Category Archives: Italy

MaltaToday: Italy withholding data on Mediterranean rescue operations from Frontex

An article from yesterday in MaltaToday by Jurgen Balzan reports that Italian authorities are not sharing information with Frontex regarding the number of migrants and asylum seekers rescued at sea in the Central Mediterranean and suggests that the withholding of information may be related to an effort to minimize public concerns over migration as Italy nears a vote next month on a constitutional referendum supported by PM Renzi.

From the article: “…Italian authorities are not sharing the data [regarding rescued migrants] with Frontex … and are keeping the number of people rescued under wraps. A Frontex spokesperson told MaltaToday that although the agency is actively participating in the rescue operations, the Italian authorities ‘are not sharing’ the data on how many people were rescued or how many people lost their lives last week.  Sources close to the Armed Forces of Malta said that Frontex normally holds and provides such data and ‘if they don’t have the numbers then information is being withheld by the Italians.’…”

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EUNAVFOR MED-Six Month Report: No Indication of Refugee Protection Plan for EU Operations within Libyan Territorial Waters and No Reports of Human Trafficking

There is a lot of information in the EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA Six Month Report   (also here: EEAS-2016-126) that was released last week by WikiLeaks, but there are two subjects not discussed which jumped out at me.

No Discussion of Refugee Protection Plan

First, the Report does not contain information regarding what the EU military force intends to do with migrants who are intercepted or rescued by EU vessels if and when EUNAVFOR MED patrols begin to operate within Libyan territorial waters.

The Report’s ‘Next Steps and Key Challenges’ section [pp 19-21] discusses different EU contingency plans for Phase 2B of the operation and specifically discusses how suspected smugglers arrested by EU forces within Libyan territorial waters would be handled. The Report says suspected smugglers should not be turned over by EU forces to Libyan officials for criminal prosecution unless it can be ensured ‘that they [will be] treated in accordance with human rights standards that are acceptable to the EU and Member States.’ According to the Report, forty-six suspected smugglers have been arrested by EUNAVFOR MED in international waters (between 22 June and 31 December 2015) and all of these individuals have been turned over to Italian authorities for prosecution by Italy’s DNAA – Direzione Nazionale Antimafia ed Antiterrorismo. Italy is so far the only EU Member State prosecuting suspected smugglers.

But unlike the discussion regarding the treatment of suspected smugglers, there is no discussion in the Report about where migrants who are intercepted or rescued in Libyan territorial waters will be taken or how they will be processed. It is certainly possible that intercepted migrants would continue to be taken from Libyan territorial waters to Italy, as is currently the case with operations on the high seas, but I suspect this may not be the plan once EUNAVFOR MED operations are expanded to Libyan territorial waters.

The fact that there is no discussion in the Report of where intercepted migrants will be taken does not mean that EUNAVFOR MED does not have appropriate plans in place, but the omission is troubling because the Report makes clear that once Phase 2B (territorial waters) operations begin, EUNAVFOR MED forces will be interacting and cooperating with the Libyan Navy and Coastguard. (The Report also notes that if requested and if its mandate is amended, EUNAVFOR MED is ready to begin quickly providing capability and capacity building to the Libyan Navy and Coastguard.)

EUNAVFOR MED’s interaction with Libyan forces in territorial waters would, according to the Report, initially include Libyan ‘cooperation in tackling the irregular migration issue’, with the expectation that at a later point in time ‘Libyan authorities could take the lead in patrolling and securing their Territorial Waters, with support being provided by EUNAVFOR Med.’ The Report therefore describes a changing scenario where EU forces would first act alone in Libyan territorial waters, which would lead to some level of cooperation with Libyan authorities (joint patrols? shipriders?), which would finally lead to Libyan authorities taking the lead on enforcement activities, with the EU playing a supporting role of some sort.

The legality of the Phase 2B operations will depend on the details of how intercepted or rescued migrants are processed and where they are taken. EU Member States operating within EUNAVFOR MED would necessarily be exercising effective control over migrants when operating unilaterally or jointly with Libyan forces within Libyan territorial waters and EU Member States would therefore be bound by the non-refoulement obligations in the ECHR, the Refugee Convention, the CAT, and the ICCPR. Any such operations would be subject to the 2012 Hirsi Jamaa v Italy judgment of the ECtHR which rejected Italy’s past push-back practices and close cooperation with the pre-Arab Spring Libya, finding the push-back practices to violate the ECHR’s prohibition on non-refoulement and to constitute collective expulsion.

EUNAVFOR MED’s Phase 2B operation seeks to replicate what Frontex and Spain have done off the coasts of Mauritania, Senegal and Morocco since 2006 pursuant to Joint Operation HERA where Spain and Frontex initially deployed naval patrols in international waters, then negotiated bilateral agreements to move patrols to territorial waters, deployed joint patrols and shipriders within territorial waters, and then continued to provide various forms of support to Mauritania and other West African states to patrol their own territorial waters. Operation HERA succeeded in stopping most boat migration from West Africa, but did so in a manner which did not provide any process to screen intercepted migrants for claims for international protection and subjected intercepted migrants to refoulement.

In order to ensure that non-refoulement obligations are respected and that rights of migrants are otherwise protected, as the EU and EUNAVFOR MED move towards implementation of Phase 2B operations within Libyan territorial waters, more information and transparency is needed to determine and monitor the legality of all aspects of the operations.

No Reports of Human Trafficking

The second perhaps less significant piece of information that jumped out at me as I read the Report was the lack of any suggestion that EUNAVFOR MED patrols have discovered evidence of human trafficking. The Report makes multiple references to trafficking, but always in conjunction with human smuggling, eg, ‘smuggler and traffickers’ business model’, ‘smuggler and trafficker vessels’. The use of the trafficking term seems to be a continuation of the use of imprecise terminology (and possible ongoing confusion over the differences between human trafficking and smuggling as well?). But the Report’s ‘Smugglers’ Business Model’ section [pp 6-8] is clearly only discussing acts of smuggling.

