Category Archives: Spain

ICMC Europe Report: “MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe”

ICMC has released a 150+ page report entitled “MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe.”  I have just started reading the report and may post some additional excerpts in the coming days.  Here is an excerpt from the Foreword and Introduction:

“In the first months of 2011 alone, more than 2,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea. More than 2,500 unaccompanied children arrived just on Italian shores. Tragic, chronic figures like these are urgent and continuous reminders of the need for another approach to human mobility that goes far beyond simple enforcement and fundamentally recognises the rights to life and protection for all.

It is not so much the arrivals of migrants and refugees that should be put to question, but rather the response mechanisms which very often fail as much in the fields of prevention and rescue as in the processes deciding where and how people are permitted to move, disembark, stay or return. Protection today is provided only for a limited number of boat people who need it, and governed by systems of access and identification that are far too limited. Correct identification, differentiation and referral systems are needed for all migrants in distress and from the very moment of their arrival, not only because they are human beings, but also because such approaches reflect the quality of our societies….”

Scope of this report – Gathering the results of nearly a half thousand surveys of first responders and other actors as well as the migrants themselves, this report examines what happens—or does not happen— to identify migrants in need of protection and assistance upon their arrival in Europe. In particular, it sheds light on the mechanisms developed, and gaps both in practice and in policy in responses to boat people and other migrants arriving in mixed migratory movements in four countries at Europe’s Southern door: Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.

Although rescue at sea at one end and voluntary or enforcement-related return at the other are highly relevant topics and areas of research per se, DRIVE has focused on the situation of migrants at point of arrival. As such, the project and this report look at first responses in the phase immediately upon and surrounding arrival, and then to identification, differentiation and referral mechanisms for legal protection and/or further assistance in subsequent phases following arrival.

The principal focus of the project was on boat arrivals, but the shift in routes in Greece during the project period and the sharp increase in land border crossings there compelled reflection upon responses to migrants crossing land borders as well as those arriving by sea. While the project maintained its focus on arrivals by sea, one of its findings is that most of the laws, policies, procedures and responses applicable to boat people pertain equally to those arriving across land borders—in particular, steps on identification, differentiation and referral for protection and assistance.

The DRIVE project set out to promote protection of the rights of all migrants in these situations, especially the most vulnerable, regardless of their immigration status. Nevertheless, the project has highlighted four groups whose members have come to be defined to a varying extent as having specific rights or special needs under international and European legal instruments: asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, children, and victims of torture. It merits emphasising however, that other migrants also have special needs because of particular vulnerabilities,- notably people with serious health problems, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children and persons who have been subjected to or witnessed torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence.

Structure of this report – The report is composed of four main parts, plus annexes:

Part 1: Building policy responses to boat people and others arriving in mixed migration flows – Within this first part, Chapter 1 provides a brief history of the policy evolution and the organizations involved in the area of mixed migration. Chapter 2 gives an overview of legal obligations relating to the rights of the migrants composing these arrivals. The third chapter provides an analysis of the EU policy and legal framework with regards to mixed migration arrivals at its borders.

Part 2: A focus on post-arrival identification, differentiation and referral for assistance and protection – The first chapter explains what is meant and implied by “identification, differentiation and referral”in mixed migration contexts, the concept at the core of the DRIVE study. The second chapter seeks to focus on the legal obligations of member states to conduct identification of people in need of protection at the border, with in-depth legal analysis of the rights and state obligations that international and EU law articulate for asylum seekers, children, and victims of human trafficking and torture.

Part 3: What happens to people arriving irregularly by boat in Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain? – The first chapter gives a snapshot of the trends and figures of arrivals in the Mediterranean region. In Chapter 2, the summaries of the four country reports (each presented in its entirety in an annex) then provide a look at the procedures and practices on the ground for first reception, identification and referral. The third chapter presents the results of the extensive migrants surveys that the DRIVE project conducted in the four countries in an effort to give voice to the beneficiaries themselves. Chapter 4 concludes with a comparative analysis identifying the main gaps and challenges in those countries.

Part 4: Conclusions and recommendations – The focus on the four countries enabled consideration of practices and procedures which could either improve the quality of the process or prevent people from accessing protection and assistance. Recommendations therefore seek to address how identification, differentiation and referral can be improved in the Mediterranean, including how the international and European legal and policy framework can address this question in a more comprehensive manner.

Annexes: Detailed mapping of the situation in Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain are attached in the annexes, as well as a presentation of some relevant tools and guidelines….”

Click here for Report.

1 Comment

Filed under Analysis, Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mediterranean, Reports, Spain

DIIS Policy Brief: Europe Fighting Irregular Migration – Consequences of European non-entry policies for West African Mobility

A new Policy Brief from DIIS by Nauja Kleist, “Europe Fighting Irregular Migration – Consequences of European non-entry policies for West African Mobility.”

Abstract: “In collaboration with African countries, the EU is fighting irregular migration to Europe through border control and deportations. However, rather than halting irregular migration, such policies reconfigure mobility flows and make migration routes more dangerous and difficult. The phenomenon of migrants and asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean in boats to reach Europe is just one example of this phenomenon.

In this DIIS Policy Brief, Nauja Kleist explores the consequences of EU migration policies and the fight against irregular migration, focusing on West African migration. The overall policy tendency is a differentiation of African migration flows, making mobility easier for educated and privileged groups and more difficult and dangerous for the large majority of migrants. Likewise there is a tendency to conflate migration within Africa – by far the largest and most important aspect of West African migration – with migration towards Europe.

Examining some of the main routes and migration systems between West and North Africa, the brief recommends to ensure evidence-based and context-sensitive migration polices, to carefully consider the human and politics costs of externalizing border control, and to ensure further access to legal and safe migration.”

Click here for full document.

1 Comment

Filed under Analysis, Eastern Atlantic, ECOWAS, European Union, Frontex, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Morocco, Reports, Senegal, Spain

Frontex Quarterly Reports for 2011 Q1 and Q2

The Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) released its 2nd Quarter Report (April-June) for 2011 on 4 October.  The 1st Quarter Report (Jan-March 2011) was released on 21 July.  As always, while the information is a few months old, the reports contain a significant amount of information, graphs, and statistical tables regarding detections of illegal border crossings, irregular migration routes, detections of facilitators, detections of illegal stays, refusals of entry, asylum claims, and more.

Here are extensive excerpts from the Q2 Report:

“Executive summary

In Q2 2011, all Frontex irregular-migration indicators increased compared to the previous quarter. The most important indicator, detections of illegal border-crossing, increased to a level not seen since Q3 2008 and correspondingly asylum applications are now at nearly the highest level since data collection began. What’s more, migration pressure at the border from migrants attempting to enter and stay in the EU increased even more than EU-level figures suggest, as they are offset against extensive reductions in Albanian circular migration.

In 2011 there were major and extensive developments in irregular-migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings: the first was seasonally increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a wide variety of migrants continued to be detected at very high levels. The second, and the undeniable hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of sub-Saharan migrants landed in Italy and Malta mostly having been forcibly expelled from Libya. [***]

4. Main points Q2 2011

  • All irregular migration indicators increased relative to the previous quarter
  • Compared to a year ago, there were significant EU-level increases in several irregular migration indicators, such as detections of illegal border-crossing, clandestine entries, and refusals of entry. There were also increased asylum applications
  • Despite detections of Afghan migrants falling by a third compared to last year, they were still the most common nationality detected illegally crossing the EU external border. Most were previously resident as refugees in Iran
  • In contrast, detections of all the other highly-ranked nationalities (Tunisians, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Ghanaians) increased massively relative to the same period last year
  • In total there were over 40 000 detections of illegal border-crossings, a 50% increase compared to Q2 2010. These were the result of two simultaneous but independent routes of irregular migration: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Central Mediterranean routes:

1. In the Eastern Mediterranean:

– There were over 11 000 detections of illegal border-crossing, almost exclusively at the Greek land border with Turkey, which is comparable with the same period in 2010

– This flow currently attracts migrants from north Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia

– Groups of Dominicans were detected travelling to Turkey to enter the EU via the Greek land border

– Secondary movements are assumed from detections of (i) illegal border-crossings in the Western Balkans, (ii) false documents on flights to major EU airports from Turkey as well as Greece, and (iii) landings in southern Italy from Greece, Turkey and Albania

2. In the Central Mediterranean:

– Following a bilateral return-agreement between Italy and Tunisia, the massive influx of Tunisians to Lampedusa reported in the previous quarter decreased, but remained significant

– A very wide range of sub-Saharan Africans were detected on this route, some having been forcibly departed from Libya

– Italy reported more detections of illegal border-crossing in Sicily than ever before, a three-fold increase compared to the previous quarter; the increased flow was composed of migrants from Côte d’Ivoire as well as Tunisia and a range of other nationalities

– There were also increased detections of Egyptian migrants and facilitators landing in Sicily and Southern Italy from Egypt

– Italy and Malta reported huge increases in the number of asylum applications submitted by sub-Saharan African migrants. In Italy increases were particularly marked for Nigerians and Ghanaians

  • Following their new visa-free status, fewer Albanians were detected illegally crossing the EU border, and illegally staying within the EU (both mainly in Greece). Instead they were increasingly refused entry to Greece and they were also increasingly detected at the UK border, either as clandestine entry or using false documents
  • There was an increased flow of Georgian migrants towards Belarus (air and land), with increased illegal entries and asylum applications in Poland and Lithuania
  • In Q2, Libya was the most significant source of irregular migration to the EU. However, more recently the ability of the Gaddafi regime to forcibly expel its migrant population to the EU has become compromised; the situation remains dynamic and uncertain[.]

4.1 Detections of illegal border-crossing

At the EU level, in Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since Q3 2008. The total of 41 245 detections during this reporting period is a 25% increase compared the previous quarter and a 53% increase compared to the same period last year (Fig. 2). Without question there were major and extensive developments in illegal migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings. The first was increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a range of Asian, north African and sub-Saharan African migrants were increasingly detected at very high levels. The second, and the undisputed hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was at the Italian islands in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of Tunisians, Nigerians and other sub-Saharan migrants landed in small sea vessels, the majority of which in Q2 had been forcibly departed from Libya.

Figure 2 shows the evolution of the FRAN indicator 1A – detections of illegal border-crossing, and the proportion of detections between the land and sea borders of the EU per quarter since the beginning of 2008. In Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since the peak of Q3 2008 nearly three years ago. Compared to a year ago, detections at the EU land border decreased by 42% to 13 742 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to fewer detections of Albanian nationals following their new visa-free status; elsewhere at the land border (including Greece) trends were roughly stable. In contrast, at the sea border detections increased nine-fold to some 27 500 detections (Fig. 2), the vast majority of which (95%) were in the central Mediterranean, forming the major development in irregular migration to the EU in 2011.

