Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Development in a statement welcomed the European Commission’s “European Agenda on Migration” but “urge[d] [EU] Member States not to put any refugees or migrants in the line of fire, and to design any [anti-smuggling] operation in complete conformity with international law.” Sutherland urged the EU to take steps to ensure that Frontex Operations Triton and Poseidon “are at least equal in effect to Mare Nostrum” and “to make search-and-rescue the top priority…”
Category Archives: Statements
HR/VP Mogherini’s remarks earlier today to the Security Council contained very few details on the EU proposal to engage in “systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers in accordance with international law.” Here is one excerpt from her remarks:
“[M]y presence here at the Security Council today is so important for us. We have in these weeks prepared for a possible naval operation in the framework of the European Union Common Security and Defence Policy. The mandate of this operation is currently being elaborated with the EU Member States in Brussels, and will be discussed by the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, in a week from now, in exactly a week from now on 18 May, with a possibility of taking decisions, the first decisions already. We want to work with the United Nations, in particular with the UNSC. …”
Full text here.
German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) Criticises Growing Reliance on Merchant Vessels to Conduct Mediterranean Sea Rescue – Calls for Expansion of SAR Boundaries
Ralf Nagel, the Chief Executive Officer of the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR), last week called on Germany to deploy Navy vessels outside of the Frontex Triton operation zone and closer to the coast of Libya where private merchant ships are often the first to encounter migrant boats in distress. At least two German Navy ships were in Crete last week waiting for deployment instructions. “Deploying the [German] Navy in that part of the Mediterranean would not only send a strong political signal to Brussels, it would also be an important message for the shipping industry, which is doing all it can. And above all else: it would save the lives of innumerable refugees. Rescuing people at sea ought to be the responsibility of navy and coast guard vessels as a rule. … [W]e therefore demand that the boundaries within which maritime rescues are conducted by government forces be expanded beyond the Triton zone.”
According to the Frontex Annual Risk Analysis 2015, private merchant ships have been conducting an ever increasing number of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. In December 2014, merchant vessels accounted for just under 40% of the SAR operations. (See graph below map.)
UN Security Council President on Mediterranean Migrant Crisis: It’s Not About Protecting Europe; It’s About Protecting the Refugees.
After meetings on Tuesday this week between HRVP Federica Mogherini and the current UN Security Council President, Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar (Lithuania assumes the Presidency of the Security Council on 1 May), the AP reported that “diplomats are warning that United Nations backing for any European Union plan to address the growing Mediterranean migration crisis could take longer than anyone wants.” Ambassador Kawar said “I don’t think we’re anywhere close to having [support] now” and that the effort is “not about protecting Europe. It’s about protecting the refugees.”
Excerpts from HRVP Mogherini’s press conference on 28 April at the Security Council:
“[***] My presence here was already planned today for addressing the [NPT review] conference, but I also took the chance of following up on the European Council we had last Thursday where the Heads of State and Government of the European Union discussed the tragedies that are happening in the Mediterranean, linked to the trafficking and smuggling of people across the Mediterranean, but also all the way through Africa and, in most cases, from places of the world like Syria or the Horn of Africa where their life is put at risk. So, I have had discussions about that today with the EU Permanent representatives of the countries that are sitting in the Security Council: Lithuania that is taking the Presidency of the Security Council from Friday, Spain, UK and France. I will meet also the Italian Permanent representative later on, the Russian Permanent representative and I will meet Samantha Power tomorrow in Washington as well as Secretary Kerry – not only on this but also on this. I will be visiting China next week where this issue will also be part of my talks. [***]
Question: [***] And on the question of an EU mandate for military operations off of Libya, do you have any sense of when that could be pushed through at the Security Council?
HRVP Federica Mogherini: [***] On the creation of an international framework, of a legal framework for fighting traffickers and smugglers, we also had a very useful conversation with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon together with Prime Minister Renzi yesterday in Sicily. It is not for the European Union to set the UN Security Council time framework, the EU is not sitting in the Security Council, as you know very well. So it is not for me to comment on the next steps. What I can say is that we are working in Brussels and in strong coordination with the European Union members of the Security Council to make sure that our planning, our options that are being prepared in Brussels, go hand in hand with the discussions that can be made in the Security Council, and not only with the European Union members, also with others. I think I mentioned the fact that I just met the Jordanian permanent representative, not only as President of the Council but also as an Arab country that has a lot to say when it comes to the stability and the security of the region. And also the African Union. I spoke with the President of the African Union Mrs Zuma this morning to find ways of cooperating strongly in preventing the criminal organisations to act on the African territory and to address the root causes of the phenomena. Because we know very well that we cannot focus only on one of the links of the chain, meaning the last part of the trip. But we have to address root causes; we have to address the issue of poverty, of wars, of human rights, of unequal distribution and access to resources, being it financial or other kind of resources. And we need to do it in partnership with the countries that are involved in this. Because the human trafficking and smuggling is clearly a violation of Human rights but it is also clearly a threat and a challenge for the security and the stability of all countries involved, all the way. It is not only a European issue, it is not only a Libyan issue – even if we are looking at finding ways of cooperating with all Libyans to face this threat and to find ways of working together in preventing this spreading even more in the territory. But we need to work in cooperation with our partners around the region and around the world for sure. So not for me to set up a time frame for UN Security Council to work, but for sure to make sure that the European Union work on this is coordinated and is fully in respect of international law. On this, let me also say that I spoke with António Guterres on Sunday to start coordinating even more closely, because our main objective is to save lives. Saving lives also means take care of the people we save. And on this we look for a strong partnership with the UNHCR and it would be good to see the UNHCR operating in all places through which the smuggling and trafficking of people takes place.
Question: On this migrants’ smuggling question. Can you say how soon your enforcement operations will begin? Which countries will participate? And any details on how this enforcement effort will be underway?
HRVP Federica Mogherini: I was tasked last Thursday to start preparation for possible operations by the European Union, in full respect of international law, which means that we will need in any case to have a legal basis before we start operation on a European Union level. In the meantime, we are preparing options for a mission, for an operation. The process would be, first for me to present options to the Ministers, for them to take decisions; decisions in the EU are taken by unanimity, 28. And then it will be up to single Member States to decide whether and in which way they can participate to the operation. So we have different phases: preparation has already started on Thursday, on the very same day [than the European Council]. We are having the first discussion and thinking with the Member States in these very same hours. And we are working rapidly, but still, “rapidly” in the context of the European Union, definitely means not a couple of days. Also because in the meantime, as I said, we need to make sure that we have framework of international legality, in which we want to operate. There is nothing we are going to do that is outside of the framework and we work together with the UN and/or in partnership with the Libyan authorities. I will have a meeting shortly also with Bernardino Leon to see ways in which we can even more support his efforts to find an agreement in Libya because we know we have to partner with Libya, with all Libyans in this. And let me stress it very much because I know that the messages might have been perceived in a nuanced way. I want to make it very clear that there is nothing the European Union is preparing or thinking of that is intended to be against the Libyan people or the Libyan authorities in all their complexity. What we want to do is to work with Libyans on their own security, on their own possibility of freeing the country of criminal and also terrorist networks that are proliferating at this time. So it is a partnership we are looking for.
Question: Would you please tell us whether the EU supports a resolution from the Security Council and the creation of a maritime force that deals with the issue of trafficking people across the Mediterranean and with the flow of arms inside and outside Libya?
HRVP Federica Mogherini: The content of my talks here today has been on the first part of your question, absolutely yes. How we can stop the trafficking organisations: at sea, not only at sea, let me say, because if you take 5 minutes and look at the statement of the European Council there is this task for me, but there is also the task of working on other aspects of the prevention and the fight against trafficking organisations. Namely, the work will increase with Niger, with Mali, with the other neighbouring countries of Libya – Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria. Not to focus only on the last part of the trip but also on the rest of the security we need to build. So yes, this is definitely part of my mandate, this is definitely part of my talks that for the moment have been very constructive, I would say.
“1. The situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.
2. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria.
