving in Italy, with only 22,232 arriving so far in 2018 compared to the 114,415 who arrived over the same period in 2017, according to data published by the Italian Ministry of Interior.”

“With these measures, European governments have largely achieved their objective of blocking refugees and migrants from crossing into Europe via the central Mediterranean route. However, these policies have in turn left thousands of refugees and migrants to languish in Libya without regular status, either in detention or living undocumented in the shadows, at risk of violence and exploitation by armed groups. They have also damaged the integrity of the overall search and rescue system, increasing the death rate among people engaging in the sea crossing….”

“Amnesty International also urges the EU and its member states to immediately reset their co-operation with Libya on migration, focusing on protecting the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants rather than on their containment in the country. In particular, until Libyan authorities can assert real effective control on the ground and guarantee the protection of the human rights of refugees and migrants in accordance to their legal obligations, no assistance must be offered that may result in further human rights violations and further perpetuate the cycle of violence towards refugees and migrants. Instead, the focus with every effort should be made to help those still languishing in the country to be offered safety in another country….”

“Amnesty International makes the following specific recommendations to EU Governments and Institutions:

  • Reset all co-operation with Libya on migration – in the form of financial, institutional, material, policy and/or capacity support – focusing it on the priority of protecting the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in the country.
  • Make continuing cooperation with the Libyan authorities on migration conditional on concrete and verifiable steps in the areas indicated in the previous section, and specifically towards the prompt release of all refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants being arbitrarily detained and the end of the system of automatic detention; the full and formal recognition of UNHCR; the establishment of adequate human rights monitoring and accountability mechanisms; and the adoption and enactment of new legislation, providing for the decriminalization of irregular entry, stay and exit and ensuring the creation of an asylum system.
  • Open safe and regular routes into Europe, in particular by offering a meaningful number of places for resettlement and alternative pathways to protection to the thousands of people in need of protection and stranded in Libya, and by reviewing migration policies with a view to facilitate regular pathways for would-be migrants. In order to ensure that a bottleneck does not hinder the evacuation from detention for refugees, also take urgent steps to expedite the resettlement process.
  • Ensure that an adequate number of vessels with search and rescue as their primary purpose are deployed along the routes taken by boats carrying refugees and migrants, including near Libyan territorial waters, and refrain from transferring to Libyan authorities the coordination of Search and Rescue operations.
  • Ensure that NGOs can continue to contribute to rescuing refugees and migrants at sea, limit any cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard to cases where their intervention is essential to prevent immediate loss of life and make it conditional on measures to mitigate against the risks of disembarkation in Libya.
  • Refrain from setting policies that expand the use of detention for refugees and migrants and outsource border control responsibilities to countries outside Europe.”

The Administrative Arrangement between Greece and Germany on asylum-seekers

Via Statewatch: “The Administrative Arrangement between Ministry of migration Policy of the Hellenic Republic and the Federal Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Germany has been implemented already to four known cases. It has been the product of bilateral negotiations that occurred after German Chancellor Merkel faced another political crisis at home regarding the handling of the refugee issue. The document which has been the product of undisclosed negotiations and has not been made public upon its conclusion is a brief description of the cooperation of Greek and German authorities in cases of refusal of entry to persons seeking protection in the context of temporary checks at the internal German-Austrian border, as defined in its title. It essentially is a fast track implementation of return procedures in cases for which Dublin Regulation already lays down specific rules and procedures. The procedures provided in the ‘Arrangement’ skip all legal safeguards and guarantees of European Legislation.

RSA and PRO ASYL have decided to publicize the document of the Arrangement for the purpose of serving public interest and transparency.”

Commentary on the Administrative Arrangement via the European Database of Asylum Law website by Stathis Poularakis, Legal advisor – Advocacy Officer Médecins du Monde – Greece here.

Standoff continues – 81 rescued migrants refuse to disembark from merchant ship in Libya

From the Guardian:  Eighty-one migrants have refused to disembark from a merchant ship off the coast of Misrata in Libya, according to reports.  The migrants were rescued by the ship’s crew a week ago on 10 November, 115 miles east of Tripoli, after leaving Libya on a raft.

Fourteen people decided to leave the cargo ship and were transferred to Libya, while the remaining 81 have refused to disembark in Misrata for fear of being sent back to Libyan detention camps.  ‘I prefer to die on this ship,’ one of the migrants told Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) when offered to be transferred to a Libyan medical facility.

MSF’s Twitter account stated that ‘others aboard the ship, including minors, had been imprisoned and tortured for over a year at the hands of human traffickers’. ‘It’s a shame that once again the only response given to people in search of safety is prolonged arbitrary detention in the country they desperately attempt to leave,’ said Julien Raickman, the MSF head of mission in Libya….”

Desperation builds in Libyan migrant detention centres

By Sally Haden in The Irish Times:  “A young Eritrean man tried to take his own life in a Libyan migrant detention centre on Monday, three weeks after a Somali man died by suicide in the same centre, according to detainees who found him there. The Eritrean man’s attempt highlights the growing desperation among refugees and migrants returned to Libya, under EU policies aimed at stopping migration to Europe….”

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New EUNAVFOR MED Sophia disembarkation policy under consideration – would end practice of disembarkations in Italy

According to Italian media reports (here, here, and here), the European External Action Service has presented a proposal to the Political and Security Committee to change EUNAVFOR MED’s disembarkation practices.  EUNAVFOR MED’s current mandate expires in December. The proposed change would allow the relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to decide where rescued migrants are to be disembarked and would require new criteria to be considered, including the circumstances of the rescue, the need for EUNAVFOR MED vessels to resume their mission, and principles of efficiency and speed. As a last resort, the proposal would require the country of the MRCC to make available one of its ports for disembarkation, provided that an immediate screening of migrants is organized and an expeditious redistribution of disembarked asylum seekers to other states occurs.

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