[***]

At the EU level, detections of illegal border-crossing increased by 53% compared to a year ago (Fig. 3). However, this level masks a lot of variation among Member States. First, and most importantly to the current situation, was a 4 200% increase in detections of almost exclusively African migrants in Italy. Related to this central Mediterranean flow, was a concurrent and massive increase in detections reported from Malta (from 0 to 710), and also increases further west into Spain (+61%). As a result, all these countries have seen increases in other indicators such as asylum applications of the most common nationalities (see relevant sections). [***]

Routes

As illustrated in Figure 4, for just the second time since records began in early 2008, in Q2 2011 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, which comprises the blue borders of Italy and Malta, exceeded those reported from both the (i) Eastern Mediterranean route of the land and sea borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, and (ii) circular migration from Albania to Greece.

Without question, in Q2 2011 the single most important irregular-immigration route in terms of detections of illegal border-crossing was the Central Mediterranean route, where detections increased in the beginning of 2011 to previously unprecedented levels (Fig. 4). In the first quarter of 2011, and uniquely compared to previous surges of illegal immigration, this flow was restricted to a single nationality – Tunisian, most of whom were responding to civil unrest in their home country by leaving towards the Italian Island of Lampedusa. In response to this almost unmanageable influx of irregular migration at a single and isolated location, a bilateral return agreement was signed between Italy and Tunisia, which allowed for the accelerated repatriation of newly arrived individuals. Hence, during the current reporting period, the flow of Tunisian migrants fell from over 20 200 in the previous quarter to 4 300 in Q2 2011.

However, civil uprising commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, and its effects on migration in the area, was not limited to Tunisia. For example according to multiple sources, in next-door Libya, migrants from sub-Saharan countries were in Q2 2011 being coerced to move towards the EU by the Gaddafi regime in response to the NATO Operation Unified Protector which commenced on March 27 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Thus, in Q2 2011, besides some continued departures from Tunisia, the flow in the central Mediterranean was composed of a single flow of large numbers migrants from sub-Saharan countries departing Libya in small vessels. [***]

4.1.1 Eastern Mediterranean route

Detections of illegal border-crossings on this route increased seasonally and in line with previous years, from 6 504 in Q1 2011 to 11 137 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to a massive increase in detections at the Greek land border with Turkey, where detections increased from 6 057 to 10 582. [***]

4.1.2 Central Mediterranean route

In Q2 2011 there were 26 167 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, a 10% increase even compared to the ‘peak’ reported during the previous quarter, and evidently a massive increase compared to the negligible detections throughout all of 2010. The vast majority of detections on this route were reported from Italy (25 500) where detections increased by 13% even compared to the ‘influx’ of migrants reported during Q1 2011. In Italy, Central African, Tunisian, Nigerian and Ghanaian were the mostly commonly detected nationalities, 90% of which were detected in the Pelagic Islands (14 300), most notably Lampedusa (Fig. 7). However, in Q2 2011 there were also more detections of illegal border-crossing reported from Sicily (2 260) than ever before; this figure is nearly three times bigger than that reported in the previous quarter and more than twenty times higher than during the same period last year (100). Compared to the previous quarter, in Sicily there were more detections of migrants from a very wide range of countries such as Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire and Tunisia. There were also over 710 detections reported from Malta, which is a sustained peak from the previous quarter (820) and extremely high compared to the negligible detections throughout 2010. In Malta there were much fewer detections of Somalis and Eritreans but there were increased detections of Nigerians and migrants from Côte d’Ivoire. However, migrants from Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt often claim to originate from sub-Saharan Africa in an attempt to appear as refugees, a fact which may render such comparisons of nationalities somewhat misleading.

In the previous FRAN Quarterly (Q1 2011) it was reported a surge of irregular immigration (20 000 detections) on the Central Mediterranean route that was almost entirely restricted to a single nationality: Tunisian (Fig. 8). As a result of this influx, on 20 February the JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011 commenced in the central Mediterranean, and a bilateral agreement was reached between Italy and Tunisia on 5 April 2011, which resulted in the strengthening of police surveillance along the Tunisian coast and regular repatriations of Tunisian nationals from Italy. For example, according to data collected under JO Hermes 2011, some 1 696 Tunisians were repatriated between 5 April and 23 August 2011. The repatriation agreement is probably an effective deterrent, combining as it does, returns and surveillance, however some migrants have reported their boats being spotted by military patrols that did not take any action. According to the FRAN data, in Q2 2011 some 4 286 Tunisian migrants were still detected illegally crossing the border into Italy. Although a massive reduction, this still represents a very large and significant flow of irregular migrants into the EU.

In comparison to the reduction in flow from Tunisia, in Q2 2011 there was a large increase in migrants who had departed from Libya (Fig. 9). The migrants departing from Libya were mostly nationals from countries in the Horn of Africa, the sub-Saharan and Central African regions and, to a lesser extent, Asia. According to intelligence collected during JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011, most of these migrants had already been in Libya for over a year, originally heading to Tripoli via the traditional routes for sub-Saharan and Central African migrants. In Q2 2011, migrants tended to reach Italy on large fishing vessels that had departed directly from Tripoli or the nearby ports of Medina and Janzour. Most of these deported African nationals did not want to leave the country as their standard of living in Libya was high compared to their home countries. Several even stated that they would choose to return to Libya after the war. In Q2 2011 reports suggest that some migrants were instructed to reach embarkation areas on their own but had been caught by the military or police and then detained in camps or disused barracks until they were transported to embarkation areas and onto vessels bound for Italy. In each case the migrants were searched by the military before boarding and all their belongings were confiscated. According to reports, nationals of the sub-Saharan and Central African regions as well as from Horn of African countries have been recruited by the Libyan army/police to manage their compatriot migrants at gathering places or camps. In some cases the destination of vessels from Libya was Sicily, where the flow was characterised by waves of landings. For example there were around 11 landings on 13 May and 7 between 11 and 29 June, with the majority of boats arriving from Libya and Egypt. [***]