3. We today commit to:
Strengthening our presence at sea
a) rapidly reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon by at least tripling the financial resources for this purpose in 2015 and 2016 and reinforcing the number of assets, thus allowing to increase the search and rescue possibilities within the mandate of FRONTEX. We welcome the commitments already made by Member States which will allow to reach this objective in the coming weeks;
Fighting traffickers in accordance with international law
b) disrupt trafficking networks, bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;
c) undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers;
d) at the same time, the High Representative is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible CSDP operation to this effect;
e) use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions;
Preventing illegal migration flows
f) increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes, building on current CSDP operations in the region, as well as on regional cooperation frameworks (Rabat and Khartoum processes); step up dialogue with the African Union at all levels on all these issues;
g) reinforce our political cooperation with African partners at all levels in order to tackle the cause of illegal migration and combat the smuggling and trafficking of human beings. The EU will raise these issues with the African Union and the key countries concerned, with whom it will propose the holding of a summit in Malta in the coming months;
h) step up cooperation with Turkey in view of the situation in Syria and Iraq;
i) deploy European migration liaison officers in key countries to gather information on migratory flows, co-ordinate with national liaison officers, and co-operate directly with the local authorities;
j) work with regional partners in building capacity for maritime border management and search and rescue operations;
k) launch Regional Development and Protection programmes for North Africa and the Horn of Africa;
l) invite the Commission and the High Representative to mobilise all tools, including through development cooperation and the implementation of EU and national readmission agreements with third countries, to promote readmission of unauthorised economic migrants to countries of origin and transit, working closely with the International Organisation for Migration;
m) while respecting the right to seek asylum, set up a new return programme for the rapid return of illegal migrants from frontline Member States, coordinated by FRONTEX;
Reinforcing internal solidarity and responsibility
n) rapid and full transposition and effective implementation of the Common European Asylum System by all participating Member States, thereby ensuring common European standards under existing legislation;
o) increase emergency aid to frontline Member States and consider options for organising emergency relocation between all Member States on a voluntary basis;
p) deploy EASO teams in frontline Member States for joint processing of asylum applications, including registration and finger-printing;
q) set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU, offering places to persons qualifying for protection.
4. The EU institutions and the Member States will work immediately on the full implementation of these orientations. The Presidency and the Commission will present next week a roadmap setting out work up to June.
5. The European Council looks forward to the Commission Communication on a European Agenda for Migration, in order to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive approach to migration. The European Council will remain seized of the situation and will closely monitor the implementation of these orientations. The Council and the Commission will report to the European Council in June.”
Post Meeting Remarks from Council President Tusk: EU to destroy smugglers’ boats in line with int’l law; triple resources for Frontex Operation Triton; seek better co-operation with countries of origin and transit; coordinate resettlement of more refugees
Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the special European Council meeting on migratory pressures in the Mediterranean – 23/04/2015, 22:00
“Good evening. Today, we discussed the dramatic situation in the Mediterranean at the highest political level. Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration.
Let me be clear. Europe did not cause this tragedy. But that does not mean we can be indifferent. We are facing a difficult summer and we need to be ready to act.
Therefore, leaders have agreed four priority areas for action.
First, leaders have asked the High Representative to propose actions in order to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels before they can be used. Naturally, this will be in line with international law and respect for human rights. We will step up co-operation against smuggling networks by working through Europol, and by deploying immigration officers to third countries.
Second, we have agreed to triple the resources available to Triton, our border mission in the Central Mediterranean, and to enhance its operational capability. The mission will continue to carry out its mandate and respond to distress calls where necessary. I am happy to announce that leaders have already pledged significantly greater support, including many more vessels, aircraft and experts, and money.
Third, we need to limit irregular migration flows and to discourage people from putting their lives at risk. This means better co-operation with the countries of origin and transit, especially the countries around Libya.
Finally, we will do more on refugee protection. The European Union will help front-line Member States under pressure and co-ordinate the resettlement of more people to Europe on a voluntary basis, and with an option for emergency relocation. For those who do not qualify as refugees, we will operate an effective returns policy.
Leaders had no illusions that we would solve this international human emergency today. Therefore, we have tasked the Commission, the Council and the High Representative to step up their work based on what we have now agreed. This issue remains our priority and the European Council will come back to it in June.
As a final remark, let me repeat that the European Union is completely opposed to the death penalty. It cannot be the answer to drug trafficking. I am referring here to Mr Atlaoui, the French citizen who has been condemned by the Indonesian authorities. Thank you.”
Statement by Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Europe Bureau Director, on new boat arrival in Italy:
“The use of larger cargo ships is a new trend, but it is part of an ongoing and worrying situation that can no longer be ignored by European governments. We need urgent European concerted action in the Mediterranean Sea, increasing efforts to rescue people at sea and stepping up efforts to provide legal alternatives to dangerous voyages. Without safer ways for refugees to find safety in Europe, we won’t be able to reduce the multiple risks and dangers posed by these movements at sea.
UNHCR thanks the Italian authorities for their response to these latest incidents, despite the phasing down of the Mare Nostrum operation. We have expressed concerns over the ending of this operation without a similar European search-and-rescue operation to replace it. This will undoubtedly increase the risk for those trying to find safety in Europe.”