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WikiLeaks Releases Restricted Document: EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA Six Monthly Report

WikiLeaks yesterday released the ‘EUNAVFOR MED Op SOPHIA – Six Monthly Report’. (Also available here: EEAS-2016-126.) The 22 page document is classified as EU RESTRICTED and provides a detailed description of EUNAVFOR MED’s operations during the period 22 June-31 December 2015 and discusses the next steps for the operation, including the move to Phase 2B which would entail operations within Libyan territorial waters. The operation currently operates outside of Libyan territorial waters consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2259 (2015). The report is signed by Rear Admiral Enrico CREDENDINO, EUNAVFOR MED Op SOPHIA Operation Commander.

Here are some selected excerpts from the report:

Smugglers’ Business Model –

…Wooden boats are mainly used for migrant smuggling to the west of Tripoli, and rubber boats are more common to the east of Tripoli. Wooden boats are more valuable than rubber dinghies because they can carry more people, hence more profit for smugglers and are more resilient to bad weather and can be re-used if recovered by smugglers. However, following operation SOPHIA entering into Phase 2A (High Seas), smugglers can no longer recover smuggling vessels on the High seas, effectively rendering them a less economic option for the smuggling business and thereby hampering it.

Inflatable boats are used in two thirds of the cases and wooden boats in one third of the cases. According to intelligence sources, the wooden boats used are purchased from Libyan fishermen or imported from Tunisia and Egypt. EUNAVFOR MED are monitoring, within capabilities, the supply routes for these, but no detection has been obtained to confirm beyond any reasonable doubt this supply method.

Reports of rubber boast being imported from China and transhipped in Malta and Turkey are supported by a recent interception by Maltese customs of 20 packaged rubber boats in a container destined for Misratah, Libya. As there are no legal grounds for holding such shipments, it was released for delivery to the destination….

Legal Basis for Phase 2A – High Seas –

…The legal basis applicable to phase 2A (High Seas) relies on the international law applicable to the Operation (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Palermo protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land and sea) and on individual Member States’ application of the EU mandate through domestic legislation to board, seize and divert vessels and to detain suspected smugglers and traffickers. The adoption of UNSCR 2240 (2015) by the UN Security Council on 9 October, reinforces the legal framework applicable to EUNAVFOR MED activities in international waters. The resolution now provides the legal basis for all Member States to undertake these activities against suspected smugglers and traffickers coming from Libya….

Cooperation with International Organisations –

…In particular we have embedded the training initially provided by UNHCR on migrant handling and international law and this is now a core part of the inchop [command zone] package for new units joining the operation. We are further building on this training with input from UNICEF….

Campaign Assessment –

…Entry into Libyan Territorial Waters will undoubtedly allow us to achieve further success as we get towards the heart of [smuggler and trafficker] networks….

…From a military perspective, EUNAVFOR MED is ready to proceed to Phase 2B (Territorial Waters), though the political and legal challenges ahead remain a significant challenge….

…Transition from phase 2A to 2B [Libyan Territorial Waters] will require for a number of significant challenges to be resolved before I can actually recommend the transition.

Next Steps and Key Challenges-

From a military perspective, and to be more effective against the smugglers’ business model, I need to move to phase 2B (Territorial Waters) as soon as possible. However there are a number of key issues that need to be addressed. These are:

The Legal Finish.

As we will be operating in Libyan Territorial Waters, the current legal finish, of prosecuting suspected smugglers in Italy will not apply. We will therefore need a new legal basis; either an agreement with the Libyan authorities that they will waive their right to prosecute suspected smugglers in Libya and allow them to be prosecuted by another Member State, or to have a transfer agreement in place for apprehended smugglers to be transferred to the Libyan authorities for prosecution. Both options have specific challenges end rely on the consent of the Libyan authorities. If we were to transfer suspected persons to the Libyan authorities, we would need to ensure that they are treated in accordance with human rights standards that are acceptable to the EU and Member States….

…Regardless of the challenges with both options, we are working very closely with the EEAS to come to a workable solution. It is however clear that regardless of the solution taken, the Libyan authorities are fundamental in making this happen, either by providing the agreement to prosecute in another country, or to agree to prosecute in Libya through a judicial system which meets those standards required by the EU. I want to underline the fact that this issue must be solved before we can move to phase 2 Bravo. Without the required legal finish we will be compelled to release suspected smugglers apprehended in Libyan Territorial Waters, with a subsequent loss of credibility for the operation in the media and EU public opinion.

Legal mandate – UNSCR and Libyan Invitation.

In order to move to phase 2 in Libyan territorial waters, we need firstly an invitation from the GNA, as the sole legitimate Government of Libya under UNSCR 2259(2015), and secondly a UN Security Council Resolution to provide the necessary legal mandate to operate. Whilst the transition to phase 2 in Libyan TTW with only a UNSCR without an invitation from the Libyan authorities is theoretically possible, it is unlikely that the UNSCR would be adopted as Russia and China have previously stated that a Libyan invitation would be required by them so as not to block the resolution….

Capacity and Capability Building –

As we move into Territorial Waters, our interaction with the Libyan Navy and Coastguard will increase and we will need to gain confidence in their activities. The capability and capacity of the Libyan Coastguard to protect their borders needs to be developed and therefore preventing illegal migration from Libyan shores, so that we can reach the end state of the mission where illegal migration is at a manageable level without the need for EUNAVFOR Med. This will have to be shaped with Libyan authorities to match their expectations and could benefit from cooperation with other EU missions….

Full document is here or click on this link EEAS-2016-126.

