Category Archives: General

Monthly SAR activity in Central Mediterranean, by type of rescuer (through April 2017)

2017-04_Guardia Costiera SAR Statistics_from 2016-01_CHART

Source: Guardia Costiera; Excel spreadsheet with data: 2017-04_Guardia Costiera SAR statistics and FRONTEX statistics from 2016-Jan

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More than 30 people dead after falling from migrant boat during SAR operation off Libya

From the Guardian: “More than 30 people have drowned after about 200 people fell from an overcrowded migrant boat off the coast of Libya, the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea…..” Photo from MOAS.eu.

Source: moas.eu all rights reserved

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Amnesty International: Italy may be circumventing obligation to protect persons by facilitating interception of migrant boats by Libya

AI Public Statement: “Amnesty International is deeply concerned that Italian authorities may be attempting to circumvent their obligation to protect people fleeing widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses in Libya by facilitating the interception of refugees and migrant boats by Libyan authorities in the central Mediterranean.

On 10 May 2017 a request for assistance from a refugees and migrant boat to the Italian coastguard resulted in a Libyan coastguard vessel intercepting the boat in distress in international waters and returning up to 500 people to face illegal detention, torture, rape, inhuman and degrading treatment and other grave abuses in Libya.  The incident represented an extremely worrying departure from the procedures so far applied to search and rescue operations of refugees and migrants in the central Mediterranean. …. Read full statement.

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Monthly SAR activity in Central Mediterranean, by type of rescuer (through March 2017)

2017-03_Guardia Costiera SAR Statistics_from 2016-01_CHARTSource: Guardia Costiera; Excel spreadsheet with data: 2017-03_Guardia Costiera SAR statistics and FRONTEX statistics from 2016-Jan

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by | 14 May 2017 · 20:34

Boats 4 People publishes information guide for families of migrants who die or go missing while crossing Central Mediterranean

From FIDH:  “Boats 4 People published an information guide for the families of migrants –and their supporters- who died or went missing while crossing the Central Mediterranean sea on their way to Italy. According to the UNHCR since 2014, more than 12 000 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea during their migration to Europe, 5 022 of them in the year 2016 alone. Most of them remain ‘non-identified’. … The document produced by Boats 4 People about the Italian process to establish the identity of the dead or missing, is the result of nearly 2 years of gathering information from institutional bodies, associations, activists, researchers and practitioners. It has been designed as an implementation step-by-step guide for the families and their supporters, given the indifference of the European countries about migrants’ fate. For these countries, dead migrants are only entitled to being counted and reported for statistics purposes.”

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Mogherini : EU actions are responsible for significant reduction in migrants transiting Niger to Libya

EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini yesterday said that EU actions in Niger, “where more than 80% of the [migrant] flows [to Libya] transit”, have been responsible for a significant reduction in the number of persons reaching Libya:  “I can tell you one number that will strike you probably – in the last 9 months through [EU] action with Niger, we moved from 76 000 migrants passing through Niger into Libya to 6 000.”

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Libya Has Refused “International Requests” to Conduct Military Strikes Against Libyan Militias Engaged in Migrant Smuggling

An April 29th Libya Herald article by Sami Zaptia reported comments made by Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala (Presidency Council / Government of National Accord – PC/GNA) “that Libya has received ‘‘international requests’’ to carry out ‘military strikes within Libya against militias’ engaged in smuggling illegal migrants” and that Libya had refused the requests.

The article does not indicate who made the requests, but the requests probably came from the EU on behalf of the EUNAVFOR MED operation and stemmed from its mandate to disrupt, capture, or dispose of vessels or assets used by smugglers.

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Libyan Coastguard Vessel – in Coordination with Italian SAR Authority – Intercepts Migrant Boat in International Waters and Returns 500 Migrants to Libya; de facto Push-Back

A Libyan coastguard vessel yesterday intercepted a large migrant boat in international waters and returned the approximately 500 migrants to Libya. This incident is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it may represent the first such interception/rescue operation by Libya in international waters in recent years. Second, the Libyan vessel may have been one of coastguard vessels recently donated by Italy and whose personnel have been trained by the EUNAVFOR MED operation, though this is not clear. And third, an NGO rescue vessel operated by Sea-Watch was responding to the migrant vessel and beginning SAR operations, but according to press reports, the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre , directed the Libyan coastguard to assume “on-scene command.”  The result of this was the return of the migrants to Libya.  While this was perhaps not technically a “push-back” operation, the effect is the same. The orders issued by the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre determined where the intercepted/migrants would be taken.

The Libyan coastguard vessel also apparently almost collided with the NGO vessel.

2017-05-10_Sea Watch Vessel and Libya Coastguard Vessel

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NATO Expands Aegean Sea Migrant Patrols Into Turkish and Greek Territorial Waters – Rescued Migrants to Be Automatically Returned to Turkey

NATO announced on Sunday, 6 March, that its Aegean Sea patrols have been expanded to Greek and Turkish territorial waters. NATO patrols have been operating only in international waters. And while NATO says its ‘mission is not to stop or turn back those trying to cross into Europe’, NATO has made it clear that NATO ships will return rescued migrants directly to Turkey: ‘In case of rescue at sea of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey.’ NATO’s plan to summarily return intercepted migrants is consistent with previous statements made by the British and German defence ministers who have said that the purpose of the NATO mission is to stop migrants and return them to Turkey.

NATO’s characterisation of its operation seems to be an attempt to draw a distinction between a push-back practice where any migrant boat, regardless of whether it is in need of rescue, would be intercepted and pushed back and a search and rescue operation providing assistance to migrant boats in need of rescue. This is meaningless distinction given the current situation in the Aegean where every migrant boat is in need of assistance or rescue.

NATO ships are subject to the same rescue at sea obligations imposed by the SOLAS and SAR Conventions as all other ships and are obligated to disembark rescued persons in a ‘place of safety.’ And while disembarking in Turkey is safer than disembarking in Syria or Libya, there are serious questions as to whether Turkey is a place of safety. See the recent Q&A issued by Human Rights Watch concluding that Turkey is not a ‘safe third country’ as defined by EU law. While the question of a ‘place of safety’ under the SAR Convention is not identical to the ‘safe third country’ question under EU law, the fact remains that rescued migrants should not in all cases be automatically returned to Turkey without adequate screening and processing. The failure to screen rescued migrants is a clear violation of the non-refoulement obligations of the individual EU and non-EU States operating under the NATO command.

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UN Security Council Resolution 2240: Authorizing Member States to Intercept Vessels off Libyan Coast Suspected of Migrant Smuggling

Official text here.

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Text (unofficial) of UN Security Council Resolution 2240: Authorizing Member States to Intercept Vessels off Libyan Coast Suspected of Migrant Smuggling

Here is the unofficial text of S/Res/2240 (2015) via the UN Security Council – Meetings Coverage. The official text will appear here (under embargo – not yet posted). For information media. Not an official record.

The Security Council,

“Recalling its press statement of 21 April on the maritime tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea,

“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya,

“Recalling that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, sets out the legal framework applicable to activities in the ocean,

“Reaffirming also the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC Convention) and its Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea, as the primary international legal instruments to combat the smuggling of migrants and related conduct, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UNTOC Convention, as the primary international legal instruments to combat trafficking in persons,

“Underlining that, although the crime of smuggling of migrants may share, in some cases, some common features with the crime of trafficking in persons, Member States need to recognise that they are distinct crimes, as defined by the UNTOC Convention and its Protocols, requiring differing legal, operational, and policy responses,

“Deploring the continuing maritime tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea that have resulted in hundreds of casualties, and noting with concern that such casualties were, in some cases, the result of exploitation and misinformation by transnational criminal organisations which facilitated the illegal smuggling of migrants via dangerous methods for personal gain and with callous disregard for human life,

“Expressing grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, in particular off the coast of Libya and recognizing that among these migrants may be persons who meet the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto,

“Emphasizing in this respect that migrants, including asylum-seekers and regardless of their migration status, should be treated with humanity and dignity and that their rights should be fully respected, and urging all States in this regard to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law, as applicable, stressing also the obligation of States, where applicable, to protect the human rights of migrants regardless of their migration status, including when implementing their specific migration and border security policies,

“Reaffirming in this respect the need to promote and protect effectively the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migration status, especially those of women and children, and to address international migration through international, regional or bilateral cooperation and dialogue and through a comprehensive and balanced approach, recognizing the roles and responsibilities of countries of origin, transit and destination in promoting and protecting the human rights of all migrants, and avoiding approaches that might aggravate their vulnerability,

“Further recalling the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue,

“Expressing further concern that the situation in Libya is exacerbated by the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory, which could provide support to other organised crime and terrorist networks in Libya,

“Mindful of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the Charter of the United Nations,

“Underlining the primary responsibility of the Libyan Government to take appropriate action to prevent the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking through the territory of Libya and its territorial sea,

“Mindful of the need to support further efforts to strengthen Libyan border management, considering the difficulties of the Libyan Government to manage effectively the migratory flows in transit through Libyan territory, and noting its concern for the repercussions of this phenomenon on the stability of Libya and of the Mediterranean region,

“Welcoming support already provided by the most concerned Member States, including Member States of the European Union (EU), taking into account inter alia the role of FRONTEX and the specific mandate of EUBAM Libya in support of the Libyan Government, and by neighbouring States,

“Acknowledging the European Council statement of 23 April 2015 and the press statement of the African Union Peace and Security Council of 27 April, which underlined the need for effective international action to address both the immediate and long-term aspects of human trafficking towards Europe,

