Tag Archives: Greece

European Commission’s Second Biannual Report on Schengen Area

The European Commission released its “Second biannual report on the functioning of the Schengen area” covering the period 1 May 2012-31 October 2012.  (COM(2012) 686 final, 23.11.2012)  The first reporton the Schengen area was released in May of this year.  (COM(2012) 230 final, 16.5.2012)

Here are a few excerpts from the 8 page document:

The Commission intends to present a legislative proposal in early 2013 to replace the Frontex sea border operations rule (Council Decision 2010/252/EU) that was annulled by the Court of Justice on 5 September 2012;

Subsequent to the issuance of a letter of formal notice to Greece in October 2009 in response to “allegations of serious difficulties faced by migrants in applying for asylum and ill-treatment of asylum-seekers, including the turning back of persons who may face serious harm or persecution”, the Commission is continuing to analyse the situation “in the light of constant developments, such as the progress made in the implementation of the Greek National Action Plan.”;

Subsequent to a Commission request to Italy in July 2009 “to provide information on the measures to avoid the risk of refoulement” and the February 2012 European Court of Human Rights decision in the Case of Hirsi v. Italy, “[a]gainst this background, the Commission is now analysing the implications of this ruling on border surveillance operations at sea and on the asylum acquis.

Click  here or here for Second Report.

Click here for First Report.

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UN Special Rapporteur on HR of Migrants expresses concern over Italy-Libya cooperation on migration

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Prof. François Crépeau, for the past six months has been conducting “a one-year comprehensive study to examine the rights of migrants in the Euro-Mediterranean region, focusing in particular on the management of the external borders of the European Union.”  The Special Rapporteur will present a thematic report on the human rights of migrants at the borders of the European Union to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013.  To date he has concluded official visits to EU offices in Brussels, Tunisia, Turkey, and Italy; a nine-day visit to Greece began on 25 November.  The Special Rapporteur has issued preliminary conclusions at the end of each completed mission.  One common concern is that various actions of the EU and neighbouring countries are resulting in human rights considerations being overshadowed by migration control and security objectives.

At the conclusion of the most recent mission to Italy (30 September – 8 October 2012), the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over Italy’s (and the EU’s) ongoing cooperation with Libya:

“Another matter of paramount importance are the bilateral cooperation agreements negotiated between Italy and its neighbours on the question of migration. Although the EU has negotiated a number of EU wide readmission agreements, the absence of a clear regional framework for such agreements, including a lack of minimum human rights standards, has led to the creation of a number of bilateral readmission agreements between Italy and its neighbours which often do not appear to have human rights at their core.  Of particular concern is the Italy-Libya bilateral cooperation on migration. The 2008 agreement formalised cooperation to strengthen Libya`s capacity to intercept irregular migrants on Libyan territory or territorial waters, even though Libya’s record at effectively protecting the human rights of migrants was poor and reports of human rights abuses of migrants in Libya were frequent. In line with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights pronounced in the Hirsi case that such ‘push-backs’ by Italian authorities towards Libya were not acceptable, the agreement is currently suspended and the Hirsi-defined push-backs appear to have ceased. However, Italy-Libya migration cooperation was recently reinforced through a 2012 processo verbale. This new political framework however, contains very little concrete information on strengthening Libya’s normative framework and institutional capacities regarding the human rights of migrants.”

The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern that the current technical assistance in Search and Rescue capability being provided by Italy to Libya is in effect disguised migration control assistance:

 “Moreover, I have learnt of increased bilateral cooperation between Italian and Libyan authorities regarding search and rescue operations, including the provision of logistical and technical support to Libyan coast guards. Whilst increased search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean is undoubtedly of paramount importance, I have observed that there appears to be a strong focus on strengthening the capacities of the Libyan authorities to intercept migrants hoping to reach Europe, on both their territory and in their territorial waters, and return them to Libya. In this context, I warn EU member states against a progressive ‘externalisation’ of border control. In particular, considering the on-going difficulties of the Libyan authorities and the reports of human rights abuses against migrants on Libyan territory, this migration cooperation with Libya should not lead to any migrant being returned to Libyan shores against their will, either by Italian coast guards or Guardia di Finanza, or by Libyan coast guards with the technical or logistical support of their Italian counterparts.”

While acknowledging the important support provided to Italy by Frontex, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over certain Frontex activities in Italy:

“[  ] I am aware that the key focus of FRONTEX remains information and intelligence gathering. In Italy FRONTEX thus works predominantly with the Guarda di Finanza and the Border Police to combat irregular migration, migrant smuggling and other migration related crimes. I remain concerned that these security objectives still appear to overshadow human rights considerations. For example, I have learned that FRONTEX officers conduct interviews with migrants in Italian detention facilities in order to gather information on their journeys. However these interviews are conducted without any external supervision. It is thus essential that effective human rights standards be integrated into all departments and agencies related to border management.”

The Special Rapporteur made the following “Preliminary Recommendations to the Italian government”:

  • “Ensure that migration cooperation with Libya does not lead to any migrant being returned to Libyan shores against their will, either by Italian authorities, or by Libyan authorities with the technical or logistical support of their Italian counterparts.
  • Prohibit the practice of informal automatic “push-backs” to Greece.
  • Guarantee the full access by international organisations, including UNHCR and IOM, civil society organisations and lawyers to all areas where migrants are held or detained to identify protection concerns
  • Develop a nation-wide regulatory framework, with respect for human rights at its core, for the organisation and management of all migrant detention centres.
  • Develop a simpler and fairer appeal system for expulsion and detention orders that integrates human rights considerations at each procedural step.
  • Develop a speedier identification system, including commencing the identification of foreign inmates whilst in prison, in order to make sure that detention of migrants for identification purposes is limited to the shortest time possible, with a maximum of 6 months.”

Similar concerns were expressed by the Special Rapporteur after his missions to Tunisia and Turkey:

Tunisia, 8 June 2012: “… Nevertheless, I learned that a large majority of regional migration initiatives coming from the EU continue to be focused on issues of border control, and do not consider important issues such as the facilitation of regular migration channels. Thus I encourage the European authorities to develop, in the context of the Migration and Mobility Partnership currently being negotiated, and in conjunction with bilateral agreements of the Member States of the Union, a more nuanced policy of migration cooperation with Tunisia, which moves beyond security issues to develop new initiatives in consultation and in real partnership with Tunisian authorities, which place at their core the respect, protection and promotion of the human rights of migrants….”

Turkey, 29 June 2012:  “… While the EU and Turkey have developed a close cooperation on migration issues, which has led to some notable positive developments, the assistance offered to Turkey regarding migration management appears to focus largely on securitising the borders and decreasing irregular migration to the European common territory through focusing on projects related to the detention and removal of migrants in Turkey and the increased monitoring of the Turkish border. Often neglected from the equation, is an equivalent emphasis on the human rights of those most vulnerable and most affected by the migration process: the migrants themselves….”

The Special Rapporteur will likely issue preliminary observations at the conclusion of the current mission to Greece on or after 3 December.

Click here (Italy), here (Tunisia), and here (Turkey) for the Special Rapporteur’s statements.

