Tag Archives: Cecilia Malmström

Frontex to Increase Sea and Air Patrols in Aegean at Greece’s Request

Greek news reports say that Greek officials have made requests to Commissioner Malmström and Frontex for assistance to respond to “increasing migratory pressures on the islands of the Eastern Aegean.”  The Greek islands of Lesvos, Samos, Patmos, Leros and Symi in particular have reportedly seen an increase in the number of persons entering from nearby Turkish territory.  According to the media reports the assistance will include the deployment of “four aerial vehicle[s], four patrol boats, three mobile surveillance units and eight expert officers, whose costs will be covered by EU funds the agency and the European Commission.”

Click here and here for articles. (EL)

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HRW Briefing Paper: Hidden Emergency-Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean

Human Rights Watch released a briefing paper on 16 August entitled “Hidden Emergency-Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.”  The briefing paper, written by Judith Sunderland, a senior researcher with HRW, reviews recent events in the Mediterranean, provides updates on new developments, including the EUROSUR proposal and IMO guidelines that are under consideration, and makes recommendations for how deaths can be minimized.

Excerpts from the Briefing Paper:

“The death toll during the first six months of 2012 has reached at least 170. … Unless more is done, it is certain that more will die.

Europe has a responsibility to make sure that preventing deaths at sea is at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration, not a self-serving afterthought to policies focused on preventing arrivals or another maneuver by northern member states to shift the burden to southern member states like Italy and Malta.

With admirable candor, EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said recently that Europe had, in its reaction to the Arab Spring, ‘missed the opportunity to show the EU is ready to defend, to stand up, and to help.’ Immediate, concerted efforts to prevent deaths at sea must be part of rectifying what Malmström called Europe’s ‘historic mistake.’

Europe’s Response to Boat Migration

[***]

European countries most affected by boat migration—Italy, Malta, Greece and Spain—have saved many lives through rescue operations. But those governments and the European Union as a whole have focused far more effort on seeking to prevent boat migration, including in ways that violate rights. Cooperation agreements with countries of departure for joint maritime patrols, technical and financial assistance for border and immigration control, and expedited readmission of those who manage to set foot on European soil have become commonplace.

The EU’s border agency Frontex has become increasingly active through joint maritime operations, some of which have involved coordination with countries of departure outside the EU such as Senegal. Even though in September 2011 the EU gave Frontex an explicit duty to respect human rights in its operations and a role in supporting rescue at sea operations, these operations have as a primary objective to prevent boats from landing on EU member state territories. This has also prevented migrants, including asylum seekers, from availing themselves of procedural rights that apply within EU territory.

[***]

Italy had suspended its cooperation agreements with Libya in February 2011, and has indicated it will respect the European Court’s ruling and will no longer engage in push-backs. However, past experience suggests that an immigration cooperation agreement signed with the Libyan authorities in April 2012, the exact contents of which have neither been made public nor submitted to parliamentary scrutiny, is unlikely to give migrants’ human rights the attention and focus they need if those rights are to be properly protected.

[***]

Preventing Deaths in the Mediterranean

It may be tempting to blame lives lost at sea on unscrupulous smugglers, the weather, or simple, cruel fate. However, many deaths can and should be prevented. UNHCR’s recommendation during the Arab Spring to presume that all overcrowded migrant boats in the Mediterranean need rescue is a good place to start.

[***]

Recognizing the serious dimensions of the problem, specialized United Nations agencies such as the UNHCR and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), have been working to produce clear recommendations. These include establishing a model framework for cooperation in rescue at sea and standard operating procedures for shipmasters. The latter should include a definition of distress triggering the obligation to provide assistance that takes into account risk factors, such as overcrowding, poor conditions on board, and lack of necessary equipment or expertise. UNHCR has also proposed that countries with refugee resettlement programs set aside a quota for recognized refugees rescued at sea.

The IMO has also been pursuing since 2010 a regional agreement among Mediterranean European countries to improve rescue and disembarkation coordination, as well as burden-sharing. The project, if implemented successfully, would serve as a model for other regions. A draft text for a memorandum of understanding is under discussion. Negotiations should be fast-tracked with a view to implementation as quickly as possible.

If Europe is serious about saving lives at sea, it also needs to amend the draft legislation creating EUROSUR. This new coordinated surveillance system should spell out clearly the paramount duty to assist boat migrants at sea, and its implementation must be subject to rigorous and impartial monitoring. Arguments that such a focus would create a ‘pull factor’ and encourage more migrants to risk the crossing are spurious. History shows that people on the move, whether for economic or political reasons, are rarely deterred or encouraged by external factors.

[***]”

From the HRW press statement:

The “briefing paper includes concrete recommendations to improve rescue operations and save lives:

  • Improve search and rescue coordination mechanisms among EU member states;
  • Ensure that EUROSUR has clear guidelines on the paramount duty of rescue at sea and that its implementation is rigorously monitored;
  • Clarify what constitutes a distress situation, to create a presumption in favor of rescue for overcrowded and ill-equipped boats;
  • Resolve disputes about disembarkation points;
  • Remove disincentives for commercial and private vessels to conduct rescues; and
  • Increase burden-sharing among EU member states.”

Click here or here for HRW Briefing Paper.

Click here for HRW press statement.

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Malmström: Europe Failed Refugees in 2011

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström wrote an opinion article in The Times of Malta of 19 January:  “Refugees: How Europe failed- European promises of solidarity with people in need were tested in 2011. It is worrying to note that Europe, collectively, did not pass the test. Now, all member states of the European Union must take responsibility and make sure that 2012 will be a better year for asylum matters. … In the first half of 2011, over 75 per cent of all asylum applications were made in only six EU member states. That leaves a long row of European countries that can and must do more. And as over 700,000 people were forced to flee the violence in Libya, many ended up in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Of the 8,000 people identified by the UN as being in particular need of help, all EU member states only managed to promise to receive 400. Norway, a non EU-country, accepted nearly as many by itself.  Meanwhile, more than 50,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in rickety vessels to the EU. Far too many died trying. Others arrived at the Italian island of Lampedusa and Malta and, at a pledging conference last spring, European countries had the chance to show their solidarity. The result? A mere 300 refugees being relocated from Malta to other member states. …”

Click here for full article.

 

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EU Will Not Fund Construction of Evros (Greece-Turkey) Border Fence

Of possible interest to some, Ekathimerni.com reports that the EU has made it clear it will not provide funding to the Greek government for the construction of a border fence along the Greek-Turkish border along the Evros river.  Greece has been planning the construction of the border fence for many months and was seeking €5 million from the EU.  Early proposals called for the construction of a fence over 200 km in length.  The fence that is now being built will be 12 km in length when completed.  “Responding to a question by Euro MP Giorgos Papanikolaou, who is affiliated with conservative New Democracy, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia [Malmström] said the bloc would not pay for the fence as it would not effectively discourage immigrants or smugglers who would simply seek alternative routes into the European Union, either via another section of Greece’s porous border with Turkey or through the border of another EU member state. [Malmström] reportedly said that the EU would be prepared to fund other measures if they are deemed to be an effective way of curbing illegal immigration into the bloc.”

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Malmström: Commission Hopes Migration Talks With Libya Will Begin Soon

In response to a parliamentary question submitted by Italian MEP Fiorello Provera (EFD, Northern League) regarding the “control of migratory flows in the southern Mediterranean”, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström provided a written response on 25 October in which she stated that “[t]he Commission hopes [migration discussions] will start as soon as possible with the Libyan authorities.”

In his question, MEP Provera praised the Italy-Libya Friendship Agreement:  “In an example of successful migration control, Italy and Libya signed a friendship treaty in 2008, which included measures to put Libya in charge of its 2 000 km coastline to stem the flow of illegal migrants into the EU. The agreement had an enormous impact: in 2008, 40 000 migrants attempted to cross illegally into Italy, but according to The Economist, the number of migrants was reduced to 4 406 in 2010. However, following the popular uprising against Gaddafi forces at the start of 2011, 27 000 immigrants managed to cross from Libya into Europe.”

Full text of Ms Malmström’s written response:   “The Commission would like to underline that the discussions which were held on 4 October 2010 in Tripoli by the Members of the Commission responsible for Home Affairs and Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy took place in a context, and with interlocutors, which have profoundly changed.

Although the tentative list of common actions identified in October 2010 (1) may still represent a basis for future cooperation between the EU and Libya in the areas of migration, asylum, visa policy and border management, it is clear that the pattern and content of this future cooperation will have to be substantially revised on the basis of new discussions. The Commission hopes these will start as soon as possible with the Libyan authorities.

The revision of the cooperation with Libya, in any case, is necessary also to take into account several important changes which have taken place not only in Libya but also in the EU since the spring.

In particular, the European Council of 24 June 2011 which approved a new policy approach towards the Southern Mediterranean countries. This approach will be characterised by the launch of a Dialogue on Migration, Mobility and Security with these countries aimed at reinforcing cooperation and strengthening relations with Europe’s southern neighbours.

(1) ‘common actions aimed at preventing irregular migration, addressing more effectively its consequences and root causes, promoting the use of the regular channels of migration and mobility, avoiding further loss of migrants’ lives as well as to protecting their fundamental rights’.”

Click here for Question and here for Answer.

Click here for article. (EN)

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HRW Report: Frontex Exposes Migrants to Abusive Conditions in Greece

Human Rights Watch yesterday issued a report entitled “The EU’s Dirty Hands: Frontex Involvement in Ill-Treatment of Migrant Detainees in Greece” which “assesses Frontex’s role in and responsibility for exposing migrants to inhuman and degrading detention conditions during four months beginning late in 2010 when its first rapid border intervention team (RABIT) was apprehending migrants and taking them to police stations and migrant detention centers in Greece’s Evros region. … ‘Frontex has become a partner in exposing migrants to treatment that it knows is absolutely prohibited under human rights law,’ said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch. ‘To end this complicity in inhuman treatment, the EU needs to tighten the rules for Frontex operations and make sure that Frontex is held to account if it breaks the rules in Greece or anywhere else.’ … ‘It’s a disturbing contradiction that at the same time that the European Court of Human Rights was categorically ruling that sending migrants to detention in Greece violated their fundamental rights, Frontex, an EU executive agency, and border guards from EU states were knowingly sending them there,’ Frelick said. … ‘As new migration crises emerge in the Mediterranean basin and as Frontex’s responsibilities expand, there is an urgent need to shift EU asylum and migration policy from enforcement-first to protection-first.’ Frelick said. ‘This is not only legally required, but the EU, its agencies, and member states can and should respect and meet the EU’s own standards.’”

As the HRW report notes, the humanitarian crisis on the Greece-Turkey land border was many years in the making, but among the contributing factors to the increased flow of migrants seeking to enter the EU at this location, which by November 2010 accounted for 90% of the detected illegal crossings at EU borders, were the enhanced migration control measures in the Central Mediterranean and West Africa, specifically the bi-lateral push-back practice being implemented at the time by Italy and Libya and Spain’s bi-lateral agreements with West African countries.  Increased sea patrols along Greece’s maritime borders also contributed to the shifting of the flow to the land border.

Frontex issued a statement (or click here) responding to the HRW report in which it welcomed the report and said it was “satisfied to note that its comments on the original draft were taken on board. The report now highlights an issue, which we agree, is of great importance. We would like to recall that Frontex fully respects and strives for promoting Fundamental Rights in its border control operations which, however, do not include organisation of, and responsibility for, detention on the territory of the Member States, which remains their exclusive remit. … Frontex was receiving signals of concern from national officers deployed to the region. The Agency has been extremely concerned with the conditions at the detention centres – a point which we raised on several occasions both with the Greek authorities and with the European Commission. Nevertheless, we continue to stress that at the practical level abandoning emergency support operations such as RABIT 2011 is neither responsible, nor does it do anything to help the situation of irregular migrants on the ground….”

Here is Cecilia Malmström’s comment from her blog on the HRW report (translated from Swedish by Google translate):

“I also had a long meeting [on 21 September] with Human Rights Watch who has published a highly critical report on the asylum system in Greece . They argue that the EU agency Frontex, by its presence legitimizes the poor conditions at the border of Greece. We are well aware of the totally unacceptable situation at the reception centres in Greece and I am very frustrated that the situation is so slow to improve, especially in Evros. But probably the situation would have been even worse if Frontex had not been in place. We continue to put pressure on Greece and the new regulatory framework for Frontex, which I have proposed and was adopted by Parliament last week to strengthen its work on human rights significantly. The report will also be discussed in the FRONTEX Agency board meeting next week.”   (“Jag hade också ett långt möte med Human Rights Watch som har publicerat en mycket kritisk rapport om asylsystemet i Grekland . De menar att EU-organet Frontex genom sin närvaro legitimerar de usla förhållandena vid gränsen i Grekland. Vi är väl medvetna om den helt oacceptabla situationen vid mottagningscentren i Grekland och jag är väldigt frustrerad över att det går så långsamt att förbättra situationen särskilt i Evros. Men troligen hade situationen varit ännu värre om inte Frontex hade varit på plats. Vi fortsätter att sätta press på Grekland och i det nya regelverk för Frontex som jag har föreslagit och som Europaparlamentet antog förra veckan stärks arbetet med mänskliga rättigheter väsentligt. Rapporten skall också diskuteras på Frontex styrelsemöte nästa vecka.”)

Excerpts from the HRW Report:

Key Recommendations

To the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council

  • Amend the Frontex Regulation to make explicit, and thereby reinforce, the obligation not to expose migrants and asylum seekers to inhuman and degrading detention conditions.
  • Amend proposed Frontex Regulation Art. 26a to empower the Fundamental Rights Officer to refer Frontex to the Commission for investigation and where appropriate infringement proceedings in the event that the Frontex executive director fails to suspend operations despite persistent and serious violations of the Charter and/or in the event that members states and their agents persistently violate the Charter during Frontex operations.

To Participating European States 

  • Suspend any participation in Frontex operations that fail to adhere to binding international human rights standards.
  • Instruct border guards deployed on Frontex missions on their obligations under international law. Ensure that border guards are trained and conversant regarding all rules and standards pertaining to the transfer and treatment of detainees.

To the Frontex Management Board

  • Suspend the deployment of EU border guards to Greece unless migrant detainees can be transferred to facilities elsewhere in Greece (or outside of Greece) that meet EU and international standards or until the conditions of detention in the Evros region where migrants are currently detained are improved and no longer violate European and international standards.
  • Intervene with Greek officials and monitor compliance to ensure that migrants apprehended by guest guards are transferred to detention facilities that comply with European and international standards.
  • Conduct thorough assessments of the risk that human rights violations may occur before engaging in joint operations or deploying RABIT forces.

To Greece

  • Implement the recently adopted asylum reform package as fully and as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure access to asylum procedures at the border and in the border region.
  • Reduce overcrowding by using alternative facilities and alternatives to detention as much as possible.
  • Immediately improve detention conditions, and immediately create open reception centers for asylum seekers and members of vulnerable groups, such as children.”

Click here for HRW Report.

Click here for HRW Press Release.

Click here or here for Frontex response.

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

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Malmström’s Response to Dagens Nyheter Editorial Regarding EU’s Past Negotiations with Libya

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström posted a response on her blog to yesterday’s editorial in Dagens Nyheter regarding the EU’s efforts to negotiate a migration agreement with the Gaddafi government last year.  Her response is in Swedish and I reproduce below a Google English translation (slightly tweaked by me using my non-existent Swedish skills).  Please rely on the original Swedish text for accuracy.

Google translation:

“Conflict between principles

As I write today in [Dagens Nyheter] in reply to yesterday’s main leader, the purpose of the trip to Libya in 2010 was, among other things to try to get permission for cooperation in regard to the some 1.5 million migrants who were there. UNHCR had at that time determined that about 9000 of these were refugees and in need of help.

The partnership also included earmarked funding for UNHCR and IOM’s activities in Libya. The agreement also included cooperation on border control and better conditions for migrants and asylum seekers. For the first time we had with wording in an agreement on human rights and the concept of asylum, which was in the Libyan law.

Together with UNHCR and IOM, we tried from the EU side to find a means to protect the most vulnerable. Because of reluctance by the Libyan government to agree to our demands we made limited progress and shortly afterwards the civil war broke out.

It can later be viewed credulously [incredulously?] to believe that it would succeed, but the political situation that appeared at the time was the reality that we had to relate to in order to help these people. We can not ignore the realities, but must do whatever we can to help people who suffer abuse and unfair treatment. It is painful that sometimes this means we have to make exceptions to the principle of not negotiating with totalitarian states, but when there are no alternatives, the principle of humanity must be greatest.”

Original text:

“Konflikt mellan principer

Som jag idag skriver i DN, i replik till gårdagens huvudledare, var syftet med resan till Libyen 2010 att bla försöka få tillstånd ett samarbete rörande de omkring 1,5 miljoner migranter som fanns där.  UNHCR hade då hittills bedömt att omkring 9000 av dessa var konventionsflyktingar och i behov av hjälp.

Samarbetet innebar bland annat öronmärkt finansiering av UNHCR och IOM:s verksamhet i Libyen. Avtalet innefattade också samarbete kring frågor om gränskontroll och bättre villkor för migranter och asylsökande. För första gången någonsin fick vi med i avtalet formuleringar om mänskliga rättigheter och begreppet asyl, något som inte fanns i den libyska lagstiftningen.

Tillsammans med UNHCR och IOM försökte vi från EU:s sida hitta en möjlighet att skydda de allra mest utsatta. På grund av ovilja från den libyska regimen att gå med på våra krav kom samarbetet ingenvart och kort därefter bröt inbördeskriget ut.

Det kan i efterhand ses som godtroget att tro att det skulle lyckas, men som det politiska läget såg ut då var det den verklighet vi var tvungna att förhålla oss till för att kunna hjälpa dessa människor. Vi kan inte blunda för hur verkligheten ser ut utan måste göra vad vi kan för att hjälpa människor som utsätts för övergrepp och orättvis behandling. Det är smärtsamt att det ibland innebär att vi måste göra undantag från principerna om att inte förhandla med totalitära stater men då alternativ saknas måste principen om medmänsklighet vara störst.”

Click here for Malmström’s response.  (SV)

Click here for Dagens Nyheter editorial.  (SV)

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Malmström’s “Unfortunate Voyage to Libya”

An editorial by Annika Ström Melin in Dagens Nyheter (Sweden) summarised by Presseurop:

“‘An unfortunate voyage to Libya’ headlines the Dagens Nyheter editorial, which looks back on European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström’s visit to Libya in October 2010. [***] In practice [the agreement signed by the Commissioner in Libya] amounted to employing Gaddafi as an EU border guard, notes the Stockholm daily [***].  ‘It is easy to be clever with the benefit of hindsight,’ remarks the daily, ‘but the agreement with Gaddafi was already scandalous when it was signed. Today Cecilia Malmström will have to provide full information about the consequences of this meeting. Was there a dialogue? Where did the money go?’ In conclusion, Dagens Nyheter affirms that the entire EU should ask itself the question of how it came to sign a treaty with Gaddafi.”

Click here for Presseurop article.

Click here for Dagens Nyheter editorial.  (SV)

Click here and here for my previous posts on the Commissioner’s trip to Libya.

[UPDATE 25 August – Click here for Malmström’s response to the editorial.]

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Malmström Makes Some Correspondence Public and Searchable Via Internet

I am not sure for how long this has been available, but Commissioner Malmström noted in a blog post yesterday that she is making some (emphasis on “some”) of her public correspondence available on-line: “… I am posting my correspondence online (the correspondence with private persons is excepted). I am trying to get more Commissioners to do the same and I am striving for a greater transparency throughout the Commission. There is much more to do in this respect….”

The correspondence is being made available via “CAROL“: “CAROL is a prototype register where you can find Commissioner Malmström’s correspondence. This site is a pilot project of the European Commission promoting transparency and access to information and is bound by the general rules on access to Commission documents.”

I have spent a little time searching and accessing a few of the posted documents. There appear to be at least 2,100 documents that have been identified as of 7 July, but for many of the listed documents there is no associated document that can be read. In these cases it is unclear whether a decision has been made to simply identify the existence and subject matter of the particular document without releasing the document itself or whether the document will be posted in the future once it is scanned – to be seen. The documents date from April 2010 to the present. This is clearly a positive step in the right direction and let’s hope that more documents will be made public and easily accessible.

Click here or here for links to the search pages. (Note that entering some search criteria on the first link will result in an advance search page appearing, where you can search using more specific criteria. Clicking on the second link should open the advanced search page.)

Here is a sample of what I reviewed when searching for documents relating to the EU-Libya Framework negotiations in 2010:

Letter from the Commissioner dated 15 July 2010 addressed to:

“Mr Michael SCHÖPF, Regional Director

Mr Stefan KEßLER, Senior Policy & Advocacy Officer

JESUIT REFUGEE SERVICE-EUROPE AISBL, BRUXELLES

[***]

As you may know, the European Council, in the context of the fight against irregular immigration and taking into consideration the global approach to migration, tasked last year the Commission to step up the dialogue and cooperation with transit countries in the Mediterranean, in particular Libya. The Commission considers that it is through dialogue and cooperation with Libya that the EU can improve the situation, in particular for persons in need of international protection.

We consider that the conclusion of the EU-Libya Framework Agreement, which will commit partners to respect a number of important principles and pave the way for a more structured dialogue with Libya, will provide a more effective framework for inter alia establishing an effective system of protection of persons in need of international protection in Libya.

Pending such outcome, the Commission intervenes in Libya by providing its financial support to UNHCR and its local partner organisations, which are active in visiting and screening migrants in detention centres, and in identifying and assisting those out of them that are in need of international protection.

Finally, in your letter you mention also the forced returns to Libya of migrants intercepted at high sea which were carried out by Italy from May 2009, asking the Commission to call on this Member State to suspend this activity. The Commission has already drawn the attention of the Italian authorities on the risks that forced returns embodied as regard the possibility to violate the principle of non-refoulement and the migrants’ human rights in case certain safeguards were not taken. On the basis of the information available to the Commission, since August 2009 no more forced returns have been carried out by Italian authorities, and the migrants that subsequently were intercepted or rescued at high sea by the latter were all brought to Italian territory.

Yours sincerely,

s/

Cecilia MALMSTRÖM”

Click here or here for links to the search pages. (Note that entering some search criteria on the first link will result in an advance search page appearing, where you can search using more specific criteria. Clicking on the second link should open the advanced search page.)

Click here for the Commissioner’s blog post.

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Commission to Adopt New Communication on Migration

The European Voice reported last week that the European Commission will likely adopt a new Communication on migration when the Commission meets on 24 May.  “A communication expected to be adopted by European commissioners … proposes that the countries of the region should receive increased assistance for managing migration in return for commitments to accept repatriated migrants and to tighten border controls. … [The new expected] communication follows a broader communication on migration adopted by the Commission on 4 May. A national diplomat said that the measures outlined in the two communications go ‘in the right direction’ but that the member states were now waiting for actual legislative proposals….”

Click here for EV article.

Click here for Communication on Migration of 4 May.

Click here for previous post regarding Communication of 4 May.

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10+ Countries Agree to Accept 300+ Asylum Seekers from Malta

After the Pledging Conference on Relocation and Resettlement which was held by Commissioner Malmström in the margins of yesterday’s JHA Council meeting, it has been announced that at least ten EU member states (news reports have identified different countries – Germany, Romania, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, Portugal, Bulgaria, Hungary, Denmark, Slovakia, and Luxembourg have been mentioned) as well several non-EU MS (news reports have mentioned Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway), have agreed to resettle 323 asylum seekers who are currently in Malta.  Germany will reportedly resettle 100 migrants.  Most of the other resettlement pledges are for small token numbers.  There are over 2500 asylum seekers, beneficiaries of international protection, and migrants currently in Malta.

The Commission will provide funding for the extension of the pilot project of relocation from Malta, as well as for resettlement directly from North Africa, undertaken on a voluntary basis by MS.  Funding for the project has previously been provided through the European Refugee Fund.  The pledging conference that was held yesterday was reportedly the first such conference held since the Maltese pilot project known as European Relocation Malta (Eurema) began in July 2009.  The project was scheduled to end this year but has been extended for at least one more year given the current situation in Libya.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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Extraordinary JHA Council Meeting 12 May

From the Europa web site:  “This Council meeting will focus mainly on migration and border related issues arising from the situation in the Southern neighbourhood region. Ministers will follow up the European Council conclusions of 11 March (EUCO 7/11) and 24-25 March (EUCO 10/11, pt 18-26) and the Council conclusions of 11-12 April 2011 (8909/11). They will also discuss a related communication to be presented by the Commission. The state of play as regards the proposal for modifications to the 2004 regulation that established the European agency for the management of operational cooperation at the external borders of the EU member states (FRONTEX) will also be reviewed at a meeting of the Mixed Committee in the margins of the Council….”

From the Commission’s Memo:

“Main Council agenda items:

[***] The Commission expects the Council to support the main lines of action set out in its 4 May Communication on migration for a more structured, comprehensive response to the challenges and opportunities of migration. These proposals, which come in addition to the urgent short-term measures already taken by the Commission to deal with the migration situation in the Southern Neighbourhood and migration pressures on frontline Member States, will be followed by flanking initiatives in the coming weeks and months. A first series of proposals, notably on integration and migration relations with the Southern Mediterranean, will be submitted to the College for adoption on 24 May.

Background: On the 4th of May 2011 (IP/11/532 and MEMO/11/273), the Commission presented its comprehensive strategy for a common EU asylum and migration policy, also in view of the current developments in the Mediterranean. The initiatives cover various aspects of migration, including provisions for:

  • Effective and credible controls at the EU external border (strengthening of Frontex; exploring the feasibility of creating a European system of borders guards).
  • An improvement of Schengen governance (guidelines to ensure a coherent implementation of the Schengen rules; revised evaluation mechanism based on a Community approach; a possible EU-coordinated mechanism allowing for the temporary reintroduction of controls at the internal borders, as a last resort and under exceptional circumstances)
  • An effective and responsible approach to tackling irregular immigration (effective implementation of EU legislation and rethinking of the EU readmission policy).
  • Promoting mobility in a secure environment (possible development of a ‘new generation’ of border checks; proper use of visa liberalisation combined with safeguards).
  • Achievement of a Common European Asylum Policy (adoption of the Commission proposals already tabled).
  • Further development of common rules on legal migration and an exchange of experience and best practices on the integration of migrants.
  • Deepened relations with third countries in the framework of the Global Approach to Migration, in particular through enhanced dialogues and Mobility partnerships with countries in the Southern Mediterranean.

2. Strengthening Frontex Agency

[***] Commission’s position: The Commission expects that the European Parliament and the Council will deploy all necessary efforts to find an agreement on the Commission’s proposals by the end of June, considering that such an agreement would help Frontex to better assist the EU in facing the current migration situation.

Background: In February 2010 (IP/10/184 and MEMO/10/45), the Commission made proposals to strengthen European Union’s border management agency, Frontex. The proposals include reinforcing the legal framework to ensure full respect of fundamental rights during Frontex activities and enhancing the operational capacity of Frontex to support Member States. With the new proposal, Member States would put more equipment and more personnel at the Agency’s disposal. Frontex would be able to co-lead border patrols operations with EU Member States or lease and buy its own assets (such as vessels or helicopters). It would also be allowed to provide technical assistance to third countries and deploy liaison officers in third countries.

3. Evaluation and future strategy for EU readmission agreements (EURAs)

[***]

Pledging Conference on relocation and resettlement

[***]

Commission’s position: The Commission took the initiative to gather the Ministers, expecting confirmation of their commitment to engage in further relocation of refugees from Malta and to resettle refugees stranded in North Africa. This would demonstrate the concrete solidarity the EU and its Member States are willing to show in times of need, both internally with its own Member States and to its international partners. The Commission is ready to provide funding for the extension of the pilot project of relocation from Malta, as well as for resettlement from North Africa undertaken on a voluntary basis by Member States.

Background: The implementation of the EU relocation pilot project with Malta has been ongoing for more than a year and it has been a success in demonstrating concrete intra-EU solidarity by the relocation of refugees present in Malta to other Member States. In April, the Council adopted conclusions on solidarity, where it reaffirmed the need for solidarity towards Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and welcomed the Commission’s intention to extend the existing pilot project for the relocation of refugees from Malta. Several Member States have announced their intention to participate in this project. In its conclusions, the Council also requested the Commission to facilitate resettlement activities undertaken on a voluntary basis by the Member States, also by means of financial support. The resettlement of refugees stranded in North Africa had already been discussed at a meeting on the 25th of March, with the participation of the UNHCR, during which Member States provided information on their commitments to resettle a number of refugees from the region.”

Click here for Commission’s Memo

Click here for Agenda.

Click here for Background Note.

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Draft Commission Communication on Migration

[UPDATE 4 May 2011 – the FINAL Communication on Migration was released today.  Click here for Communication and click here for my updated post.]

The European Commission will consider and likely adopt a Communication on migration on Wednesday, 4 May.  Below are excerpts from a draft document which appears to have been under consideration as of 15 April.  The draft Communication  [DRAFT 15-04-2011] includes proposals for burden sharing under certain circumstances and “a mechanism [for the introduction of] a coordinated and temporary reintroduction of [internal EU border] controls. 

Excerpts from the draft:

“Table of Contents

1……….. Introduction

2……….. Crossing the borders

2.1…….. Coping with the crisis: the short-term measures

2.2…….. Border controls

2.3…….. Schengen governance

2.4…….. Preventing irregular immigration

3……….. Moving and living in an area without internal borders

3.1…….. Organised mobility

3.2…….. A consistent policy on mobility including visas

3.3…….. A properly managed legal migration

3.4…….. Building an inclusive society by integrating immigrants

4……….. Providing international protection to persons in need

5……….. Migration in External relations beyond the crisis

5.1…….. The Global approach to migration

5.2…….. Beyond the crisis: the EU and the Southern Mediterranean in partnership

1.  Introduction

[***]

Some Member States, such as Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus are more directly exposed to massive arrivals of irregular migrants and, to a limited extent, of persons in need of international protection. This is not a national problem alone, but needs also to be addressed at the EU level and requires true solidarity amongst Member States.

The EU must ensure quick assistance to all persons in need – as it has done notably at the Tunisian-Libyan border – and provide shelter to those in need of international protection. Whilst the EU must maintain and consolidate its tradition of granting asylum and protection it should also foresee the appropriate tools in order to prevent large number of economic migrants crossing the borders irregularly. To reach these objectives, managing effectively the EU borders is a condition of credibility inside and outside the Union.

The continuously evolving situation in our Southern Neighbourhood requires rapid responses. Building upon the European Council Conclusions of 11 and 25 March, and the joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of 8 March, the Commission will present on 24 May a package of proposals to address the EU approach in the area of migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries.

However, the absolute need to address this challenging and evolving situation should not lead to a short-term approach limited to border control without taking account of long-term issues. Dialogue and cooperation with countries of origin and of transit of these migrants is essential. Such collaboration needs to be built on security and good governance for the establishment of mutually beneficial policies in the field of legal migration. It also implies enhanced economic cooperation in order to develop the conditions for growth and employment in the countries of origin, to address the causes of irregular migration and to promote a pact for development and well managed legal migration in its various forms.

[***]

2.1   Coping with the crisis: the short-term measures

[***]

Those Member States that are most exposed to the growing flows of refugees and irregular migrants have been helped with the financial consequences of the displacement. To this end, around 25 MEUR which were identified under the External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund.

While the current crisis confirms the need for increased solidarity at the European level and better sharing of responsibility, it must be recognised that the EU is not fully equipped to help those Member States most exposed to massive migratory movements.

The financial resources available under the General programme “Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows” are inadequate to respond to all requests for assistance. First, these funds can not be mobilised easily; they are designed to intervene in a stable situation and not to tackle emergencies and crisis. Secondly, the magnitude of the problems largely exceeds the existing facilities.

In the context of the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, will have to draw lessons from the current crisis. For the EU to react quickly and effectively in the case of unforeseen events or emergencies, Home Affairs funding should be adapted so that it can be mobilised much more rapidly and flexibly, including in third countries.

In principle, other forms of solidarity exist to respond to the dramatic events taking place in the region. Building on the experience gained so far with the current pilot project on relocation from Malta, the Commission will support an extension of this project in view of the current influx of migrants seeking international protection there, to be implemented in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration. However, the currently available instruments fall short of fulfilling all the needs and providing a comprehensive response. They can only be resorted to in an ad hoc manner, and are entirely dependent on the will of Member States to voluntarily offer assistance – in whatever form – at a given point in time. This in turn exposes the EU to criticism and risks undermining the trust of the citizens in the EU.

The Commission will closely monitor the continuously evolving situation and may decide, if the relevant conditions are met, to trigger the Temporary Protection Directive to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from third countries that are unable to return to their country of origin.

The Commission will make further proposals during 2011 on delivering solidarity in a holistic manner and how concretely such assistance can be delivered. A number of different approaches are currently being studied, with a view to developing alternatives that will allow urgent needs to be responded to in a more rapid and structured fashion. This initiative will build on the appropriate legal basis of the Lisbon Treaty, such as Articles 80 and 78 paragraph 3, and will draw lessons from the situation in Greece, particularly at the land border between Greece and Turkey, and the crisis in the Southern Mediterranean; it will include possible ad hoc measures to be resorted to in case of particular temporary pressure on one or several Member States, as well as more structural means of ensuring solidarity, both financial and in the form practical cooperation and technical assistance (e.g. via FRONTEX, EASO, joint operations).

Finally, as an important gesture of solidarity towards the North African countries (especially Tunisia) which are currently hosting large number of persons in need of international protection who cannot be returned to their countries of origin, and in order to maintain ‘protection space’ in these countries, it is important for EU Member States to accept to resettle some of these persons.

2.3  Schengen governance

[***]

A mechanism must also be put in place to allow the Union to handle situations where either a Member State is not fulfilling its obligations to control its section of the external border, or where a particular portion of the external border comes under unexpected and heavy pressure due to external events. A coordinated response by the Union in these critical situations will increase trust among Member States. It will also reduce the need for unilateral initiatives by Member States to temporarily reintroduce internal border controls or to intensify police checks in internal border regions. However, even when such initiatives are taken within the limits set by the acquis, they inevitably slow down the crossing of internal borders for everyone. To be used as a last resort in truly critical situations, a mechanism may therefore need to be introduced allowing for a coordinated and temporary reintroduction of controls at one or several sections of the internal border. Such a mechanism would apply for a limited and pre-determined period of time, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules. The Commission is exploring the feasibility of introducing such a mechanism, and may present a proposal to this effect shortly.

[***]”

Click on this link  “DRAFT 15-04-2011” for draft Communication.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

[UPDATE – 4 May 2011 – Click here for FINAL Communication and click here for my updated post.]

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Malmström: Migration Policy Should Not Be Event Driven

From Commissioner’s Cecilia Malmström blog:

“It’s important to prepare for what’s happening in Northern Africa and to have a long term strategy for the cooperation with our neighbouring countries. There’s however quite worrying tendencies in Member States to be too event-driven and calling for quick-fix measures. It’s important to remember that out of the approx. 25.000 migrants coming to the EU the last couple of months only a few thousands are refugees, seeking asylum in the EU. The others are economical migrants from Tunisia looking for work and a better life in Europe. These people are likely to be sent back to Tunisia. The few thousand refugees that have been coming the last months should also be seen in the right perspective – last year France alone received 48.000 asylum seekers and Sweden 32.000 – the total number of refugees coming to the EU last year was 236.000.

As I wrote in my previous blog entry, migration policy needs long term strategies and well thought through measures and mustn’t be driven by populist movements. Next week I’ll present a Strategy Paper presenting a holistic approach on migration to my colleagues in the Commission. The Strategy Paper addresses the urgent need for a common European asylum and migration policy and the need for solidarity with the European countries most exposed to migration flows (Italy and Malta at this point), but also with neighbouring countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, where the lion part of the refugees from Libya have fled to.”

On a slightly related point, the link between anti-immigrant views and increasing support for some political parties such the Front National and Marine Le Pen in France and the Northern League in Italy are well know.  In Finland a populist party, the True Finns, has for the first time entered Government after its stunning third place finish in the 17 April parliamentary elections.  Many have described the True Finns as populist party that is most interested in the Euro crisis and the financial bailouts.  But recent public comments of new True Finn MP Teuvo Hakkarainen reveal the anti-immigrant and racist sentiments held by some party members.  According to YLE, Hakkarainen said that “Negros” would be arriving at Finland’s borders and warned that minarets would arise all over Helsinki.  Some credit is due to True Finns Party chair Timo Soini who has reprimanded Hakkarainen for his comments.  The new Government has just been formed and the True Finns will chair the parliamentary committees responsible for Foreign Affairs, Defence, and the Administration Committee which has responsibility for immigration issues.  Over 1000 people demonstrated in front of the Parliament building earlier in the week in support of tolerance and multiculturalism.

Click here (EN) and here (SV) for blog post.

Click here and here for YLE articles.

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Malmström Tells Italy that Temporary Residence Permits Do Not Allow Free Movement in Schengen Area; Germany Threatens to Reinstate Border Controls

Commission Cecilia Malmström has notified Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni in a letter that the temporary residence permits being issued by Italy to Tunisian migrants will not automatically allow free movement within the Schengen area.  Over the weekend Germany joined France and said that it will consider instituting border controls to prevent the entry of Tunisians in possession of the temporary residence permits from entering German territory.

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

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