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UN Security Council to Vote Today, 8 October, on Resolution Authorising EU to Inspect and Seize Vessels on High Seas Suspected of Engaging in Smuggling or Trafficking of Persons

From What’s in Blue: The Security Council “is expected to vote [on 8 Oct. 2015] on a resolution aimed at disrupting human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants on the high seas off the coast of Libya. …

The draft resolution authorises member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking. Furthermore, the draft authorises member states to seize vessels if there is confirmation that they are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya. These authorisations are for a period of one year from the date of the adoption, and the draft stresses how these are given in exceptional and specific circumstances. …

It seems that the two most divisive issues during negotiations related to references to Chapter VII and the use of force. Several Council members, including Chad, Russia and Venezuela, raised concerns over the implications of having a Chapter VII resolution with a broad mandate. Following bilateral negotiations, the draft to be voted on is under Chapter VII but states that this is specifically 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’. …

In relation to the use of force, one of the difficulties was defining the instances in which member states are authorised to use force. The initial draft circulated by the UK included an authorisation to use ‘all necessary measures’ in confronting migrant smugglers or human traffickers. Some Council members wanted further guarantees that this was not a blanket mandate to use force. As a result of the members’ concerns compromise language was added to authorise member states to use ‘all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances’ in confronting them. …

While Council negotiations were put on hold during the high-level debate of the UN General Assembly, amendments were made to the draft in order to secure the consent of the Libyan permanent mission to the UN. …

Some Council members stressed the need to respect international refugee law, as well as the protection of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The draft underscores that it 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.

The resolution is expected to provide legal backing for the EU NAVFOR MED’s operation in the high seas (which was renamed Operation Sophia on 28 September). … Council negotiations over a draft resolution authorising such an operation earlier this year (April-May) were put on hold following difficulties getting consent from Libyan authorities to operate in the territorial waters of Libya and its shore. Following the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean this summer, EU Council members decided to narrow the scope of the resolution to vessels operating on the high seas off the coast of Libya. A subsequent phase of the deployment of the operation in the territorial waters and on the shore of Libya is likely to be contingent upon the formation of a government of national accord in Libya.”

Full text of What’s in Blue article here.

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ECtHR: Italy’s Use of Summary Procedures to Return Tunisian Migrants Constituted Unlawful Collective Expulsion

The ECtHR, Second Section, issued a judgment on 1 September in Khlaifia et autres c. Italie (Requête no 16483/12) (official judgment in French) finding that the summary procedures used by Italy in 2011 to quickly return thousands of Tunisians who were reaching Italy by sea during the height of the Arab Spring violated the prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens contained in Art. 4 of Protocol 4 of the ECHR. (Judges SAJÓ and VUĊINIĊ did not find that collective expulsion had occurred and filed a dissenting opinion.) The Court also found violations of Art. 3, Art. 5, §§ 1, 2, 5, and Art. 13 (inhuman or degrading treatment, failure to promptly explain basis for detention, inability to challenge detention, lack of an effective remedy).

This is the fifth time that the ECtHR has found a violation of the collective expulsion prohibition. (See Čonka v. Belgium, no. 51564/99, § 62-63, ECHR 2002‑I; Georgia v. Russia (I) [GC], no. 13255/07, § 175, ECHR 2014;  Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy [GC], no. 27765/09, § 185, ECHR 2012; Sharifi and Others v. Italy and Greece, no. 16643/09, 21 October 2014.)

The Court acknowledged that unlike the applicants in Hirsi Jamaa, the Tunisian applicants in Khlaifia had been subjected to individualized identification and processing by Italian authorities, but under the circumstances the Court did not consider an identification procedure standing alone to be sufficient:

“156. [T]he Court is of the opinion that the mere implementation of an identification procedure is not sufficient to exclude the existence of collective expulsion. … [T]he expulsion orders did not contain any reference to the personal circumstances of the affected persons; the Government did not produce any document that could prove that individual interviews regarding the specific situation of each applicant would have occurred before the adoption of these [expulsion] orders; many people of the same origin experienced, at the time of the incriminating facts, the same fate as the applicants; [Italy’s] bilateral agreements with Tunisia … have not been made public and provided for the repatriation of irregular Tunisian migrants through simplified procedures, based on the simple identification of the person concerned by Tunisian consular authorities.”

The procedures at issue occurred during the 2011 Arab Spring when North Africa and the EU experienced significant movements of migrants and refugees. The Court took note of these exceptional circumstances but made clear that such circumstances do not excuse a state from complying with its obligations under the ECHR.  (See paras 127-128.)

The Court’s judgment should serve as a caution to the European Commission, EASO, Frontex, and EU member states as they consider new streamlined procedures to process the refugees and migrants reaching Europe; procedures must provide for meaningful individualized processing and individuals must be afforded a meaningful opportunity to challenge an expulsion order, among other requirements. The dissenting opinion of Judges SAJÓ AND VUĊINIĊ (in English), concluding that there had not been a collective expulsion, is well reasoned and reviews the history of the collective expulsion prohibition.

This is an excerpt from the Court’s judgment. The official version is only available in French, the English translation is mine:

“2. Appréciation de la Cour
2. Findings of the Court

153. La Cour observe qu’en l’espèce les requérants ont fait l’objet de décrets de refoulement individuels. Ces derniers étaient cependant rédigés dans des termes identiques, les seules différences étant les données personnelles des destinataires.

153. The Court observes that in this case the applicants were the subject of individual expulsion orders. They were, however, drafted in identical terms, the only differences being the personal information of the recipients.

154. La Cour a déjà précisé que le fait que plusieurs étrangers fassent l’objet de décisions semblables ne permet pas en soi de conclure à l’existence d’une expulsion collective lorsque chaque intéressé a pu individuellement exposer devant les autorités compétentes les arguments qui s’opposaient à son expulsion. La Cour a également jugé qu’il n’y a pas violation de l’article 4 du Protocole no 4 si l’absence de décision individuelle d’éloignement est la conséquence du comportement fautif des personnes intéressées (Hirsi Jamaa et autres, précité, § 184).

154. The Court has already held that the fact that multiple foreigners are subject to similar decisions does not in itself lead to the conclusion that there was collective expulsion when each person was individually able to present arguments against expulsion to competent authorities. The Court has also held that there is no violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 if the absence of individual expulsion decisions is due to the wrongful conduct of the affected persons (Hirsi Jamaa and Others, cited above, § 184).

155. La Cour relève de surcroît qu’à la différence de l’affaire Hirsi Jamaa et autres (précité, § 185), en l’espèce, à l’instar des autres migrants débarqués sur l’île de Lampedusa en septembre 2011, les requérants ont fait l’objet d’une procédure d’identification. Le Gouvernement le souligne à juste titre (paragraphe 152 ci-dessus). Les requérants reconnaissent par ailleurs qu’immédiatement après leur débarquement à Lampedusa, les autorités de frontière italiennes ont enregistré leur identité et relevé leurs empreintes (paragraphe 149 ci dessus).

155. The Court further notes that, unlike the case of Hirsi Jamaa and Others (cited above, § 185), in this case, like the other migrants who landed on Lampedusa in September 2011, the applicants were the subject of an identification procedure. The Government rightly points this out (paragraph 152 above). The applicants also recognize that immediately after landing in Lampedusa, the Italian border authorities registered their identity and took their fingerprints (paragraph 149 above).

156. La Cour est cependant d’avis que la simple mise en place d’une procédure d’identification ne suffit pas à exclure l’existence d’une expulsion collective. Elle estime de surcroît que plusieurs éléments amènent à estimer qu’en l’espèce l’expulsion critiquée avait bien un caractère collectif. En particulier, les décrets de refoulement ne contiennent aucune référence à la situation personnelle des intéressés ; le Gouvernement n’a produit aucun document susceptible de prouver que des entretiens individuels portant sur la situation spécifique de chaque requérant auraient eu lieu avant l’adoption de ces décrets ; un grand nombre de personnes de même origine a connu, à l’époque des faits incriminés, le même sort des requérants ; les accords bilatéraux avec la Tunisie (paragraphes 28-30 ci dessus) n’ont pas été rendus publics et prévoyaient le rapatriement des migrants irréguliers tunisiens par le biais de procédures simplifiées, sur la base de la simple identification de la personne concernée de la part des autorités consulaires tunisiennes.

156. However, the Court is of the opinion that the mere implementation of an identification procedure is not sufficient to exclude the existence of collective expulsion. It considers moreover that several factors lead to the consideration in this case that the expulsion at issue was indeed of a collective nature. In particular, the expulsion orders did not contain any reference to the personal circumstances of the affected persons; the Government did not produce any document that could prove that individual interviews regarding the specific situation of each applicant would have occurred before the adoption of these orders; many people of the same origin experienced, at the time of the incriminating facts, the same fate as the applicants; the bilateral agreements with Tunisia (see paragraphs 28-30 above) have not been made public and provided for the repatriation of irregular Tunisian migrants through simplified procedures, based on the simple identification of the person concerned by Tunisian consular authorities.

157. Cela suffit à la Cour pour exclure l’existence de garanties suffisantes d’une prise en compte réelle et différenciée de la situation individuelle de chacune des personnes concernées (voir, mutatis mutandis, Čonka, précité, §§ 61-63).

157. This is sufficient for the Court to rule out the existence of sufficient guarantees of a genuine and differentiated consideration of the individual circumstances of the persons involved (see, mutatis mutandis, Čonka, cited above, §§ 61-63).

158. Au vu de ce qui précède, la Cour conclut que l’éloignement des requérants a revêtu un caractère collectif contraire à l’article 4 du Protocole no 4. Partant, il y a eu violation de cette disposition.

158. In view of the foregoing, the Court concludes that the expulsion of the applicants took on a collective character contrary to Article 4 of Protocol No. 4. Accordingly, there has been a violation of this provision.
[***]”

 

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700-800 Bodies Believed To Be Inside 18 April Migrant Boat Wreck

An Italian prosecutor on Friday said that “more than 700, maybe 800” bodies are contained within the wreckage of the migrant boat that sank 85 miles off the coast of Libya on 18 April. The boat has been located by the Italian Navy and an effort may be made to recover the bodies. It is at a depth of 375 metres. Fewer than 30 people were rescued at the time of the accident and only 24 bodies have been recovered so far.

Marina Militare / Italian Navy

Marina Militare / Italian Navy – Image by underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV)

Marina Militare / Italian Navy

Marina Militare / Italian Navy – sonar image

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UN Security Council to Meet on 11 May to Consider Mediterranean Migrant Situation

The UN Security Council will meet on Monday, 11 May, to consider the situation in the Mediterranean. HRVP Federica Mogherini will brief the Security Council. Italy has circulated a draft resolution among European members of the Security Council. ANSA reports that the European members of the UN Security Council have reached an agreement and are “very close” to being able to circulate a draft resolution. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the goal is to get “a legal framework” to “perform individual operations against traffickers.” Gazzetta Del Sud reports that “European sources said next Monday’s Security Council meeting will be a ‘first step’ to assess what kind of mandate might be needed for European operations against migrant traffickers. It is not likely that meeting will come up with a resolution, the sources said. European High Foreign Representative Federica Mogherini will present a May 18 council of EU foreign ministers with various security and defense options.” Russia has already said that it would veto a resolution authorising military strikes, but that it might consider supporting “a more restricted mandate for any EU military mission, which could involve a search and rescue role alongside powers to stop and seize smugglers’ boats at sea.”

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Approximately 40 Migrants Reported Dead After Merchant Ship Approached Migrant Boat

Reuters and other news agencies report that rescued survivors arriving today in Sicily told Save the Children that about 40 persons died – other survivors reported that “lots” of people died – after “dozens of people fell into the sea when they saw the merchant ship approach” their overloaded rubber dinghy. The migrant boat left Libya and was rescued on Sunday south of Sicily.

