Tag Archives: Detention

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

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

Key points include (see formal AI recommendations below):

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

Amnesty International makes the following recommendations:

To European governments

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

To the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria:

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

To governments along the smuggling route:

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

To militias, armed groups and Libyan authorities:

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

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Filed under Analysis, European Union, Frontex, Libya, Mediterranean, Reports, United Nations

The Detention of Asylum Seekers in the Mediterranean Region – A Global Detention Project Background Paper

The Global Detention Project just released a Background Paper, “The Detention of Asylum Seekers in the Mediterranean Region,” which “is intended to highlight some of the vulnerabilities that people seeking international protection face when they are taken into custody in Mediterranean countries and to underscore the way that European Union-driven policies have impacted the migratory phenomenon in the region.”  GDP Cover-Backgrounder Det of Asy Seekers in Med_April 2015

Summary: “With the recent tragic surge in the number of deaths at sea of asylum seekers and other migrants attempting to reach Europe, enormous public attention is being focused on the treatment of these people across the Mediterranean. An important migration policy employed throughout the region is detention, including widespread deprivation of liberty of asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups. …

The report focuses on eight key countries in Europe and North Africa. While there are clear differences in treatment from one side of the Mediterranean to the next, looked at collectively, the protection environment across all the countries in the region is bleak. Not surprisingly, the conditions of detention asylum seekers face in North African countries are often horrific and inhumane. However, in Europe, there are also serious shortcomings. In fact, as this backgrounder reports, reception and detention conditions in three of Europe’s main asylum receiving countries (Greece, Italy, and Malta) are so inadequate that many of their EU counterparts have been forced to halt returns to these countries under the Dublin III Regulation.”

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Filed under Egypt, European Union, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Refugees, Reports, Spain, Tunisia

UNHCR Assisting 1200+ Migrants in Libya Intercepted by Libyan Coast Guard Over Past 10 Days

Full Text of UNHCR Press Statement, 28 April 2015:

“In Libya, UNHCR and its partners have been assisting some of the 1,242 people rescued at sea from unseaworthy boats or intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard in waters near Tripoli over the past 10 days, who have mostly been sent to immigration detention centres.

This includes a group of more than 200 people from the Horn of Africa intercepted at Tajura (16 km east of Tripoli) four of whom had serious burn injuries from a gas explosion two weeks ago at an unknown location where they were held by smugglers before boarding a boat bound for Europe. The group was taken to an immigration detention centre in Tripoli where medical staff from UNHCR’s partner on the ground treated burns and arranged the transfer to hospital of four seriously injured people. This included a 20-year-old mother with extensive burns to her arms and legs and her two-year-old son with extensive burns to his face.

UNHCR is aware of at least 2,663 migrants or asylum-seekers (including women and children) spread across eight immigration detention facilities across Libya run by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) – a significant increase from the 1,455 people in detention a month ago. The main nationalities in the centres are Somalis, Eritreans, Ethiopians and Sudanese as well as people from various West African countries. UNHCR understands that 15 immigration centres are now operational across the country. Foreigners in Libya can be arrested for lack of lawful immigration status and can spend anything from one week to 12 months in detention. UNHCR can generally organize the release of refugees and asylum-seekers registered with our office within a few days, although our capacity to register new arrivals to Libya is limited in the current security environment. We also advocate for the release of very vulnerable people, like pregnant women and also for alternatives to detention, if possible.

Our local staff and partners who visit immigration detention centres say conditions are poor, with urgent needs for more medical help, improved ventilation and sanitation as well as relief items. With the rate of detention on the rise, overcrowding compounds already tough conditions. In some centres, more than 50 people are crowded into rooms designed for 25. Temperatures are on the rise, as are the mosquitos which combined with poor ventilation could spread disease. At the request of local authorities, UNHCR is helping to ease the dire conditions. We are giving out soap, underwear, clothes and other items to detainees in the eight centres we can currently access.

There are some 36,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Libya (though some of these may have moved on), who are affected by the growing violence and lawlessness in the country. Among these, the largest group (18,000) are Syrians while Palestinians, Eritreans, Iraqis, Somalis, Sudanese make up significant groups.

Despite the volatile situation in Libya, UNHCR continues to help refugees and asylum-seekers through our national staff and NGO partners. We run two community development centres in Tripoli and Benghazi and have also expanded outreach this year through a mobile medical and social team in Tripoli. We also run dedicated hotlines to help people get registered, receive cash assistance, renew documents, or who are in detention. We are setting up another hotline with the Libyan Coast Guard to receive search and rescue updates.

Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to deliver aid like mattresses, blankets, clothing and kitchen utensils to thousands of internally displaced Libyans, and is supporting municipal authorities to track displacement and assess needs. Some 400,000 Libyans have been displaced by various waves of violence, according to UN figures.

For more information on this topic, please contact:
• In Tunis (covering Libya), Marwa Baitelmal on +216 228 344 31
• In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on +41 79 200 76 17”

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Filed under Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR

Israel’s African Question

An interesting opinion article in today’s Haaretz by Craig D. Smith, a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Toronto and a research fellow in the department of international relations at the Hebrew University:

“Some 60,000 Africans have crossed the Egyptian border into Israel over the past five years, most of them from Eritrea. Like the world’s other 30 to 40 million ‘irregular’ migrants, they came uninvited, and Israeli society has largely decided they are an unwelcome addition to an already fractured cultural landscape. There are no channels for integration under Israel’s Jewish-only citizenship laws, no political appetite for blanket amnesties, and no chance for migrants to go about their lives without being noticed.  Israel thus faces an ‘African question’: What to do with a growing number of people who are inassimilable and unwanted, and how to prevent more from coming? Politicians have decided the answer includes withholding asylum status, deporting the most expedient cases, interning the remainder – and, most significantly for Israel’s neighbors, sealing the Egyptian border. While such tactics face resistance from a vocal minority, they enjoy support across most of the political spectrum. In the meantime, African migrants in Israel face assault, destitution and intimidation, encouraged by the rhetoric of democratically elected politicians….”

Click here for full article.

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HRW Report on Malta’s Migrant Detention Policy: “Boat Ride to Detention”

Human Rights Watch has issued a report, “Boat Ride to Detention – Adult and Child Migrants in Malta”, documenting the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat in Malta and concluding that the mandatory detention policy violates international law.

Excerpts:

Summary – Malta routinely detains an average of 1,500 people per year, including children, who arrive in the country by boat without permission, or ‘irregularly.’ These are migrants and asylum seekers, typically from Somalia, Eritrea, and other sub-Saharan African countries, who travel to Europe fleeing persecution or in search of a better life. Many have fled violence and conflict, and almost all have made an arduous journey, taking months to cross the Sahara and travel north through Libya. The last stage of that journey is a perilous, multiday trip across the Mediterranean, typically in overcrowded vessels that are not seaworthy, and without enough food, water, or fuel, before they reach Maltese shores or are intercepted at sea by the Armed Forces of Malta.

Boat migrants arriving in Malta are taken straight to detention if they lack an entry visa (as they virtually all do). This report addresses their arbitrary, indiscriminate, and unfair detention. The report focuses on those who arrive in Malta by boat, as migrants who arrive in Malta by air for the most part are not detained, even if they enter under false pretenses or subsequently claim asylum. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are detained for up to 12 months, and migrants who do not apply for asylum, or whose asylum claims are rejected, can be detained for up to 18 months. Under international law migrants who do not have permission to enter or stay in a country may be subject to detention, in certain circumstances, and also may be subject to safeguards. However in Malta, the detention policy operates in an automated, indiscriminate, and blanket manner in violation of international law.

In the course of this virtually automated detention policy, Malta routinely detains unaccompanied migrant children whose age is in question. ‘Unaccompanied children’ are migrants under the age of 18 (typically between 14 and 17) who travel without parents or caregivers. Migrants who claim to be unaccompanied children go through an age determination procedure, which relies on interviews and occasional medical testing to establish age. In 2007 and 2008, for example, around 400 children each year arrived in Malta claiming to be unaccompanied.1 While they register for and undergo the age determination procedure, Malta keeps these children in detention. [***]

While Malta justifies its prolonged detention of migrants as a legitimate response to irregular entry, the practice amounts to arbitrary detention prohibited by international law. Prolonged administrative custody, without the possibility of meaningful review, violates the prohibition on arbitrary detention in article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights has found Malta’s detention policy to violate the European Convention’s provisions on the right to liberty. Children enjoy particular protection under the law: in principle, migrant children should not be detained, and where they are detained it must be as a last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time. [***]

Flawed Maltese and European Migration Policies

Malta’s detention policy is part of flawed approaches to migration, both by Malta itself and by the European Union (EU). The central Mediterranean migration route—typically from Libya to Malta or Italy—is a major entrance point to the EU. Since 2002, approximately 15,000 migrants have reached Malta by this route, some intentionally, many by mistake as they stumble across the small island country while hoping to reach Italy. While the number of migrants arriving in Malta is low in absolute terms, Malta now has the highest number of asylum seekers relative to the national population of any country in the industrialized world. Malta, a country of only 400,000 people, received 20.1 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants in the years 2007-2011, whereas France, the EU member state receiving the largest number of asylum seekers in absolute terms in 2011, received about 3 per 1,000.

Although migrants have been traveling this migration route—in higher or lower numbers— for some ten years, neither Malta nor the EU has developed a sound policy that either respects migrants’ human rights or that addresses the high burden placed on Malta. EU asylum rules mean that member states at EU borders sometimes are forced to assume responsibility for a vastly disproportionate share of migrants and asylum seekers. The Dublin II regulation, promulgated in 2003, mandates that an individual’s asylum application must be processed in the country where the individual first entered the EU. This places an unfair burden on Malta, which must process these asylum applications in-country and which is obliged to accept the return of any asylum seekers whose first port of entry in the EU was Malta.

The EU has taken some steps towards mitigating this burden, for instance by relocating recognized refugees from Malta to other EU states and providing limited financial support. But these steps have been insufficient to assist Malta in meeting migrants’ needs. The case of Malta, like that of Greece, shows the need to revise the Dublin II regulation to permit greater burden sharing in processing and hosting asylum seekers, rather than insisting on the country of first arrival as the primary factor in assessing member state responsibility.

Malta’s arbitrary detention policy, in addition to violating international standards, does not work to deter migrants from landing on its shores. Migrants may not intend to travel to Malta, and indeed the boats in which they travel lack navigational equipment that would enable them to choose their destination. Some migrants Human Rights Watch spoke with said they did not even know that Malta existed as a country before they landed there.

Though Malta’s burden is disproportionately large, detention is neither a legal nor a sound response to boat migration in the central Mediterranean. Both Malta and the EU should enact new policies to respond to their legal obligations to uphold migrants’ rights.

  • Malta should allow detention of migrants only in exceptional circumstances, with individualized determinations, and access to procedures to challenge detention.
  • Malta should treat those who claim to be children as such pending the outcome of age determination proceedings, and release all those with pending claims from detention.
  • The EU should reform the Dublin system by having the Dublin regulation take into account equitable burden-sharing among member countries.

[***]

IV. Conclusion

[***] Malta must revise its migrant detention policies for adult and child migrants alike, and end the continued mental stress imposed on migrants kept in prolonged detention. Maltese laws should allow detention of migrants only in exceptional circumstances, with individualized determinations, and access to procedures to challenge detention.”

Click here or here for Report.

Click here for HRW press release.

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Israel’s Refugee Practices, Past and Present

Yesterday, 10 June 2012, marked the 35th anniversary of the rescue by an Israeli ship (the freighter Yuvali) of 66 Vietnamese boat people in the South China Sea.  After neighboring countries, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, refused to permit the disembarkation of the rescued Vietnamese, the Israeli government agreed to allow the 66 Vietnamese to be transported to and resettled in Israel.  While I have not confirmed this, an Associated Press report at the time of the event quoted an Israeli Interior Ministry official as saying that this was the first time that Israel had permitted non-Jewish refugees to settle in Israel.  The humanitarian decision taken 35 years ago stands in stark contrast to the asylum and migration laws that are now to be enforced in Israel.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced last week that the revised Prevention of Infiltration Law will begin being enforced.  The Infiltration Law allows the arrest and detention of irregular border crossers, including asylum seekers.  The Israeli Defence Ministry also announced last week that five new detention centres are under construction and when completed will consist of 20,000 to 25,000 tents.  “The objective of the plan, according to the [Defence] ministry, is to ensure that all African migrants who enter Israel will be directly transferred to a detention center where they will stay for long periods of time, in order to prevent their entry to Israeli cities.”

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on 10 June calling on the Israeli government to refrain from enforcing the law until its provisions are amended to comply with Israel’s international legal obligations:  “On January 10 [2012] the Knesset amended the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law to define all irregular border-crossers as ‘infiltrators.’ The law permits Israeli authorities to detain all irregular border-crossers, including asylum seekers and their children, for three years or more before their deportation. The law also allows officials to detain some people indefinitely, even if border control officials recognize they might face persecution if returned to their country. [***]   The government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimate that since 2005, around 60,000 Africans have entered Israel somewhere along the 240-kilometer border with Egypt after passing through the Sinai desert. Many of the migrants and asylum seekers fall victim to abusive human traffickers en route to Israel, particularly in the Sinai. [***] Israel is building a fence along the border to prevent irregular crossings and expanding a detention facility for irregular border-crossers from 2,000 beds to around 5,400, according to Israeli refugee rights groups….”

Click here for HRW Statement.

Click here or here for article from ECRE’s Weekly Bulletin, 8 June.

Click here and here for articles.

Click here or here for 1977 article.

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Libya Asks EU to Assist with Renovation of Migrant Detention Centres

At a press conference held last week, Libyan Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelali asked the European Union for assistance in dealing with new immigration flows and specifically requested assistance to renovate 19 existing migrant detention centres.  (Global Detention Project identified 27 dedicated immigration detention centres in Libya as of late 2009.)

Libyan officials have said recently that irregular migration flows are resuming.  AFP reported that Libyan interior ministry spokesman General Abdelmonem al-Tunsi said on 19 January “that illegal immigration had resumed since the end of the anti-Kadhafi revolt” and “thousands of people from … Syria were also entering through the Massad terminal on the border with Egypt, apart from Africans infiltrating through the southern borders.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti traveled to Tripoli on 21 January to meet with the Libyan NTC.  Prior to his trip Amnesty International sent Monti a letter urging him to address numerous matters with the Libyans, including the eradication of torture, reforming the criminal justice system, and ratifying the Refugee Convention.

Amnesty also called upon Italy not to resume push-back operations at sea and to refrain from cooperating with Libya on other migration control practices until appropriate reforms are instituted within Libya.  There are fears that Italy is moving towards resuming coordination with Libya on immigration control matters.  Italian Interior Minister Anne Marie Cancellieri is reportedly scheduled to travel to Tripoli next month to discuss bilateral cooperation on immigration.

Translated excerpts from Amnesty’s press statement regarding the AI letter to PM Monti:

“With regard to cooperation on migration between Italy and Libya, Amnesty International calls on the Italian Government:

  • To desist from conducting any operation of ‘refoulement’ (deportation) at sea to Libya and cooperating with Libya to intercept migrants and reject them;
  • To set aside the Memorandum of Understanding on ‘migration control’, signed with the National Transitional Council (CNT) on June 17, 2011, until a thorough review is conducted of the impact on human rights agreements signed by the two countries in this area, and until the necessary changes have been introduced in order to ensure that the ‘immigration control’ is never carried out at the expense of human rights;
  • To ensure that all forms of cooperation with the Libyan authorities are absolutely transparent and subject to the commitment and ability of both parties to fully respect the human rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, and are consistent with the international law of human rights and international refugee law….”

Click here for AI Letter. (IT)

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

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