Click here for the web site for the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

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PACE Rapporteur Strik and HRW Respond to Recent Migrant Boat Tragedies

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?”, issued a statement on Friday in response to the deaths of 61 persons from Syria and other countries (including 31 children) off the Turkish coast and the ongoing migrant boats departing from North Africa:

“In the case of the boat off Turkey, many of those on board are thought to have come from Syria where a humanitarian crisis is in full swing. Asylum seekers from the conflict there are heading not only to neighbouring states but also to the rest of Europe[.]  This is an urgent warning that Europe must give much greater priority to the humanitarian situation evolving in Syria, and find new means to tackle the migration flows between Turkey and Greece – for Turkey’s sake, for Greece’s stake, for Europe’s stake, and for the sake of all those who have lost their lives and who will continue to lose their lives crossing between the two countries. European countries should also be prepared to take their share in the protection of Syrian refugees, as neighbouring countries Jordan and Turkey are facing growing problems in coping with such large numbers. We know that a failure to react adequately to the humanitarian consequences of the Libya conflict caused unnecessary deaths. Let us not repeat those mistakes with the conflict in Syria.”

Human Rights Watch also issued a statement:  “The deaths of so many children should be a wake-up call to EU leaders[.]  Europe can and should do more to limit tragedies like these in the future…. Both Frontex, the EU external borders agency, and a proposed new European External Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) include rescue at sea in their mandates, but lack specific guidelines and procedures to ensure that rescue is the paramount consideration in EU operations at sea. Preventing deaths at sea needs to be at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration…. The EU should also coordinate with Turkish authorities to ensure that there are no gaps in rescue coverage. … Europe squabbled and dragged its feet last year when tens of thousands came by sea to escape chaos and conflict in North Africa…. It needs to live up to European values this time around, and do its utmost to ensure that those fleeing Syria reach safety.”  Human Rights Watch released a briefing paper in August regarding ongoing migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.

Click here for full Statement by Tineke Strik.

Click here for full HRW Statement.

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High Death Toll in Turkish Migrant Boat Sinking Likely Caused by Persons Trapped Below Deck

Last week’s sinking of a migrant boat off the Turkish coast took place about 50 metres from shore.  The high death toll of 61 persons, including 31 children and infants, seems to have occurred in part because many of the boat’s passengers were either trapped or locked below the main deck of the boat.  Some media reports describe the boat, the “Sailor”, as a small fishing boat, but pictures of the accident scene suggest that the boat was probably a pleasure boat.  The boat struck underwater rocks causing it to sink on 6 September.  The boat reportedly departed from Ahmetbeyli and had traveled approximately 25 km along the coastline when it sank near the village of Menderes.  The migrants on board included Syrians, Iraqis, and others.  At least 49 survivors were able to swim ashore.  The boat’s Turkish captain and at least one crew member have been arrested and charged with human smuggling and reckless homicide.  The crew reportedly made no efforts to assist the passengers as the boat was sinking.

Click here, here, here, here, and here for articles.

 

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Frontex to Increase Sea and Air Patrols in Aegean at Greece’s Request

Greek news reports say that Greek officials have made requests to Commissioner Malmström and Frontex for assistance to respond to “increasing migratory pressures on the islands of the Eastern Aegean.”  The Greek islands of Lesvos, Samos, Patmos, Leros and Symi in particular have reportedly seen an increase in the number of persons entering from nearby Turkish territory.  According to the media reports the assistance will include the deployment of “four aerial vehicle[s], four patrol boats, three mobile surveillance units and eight expert officers, whose costs will be covered by EU funds the agency and the European Commission.”

Click here and here for articles. (EL)

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Frontex Quarterly Report for 2011 Q3

The Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) released its 3rd Quarter Report (July-September) for 2011 on 18 January.  (See also  2nd Quarter Report (April-June 2011) and 1st Quarter Report (Jan-March 2011).) The reports contain a significant amount of information, graphs, and statistical tables regarding detections of illegal border crossings, irregular migration routes, detections of facilitators, detections of illegal stays, refusals of entry, asylum claims, and more.

The Report is based on data provided by Member States.  The Report states that “Frontex and the Member States are currently harmonising their illegal-migration data, a process that is not yet finalised. Therefore more detailed data and trends in this report should be interpreted with caution and, where possible, cross-referenced with information from other sources.”

Here are extensive excerpts from the Q3 Report:

Executive summary – In Q3 2011 most indicators monitored within FRAN community increased compared to a year ago. For example, detections of illegal border-crossing and refusals of entry both reached much higher levels than in Q3 2010. Moreover, more applications for international protection were submitted than in any other quarter since data collection began in 2008. Consistent with recent years, the majority of illegal border-crossings were limited to a small number of hotspots of irregular migration such as the Eastern and Central Mediterranean routes, accounting for 50% and 33% of the EU total, respectively. However, in Q3 2011 there was also a rise in the importance of the Western Mediterranean route, now representing nearly 10% of the EU total. At the EU level, the most commonly detected migrants were from Afghanistan, yet due to the recent increases in the number of migrants from Pakistan and Nigeria (by seven and ten times compared to Q3 2010, respectively) these nationalities have moved to the second and third position.

In Q3 2011 there were 19 266 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Eastern Mediterranean, a seasonal increase to a level almost exactly comparable with the same period in 2010. As was the case throughout 2010, detections were concentrated at the Greek land border with Turkey, where Afghans accounted for nearly half of all detected migrants. However, at this border section detections of migrants from Pakistan increased massively compared to last year and now rank second….

In contrast to the consistent wave of irregular migration in the Eastern Mediterranean, the situation in the Central Mediterranean has been volatile in 2011, dependent on the political developments and civil unrest across North Africa. For example, civil unrest in this region, particularly in Tunisia, led to a dramatic increase in detections in the Central Mediterranean early in 2011. Consequently, in March 2011 some 14 400 Tunisian migrants arrived in the Italian island of Lampedusa. In April an accelerated repatriation agreement was signed between Italy and Tunisia, which resulted in a 75% reduction in the flow of Tunisians, but the region was then inundated by large numbers of sub-Saharan migrants arriving in Lampedusa, Sicily and Malta, many having been forcibly expelled from Libya by the Gaddafi regime. Since the National Transitional Council successfully gained control of Libya, this flow stopped abruptly in August. However, in Q3 2011 there were 12 673 detections of illegal border-crossing on this route, where Tunisian and sub-Saharan migrants, particularly Nigerians, are still arriving in significant numbers.

In Q3 2011 there were more detections in the Western Mediterranean (3 568) since mid 2008. A wide range of migrants from North African and sub-Saharan countries were increasingly detected in this region. However, it is difficult to analyse the exact composition of the flow as the number of migrants of unknown nationality on this route doubled compared to the previous quarter. This may indicate an increasing proportion of nationalities that are of very similar ethnicity and/or geographic origin.

The flows of migrants arriving in the EU had a significant effect on the number of applications for international protection submitted: in Q3 2011 there were a massive 64 801 applications submitted across Member States. The largest increases in submitted applications were reported by Italy and involved nationals of Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and Pakistan. However, the applications submitted by nationals of Pakistan and Afghanistan also increased across a wide range of other Member States, such as Germany and Austria. In contrast to increasing applications for international protection were fewer detections of facilitators of irregular migration than ever before. This widespread and long decline may be because organized crime groups are increasingly recruiting would-be migrants by offering them legitimate entry to the EU with false or fraudulently obtained documentation. This is less risky and carries lower detection probability for facilitators than, for example, accompanying migrants across the border….

[***]

4.1 Detections of illegal border-crossing – [ … ] The third quarter of each year is usually associated with weather conditions favourable for approaching and illegally crossing the external border of the EU. Correspondingly, conditions that are favourable for illegal border-crossings are also more conducive to detecting them. The combination of these two effects resulted in the highest number of detections in each of the last few years being reported in Q3 2011. In contrast, in 2011 detections were higher in the second than in the third quarter, because of exceptionally high detections in the first half of 2011, rather than particularly low detections in Q3 2011. At the sea border, there were 15 418 detections which is a 44% reduction compared to Q2 2011, but a fivefold increase compared to Q3 2010. In contrast, there were 23 079 detections at the land border which was a 68% increase compared to the preceding quarter, but a 22% reduction compared to Q3 2010. Hence, detections decreased at the sea border, particularly in Italy, and increased at the land border to a level comparable to 2010….

[… ] In the first half of 2011 the situational picture of irregular migration to the EU was dominated by illegal border-crossings reported by Italy. This influx was due to a surge of Tunisians in Q1 and sub-Saharan African migrants in Q2 arriving in the Italian island of Lampedusa in the wake of major civil unrest in North Africa (the so-called Arab Spring), which has now, to some extent, decipitated. Hence, in Q3 2011 detections in Italy halved compared to the previous two quarters yet remained some six times higher than during the same period last year.

At the EU level the most commonly detected migrants came from Afghanistan, constituting a quarter of all detections despite a 15% decrease compared to the previous year (Fig. 3). The majority of Afghan migrants were detected at the border between Greece and Turkey, with the remaining mostly detected at the southern Italian blue border. Throughout 2010 the most commonly detected migrants were from Albania (mostly circular migrants to Greece), representing 25–45% of the EU total, although in many cases individuals may have been detected several times within a given period. However, in Q3 2011 detections of Albanians fell to negligible levels following their visa-free status for travel to the EU granted in December 2010 (Fig. 3).

Without question, detections of migrants from Pakistan and Tunisia have increased more than any other nationality over the last year (Fig. 3). In the case of migrants from Pakistan, in Q3 2011 most were detected at the border between Greece and Turkey, followed by the southern Italian blue border. This detection profile almost exactly mirrors that of migrants from Afghanistan. In contrast, migrants from Tunisia are almost exclusively detected in Italy, followed by Greece. Although detections of migrants from Tunisia increased dramatically compared with a year ago, they fell massively compared to the peak in Q1 2011.

Another notable phenomenon is the increased rate of migrants from Nigeria detected at the blue border (Fig. 3) mostly in Italy, with some evidence for increasing numbers in southern Spain. In the former case most departed from Tunisia, while in Spain most departed from Morocco. This trend is related to the threefold increase in the number of asylum applications submitted by Nigerian migrants almost exclusively in Italy.

Routes – As illustrated in Figure 4, during the first half of 2011 detections of illegal bordercrossing on the Central Mediterranean route, which comprises the blue borders of Italy and Malta, dramatically increased and exceeded those reported from the  Eastern Mediterranean route, which is made up of the land and sea borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus. However, in Q3 2011 detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route, by following a remarkably seasonal pattern, similar to that of 2010, once more exceeded detections on the Central Mediterranean route, where detections fell dramatically compared with the peak in the first six months of 2011.

These routes not only differed in their trends over time but also in the composition of detected nationalities. For example, detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route have, for the last year at least, comprised of large numbers of Asian, North African and sub-Saharan nationalities including increased detections of migrants from Pakistan. In contrast, nationalities detected in the Central Mediterranean have evolved throughout 2011. In Q1 2011 mostly Tunisians were detected after they had departed from their own country; in Q2 2011 reduced but still significant numbers of Tunisians were joined by mix of sub-Saharan Africans, many of whom were forcibly expelled from Libya. In the current reporting period detections of Tunisians remained stable, yet the number of sub-Saharan Africans decreased. Figure 4 also shows that in Q3 2011 detections on the Western Mediterranean route increased, mostly of migrants of unknown nationalities but also of Algerians and Nigerians.

4.1.1 Eastern Mediterranean route – Since data collection began in early 2008, the Eastern Mediterranean has maintained its status as a hotspot of irregular migration. Detections have followed a remarkably seasonal pattern invariably peaking in the third quarter of each year, being concentrated at the border between Greece and Turkey with a shift from the sea border to the land border in early 2010. Afghan migrants have consistently featured highly on the list of most detected nationalities. In 2010 there was an increase in Algerian migrants that has since subsided, but more recently there has been a massive increase in the number of migrants from Pakistan detected on this route.

In the current reporting period, detections of illegal border-crossing on this route increased seasonally and in line with previous years, almost exclusively due to a massive increase in detections at the Greek land border with Turkey, where detections increased from 10 464 to 18 509 over the same period. Based on seasonal pattern of detections in previous years, the increase in pressure on this route during Q3 2011 was not entirely unexpected and reached a level almost exactly comparable to that of a year ago. Indeed, according to data collected during JO Poseidon the average number of detections per day immediately subsequent to the current reporting period exceed that during the same period in 2010, immediately prior to the deployment of the first JO RABIT 2010….

[***]

4.1.2 Central Mediterranean route – Irregular migration in the Central Mediterranean has fluctuated in size and composition during 2011, depending on the political and civil unrest across North Africa. Initially detections in the Central Mediterranean massively increased in early 2011 due to civil unrest in the region, particularly in Tunisia, Libya and, to a lesser extent, Egypt. As a result, in Q1 some 20 000 Tunisian migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. In Q2 2011 the flow of Tunisian migrants was reduced by 75% following an accelerated repatriation agreement that was signed between Italy and Tunisia. However, the region was then inundated by large numbers of sub-Saharan migrants detected across the region, many claiming to have been forcibly expelled from Libya by the Gaddafi regime. In the current reporting period irregular migration in the region has eased somewhat due to democratic elections* in Tunisia and the National Transitional Council successfully gaining control of Libya. However in Q3 2011 arrivals increased from Egypt and subsequent to the reporting period there was some indication that the flow from Libya has been reinstated.

According to the FRAN data, in Q3 2011 there were more than 12 500 reported detections of illegal border-crossing on the Central Mediterranean route, a 50% decrease compared to the ‘peak’ reported during the first and second quarter of 2011, but still massively increased compared to the background detections throughout all of 2010. Most detections in the Central Mediterranean region were reported from the Italian Pelagic Islands, where detections also fell by a half compared to the previous quarter. In some areas the decrease was even more marked.  For example, in Sicily detections fell by 75% such that in Q3 2011 a stable trend of Egyptians and Tunisians constituted nearly all detections. Detections  ell to an even greater extent in Malta.

4.1.3 Western Mediterranean route – Irregular migration across the Western Mediterranean towards southern Spain was at a low level through most of 2010 averaging just over a thousand detections per quarter. However, pressure has been steadily increasing throughout 2011 until the current reporting period when there were more than 3 500 detections of illegal border-crossing – an increase of two thirds compared to Q3 2010. As a result, the Western Mediterranean is now the third largest point of entry for illegal bordercrossing into the EU. The most common and the most increasingly detected migrants were of unknown nationalities, followed by migrants local to the region from Algeria and Morocco. There were also significant increases in migrants from further afield such as Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria and Congo.

4.1.4 Western African route – The cooperation and bilateral agreements between Spain and the rest of the Western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali) are developing steadily. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on this route over the last year, as is the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. Despite a slight increase in Q4 2010, detections on this route remained low and totalled at just 50 detections of exclusively Moroccan migrants in Q3 2011.

[***]”

Click here for Frontex Press Statement.

Click here for Q3 Report.

Click here for previous post on Q1 and Q2 Reports.

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ICMC Europe Report: “MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe”

ICMC has released a 150+ page report entitled “MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe.”  I have just started reading the report and may post some additional excerpts in the coming days.  Here is an excerpt from the Foreword and Introduction:

“In the first months of 2011 alone, more than 2,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea. More than 2,500 unaccompanied children arrived just on Italian shores. Tragic, chronic figures like these are urgent and continuous reminders of the need for another approach to human mobility that goes far beyond simple enforcement and fundamentally recognises the rights to life and protection for all.

It is not so much the arrivals of migrants and refugees that should be put to question, but rather the response mechanisms which very often fail as much in the fields of prevention and rescue as in the processes deciding where and how people are permitted to move, disembark, stay or return. Protection today is provided only for a limited number of boat people who need it, and governed by systems of access and identification that are far too limited. Correct identification, differentiation and referral systems are needed for all migrants in distress and from the very moment of their arrival, not only because they are human beings, but also because such approaches reflect the quality of our societies….”

Scope of this report – Gathering the results of nearly a half thousand surveys of first responders and other actors as well as the migrants themselves, this report examines what happens—or does not happen— to identify migrants in need of protection and assistance upon their arrival in Europe. In particular, it sheds light on the mechanisms developed, and gaps both in practice and in policy in responses to boat people and other migrants arriving in mixed migratory movements in four countries at Europe’s Southern door: Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.

Although rescue at sea at one end and voluntary or enforcement-related return at the other are highly relevant topics and areas of research per se, DRIVE has focused on the situation of migrants at point of arrival. As such, the project and this report look at first responses in the phase immediately upon and surrounding arrival, and then to identification, differentiation and referral mechanisms for legal protection and/or further assistance in subsequent phases following arrival.

The principal focus of the project was on boat arrivals, but the shift in routes in Greece during the project period and the sharp increase in land border crossings there compelled reflection upon responses to migrants crossing land borders as well as those arriving by sea. While the project maintained its focus on arrivals by sea, one of its findings is that most of the laws, policies, procedures and responses applicable to boat people pertain equally to those arriving across land borders—in particular, steps on identification, differentiation and referral for protection and assistance.

The DRIVE project set out to promote protection of the rights of all migrants in these situations, especially the most vulnerable, regardless of their immigration status. Nevertheless, the project has highlighted four groups whose members have come to be defined to a varying extent as having specific rights or special needs under international and European legal instruments: asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, children, and victims of torture. It merits emphasising however, that other migrants also have special needs because of particular vulnerabilities,- notably people with serious health problems, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children and persons who have been subjected to or witnessed torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence.

Structure of this report – The report is composed of four main parts, plus annexes:

Part 1: Building policy responses to boat people and others arriving in mixed migration flows – Within this first part, Chapter 1 provides a brief history of the policy evolution and the organizations involved in the area of mixed migration. Chapter 2 gives an overview of legal obligations relating to the rights of the migrants composing these arrivals. The third chapter provides an analysis of the EU policy and legal framework with regards to mixed migration arrivals at its borders.

Part 2: A focus on post-arrival identification, differentiation and referral for assistance and protection – The first chapter explains what is meant and implied by “identification, differentiation and referral”in mixed migration contexts, the concept at the core of the DRIVE study. The second chapter seeks to focus on the legal obligations of member states to conduct identification of people in need of protection at the border, with in-depth legal analysis of the rights and state obligations that international and EU law articulate for asylum seekers, children, and victims of human trafficking and torture.

Part 3: What happens to people arriving irregularly by boat in Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain? – The first chapter gives a snapshot of the trends and figures of arrivals in the Mediterranean region. In Chapter 2, the summaries of the four country reports (each presented in its entirety in an annex) then provide a look at the procedures and practices on the ground for first reception, identification and referral. The third chapter presents the results of the extensive migrants surveys that the DRIVE project conducted in the four countries in an effort to give voice to the beneficiaries themselves. Chapter 4 concludes with a comparative analysis identifying the main gaps and challenges in those countries.

Part 4: Conclusions and recommendations – The focus on the four countries enabled consideration of practices and procedures which could either improve the quality of the process or prevent people from accessing protection and assistance. Recommendations therefore seek to address how identification, differentiation and referral can be improved in the Mediterranean, including how the international and European legal and policy framework can address this question in a more comprehensive manner.

Annexes: Detailed mapping of the situation in Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain are attached in the annexes, as well as a presentation of some relevant tools and guidelines….”

Click here for Report.

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EU Will Not Fund Construction of Evros (Greece-Turkey) Border Fence

Of possible interest to some, Ekathimerni.com reports that the EU has made it clear it will not provide funding to the Greek government for the construction of a border fence along the Greek-Turkish border along the Evros river.  Greece has been planning the construction of the border fence for many months and was seeking €5 million from the EU.  Early proposals called for the construction of a fence over 200 km in length.  The fence that is now being built will be 12 km in length when completed.  “Responding to a question by Euro MP Giorgos Papanikolaou, who is affiliated with conservative New Democracy, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia [Malmström] said the bloc would not pay for the fence as it would not effectively discourage immigrants or smugglers who would simply seek alternative routes into the European Union, either via another section of Greece’s porous border with Turkey or through the border of another EU member state. [Malmström] reportedly said that the EU would be prepared to fund other measures if they are deemed to be an effective way of curbing illegal immigration into the bloc.”

Click here for current article.

Click here for older article.

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Frontex Quarterly Reports for 2011 Q1 and Q2

The Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) released its 2nd Quarter Report (April-June) for 2011 on 4 October.  The 1st Quarter Report (Jan-March 2011) was released on 21 July.  As always, while the information is a few months old, the reports contain a significant amount of information, graphs, and statistical tables regarding detections of illegal border crossings, irregular migration routes, detections of facilitators, detections of illegal stays, refusals of entry, asylum claims, and more.

Here are extensive excerpts from the Q2 Report:

“Executive summary

In Q2 2011, all Frontex irregular-migration indicators increased compared to the previous quarter. The most important indicator, detections of illegal border-crossing, increased to a level not seen since Q3 2008 and correspondingly asylum applications are now at nearly the highest level since data collection began. What’s more, migration pressure at the border from migrants attempting to enter and stay in the EU increased even more than EU-level figures suggest, as they are offset against extensive reductions in Albanian circular migration.