4.1.3 Western Mediterranean route

In Q1 2011 there were 1 569 detections of illegal border-crossings on this route to Southern Spain, which is nearly double compared to the previous quarter (890), and more than a 50% increase compared to a year ago (973). Some of this increase is due to better weather conditions at this time of year, but irregular migration pressure on this route is clearly higher than it was at the same time last year. [***]

In the longer-term, irregular immigration to southern Spain has been consistently decreasing since the beginning of 2006. Commonly cited reasons are Frontex Joint Operations in the area, effective bilateral agreements and more recently rising unemployment in Spain, particularly in sectors typified by migrants.* Nationalities traditionally associated with this route were Algerian, Moroccan and Ghanaian. [***]

4.1.4 Western African route

The cooperation and bilateral agreements between Spain and the rest of the Western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali) are developing steadily. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on this route over the last year, as are the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. In Q4 2010 Frontex reported a slight increase in the number of detections of illegal border-crossing at the Canary Islands, from a maximum of 50 during each of the previous 4 quarters, to 113 in Q4 2010. This increased level of detections persisted into the first quarter of this year (154), exclusively due to Moroccan nationals (152) displaced after the dismantling of migrant camps near the dispute Western Saharan region. However, during the current reporting period detections on this route decreased massively to a negligible 24 detections. [***]”

Click here for 2011 Q2 Report.

Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q2 Report.

Click here for 2011 Q1 Report.

Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q1 Report.

3 Comments

Filed under Aegean Sea, Algeria, Analysis, Cyprus, Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, Egypt, European Union, Frontex, General, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Morocco, News, Reports, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey

[Post Updated 4 August] Spanish Defence Ministry: NATO Instructed Spanish Navy to Transfer Rescued Migrants to Tunisia

A press release issued yesterday by the Spanish Ministry of Defence states that the 114 migrants who were rescued by the Spanish frigate Almirante Juan de Borbón on 11 July were transferred to Tunisian authorities on 16 July pursuant to orders issued by NATO command.

I previously have sought clarification from both NATO and the Spanish Defence Ministry regarding who made the decision to turn the rescued migrants over to Tunisian authorities and what procedures, if any, were followed to screen rescued migrants before the transfer.  NATO’s Operation Unified Protector press office informed me that all inquiries had to be directed to the Spanish Defence Ministry.  The Defence Ministry’s press office in turn has ignored my inquiries.

[Update – 4 August – I received information today from Communication Office of the Spanish Ministry of Defence reiterating that the Spanish frigate was under NATO command as an asset participating in NATO’s Operation Unified Protector.  According to the Communication Office, after the Spanish frigate commander made the decision that the migrants needed to be rescued, all of the frigate’s subsequent actions were carried out pursuant to specific commands issued by the NATO command, including the final order to transfer the migrants to Tunisian authorities.  Spanish authorities were never involved in discussions or negotiations with other countries regarding the rescued migrants.  The Communication Office referred me to NATO’s OUP Press Office for information regarding any further details of the operation.  I will try again with NATO.]

The press release issued yesterday pertains to a visit made to the Spanish  frigate Almirante Juan de Borbón by Italian Rear Admiral Filippo Maria Foffi, Commander of the NATO naval task group for Operation Unified Protector, where he praised the crew of the frigate for the rescue operation.

The press release goes on to state that after the migrants were taken on board the frigate on 11 July, “on orders from NATO command, the Juan de Borbón sailed to Malta and took a position 40 miles off the coast of that country. On 16 July, instructed by the command of NATO, the Spanish frigate headed for the coast of Tunisia to start the transfer to the Tunisian Navy patrol boat Carthage of the 106 immigrants who were still on board, after the earlier evacuation of eight persons for health and medical reasons.”

(“…siguiendo órdenes del mando de la OTAN, la ‘Juan de Borbón’ puso rumbo a Malta posicionándose a 40 millas frente a las costas de ese país.  El pasado 16 de julio, siguiendo instrucciones del mando de la Alianza, se dirigió hacia las costas de Túnez para iniciar el traslado al patrullero Carthage de la Armada tunecina, de los 106 inmigrantes que aún permanecían a bordo tras la evacuación de ocho personas por motivos médicos y de salud…”)

The Spanish government and NATO are rightfully to be praised for the rescue operation.  What is unfortunate is the lack of transparency on the part of both NATO and the Spanish Defence Ministry in regard to why the decision was made to transfer the migrants to Tunisia and what procedures, if any, were used to screen the migrants for claims to international protection.

Click here for Defence Ministry Press Release. (ES)

Click here for my last post on this topic.

2 Comments

Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain, Tunisia

Record Numbers of Migrants Reaching Ceuta and Melilla by Sea

Since the beginning of July there has been a surge in the number of irregular migrants entering the North African Spanish autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.  Over 200 migrants have entered Ceuta mostly by swimming or using small rafts to enter the territory from Morocco.  Melilla has reportedly had approximately 207 migrants reach its territory during the same period.  This is the largest number of irregular entries by sea in recent years, though the number is small compared to the events of 2005 when numerous migrants were able to traverse the border fences of the two cities.

