NATO announced on Sunday, 6 March, that its Aegean Sea patrols have been expanded to Greek and Turkish territorial waters. NATO patrols have been operating only in international waters. And while NATO says its ‘mission is not to stop or turn back those trying to cross into Europe’, NATO has made it clear that NATO ships will return rescued migrants directly to Turkey: ‘In case of rescue at sea of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey.’ NATO’s plan to summarily return intercepted migrants is consistent with previous statements made by the British and German defence ministers who have said that the purpose of the NATO mission is to stop migrants and return them to Turkey.
NATO’s characterisation of its operation seems to be an attempt to draw a distinction between a push-back practice where any migrant boat, regardless of whether it is in need of rescue, would be intercepted and pushed back and a search and rescue operation providing assistance to migrant boats in need of rescue. This is meaningless distinction given the current situation in the Aegean where every migrant boat is in need of assistance or rescue.
NATO ships are subject to the same rescue at sea obligations imposed by the SOLAS and SAR Conventions as all other ships and are obligated to disembark rescued persons in a ‘place of safety.’ And while disembarking in Turkey is safer than disembarking in Syria or Libya, there are serious questions as to whether Turkey is a place of safety. See the recent Q&A issued by Human Rights Watch concluding that Turkey is not a ‘safe third country’ as defined by EU law. While the question of a ‘place of safety’ under the SAR Convention is not identical to the ‘safe third country’ question under EU law, the fact remains that rescued migrants should not in all cases be automatically returned to Turkey without adequate screening and processing. The failure to screen rescued migrants is a clear violation of the non-refoulement obligations of the individual EU and non-EU States operating under the NATO command.
A great legal analysis and overview of the situation by Prof. Steve Peers (Professor of EU Law & Human Rights Law, University of Essex) from EU Law Analysis blog:
“…. How should the EU address [the refugee crisis] next? Should it abolish or reform the Schengen and/or Dublin rules? Are Member States complying with EU and international law in their response? To answer these questions, I will examine in turn (a) the international law framework; (b) the EU law framework; (c) whether Schengen is at ‘fault’; (d) whether Dublin is at ‘fault’; and (e) what the EU should do next. My main purposes are to explain the legal background, to point out some legal errors, and to suggest the best way forward in light of the international refugee law framework…..”
Click here for article.
These are excerpts/highlights from comments made by HRVP Federica Mogherini at the conclusion of Saturday’s, 5 September, informal meeting of EU foreign ministers. The full text of her remarks is here.
- The meeting “was not an easy one…”
- “[W]e need to start using the right words: [the crisis] is partially a migrant flow, but it is mainly a refugee flow, which puts us in a different situation when it comes to our legal and moral duties.”
- “I hope – finally, finally – we all realise that these people are coming to Europe, not to one or another Member State. … Unfortunately, it took us some months to realise this, but maybe that awareness is finally there.”
- “We are all facing a … dramatic event. I don’t say an emergency event, because this is not an emergency: it is an urgency we are facing, but it is not something that starts one day and finishes another day. It is here to stay and the sooner we accept it, politically and psychologically, the sooner we will be able to respond in an effective way and manage it in an effective way.”
- “Now we agreed to strengthen our cooperation – not only within the European Union, but also with the Candidate Countries – on five different levels… Some of them have started already, some of them are going to be further defined … in particular with the package that the Commission is going to adopt in this coming week, with the decisions that the Ministers of Interior and Justice will be called to take within one week, ten days from now.”
- “[W]e will have a Foreign Affairs Council, a European Council, which for the moment are planned for October…”
- “[W]e agreed to strengthen cooperation on five different elements[:]
- First of all, how to ensure better protection to those in need of protection: asylum seekers are entitled to the status of refugee.
- Second, manage borders in full respect of our values, first of all respect for human rights.
- Third, fighting against smugglers’ and traffickers’ networks. … And as I did with the Defence Ministers the day before yesterday, today I shared again with the Foreign Ministers my suggestion to transit to phase 2 of this operation, which would allow us to operate in high seas to fight the traffickers and smugglers. And I have found a large consensus about that need for the naval operation. Obviously, we will also need to increase the level of our actions against the traffickers organisations on the mainland, when it comes to the Western Balkans route.
- Fourth, strengthening our partnership with third countries, mainly countries of origin and transit. Here, obviously, we are working on readmission and return agreements, but not only. We know very well that it is very important for our partners, especially in Africa and the Middle East, to work together with us on economic developments, opportunities for growth and jobs, especially for their young people. …
- Fifth point, that is maybe the most important, even if it is the most long term plan – it is our common work on what we call the root causes. In this case, that has mainly two aims. One is Libya, when it comes to the Southern corridor. And here, we have re-expressed all our active support to the last phases… hopefully, the last phases of the UN-led negotiations to form a National Unity Government in Libya. … And [the other is] Syria…”
Ralf Nagel, the Chief Executive Officer of the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR), last week called on Germany to deploy Navy vessels outside of the Frontex Triton operation zone and closer to the coast of Libya where private merchant ships are often the first to encounter migrant boats in distress. At least two German Navy ships were in Crete last week waiting for deployment instructions. “Deploying the [German] Navy in that part of the Mediterranean would not only send a strong political signal to Brussels, it would also be an important message for the shipping industry, which is doing all it can. And above all else: it would save the lives of innumerable refugees. Rescuing people at sea ought to be the responsibility of navy and coast guard vessels as a rule. … [W]e therefore demand that the boundaries within which maritime rescues are conducted by government forces be expanded beyond the Triton zone.”
According to the Frontex Annual Risk Analysis 2015, private merchant ships have been conducting an ever increasing number of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. In December 2014, merchant vessels accounted for just under 40% of the SAR operations. (See graph below map.)
Source: Verband Deutscher Reeder (VDR) / German Shipowners’ Association (VDR)
While roughly 170,000 migrants over the past 14 months have reached Italy or been rescued and brought to Italy, according to UNHCR and Eurostat figures, very few of them are applying for asylum in Italy. Eurostat data through November 2014 indicate approximately 25,200 asylum applications from all nationalities were filed in Italy during the first six months of 2014; the number increased to approximately 27,000 during the period July-November 2014.
Eurostat data further show that only 455 asylum applications were submitted by Syrians in Italy during the January-November 2014 period, whereas over the same period over 28,000 Syrian asylum applications were submitted in Germany.
According to Italian press reports, “[n]ew figures from the UN’s refugee agency showed 25,077 people applied for asylum in Italy during the first six months of 2014. The highest number in Europe was recorded in Germany, which received 77,109 applications, followed by France (54,131) and Sweden (38,792).”
Click here for Eurostat “Asylum and new asylum applicants – monthly data”.
Click here for Eurostat “Asylum and new asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Monthly data (rounded)”. (Conduct search by modifying “+Citizen” option at upper right.)
Or click here for main Eurostat website and search for “asylum.”
Click here for news article.
Transatlantic Trends has released a public opinion survey: “The results of the 2011 Transatlantic Trends: Immigration survey captures U.S. and European public opinion on a range of immigration and integration issues. The most important highlights of this year’s survey show
- 1) there is a remarkable stability of general immigration opinions over time,
- 2) the public supports European Union burden-sharing on migration resulting from the Arab Spring and increasingly favors European responsibility for setting immigrant admissions numbers, and
- 3) the public tends to favor highly educated immigrants but still prefers immigrants with a job offer.
Now in its fourth year, Transatlantic Trends: Immigration (TTI) measures public opinion on immigration and integration issues on both sides of the Atlantic. The countries included in the 2011 version of the survey were the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain…. [***]
Key Findings of the Survey – General Perceptions – Stability in Public Opinion: Basic public stances on immigration have not changed notably in the last year, even in Europe where the perceived threat of movement resulting from the Arab Spring was a central issue. Immigration remained a second order concern for the public, following the economy and unemployment. Perceptions of immigration as a problem or opportunity have changed little since 2008, the first year of the survey. In 2011, 52% of Europeans and 53% of Americans polled saw immigration as more of a problem than an opportunity, with the strongest pessimism in the United Kingdom (68%)…. [***]
Forced Migration, the Arab Spring, and Burden-sharing – Sympathy for Forced Migration for Various Reasons. The public was sympathetic to the plight of migrants forced to flee their homes for a number of reasons: to avoid persecution, armed conflict, and natural disaster. Fewer but still a majority of respondents were also in favor of accepting migrants seeking to avoid poverty. Respondents in Spain (76%), Italy (68%), and the United States (64%) were the most supportive of those fleeing poor economic conditions, compared to a European average of 58%.
Key Findings of the Survey – Forced Migration, the Arab Spring, and Burden-Sharing – Dealing with the Arab Spring: Europeans in general were very open to helping countries in North Africa and the Middle East experiencing the turmoil and aftermath of the Arab Spring with either trade (84% in favor) or development aid (79% in favor), though they were wary of opening their labor markets to migrants from the region (47% in favor) and would prefer that migrants who were admitted stay only temporarily. Eighty percent of European respondents supported European burden-sharing to cope with the flows emanating from the region….[***]”
Click here for TTI Key Findings statement.
Click here for TTI Report.
Click here for TTI Topline Data.
Filed under Analysis, Data / Stats, European Union, France, Germany, Italy, News, Reports, Spain, UK, United States
After the Pledging Conference on Relocation and Resettlement which was held by Commissioner Malmström in the margins of yesterday’s JHA Council meeting, it has been announced that at least ten EU member states (news reports have identified different countries – Germany, Romania, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, Portugal, Bulgaria, Hungary, Denmark, Slovakia, and Luxembourg have been mentioned) as well several non-EU MS (news reports have mentioned Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway), have agreed to resettle 323 asylum seekers who are currently in Malta. Germany will reportedly resettle 100 migrants. Most of the other resettlement pledges are for small token numbers. There are over 2500 asylum seekers, beneficiaries of international protection, and migrants currently in Malta.
The Commission will provide funding for the extension of the pilot project of relocation from Malta, as well as for resettlement directly from North Africa, undertaken on a voluntary basis by MS. Funding for the project has previously been provided through the European Refugee Fund. The pledging conference that was held yesterday was reportedly the first such conference held since the Maltese pilot project known as European Relocation Malta (Eurema) began in July 2009. The project was scheduled to end this year but has been extended for at least one more year given the current situation in Libya.
Click here, here, and here for articles.