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Highlights from Frontex Annual Risk Analysis 2015 – Detections of Illegal Border-Crossing Between Border Crossing Points

Frontex released its Annual Risk Analysis 2015 (also here) on 28 April. Over the next few days I will post some key points and excerpts from portions of the 70 page report which are most relevant to migration by sea. See Executive Summary and Statistical Annex. 2015-04-28_Frontex_Annual_Risk_Analysis_2015-COVER

This post contains excerpts and key points from the ARA, Section 3, Situational Picture in 2014 / Detections of illegal border-crossing between border crossing points:

• In 2014, detections of illegal border-crossing reached a new record, with more than 280 000 detections. This was twice as many as the previous record of 140 000 detections in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring;
• With a record level of migrants crossing the border illegally, resources are devoted to their immediate care, but not towards screening;
• Syrians and Eritreans did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry but rather in other Member States;
• As in 2013 and in 2011, the Central Mediterranean route was the main area for illegal border-crossing into the EU, representing 60% of all detections in 2014;
• Around 3 400 people died or went missing at sea in 2014;
• Civilian vessels have been increasingly involved in the detection and rescue of migrants at sea. More than 600 merchant ships have been diverted from their routes to rescue persons at sea in 2014;
• An increasing number of cases have been reported of cargo vessels being used to smuggle migrants from Turkey directly to Italy. This new trend affects the Eastern Mediterranean route, as the departure area, and the Central Mediterranean area, as the arrival area;
• In 2014, 50 800 detections were reported in the Eastern Mediterranean area, representing 18% of the EU total. This was twice as many as in 2013, mostly due to a sharp increase in detections in the Aegean Sea (from 11 829 in 2013 to 43 377 in 2014);
• In 2014 there were 7 842 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Western Mediterranean region, which consists of several areas of the southern Spanish coast and the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla. This total shows an increase of 15% compared to the total of 6 838 reported in 2013.;
• Detections of illegal border-crossing on the Black Sea were extremely rare. However, since 2013, Bulgaria and Romania have reported an increasing number of detections, totalling 433 migrants in 2014.

Excerpts:

“3.3. Detections of illegal border-crossing between BCPs [along land and sea routes in 2014]

In 2014, detections of illegal border-crossing reached a new record, with more than 280 000 detections. This was twice as many as the previous record of 140 000 detections in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring. This unprecedented number of migrants crossing illegally the external border has roots in the fighting in Syria that have created the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Indeed, most of the detections at the borders concern migrants from Syria, who later applied for asylum within the EU. [***]

With a record level of migrants crossing the border illegally, resources are devoted to their immediate care, but not towards screening and obtaining information on basic characteristics like their nationality. As migrants quickly continue their journey to other Member States, increasing the movements of persons staying illegally within the EU, this puts the EU internal security at risk. [***]

Indeed, Syrians alone (79 169) represented more than a quarter (28%) of the total as shown in Figure 3. [SEE BELOW.] They were also the top nationality for other indicators, in particular asylum applications, reflecting the dire situation in Syria and the desperate plight of Syrian asylum seekers. However, the vast majority of Syrians did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry but rather in other Member States for many different reasons, notably because they expect to receive more attractive welfare benefits.

Regarding Eritreans, their detections in 2014 reached a record level (more than 34 500, compared to 11 300 in 2013). They were mostly arriving through Libya on the Central Mediterranean route. Like Syrians, they did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry, but rather continued to other Member States. Many of the Eritreans stated that they had lived for some time in Libya but decided to leave because of the violence.

Detections of Afghans sharply increased from about 9 500 in 2013 to more than 22 000 in 2014. Afghans were detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route (mostly crossing the Eastern Aegean Sea), and then once again on the Western Balkan route. [***]

Central Mediterranean route

In 2014, more than 170 000 migrants arrived irregularly in the EU through the Central Mediterranean route (see Fig. 4).[SEE BELOW.] As in 2013 and in 2011, the Central Mediterranean route was the main area for illegal border-crossing into the EU, representing 60% of all detections in 2014. Detections were the largest between June and September at over 20 000 per month, but throughout the year, monthly detections were larger than in 2013. Most migrants were Syrians and Eritreans departing from the Libyan coast.

The vast majority were rescued by border-control authorities after issuing a distress call; however, despite best efforts there were many fatalities. Smugglers typically make use of frail, overcrowded boats, with limited fuel available to maximise their profits, putting migrants’ lives at considerable risk. The role of the Italian Navy and the JO Hermes/ Triton was crucial in rescuing an unprecedented number of migrants. Despite these efforts, around 3 400 people died or went missing at sea in 2014 and around 2 800 since the beginning of July according to UNHCR estimates.

Besides naval assets, civilian vessels have been increasingly involved in the detection and rescue of migrants at sea (see Fig. 5). [SEE BELOW.] According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), more than 600 merchant ships have been diverted from their routes to rescue persons at sea in 2014. These deviations are, in the words of the Secretary General, detrimental to shipping and are not offset by any realistic prospects of salvage awards.

In addition to migrants leaving from Libya, since September 2014, an increasing number of cases have been reported of cargo vessels being used to smuggle migrants from Turkey directly to Italy. This new trend affects the Eastern Mediterranean route, as the departure area, and the Central Mediterranean area, as the arrival area. This practice is further developed under the section related to the Eastern Mediterranean route.

As migrants were rescued in high-sea, they were reported as part of the Central Mediterranean route. Many were disembarked in Apulia and Calabria, to alleviate the burden on reception capacity in Sicily. From a statistical point of view, these disembarkations artificially inflated the number of migrants usually reported on the Apulia and Calabria route. In 2014, there were fewer migrants departing from Egypt and targeting this area of the Italian coast than in 2013. [***]

Eastern Mediterranean route

Since data collection began in early 2008, the Eastern Mediterranean has maintained its status as a hotspot of irregular migration (see Fig. 6). In 2014, 50 800 detections were reported from the area, representing 18% of the EU total. This was twice as many as in 2013, mostly due to a sharp increase in detections in the Aegean Sea (from 11 829 in 2013 to 43 377 in 2014). Detections remained comparatively much lower at the Bulgarian and Greek land borders with Turkey (12 262 in 2013 and 5 938 in 2014).