The CETI (Centre for Temporary Stay of Immigrants) in Melilla is at roughly twice its capacity and is holding over 730 immigrants.  The CETI in Ceuta has an official capacity of 512 and is now holding over 680 migrants. The three main political groups in Ceuta’s local government have called on the Spanish government to transfer migrants from Ceuta to the mainland in order to relief the overcrowding.

Francisco Javier Velázquez, the director general of the Spanish police and Civil Guard just completed a visit to Rabat to seek greater cooperation from Morocco in controlling the migratory flow towards the Spanish territories.  Several media reports suggest that Moroccan authorities have reduced police and border guard patrols near the Spanish cities because they were deployed elsewhere in Morocco in response to the large demonstrations surrounding the referendum on the new Moroccan constitution.  With the internal demonstrations becoming smaller and less frequent, Spanish authorities believe that the Moroccan border patrols will soon be restored.

Click here, here, here, here, here, and here for articles. (all ES)

Leave a comment

Filed under Data / Stats, Mediterranean, Morocco, News, Spain

NATO Transfers Rescued Migrants to Tunisia

According to information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Defence, the Spanish frigate Almirante Juan de Borbón sailed to Tunisia earlier this morning (16 July) and, while remaining outside Tunisian waters near Zarzis, transferred the remaining 106 rescued migrants to the Carthage, a Tunisian naval vessel.  114 migrants were initially rescued by the Spanish ship.  5 of the migrants were airlifted to Malta for medical reasons on 13 July.  On 11 July, shortly after the initial rescue of the migrant boat, 3 migrants were evacuated and turned over to Tunisian authorities.  The original 114 consisted of 88 men, 20 women (5 of whom are pregnant), and 6 children. The Defence Ministry said that the decision to transfer the migrants to Tunisian authorities was a NATO decision.

While the decision to disembark the migrants in Tunisia is better than sending them to eastern Libya (something I was fearful would occur), Tunisia is problematic for several reasons.  The migrant boat was reportedly carrying Tunisians.  To the extent that any of them may have had claims for international protection, the claims have been effectively eliminated.   It is not known whether any efforts were made to assess whether any of the Tunisians had claims for international protection.   And to the extent that any of the non-Tunisians have claims for international protection, Tunisia is clearly less able to handle such claims and less able to provide care for asylum seekers relative to Malta, Italy, or Spain (or any of the NATO countries participating in Operation Unified Protector).

[17 July update – NATO’s OUP Press Office informed me earlier today that any questions regarding who made the decision to transfer the migrants to Tunisia and whether any of the migrants were screened for claims for international protection had to directed to the Spanish Ministry of Defence.]

Click here (EN), here (ES), and here (ES) for articles.

Click here for Spanish Ministry of Defence press statement and additional photos. (ES)

Photo Credit: Ministerio de Defensa de España (mde.es)

Photo Credit: Ministerio de Defensa de España (mde.es)

Photo Credit: Ministerio de Defensa de España (mde.es)

Photo Credit: Ministerio de Defensa de España (mde.es)

4 Comments

Filed under General, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain, Tunisia

Malta Says the 111 Rescued Migrants Aboard Spanish Frigate Are NATO’s Problem, Not Malta’s Problem

The stand-off between Malta, Spain, and NATO continues.  111 rescued migrants remain on board the Spanish Navy frigate, the Almirante Juan de Borbón.  Maltese authorities criticised the attempt to bring the rescued migrants to Malta and have said that the migrants should have been taken to Tunisia or Italy because both locations were closer to the original point of rescue.  Malta has now allowed a total of 5 migrants to be airlifted to Malta for medical care.  The frigate remains at sea near Malta with the 111 migrants, including women and children, and a crew of 250 sailors.

At a press conference yesterday, Maltese Interior Minister, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, said that while Malta decided to allow the transfer of several rescued migrants to Malta for emergency medical treatment, it has no intention of allowing the other rescued migrants to be disembarked in Malta.  According to the Times of Malta, Mifsud Bonnici said “the problem is not Malta’s, it is Nato’s.  Malta is a sovereign state and it demands that it be respected as such. This is not a standoff with Spain or Italy and we await Nato’s replies.”

It is unclear from various media reports whether Italian authorities formally refused permission to the Spanish frigate to dock in Lampedusa, but some reports suggest there was communication with Italian authorities who said that Lampedusa’s immigrant reception facilities were at capacity.  Well over a thousand migrants have landed in Lampedusa in recent days.

There are also some media reports which suggest that the Spanish government may be taking the position that since the Spanish frigate is under NATO command as part of Operation Unified Protector, NATO therefore must decide where the migrants are to be disembarked.

The head of the Armed Forces of Malta has taken the bizarre position that the Spanish ship is well-equipped to care for the rescued migrants and that therefore there is no urgency in regard to removing the migrants from the ship for humanitarian reasons.

Meanwhile, the NATO naval embargo of Libya is missing one ship.  NATO had 17 ships under its command patrolling the Central Mediterranean, now there are 16 ships.  The Spanish frigate has been effectively removed from its embargo duties as it waits for a resolution to the stand-off.  If and when another migrant boat requires rescue by a ship under NATO command, will the NATO embargo be further weakened?  The obligations of NATO ships to rescue migrant boats in distress under SOLAS are clear, and NATO has repeatedly said that it will rescue migrant boats when required, but one must be fearful of a situation arising, as it does with commercial ships, where a NATO vessel’s commander may be less willing to conclude that a migrant boat is in need of rescue knowing that the act of rescuing the migrants may result in the NATO ship being removed from its mission because it is unable to quickly disembark the rescued migrants.

Click here (EN), here (EN), here (ES), here (IT), and here (IT) for articles.