For more information on this topic, please contact:
In Geneva, William Spindler on mobile +41 79 217 3011, email@example.com
In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617, firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for Statement.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday issued Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders. OHCHR, along with multiple stakeholders, has been working on the principles and guidelines since 2012.
A. Human rights at international borders
1. International borders are not zones of exclusion or exception for human rights obligations. States are entitled to exercise jurisdiction at their international borders, but they must do so in light of their human rights obligations. This means that the human rights of all persons at international borders must be respected in the pursuit of border control, law enforcement and other State objectives, regardless of which authorities perform border governance measures and where such measures take place.
2. Migration discourse is replete with terminology used to categorize people who migrate, such as “unaccompanied or separated children”, “migrants in irregular situations”, “smuggled migrants” or “victims of trafficking in persons”. In the complex reality of contemporary mobility it can be difficult to neatly separate people into distinct categories as people may simultaneously fit into several categories, or change from one category to another in the course of their journey. Every individual who approaches an international border has different motivations and it is important to remember that under international human rights law, States have obligations towards all persons at international borders, regardless of those motives.
3. States have legitimate interests in implementing border controls, including in order to enhance security, to protect human rights, and to respond to transnational organized crime. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has therefore put together these Recommended Principles and Guidelines (“The Guidelines”) with a view to translating the international human rights framework into practical border governance measures. The Guidelines assert a human rights-based approach deriving from the core international human rights instruments and anchored in the interdependence and inalienability of all human rights, seek to establish accountability between duty-bearers and rights-holders, emphasis participation and empowerment, and focus on vulnerability, marginalization and exclusion.
4. Further, underpinning these Guidelines is a recognition that respecting the human rights of all migrants regardless of their nationality, migration status or other circumstances, facilitates effective border governance. Policies aimed not at governing migration but rather at curtailing it at any cost, serve only to exacerbate risks posed to migrants, to create zones of lawlessness and impunity at borders, and, ultimately, to be ineffective. Conversely, approaches to migration governance that adhere to internationally recognized human rights standards, serve to bolster the capacity of States to protect borders at the same time as they uphold State obligations to protect and promote the rights of all migrants. Ultimately then, these Guidelines are recommended to States and other stakeholders not only because they are obliged to put human rights at the forefront of border governance measures, but also because they have an interest in doing so.
9. These Guidelines shall not be interpreted as restricting, modifying or impairing the provisions of applicable international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international refugee law or other relevant legal instrument or rights granted to persons under domestic law. 1
Footnote 1 – In order to avoid duplication of authoritative guidance, the present Guidelines should be read in conjunction with the guidance provided by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), including in the context of its 10-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration which emphasises the need for “protection sensitive entry systems” at international borders to identify, protect against non-refoulement and ensure access to asylum procedures for persons in need of international protection. For trafficked persons, the present Principles and Guidelines should be read in conjunction inter alia with OHCHR’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking.
II. Recommended principles on human rights at international borders
A. The primacy of human rights
1. States shall implement their international legal obligations in good faith and respect, protect and fulfil human rights in the governance of their borders.
2. States shall ensure that human rights are at the centre of the governance of migration at international borders.
3. States shall respect, promote and fulfil human rights wherever they exercise jurisdiction or effective control, including where they exercise authority or control extraterritorially. The privatisation of border governance functions does not defer, avoid or diminish the human rights obligations of the State.
8. The principle of non-discrimination shall be at the centre of all border governance measures. [***]
C. Assistance and protection from harm
10. States shall protect and assist migrants at international borders without discrimination. Human rights obligations, including in respect of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, must take precedence over law enforcement and migration management objectives.
11. States shall ensure that all border governance measures taken at international borders, including those aimed at addressing irregular migration and combating transnational organized crime, are in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of arbitrary and collective expulsions.
12. States shall consider the individual circumstances of all migrants at international borders, with appropriate attention being given to migrants who may be at particular risk at international borders who shall be entitled to specific protection and individualized assistance which takes into account their rights and needs.
13. States shall ensure that all migrants who have suffered human rights violations or abuses as a result of border governance measures have equal and effective access to justice, access to effective remedies, adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered, and access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanism. States shall investigate and, where warranted, prosecute human rights violations and abuses, impose sentences commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, and take measures to ensure non-repetition.