Sea border

Aegean Sea

Compared to the previous year, the sharp increase in the Aegean Sea in 2014 meant that migrants departed from more areas, and also arrived on a larger number of islands. While the islands reporting the largest number of arrivals remained Lesbos, Chios and Samos, detections were also reported from small islands from North to South, stretching capacity of surveillance. Many migrants claimed to be Syrian, and were thus handed an administrative notice allowing them to stay in Greece for up to six months, even without applying for asylum.

Screening processes of some migrants revealed a high degree of falsely claimed nationalities to avoid return. Not knowing the nationality of migrants who are illegally crossing the border and travelling within the EU is evidently a vulnerability for EU internal security. [***]

Increasing use of cargo ships

Since August 2014 the number of irregular migrants arriving in the Central Mediterranean from Turkey sharply increased compared to earlier in the year and to the same period in 2013. This sharp increase was directly related to the use of cargo ships to facilitate migrants and asylum seekers from Turkey to Italy (for example, see Fig. 7).

To date, Mersin has been the place where those wishing to travel to the EU in an irregular fashion have made contact with the smuggling networks. Wooden boats, however, have departed from various points along south-eastern Turkish coast such as Mersin, Adana and Hatay provinces to reach cargo vessels waiting off shore.

Smuggling migrants from Turkey on board large cargo vessels is extremely profitable, and such funds are likely to be an important source of income for smuggling networks also engaged in other criminal activities. This means that the criminal networks might be financing other criminal activities by exploiting and putting at risk vulnerable groups of displaced families from Syria.

Specifically, the cargo ships, which are often bought as scrap, tend to cost between EUR 150 000 and 400 000. There are often as many as 200–800 migrants on board, each paying EUR 4 500–6 000 for the trip, either in cash a few days before the departure or by Hawala payment after reaching the Italian coast. The cost is high because the modus operandi is viewed as being safe and has been demonstrated as being successful.

Hence, the gross income for a single journey can be as high as EUR 2.5 or even 4 million depending on the size of the vessel and the number of migrants on board. In some cases, the profit is likely to be between EUR 1.5 and 3 million once other overheads such as recruiters, safe houses, shuttle vessels, crew and fuel have been taken into account. Given this level of financial gain it is important to act against this modus operandi not only to stem the flow of irregular migration but also to limit the financial assets of the smuggling networks. [***]

Western Mediterranean route

In 2014 there were 7 842 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Western Mediterranean region, which consists of several areas of the southern Spanish coast and the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla. This total shows an increase of 15% compared to the total of 6 838 reported in 2013.

Like in 2013, the first half of 2014 showed most detections being reported at the land border, mostly from Melilla. Indeed, the Spanish authorities reported several violent attempts to cross the fence.

As mitigating measures, the fence has been upgraded. As a result, in the second half of the year, Spain reported more detections at the sea border than at the land border.

Once in Melilla, migrants are turned over to Spanish Police Headquarters for identification, and many are transferred to the Temporary Centre for Immigrants (CETI – Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes). However, this centre only has a limited capacity and some migrants had to be transferred to mainland Spain.

In terms of nationality, most of the migrants are from Western Africa, in particular from Cameroon and Mali. Algerians and Moroccans have also been reported among the top ten nationalities, but mostly at the sea border.

Since November 2014, Spain also reported an increase in detections of illegal border-crossing of Syrians at the land border (more than 250 in November and December), then applying for asylum. This increase, combining with increasing detections of Syrians using forged document to enter to the EU, has prompted Spain to open asylum and international protection offices at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla in March 2015.

Black Sea route

Detections of illegal border-crossing on the Black Sea were extremely rare. However, since 2013, Bulgaria and Romania have reported an increasing number of detections, totalling 433 migrants in 2014.

These incidents still constitute isolated cases, and are possibly linked to the increased surveillance on the Eastern Mediterranean route and the increasing number of migrants waiting in Turkey to reach the EU illegally. [***]”

 

Figure 3

 

Figure 4

 

Figure 5

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The Detention of Asylum Seekers in the Mediterranean Region – A Global Detention Project Background Paper

The Global Detention Project just released a Background Paper, “The Detention of Asylum Seekers in the Mediterranean Region,” which “is intended to highlight some of the vulnerabilities that people seeking international protection face when they are taken into custody in Mediterranean countries and to underscore the way that European Union-driven policies have impacted the migratory phenomenon in the region.”  GDP Cover-Backgrounder Det of Asy Seekers in Med_April 2015

Summary: “With the recent tragic surge in the number of deaths at sea of asylum seekers and other migrants attempting to reach Europe, enormous public attention is being focused on the treatment of these people across the Mediterranean. An important migration policy employed throughout the region is detention, including widespread deprivation of liberty of asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups. …

The report focuses on eight key countries in Europe and North Africa. While there are clear differences in treatment from one side of the Mediterranean to the next, looked at collectively, the protection environment across all the countries in the region is bleak. Not surprisingly, the conditions of detention asylum seekers face in North African countries are often horrific and inhumane. However, in Europe, there are also serious shortcomings. In fact, as this backgrounder reports, reception and detention conditions in three of Europe’s main asylum receiving countries (Greece, Italy, and Malta) are so inadequate that many of their EU counterparts have been forced to halt returns to these countries under the Dublin III Regulation.”

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Migration Policy Centre – Policy Brief: “Drowned Europe”

Drowned Europe“, policy brief by Philippe FARGUES and Anna DI BARTOLOMEO, Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute, Florence.

ABSTRACT:
The drowning of 800 migrants, 19 April 2015, after the capsizing of a smuggling boat, triggered responses from across Europe. But when EU leaders met four days later, the news-cycle had moved on and the European Council, 23 April, gave a disappointing response. The 28 agreed to scale up their joint search-and-rescue efforts at sea to the more substantial efforts of what Italy has achieved alone in the last year. There were, also, a handful of other minor actions. Mr Junker, President of the Commission, lamented that the EU should be more ambitious. He was right, in as much as the EU meeting will not sustainably curb the deadly trends we have seen in the Mediterranean in recent years.