In 2011 there were major and extensive developments in irregular-migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings: the first was seasonally increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a wide variety of migrants continued to be detected at very high levels. The second, and the undeniable hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of sub-Saharan migrants landed in Italy and Malta mostly having been forcibly expelled from Libya. [***]

4. Main points Q2 2011

  • All irregular migration indicators increased relative to the previous quarter
  • Compared to a year ago, there were significant EU-level increases in several irregular migration indicators, such as detections of illegal border-crossing, clandestine entries, and refusals of entry. There were also increased asylum applications
  • Despite detections of Afghan migrants falling by a third compared to last year, they were still the most common nationality detected illegally crossing the EU external border. Most were previously resident as refugees in Iran
  • In contrast, detections of all the other highly-ranked nationalities (Tunisians, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Ghanaians) increased massively relative to the same period last year
  • In total there were over 40 000 detections of illegal border-crossings, a 50% increase compared to Q2 2010. These were the result of two simultaneous but independent routes of irregular migration: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Central Mediterranean routes:

1. In the Eastern Mediterranean:

– There were over 11 000 detections of illegal border-crossing, almost exclusively at the Greek land border with Turkey, which is comparable with the same period in 2010

– This flow currently attracts migrants from north Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia

– Groups of Dominicans were detected travelling to Turkey to enter the EU via the Greek land border

– Secondary movements are assumed from detections of (i) illegal border-crossings in the Western Balkans, (ii) false documents on flights to major EU airports from Turkey as well as Greece, and (iii) landings in southern Italy from Greece, Turkey and Albania

2. In the Central Mediterranean:

– Following a bilateral return-agreement between Italy and Tunisia, the massive influx of Tunisians to Lampedusa reported in the previous quarter decreased, but remained significant

– A very wide range of sub-Saharan Africans were detected on this route, some having been forcibly departed from Libya

– Italy reported more detections of illegal border-crossing in Sicily than ever before, a three-fold increase compared to the previous quarter; the increased flow was composed of migrants from Côte d’Ivoire as well as Tunisia and a range of other nationalities

– There were also increased detections of Egyptian migrants and facilitators landing in Sicily and Southern Italy from Egypt

– Italy and Malta reported huge increases in the number of asylum applications submitted by sub-Saharan African migrants. In Italy increases were particularly marked for Nigerians and Ghanaians

  • Following their new visa-free status, fewer Albanians were detected illegally crossing the EU border, and illegally staying within the EU (both mainly in Greece). Instead they were increasingly refused entry to Greece and they were also increasingly detected at the UK border, either as clandestine entry or using false documents
  • There was an increased flow of Georgian migrants towards Belarus (air and land), with increased illegal entries and asylum applications in Poland and Lithuania
  • In Q2, Libya was the most significant source of irregular migration to the EU. However, more recently the ability of the Gaddafi regime to forcibly expel its migrant population to the EU has become compromised; the situation remains dynamic and uncertain[.]

4.1 Detections of illegal border-crossing

At the EU level, in Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since Q3 2008. The total of 41 245 detections during this reporting period is a 25% increase compared the previous quarter and a 53% increase compared to the same period last year (Fig. 2). Without question there were major and extensive developments in illegal migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings. The first was increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a range of Asian, north African and sub-Saharan African migrants were increasingly detected at very high levels. The second, and the undisputed hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was at the Italian islands in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of Tunisians, Nigerians and other sub-Saharan migrants landed in small sea vessels, the majority of which in Q2 had been forcibly departed from Libya.

Figure 2 shows the evolution of the FRAN indicator 1A – detections of illegal border-crossing, and the proportion of detections between the land and sea borders of the EU per quarter since the beginning of 2008. In Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since the peak of Q3 2008 nearly three years ago. Compared to a year ago, detections at the EU land border decreased by 42% to 13 742 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to fewer detections of Albanian nationals following their new visa-free status; elsewhere at the land border (including Greece) trends were roughly stable. In contrast, at the sea border detections increased nine-fold to some 27 500 detections (Fig. 2), the vast majority of which (95%) were in the central Mediterranean, forming the major development in irregular migration to the EU in 2011.

[***]

At the EU level, detections of illegal border-crossing increased by 53% compared to a year ago (Fig. 3). However, this level masks a lot of variation among Member States. First, and most importantly to the current situation, was a 4 200% increase in detections of almost exclusively African migrants in Italy. Related to this central Mediterranean flow, was a concurrent and massive increase in detections reported from Malta (from 0 to 710), and also increases further west into Spain (+61%). As a result, all these countries have seen increases in other indicators such as asylum applications of the most common nationalities (see relevant sections). [***]

Routes

As illustrated in Figure 4, for just the second time since records began in early 2008, in Q2 2011 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, which comprises the blue borders of Italy and Malta, exceeded those reported from both the (i) Eastern Mediterranean route of the land and sea borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, and (ii) circular migration from Albania to Greece.

Without question, in Q2 2011 the single most important irregular-immigration route in terms of detections of illegal border-crossing was the Central Mediterranean route, where detections increased in the beginning of 2011 to previously unprecedented levels (Fig. 4). In the first quarter of 2011, and uniquely compared to previous surges of illegal immigration, this flow was restricted to a single nationality – Tunisian, most of whom were responding to civil unrest in their home country by leaving towards the Italian Island of Lampedusa. In response to this almost unmanageable influx of irregular migration at a single and isolated location, a bilateral return agreement was signed between Italy and Tunisia, which allowed for the accelerated repatriation of newly arrived individuals. Hence, during the current reporting period, the flow of Tunisian migrants fell from over 20 200 in the previous quarter to 4 300 in Q2 2011.

However, civil uprising commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, and its effects on migration in the area, was not limited to Tunisia. For example according to multiple sources, in next-door Libya, migrants from sub-Saharan countries were in Q2 2011 being coerced to move towards the EU by the Gaddafi regime in response to the NATO Operation Unified Protector which commenced on March 27 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Thus, in Q2 2011, besides some continued departures from Tunisia, the flow in the central Mediterranean was composed of a single flow of large numbers migrants from sub-Saharan countries departing Libya in small vessels. [***]

4.1.1 Eastern Mediterranean route

Detections of illegal border-crossings on this route increased seasonally and in line with previous years, from 6 504 in Q1 2011 to 11 137 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to a massive increase in detections at the Greek land border with Turkey, where detections increased from 6 057 to 10 582. [***]

4.1.2 Central Mediterranean route

In Q2 2011 there were 26 167 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, a 10% increase even compared to the ‘peak’ reported during the previous quarter, and evidently a massive increase compared to the negligible detections throughout all of 2010. The vast majority of detections on this route were reported from Italy (25 500) where detections increased by 13% even compared to the ‘influx’ of migrants reported during Q1 2011. In Italy, Central African, Tunisian, Nigerian and Ghanaian were the mostly commonly detected nationalities, 90% of which were detected in the Pelagic Islands (14 300), most notably Lampedusa (Fig. 7). However, in Q2 2011 there were also more detections of illegal border-crossing reported from Sicily (2 260) than ever before; this figure is nearly three times bigger than that reported in the previous quarter and more than twenty times higher than during the same period last year (100). Compared to the previous quarter, in Sicily there were more detections of migrants from a very wide range of countries such as Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire and Tunisia. There were also over 710 detections reported from Malta, which is a sustained peak from the previous quarter (820) and extremely high compared to the negligible detections throughout 2010. In Malta there were much fewer detections of Somalis and Eritreans but there were increased detections of Nigerians and migrants from Côte d’Ivoire. However, migrants from Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt often claim to originate from sub-Saharan Africa in an attempt to appear as refugees, a fact which may render such comparisons of nationalities somewhat misleading.

