Category Archives: Libya

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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Russia Will Veto Any UN Security Council Resolution Seeking to Authorise Destruction of Smuggling Boats in Libya

The Financial Times (paywall or answer marketing questions) reported yesterday that Russia will veto any UN Security Council resolution that would authorise the destruction of migrant boats in Libya. The FT reported that Russia 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.”

The Security Council’s Programme of Work for the month of May does not currently include any meetings pertaining to the EU’s desire for authorisation of military strikes on smugglers boats, but a briefing by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean might take place next week according to footnotes to the Programme of Work.

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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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Filed under Egypt, European Union, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Refugees, Reports, Spain, Tunisia

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. [***]

Q&A:
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.
[***]”

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Mogherini at UN Seeking “Framework of International Legality” for Military Strikes on Smuggling Boats; Security Council Expected to Consider Issue in Coming Weeks

Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is currently at the United Nations and seeking support for the authorisation of EU military strikes on smuggling boats in Libya: “[The EU] need[s] to make sure we have a framework of international legality in which we want to operate. There’s nothing we’re going to do that’s outside the framework of work together with U.N. and/or in partnership with the Libyan authorities” She said that the EU was working in “strong coordination” with the EU members of the U.N. Security Council on the issue. (See also tweet from EU UN Mission: “Human trafficking is threat for security & stability for all countries & EU will work with all partners.”)

Yesterday Mogherini sought to assure Libya that whatever the EU does, should not be perceived as an attack against the Libyan people: “I want to make it very clear there is nothing the European Union is preparing or thinking of that is to be intended against Libyan people or the Libyan authorities in all their complexity.”

Bernardino León, the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), will brief the UN Security Council today (Wednesday, 29 April) regarding the dialogue between different Libyan groups that is being facilitated by the UN.

While León’s briefing is not expected to address the issue of authorising EU military strikes, according to What’s In Blue-Security Council Report, “[t]he humanitarian situation in Libya is likely to be of interest to Council members. … In a 21 April press statement, Council members expressed grave concern at the recent proliferation of the smuggling of migrants off the coast of Libya. Even though this issue exceeds the scope of the conflict in Libya and is expected to be tackled separately by the Council in the coming weeks, Council members might be interested in asking León about reactions among Libyans of the potential responses to this phenomenon which are being discussed by the European Union and others….”

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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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UNHCR Assisting 1200+ Migrants in Libya Intercepted by Libyan Coast Guard Over Past 10 Days

Full Text of UNHCR Press Statement, 28 April 2015:

“In Libya, UNHCR and its partners have been assisting some of the 1,242 people rescued at sea from unseaworthy boats or intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard in waters near Tripoli over the past 10 days, who have mostly been sent to immigration detention centres.

This includes a group of more than 200 people from the Horn of Africa intercepted at Tajura (16 km east of Tripoli) four of whom had serious burn injuries from a gas explosion two weeks ago at an unknown location where they were held by smugglers before boarding a boat bound for Europe. The group was taken to an immigration detention centre in Tripoli where medical staff from UNHCR’s partner on the ground treated burns and arranged the transfer to hospital of four seriously injured people. This included a 20-year-old mother with extensive burns to her arms and legs and her two-year-old son with extensive burns to his face.

UNHCR is aware of at least 2,663 migrants or asylum-seekers (including women and children) spread across eight immigration detention facilities across Libya run by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) – a significant increase from the 1,455 people in detention a month ago. The main nationalities in the centres are Somalis, Eritreans, Ethiopians and Sudanese as well as people from various West African countries. UNHCR understands that 15 immigration centres are now operational across the country. Foreigners in Libya can be arrested for lack of lawful immigration status and can spend anything from one week to 12 months in detention. UNHCR can generally organize the release of refugees and asylum-seekers registered with our office within a few days, although our capacity to register new arrivals to Libya is limited in the current security environment. We also advocate for the release of very vulnerable people, like pregnant women and also for alternatives to detention, if possible.

Our local staff and partners who visit immigration detention centres say conditions are poor, with urgent needs for more medical help, improved ventilation and sanitation as well as relief items. With the rate of detention on the rise, overcrowding compounds already tough conditions. In some centres, more than 50 people are crowded into rooms designed for 25. Temperatures are on the rise, as are the mosquitos which combined with poor ventilation could spread disease. At the request of local authorities, UNHCR is helping to ease the dire conditions. We are giving out soap, underwear, clothes and other items to detainees in the eight centres we can currently access.

There are some 36,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Libya (though some of these may have moved on), who are affected by the growing violence and lawlessness in the country. Among these, the largest group (18,000) are Syrians while Palestinians, Eritreans, Iraqis, Somalis, Sudanese make up significant groups.

Despite the volatile situation in Libya, UNHCR continues to help refugees and asylum-seekers through our national staff and NGO partners. We run two community development centres in Tripoli and Benghazi and have also expanded outreach this year through a mobile medical and social team in Tripoli. We also run dedicated hotlines to help people get registered, receive cash assistance, renew documents, or who are in detention. We are setting up another hotline with the Libyan Coast Guard to receive search and rescue updates.

Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to deliver aid like mattresses, blankets, clothing and kitchen utensils to thousands of internally displaced Libyans, and is supporting municipal authorities to track displacement and assess needs. Some 400,000 Libyans have been displaced by various waves of violence, according to UN figures.