2015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Fig 12015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Fig 22015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Tab 1

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Libya Group With Control Over Tripoli and Libya’s Western Coast Says It Will “Confront” Unilateral EU Attacks on People Smuggler Sites

Libya Dawn, “[t]he group controlling Libya’s coastal capital Tripoli [and the Mediterranean coastal areas to the east and west of Tripoli] says it will ‘confront’ any unilateral European Union moves to attack sites used by people smugglers, urging the [EU] to consult it over plans to deal with the migration crisis.” (Click here for Guardian article-reporting based on Times of Malta interview with the group’s foreign minister.)

The political and security situation in Libya is complicated. And while migrant boats tend to depart from areas around Tripoli because the area is closer to Lampedusa and Malta, boats leave from eastern areas of Libya as well. If the EU does end up taking military action in Libya, it will necessarily engage with different militias and political groups.

Libya Situation Map mid-April 2015 – Map by @arabthomness.

2015-April Libya Situation Map

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The EU’s Proposed Plan to Destroy Migrant Boats in Libya Must be Rejected by the European Council

A plan for EU Member States to capture or destroy the boats used by people smugglers in the Mediterranean is one of ten possible courses of action that will be considered during the Extraordinary European Council Meeting on the Situation in the Mediterranean that will be held on 23 April.

The boat destruction proposal should be rejected for multiple reasons. There is no basis in law for the proposal and it would endanger lives of innocent people including migrants and fishermen, among others. It would certainly have little effect on its intended target, the people smugglers.

EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos described the plan, which has been recommended by the Foreign Affairs Council which met on 20 April, as a civil-military operation which would “capture and destroy vessels used by smugglers.” Avramopoulos reportedly compared the proposed EU boat destruction plan to Operation ATALANTA, the EU’s maritime operation against piracy off Somalia, saying that Atalanta “should inspire us for new operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean.”

As is always the case, the specific details of the proposed plan matter. There are situations where the destruction of a migrant boat under certain circumstances may be perfectly legal and otherwise appropriate. For example after a rescue operation when migrants have been safely removed from an unflagged and unseaworthy vessel, it may be appropriate for that vessel to be destroyed at sea rather than taking it in tow or leaving it adrift and thereby creating a navigational hazard. In such circumstances, there is no reason for an EU coast guard vessel, after migrants have been transferred from a migrant boat, to stand by and allow smugglers to take possession of the now empty migrant boat.

But if the EU boat destruction plan were to authorise the use of armed force to capture or destroy a smuggling boat at sea, particularly in the face of armed resistance from people smugglers, or if it were to authorise the destruction of boats at anchor in Libyan harbours, it is difficult to imagine how such a plan could be carried without endangering the lives of migrants and fisherman and thereby violating international humanitarian and human rights law.

Frontex and Italian patrol boats have already experienced armed threats at sea during rescue operations. One situation occurred on 13 April when armed people smugglers fired into the air to recover an empty migrant boat after an Italian tugboat and the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Týr deployed by Frontex had rescued a group of migrants.  The Frontex vessel did not engage the people smugglers with force and allowed the smugglers to return to Libya with the empty migrant boat. If Frontex vessels or coast guard vessels were now to be called upon to use some level of appropriate force to prevent such incidents, rescue operations would be delayed, further complicated, and the rescued migrants would be placed in danger.

In regard to the possible destruction of boats at anchor in a Libyan harbour, the EU cannot engage in the proposed civil-military operation without having a legal basis to do so. One possible source of authority would be the invocation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter by the UN Security Council, but this would require the finding that the flow of migrant boats constitutes a threat to international peace and security. While the security situation in Libya or Syria might well constitute such a threat, the large scale movement of migrants by people smugglers does not.

Chapter VII has of course been invoked to authorise the EU Operation ATALANTA after the Security Council authorised of the use of force off Somalia in international waters and in Somalian territorial waters (as well as within Somalian territory). But the legal basis for Operation ATALANTA has no relevance to the proposed EU boat destruction plan. The suppression of piracy in international waters is authorised and governed by specialized international law and customary international practice relating to the suppression of piracy. There is no equivalent basis in international law for the suppression of people smuggling.

Chapter VII was likewise invoked in 2011 to authorise the use of force by NATO in Libya. The Security Council again made the necessary determination that the situation in Libya at the time was a threat to international peace. Among the factors referenced by the Security Council in Resolution 1973 was the plight of refugees and foreign workers who were subject to violence and who were forced to flee Libya. The resolution praised Tunisia and Egypt for protecting the fleeing refugees and called on the international community to support the efforts. It would be repugnant if today the ongoing violence in Libya was somehow used as a legal basis for a use of force which would serve to trap and endanger migrants, rather than making them safer.

In addition to the serious legal questions relating to the use of force to capture and destroy smugglers’ boats, there are serious practical concerns. Take the example of the unprecedented boat disaster and the 900 deaths that occurred earlier this week. One of the likely reasons for the massive death toll was the large number of persons who were locked below the main deck of the boat. What precautions would prevent the destruction of a suspected smuggling vessel at anchor with hundreds of people below deck and out of sight? Would the EU boat destruction plan require that any capture or destruction of a suspected smuggling boat be carried out by deploying EU military personnel on the ground in Libya with the resulting ability to more closely inspect a vessel before its destruction? Or would the plan permit destruction of a suspected smuggling boat by armed drones or military aircraft? If the destruction could occur through the use of aircraft, people will be killed, and it is more likely that those who will be killed will be migrants or innocent fisherman and not the people smugglers.

The easiest targets for destruction will be the larger fishing vessels that are being used by the people smugglers. But not so long ago the smuggling boats of choice were the Zodiacs and other large or medium–sized inflatable boats powered by outboard engines. This type of boat can be easily stored in vehicles or storage buildings and quickly moved into the water when needed. It would be an easy tactical shift on the part of the people smugglers to resume the use of inflatables if the larger fishing vessels were no longer obtainable.

The European Council needs to take new and significant steps to respond to this crisis. A focus on people smugglers should certainly be something that is addressed, but while the people smugglers are taking advantage of the crisis, they are not the cause. The EU response needs to instead focus on expanded search and rescue (i.e. Mare Nostrum plus – not Operation Triton plus) and creating alternative safe paths for people to seek protection in the EU or in other appropriate countries. The boat destruction plan should be rejected.

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Very Few Migrants Reaching Italy Apply for Asylum

While roughly 170,000 migrants over the past 14 months have reached Italy or been rescued and brought to Italy, according to UNHCR and Eurostat figures, very few of them are applying for asylum in Italy. Eurostat data through November 2014 indicate approximately 25,200 asylum applications from all nationalities were filed in Italy during the first six months of 2014; the number increased to approximately 27,000 during the period July-November 2014.

Eurostat data further show that only 455 asylum applications were submitted by Syrians in Italy during the January-November 2014 period, whereas over the same period over 28,000 Syrian asylum applications were submitted in Germany.

According to Italian press reports, “[n]ew figures from the UN’s refugee agency showed 25,077 people applied for asylum in Italy during the first six months of 2014. The highest number in Europe was recorded in Germany, which received 77,109 applications, followed by France (54,131) and Sweden (38,792).”

Click here for Eurostat “Asylum and new asylum applicants – monthly data”.

Click here for Eurostat “Asylum and new asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Monthly data (rounded)”. (Conduct search by modifying “+Citizen” option at upper right.)

Or click here for main Eurostat website and search for “asylum.”

Click here for news article.

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“Mediterranean flows into Europe: Migration and the EU’s foreign policy” – Analysis by European Parliament DG for External Policies

The EP’s Directorate-General for External Policies just released an Analysis, “Mediterranean flows into Europe: Migration and the EU’s foreign policy,” in which it reviews the EU’s external policies and instruments relating to migration in the Mediterranean, including the Mediterranean Task Force established after 3 October 2013 tragedy at Lampedusa in which over 350 people died.

The Analysis describes the serious shortcomings of the security-driven approach that has been taken by the EU. Noting, for example, that “it is unclear whether the militarisation of EU border management (resulting from a tighter relation between the CSDP and Frontex) will actually save lives or create even more danger for migrants” and that “[t]he increasing militarisation of the issue of irregular migration was underscored in December 2013, when the European Council called for the establishment of an EU Maritime Security Strategy by June 2014 as well as for increased synergies between the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and freedom/security/justice actors to tackle illegal migration.”

The Analysis discusses possible ways in which the European Parliament might play a more significant role in the shaping of future policies:

“The coming months – which will include the European elections and the June 2014 Council – present an important opportunity for the EP to engage politically with the topic of migration in the Mediterranean. As outlined above, numerous EU external policies and instruments deal with migration in the region; […]

All should incorporate respect for human rights as a central concern and pursue the overall goals of prevention, protection and solidarity. The EP has tools at hand to contribute effectively to those objectives. The EP should use its co-decision powers to ensure the inclusion of human rights provisions in all migration-related legislation, and its power of consent to guarantee that international agreements contain effective human rights guarantees. The EP’s budgetary powers also allow the institution to link assistance to third countries to proper human rights monitoring mechanisms.

Most pressingly, the EP should advocate the implementation of the actions recommended by the Mediterranean Task Force set up by the Commission. The EP should also use the opportunities generated by inter-parliamentary relations (such as the 27th ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in March and the EU-Africa summit in April) to engage in a dialogue about migration with third countries. This dialogue should foster cooperation in the management of regular migration and in the fight against irregular migration and trafficking networks, with special emphasis on the need to prevent migrants from embarking on dangerous journeys to the EU.

The dialogue should also seek to frame Mediterranean migration within a wider perspective, possibly in the following ways:

  • Steer away from excessively militarised and security-centred approaches. The EP should ensure that strict human rights standards are respected in the fight against organised crime and smugglers’ networks, and that a clear distinction is drawn between criminal networks and their victims. The EU should prevent the criminalisation of migrants and of humanitarian organisations supporting migrants.
  • Highlight the importance of good governance, and of good migration governance more specifically. By reinforcing the EU’s Regional Development and Protection Programmes, for example, the Union can develop a comprehensive and long-term framework to develop and enhance the capacities of migration management and national asylum systems in Mediterranean countries.
  • Demand full respect for humanitarian law, refugee protection and human rights (including the rights of non-nationals) in crisis situations, and stress that humanitarian access must be guaranteed to provide life-saving supplies.
  • Recognise the importance and challenges that South-South and intra-African migration represent for countries in the southern Mediterranean, rather than focussing solely on the (much smaller) flows towards the EU.
  • Encourage further research on the migration-development nexus and explore the positive impact of human mobility on socioeconomic development.
  • Encourage EU Member States to facilitate and speed up their procedures to grant asylum and EU protected status, whilst better differentiating between refugees and irregular migrants. The EP should respect the competence of the Member States in this regard, but could also encourage Member States – in cooperation with the UNHCR – to increase their quotas for resettling refugees not adequately protected in third countries. The EP should support the Mediterranean Task Force’s proposed feasibility study on the joint processing of protection claims outside the EU, and the Commission’s proposal to move towards a common approach for humanitarian permits and visas.

All these actions would contribute to reshaping the EU’s external action related to migration, notably in the Mediterranean. They would also enhance the EU’s credibility vis-à-vis those third countries that accept significant number of migrants and refugees, and that most directly bear the consequences of their neighbours’ conflicts. (This is the case today for Lebanon and Turkey, as a result of the Syrian civil war). A modified EU approach could also project a more nuanced and positive view of migration – a change that might, in turn, influence the way migration is perceived more broadly within the EU.”

Click here or here for the Analysis.

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