“Taking note of the Decision of the Council of the European Union of 18 May 2015 setting up ‘EUNAVFOR Med’ which underlined the need for effective international action to address both the immediate and long-term aspects of migrant smuggling and human trafficking towards Europe,

“Taking further note of the ongoing discussions between the EU and the Libyan Government on migration related issues,

“Expressing also strong support to the States in the region affected by the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking, and emphasizing the need to step up coordination of efforts in order to strengthen an effective multidimensional response to these common challenges in the spirit of international solidarity and shared responsibility, to tackle their root causes and to prevent people from being exploited by migrant smugglers and human traffickers,

“Acknowledging the need to assist States in the region, upon request, in the development of comprehensive and integrated regional and national strategies, legal frameworks, and institutions to counter terrorism, transnational organised crime, migrant smuggling, and human trafficking, including mechanisms to implement them within the framework of States’ obligations under applicable international law,

“Stressing that addressing both migrant smuggling and human trafficking, including dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks in the region and prosecuting migrant smugglers, and human traffickers requires a coordinated, multidimensional approach with States of origin, of transit, and of destination, and further acknowledging the need to develop effective strategies to deter migrant smuggling and human trafficking in States of origin and transit,

“Emphasizing that migrants should be treated with humanity and dignity and that their rights should be fully respected, and urging all States in this regard to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law, as applicable,

“Bearing in mind the obligations of States under applicable international law to exercise due diligence to prevent and combat migrant smuggling and human trafficking, to investigate and punish

perpetrators, to identify and provide effective assistance to victims of trafficking and migrants and to cooperate to the fullest extent possible to prevent and suppress migrant smuggling and human trafficking,

“Affirming the necessity to put an end to the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and trafficking of persons in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, and, for these specific purposes, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

“1. Condemns all acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory and off the coast of Libya, which undermine further the process of stabilisation of Libya and endanger the lives of thousands of people;

“2. Calls on Member States acting nationally or through regional organisations, including the EU, to assist Libya, upon request, in building needed capacity including to secure its borders and to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of smuggling of migrants and human trafficking through its territory and in its territorial sea; in order to prevent the further proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking into, through and from the territory of Libya and off its coast;

“3. Urges Member States and regional organisations, in the spirit of international solidarity and shared responsibility, to cooperate with the Libyan Government, and with each other, including by sharing information about acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking in Libya’s territorial sea and on the high seas off the coast of Libya, and rendering assistance to migrants and victims of human trafficking recovered at sea, in accordance with international law;

“4. Urges States and regional organisations whose naval vessels and aircraft operate on the high seas and airspace off the coast of Libya, to be vigilant for acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking, and in this context, encourages States and regional organisations to increase and coordinate their efforts to deter acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking, in cooperation with Libya;

“5. Calls upon Member States acting nationally or through regional organisations that are engaged in the fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking to inspect, as permitted under international law, on the high seas off the coast of Libya, any unflagged vessels that they have reasonable grounds to believe have been, are being, or imminently will be used by organised criminal enterprises for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya, including inflatable boats, rafts and dinghies;

“6. Further calls upon such Member States to inspect, with the consent of the flag State, on the high seas off the coast of Libya, vessels that they have reasonable grounds to believe have been, are being, or imminently will be used by organised criminal enterprises for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya;

“7. Decides, with a view to saving the threatened lives of migrants or of victims of human trafficking on board such vessels as mentioned above, to authorise, in these exceptional and specific circumstances, for a period of one year from the date of the adoption of this resolution, Member States, acting nationally or through regional organisations that are engaged in the fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking, to inspect on the high seas off the coast of Libya vessels that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya, provided that such Member States and regional organisations make good faith efforts to obtain the consent of the vessel’s flag State prior to using the authority outlined in this paragraph;

“8. Decides to authorise for a period of one year from the date of the adoption of this resolution, Member States acting nationally or through regional organisations to seize vessels inspected under the authority of paragraph 7 that are confirmed as being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya, and underscores that further action with regard to such vessels inspected under the authority of paragraph 7, including disposal, will be taken in accordance with applicable international law with due consideration of the interests of any third parties who have acted in good faith;

“9. Calls upon all flag States involved to cooperate with respect to efforts under paragraphs 7 and 8, and decides that Member States acting nationally or through regional organisations under the authority of those paragraphs shall keep flag States informed of actions taken with respect to their vessels, and calls upon flag States that receive such requests to review and respond to them in a rapid and timely manner;

“10. Decides to authorise Member States acting nationally or through regional organisations to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances in confronting migrant smugglers or human traffickers in carrying out activities under paragraphs 7 and 8 and in full compliance with international human rights law, as applicable, underscores that the authorizations in paragraph 7 and 8 do not apply with respect to vessels entitled to sovereign immunity under international law, and calls upon Member States and regional organisations carrying out activities under paragraphs 7, 8 and this paragraph, to provide for the safety of persons on board as an utmost priority and to avoid causing harm to the marine environment or to the safety of navigation;

“11. Affirms that the authorisations provided in paragraphs 7 and 8 apply only with respect to the situation of migrant smuggling and human trafficking on the high seas off the coast of Libya and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of Member States under international law, including any rights or obligations under UNCLOS, including the general principle of exclusive jurisdiction of a flag State over its vessels on the high seas, with respect to any other situation, and further affirms that the authorisation provided in paragraph 10 applies only in confronting migrant smugglers and human traffickers on the high seas off the coast of Libya;

“12. Underscores that this resolution is intended to disrupt the organised criminal enterprises engaged in migrant smuggling and human trafficking and prevent loss of life and is not intended to undermine the human rights of individuals or prevent them from seeking protection under international human rights law and international refugee law;

“13. Emphasises that all migrants, including asylum-seekers, should be treated with humanity and dignity and that their rights should be fully respected, and urges all States in this regard to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law, as applicable;

“14. Urges Member States and regional organisations acting under the authority of this resolution to have due regard for the livelihoods of those engaged in fishing or other legitimate activities;

“15. Calls upon all States, with relevant jurisdiction under international law and national legislation, to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for acts of migrant smuggling and human trafficking at sea, consistent with States’ obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law, as applicable;

“16. Calls for Member States to consider ratifying or acceding to, and for States Parties to effectively implement the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and as well as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children;

“17. Requests States utilising the authority of this resolution to inform the Security Council within three months of the date of adoption of this resolution and every three months thereafter on the progress of actions undertaken in exercise of the authority provided in paragraphs 7 to 10 above;

“18. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council eleven months after the adoption of this resolution on its implementation, in particular with regards to the implementation of paragraphs 7 to 10 above;

“19. Expresses its intention to review the situation and consider, as appropriate, renewing the authority provided in this resolution for additional periods;

“20. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

For information media. Not an official record.

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Updated / Conflicting Reports Re: Alleged Leader of Major Libyan People Smuggling Operation Killed in Tripoli: Libyan GNC Government Official (Tripoli) Accuses Italy of Responsibility for Killing

Updated:  there are conflicting reports regarding the incident; see report from Migrant Report that Maskhout is alive.

The Guardian and other media report that Salah al-Maskhout, the alleged leader of a major human smuggling operation, and eight other men, were shot dead in a shootout that occurred on Friday in Zuwara.  According to the Guardian, “[t]he skill with which the hit was carried out – with the killers reportedly firing handguns against the Libyans’ Kalashnikovs – has raised speculation that Maskhout may have been targeted by foreign agents…. The president of Libya’s [GNC] congress [based in Tripoli], Nuri Abu Sahmain, issued a statement following Maskhout’s death in which he blamed Italian special forces for the attack.” The Libya Herald reported that “[t]here have been suggestions that the attackers, who have not been identified, had initially aimed to seize Maskhout. However, the gunmen, none of whom were killed in the shootout, seem to have been professionals.” According to the Guardian, Italian and NATO officials have denied any involvement. Additional details here via RAI News.

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NY Times: Russia Resisting EU Request for Tough U.N. Anti-Smuggling Step

New York Times: “A European bid to obtain Security Council approval for a military operation against boats suspected of human smuggling on the Mediterranean Sea is running into opposition from Russia, which wants to ensure that it cannot be used to justify a broader military intervention, diplomats here said. … [Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that any resolution needs to be focused.] Mr. Churkin said that he wanted to ensure such a resolution did not set a precedent, and that he would not consent to the entire resolution’s being under Chapter VII, which authorizes potential military action….”
Full article here.

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UN Security Council is Again Discussing Resolution to Authorise EU Use of Force Against Migrant Vessels

What’s in Blue and the New York Times report that “it appears that EU [Security] Council members are currently discussing with non-EU P5 members a draft resolution authorising EU NAVFOR Med to intercept boats used by human trafficking networks on the high seas of the Mediterranean.”

NY Times: The resolution “would authorize military action on a specific route on the high seas from the coast of Libya north to Italy. The proposal is a significant step down from what the European leaders originally wanted: the Council’s blessing to conduct military operations along the Libyan coast, on land and water, to seize and disrupt the smugglers. …  According to one Security Council diplomat, the resolution would allow for boats to be seized and for the people on board to be taken to Italy, where the authorities would determine who among them might be eligible for asylum because they were fleeing war or persecution….”

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Der Spiegel: What Juncker’s quota system would look like.

Der Spiegel: A Continent Adrift: Juncker Proposes Fixes to EU’s Broken Asylum Policies. Graphic: What Juncker’s quota system would look like.

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