For more information on this topic, please contact:
• In Tunis (covering Libya), Marwa Baitelmal on +216 228 344 31
• In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on +41 79 200 76 17”

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If the EU Attacks Migrant Boats in Zuwara, Libya, How Will It Select from Among the 100s of Boats?

Italy and other EU States are clearly in possession of information regarding the specific locations in Libya from where migrant boats depart. The Guardian’ s Patrick Kingsley has been reporting from Libya in recent days, interviewing smugglers and observing a migrant boat depart on at least one recent occasion from the port of Zuwara located west of Tripoli.

If the EU does press forward with its stated intention of destroying boats that may be used by smugglers, how will the EU select the boat or boats to be destroyed? Google Earth imagery dating from early this year shows approximately 125 large fishing boats moored in the harbour and another 100 boats on land immediately adjacent to the harbour. Dozens of smaller boats are also in the water and on land. (See screen shots below.) Additionally, the harbour is surrounded by at least five large warehouses, each approximately 100 metres in length. The Google Earth imagery suggests that additional boats may be located within some of the warehouses.

There is no effective and safe (or legal) means by which a particular smuggling boat can be identified and destroyed without destroying multiple other boats. As the Guardian’s Kingsley wrote, “smugglers do not maintain a separate, independent harbour of clearly marked vessels, ready to be targeted by EU air strikes. They buy them off fishermen at a few days’ notice. To destroy their potential pool of boats, the EU would need to raze whole fishing ports.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Sunday criticised the EU plan to use military force, telling La Stampa (as reported by Reuters), “[t]here is no military solution to the human tragedy playing out in the Mediterranean. It is crucial that we take a holistic approach that looks at the root causes, at security and the human rights of migrants and refugees, and have legal and regulated immigration networks.”

See previous posts on this topic: The EU’s Proposed Plan to Destroy Migrant Boats in Libya Must be Rejected by the European Council and UK and France to Seek UN Security Council Authorisation for Military Action Against Smuggler Boats.

Zuwara Harbour 2015 Via Google Earth

Zuwara Harbour.

Zuwara Harbour West Side Warehouses via Google Earth

Storage area and warehouses on west side of Zuwara Harbour.

Zuwara Harbour South Warehouses South 2015 via Google Earth

Storage area and warehouses on south side of Zuwara Harbour.

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UK and France to Seek UN Security Council Authorisation for Military Action Against Smuggler Boats

From Malta Today: “The United Kingdom and France, members of the United Nations Security Council, will kick off discussions in an attempt to obtain a UN resolution mandating the destruction of boats used by smugglers.”

From AFP: “Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi added that leaders from France and Britain, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, had ‘committed to get a resolution from the United Nations for an intervention in Libya.’”

Earlier today the Security Council released a short Presidential Statement regarding the “The Impact of the Humanitarian Crisis in Syria on the Neighbouring Countries.” Here are some excerpts from the PRST with bearing on the migrant and refugee flows in the region:

“[***] The Security Council expresses grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, including at the fact that over 220,000 people have been killed, including well over 10,000 children since the beginning of the conflict ; around half of the population has been forced to flee their homes, including over 3.9 million who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, among which are nearly 2.1 million children ; and that more than 12.2 million people in Syria require urgent humanitarian assistance including 440,000 civilians in besieged areas.[***]

The Security Council is alarmed that the Syrian crisis has become the largest humanitarian emergency crisis in the world today, threatening peace and security in the region with diverse implications on the neighbouring countries and the displacement of millions of Syrians into those countries, and calls to address further spill-over of the conflict in Syria into the neighbouring countries. [***]

The Security Council underlines the risk of further regional destabilization if the conflict, refugee crisis and the needs of the host countries are not adequately addressed. The Security Council stresses the importance of funding the humanitarian and development responses to the refugee crisis, providing support for national response plans, addressing the humanitarian needs of refugees, in particular women and children, both in camps and urban areas and through capacity building and technical support, strengthening the resilience of host countries and communities as components of stabilizing the region, preventing radicalization and countering the threat of terrorism and foreign terrorist fighters.

The Security Council notes with concern that the international response to the Syrian and regional crisis continues to fall short of meeting the needs as assessed by host governments and the United Nations, and urges all Member States, based on burden-sharing principles, to support the United Nations and the countries of the region, including by adopting medium and long-term responses to alleviate the impact on communities, providing increased, flexible and multi-year predictable funding as well as increasing resettlement efforts, and taking note in this regard of the Berlin Communiqué of 28 October 2014. [***]”

See also “Security Council Press Statement on Recent Maritime Tragedy in Mediterranean Sea” of 21 April 2015 – Full Text:

“The members of the Security Council deplored the recent maritime tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea that resulted in hundreds of casualties, and extended their deepest condolences to all those affected and to their families.

The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants, condemned and deplored the said acts and underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice.

The members of the Security Council called for the full implementation by State Parties of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The members of the Security Council expressed their strong support to countries in the region affected by the smuggling of migrants and emphasized the need to step up coordination of international efforts in order to strengthen a global response to this common challenge, and in order to protect these vulnerable migrants from being victimized by human traffickers.

The members of the Security Council urged all Member States, including countries of origin and transit, to cooperate with each other and with relevant international and regional organizations, including the IOM [International Organization for Migration], in addressing illicit migration flows, and dismantling smuggling networks in the region.

In that regard, the members of the Security Council urged all States to comply with their applicable obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law.”

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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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“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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