III. Recommended Guidelines on human rights at international borders
Guideline 1: Promotion and protection of human rights [***]
Guideline 2: Legal and policy framework [***]
Guideline 3: Building human rights capacity [***]
Guideline 4: Ensuring human rights in rescue and interception [***]
Guideline 5: Human rights in the context of immediate assistance [***]
Guideline 6: Screening and interviewing [***]
Guideline 7: Identification and referral [***]
Guideline 8: Avoiding detention [***]
Guideline 9: Human rights-based return or removal [***]
Guideline 10: Cooperation and coordination [***]”
OHCHR to Issue Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders (22 Oct-Brussels; 23 Oct-New York)
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights next week will launch Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders. The Guidelines will be released and discussed at events in Brussels on 22 October 2014 and New York on 23 October.
From OHCHR: “These Guidelines are offered by OHCHR to states and other relevant stakeholders to develop human-rights respecting border governance measures; and thus improve the respect, protection and fulfilment of migrants at international borders.”
“OHCHR has been working on these principles and guidelines since 2012, together with multiple stakeholders. They accompany the report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Migrants (A/69/277) (also available here) and will be provided to the 69th session of the General Assembly (GA).”
“International borders are not zones of exclusion or exception of human rights obligations. States have the duty to comply with their human rights obligations and all of the safeguards and checks and balances that are embedded in national legislation. States are bound by these duties wherever they exercise their jurisdiction; including where their migration governance operations take place.”
“Policies curtailing migration often result in the diversion of migrants into irregular channels where vulnerabilities are exacerbated. Conversely, rights-based approaches to border and migration governance that adhere to internationally recognized standards bolster the capacity of the international community to mount effective and sustainable challenges to abusive migration and transnational organized crime. Developing a set of principles and guidelines on human rights at international borders would offer tools to translate the international human rights framework into practical measures for border governance, ensuring that measures taken to address migration (including irregular migration), migrant smuggling, and other cross-border phenomena do not violate human rights.”
The Guidelines will be made available here on 21 October 2014: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/Pages/WSReportGA69.aspx.
UN Special Rapporteur on HR of Migrants expresses concern over plight of irregular migrants in Greece; calls for EU assistance; Frontex patrolling Greece-Italy sea border
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Prof. François Crépeau, has completed a nine-day official visit to Greece, the fourth and last country visit in connection with a “a one-year comprehensive study to examine the rights of migrants in the Euro-Mediterranean region, focusing in particular on the management of the external borders of the European Union.” The Special Rapporteur will present a thematic report on the human rights of migrants at the borders of the European Union to the UN Human Rights Council in May/ June 2013. In addition to the visit to Greece, he previously conducted official visits to EU offices in Brussels, Tunisia, Turkey, and Italy.
One point of particular interest in the Special Rapporteur’s end-of-mission statement is that Frontex sea patrols in Greece are not along being used to patrol the external sea border of the EU (Greece-Turkey), but are also being used to patrol the sea border between Greece and Italy to prevent irregular migrants from leaving Greece. (Is this within Frontex’s mandate?) According to the end-of mission statement, Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon Sea “which used to cover the sea border between Greece and Turkey, was extended in 2012 to also cover the west coast of Greece, where migrants trying to reach Italy by boats operated by smugglers are intercepted and returned to Greece.”
The Special Rapporteur also notes “[t]he enhanced border controls at the Greek-Turkish land border under operation ‘Aspida’ (‘Shield’) initiated in August 2012, which included the deployment of approximately 1800 border police officers, coupled with the construction of a fence and the Frontex operation ‘Poseidon Land’ have resulted in a renewed influx of irregular migrants via the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea, with boats arriving on the different islands almost daily.”
Here are additional excerpts from the end-of-mission statement:
“[W]hile most EU countries have stopped returning asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin II Regulation due to a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (M.S.S. vs Belgium and Greece), I was informed that there are still some returns to Greece based on this Regulation.”
“As the large number of irregular migrants stuck in Greece is mainly a result of EU policies and practices, there is a strong need for solidarity and responsibility-sharing within the EU in order to ensure full respect of the human rights of all these migrants.”
“While the role of the EU in managing the migration flows in Greece is crucial, the Greek government also needs to significantly step up its efforts in order to ensure that the rights of all migrants within its territory are fully respected.”
“I am deeply concerned about the widespread xenophobic violence and attacks against migrants in Greece, and I strongly condemn the inadequate response by the law enforcement agencies to curb this violence, and to punish those responsible.”
“I also deeply regret the Greek government’s new policy of systematically detaining everyone they detect irregularly entering the Greek territory, including unaccompanied children and families. I also regret the ‘sweep operations’ in the context of operation ‘Xenios Zeus’, which have led to widespread detention of migrants in different parts of the country, many of whom have lived and worked in Greece for years.”
Among the several preliminary recommendations to Greece and the EU was the recommendation that the EU “[e]nsure that the full protection of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their status, is the primary consideration for its support to the Greek efforts in managing the migration flow entering the EU territory, including in relation to the activities undertaken by Frontex at the Greek borders.”
Click here for complete End-of-Mission Statement.
Click here for my previous post on the Special Rapporteur’s visits to other countries.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Prof. François Crépeau, for the past six months has been conducting “a one-year comprehensive study to examine the rights of migrants in the Euro-Mediterranean region, focusing in particular on the management of the external borders of the European Union.” The Special Rapporteur will present a thematic report on the human rights of migrants at the borders of the European Union to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013. To date he has concluded official visits to EU offices in Brussels, Tunisia, Turkey, and Italy; a nine-day visit to Greece began on 25 November. The Special Rapporteur has issued preliminary conclusions at the end of each completed mission. One common concern is that various actions of the EU and neighbouring countries are resulting in human rights considerations being overshadowed by migration control and security objectives.
At the conclusion of the most recent mission to Italy (30 September – 8 October 2012), the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over Italy’s (and the EU’s) ongoing cooperation with Libya:
“Another matter of paramount importance are the bilateral cooperation agreements negotiated between Italy and its neighbours on the question of migration. Although the EU has negotiated a number of EU wide readmission agreements, the absence of a clear regional framework for such agreements, including a lack of minimum human rights standards, has led to the creation of a number of bilateral readmission agreements between Italy and its neighbours which often do not appear to have human rights at their core. Of particular concern is the Italy-Libya bilateral cooperation on migration. The 2008 agreement formalised cooperation to strengthen Libya`s capacity to intercept irregular migrants on Libyan territory or territorial waters, even though Libya’s record at effectively protecting the human rights of migrants was poor and reports of human rights abuses of migrants in Libya were frequent. In line with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights pronounced in the Hirsi case that such ‘push-backs’ by Italian authorities towards Libya were not acceptable, the agreement is currently suspended and the Hirsi-defined push-backs appear to have ceased. However, Italy-Libya migration cooperation was recently reinforced through a 2012 processo verbale. This new political framework however, contains very little concrete information on strengthening Libya’s normative framework and institutional capacities regarding the human rights of migrants.”
The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern that the current technical assistance in Search and Rescue capability being provided by Italy to Libya is in effect disguised migration control assistance:
“Moreover, I have learnt of increased bilateral cooperation between Italian and Libyan authorities regarding search and rescue operations, including the provision of logistical and technical support to Libyan coast guards. Whilst increased search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean is undoubtedly of paramount importance, I have observed that there appears to be a strong focus on strengthening the capacities of the Libyan authorities to intercept migrants hoping to reach Europe, on both their territory and in their territorial waters, and return them to Libya. In this context, I warn EU member states against a progressive ‘externalisation’ of border control. In particular, considering the on-going difficulties of the Libyan authorities and the reports of human rights abuses against migrants on Libyan territory, this migration cooperation with Libya should not lead to any migrant being returned to Libyan shores against their will, either by Italian coast guards or Guardia di Finanza, or by Libyan coast guards with the technical or logistical support of their Italian counterparts.”
While acknowledging the important support provided to Italy by Frontex, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over certain Frontex activities in Italy:
“[ ] I am aware that the key focus of FRONTEX remains information and intelligence gathering. In Italy FRONTEX thus works predominantly with the Guarda di Finanza and the Border Police to combat irregular migration, migrant smuggling and other migration related crimes. I remain concerned that these security objectives still appear to overshadow human rights considerations. For example, I have learned that FRONTEX officers conduct interviews with migrants in Italian detention facilities in order to gather information on their journeys. However these interviews are conducted without any external supervision. It is thus essential that effective human rights standards be integrated into all departments and agencies related to border management.”
The Special Rapporteur made the following “Preliminary Recommendations to the Italian government”:
- “Ensure that migration cooperation with Libya does not lead to any migrant being returned to Libyan shores against their will, either by Italian authorities, or by Libyan authorities with the technical or logistical support of their Italian counterparts.
- Prohibit the practice of informal automatic “push-backs” to Greece.
- Guarantee the full access by international organisations, including UNHCR and IOM, civil society organisations and lawyers to all areas where migrants are held or detained to identify protection concerns
- Develop a nation-wide regulatory framework, with respect for human rights at its core, for the organisation and management of all migrant detention centres.
- Develop a simpler and fairer appeal system for expulsion and detention orders that integrates human rights considerations at each procedural step.
- Develop a speedier identification system, including commencing the identification of foreign inmates whilst in prison, in order to make sure that detention of migrants for identification purposes is limited to the shortest time possible, with a maximum of 6 months.”
Similar concerns were expressed by the Special Rapporteur after his missions to Tunisia and Turkey:
Tunisia, 8 June 2012: “… Nevertheless, I learned that a large majority of regional migration initiatives coming from the EU continue to be focused on issues of border control, and do not consider important issues such as the facilitation of regular migration channels. Thus I encourage the European authorities to develop, in the context of the Migration and Mobility Partnership currently being negotiated, and in conjunction with bilateral agreements of the Member States of the Union, a more nuanced policy of migration cooperation with Tunisia, which moves beyond security issues to develop new initiatives in consultation and in real partnership with Tunisian authorities, which place at their core the respect, protection and promotion of the human rights of migrants….”
Turkey, 29 June 2012: “… While the EU and Turkey have developed a close cooperation on migration issues, which has led to some notable positive developments, the assistance offered to Turkey regarding migration management appears to focus largely on securitising the borders and decreasing irregular migration to the European common territory through focusing on projects related to the detention and removal of migrants in Turkey and the increased monitoring of the Turkish border. Often neglected from the equation, is an equivalent emphasis on the human rights of those most vulnerable and most affected by the migration process: the migrants themselves….”
The Special Rapporteur will likely issue preliminary observations at the conclusion of the current mission to Greece on or after 3 December.
Click here for the web site for the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”, issued a statement on Friday in response to the deaths of 61 persons from Syria and other countries (including 31 children) off the Turkish coast and the ongoing migrant boats departing from North Africa:
“In the case of the boat off Turkey, many of those on board are thought to have come from Syria where a humanitarian crisis is in full swing. Asylum seekers from the conflict there are heading not only to neighbouring states but also to the rest of Europe[.] This is an urgent warning that Europe must give much greater priority to the humanitarian situation evolving in Syria, and find new means to tackle the migration flows between Turkey and Greece – for Turkey’s sake, for Greece’s stake, for Europe’s stake, and for the sake of all those who have lost their lives and who will continue to lose their lives crossing between the two countries. European countries should also be prepared to take their share in the protection of Syrian refugees, as neighbouring countries Jordan and Turkey are facing growing problems in coping with such large numbers. We know that a failure to react adequately to the humanitarian consequences of the Libya conflict caused unnecessary deaths. Let us not repeat those mistakes with the conflict in Syria.”
Human Rights Watch also issued a statement: “The deaths of so many children should be a wake-up call to EU leaders[.] Europe can and should do more to limit tragedies like these in the future…. Both Frontex, the EU external borders agency, and a proposed new European External Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) include rescue at sea in their mandates, but lack specific guidelines and procedures to ensure that rescue is the paramount consideration in EU operations at sea. Preventing deaths at sea needs to be at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration…. The EU should also coordinate with Turkish authorities to ensure that there are no gaps in rescue coverage. … Europe squabbled and dragged its feet last year when tens of thousands came by sea to escape chaos and conflict in North Africa…. It needs to live up to European values this time around, and do its utmost to ensure that those fleeing Syria reach safety.” Human Rights Watch released a briefing paper in August regarding ongoing migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.
Click here for full Statement by Tineke Strik.
Click here for full HRW Statement.
CoE Human Rights Commissioner Welcomes Italian Declarations that Migrant Push-Back Policy Will No Longer Be Applied
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks completed a four day visit to Italy between 3-6 July. The visit was “focused on the human rights of Roma and Sinti and on the human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers.” A report on the visit will be issued in the future. In the meantime the Commissioner released a statement on 9 July in which he “welcomed recent declarations [in Italy] at the highest political level that the ‘push-back’ policy will no longer be applied, in the light of the Hirsi Jamaa judgment of the Strasbourg Court [and stated his appreciation for] the efforts throughout the country to accommodate persons arriving from North Africa in the first half of 2011…” The Commissioner further “recommended that the system of reception centres be unified, guaranteeing an adequate level of protection everywhere, and capable of responding to fluctuating migratory flows. The Commissioner also pointed out that once officially recognized, refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection do not receive the crucial support they need to integrate into Italian society, and are therefore forced to live in destitute conditions. The Commissioner said ‘I personally witnessed the intolerable circumstances faced by 800 such persons, struggling to survive in an abandoned building in Rome. This is unacceptable in a country like Italy’.”
Click here for full statement.
Statement from PACE Rapporteur Tineke Strik on Most Recent Deaths in Mediterranean Sea: “When will this ever end?”
Full Text (FR ci-dessous): Strasbourg, 11.07.2012 – “Yet again, a dinghy with 55 people on board drifted for 15 days on the Mediterranean. This time, only one person survived. When will this ever end?,” today asked Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”. She expressed her great sadness and anger over the deaths of another 54 boat people fleeing Libya towards Italy.
“It is still not safe in Libya and the boats will continue to arrive. Europe knows that. I had hoped my report on the ‘left-to-die boat’ would serve as an eye-opener to prevent such tragedies happening time and time again. States must never hesitate to undertake immediate action to rescue people, even if they think someone else should be responsible: every minute counts,” said Senator Strik.
“Governments in Europe, and not only in the countries on the southern shores of Europe, must react, and take an equal share in the protection of asylum seekers arriving from Africa,” she added.
“It is all the more important that the resolution adopted by the Assembly in April this year is implemented and that the remaining questions are answered by NATO and by European governments. I am therefore now making public my most recent requests to member States and NATO, which remain unanswered,” she concluded.
The UNHCR estimates that this year over 170 people have lost their lives attempting to reach Italy by sea. Over 1 300 have arrived from Libya to Italy, and over 1 000 to Malta.
Strasbourg, 11.07.2012 – « Une fois de plus, un canot pneumatique avec 55 personnes à son bord a dérivé pendant 15 jours en Méditerranée. Cette fois, il n’y a eu qu’un seul survivant. Quand cela s’arrêtera-t-il ? », s’interroge Tineke Strik (Pays-Bas, SOC), l’auteur du rapport de l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe (APCE) « Vies perdues en Méditerranée : qui est responsable ? ». Elle a exprimé aujourd’hui sa profonde tristesse et sa colère à l’annonce de la mort de 54 personnes qui fuyaient la Libye pour l’Italie.
« La situation en Libye n’est toujours pas sûre et d’autres bateaux continueront d’arriver. L’Europe le sait. J’avais espéré que mon rapport sur le « bateau cercueil » provoquerait une prise de conscience et empêcherait que ces tragédies ne se reproduisent toujours et encore. Les États ne doivent jamais hésiter à prendre des mesures immédiates pour sauver des personnes, même s’ils estiment que quelqu’un d’autre devrait être responsable : chaque minute compte », a déclaré la sénatrice Strik.
« Les gouvernements européens, et pas seulement ceux des pays du rivage sud de la Méditerranée, doivent réagir et prendre une part égale dans la protection des demandeurs d’asile venant d’Afrique », a-t-elle ajouté.
« Il est d’autant plus important que la résolution adoptée par l’Assemblée en avril de cette année soit mise en œuvre et que l’OTAN et les gouvernements européens répondent aux questions encore en suspens. C’est pourquoi je rends publiques mes dernières demandes aux Etats membres et à l’OTAN, qui sont restées sans réponse », conclut-elle.
Le Haut-Commissariat de l’ONU pour les réfugiés estime que plus de 170 personnes ont péri cette année en tentant de gagner l’Italie par la mer. Plus de 1.300 personnes en provenance de Libye sont arrivées en Italie, et plus de 1.000 à Malte.
Human Rights Organisations Renew Call for NATO and Governments to Release Information Regarding Migrant Deaths in Mediterranean Sea
Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and 9 other human rights groups on 26 March sent letters to NATO and the defence ministers of France, Italy, Spain, Canada, the UK, and the US calling for the release of information to clarify events surrounding the deaths of 63 migrants who died approximately one year ago after their disabled boat drifted for days within an area that was heavily patrolled by NATO warships. The renewed call for release of information is being made in connection with the scheduled release on 29 March of the PACE Migration Committee Report, “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?” Representatives of HRW and FIDH will participate in a press conference on 29 March, 2 p.m. CET, with Ms. Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), when Ms. Strik releases the report.
Click here for the 26 March PACE press release and information regarding 29 March press conference.
Click here for the 26 March HRW press release.