Category Archives: United Nations

Amnesty International Report: ‘Libya is Full of Cruelty’ – Stories of Abduction, Sexual Violence and Abuse from Migrants and Refugees

Amnesty International has released a new report entitled: “’Libya is Full of Cruelty’ – Stories of Abduction, Sexual Violence and Abuse from Migrants and Refugees.” (also available here.)  2015-05-11_Amnesty Intl_Report_Libya_Libya_is_full_of_cruelty COVER

Key points include (see formal AI recommendations below):

  • “Widespread abuses by armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and organized criminal groups in Libya as well as systematic exploitation, lawlessness and armed conflicts are pushing hundreds of thousands of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees to risk their lives by attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea”;
  • “In many cases, migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea have been subjected to prolonged beatings in [detention] facilities following their interception and arrest by the Libyan coastguard or militias acting on their own initiative in the absence of strong state institutions”;
  • “While Amnesty International welcomes the EU’s commitment to increase resources for search and rescue operations, it is also concerned that some of the proposed measures, in particular plans to ‘systematically identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers’ would effectively contribute to migrants and refugees being trapped in Libya and expose them to a risk of serious human rights abuses”;
  • “As more people are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, the priority for the international community must be to dramatically expand search and rescue operations and take effective steps to urgently address human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Libya. EU governments must also increase the number of resettlement places, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection”.

Amnesty International makes the following recommendations:

To European governments

  • Urgently ensure the deployment of naval and aerial resources at a scale commensurate with foreseeable departure trends and which should patrol the high seas along the main migration routes. Whether such deployment occurs within the framework of Frontex Joint Operation Triton or through other agreements, it is crucial that ships and aircraft are delivered promptly and deployed in the area where most of calls for assistance come from and a great number of shipwrecks occurs;
  • To reduce the numbers of those risking their lives at sea, increase the number of resettlement places, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection and ensure that refugees have effective access to asylum at land borders;
  • Ensure that any action against smugglers and traffickers is addressed through law enforcement measures, governed by human rights law and standards, and that it does not contribute to migrants and refugees being trapped in Libya without any means of escaping the violence;
  • Ensure that human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including against migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in Libya, are addressed as part of the political dialogue aimed at ending the ongoing conflicts, and that a mechanism is put in place to monitor the human rights situation on the ground following any subsequent settlement. EU governments must also insist that Libyan authorities, armed groups and militias end the systematic indefinite detention of migrants and refugees based on their immigration status; all refugees and asylum-seekers and migrants detained for immigration purposes must be released.;
  • Investigate and bring to justice in fair trials those involved in trafficking of persons.

To the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria:

  • Keep the borders open to all individuals in need of international protection regardless of whether they have valid travel documents or meet visa requirements.

To governments along the smuggling route:

  • Ensure that any regional co-operation aimed at addressing irregular migration and dismantle smuggling networks fully complies with international law and standards, and does not infringe upon the rights and safety of asylum-seekers and refugees, with particular regard to the right to freedom of movement, the right to asylum, and the absolute prohibition on refoulement.

To militias, armed groups and Libyan authorities:

  • Release anyone detained solely on the basis of their immigration status, nationality, race, religion or ethnicity;
  • Make clear to all those under your command that torture or other ill-treatment, rape and sexual assault will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Remove from the ranks anyone suspected of such abuses;
  • Facilitate visits by independent organizations to immigration detention centres and other places of detention;
  • Ensure that all those deprived of their liberty can communicate regularly with their families and have access to adequate medical care.”

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New York Times Editorial: UN Security Council Should Reject Military Intervention in Libya

The NY Times in an editorial on Sunday called upon the UN Security Council to reject the EU request for a resolution authorising military intervention against smugglers in Libya:

“Military intervention would be a grave mistake. … It is, in fact, a cynical strategy, born of Europe’s panic over a tide of foreign migrants. … Destroying all the boats would condemn migrants to exile. A far better (and obvious) way to put the smugglers out of business is to make migration from Libya to Europe safe and legal. … The Security Council should tell [Federica Mogherini] that no military intervention is needed — just compassion and common sense.”

