Tag Archives: COE Parliamentary Assembly

Statement from PACE Rapporteur Tineke Strik on Most Recent Deaths in Mediterranean Sea: “When will this ever end?”

Full Text (FR ci-dessous):  Strasbourg, 11.07.2012 – “Yet again, a dinghy with 55 people on board drifted for 15 days on the Mediterranean. This time, only one person survived. When will this ever end?,” today asked Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”. She expressed her great sadness and anger over the deaths of another 54 boat people fleeing Libya towards Italy.

“It is still not safe in Libya and the boats will continue to arrive. Europe knows that. I had hoped my report on the ‘left-to-die boat’ would serve as an eye-opener to prevent such tragedies happening time and time again. States must never hesitate to undertake immediate action to rescue people, even if they think someone else should be responsible: every minute counts,” said Senator Strik.

“Governments in Europe, and not only in the countries on the southern shores of Europe, must react, and take an equal share in the protection of asylum seekers arriving from Africa,” she added.

“It is all the more important that the resolution adopted by the Assembly in April this year is implemented and that the remaining questions are answered by NATO and by European governments. I am therefore now making public my most recent requests to member States and NATO, which remain unanswered,” she concluded.

The UNHCR estimates that this year over 170 people have lost their lives attempting to reach Italy by sea. Over 1 300 have arrived from Libya to Italy, and over 1 000 to Malta.

Letter to the Defence Secretary the United Kingdom

Letter to the Defence Minister of Spain

Letter to the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations

PACE Resolution 1872 (2012) (PDF)

Tineke Strik’s full report (PDF)

Strasbourg, 11.07.2012 – « Une fois de plus, un canot pneumatique avec 55 personnes à son bord a dérivé pendant 15 jours en Méditerranée. Cette fois, il n’y a eu qu’un seul survivant. Quand cela s’arrêtera-t-il ? », s’interroge Tineke Strik (Pays-Bas, SOC), l’auteur du rapport de l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe (APCE) « Vies perdues en Méditerranée : qui est responsable ? ». Elle a exprimé aujourd’hui sa profonde tristesse et sa colère à l’annonce de la mort de 54 personnes qui fuyaient la Libye pour l’Italie.

« La situation en Libye n’est toujours pas sûre et d’autres bateaux continueront d’arriver. L’Europe le sait. J’avais espéré que mon rapport sur le « bateau cercueil » provoquerait une prise de conscience et empêcherait que ces tragédies ne se reproduisent toujours et encore. Les États ne doivent jamais hésiter à prendre des mesures immédiates pour sauver des personnes, même s’ils estiment que quelqu’un d’autre devrait être responsable : chaque minute compte », a déclaré la sénatrice Strik.

« Les gouvernements européens, et pas seulement ceux des pays du rivage sud de la Méditerranée, doivent réagir et prendre une part égale dans la protection des demandeurs d’asile venant d’Afrique », a-t-elle ajouté.

« Il est d’autant plus important que la résolution adoptée par l’Assemblée en avril de cette année soit mise en œuvre et que l’OTAN et les gouvernements européens répondent aux questions encore en suspens. C’est pourquoi je rends publiques mes dernières demandes aux Etats membres et à l’OTAN, qui sont restées sans réponse », conclut-elle.

Le Haut-Commissariat de l’ONU pour les réfugiés estime que plus de 170 personnes ont péri cette année en tentant de gagner l’Italie par la mer. Plus de 1.300 personnes en provenance de Libye sont arrivées en Italie, et plus de 1.000 à Malte.

Lettre au Secrétaire d’Etat à la Défense du Royaume-Uni

Lettre au Ministre de la Défense de l’Espagne

Lettre au Secrétaire général adjoint délégué, Division des opérations de l’OTAN

Résolution 1872 (2012) de l’APCE

Rapport intégral de Tineke Strik (PDF)

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PACE Report on “Lives Lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is Responsible?” Scheduled for Release on 29 March

The draft report prepared by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”, will be considered on 29 March in a closed session by the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

If the draft report receives committee approval it will be released to the public by Ms. Strik at a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m. CET.  Representatives from HRW and FIDH will participate in the press conference.  (Click here for HRW press release.) The report will be next be considered during “plenary debate by the 318-member Parliamentary Assembly, probably on Tuesday 24 April during its spring session in Strasbourg.”

Full text of PACE press release:  “Strasbourg, 26.03.2012 – Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on ‘Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?’ will present her draft report at a press conference in Brussels on Thursday 29th March 2012.

The report is the result of a nine-month inquiry, launched at the request of 34 Assembly members, following a March 2011 incident in which it is alleged that 63 people attempting to flee the conflict in Libya died at sea after their appeals for rescue were ignored, including by armed forces operating in the area.

Ahead of her presentation, Ms Strik commented: ‘Since the beginning of 2011 at least 1,500 people are known to have perished in the Mediterranean trying to reach European soil – despite this being one of the busiest and best-monitored seas in the world. My inquiry has focused on one particularly tragic incident, in which 63 people died, to try to establish who bears responsibility for their deaths. I have been deeply shocked by what I have learned.’

As part of her inquiry, Tineke Strik spoke at length with survivors, search and rescue authorities from Italy and Malta, as well as NATO and EU officials, and put detailed written questions to a number of governments, including those with vessels with aircraft-carrying facilities in the area at the time. She also obtained a reconstruction of the voyage using the science of forensic oceanography.

The same day, prior to the press conference, Ms Strik will present her report to PACE’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, meeting in closed session. If approved by the committee, the report will go forward for plenary debate by the 318-member Parliamentary Assembly, probably on Tuesday 24 April during its spring session in Strasbourg.

* * *

Notes for editors

Press conference

The press conference will take place at 2 p.m. on Thursday 29th March at the Council of Europe office in Brussels (Avenue des Nerviens 85 / Nerviërslaan 85, B-1040 Brussels). The rapporteur will be joined by representatives of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch. A video recording of the press conference will be made available at the link above, and on the PACE website, as soon as possible after it ends.

Copies of the report

If approved by the committee, the full text of the report will be posted on the Assembly’s website at around 2 p.m. Central European Time.

Contacts

Angus Macdonald, PACE Communication Division, mobile +33 (0)6 30 49 68 20.
Andrew Cutting, Council of Europe Office in Brussels, mobile +32 (0)485 21 72 02.

Motion: the request for an inquiry

PACE President’s statement, May 2011

Web file and timeline: Europe’s boat people

Video recording of press conference (when available)

Click here for PACE Press Release of 26 March.

Click here for Committee meeting agenda.

Click here for HRW Press Release of 26 March.

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20th Anniversary of the Arrival at Bari, Italy of 15,000 Albanian Boat People

Twenty years ago, on 8 August 1991, several ships carrying approximately 15,000 Albanian migrants succeeded in entering the port of Bari, Italy.  The Italian government’s response was harsh.  Most of the Albanians were detained in a sports stadium without adequate food, water, or access to bathrooms.  Italian authorities dropped supplies to the detained migrants by helicopter.  Within several weeks most of the migrants were deported to Albania.  Their harsh treatment was criticised by human rights organisations and the Pope, but was justified by the Italian government as necessary to deter further irregular migration from Albania.

Excerpts from the 27 January 1992 PACE Report on the Exodus of Albanian Nationals:

“[***]

THE MASS EXODUS FROM ALBANIA

13.       Albania’s forty years of isolation from the rest of the world, combined with its disastrous economic, social and political situation, have had a traumatic effect on its citizens. They feel overwhelmed by hopelessness in the face of Albania’s domestic situation, and although their knowledge of other countries is based solely on what they have heard, or seen on Italian television, they long for the opportunity to start a new life abroad.

14.       This general mood became evident after mid-1990 when increasing numbers of asylum-seekers started to leave the country. Distressing images reminded the public in the rest of Europe of a part of the continent which they had forgotten existed.

15.       In July 1990, Western embassies in Tirana were besieged by large numbers of Albanian nationals. Some 5 000 people sought to leave the country. Thanks to the mediation of international organisations, and after intensive negotiations, a large number of them managed to obtain visas and were granted political asylum in several European countries, particularly Germany, Italy and France. Some have apparently since returned to Albania.

16.       At the end of 1990, some 3 000 Albanian nationals had arrived in Greece by crossing the border between the two countries without meeting any resistance from Albanian border guards. By mid-March 1991, 20 000 Albanians, many of them of Greek ethnic origin, were estimated to have entered Greece. Some of these Albanian nationals have applied to the Greek authorities for political asylum. However, interviews of asylum-seekers have shown clearly that the exodus was not politically motivated but directly linked to the difficult situation prevailing in Albania. The Greek authorities granted work permits to those who found a job and temporary residence permits to the others. Repatriation programmes for all those wishing to return voluntarily were carried out in close co-operation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

17.       On 5 March 1991, a large number of Albanians gathered before the German, French, Greek and Italian Embassies in Tirana, where it was rumoured that visas were going to be distributed. The following day (according to various sources), several boats left the Albanian port of Durres with 20 000 Albanians on board.

18.       On 7 March 1991, Albanian ships began arriving at ports in southern Italy (Brindisi, Bari, Otranto and Monopoli). In spite of the Italian authorities’ public refusal to allow the Albanians to land, many managed to do so.

19.       On the following day, 8 March 1991, hygiene on the boats had deteriorated to such an extent that landing was unavoidable. Crowds of Albanians settled on the quays of Italian ports to await aid which took several days to arrive, as the Italian authorities were overwhelmed by their sheer number.

20.       The Italian authorities claim that 20 000 Albanians arrived in Italy between 7 and 10 March 1991. Negotiations between the authorities in Tirana and Rome subsequently brought the exodus to an end, and Italy has undertaken to discuss with Albania how to eliminate its root causes.

21.       Also in March 1991, an undetermined number of Albanians of Serbian and Montenegrin origin attempted to enter Yugoslavia illegally.

22.       In June 1991, the Albanian authorities requested the United Nations Development Programme to organise an interagency mission in order to undertake an assessment of Albania’s urgent humanitarian needs. In the field of migration, the mission concluded that the great majority of Albanians who had left the country were seeking improved economic conditions and recommended to the Albanian government that it provide incentives so as to encourage Albanians to remain in their country.

23.       During the first days of August 1991 thousands of Albanians reached the western port of Durres and the southern port of Vlora, in the hope of going on board ships that would take them to Italy.

24.       The Albanian authorities tried in vain to prevent its citizens from leaving the country by putting the ports under military control and halting passenger trains.

25.       On 8 August 1991 an estimated 10 000 Albanian nationals aboard several ships forced their way into the port of Bari in the south-east of Italy and approximately 1 000 into the port of Otranto. Moreover, 675 Albanians aboard two other ships who tried unsuccessfully to land at ports in Sicily, were diverged to Malta and later returned to Albania.

26.       After several hours of waiting in the port of Bari, the Italian authorities allowed the Albanians to disembark for humanitarian reasons and led them to La Vittoria Sports Stadium. As the Italian authorities started forced repatriation using military transport planes and ferries, clashes broke out between policemen and Albanians. The Albanians barricaded themselves in the stadium refusing to return to their country; some 300 succeeded in escaping.

27.       The Italian authorities offered the Albanians 50 000 lire (40 US dollars) each and new clothes if they would return home. As this offer did not attract the Albanians, forced repatriation continued.

28.       At the same time the Italian Government increased its financial aid to Albania. Right after the repatriation operations food and emergency aid was sent to Albania. On 12 August 1991, the European Community announced an extra 2,3 million US dollars of emergency aid to be used to buy food and medicines.

29.       The large majority of Albanians arriving in Italy were claiming to be looking for work and escaping the poor economic situation in their country. The failure to repatriate the 7 000 Albanians who arrived in March 1991 as well as rumours of an immigration agreement between Albania and Italy seemed to encourage this last flow.

30.       All of Europe witnessed the dramatic scenes, captured on television news, showing the Albanians being expelled by Italian officials. Although repatriation was legally justified, the way in which the operation was conducted was problematic. The vast majority of the Albanians, according to their accounts of the exodus, fled their country because they felt “buried alive” there. They explained that when the news spread like wildfire that it was possible to leave Albania, lorries were seized in the ensuing rush, ships commandeered, and their crews forced to set sail. It was a form of mass psychosis. It is difficult to determine whether this psychosis was triggered deliberately; rumours suggest that this was the case, but there is no conclusive evidence to support this.

31.       The Albanians’ deportation from Italy was beset with problems, and on a number of occasions the police were deployed. The Albanians were particularly distressed to find that despite promises from the Italian authorities to allow some of them to travel to new homes in Italy, they were still sent straight back to Albania.

32.       It should be noted, however, that the Italian authorities provided the Albanians with food, clothing and some money.

33.       Although there was remarkable sympathy for the Albanians in Italy, the official Italian position was that these persons were seeking economic betterment in Italy and consequently could not be considered as political refugees.

34.       From 15 to 17 August the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR sent a joint mission to Albania. It discussed with the Albanian authorities issues related to migration, such as:

–       the continuation of voluntary return projects from neighbouring countries;

–       the planned and orderly emigration of a small number of Albanians to work in industrialised countries;

–       the implementation of an information project aimed at informing Albanians of the economic and social situation in neighbouring countries;

–       the need to promote, in the mid-term, the reinsertion of returning Albanians, through appropriate vocational training before their return.

35.       It must also be recalled that, at the request of the Italian authorities, IOM and UNHCR, in conjunction with the Italian Red Cross, established a programme of voluntary return. As at the end of August 1991, 1 130 Albanians had been assisted by IOM in their voluntary return. The programme was financed by the Italian Government.

36.       By the end of December 1991 more than 200 000 Albanians were estimated to have left their country since the exodus began in July 1990. However, the UNHCR considers this figure could be substantially higher.

[***]”

Click here for 27 January 1992 PACE Report on the Exodus of Albanian Nationals:

Click here and here for articles about events in Bari marking the anniversary. (IT)

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PACE Appoints Tineke Strik as Rapporteur to Investigate Mediterranean Sea Deaths

The Migration Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has appointed Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) to prepare a report on the deaths of boat people who have died in the Mediterranean since January 2011.

From the PACE press statement: “‘There have been allegations that migrants and refugees are dying after their appeals for rescue have been ignored,’ said Mrs Strik. ‘Such a grave allegation must be urgently investigated.  I intend to look into the manner in which these boats are intercepted – or not – by the different national coastguards, the EU’s border agency FRONTEX, or even military vessels. I also intend to speak to witnesses directly involved in reported incidents, and put questions to national authorities, the UNHCR, FRONTEX and NATO, among others.’  On 8 May, the Guardian newspaper reported that 61 boat people escaping from Libya had died after their appeals for rescue had been ignored by armed forces operating in the Mediterranean. The following day PACE President Mevlüt Çavusoglu called for ‘an immediate and comprehensive enquiry’ into the incident.”

Click here for PACE press statement.

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

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

Here are extensive excerpts:

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

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

[***]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[***]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[***]”

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

“[***]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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COE Parliamentary Assembly to Hold Urgent Debate on Large-Scale Migrant Arrivals in Southern Europe

From PACE:  “Spring session: 11-15 April 2011 – Debates on the arrival of irregular migrants and asylum seekers on Europe’s southern shores and on the situation in Northern Africa.

Adopting the final agenda of its plenary Spring Session, the Assembly today [11 April] decided to hold, on Thursday 14 April, an urgent debate on the large-scale arrival of irregular migrants on Europe’s southern shores and a current affairs debate on the situation in Northern Africa…..”  Agenda Working documents

From the Agenda:

Thursday 14 April 2011

8.30 a.m. Committees
10 a.m. 1. Debate under urgent procedure: 

The large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores (Doc. )

Rapporteur of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population:

Deadline for tabling amendments: Wednesday 13 April at 12 noon

Debate and vote on a …

2. Current affairs debate: 

The situation in Northern Africa

Discussion

1 p.m. End of the sitting

Click here for link to PACE news page.

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COE Committee of Ministers: “Europe’s boat people: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe”

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on 31 March adopted its Reply to COE Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1850 (2008) on“Europe’s boat people: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe.”

Comments from the COE European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are attached to the Rely as an Appendix.

The Reply contains an acknowledgement that the Committee of Ministers was not able to reach agreement on the recommendation that guidelines be prepared for minimum standards to be applied to the detention of irregular migrants:

“5. The Committee of Ministers has taken note of the proposal that guidelines be prepared for minimum standards to be applied to the detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers. However, the Committee of Ministers has not, at the present time, reached a common position with regard to examining possibilities for Council of Europe action in this area. The Committee of Ministers underlines the importance of the relevant instruments of the Council of Europe, such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the recommendations adopted by the Committee of Ministers in this field (see paragraph 9 below), as well as those emerging from the work of the CPT and the Commissioner for Human Rights. It notes the ongoing work in the European Union in this field, including the revision under way of the 2003 directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers.”

Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1850 was issued in 2008 prior to the implementation in 2009 of Italy’s push-back practice and the Committee of Ministers’ Reply does not make explicit reference to Italy’s push-back policy.  The Recommendation and Reply are focused on the treatment of irregular migrants as they arrive on the shores of member states.

But there are several statements in the Reply which should apply implicitly to the irregular migrants whether encountered upon arrival on shore or intercepted or rescued in international waters.

For example:

“6. Particularly significant instruments in this field, also to be borne in mind in the framework of any possible activity in this area, include Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation No. R (98) 13 of 18 September 1998 on the right of rejected asylum seekers to an effective remedy against decisions on expulsion in the context of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Recommendation No. R (98) 15 on the training of officials who first come into contact with asylum seekers, in particular at border points and Recommendation Rec(2003)5 on measures of detention of asylum seekers. The Committee of Ministers would also signal the “Twenty guidelines on forced return” adopted on 20 May 2005 and the Guidelines on human rights protection in the context of accelerated asylum procedures adopted on 1 July 2009.”

“7. The Committee of Ministers would also refer to other texts relevant in this area, such as its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1755 (2006) on “Human rights of irregular migrants” in which it draws attention to the minimum safeguards provided for in the European Convention on Human Rights that can be applied to irregular migrants. It also recalls its Recommendation No. R (2000) 3 to member states on the right to satisfaction of basic material needs of persons in situations of extreme hardship, which provides a minimum threshold of rights which should be recognised regardless of their status.”

“10. The Committee of Ministers would also draw attention to the extensive work of the Commissioner for Human Rights in this field and to his recommendations to member states and his appeals for solidarity within Europe with those countries that are on the frontline and facing a very difficult situation. It also refers to the regular exchanges of views that it holds with the Commissioner during the year. These exchanges are both of a general nature but also concern specific country reports in which he addresses, inter alia, the protection of human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers, including, where relevant, those arriving by sea. [***]”

Click here for the full Committee of Ministers Reply.

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