In the previous FRAN Quarterly (Q1 2011) it was reported a surge of irregular immigration (20 000 detections) on the Central Mediterranean route that was almost entirely restricted to a single nationality: Tunisian (Fig. 8). As a result of this influx, on 20 February the JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011 commenced in the central Mediterranean, and a bilateral agreement was reached between Italy and Tunisia on 5 April 2011, which resulted in the strengthening of police surveillance along the Tunisian coast and regular repatriations of Tunisian nationals from Italy. For example, according to data collected under JO Hermes 2011, some 1 696 Tunisians were repatriated between 5 April and 23 August 2011. The repatriation agreement is probably an effective deterrent, combining as it does, returns and surveillance, however some migrants have reported their boats being spotted by military patrols that did not take any action. According to the FRAN data, in Q2 2011 some 4 286 Tunisian migrants were still detected illegally crossing the border into Italy. Although a massive reduction, this still represents a very large and significant flow of irregular migrants into the EU.

In comparison to the reduction in flow from Tunisia, in Q2 2011 there was a large increase in migrants who had departed from Libya (Fig. 9). The migrants departing from Libya were mostly nationals from countries in the Horn of Africa, the sub-Saharan and Central African regions and, to a lesser extent, Asia. According to intelligence collected during JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011, most of these migrants had already been in Libya for over a year, originally heading to Tripoli via the traditional routes for sub-Saharan and Central African migrants. In Q2 2011, migrants tended to reach Italy on large fishing vessels that had departed directly from Tripoli or the nearby ports of Medina and Janzour. Most of these deported African nationals did not want to leave the country as their standard of living in Libya was high compared to their home countries. Several even stated that they would choose to return to Libya after the war. In Q2 2011 reports suggest that some migrants were instructed to reach embarkation areas on their own but had been caught by the military or police and then detained in camps or disused barracks until they were transported to embarkation areas and onto vessels bound for Italy. In each case the migrants were searched by the military before boarding and all their belongings were confiscated. According to reports, nationals of the sub-Saharan and Central African regions as well as from Horn of African countries have been recruited by the Libyan army/police to manage their compatriot migrants at gathering places or camps. In some cases the destination of vessels from Libya was Sicily, where the flow was characterised by waves of landings. For example there were around 11 landings on 13 May and 7 between 11 and 29 June, with the majority of boats arriving from Libya and Egypt. [***]

4.1.3 Western Mediterranean route

In Q1 2011 there were 1 569 detections of illegal border-crossings on this route to Southern Spain, which is nearly double compared to the previous quarter (890), and more than a 50% increase compared to a year ago (973). Some of this increase is due to better weather conditions at this time of year, but irregular migration pressure on this route is clearly higher than it was at the same time last year. [***]

In the longer-term, irregular immigration to southern Spain has been consistently decreasing since the beginning of 2006. Commonly cited reasons are Frontex Joint Operations in the area, effective bilateral agreements and more recently rising unemployment in Spain, particularly in sectors typified by migrants.* Nationalities traditionally associated with this route were Algerian, Moroccan and Ghanaian. [***]

4.1.4 Western African route

The cooperation and bilateral agreements between Spain and the rest of the Western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali) are developing steadily. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on this route over the last year, as are the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. In Q4 2010 Frontex reported a slight increase in the number of detections of illegal border-crossing at the Canary Islands, from a maximum of 50 during each of the previous 4 quarters, to 113 in Q4 2010. This increased level of detections persisted into the first quarter of this year (154), exclusively due to Moroccan nationals (152) displaced after the dismantling of migrant camps near the dispute Western Saharan region. However, during the current reporting period detections on this route decreased massively to a negligible 24 detections. [***]”

Click here for 2011 Q2 Report.

Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q2 Report.

Click here for 2011 Q1 Report.

Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q1 Report.

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HRW Report: Frontex Exposes Migrants to Abusive Conditions in Greece

Human Rights Watch yesterday issued a report entitled “The EU’s Dirty Hands: Frontex Involvement in Ill-Treatment of Migrant Detainees in Greece” which “assesses Frontex’s role in and responsibility for exposing migrants to inhuman and degrading detention conditions during four months beginning late in 2010 when its first rapid border intervention team (RABIT) was apprehending migrants and taking them to police stations and migrant detention centers in Greece’s Evros region. … ‘Frontex has become a partner in exposing migrants to treatment that it knows is absolutely prohibited under human rights law,’ said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch. ‘To end this complicity in inhuman treatment, the EU needs to tighten the rules for Frontex operations and make sure that Frontex is held to account if it breaks the rules in Greece or anywhere else.’ … ‘It’s a disturbing contradiction that at the same time that the European Court of Human Rights was categorically ruling that sending migrants to detention in Greece violated their fundamental rights, Frontex, an EU executive agency, and border guards from EU states were knowingly sending them there,’ Frelick said. … ‘As new migration crises emerge in the Mediterranean basin and as Frontex’s responsibilities expand, there is an urgent need to shift EU asylum and migration policy from enforcement-first to protection-first.’ Frelick said. ‘This is not only legally required, but the EU, its agencies, and member states can and should respect and meet the EU’s own standards.’”

As the HRW report notes, the humanitarian crisis on the Greece-Turkey land border was many years in the making, but among the contributing factors to the increased flow of migrants seeking to enter the EU at this location, which by November 2010 accounted for 90% of the detected illegal crossings at EU borders, were the enhanced migration control measures in the Central Mediterranean and West Africa, specifically the bi-lateral push-back practice being implemented at the time by Italy and Libya and Spain’s bi-lateral agreements with West African countries.  Increased sea patrols along Greece’s maritime borders also contributed to the shifting of the flow to the land border.

Frontex issued a statement (or click here) responding to the HRW report in which it welcomed the report and said it was “satisfied to note that its comments on the original draft were taken on board. The report now highlights an issue, which we agree, is of great importance. We would like to recall that Frontex fully respects and strives for promoting Fundamental Rights in its border control operations which, however, do not include organisation of, and responsibility for, detention on the territory of the Member States, which remains their exclusive remit. … Frontex was receiving signals of concern from national officers deployed to the region. The Agency has been extremely concerned with the conditions at the detention centres – a point which we raised on several occasions both with the Greek authorities and with the European Commission. Nevertheless, we continue to stress that at the practical level abandoning emergency support operations such as RABIT 2011 is neither responsible, nor does it do anything to help the situation of irregular migrants on the ground….”

Here is Cecilia Malmström’s comment from her blog on the HRW report (translated from Swedish by Google translate):

“I also had a long meeting [on 21 September] with Human Rights Watch who has published a highly critical report on the asylum system in Greece . They argue that the EU agency Frontex, by its presence legitimizes the poor conditions at the border of Greece. We are well aware of the totally unacceptable situation at the reception centres in Greece and I am very frustrated that the situation is so slow to improve, especially in Evros. But probably the situation would have been even worse if Frontex had not been in place. We continue to put pressure on Greece and the new regulatory framework for Frontex, which I have proposed and was adopted by Parliament last week to strengthen its work on human rights significantly. The report will also be discussed in the FRONTEX Agency board meeting next week.”   (“Jag hade också ett långt möte med Human Rights Watch som har publicerat en mycket kritisk rapport om asylsystemet i Grekland . De menar att EU-organet Frontex genom sin närvaro legitimerar de usla förhållandena vid gränsen i Grekland. Vi är väl medvetna om den helt oacceptabla situationen vid mottagningscentren i Grekland och jag är väldigt frustrerad över att det går så långsamt att förbättra situationen särskilt i Evros. Men troligen hade situationen varit ännu värre om inte Frontex hade varit på plats. Vi fortsätter att sätta press på Grekland och i det nya regelverk för Frontex som jag har föreslagit och som Europaparlamentet antog förra veckan stärks arbetet med mänskliga rättigheter väsentligt. Rapporten skall också diskuteras på Frontex styrelsemöte nästa vecka.”)

