Tag Archives: Eritreans

Libyan Migrant Boats Carrying Over 400 People Missing; Reports of Deaths

There have been reports in recent days from the UNHCR and others about at least two boats that are believed to have left Libya over the past 10-14 days carrying persons from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and possible other countries.  Family members and friends of people who are believed to be on the boats have been calling for assistance in searching for the boats.  Reuters reported that “[o]ne of the boats was reported to have left Libya on March 22 with 335 people on board.  Italian media said 68 people on the other boat had almost certainly died during the journey, although there was no official confirmation. The top Vatican official in Tripoli, Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, said 10 bodies of African migrants were at the capital’s morgue on [4 April]. … He said there were reports of ‘many more bodies’ of migrants washed up on the shores of Garaboulli, some 40 km from Tripoli.”  Father Mussie Zerai, who is based in Rome, “said he had last spoken to migrants on board the smaller boat, an inflatable, by satellite phone on 26 March before the line went dead.  ‘I have meanwhile had no contact with the larger boat, but family members of those on board have called us from Canada, Sweden and Switzerland to tell us they left.’”

Click here and here for articles. (EN)

There have been confirmed deaths among migrants who have left Tunisia in recent weeks.  At least 27 bodies had been recovered as of last week in Kerkennah.  The dead were probably on board boats that sank on the 13th and 27th of March off the Tunisian coast.

Click here for article.

UPDATE:  If you have information about a family member or friend who may be on a boat or if you are seeking information, please consider contacting the Agenzia Habeshia per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo in Italy at this email address: agenzia_habeshia@yahoo.it .



Filed under European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia, UNHCR

Boat With 350 African Migrants from Libya Receives Assistance from Canadian Navy Ship

A boat carrying approximately 350 African migrants or asylum seekers from Libya has been intercepted and is being diverted to the Italian island of Linosa between Malta and Lampedusa.  There have been reports over the past several days that the migrant boat was at sea.  A Canadian navy ship, probably the frigate HMCS Charlottetown, first intercepted and boarded the migrant boat to determine whether the passengers required immediate rescue or not and to provide a pump.  The migrant boat was allowed to proceed.  An Italian navy helicopter later rescued a woman who gave birth on the boat.  The woman, the newborn baby, the father, and a second pregnant woman were removed from the migrant boat and taken to hospitals on Lampedusa and Sicily.  The Italian navy said that the migrant boat will be taken to Linosa rather than Lampedusa.  UNHCR spokeswoman Laura Boldrini is quoted by AFP as saying that “[t]his is the first boat coming from Libya with people fleeing the military escalation, the vendettas and the retaliation attacks and that “the people on board the boat required ‘international protection’”.  AFP also reported that “Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean Catholic priest in Italy who has been in direct contact with the vessel via a satellite phone, said conditions on the boat were extremely difficult with around 10 children and 20 women on board.  He said the people were mostly Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalians.”  Zerai also “said four or five other boats carrying African migrants had … left Libyan shores carrying around 1,000 people.”

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


Filed under Eritrea, Ethiopia, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Somalia, UNHCR

Malmström Meets With Libyan Foreign Minister

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström met with Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa on 13 July.  I cannot find any reference to the meeting on Commissioner Malmström’s official web site, but she mentions the meeting on her personal blog (written in Swedish).   She writes simply that she met with the FM and that “Libya is a complex but important neighbour and we have a lot to talk about – not least, migration and asylum and human rights.  The meeting was a first opportunity to talk.” (translation using Google translate.)

According to an article in Il Manifesto (and reposted on the Diritti Globali web site where I first read / Google-translated it), the ongoing EU-Libya partnership accord talks and the immigration aspects of the accord were discussed in the meeting between the Libyan FM and Malmström.

Also apparently discussed at the meeting was Libya’s decision to release up to 3000 detained migrants from several detention centres, including the Eritreans who were likely detained by Libya after being interdicted at sea and subjected to Italy’s push-back practice.

From the Il Manifesto article:

Quanto alle responsabilità italiane nella vicenda, legate in particolare al fatto che 103 dei 205 detenuti di Braq sono stati respinti in mare dalle navi italiane, la Commissione Ue continua a mantenere un profilo alquanto basso. Ieri Stefano Manservisi, Direttore generale della DG interni della Commissione Ue, intervenendo al dibattito in Parlamento sugli eritrei, ha affermato che «non abbiamo informazioni su dove sono state intercettate queste persone, non si può dire che Malta doveva fare o l’Italia doveva fare, si sa che ora sono in Libia e dobbiamo verificare in che condizioni si trovano». .[…]

Per ora il silenzio, che dura da un anno sui respingimenti, e poche parole anche sul Trattato di partenariato, amicizia e cooperazione tra Italia-Libia, che ha di fatto dato il via libera a questa nuova politica. «Riguardo agli accordi bilaterali, a titolo personale – ha affermato ancora il numero 2 della Malmström – considero migliore un accordo europeo a uno bilaterale, ma ci vuole chiarezza, questo accordo ha pure dimostrato la propria efficacia, è un dato di fatto che il flusso di immigrati si è bloccato».  E ancora: «Ci è stato notificato un accordo in linea con la normativa Ue, anche se c’è una componente segreta che non conosciamo». Pur con questa dosi di oscurità, per la Commissione il futuro dell’intesa tra Bruxelles e Tripoli dovrebbe ricalcare una buona parte dell’ accordo tra Berlusconi e Gheddafi: «Dobbiamo fare modo che ciò che è coperto da accordi bilaterali possa diventare base accordo più amplio», ha concluso Manservisi.