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UN Security Council Draft Resolution on Use of Force in Libya to Call for “Use of All Means to Destroy the Business Model of the Traffickers”

The Guardian reports that the UK has prepared a draft UN Security Council resolution on behalf of the EU “that is believed to call for the ‘use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers’.” According to the Guardian the resolution would authorise the use of military force in Libyan territorial waters; the military force “would come under Italian command, have the participation of around 10 EU countries, including Britain, France, Spain, and Italy…” EU naval vessels would be authorised to enter into Libyan territorial waters and helicopter gunships would be used “to ‘neutralise’ identified traffickers’ ships.”

The Security Council meets tomorrow, Monday, 11 May, to consider the situation in the Mediterranean and will receive a briefing from HRVP Federica Mogherini. The Libyan government in Tobruk has said it opposes any such resolution.

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Libyan Government (Tobruk) Will Not Support Proposed UN Security Council Authorisation of Use of Force Against Smuggler Boats

Libyan UN ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi (representing the Libyan government based in Tobruk) told AP that Libya rejects the EU plan that may soon be considered by the Security Council to authorise the use of force to seize or destroy smugglers boats within Libya.

According to AP, the current Security Council president said that the Council expected that Libya would support the EU proposal, but Dabbashi said that his government “hasn’t even been consulted and rul[ed] out EU forces on Libyan soil ‘at this stage’. … ‘We will not accept any boots on the ground’.” Dabbashi also criticised expanded rescue operations: “He called the idea of deploying more boats to the waters off Libya to save migrants a ‘completely stupid decision’ because it would encourage even more migrants to come to his country, further burdening local authorities.”

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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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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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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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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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UNHCR: Urgent European Action Needed in Mediterranean

Statement by Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Europe Bureau Director, on new boat arrival in Italy:

“The use of larger cargo ships is a new trend, but it is part of an ongoing and worrying situation that can no longer be ignored by European governments. We need urgent European concerted action in the Mediterranean Sea, increasing efforts to rescue people at sea and stepping up efforts to provide legal alternatives to dangerous voyages. Without safer ways for refugees to find safety in Europe, we won’t be able to reduce the multiple risks and dangers posed by these movements at sea.

UNHCR thanks the Italian authorities for their response to these latest incidents, despite the phasing down of the Mare Nostrum operation. We have expressed concerns over the ending of this operation without a similar European search-and-rescue operation to replace it. This will undoubtedly increase the risk for those trying to find safety in Europe.”

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Geneva, William Spindler on mobile +41 79 217 3011, spindler@unhcr.org
In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617, rummery@unhcr.org

Click here for Statement.

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OHCHR Releases Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday issued Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders. OHCHR, along with multiple stakeholders, has been working on the principles and guidelines since 2012.

Excerpts:
I. Introduction
A. Human rights at international borders
1. International borders are not zones of exclusion or exception for human rights obligations. States are entitled to exercise jurisdiction at their international borders, but they must do so in light of their human rights obligations. This means that the human rights of all persons at international borders must be respected in the pursuit of border control, law enforcement and other State objectives, regardless of which authorities perform border governance measures and where such measures take place.
2. Migration discourse is replete with terminology used to categorize people who migrate, such as “unaccompanied or separated children”, “migrants in irregular situations”, “smuggled migrants” or “victims of trafficking in persons”. In the complex reality of contemporary mobility it can be difficult to neatly separate people into distinct categories as people may simultaneously fit into several categories, or change from one category to another in the course of their journey. Every individual who approaches an international border has different motivations and it is important to remember that under international human rights law, States have obligations towards all persons at international borders, regardless of those motives.
3. States have legitimate interests in implementing border controls, including in order to enhance security, to protect human rights, and to respond to transnational organized crime. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has therefore put together these Recommended Principles and Guidelines (“The Guidelines”) with a view to translating the international human rights framework into practical border governance measures. The Guidelines assert a human rights-based approach deriving from the core international human rights instruments and anchored in the interdependence and inalienability of all human rights, seek to establish accountability between duty-bearers and rights-holders, emphasis participation and empowerment, and focus on vulnerability, marginalization and exclusion.
4. Further, underpinning these Guidelines is a recognition that respecting the human rights of all migrants regardless of their nationality, migration status or other circumstances, facilitates effective border governance. Policies aimed not at governing migration but rather at curtailing it at any cost, serve only to exacerbate risks posed to migrants, to create zones of lawlessness and impunity at borders, and, ultimately, to be ineffective. Conversely, approaches to migration governance that adhere to internationally recognized human rights standards, serve to bolster the capacity of States to protect borders at the same time as they uphold State obligations to protect and promote the rights of all migrants. Ultimately then, these Guidelines are recommended to States and other stakeholders not only because they are obliged to put human rights at the forefront of border governance measures, but also because they have an interest in doing so.
[***]
9. These Guidelines shall not be interpreted as restricting, modifying or impairing the provisions of applicable international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international refugee law or other relevant legal instrument or rights granted to persons under domestic law. 1
Footnote 1 – In order to avoid duplication of authoritative guidance, the present Guidelines should be read in conjunction with the guidance provided by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), including in the context of its 10-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration which emphasises the need for “protection sensitive entry systems” at international borders to identify, protect against non-refoulement and ensure access to asylum procedures for persons in need of international protection. For trafficked persons, the present Principles and Guidelines should be read in conjunction inter alia with OHCHR’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking.
[***]
II. Recommended principles on human rights at international borders
A. The primacy of human rights
1. States shall implement their international legal obligations in good faith and respect, protect and fulfil human rights in the governance of their borders.
2. States shall ensure that human rights are at the centre of the governance of migration at international borders.
3. States shall respect, promote and fulfil human rights wherever they exercise jurisdiction or effective control, including where they exercise authority or control extraterritorially. The privatisation of border governance functions does not defer, avoid or diminish the human rights obligations of the State.
[***]
B. Non-discrimination
8. The principle of non-discrimination shall be at the centre of all border governance measures. [***]
C. Assistance and protection from harm
10. States shall protect and assist migrants at international borders without discrimination. Human rights obligations, including in respect of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, must take precedence over law enforcement and migration management objectives.
11. States shall ensure that all border governance measures taken at international borders, including those aimed at addressing irregular migration and combating transnational organized crime, are in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of arbitrary and collective expulsions.
12. States shall consider the individual circumstances of all migrants at international borders, with appropriate attention being given to migrants who may be at particular risk at international borders who shall be entitled to specific protection and individualized assistance which takes into account their rights and needs.
13. States shall ensure that all migrants who have suffered human rights violations or abuses as a result of border governance measures have equal and effective access to justice, access to effective remedies, adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered, and access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanism. States shall investigate and, where warranted, prosecute human rights violations and abuses, impose sentences commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, and take measures to ensure non-repetition.
III. Recommended Guidelines on human rights at international borders
Guideline 1: Promotion and protection of human rights [***]
Guideline 2: Legal and policy framework [***]
Guideline 3: Building human rights capacity [***]
Guideline 4: Ensuring human rights in rescue and interception [***]
Guideline 5: Human rights in the context of immediate assistance [***]
Guideline 6: Screening and interviewing [***]
Guideline 7: Identification and referral [***]
Guideline 8: Avoiding detention [***]
Guideline 9: Human rights-based return or removal [***]
Guideline 10: Cooperation and coordination [***]”

 
Click here or here for Principles and Guidelines.

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UNHCR: Significant Increase in Deaths at Sea Off Yemen Coincides with Increasing Numbers of Migrants Reaching Yemen by Boat

Excerpts from UNHCR press statement 17 Oct. 2104: “[T]here has been a sharp increase this year in the number of migrants and asylum-seekers losing their lives in attempts to get to Yemen, mainly from the Horn of Africa, with more deaths at sea in 2014 than in the last three years combined. One of the recent tragic incidents took place on 2 October when 64 migrants and three crew died when their vessel, sailing from Somalia, sank in the Gulf of Aden. Since, then five more deaths bring the yearly tally for 2014 to 215, exceeding the combined total for 2011, 2012 and 2013 of 179….

The latest deaths come amidst a dramatic increase in the number of new arrivals to Yemen by boat in September. At 12,768, it marks the single biggest month for arrivals since current records began to be kept in 2002. Most of the migrants are Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans.

Factors behind the surge are believed to include ongoing drought in South-Central Somalia, as well as the combined effects of conflict, insecurity, and lack of livelihood opportunities in countries of origin. Moreover, “the surge can also be attributed to a decreasing level of cooperation between the countries in the region to better manage migratory movements,” [UNHCR spokesperson James] Spindler said….”

Click here for full UNHCR statement.

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Filed under Data / Stats, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gulf of Aden, News, Somalia, UNHCR, Yemen

OHCHR to Issue Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders (22 Oct-Brussels; 23 Oct-New York)

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights next week will launch Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders. The Guidelines will be released and discussed at events in Brussels on 22 October 2014 and New York on 23 October.

From OHCHR: “These Guidelines are offered by OHCHR to states and other relevant stakeholders to develop human-rights respecting border governance measures; and thus improve the respect, protection and fulfilment of migrants at international borders.”

“OHCHR has been working on these principles and guidelines since 2012, together with multiple stakeholders. They accompany the report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Migrants (A/69/277) (also available here) and will be provided to the 69th session of the General Assembly (GA).”

“International borders are not zones of exclusion or exception of human rights obligations. States have the duty to comply with their human rights obligations and all of the safeguards and checks and balances that are embedded in national legislation. States are bound by these duties wherever they exercise their jurisdiction; including where their migration governance operations take place.”

“Policies curtailing migration often result in the diversion of migrants into irregular channels where vulnerabilities are exacerbated. Conversely, rights-based approaches to border and migration governance that adhere to internationally recognized standards bolster the capacity of the international community to mount effective and sustainable challenges to abusive migration and transnational organized crime. Developing a set of principles and guidelines on human rights at international borders would offer tools to translate the international human rights framework into practical measures for border governance, ensuring that measures taken to address migration (including irregular migration), migrant smuggling, and other cross-border phenomena do not violate human rights.”

Click here (Brussels event) and here (New York side event) for more information on the release of the Guidelines.

The Guidelines will be made available here on 21 October 2014: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/Pages/WSReportGA69.aspx.

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PACE Calls for Urgent Measures to Assist Greece and Turkey With Mounting Migratory Tensions in Eastern Mediterranean

PACE, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, adopted a Resolution on 24 January 2013 calling for “firm and urgent measures [to] tackle the mounting pressure and tension over asylum and irregular migration into Greece, Turkey and other Mediterranean countries.”  The Resolution noted that Greece, with EU assistance, has enhanced border controls, particularly along its land border with Turkey and while “these policies have helped reduce considerably the flow of arrivals across the Evros border with Turkey, they have transferred the problem to the Greek islands and have not helped significantly in dealing with the situation of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees already in Greece.”

The Resolution makes recommendations to the EU, Greece, and Turkey and calls on CoE members states to “substantially increase their assistance to Greece, Turkey and other front-line countries” in various ways, including:

  • provide bi-lateral assistance, including by exploring new approaches to resettlement and intraEurope relocation of refugees  and asylum seekers;
  • share responsibility for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers via intra European Union relocation and refrain from sending these persons back to Syria or third countries;
  • maintain a moratorium on returns to Greece of asylum seekers under the Dublin Regulation.

The Resolution was supported by a Report prepared by Ms Tineke Strik, Rapporteur, PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

Click here for full text of Resolution 1918(2013), Migration and asylum: mounting tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Click here for PACE press statement.

Click here for Report by Rapporteur, Ms Tineke Strik, Doc. 13106, 23 Jan 2013.

Here are extensive excerpts from the Rapporteur’s Report (which should be read in its entirety):

Summary –  Greece has become the main entry point for irregular migratory flows into the European Union, while Turkey has become the main country of transit. [***]

Europe must drastically rethink its approach to responsibility sharing to deal with what is a European problem and not one reserved to a single or only a few countries. Member States are called on to substantially increase their support for Greece, Turkey and other front-line countries to ensure that they have a realistic possibility of dealing with the challenges that they face. In this the Council of Europe also has a role to play, for example through exploring resettlement and readmission possibilities, assisting States in dealing with their asylum backlogs and putting forward innovative projects to alleviate growing racism and xenophobia towards migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

[***]

C. Explanatory memorandum by Ms Strik, rapporteur

1. Introduction

[***]

2. Greece is facing a major challenge to cope with both the large influx of mixed migratory flows, including irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and the current economic crisis. That said it is not the only country struggling to cope in the region. It is impossible to look at the situation of Greece without also examining that of Turkey, which is the main country of transit to Greece and is also having to shoulder responsibility for over 150 000 Syrian refugees.

3. In the light of the foregoing, it is necessary to examine the extent of the migration and asylum challenges at Europe’s south-eastern border, taking into account Turkey and Greece’s policy reactions. Two further elements have to be added to this, namely the social tensions arising within Greek society due to an overload of financial and migratory pressure and also the issue of shared responsibility in Europe for dealing with European as opposed to simply national problems.

2. The storm at Europe’s south-eastern border

2.1. Greece under pressure: irregular migration challenge and economic crisis

4. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees crossed the Greek land, river and sea borders with many travelling through Turkey. In 2010, the large majority of mixed migratory flows entered the European Union through the Greek-Turkish border. This situation brings major challenges in terms of human rights and migration management.

5. According to statistics provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2010, more than 132 000 third-country nationals were arrested in Greece, including 53 000 in the Greek-Turkish border regions. During the first ten months of 2012, over 70 000 arrests occurred, including about 32 000 at the borders of Turkey.  People came from 110 different countries – the majority from Asia, including Afghanis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, as well as from Iraq, Somalia, and the Middle-East, especially Palestinians and an increasing number of Syrians.

6. Most migrants and asylum seekers do not want to stay in Greece and plan to continue their journey further into Europe. Many of them are however stuck in Greece, due to border checks and arrests when trying to exit Greece, the current Dublin Regulation, and the fact that many irregular migrants cannot be returned to their country of origin.

7. The context of the serious economic and sovereign debt crisis aggravates the situation and reduces the ability for the Greek Government to adequately respond to the large influx. [***]

2.2. Syria: a bad situation could get worse

8. In its Resolution 1902 (2012) on “The European response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria”, the Parliamentary Assembly condemned “the continuing, systematic and gross human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity, committed in Syria”. It described the humanitarian situation as becoming “more and more critical” for the estimated 1.2 million internally displaced Syrians and the 638 000 Syrians registered or awaiting registration as refugees in neighbouring countries.

[***]

11. By October 2012, 23 500 Syrian nationals had applied for asylum in EU member States, including almost 3 000 applications in September 2012 alone, and over 15 000 in Germany and Sweden.  Compared to neighbouring countries, asylum seeker numbers in the European Union currently remains manageable. However the number of Syrians trying to enter Greek territory in an irregular manner reached a critical level in July 2012, when up to 800 Syrians were crossing the Greek-Turkish land border every week. In the second half of 2012, more than 32% of sea arrivals to the Greek Islands were Syrian nationals.

2.3. Regional implications of mixed migratory arrivals

12. In recent years, Spain, Italy and Malta were at the forefront of large-scale sea arrivals. According to the UNHCR, in 2012, 1 567 individuals arrived in Malta by sea. 75% of these persons were from Somalia. The UNHCR estimates however that less than 30% of the more than 16 000 individuals who have arrived in Malta since 2002 remain in Malta.

13. Spain and Italy have signed and effectively enforced readmission agreements with North and West African countries cutting down on the mixed migration flows. These agreements have provided the basis for returning irregular migrants and preventing their crossing through increased maritime patrols and border surveillance, including in the context of joint Frontex operations.

14. As a consequence of shifting routes, migratory pressure at the Greek-Turkish border increased significantly and Greece became the main gate of entry into the European Union from 2008 onwards, with an interval in 2011 when the Arab Spring brought a new migratory flow to Italy and Malta. To give an idea of how much the routes have changed, Frontex indicated that in 2012, 56% of detections of irregular entry into the European Union occurred on the Greek-Turkish border.

15. Turkey, by contrast, has become the main transit country for migrants seeking to enter the European Union. Its 11 000-km-long border and its extensive visa-free regime make it an easy country to enter. An estimated half a million documented and undocumented migrants currently live in the country. This has brought a whole new range of challenges for Turkey and meant that it has had to develop a new approach to migration management and protection for those seeking asylum and international protection.  It has also faced problems in terms of detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers. As with Greece, the conditions of detention have been highly criticised and steps are being taken to build new centres with the assistance of funding from the European Union.

16. Until recently, the traditionally complex Greek-Turkish political relations did not allow the pursuit and consolidation of an effective readmission policy with Turkey. Although Greece, for example, signed a readmission protocol with Turkey which goes back to 2001, the implementation of this was only agreed on in 2010. It is important that this bilateral agreement between Greece and Turkey functions effectively and this will be a challenge for both countries.

3. Shielding Greece through border management and detention: does it work?

3.1. Enhanced border controls at the Greek-Turkish land border (Evros region)

17. The unprecedented numbers of irregular migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the Greek-Turkish border in recent years put the existing capacities and resources of Greece under severe strain. To remedy this situation, the Greek authorities have adopted the “Greek Action Plan on Asylum and Migration Management”, which is the basis for reforming the asylum and migration management framework in Greece.

18. In this context, considerable efforts were undertaken to reinforce Greece’s external borders and particularly the Greek-Turkish border in the Evros region. This was done notably through building up operational centres, using electronic surveillance and night vision devices, and by deploying patrol boats to strengthen river patrols. The surveillance technology used is part of the efforts under the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur).

19. The so-called operation “Aspida” (“shield”), initiated in August 2012, aims to enhance border controls, surveillance and patrolling activities at the Greek-Turkish land border. Approximately 1 800 additional police officers from across Greece were deployed as border guards to the Evros region.

20. Increased border controls in the context of this operation have not been without criticism. There have been worrying reports about migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers from Syria and other countries, being pushed back to Turkey over the Evros river.  Two incidents reportedly took place in June and October 2012, when inflatable boats were intercepted in the middle of the Evros river by Greek patrol boats and pushed back to Turkey before their boat was sunk, leaving people to swim to the Turkish shore.

21. In addition, the Greek authorities completed a barbed wire fence at the 12.5-km-land border in December 2012. The barrier which was criticised by EU officials when announced  and built without EU funding, cost an estimated 3 million euros.

22. As a consequence of these actions, the numbers of irregular land border crossings dropped from over 2 000 a week in the first week of August to below 30 a week in the second half of September. According to the regional governor of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, they are now close to zero.  While the Greek authorities claim that these actions have resulted in a more than 80% decrease of irregular entries,  one can observe that migrants’ routes have shifted from the Greek-Turkish land border mainly to the sea border between both countries. This shift has been recognised by the Greek authorities.

23. Increased numbers of migrants are now arriving on the Greek Aegean islands of Lesvos, Samos, Symi and Farmkonissi. Between August and December 2012, 3 280 persons were arrested after crossing the Greek-Turkish sea border,  compared to 65 persons in the first seven months of 2012.

24. There has also been an increase in the number of deaths at sea. In early September 2012, 60 people perished when their boat sank off the coast in Izmir.  On 15 December 2012, at least 18 migrants drowned off the coast of Lesvos while attempting to reach the island by boat.

25. The spill over effect of new routes opening are now being felt by neighbouring countries, such as Bulgaria and some of the Western Balkans.

3.2. Systematic detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers

26. Together with increased border controls, administrative detention remains the predominant policy response by the Greek authorities to the entry and stay of irregular migrants.  [***]

[***]

29. Particularly worrying are the conditions in the various detention centres and police stations where irregular migrants and asylum seekers are held, and which have frequently been criticised. The European Court of Human Rights has found Greece to be in violation of the right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment in several cases in recent years.  In addition, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment (CPT) has regularly criticised the poor detention conditions of irregular migrants and asylum seekers and the structural deficiencies in Greece’s detention policy as well as the government’s persistent lack of action to improve the situation.  See also: CPT, Report on its visit from 19 to 27 January 2011, published on 10 January 2012, at: www.cpt.coe.int/documents/grc/2012-01-inf-eng.pdf, together with the reply by the Greek authorities, at: www.cpt.coe.int/documents/grc/2012-02-inf-eng.pdf. The conditions of detention in one centre in Greece were found to be so bad that a local court in Igoumenista acquitted, earlier this year, migrants who were charged with escaping from detention stating that the conditions in the centre were not in compliance with the migrants’ human rights.

[***]

3.3. Impediments in accessing asylum and international protection

35. Despite the current efforts by the Greek authorities to reform the asylum and migration management framework, the country still does not have a fair and effective asylum system in place. The Greek Action Plan on Migration and Asylum, which was revised in December 2012, sets out the strategy of the Greek Government. It foresees the speedy creation of a functioning new Asylum Service, a new First Reception Service and a new Appeals Authority, staffed by civil servants under the Ministry of Public Order and Citizens Protection, disengaging the asylum procedure from the police authorities. However problems in finding sufficient financial resources and qualified staff still give rise for concerns on the implementation of the plans.

[***]

4. Social tensions within Greek society

4.1. The social situation of migrants and asylum seekers

41. Greece’s efforts to deal with the influx of irregular migrants and asylum seekers suffers from there being no comprehensive migration policy. [***]

4.2. Discrimination, xenophobia and racist attacks against migrants

46. The mounting social tensions and the inadequate response by the State to address the difficult social situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have led to an increase in criminality and exploitation of this group. In addition, migration has become a key confrontational political issue. This in turn has contributed to an increasingly wide-spread anti-immigrant sentiment among the Greek population.

47. Over the last two years there has been a dramatic increase in xenophobic violence and racially motivated attacks against migrants in Greece, including physical attacks, such as beatings and stabbings, attacks on immigrants’ residences, places of worship, migrants’ shops or community centres.  The Network for Recording Incidents of Racist Violence documented 87 racist incidents against migrants and refugees between January and September 2012.  Half of them were connected with extremist groups.

48. Members and supporters of Golden Dawn have often been linked with recent violent attacks and raids against migrants and asylum seekers. By using blatantly anti-migrant and racist discourse, often inciting violence, Golden Dawn gained 7% of the popular vote during the June 2012 parliamentary elections and support seems to be growing, according to recent polls. In October 2012, the Greek Parliament lifted the immunity from prosecution of the two Golden Dawn MPs who participated in the violent attacks against migrants in September.

49. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Greece to examine whether the “most overt extremist and Nazi party in Europe” is legal. It seems that Golden Dawn aims at political and societal destabilisation and gains by the failing policy regarding refugees and irregular migrants. In December 2012, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) expressed its “deep concern” about the rise of Golden Dawn and asked the Greek authorities to “take firm and effective action to ensure that the activities of Golden Dawn do not violate the free and democratic political order or the rights of any individuals”.

5. The European responsibility for a European problem

5.1. European front-line States under particular pressure

50. This is not the first time that the Parliamentary Assembly expresses its concern on the particular pressure that European front-line States are confronted with. Resolution 1521 (2006) on the mass arrival of irregular migrants on Europe’s Southern shores, Resolution 1637 (2008) on Europe’s “boat people”: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe and Resolution 1805 (2011) on the large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores.

51. Despite the fact that most European Union countries have stopped returning asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece,  there are still some reports of returns from some countries based on this regulation.

52. The final agreement between the Council and the European Parliament on the revision of the Dublin Regulation still allocates responsibilities for asylum seekers to a single EU member State and does not present a more fundamental reform of the rules. European Union member States also rejected the idea of a mechanism to suspend transfers to those EU countries which were unable to manage the influx of asylum seekers into their territory, preferring to adopt an “early warning mechanism”.

5.2. Greece: A test case for European solidarity

53. This migratory pressure Greece is confronted with comes at a moment when the country is suffering as no other European country does from the current economic and social crisis. In response to these difficulties, the European Union has provided financial and technical assistance.

54. During the period of 2011-2013, Greece received 98,6 million euros under the Return Fund, 132,8 million euros under the External Border Fund and 19,95 million euros under the European Refugee Fund. The focus of funding was thus on border control and detention measures, to the detriment of the protection measures.

55. Frontex Joint Operation “Poseidon Land” was launched in 2010 at the borders between Turkey and Greece and between Turkey and Bulgaria. EU member States currently have 41 police officers and equipment deployed to the Evros border region in Greece.  They also support the Greek and Bulgarian authorities with the screening and debriefing of irregular migrants, and tackling irregular migratory inflows and smuggling networks towards Greece. In addition, Frontex has recently strengthened its patrols in the coastal waters in the Eastern Aegean between Greece and Turkey in the context of Joint Operation “Poseidon Sea”. European Union member States have deployed additional maritime surveillance assets at the sea border between Greece and Turkey. The joint operation was extended to also cover the West coast of Greece and today is Frontex’s main operational activity in the Mediterranean region.

56. Furthermore, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) provides technical support to Greece and other EU member States whose asylum and reception systems are under particular pressure. Following the request by the Greek Government in February 2011, EASO started giving assistance and training in building up a new asylum system, improving reception conditions of asylum seekers in Greece and clearing the backlog of outstanding asylum claims. To do this they have deployed over 40 Asylum Support Teams of experts to the country.

57. While EU member States are ready to provide financial and technical assistance to help Greece in managing and controlling its borders, with a focus on both forced and voluntary returns as a policy solution, they are not keen on sharing the reception and processing of mixed migratory flows arriving at the European Union’s external border. According to the Greens/European Free Alliance of the European Parliament, “[m]igration will not be stopped by reinforcing border control, border management measures and forced returns; the current approach only reinforces human rights violations”.

58. As rapporteur I would largely agree with this statement, although I would add that while such policies may be able to solve a problem in one country, it then simply “passes the buck” to another. Should it be possible to seal Greece’s border, this would undoubtedly then put even greater pressure on Turkey and Bulgaria and then up the eastern borders of the European Union. This is an issue which will be the subject of a separate report by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

59. The European Union response to the economic and financial crisis in Greece has been a massive bail out. Similar solidarity is however necessary with regards to the current social and humanitarian crisis in the field of migration and asylum. Europe is however doing too little, too late. A shared asylum policy that takes into account that the migratory pressures are not the sole responsible of one or a few European States, but a European problem, is even more essential in a time when the region is facing major instability. This instability will only increase further if the up and coming Golden Dawn party succeeds in exploiting the immigrant issue. Europe cannot afford to look away.

60. Increased migratory flows to European front-line States requires a fundamental rethink on solidarity and responsibility sharing. This includes swift solutions that go beyond mere financial and technical assistance and show greater solidarity in receiving refugees and asylum seekers and developing resettlement, especially currently for Syrian refugees from the neighbouring countries of Syria, and intra-EU relocation programmes, in particular where children and families are concerned. Assembly Resolution 1820 (2011) on asylum seekers and refugees: sharing responsibility in Europe provides meaningful recommendations in this respect.

6. Conclusions

61. The pressure of mixed migratory flows currently unfolding at the European Union’s external borders in the eastern Mediterranean requires rethinking of the entire solidarity system with the European Union and the Council of Europe. Greece, Turkey or other neighbouring countries should not be left with the primary responsibility of dealing with the mounting mixed migratory pressure from the South and East. A shared asylum and migration policy is even more essential at a time when the region is facing major economic and social instability.

62. Stricter border control, prolonging migrants’ and asylum seekers’ detention or constructing new detention facilities in Greece all contribute to further human rights violations taking place. They are not the way out of the problem and they do not persuade people fleeing from poverty or violence in their countries of origin to remain at home.

63. The recent efforts by the Greek authorities to introduce a more effective and humane system addressing the large number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers entering Greece is a welcome step in the right direction. Greece however faces a Herculean task in building up an efficient, fair and functioning system providing international protection to those in need.

64. Europe urgently needs to join forces to deal with the Syrian refugee problem, offering resettlement and relocation to relieve the burden falling on neighbouring States of Syria as well as its southern European States, and ensuring that Syrian refugees are not sent back.

65. The challenges are great but not insurmountable for Europe. Left to individual States they are.

[***]”

Click here for full text of Resolution 1918(2013), Migration and asylum: mounting tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Click here for PACE press statement.

Click here for Report by Rapporteur, Ms Tineke Strik, Doc. 13106, 23 Jan 2013.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, Analysis, Council of Europe, Frontex, Greece, News, Reports, Syria, Turkey, UNHCR

UNHCR: Record Number of Migrants and Refugees Crossed Gulf of Aden in 2012

The UNHCR reported on 15 January 2013 that “[a] record 107,500 African refugees and migrants made the dangerous journey from the Horn of Africa to Yemen in 2012. This is the largest influx into Yemen since 2006 when UNHCR began compiling these statistics. The previous record high was in 2011 when more than 103,000 people arrived in Yemen by sea.”  UNHCR estimates that 80% of the persons making the crossing are Ethiopian and the remainder Somali.   UNHCR estimates that approximately 100 persons drowned in 2012.  “Boats crossing to Yemen are often packed beyond capacity and smugglers, in order to avoid the Yemeni coast guard, force passengers into the water, often far from the shores and with tragic consequences.”

Click here for full UNHCR press release.

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Filed under Data / Stats, Ethiopia, Gulf of Aden, News, Somalia, UNHCR, Yemen