Tag Archives: Cecilia Malmström

Maltese Conditions for Hosting Frontex Mission Not Accepted by Frontex

The Times of Malta has posted copies of an exchange of correspondence between Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen.   The Times of Malta article does not identify the source of the correspondence.  It appears likely that the posted correspondence does not include all of the recent communications between Malta and Frontex.  However, that which has been made available by the Times of Malta provides additional background information regarding Malta’s refusal to host a Frontex mission.

According to the posted correspondence, on 10 March, Mifsud Bonnici made an urgent request to Frontex for a new Joint Operation and deployment of a Rapid Border Intervention Team.  Malta’s request however was conditioned upon Frontex agreeing to the establishment of a joint processing centre outside of Malta and an agreement not to follow the non-binding Guidelines pertaining to the surveillance of the sea external borders contained in Part II of the Annex to Council Decision 2010/252/EU.

On 29 March, Director Laitinen responded.  Laitinen said that on 22 March he took the decision to deploy a RABIT team to Malta and that a fact-finding visit to Malta took place 24-25 March, but that during the visit, the Frontex delegation was informed that Malta would agree to accept a RABIT deployment only if Malta’s requests for the creation of the joint external processing centre and the Joint Operation were organised simultaneously with the RABIT deployment.  Laitinen said that as of 28 March Frontex had received 10 official answers from Member States responding to Malta’s request for contribution to a possible Joint Operation and creation of the external processing centre; 9 of the answers were negative or questioned the concept of joint operation:  “According to the replies – and also indicted by the number of missing replies – it is obvious that the MS consider the establishment of a joint processing centre as an issue that needs discussion and agreement on political level.  It remains doubtful from legal point of view that a joint operation not applying the non-binding part of the Maritime guidelines – Council decision No 2010/252/EU – could be developed and implemented under Frontex coordination.”

Mifsud Bonnici’s initial letter was written before the first migrant boat from Libya arrived  in Malta on 28 March.  Presumably discussions between Malta, Frontex, and the Commission are ongoing.

Click here or on this link (Mifsud Bonnici Ltr – 10 March 2011 ) for the letter from Mifsud Bonnici to Laitinen.

Click here or on this link (Laitinen Ltr – 29 March 2011 ) for the letter from Laitinen to Mifsud Bonnici.

Click here for Times of Malta article.

A third letter from Commissioner Malmström was also posted by the Times of Malta.  It makes reference to the exchange discussed above.  More on this and on Malta’s call for triggering the Temporary Protection Instrument later.

Click here or on this link ( Malmström Ltr – 1 April 2011 ) for the letter from Malmström to Mifsud Bonnici.

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Frattini Criticises EU for Failure to Assist Italy; Frattini and MEPs Call for Implementation of Temporary Protection Directive and Mandatory Burden Sharing

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has again criticised what he describes as the EU’s and European Commission’s failure to assist Italy with the migrant situation in Lampedusa. Minister Frattini singled out Commissioner Malmström for his criticism.  A statement on the Italian Foreign Ministry web site says that “Italy continues to solicit Europe’s help in confronting the immigration emergency, not only in terms of economic aid but also in terms of a plan for the distribution of the refugees among Member States. ‘Europe has been totally inert in this period’, Minister Frattini asserted and, commenting on EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström[‘s] observation that Italy had already received European funding for managing the influx, specified: ‘This is the typical expression of a European bureaucracy that thinks money alone solves everything’, but it is not enough, ‘there need to be policy interventions’. …[I]n addition to funds it is necessary to ‘invoke a European law clearly establishing the adoption of an extraordinary plan with any sudden influx of refugees toward one or more Member States, which includes the distribution of the refugees among Members within the temporary timeframe necessary to repatriate those who are not refugees, as in the case of the Tunisians, who are simply economic immigrants’.”

MEPs Simon Busuttil (Malta) and Salvatore Iacolino (IT) issued a press release calling on the Commission “to activate the Solidarity Mechanism envisaged in EU law in cases of mass influx of displaced persons. … ‘EU law already provides for a solidarity mechanism that can be triggered in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons (Council Directive 2001-55-EC)’ [and ‘we call upon the Commission to activate it’] Busuttil and Iacolino said.”

Click here for Italian Foreign Ministry statement.

Click here for MEPs Busuttil and Iacolino press release.

Click here for link to Temporary Protection Directive.

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Malmström and Füle to Visit Tunisia for Migration Discussion

Commissioners Cecilia Malmström and Stefan Füle are scheduled to travel to Tunisia 30 and 31 March to assess the situation at the refugee camps along the Tunisia-Libya border, including the camp near Djerba, and for discussions with Tunisian Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi and other officials.  Among the topics to be discussed will be the Tunisian nationals who have come to Italy in recent weeks, but who are not in need of international protection and who therefore are likely to be sent back to Tunisia by Italy. Malmström will be discussing with the Tunisian transitional government how the returns could possibly be carried out.

Click here (SV), here (SV), and here (FR) for articles.

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EP Foreign Affairs Committee Calls for Reinstatement of EU-Libya Migration Agreement Once New Libyan Govt in Power

While the likelihood of there being a new transitional government in Libya appears less and less likely every day, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, 16 March, called for the reinstatement of the EU-Libya cooperation agreement on migration, signed in Tripoli on 4 October 2010 by Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, as soon as a new transition government able to respect human rights is in place in Libya.

From the EP Press Release: “MEPs believe that the EU-Libya cooperation agreement on migration – currently suspended – should be reinstated as soon as a new transition government able to respect human rights is in place.  This move … [was] highlighted on Wednesday in a draft resolution by the Foreign Affairs Committee as the best way[] to tackle illegal immigration from conflict regions.   Regretting that ‘the only option available’ was the suspension of the EU-Libya Cooperation Agenda on migration, MEPs stress that the suspension ‘should be revoked as soon as there is a new transitional government willing to promote a democratic and human rights based implementation of the agreement’. Similar migration agreements should be reached with other EU neighbouring countries, said MEPs in the draft resolution, which was adopted by 53 votes to 1, with 3 abstentions.”

The Committee also called for a burden sharing plan “to help resettle refugees from the region and provide support for displaced persons.  This would require activation of Article 80 of the EU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which cites the principle of solidarity and fair burden-sharing among all Member States on policies to do with managing border checks, asylum and immigration, including their financial implications.”

Click here for EP Press Release.

Click here for article.

Click here for 18 Jan 2011 Draft Resolution (18.1.2011) and amendments considered (18.2.2011).

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ECRE calls on the EU to rescue sub–Saharan refugees trapped in Libya

Statement in full:

“Brussels, 3 March 2011. In a meeting today with Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström, ECRE urged the European Commission to make an appeal to EU Member States to help evacuate and offer protection to the 4,000 sub-Saharan refugees who are trapped in Libya.

The international community is making important efforts to support the evacuation of Europeans, Egyptians, Tunisians and other foreigners. However, sub-Saharan refugees, mainly Somalis and Eritreans, are not able to get out of Libya to find safety. As de facto refugees, they cannot go back to their own countries, which they fled to save their lives. What is more, suspected of being pro-Gaddafi mercenaries, they are being targeted and are at great risk if they try to reach the Egyptian or Tunisian border.

Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE’s Secretary General, said ‘Persecuted in their own country, persecuted now in Libya and unable to leave the country, sub –Saharan refugees need to be urgently evacuated to Europe’.

For further information

– ECRE, Appeal for Libya: NGOs call on European governments and the European Union to stand with them in helping people who are fleeing Libya

– ECRE, Safe haven for people fleeing bloodshed in Libya

– CIR, CIR launches an urgent appeal for the evacuation of Eritrean refugees in Tripoli


Click here for link to ECRE statement.

Click here (SV) for Commissioner Malmström’s short blog post regarding the meeting with ECRE.

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Update from Today’s LIBE Committee’s Discussions re Central Mediterranean

The Hungarian Presidency and LIBE have released summaries regarding today’s LIBE Committee meeting.  Here are some points from the two summaries:

  • Commissioner Malmström emphasized that, so far, migrants had not started coming to Europe from Libya, but the EU had to prepare for this possibility;
  • Frontex Director Laitinen made it clear that the region should not be seen as a whole, but as separate countries with separate problems;
  • Laitinen underlined that from Tunisia only economic migration could be seen so far, but for the moment, as Tunisian authorities have regained control of the migration flow, this had stopped, as well. Since 26 February, no migrants had arrived to Lampedusa.
  • Laitinen also stressed that Italy was not the only entry point for migrants from North-Africa. Greece should not be forgotten in this context.  Low-cost flights from North-Africa to Istanbul were operating, bringing many migrants who then were trying to enter the Schengen area through the Greek-Turkish border;
  • Laitinen said that the possibility of extending Hermes to address Malta’s needs was being examined. More money and staff might be needed if the current emergency persists;
  • MEPs urged Member States to accelerate work on the “asylum package” and stressed the need for solidarity as regards relocating migrants;
  • Malmström said that most of the current migration from Tunisia to Lampedusa appears to be for economic reasons;
  • Malmström said that “Frontex and Member States may not push away people in need of international protection”;
  • MEP Simon Busuttil (EPP, MT) said the three main priorities in Libya are halting violence, sending humanitarian aid and planning for a possible immigration emergency. “What if a mass influx turns into Europe, is there a plan in the drawer to be pull out if this happens?” “Member States show no appetite for relocation.”

Click here and here for the two articles.

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Live Coverage, 1 March, 09:00, LIBE Meeting re Situation in the Central Mediterranean

LIBE will reconvene today, 1 March, 09:00-10:30, to discuss “the situation in the central Mediterranean…. They will consider the democratisation process in the region and its impact on migration flows and EU immigration and asylum policy. In attendance: Hungarian Presidency representative, H.E. Peter Györkös, Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs and Ilkka Laitinen, Executive Director of Frontex, the EU border security agency.”

Click here for live coverage.

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Laitinen to Visit Malta to Discuss New Frontex Mission

The Malta Independent reported yesterday that Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen will visit Malta shortly “with a view to organising a Frontex mission that would be hosted by Malta but, [Justice and Home Affairs Minister] Dr Mifsud Bonnici stresses, not under the infamous guidelines that are being disputed [before the European Court of Justice] by Malta, Italy and the European Parliament.”  Dr Mifsud Bonnici said “I have also made it a precondition that if we are to host this Frontex mission, it would not be under those guidelines and there is an agreement on that.”

Malta’s primary objection to the Frontex Sea Border Rule is likely due to provisions which require that intercepted migrants be taken to the country hosting the Frontex mission under certain circumstances.  The relevant provision provides:

“2. Disembarkation- 2.1. The operational plan should spell out the modalities for the disembarkation of the persons intercepted or rescued, in accordance with international law and any applicable bilateral agreements. The operational plan shall not have the effect of imposing obligations on Member States not participating in the operation.  Without prejudice to the responsibility of the Rescue Coordination Centre, and unless otherwise specified in the operational plan, priority should be given to disembarkation in the third country from where the ship carrying the persons departed or through the territorial waters or search and rescue region of which that ship transited and if this is not possible, priority should be given to disembarkation in the host Member State unless it is necessary to act otherwise to ensure the safety of these persons.”

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has previously said that the Sea Border Rule guidelines can be negotiated by member states on a mission by mission basis and that before a mission starts participating member states can agree on different rules of engagement, which might include the sharing of responsibility where not all intercepted migrants would be brought to country hosting the mission.

Click here for Malta Independent article.

Click here for previous post regarding Malmström’s comments.

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Libyan Interior Minister Met Commissioner Malmström on 15 Feb.

According to the EU Observer, Libya’s Interior Minister met last week with Commissioner Cecilia Malmström: “It emerged on Monday  [21 Feb.] that the Libyan interior minister, Abdel Fatah Younes, visited EU home affairs commissioner [Cecilia Malmström] last Tuesday (15 February) to discuss ‘how to put into practice’ an agreement reached in October on immigration co-operation.  The commission last year offered the country some €50 million euros to assist in efforts to prevent irregular migrants from reaching the Mediterranean’s northern shores. At the meeting, it is thought that a figure of 2 million refugees was brandished by Mr Younes.”

It is unclear from the article whether Libya used this meeting with Malmström to communicate a threat to halt cooperation on irregular immigration similar to the one that was communicated to the Hungarian Ambassador to Libya on 17 February or whether this was an otherwise routine meeting in furtherance of the EU-Libya framework agreement.

Click here for article.

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Statement by Commissioner Malmström Regarding Today’s Launch of Operation Hermes

A short statement by the Commissioner regarding Operation Hermes was posted on the EU External Affairs web page today:  “…The mission is part of a broader framework of measures by the European Commission to manage these exceptional migratory flows. Other actions include cooperation with Tunisian authorities, identification of financial emergency envelopes and assistance by the European Police Office (Europol). … As part of the Hermes mission, experts from participating Member States will be deployed along with aerial and naval support to assist the Italian authorities. Human and technical resources could be increased according to future needs.  On the basis of the Operational Plan that was agreed with the Italian authorities, Frontex experts will assist in debriefing and interviewing migrants. Special attention is given to identifying those who may be in need of international protection. Frontex will also give aerial and naval support for border surveillance….”

Click here for full statement.

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Frontex Operation Hermes to Begin on Sunday, 20 Feb.–Push-Back Practice Prohibited

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström announced today that the new Frontex mission, Operation Hermes, will begin operations tomorrow, 20 February.  According to AFP, the initial deployment will consist of about 30 personnel, aircraft, and several ships.  A dozen member states have expressed willingness to send assests to the new joint operation.

In an interview published earlier today, before the announcement of Operation Hermes, Commissioner Malmström clearly stated that the Frontex mission will be governed by European legislation and that the interdiction and push-back of migrants encountered at sea is not permitted.  In the earlier interview the Commissioner said that the mission will provide surveillance by air in support of the Italian authorities which will detect any new influx of migrants as soon as it occurs and sound the alarm for naval surveillance which will in turn lead migrant boats to “safe ports.”  (“Di sorveglianza dal cielo in supporto alle autorità italiane. Potranno individuare ogni nuovo flusso di migranti non appena si manifesti. E lanciare l’allarme ai mezzi di sorveglianza navale, facendo condurre i barconi verso porti sicuri.”)  When asked whether push-backs of migrant boats would occur, the Commissioner said that the push-back practice was prohibited by European norms. (“I respingimenti sono espressamente proibiti dalle norme europee.”)

Click here and here for articles.  (IT)

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Text of Malmström’s Speech to EP Plenary Session

Commissioner Malmström spoke during the EP’s plenary session earlier this afternoon regarding the migration situation in Italy.  Click here for the text of her speech.


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Frontex: No Formal Request for Assistance Has Been Made by Italy

Frontex posted a statement on its web site on Monday saying that it is sending a fact-finding team to Italy “to liaise with local authorities and monitor the situation on the ground” but that “[a]s of Monday February 14, Frontex has not received a formal request for assistance from the Italian Government, however, the Warsaw HQ is ready to act if necessary and is preparing an appropriate operational response in the event of it being requested.”

Commissioner Malmström reiterated on her blog that as of yesterday “Italy has not made a formal request for assistance, but of course we are looking at how we can assist both in a humanitarian capacity and practically with the screening of potential refugees (so far it does not seem that any of the Tunisians who have come to Italy have asked for asylum) and with their return.” (“Fortfarande har Italien inte kommit med någon formell begäran om hjälp men vi tittar förstås på hur vi skall kunna bistå både humanitärt, praktiskt med screening av eventuella flyktingar (hittills verkar det inte som om någon av de tuniseier som kommit till Italien har begärt asyl) och med återvändande.”)

Click here for the Frontex statement and here for Malmström’s blog.

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Malmström Receives Conflicting Information From Italian Government Regarding Need for EU Assistance

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström yesterday described different statements that have been made to her and her staff by Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni.  Writing on her blog, Malmström said that she and her staff have had intensive contacts with the Italian Government over the weekend and that the Interior Minister and others said EU assistance was not needed, but that assistance may be needed later in the coming week.  In light of these statements, Malmström expressed her surprise at seeing the Interior Minister’s comments in the media on Sunday where he said he is annoyed with the lack of support from the EU.  (“Così il ministro dell’Interno Roberto Maroni lancia il suo j’accuse:  “Siamo soli, l’Europa non sta facendo nulla”, dice intervistato dal TG5.”)  Malmström speculated that in light of Sunday’s large anti-Berlusconi demonstrations, perhaps the Italian government is simply happy to blame Brussels for something.  Malmström said that tomorrow she will be receiving reports from Frontex and EASO about the situation.

Click here (SV) for Malmström’s blog post.

Click here (IT) for article.

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Rob Visser Selected as 1st European Asylum Support Office Director

The EASO management board held its first formal meeting on 26 November and selected Mr Rob K Visser as EASO’s first executive Director.  Mr Visser is currently the Director General for International Affairs and Immigration of the Dutch Ministry of Justice (directeur-generaal Internationale Aangelegenheden en Vreemdelingenzaken bij het ministerie van Justitie).

I have not been able to find a CV or biography of Mr Visser and have instead pieced the following information together from several online sources: He was appointed to the Director General position in 2003.  Before that he worked as an adviser in the Office of the Prime Minister and as Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of General Affairs (plaatsvervangend secretaris-generaal van het ministerie van Algemene Zaken).  He has also held positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He holds a doctoral degree.  His doctoral research was published in a 2008 book entitled: “In dienst van het algemeen belang: Ministeriële verantwoordelijkheid en parlementair vertrouwen” (“Serving the public interest: Ministerial responsibility and parliamentary confidence”).

Mr Visser was the subject of a February 2005 Monthly Policy Interview by Eurasylum, Ltd. where he spoke about the “Key outcomes of the Dutch EU Presidency in the field of immigration and asylum.”  Here are some excerpts from the 2005 interview:

“In the months leading up to [the June-Dec 2004 Dutch presidency] … [t]here was an atmosphere where all Member States were clearly aware that far-reaching cooperation was necessary if migration management was to become, effectively, a success. … A case in point is illegal migration in the Mediterranean. This does not only create migratory pressures on Europe’s external borders, it also leads to human tragedies that make clear to everyone that people are risking their lives to try and reach the shores of Europe. Such losses of life are unacceptable and require a policy response. They also require a willingness to accept the consequences of any such responses. For example, a European response to illegal migrants who apply for asylum requires the type of European asylum procedure and uniform asylum status that had already been anticipated in Tampere. The situation in the Mediterranean also leads to pertinent questions on EU relations with neighbouring third countries. There are many more such examples, such as the demographic situation in Europe or the situation of refugees close to their regions of origin. An integrated and comprehensive approach is needed today as much as it was at the time of the Tampere European Council in 1999. However, since Tampere we have gained considerable experience and become more aware of the primary importance of practical cooperation among Member States and with third countries….

[T]he transposition process is a difficult process. The implementation of Community legislation within national legislation is a new phenomenon as far as asylum and migration are concerned. Many directives are complicated, because they are the results of very intensive and difficult negotiations, which have sometimes led to legislative texts that were not always easy to interpret. In my view this is a major reason why the implementation process is going so slowly….

In the Hague Programme we have tried to find a fair balance. We have not only focused on control measures, but also on the need for integration of immigrants who reside legally in the European Union. We have focused on a common European asylum system, but also on capacity management in neighbouring third countries and on the strengthening of durable solutions for refugees in their regions of origin. Cooperation with third countries is not likely to become fully effective if the focus is only on control. Responsibilities should not be shifted, but shared, and this is the spirit of the Hague Programme….”

Before Mr Visser may assume his duties as Executive Director he must first appear before the European Parliament to answer questions.

Click here for full Eurasylum interview.

Click here and here for EC Press Releases.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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