Per procedere nei contatti, lo stesso Direttore generale si recherà in Libia prima dell’autunno, quindi toccherà alla commissaria Malmström in ottobre, il tutto in vista della stesura di un accordo generale che parli di immigrazione, ma anche controllo delle frontiere, visti e relazioni economiche. Altro appuntamento chiave il vertice Ue-Unione africana del 29 e 30 novembre a Sirte.

Click here (SV) for the Commissioner’s personal blog post.

Click here (IT) for full Il Manifesto article.

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Filed under European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News

Libya Confirms It Is Detaining “Pushed Back” Eritreans

Reuters reported that the Libyan Foreign Ministry confirmed there are approximately 400 Eritreans being held in detention centres in Libya and that 245 of these Eritreans were turned over to Libyan authorities after being intercepted at sea by Italian authorities.   Italian officials have previously questioned whether any of the Eritreans in question had been subjected to the Italian push-back practice.

Click here for article.

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Filed under Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News

Libya May Allow Eritreans to Remain – Italy Claims Credit for Decision

Libya has reportedly agreed to allow approximately 400 Eritreans to remain in Libya, though they will not be given refugee protection as Libya is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.

ANSAmed reported that Italian officials have claimed credit for Libya’s decision, though the Italians have questioned whether any of the Eritreans have been mistreated and whether any of the Eritreans were subjected to Italy’s push-back practice.  Italian Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Stefania Craxi stated that ”the Italian government never backed away from raising awareness with[] Libyan authorities on the topic of human rights.”  Craxi said ”it is thanks to the Italian government [that] the UNHCR activities in Tripoli have started again, albeit in an informal and conditioned way.”  Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said ”it is unbelievable that Brussels did not even make a press release.  [Italy] worked in silence, without proclamations, sadly with the total and absolute absence of Europe. We asked for a compromise, a mediation and the result came.”

While it is good if the Italian Government did indeed work to arrive at a temporary and imperfect solution for this particular group of Eritreans and it is good that the Italian ministers speak of respecting human rights in Libya, the Italians should be equally if not more concerned with the human rights implications of their push-back practice in the Mediterranean.

Click here for article.

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Filed under European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR

ECRE and CIR: Ill-treatment of Refugees in Libya: the EU, a Silent Accomplice

ECRE and CIR released a statement on 7 July criticising Italy and the EU in regard to the plight of over 200 Eritrean refugees, some of whom may have been subject to Italy’s push-back practice and who are now detained under dangerous conditions in Libya.

The two organisations “call upon all authorities involved to ensure that refugees are not repatriated to Eritrea where they are at risk of torture and ill- treatment. … ‘We strongly repeat our plea to the Italian Government to resettle the refugees to Italy’, says Christopher Hein, Director of the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR). ‘Some of those who are being mistreated now by the Libyan authorities have been pushed back there by Italy one year ago. Refugees are suffering the consequences of Italy’s violation of its legal obligations and EU Member States’ consenting silence’, added Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE’s Secretary General.”

Click here for the full statement.

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Filed under European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, Statements

Hammarberg Makes Urgent Request of Italy for Information on Eritreans in Libya

COE Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg has made an urgent request to the Italian Government for information on alleged human rights violations of Eritrean migrants in Libya, including Eritreans who may have been among persons intercepted at sea by Italy and forcibly returned to Libya without being afforded an opportunity to seek international protection.

In a letter to the Italian Foreign Minister, Commissioner Hammarberg wrote “[g]iven the recent decision of the Libyan authorities to discontinue UNHCR’s activities in the country, it is increasingly difficult to confirm the exact accuracy of these reports. However, given their consistency and the seriousness of the allegations, I hope that I can count on your cooperation to urgently clarify the situation with the Libyan authorities and be kept informed about the results of your investigations.”

The Foreign Minister and Interior Minister have written a joint letter to the Il Foglio newspaper where they say that the Italian Government “was mediating with Tripoli to identify the Eritreans and try to find them employment in Libya so that they would not be forcibly repatriated.”  According to Reuters, the ministers also said “it was necessary to respect Libyan sovereignty and [they] called for an international approach, involving the United Nations and other organizations” and that the “fate of these Eritrean citizens cannot be resolved only through our bilateral relationship (with Libya).”

Click here for the Commissioner’s letter to the Italian Foreign Minister.

Click here for the Commissioner’s letter to the Italian Interior Minister.

Click here for article.

Click here (IT) for Italian Ministers’ Reply to Il Foglio.

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Filed under Commissioner for Human Rights, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR