Category Archives: Netherlands

NATO Reportedly Agrees to Provide Additional Information to PACE Regarding Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean

The PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, in connection with the preparation of a report by Ms Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) on the deaths of boat people who have died in the Mediterranean, conducted a hearing in Paris on 29 November.  NATO officials who met with Ms Strik in Brussels before attended the hearing reportedly agreed to provide additional information, which might include satellite imagery, to the PACE Committee.

From PACE Press Statement, 30 November 2011:  “‘With 1971 boatpeople having perished in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach European soil from North Africa, the year 2011 sets a sad record as the deadliest year for boatpeople,’ PACE rapporteur Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) said at the end of a hearing on this issue, organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Migration Committee.  ‘Never before the Mediterranean Sea has been as closely monitored as this year because of the war in Libya and still more boat people than ever perished or disappeared,’ the rapporteur added.  ‘Is there a common understanding of a “distress situation”? Is it clear which legal framework is applicable and by whom? Do all ships, even warships, have to proceed with rescue operations even if they are situated beyond established search and rescue zones? Where does legal responsibility start and where does political responsibility end? These are some of the issues we are currently trying to clarify,’ she said.  Mrs Strik’s report will focus on an incident reported in March this year, during which 63 boat people escaping from Libya died after their appeals for rescue had allegedly been ignored. ‘The testimonies of survivors of this incident are coherent, but we have to continue to collect more data and information on who was when and where in the area and we now expect Nato and the EU to provide us with satellite imagery and other relevant information,’ she concluded.”

Click here, here, here, and here for articles.

Click here for PACE Press Statement.

Click here for my last post on the topic.

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Filed under Council of Europe, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, Netherlands, News, Tunisia, UNHCR

Annual number of asylum applications in select countries, 2004-2009

From Migration Policy Institute’s MPI Data Hub: annual number of asylum applications in select countries.  I copied the data for years 2004-2009 below.  Click here for the data for the years 1980-2009, footnotes, and source information.

Countries of destination 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Australia 3,201 3,204 3,515 3,980 4,771 6,170
Austria 24,634 22,461 13,349 11,921 12,841 15,830
Belgium 15,357 15,957 11,587 11,114 12,252 17,190
Canada 25,750 20,786 22,868 27,865 34,800 33,250
Denmark 3,235 2,260 1,918 1,852 2,360 3,750
Finland 3,861 3,574 2,324 1,505 4,016 5,910
France 58,545 49,733 30,748 29,387 35,404 41,980
Germany 35,613 28,914 21,029 19,164 22,085 27,650
Greece 4,469 9,050 12,267 25,113 19,884 15,930
Ireland 4,765 4,325 4,315 3,985 3,866 2,690
Italy 9,722 9,548 10,348 14,057 30,324 17,600
Netherlands 9,782 12,347 14,465 7,102 13,399 14,910
Norway 7,945 5,402 5,320 6,528 14,431 17,230
Spain 5,535 5,254 5,297 7,662 4,517 3,000
Sweden 23,161 17,530 24,322 36,373 24,353 24,190
United Kingdom 40,620 30,815 28,335 27,880 31,315 29,840
United States 44,972 39,240 41,101 40,449 39,362 38,968

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Frontex’s Role to be One of Coordination

Consistent with its mandate and standard practice, Frontex’s role in the new Central Mediterranean joint operation will be one of coordination.  According to DI-VE, “[i]n the current situation, [Frontex] foresees its main role as coordinating border guards from among the member states, particularly with regard to second-line experts in the screening and debriefing of irregular migrants as well as in coordinating an appropriate operational response to the humanitarian needs in the area. In addition, the agency is investigating the most optimal means by which to adapt a range of technical assets engaged in sea border operations in the Mediterranean to the needs of the Italian authorities.”

Click here for article.

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Frontex Central Mediterranean Operation Likely to Begin Within Days; Dutch to Send Coast Guard Plane to Lampedusa; France and Spain Likely to Deploy Planes or Ships

The Dutch government has decided to deploy a Coast Guard surveillance plane to Italy to participate in the new Frontex joint operation.  The Dutch decision was announced by Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers on Friday.  The plane and two Dutch border guards are scheduled to be deployed for at least six weeks beginning 21 February.

The Financial Times reports today that the Frontex joint operation may be operational early next week and that details are being finalised at a meeting that is taking place today in Rome between European Commission and Italian officials.  According to the FT article, one topic under discussion is the situation in Libya and the possibility for a larger wave of migrants should the situation in Libya become more unstable or should Gaddafi’s government collapse.

Click here (EN) (FT registration may be required), here (NL), here (NL), and here (EN) for articles.

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Filed under European Union, France, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, Netherlands, News, Spain, Tunisia

WikiLeaks 2008 US Cable: Background Regarding EU-Libya Framework Agreement Negotiations

This cable provides the views of the US Embassy in Tripoli regarding the state of the EU-Libya Framework Agreement negotiations in July 2008.  It was written by the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, John Godfrey.  The cable is titled: “THE EU-LIBYA FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT: VENI, VISAS, VETO.”  The cable states that Libya views the EU Framework Agreement as “a ‘reward’ for Libya’s decision in July 2007 to release six [Bulgarian and Palestinian] health workers accused of intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV/AIDS.”  The cable describes threats to veto the framework agreement by individual EU member states in an effort to secure bi-lateral concessions from Libya and describes Libya’s claim that the “draft language initialed by [EU] Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner ‘commits’ the EU …  to funding a ‘surveillance mechanism’ along Libya’s land and sea borders to combat illegal migration.”

Most of the cable’s text follows:

“(C)  Summary.  The Government of Libya (GOL) remains keenly interested in pursuing a European Union-Libya Framework Agreement and views a more formalized partnership with the European Union (EU) as a “reward” for Libya’s decision in July 2007 to release six foreign health workers accused of intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV/AIDS. Certain EU members, unsure that a more formal cooperation mechanism would be beneficial and sensing Libya’s eagerness, have used the threat of a veto to push their bilateral agendas, particularly with respect to commercial and human rights issues.  One year after Libya and the EU agreed in principle to pursue an agreement, a sizeable perception gap exists between the two sides on the merits of a more formalized partnership.  Despite occasional differences with the EU, most recently over the French-backed Union for the Mediterranean proposal, the GOL will continue to seek an EU framework agreement, in large part because of Muammar al-Qadhafi’s desire to be taken seriously by European leaders. End summary.


2.  (C)  Libya’s much-heralded decision in July 2007 to [release] six foreign health workers imprisoned since 1999 on charges of intentionally infecting children in Benghazi with the HIV/AIDS virus frames current discussions on an EU-Libya Framework Agreement.  Widely seen by Europeans in Libya as a successful alignment of European and Libyan interests, the denoument of the Bulgarian medics case – particularly their immediate pardon upon their arrival in Bulgaria – remains a lasting embarrassment for key elements of the Libyan regime.  The GOL, preoccupied with avoiding the public perception that it caved to foreign pressure to resolve the case, has trumpeted a putative EU framework agreement as a significant concession and a positive coup for Libyan diplomacy.  In an hours-long televised news conference just days after the medics left, Foreign Minister Abdulrahman Shalgham and Under Secretary for European Affairs Abdulati Obeidi boasted that a draft agreement, initialed by EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner during her July 2007 visit to Tripoli, would pave the way for easier access to Schengen visas for Libyan citizens and increased EU infrastructure investments in Libya. Ferrero-Waldner’s announcement in February 2008 that the EU Commission had submitted a recommendation to the Council of Ministers to grant a mandate to open negotiations with Libya stoked GOL hopes for rapid progress.

3.  (C)  French, Spanish, and German diplomats describe Libya’s primary objective in pursuing an EU framework agreement as reducing the mandatory waiting period for Schengen visas for Libyan nationals from the current 10 days to 48 hours.  …

4.  (C)  The July 2007 EU-Libya draft also lays out cooperation in the fields of human rights, health, and development.  U/S Obeidi informed French Ambassador Francois Gouyette in June 2008 that Libya agreed in principle to negotiate a human rights chapter within the framework agreement; however, Obeidi categorically refused to include discussions of individual human rights cases in the EU negotiations.  … In addition, the GOL has claimed that draft language initialed by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner “commits” the EU …  to funding a “surveillance mechanism” along Libya’s land and sea borders to combat illegal migration.


5.  (C)  Certain EU members, sensing Libya’s eagerness to move ahead, have threatened to block a framework agreement as a means by which to secure bilateral concessions, chiefly on commercial and human rights issues.  Italian Economic and Commercial Counselor Domenico Bellantone said that Italy is prepared to veto any framework agreement unless Libya ends a series of discriminatory commercial practices that target Italian firms operating in Libya.  …  French and Greek diplomats in Tripoli have hinted that they may also dangle a veto threat to resolve commercial disputes.  The Netherlands have approached certain EU members about a possible veto over Libya’s outstanding private debt to Dutch firms. Danish Consul-General George Wallen recently told EU Ambassadors in Tripoli that Denmark would veto a framework agreement with Libya unless the GOL lifts bans on Danish imports and Danish participation in infrastructure projects in Libya (prompted by a Danish magazine’s re-publishing in February 2008 of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad).  Denmark also wants the GOL to release Jamal al-Hajj, a Danish-Libyan dual-national arrested on February 16, 2007 in connection with plans to hold a peaceful political demonstration.  Maltese diplomats have said Malta is considering a veto over dissatisfaction with Libya’s maritime patrols in its designated Search and Rescue (SAR) area and continuing concerns over the lack of cooperation by the GOL in efforts to stem the flow of irregular migrants from Libya to Europe.

6.  (C) European diplomats believe that apart from help in combating illegal migration from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia through Libya to Europe, Europe has little to gain from a closer partnership with Tripoli.  In absence of a more formal agreement, some European countries have pursued bilateral cooperation that they privately assess as being more nimble and effective than broader cooperation under an EU framework agreement might be.  Italian diplomats characterized a recent donation of six vessels to Libya’s coast guard and an offer to train Libyan border security officials as Italy’s bilateral response to what they view as a lack of meaningful EU engagement on illegal migrant flows through Libya.  Greek DCM Ioannis Stamatekos lauded Italy’s move and said Greece may follow suit. Maltese Poloff Daniel Malina said that Malta, lacking resources to make a large equipment donation, hoped to keep the critical migration issue on the EU’s radar during Council deliberations over the Commission’s mandate to pursue the framework agreement.


7.  (C)  Twelve months have passed since Ferrero-Waldner initialed a draft memorandum on an EU-Libya framework agreement; however, a year of inaction does not appear to have dampened GOL perceptions that relations with Europe are on an up-swing. While senior European diplomats in Tripoli are quick to point out that formal negotiations with Libya on any kind of European-Libyan cooperation agreement have yet to even begin, many GOL officials speak of key Libyan negotiating positions, such as the 48-hour Schengen visa point, as if they’re already in place. …  A series of high-level European visits, most recently that of Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, have helped attenuate the GOL’s disappointment over what it perceives as slow progress on the framework agreement and on implementing commitments made during al-Qadhafi’s visits to Spain and France in December 2007.

8. (C) Comment: Libya’s interest in a closer partnership with Europe seems sincere; however, the GOL’s foreign policy, particularly at the senior levels, remains somewhat fickle. Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi’s visit to Madrid and Paris last December sparked a surge of pro-European rhetoric in Tripoli – in one instance, Qadhafi threatened to pull Libyan investment from sub-Saharan Africa to redirect to his new European friends.  More recently, though, al-Qadhafi orchestrated a meeting of Arab Maghreb Union leaders in Tripoli to publicly disparage Sarkozy’s Union for the Mediterannean proposal (reftel).  Characterizing the proposed union as “insulting”, he claimed it would undermine Arab and African member states’ commitments to the Arab League and African Union, and told former British Prime Minister Tony Blair he was concerned that the proposal represented an effort by southern European states to create a North African bulwark against illegal migration from sub-Saharan Africa and to “further legitimize” Israel.  Despite such disagreements, Qadhafi’s interest in being taken seriously, particularly by his “friends Nicholas (Sarkozy) and Silvio (Berlusconi)”, will continue to drive the GOL’s keen interest in finalizing a framework agreement with the EU.  End comment.   GODFREY”

Click here or here for full cable.


Filed under Denmark, European Union, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, Netherlands, News, Spain

Greece May Use Dutch “Ships” to Detain Migrants

Following its announcement that it was considering building a wall along portions of its land border with Turkey, Greek officials announced earlier this month that they are considering the acquisition of two floating migrant detention centres from the Netherlands.  The two vessels would be leased and would have the capacity to hold approximately 1000 persons.  Greece reportedly was considering using passenger ships to detain migrants, but decided that floating detention centres used by Dutch authorities in Rotterdam are a better option.  The floating detention centres would be used in conjunction with prefabricated detention facilities that are being constructed on land to detain the large numbers of migrants being detained by Greek and Frontex authorities along the Greek-Turkish land border.

Click here and here for articles. (EL)  (Read with Google translate)

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Dutch Govt Position on Asylum Requests Made at Sea

The Dutch Minister of Justice, E.M.H. Hirsch Ballin, recently outlined the Dutch government’s position regarding the proper handling of asylum requests made by migrants who are intercepted at sea during Frontex coordinated operations.  The position is contained in a letter sent by the Justice Minister to the Chairman of the Dutch Senate on 3 September 2010.

This recent statement was brought to my attention by Dr Matteo Tondini, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who succinctly summarized the Dutch Government’s position as follows:

  1. Dutch vessels are not a portion of Dutch territory;
  2. Asylum requests of migrants made on board Dutch vessels must be assessed by a competent authority (not by Dutch authorities, however, but possibly by the host nation); and
  3. The Netherlands considers this as a conditio sine qua non for its participation in FRONTEX operations at sea.

The Minister’s letter refers to provisions of the Council Decision re Rules for Sea Border Operations Coordinated by Frontex the validity of which is now being consider by the European Court of Justice pursuant to a challenge by the European Parliament.

I reproduce here an English translation of the Justice Minister’s letter provided by Dr  Tondini:

“21 501-28  Defense Council – Nr. 61  Letter from the Minister of Justice

To the President of the House of Representatives, The Hague, September 3, 2010

With this letter I keep my promise, made during the debate on 18 June 2008, to brief your House about the operational requirements for Frontex operations at sea. I also come here after the commitment undertaken by the then State Secretary for European Affairs on 16 June 2009 to your Chamber, about the procedure to be followed if a request for asylum is made on a Dutch ship during Frontex operations at sea.


FRONTEX coordinates the operational cooperation between independent States which are competent for the management of external borders. Different operations of member states under the coordination of Frontex have been carried out in this framework. Due to a call by the European Council for clear rules and uniformity in the implementation of Frontex operations at sea, in 2007 the Commission was mandated to draw the requirements for the Agency’s maritime operations.

Operational requirements for Frontex operations at sea

The creation of these rules was a laborious and lengthy process. Based on the results of an extensive debate within a group of experts from the European Commission, the European Commission has drafted rules for Frontex operations at sea in the context of the surveillance of the external borders, in order to prevent illegal migration. The attached decision that embeds these rules, is a supplement to the Schengen Borders Code and applies since 4 May 2010.

In Part I of the Annex, the Decision contains a number of mandatory requirements for the interception of migrants in the contiguous zone and on the high seas. Part II of the Annex to the decision includes a number of non-binding rules on the search and rescue of people in distress during Frontex operations at sea, concerning the safe debarkation of survivors.

These requirements are a specification of the international norms and regulations on the interception and the search and rescue of people in distress at sea, contained in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.

In the Decision it is stated that these requirements are included and elaborated in the operational plans for each operation set up by the Agency. The arrangements for the rescue and debarkation of migrants in distress are also included in the operational plan. Furthermore, Section No. 1.2 of the Annex I to the Decision explicitly indicates the principle of non-refoulement.

The rules contained in the decision will contribute to create a greater uniformity of action between Member States during FRONTEX maritime operations and will make it possible to address Member States when they deviate from the norms concerning the activities related to the interception and the search and rescue of people at sea.

Procedure to request asylum on Dutch ships during Frontex operations at sea

An asylum request can only be submitted to the responsible authority of the state in which territory – including the territorial waters – the application is made. A Dutch ship is not part of the Dutch territory and on a Dutch ship there is no authority responsible for handling applications, being the commander of the ship not entitled to receive them. However, on a Dutch ship the Dutch jurisdiction applies.

In this regard, it is the responsibility of a Dutch ship’s commander that if a migrant on board expresses a wish to submit an application, this is not left without consequences. This requires that an alien who thinks to need protection has to be returned only after his/her request has been assessed and there is no reason to grant the protection in question. These migrants should therefore be given the opportunity to submit an application to a competent authority.

In the operational requirements for Frontex maritime operations it is provided that Member States should clarify in the operational plan for Frontex operations the steps to be taken with regard to intercepted or rescued people who are in need of protection and the place of their debarkation, according to international law and all the applicable bilateral agreements.

This means that the operational plan may include an explicit provision on that it is the host nation which is responsible for handling the applications of intercepted or rescued migrants made on board the Dutch ship. The Netherlands considers the inclusion of this provision as a condition to participate in a Frontex operation.

Member States are always bound by the principle of non-refoulement under the 1951 Refugee Convention and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).

In addition, during the training provided by Frontex much attention is given to the preparation of border guards in the field of asylum and refugee law, focusing in particular on the identification of asylum seekers within mixed migration flows. Courses are aimed to even better prepare border guards to properly identify the protection needs of refugees.

The Minister of Justice, E.M.H. Hirsch Ballin”

Click here for the Letter (NL).

(I thank Dr Tondini for this information and the translation.  -nwf)

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