Category Archives: General

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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Statewatch’s EU MED Crisis web page

Statewatch is publishing a dedicated web page, Statewatch Observatory: EU MED crisis – a humanitarian emergency: “This Observatory covers the arrival of migrants and the reactions and failures within the EU (both governmental and within communities) News and Official documents and commentaries (coming soon) Edited by Tony Bunyan.”

Recent postings:

September 2015

+EU: HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: Council of the European Union encouraging MS to use more entry bans (dated 8 September 2015): Draft Council Conclusions on alerts in the SIS for the purpose of refusing entry and stay pursuant to Article 24 of the SIS II Regulation upon a return decision (doc no: 11648-15, pdf). The document notes:

“At its meeting on 25 and 26 June 2015, the European Council concluded that “Member States will fully implement the Return Directive, making full use of all measures it provides to ensure the swift return of irregular migrants; return decisions issued by the Member States will be introduced in the Schengen Information System” [emphasis added]
The Council wants a “new legislative package” but in “short-term” want to use a “soft law” (non-binding, but enabling) set of Council “Conclusions” and:

“The Permanent Representatives Committee is invited to confirm agreement on the draft Council Conclusions as set out in the Annex and to submit them to the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) on 14 September 2015 for adoption as an A point.”
Statewatch notes that: “A Points” are nodded through without debate.

+EU: Council of the European Union: Migration: EU action and state of play (dated 9 September 2015, LIMITE doc no: 11782-15, pdf) including:

(8) those “claiming for asylum have to be immediately channelled into an asylum procedure relying on the EASO support teams. Registration and fingerprinting of migrants have to be closely linked to effective return policies for those who do not need protection. Frontex will help Member States by coordinating the return of irregular migrants.

(9) The deficiencies of the current system of fingerprinting, whereby incoming migrants claiming asylum cannot be forced to give their fingerprints, should be addressed by fully using or eventually amending relevant asylum legislation. In the meantime, the guidelines to facilitate the systematic taking of fingerprints as agreed by Member States should be followed thoroughly, including, if necessary, through the application of Article 15 of the Return Directive on detention.” and notes that Stage 2 of EUNAVFOR is ready and:

“the next phase of the operation, focusing on conducting boarding, search, seizure and diversion on the high seas of vessels suspected of being used for human
smuggling or trafficking”

Statewatch comments: It is not clear that the Council is aware, despite the Stage 1 intelligence-gathering, that only refugees are in the boats crossing into Greece from Turkey and that the motorised rubber-dinghies are destroyed after everyone is safely ashore.

[***]

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Statement by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Refugee Crisis in Europe

Full text of Statement by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Refugee Crisis in Europe:

Geneva, 4 September 2015

STATEMENT BY UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES, ANTÓNIO GUTERRES ON REFUGEE CRISIS IN EUROPE

The European Union is preparing key emergency meetings to take decisions in its response to the present refugee and migration crisis. The situation requires a massive common effort that is not possible with the current fragmented approach. Europe is facing its biggest refugee influx in decades. More than 300,000 people have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far this year. Over 2,600 didn’t survive the dangerous crossing, including three-year-old Aylan, whose photo has just stirred the hearts of the world public. After arriving on Europe’s shores and borders, they continue their journey – facing chaos and suffering indignity, exploitation and danger at borders and along the way. The selfless generosity of private citizens and civil society organizations reaching out to welcome and help the new arrivals is truly inspiring. And there has been exemplary political and moral leadership from a number of countries. But overall, Europe has failed to find an effective common response, and people have suffered as a result. To address this untenable situation, we all must keep in mind a number of fundamental points:

  1. This is a primarily refugee crisis, not only a migration phenomenon. The vast majority of those arriving in Greece come from conflict zones like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan and are simply running for their lives. All people on the move in these tragic circumstances deserve to see their human rights and dignity fully respected, independently of their legal status. But we cannot forget the particular responsibility all states have vis a vis refugees, in accordance with international law.
  2. Europe cannot go on responding to this crisis with a piecemeal or incremental approach. No country can do it alone, and no country can refuse to do its part. It is no surprise that, when a system is unbalanced and dysfunctional, everything gets blocked when the pressure mounts. This is a defining moment for the European Union, and it now has no other choice but to mobilize full force around this crisis. The only way to solve this problem is for the Union and all member states to implement a common strategy, based on responsibility, solidarity and trust.
  3. Concretely, this means taking urgent and courageous measures to stabilize the situation and then finding a way to truly share responsibility in the mid to longer term. The EU must be ready, with the consent and in support of the concerned governments – mainly Greece and Hungary, but also Italy – to put in place immediate and adequate emergency reception, assistance and registration capacity. The European Commission should mobilize the EU asylum, migration and civil protection agencies and mechanisms for this purpose, including the resources of member states and with the support of UNHCR, IOM and civil society. From our side, UNHCR is fully committed to step up its efforts. It is essential that refugee families that disembark in Europe after having lost everything are welcomed into a safe and caring environment.
  4. People who are found to have a valid protection claim in this initial screening must then benefit from a mass relocation programme, with the mandatory participation of all EU member states. A very preliminary estimate would indicate a potential need to increase relocation opportunities to as many as 200,000 places. This can only work if it goes hand in hand with adequate reception capacities, especially in Greece. Solidarity cannot be the responsibility of only a few EU member states.
  5. Those who are found not to be in need of international protection and who cannot benefit from legal migration opportunities should be helped to return quickly to their home countries, in full respect of their human rights.
  6. The only ones who benefit from the lack of a common European response are the smugglers and traffickers who are making profit from people’s desperation to reach safety. More effective international cooperation is required to crack down on smugglers, including those operating inside the EU, but in ways that allow for the victims to be protected. But none of these efforts will be effective without opening up more opportunities for people to come legally to Europe and find safety upon arrival. Thousands of refugee parents are risking the lives of their children on unsafe smuggling boats primarily because they have no other choice. European countries – as well as governments in other regions – must make some fundamental changes to allow for larger resettlement and humanitarian admission quotas, expanded visa and sponsorship programmes, scholarships and other ways to enter Europe legally. Crucially, family reunification has to become a real, accessible option for many more people than is currently the case. If these mechanisms are expanded and made more efficient, we can reduce the number of those who are forced to risk their lives at sea for lack of alternative options.

Beyond the immediate response, it is clear that this situation will require us to reflect seriously about the future. This massive flow of people will not stop until the root causes of their plight are addressed. Much more must be done to prevent conflicts and stop the ongoing wars that are driving so many from their homes. The countries neighbouring war zones, which shelter 9 in 10 refugees worldwide, must be supported more strongly, along with the funding required. At the same time, it is also essential that development cooperation policies are reoriented with the objective of giving people the opportunity to have a future in their own countries.

Europe is facing a moment of truth. This is the time to reaffirm the values upon which it was built.

News contacts:

UNHCR Headquarters, Switzerland

Melissa Fleming: +41 79 557 9122

Adrian Edwards: +41 79 557 9120

William Spindler: +41 79 217 3011

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NATO Ready to Assist EU With Anti-Smuggler Operations in Libya if Requested

ANSA reports that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO will consider any EU request for assistance in regard to EU military operations against smugglers in Libya: “’Let’s let the EU take its own decisions,’ Stoltenberg said amid mooted plans to destroy people-smuggler boats. …’If the EU makes requests of us we will consider them seriously, but so far it hasn’t,’ Stoltenberg said. According to Reuters, “U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute “said information-sharing between NATO and the EU could be possible. Accurate intelligence pinpointing smugglers’ vessels would be key to the success of the operation.”

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Frontex Prepared to Immediately Expand Air Surveillance

Frontex Press Statement:

“Frontex is looking forward to implement the conclusions of the European Council to be held this afternoon in Brussels and has already started preparing the implementation of the Home Affairs/Foreign Affairs Council held in Luxemburg on Monday, 20 April, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said.

‘My proposal is to increase as an immediate step air surveillance in the Mediterranean Sea south of Italy and Malta in addition to the vessels currently deployed, which is aimed at enhancing search and rescue capacities in the area,’ Leggeri said.

Leggeri has suggested increasing the aerial assets taking part in the Frontex-coordinated Triton operation also following two incidents when people smugglers have used weapons to reclaim boats following search and rescue operations in which vessels taking part in Triton were involved.

‘Assets co-funded by the agency have helped save thousands of lives in the Mediterranean. Frontex will continue within its mandate to do everything it can to fulfil this responsibility,’ Leggeri said.”

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US Accidentally Kills Italian and American Hostages in Carefully Targeted Surgical Drone Strike; EU Poised to Approve “Surgical” Military Strikes in Libya to Save Migrants

President Obama admitted today that the US had accidentally killed two Al Qaeda hostages, an Italian and an American, in a drone strike earlier this year. Obama said that before the military strike was authorised the US had conducted “hundreds of hours of surveillance on an al-Qaeda compound that led officials to believe there were no civilians present.”Giovanni Lo Porto and Warren Weinstein were killed in January. The information was only made public today.

The European Council’s pending approval of “surgical” and carefully planned strikes in Libya on boats that could be used by people smugglers, if approved and carried out, will in all likelihood result in the killing of innocent persons as today’s admission by Obama demonstrates.

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UNHCR Calls on Countries to Protect Syrian Refugees and Ensure Access to Territory; Syrians are Now Largest Nationality Using Sea Routes to Reach Italy

In a statement made earlier today, UNHCR noted the “growing numbers of Syrians seeking safety in Europe” and expressed its concern “about severe difficulties these displaced people face during their passage and at borders. This includes the risk of drowning at sea and incidents where Syrians have been dangerously hindered in their journeys.”

UNHCR estimates that 6,233 Syrians have arrived in Italy by boat since August compared with about 350 in all of 2012. Earlier this week the Italian Interior Ministry reported that Syrians are now the largest nationality arriving in Italy; so far in 2013, approximately 25,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by boat, of these 9,805 were Syrian, 8,843 Eritrean, 3,140 Somali, 1,058 from Mali, and 879 Afghan.  The Interior Ministry believes the majority departed from Libyan territory. (The Italian Ministry’s statistics vary from the UNHCR’s statistics but both sets of statistics confirm the increasing numbers of Syrians.)

Excerpts from the UNHCR statement:

There are “growing numbers of Syrians trying to cross the Mediterranean from Egypt to Italy because of anxiety about their security. Many mention physical assaults, verbal threats, detention and deportation. The Egyptian government estimates that some 250,000 to 300,000 Syrians currently reside in Egypt, of whom more than 122,000 are registered with UNHCR.”

There are an “increasing number of unaccompanied children making the voyage…. As the cost of travel can range from U$2,000-US$5,000 per person, some families opt to send their children alone or with relatives or friends.”

“UNHCR notes with concern that over 800 Syrians have been arrested in Egypt since August for attempting to illegally depart and 144, including 44 children, have been deported to third countries. …Although charges have not been laid, approximately 589 Syrians remain in administrative detention, including women and 84 children. UNHCR is seeking access to the detained in order to properly verify numbers, conditions, and needs, or provide legal assistance.”

“UNHCR is calling [on the EU and other partners] for a number of measures to prevent further tragedies and increase responsibility sharing.  UNHCR calls upon states beyond Syria’s immediate region to explore concrete and meaningful ways of expressing solidarity, notably with a view to sharing the immense burden and protection responsibilities currently being assumed by the countries neighbouring Syria and its vicinity, such as Egypt. Warning signs in some hosting countries testify to the potentially destabilizing impact of the Syrian refugee influx that aggravates the already severe political, security, and economic repercussions of the Syria conflict.”

Click here for full UNHCR statement.

Click here for ANSA article.

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