1 Comment

Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain

Aditus Calls for Immediate Disembarkation of Stranded Migrants

A statement from Aditus, “an independent, voluntary & non-profit organisation established with a view to monitor, act & report on access to fundamental human rights by individuals & groups”, which is based in Malta:

14 July 2011

“’Once again, political discussions take precedence over human lives.  It is at times like these that our consciences are called to do what is right, to ensure a full respect for the fundamental human rights of all persons irrespectively of colour, origin and status.’

It appears that the Maltese and Italian authorities are once again disagreeing over where to disembark a group of around 100 rescued migrants.  Rescued earlier today by a Spanish frigate, the Almirante Juan de Borbón, the group of migrants seems to be largely composed of men but also includes several women and children.  According to news reports, the stranded migrants were rescued in Sunday morning yet the date of departure from Libyan shores is as yet unconfirmed.

It is important to emphasise that the rescued persons have fled a situation of civil war, and have possibly been through several harrowing experiences.  ‘It is unclear when they left Libya, yet they have definitely been out at sea for over 5 days.  This can only mean that they are probably exhausted, dehydrated and are in urgent need of physical and psychological assistance.  A warship is definitely not the place to provide this urgent assistance’, commented aditus Chairperson Dr. Neil Falzon.

aditus applauds the crew of the Juan de Borbón for rescuing the persons in distress, yet urges the Italian and Maltese authorities to immediately relieve the warship of rescued migrants, in the interests of both the latter and of the crew itself.  aditus further recalls that international maritime law requires a prompt disembarkation at a place of safety for all persons rescued at sea, and that any prolonged period spent aboard the warship poses severe security, humanitarian and human rights concerns.

aditus therefore appeals to the Italian and Maltese authorities to allow the immediate disembarkation of the rescued persons so that their safety may be guaranteed.

For the longer-term, the two States are urged to seek resolution to this on-going legal impasse that too often has resulted in these tragic incidents.  To this end, aditus strongly recommends the involvement of competent international and regional agencies particularly the European Union, the International Maritime Organisation and NATO.”

Click here for statement.

Leave a comment

Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, Spain, Statements

Rescued Migrants Remain on NATO Ship While Consultations Continue Regarding Place of Disembarkation

According to information provided to me today by the NATO Public Affairs Office for Operation Unified Protector, most of the migrants who were rescued on 10-11 July by a NATO warship are still on board the Spanish Navy frigate.  An unspecified number of the migrants in need of immediate medical attention have been “off-loaded to safety” to an unidentified location.

While the NATO Public Affairs Office did not identify the NATO ship or its nationality, the Spanish Defence Ministry and Navy have previously confirmed that the Spanish frigate Almirante Juan de Borbón is the NATO ship that performed the rescue.

According to NATO, “the NATO Frigate responded [on 10 July] to a vessel in distress some 75 miles off the coast of Libya. A NATO ship [then] … provided medical support, food and offered mechanical assistance to the distressed civilians. [On the] 11th of July, the migrants (approximately 100), Ghanaians, Tunisians and Libyans, were transferred onto the NATO ship in accordance with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) protocol…”

Most of the migrants remain on board the Spanish frigate.  NATO says that “the appropriate legal, diplomatic and military authorities are being consulted to determine future course of action.”

I have asked for further information regarding to what location the migrants who were in need of immediate medical attention have been taken.  The possibilities presumably are another ship with appropriate medical facilities, Tunisia, Libya, Italy, Malta, or Spain.

Click here for my previous post on this topic.

1 Comment

Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain, Tunisia

NATO Warship Rescues 100 Migrants from Boat Off Libya; Where Will Migrants Be Disembarked?

A Spanish Navy frigate, the Almirante Juan de Borbón, participating in NATO’s Operation Unified Protector, on Sunday rescued approximately 100 migrants who were in a disabled boat that reportedly left Zawiyah, Libya several days ago.  The migrants have been without food and water for at least two days.  Among the rescued persons are pregnant women and children.

It is not clear where the migrants will now be taken.  Some reports indicate that the Spanish Defence Ministry is hoping that Tunisia, Malta, or Italy will receive the migrants.  NATO is reportedly seeking a country to accept the migrants.  The migrants are reportedly from Libya, Tunisia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Hopefully the migrants will be disembarked quickly (assuming it has not already happened) in an appropriate location where any claims for international protection can be properly considered.  It would be problematic if the migrants are required to remain on the Spanish warship for an extended period and if nearby countries refuse to permit the disembarkation.

Click here (EN), here (ES), here (ES) and here (ES) for articles.

Click here and here for Spanish Defence Ministry and Navy press statements.  (ES)

These photos were released by the Ministerio de Defensa de España.

Photo Credit: Ministerio de Defensa de España (mde.es)

Photo Credit: Ministerio de Defensa de España (mde.es)

 

4 Comments

Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain, Turkey

1000 Migrants Reach Andalucía by Boat in First Half of 2011

According to figures compiled by Europa Press, 1,003 migrants in 40 boats reached Andalucía (Almeria, Granada, Cádiz, Huelva and Malaga) between 1 January and 7 July 2011.  The majority of the migrants landed in the province of Granada.

Click here (ES) for article.

Leave a comment

Filed under Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean, Morocco, News, Spain

PACE Adopts Resolution and Recommendation Regarding the Interception and Rescue at Sea of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Irregular Migrants

On 21 June 2011, PACE adopted Resolution 1821 and Recommendation 1974 both relating to “the interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants.” 

Here are extensive excerpts:

Provisional edition – The interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants – Resolution 1821 (2011)1

“1.       The surveillance of Europe’s southern borders has become a regional priority. The European continent is having to cope with the relatively large-scale arrival of migratory flows by boat from Africa, reaching Europe mainly through Italy, Malta, Spain, Greece and Cyprus.

[***]

5.       The Assembly notes that measures to manage these maritime arrivals raise numerous problems, of which five are particularly worrying:

5.1.       Despite several relevant international instruments satisfactorily setting out the rights and obligations of states and individuals applicable in this area, interpretations of their content appear to differ. Some states do not agree on the nature and extent of their responsibilities in specific situations and some states also call into question the application of the principle of non-refoulement on the high seas;

5.2.       While the absolute priority in the event of interception at sea is the swift disembarkation of those rescued to a “place of safety”, the notion of “place of safety” does not appear to be interpreted in the same way by all member states. Yet it is clear that the notion of “place of safety” should not be restricted solely to the physical protection of people, but necessarily also entails respect for their fundamental rights;

5.3.       Divergences of this kind directly endanger the lives of the persons to be rescued, in particular by delaying or preventing rescue measures, and are likely to dissuade seafarers from rescuing people in distress at sea. Furthermore, they could result in a violation of the principle of non-refoulement in respect of a number of persons, including some in need of international protection;

5.4.       Although the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member states of the European Union (Frontex) plays an ever increasing role in interception at sea, the guarantees of respect for human rights and obligations arising under international and European Union law in the context of the joint operations it co-ordinates are inadequate;

5.5.       Finally, these sea arrivals place a disproportionate burden on the states located on the southern borders of the European Union. The goal of responsibilities being shared more fairly and greater solidarity in the migration sphere between European states is far from being attained.

6.       The situation is rendered more complex by the fact that these migratory flows are of a mixed nature and therefore call for specialised and tailored protection-sensitive responses in keeping with the status of those rescued. To respond to sea arrivals adequately and in line with the relevant international standards, the states must take account of this aspect in their migration management policies and activities.

[***]

8.       Finally and above all, the Assembly reminds the member states that they have both a moral and legal obligation to save persons in distress at sea without the slightest delay, and unequivocally reiterates the interpretation given by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which states that the principle of non-refoulement is equally applicable on the high seas. The high seas are not an area where states are exempt from their legal obligations, including those emerging from international human rights law and international refugee law.

9.       Accordingly, the Assembly calls on the member states, when conducting maritime border surveillance operations, whether in the context of preventing smuggling and trafficking in human beings or in connection with border management, be it in the exercise of de jure or de facto jurisdiction, to:

9.1.       fulfil without exception and without delay their obligation to save people in distress at sea;

9.2.       ensure that their border management policies and activities, including interception measures, recognise the mixed make-up of flows of individuals attempting to cross maritime borders;

9.3.       guarantee for all intercepted persons humane treatment and systematic respect for their human rights, including the principle of non-refoulement, regardless of whether interception measures are implemented within their own territorial waters, those of another state on the basis of an ad hoc bilateral agreement, or on the high seas;

9.4.       refrain from any practices that might be tantamount to direct or indirect refoulement, including on the high seas, in keeping with the UNHCR’s interpretation of the extraterritorial application of that principle and with the relevant judgements of the European Court of Human Rights;

9.5.       carry out as a priority action the swift disembarkation of rescued persons to a “place of safety” and interpret a “place of safety” as meaning a place which can meet the immediate needs of those disembarked and in no way jeopardises their fundamental rights, since the notion of “safety” extends beyond mere protection from physical danger and must also take into account the fundamental rights dimension of the proposed place of disembarkation;

9.6.       guarantee access to a fair and effective asylum procedure for those intercepted who are in need of international protection;

9.7.       guarantee access to protection and assistance, including to asylum procedures, for those intercepted who are victims of human trafficking or at risk of being trafficked;

9.8.       ensure that the placement in a detention facility of those intercepted – always excluding minors and vulnerable categories –, regardless of their status, is authorised by the judicial authorities and occurs only where necessary and on grounds prescribed by law, that there is no other suitable alternative and that such placement conforms to the minimum standards and principles set forth in Assembly Resolution 1707 (2010) on the detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe;

9.9.       suspend any bilateral agreements they may have concluded with third states if the human rights of those intercepted are not appropriately guaranteed therein, particularly the right of access to an asylum procedure, and wherever these might be tantamount to a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, and conclude new bilateral agreements specifically containing such human rights guarantees and measures for their regular and effective monitoring;

9.10.       sign and ratify, if they have not already done so, the aforementioned relevant international instruments and take account of the Guidelines of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on the Treatment of Persons rescued at Sea;

9.11.       sign and ratify, if they have not already done so, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197) and the so-called “Palermo Protocols” to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000);

9.12.       ensure that maritime border surveillance operations and border control measures do not affect the specific protection afforded under international law to vulnerable categories such as refugees, stateless persons, women and unaccompanied children, migrants, victims of trafficking or at risk of being trafficked, or victims of torture and trauma.

10.       The Assembly is concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the respective responsibilities of European Union states and Frontex and the absence of adequate guarantees for the respect of fundamental rights and international standards in the framework of joint operations co-ordinated by that agency. While the Assembly welcomes the proposals presented by the European Commission to amend the rules governing that agency, with a view to strengthening guarantees of full respect for fundamental rights, it considers them inadequate and would like the European Parliament to be entrusted with the democratic supervision of the agency’s activities, particularly where respect for fundamental rights is concerned.

[***]”

Provisional edition – The interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants – Recommendation 1974 (2011)1

“[***]

4.       [***] the Assembly reminds the Committee of Ministers of its dual responsibility: to support those member states that are in need, but also to make sure that all human rights obligations are complied with in the context of the interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants, including by guaranteeing to those intercepted access to a fair and efficient asylum procedure.

5.       The Assembly therefore calls on the Committee of Ministers to:

5.1.       include in the training material all necessary elements to enable the trained persons to proceed to a screening assessment of the international protection needs of intercepted persons and to ensure that staff involved in the operations of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member states of the European Union (Frontex) are trained accordingly;

5.2.       define, in close co-operation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), guidelines and standard operating procedures, when interception and rescue at sea takes place, determining minimum administrative procedures to guarantee that those persons with international protection needs are identified and provided with the appropriate protection;

5.3.       continue monitoring the situation of large-scale arrivals of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, and in particular the issue of interception and rescue at sea, including by holding extraordinary meetings on the situation, where appropriate, and use the good offices of the UNHCR with its representative at the Council of Europe, where relevant.”

Click here for full text of Resolution 1821 (2011).

Click here for full text of Recommendation 1974 (2011).

Click here  for speech by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) presenting the Resolution. (Scroll down page for the English text of speech.)

1 Comment

Filed under Aegean Sea, Council of Europe, Cyprus, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain, Statements, UNHCR

NATO Ships Rescue Migrant Boat Off Spanish Coast

Two NATO ships, the Polish warship Kontradmiral Xawery Czernicki and the German warship Datteln, rescued 9 migrants in an inflatable boat on 16 June.  The incident occurred 80 km off the Spanish coast.  The German warship initially provided water to the migrants on the inflatable.  Spanish rescue services were notified when it appeared the migrant boat was taking on water.  A Spanish Salvamento Marítimo boat took the migrants on board and transported them to Spain.  The two NATO ships were participating in NATO Operation Active Endeavour which is the post-9/11 anti-terrorism operation in the Mediterranean and northern Red Sea aimed at protecting merchant vessels against attacks by terrorists.

Click here for Polish Navy press statement.

Click here (EN) and here (PL) for articles.

German warship Datteln and Spanish Salvamento Marítimo boat. © Polish Navy / Marynarka Wojenna RP

Leave a comment

Filed under Germany, Mediterranean, News, Spain

Moreno-Lax, Int J Refugee Law, “Seeking Asylum in the Mediterranean: Against a Fragmentary Reading of EU Member States’ Obligations Accruing at Sea”

The latest edition of the International Journal of Refugee Law, contains an article by Violeta Moreno-Lax (PhD Candidate at Université catholique de Louvain; Visiting Fellow 2010-11 at Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford) entitled “Seeking Asylum in the Mediterranean: Against a Fragmentary Reading of EU Member States’ Obligations Accruing at Sea.”

Abstract: “Although both international and EU law impose a number of obligations on the EU Member States with regard to persons in distress at sea, their effective implementation is limited by the manner in which they are being interpreted. The fact that the persons concerned are migrants, who may seek asylum upon rescue, has given rise to frequent disputes and to episodes of non-compliance. Frontex missions and the Italian 2009 push-back campaign illustrate the issue. With the objective of clarifying the scope of common obligations and to establish minimum operational arrangements for joint maritime operations, the EU has adopted a set of common guidelines for the surveillance of the external maritime borders. On the basis of the principle of systemic interpretation, this article intends to contribute to the clarification of the main obligations in international and European law binding upon the EU Member States when they operate at sea.”

This is a revised and updated version of the paper presented at the 12th IASFM Conference held in Nicosia, 28 June-2 July 2009.  [The article was written and sent for typesetting before the various uprisings in North Africa – IJRL Editor, 4 March 2011]

Click here for link.  (Subscription or payment required.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis, Eastern Atlantic, European Court of Human Rights, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Senegal, Spain

Interview with Frontex Spokesperson Michal Parzyszek

Frontex spokesperson Michal Parzyszek was interviewed by the Sofia News Agency on 27 May.  Here are some excerpts:

Current Frontex sea operations: “Operation Hera, which is in the territorial waters of Senegal and Mauritania; Operation Indalo in Spanish waters; Operation Hermes in Italian waters; Operation Aeneas in Italian waters; Operation Poseidon in Greek waters.”

Frontex operations in Italy: “The help on part of Frontex in the southern waters, including in Italy, is more on providing risk analysis – to give a better idea of what is going on, and what can happen.  …  So in terms of [Frontez] assets, there are just two airplanes and two boats which are deployed there under Frontex in the waters south of Sardinia and south of Lampedusa.  …  There are 10-15 Frontex experts that are identifying the migrants once they reach the reception facilities there. They are deployed to Caltanissetta, Catania, Trapani, Crotone, and Bari….”

Arrivals to Lampedusa:  “It varies every day. You have days when you have no arrivals, and then suddenly you have 1 000 people arriving to Lampedusa. Since the start of the operation on February 20, 2011, there have been almost 31 000 people that arrived to Lampedusa.”

Irregular migrants prefer entering Greece rather than Bulgaria: “… In the case of Greece, a readmission agreement with Turkey doesn’t truly work; in the case of Bulgaria, the cooperation with Turkey is much better so the Turkish authorities – if they receive proper documentation and justification – they accept people back.  This is a very important element – potential migrants know that if they cross the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, there is high probability that they will be sent back to Turkey so they don’t choose that way….”

(HT to Euro-Police.)

Click here for full interview.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aegean Sea, Black Sea, Bulgaria, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Mauritania, Mediterranean, News, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey