Discussion topics will include:
- – measures to help overcome the dramatic events unfolding in Libya;
- – mobilisation of further resources to meet the humanitarian situation created by the influx of returnees from Libya;
- – challenges to the EU posed by irregular migration;
- – the evacuation of EU citizens;
- – support to the political transitions underway in Tunisia, Egypt and the broader region.
Click here for President Van Rompuy’s invitation letter.
OCHA Situation Report 4 on Libya. “HIGHLIGHTS/KEY PRIORITIES:
- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a meeting of United Nations agencies and regional organizations to discuss a coordinated approach to the humanitarian situation in and around Libya. He intends to appoint a special envoy responsible for coordinating the relief effort;
- According to IOM, 172,874 people, mainly migrant workers, have left Libya to date;
- The OCHA-led joint United Nations rapid assessment reported little evidence of destruction between the Egyptian border and Benghazi. There are concerns over the implications a fuel-supply cut will have on the continuity of water and power supplies for critical infrastructure;
- According to the Financial Tracking Service, US$35.6 million has been contributed and $10 million pledged from donors in response to the crisis.”
Click here for OCHA Situation Report.
Click here for OCHA Map and Data update.
UNHCR – “GENEVA, March 3 (UNHCR) – An operation to evacuate tens of thousands of people from the Tunisian border and fly them home was under way on Wednesday. Under a programme led by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 50 flights were planned on Thursday to take migrant workers, mostly Egyptians, back home. UNHCR flew home 177 people to Egypt on a first flight Wednesday evening…..”
Click here for UNHCR update.
OCHA Situation Report 3 on Libya. HIGHLIGHTS/KEY PRIORITIES:
- On 1 March, an estimated 12,000 people were evacuated from the Tunisia-Libya border to Egypt by air and sea;
- A United Nations joint rapid assessment mission is currently in eastern Libya proceeding to Benghazi to assess humanitarian needs;
- The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator has allocated some US$5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to kick-start emergency efforts to help people fleeing violence in Libya.
Click here for Report.
This report is produced by OCHA in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It was issued by Cairo and New York. It covers the period from 28 February to 1 March 2011.
IRIN - Numbers of People Crossing into Neighbouring Countries
Excerpts from the Backgrounder:
Currently, Tunisia and Egypt are experiencing an influx of people fleeing Libya. These persons include nationals of those two countries seeking to return home, as well as Libyans and smaller numbers of nationals of other countries in search of safety. Both Tunisia and Egypt, themselves emerging from turmoil, have kept their borders open and are receiving those fleeing Libya. …
All states affected by the ongoing crisis are bound to respect the following [core] principles governing the treatment of refugees….
Protection of refugees is a collective international responsibility. In practice, however, it is those countries that are closest to or most accessible from Libya and its neighbors that will be called upon to protect the majority of refugees who may seek international protection in the immediate term….
At a time when all countries in the region and their neighbors in the EU may see an increase in migration by people fleeing persecution and violence as well as worsening economic conditions, it is critically important that those who have a claim to international protection be given access to procedures to obtain it. The international community more broadly and the EU should assist those States that bear the brunt of this challenge in dealing with it in a way that is consistent with their international obligations. At the same time, Italy and other EU member states and institutions must refrain from pushing migrants back to Libya or any other country without identifying those in need of international protection and allowing those who need such protection to apply for it.
Click here for full document.
From the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Situation Report No. 2, 1 March 2011:
Libya – thousands of migrants stranded at Benghazi port;
Tunisia – 10,000 to 15,000 people arrived in Tunisia on 1 March, creating a huge bottleneck on the border due to a lack of onward transportation to their home countries. Thousands of people (including over 15,000 Bangladeshis) are stuck on the Libyan side of the border and are not allowed to cross. They are stranded and without access to food, health, water and sanitation;
Egypt – 5,000 to 7,000 migrants stranded in the border area at Saloum, in “no man’s land”. The Egyptian authorities are not allowing those without valid tickets and documentation to leave. According to IOM, these stranded migrants need food, water, blankets, shelter and proper sanitation facilities. IOM has established a registration process for migrants from African and Asian countries who cannot continue their journey into Egypt because of lack of travel documents or entry visas;
Niger – IOM is preparing for the arrival later this week of an estimated 2,000 Nigerians and other African nationals who have recently managed to cross Libya’s southern border at Gatrone.
Click here for full document.
1 March 2011 update from UNHCR:
“UNHCR staff at the Libya-Tunisia border have this morning told us that the situation is reaching crisis point. According to the Tunisian authorities, 70-75,000 people have fled Libya to Tunisia since 20 February. Fourteen thousand people crossed yesterday, the highest number to date, with tens of thousands of people now in urgent need of onwards transportation to their home countries. With 10,000-15,000 people expected to arrive today…
[T]housands of people have been waiting on the Libyan side to enter for as long as three days, obliged to spend the night outside in the bitter cold without shelter. We are very concerned that a large number of sub-Saharan Africans are not being allowed entry into Tunisia…
Meanwhile at the Egyptian border, the Government reported that some 69,000 people had crossed from Libya since 19 February. The majority of those who have crossed are Egyptians…”
Click here for UNHCR update.
The UNHCR “welcomed the positive indications it has received over the past two days from Tunisia and Egypt that they will maintain open borders for people fleeing the continuing violence in Libya.”
Click here for full statement.
Wednesday marked the third day without any migrants reaching Lampedusa. The Italian Coast Guard was searching for a 45 meter boat that may have left Tunisia with migrants and which was reported missing. Sea conditions continue to be rough and Italian authorities predict the migrant flow will resume once sea conditions improve. Plans to move migrants from Lampedusa to other locations within Italy to reduce overcrowding on the island have been delayed because the new reception centres are not yet prepared to receive the migrants.
40 Egyptian migrants reached Marina di Ragusa on the southern coast of Sicily on Tuesday. Interior Minister Maroni announced that the migrants were returned to Egypt on Wednesday by a charter flight after the new Egyptian government agreed to their return. He praised the new military government for honouring the agreements that Italy had with the Mubarak government. (“Significa che il nuovo Governo egiziano dei militari rispetta gli accordi che noi avevamo sottoscritto con il Governo Mubarak e che consentono un rapido rimpatrio degli egiziani arrivati sulle nostre coste”.)
Click here, here, and here for articles. (IT)
Here are some thoughtful insights about the Tunisian revolution and Europe from Prof. J. Peter Burgess’ blog (Prof. Burgess is a philosopher, political scientist and cultural historian and is currently Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), where he leads the Security Programme):
“A completely unique conjuncture of events has brought a new wave of undocumented migration to Europe and with it a new wave of principled challenges to European responses to it. There is widespread awareness in Europe and elsewhere of the tidal change set off by the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Now overshadowed by hyper-mediatized events in Egypt, the ousting of Tunisia’s longstanding president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 was in some ways more decisive and dramatic than events in Egypt, though less networked. … Yet while the mass manifestations of democratic aspirations in Egypt lead Euro-Americans to wipe a tear of self-affirmation, the democratic aspirations of Tunisians has quickly morphed into a security threat to Europe. Built on lofty principles, the European Union talks the talk, and is once again called upon to walk the walk of migrant and human rights. …”
Click here for the full post.
Kathimerini reported on 1 February that Greece requested an additional extension of the Frontex RABIT deployment in Greece due to the situation in Egypt and a fear that there may be a surge in migration towards Greece. The current RABIT deployment is scheduled to end on 3 March. The deployment was originally scheduled to end in November 2010 and was extended until March 2011. The Kathimerini article said that Frontex’s initial informal response to the requested extension was positive.
Click here (EL) and here (EN) for articles.
Several organizations, including Gruppo EveryOne, are making an appeal on behalf of a group of 80 Eritreans who are reportedly being held by traffickers at the Egypt-Israel border. The Eritreans apparently departed Tripoli en route to Israel. This incident provides anecdotal evidence that African asylum seekers are attempting to enter Israel because the Central Mediterranean sea route to Europe has for all practical purposes been closed by the Italian-Libyan push-back practice in effect since May 2009.
Click here (EN) or here (IT) for the Gruppo EveryOne appeal.
Israel today begins the construction of a 250 km border fence along portions of its border with Egypt. The barrier is primarily designed to prevent the entry into Israel of African migrants and asylum seekers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted as saying that “Peace does not include the flood of illegal infiltrators, who come from Africa through Sinai … This is a blow which our neighbours in Egypt are also suffering from.”
The Israeli Interior Ministry reported that on average on a weekly basis 1,100 irregular migrants enter Israel along its southern border with Egypt. The Ministry reported that over 10,000 such migrants have entered Israel in this manner so far in 2010 compared with 4,431 for all of 2009.
The construction project will take at least one year to complete and will include sensors and other devices designed to detect persons along the border.
One effect of such a fence will be the diversion of migrants and asylum seekers who will either attempt to cross at unfenced portions of the border or pursue new destinations, with or without the assistance of human traffickers.
Click here, here, and here for articles.
Click here for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel “Refugee and Asylum-Seeker” Fact Sheet.
On 5 May Italian authorities transferred two naval patrol boats to Egypt for use in anti-immigration patrols and port security. Italy has previously given patrol boats to Egypt.
Click here and here for articles. (AR)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on the Egyptian Government to issue an immediate order to its security forces to halt the killings of unarmed migrants attempting to enter Israel through the Sinai Desert.
“While migrants often lose their lives accidentally while traveling in over-crowded boats, or trying to cross remote land borders, I know of no other country where so many unarmed migrants and asylum-seekers appear to have been deliberately killed in this way by Government forces. … It is a deplorable state of affairs, and the sheer number of victims suggests that at least some Egyptian security officials have been operating a shoot-to-kill policy. It is unlikely that so many killings would occur otherwise. Sixty killings can hardly be an accident.”
OHCHR also called for an independent inquiry in the deaths of the approximately 60 migrants who have been killed by Egyptian security forces since mid-2007. Most of the migrants are from sub-Saharan Africa.
Click here for full article.