Excerpts from the HRW Report:

Key Recommendations

To the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council

  • Amend the Frontex Regulation to make explicit, and thereby reinforce, the obligation not to expose migrants and asylum seekers to inhuman and degrading detention conditions.
  • Amend proposed Frontex Regulation Art. 26a to empower the Fundamental Rights Officer to refer Frontex to the Commission for investigation and where appropriate infringement proceedings in the event that the Frontex executive director fails to suspend operations despite persistent and serious violations of the Charter and/or in the event that members states and their agents persistently violate the Charter during Frontex operations.

To Participating European States 

  • Suspend any participation in Frontex operations that fail to adhere to binding international human rights standards.
  • Instruct border guards deployed on Frontex missions on their obligations under international law. Ensure that border guards are trained and conversant regarding all rules and standards pertaining to the transfer and treatment of detainees.

To the Frontex Management Board

  • Suspend the deployment of EU border guards to Greece unless migrant detainees can be transferred to facilities elsewhere in Greece (or outside of Greece) that meet EU and international standards or until the conditions of detention in the Evros region where migrants are currently detained are improved and no longer violate European and international standards.
  • Intervene with Greek officials and monitor compliance to ensure that migrants apprehended by guest guards are transferred to detention facilities that comply with European and international standards.
  • Conduct thorough assessments of the risk that human rights violations may occur before engaging in joint operations or deploying RABIT forces.

To Greece

  • Implement the recently adopted asylum reform package as fully and as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure access to asylum procedures at the border and in the border region.
  • Reduce overcrowding by using alternative facilities and alternatives to detention as much as possible.
  • Immediately improve detention conditions, and immediately create open reception centers for asylum seekers and members of vulnerable groups, such as children.”

Click here for HRW Report.

Click here for HRW Press Release.

Click here or here for Frontex response.

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

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Icelandic Coast Guard Rescues Disabled Migrant Boat Near Crete

An Icelandic patrol boat participating in Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon in the eastern Mediterranean rescued approximately 93 migrants from a disable vessel near Crete.  One media report indicated the passengers may be Egyptian.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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Interview with Frontex Spokesperson Michal Parzyszek

Frontex spokesperson Michal Parzyszek was interviewed by the Sofia News Agency on 27 May.  Here are some excerpts:

Current Frontex sea operations: “Operation Hera, which is in the territorial waters of Senegal and Mauritania; Operation Indalo in Spanish waters; Operation Hermes in Italian waters; Operation Aeneas in Italian waters; Operation Poseidon in Greek waters.”

Frontex operations in Italy: “The help on part of Frontex in the southern waters, including in Italy, is more on providing risk analysis – to give a better idea of what is going on, and what can happen.  …  So in terms of [Frontez] assets, there are just two airplanes and two boats which are deployed there under Frontex in the waters south of Sardinia and south of Lampedusa.  …  There are 10-15 Frontex experts that are identifying the migrants once they reach the reception facilities there. They are deployed to Caltanissetta, Catania, Trapani, Crotone, and Bari….”

Arrivals to Lampedusa:  “It varies every day. You have days when you have no arrivals, and then suddenly you have 1 000 people arriving to Lampedusa. Since the start of the operation on February 20, 2011, there have been almost 31 000 people that arrived to Lampedusa.”

Irregular migrants prefer entering Greece rather than Bulgaria: “… In the case of Greece, a readmission agreement with Turkey doesn’t truly work; in the case of Bulgaria, the cooperation with Turkey is much better so the Turkish authorities – if they receive proper documentation and justification – they accept people back.  This is a very important element – potential migrants know that if they cross the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, there is high probability that they will be sent back to Turkey so they don’t choose that way….”

(HT to Euro-Police.)

Click here for full interview.

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Interview with Frontex Deputy ED Gil Arias

EurActiv.es conducted an interview in Spanish with Frontex Deputy Executive Director Gil Arias where he speaks about several topics, including Frontex’s response to the current situation in North Africa, the possible implications for Spain should unrest spread to Algeria or Morocco, Frontex’s budget shortfall and need for supplemental funding, and the problems experienced by Frontex when it attempts to negotiate cooperation or training agreements with third countries.

Click here for interview. (ES)

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Europol 2011 Organised Crime Threat Assessment – Illegal Immigration and THB

Europol just issued its 2011 Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) (OCTA_2011-1).  The report contains Europol’s assessments regarding “current and expected trends in organised crime affecting the European Union.”  Among the topics discussed are the facilitation of illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings.

The report notes that the increased control of the external borders of the EU, combined with other immigration controls, has resulted in irregular migrants turning to organised crime groups to facilitate their entry to the EU.  The report notes that increased enforcement activities which successfully reduce illegal immigration in certain areas may result in substantial increases in illegal immigration in other areas.

The report indicates that organised criminal groups are exploiting and will continue to exploit the social and political unrest in North Africa and that organised crime groups are responsible for facilitating the movement of the thousands of Tunisians who have entered Italy.

The report notes that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone “may yield increased illicit traffic through these countries and the possible displacement of illegal immigration flows from the Turkish-Greek border.”

Excerpts from the 38 page report pertaining to the facilitation of illegal immigration:

“[I]ncreasing control of external borders, the introduction of higher quality travel documents and other protective measures implemented by destination countries are making illegal immigration more difficult for individual migrants, forcing them to seek the services of organised crime groups.

International agreements and coordinated law enforcement activities have a significant impact on the flows of illegal immigrants along established routes. In 2010, a sharp reduction in the use of sea routes was accompanied by a substantial increase in illegal overland entries, overwhelmingly concentrated on the Turkish-Greek border.

Besides being the natural gateway for immigrants from the Middle East and Asia, Turkey is now the final step towards the EU for migrants with many other origins, including North and West Africans. Its geographical position, the presence of historical smuggling routes and the comparative ease with which entry visas may be obtained have transformed Turkey into the main nexus point for illegal immigrants on their way to Europe.

[***]

Legislation aimed at safeguarding certain inalienable individual or social rights is manipulated by organised crime groups with specialist expertise. Political asylum requests, and family reunions following marriages of convenience with EU citizens, are among the most frequently abused procedures. In addition, a prevalent tactic is to exploit loopholes and the lack of harmonisation in current legislation.

[***]

Criminal Groups

Organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigrants tend to be structured in loose networks of smaller groups with ethnic or other cultural connections to customers. By the same token, illegal immigrants tend to be recruited by, or approach facilitators from, the same ethnic background. However, few criminal groups have the capacity to manage all stages from source to destination country. The further migrants get from their country of origin, the greater the chance that their facilitators will be of an ethnic origin different from their own. Along the route, small local criminal groups receive and house transiting illegal immigrants, facilitating their passage to the next stage. In the often extended time between stages, transiting migrants are frequently exploited in illicit labour, thus marking a point of contact between illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings (THB).

Organised crime groups in destination countries play a fundamental role in the smuggling of migrants. Criminals, often legitimately resident in the EU, facilitate the last step of the migrants’ journey, in some cases collecting final instalments of transportation fees, and are in an ideal position to profit from newly arrived migrants, sometimes employing forms of exploitation typical of THB.

The most widely reported organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration are of Chinese, Turkish, Albanian, Indian, Iraqi, and Russian origin. Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and some West African groups are among the most capable, managing all successive phases of illegal immigration from source to destination countries. Although these groups may sub-contract part of the transportation or the production of falsified documents, they maintain effective control over the illegal immigrants throughout.

The growing importance of Turkey as a nexus point for migrants is likely to be further exploited by Turkish organised crime groups already extremely skilled in managing routes for illicit commodities and will make the most of their resources and contacts in the EU to maximise profits from this lucrative criminal market….

[***]

Criminal hubs

Political and legislative initiatives impact on regional dynamics, resulting in frequent shifts between hubs and preferred nexus points outside the EU.

Migrant flows across the Mediterranean Sea and illicit entries at the Eastern land borders have both significantly decreased. Greece is now the focus for illegal entry to the EU, and while levels of illegal migration connected with seasonal work patterns between Albania and Greece have decreased in the last year, illicit entries of migrants from Turkey have increased by over 500 per cent between 2009 and 2010

The South East criminal hub is therefore under the heaviest pressure. As a result also of its proximity to the Western Balkans, the hub’s centre of gravity for this criminal problem is currently Greece.

[***]

The Southern criminal hub is a landing zone for many immigrants who have entered the EU through Greece, and who either remain in Italy or proceed to other MS. Illegal immigrants are often exploited or employed by organised crime groups active in the hub.

Emerging and Future Issues

The social and political unrest pervading North Africa since January 2011 is likely to have a significant impact on the internal security of Southern Europe. By exploiting the present political vacuum and the diminution of police capability to maintain public order and combat criminal activity, organised crime groups are facilitating several thousands of illegal immigrants, mainly of Tunisian origin, in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe. This carries an inherent risk to the internal security of the EU.

The large and growing number of illegal immigrants from countries and regions in which Islamist terrorist groups are active – such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia – raises the possibility that channels for illegal immigration will be used increasingly by those seeking to engage in terrorist activity in the EU.

In the absence of any significant harmonisation of standards with regards to visa issue for a variety of purposes (including settlement for marriage and family reunions) a further increase in the abuse of legitimate migration procedures is likely.

The possible accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Zone will greatly widen the Eastern green and blue borders. This has the potential to release the pressure on the Turkish-Greek border, and lead to increased targeting of Bulgaria and the Black Sea coast by illegal immigrants and their facilitators.

Turkish organised crime groups, currently in a dominant position at the biggest nexus point for migrants, will exploit further opportunities for delivering illegal immigrants to the EU by means of the Black Sea and the flourishing Turkish diaspora in Bulgaria….

[***]

… The role of the Western Balkans as a logistical hub will be sustained and may even grow further, while the proposed accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone may yield increased illicit traffic through these countries and the possible displacement of illegal immigration flows from the Turkish-Greek border. In this event, Member States in South East Europe may require additional operational support. In light of the continued prominence throughout the EU of Albanian speaking criminal groups, strategic and operational partnerships with authorities in the Western Balkans will be increasingly important.

Ongoing political instability in countries close to the borders of the EU and transit areas for illicit commodities has the potential to alter trafficking routes and create new illegal migration flows. In countries such as Tunisia and Egypt the process by which serving regimes are replaced may result in power and investment vacuums in both the public and private sectors. Some of these could be filled by those with sufficient resources to exploit the instability for criminal ends, including EU organised crime groups. In politically fragile environments organised crime can also prosper by providing essential services such as transport infrastructure, and food and fuel supply. The effects of illegal immigration as a result of instability in North Africa – already experienced by Italy – are likely to spread if levels of unrest persist or increase. Should living conditions deteriorate in the longer term, the EU is likely to see an increase also in victims of THB from this region….

[***]”

Click on this link OCTA_2011-1 for OCTA report.

Click here for Europol press release.

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Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, & Spain Issue Joint Communiqué Regarding Response to North African Migration

Ministers of Home Affairs and Internal Security from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain, met in Nicosia on 19 April and issued a Joint Communiqué.  Here is the full text (HT to EASO Monitor):

“Joint Communiqué II

(Nicosia, 19 April, 2011)

Following the meeting in Rome on the 23rd February 2011, the Home Affairs and Internal Security Ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta as well as the representative of the Minister of Interior of Spain, met again today in Nicosia and discussed the continuing dramatic developments in the Southern Mediterranean region. At the end of the meeting it was decided to issue the following Joint Communiqué.

The Home Affairs and Internal Security Ministers of the Mediterranean Member States of the EU:

Recalling our February 23rd,2011 Joint Communiqué, we have repeated our utmost concern for the unfolding events in relation to the humanitarian situation as well as to the massive illegal immigration flows and movements of possible beneficiaries of international protection that affect our countries;

Taking into account that the escalating events in countries of Northern Africa and the greater Middle East are destabilising the region and acknowledging that political reforms and democratic transitions will not take effect immediately and that their outcome is still uncertain;

Bearing in mind Europe’s longstanding tradition and commitment to the provision of international protection to people in need, in accordance with the Geneva Convention and in line with humanitarian principles and full respect of human rights;

Underlying that security and stability in the Mediterranean is directly linked to the security and stability of the EU as a whole and that effective response to this challenge requires joint efforts, commitment and solidarity from all EU Member States;

Stressing that the current emergency situation with regard to the massive illegal immigration flows and movements of possible beneficiaries of international protection brings upon the Mediterranean Member States additional social, economic, administrative and demographic burden, to that already prevailing;

Recalling the already existing intense and continuous migratory pressure at the south eastern external borders of the EU;

Expressing deep concern about the conflict in Libya and its consequences in terms of sufferings of countless human beings and growing number of displaced persons fleeing the war and taking into account that huge number of people in need of international protection could arrive at the most exposed Mediterranean Member States in the immediate future;

Emphasizing that the possible prolongation of such influxes of illegal migrants and asylum seekers to the Mediterranean Member States, cannot be managed without the concrete and substantial support and solidarity from the rest of the EU’s Member States; alternatively, the situation will seriously jeopardize our ability, and subsequently the Union’s ability, to manage the displaced persons and provide those in need with international protection as well as undermine our common security;

Stressing that the arising situation will challenge and undermine the efforts of those Member States to reform their overburdened national asylum systems;

Reaffirming the urgent necessity for EU to provide concrete and immediate support to Member States on the EU southern external borders;

Stressing the need for additional actions and policies with a view to implement the EU principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility as expressed in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and in line with the Stockholm Programme, the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, the Global Approach to Migration, the relevant European Council Declaration of 11 March 2011 and Conclusions of 24 and 25 March 2011, the JHA Council Conclusions of 11and 12 April 2011 on the management of migration from the Southern Neighbourhood and the JHA Council Conclusions of 25 and 26 February 2010 on 29 measures for reinforcing the protection of the external borders and combating illegal immigration;

Therefore we, the Ministers of Home Affairs and Internal Security of the EU Mediterranean Countries, have adopted a common position on the emerging situation in our region and urge the European Union to practically offer operational as well as financial support to Member States which face mass and disproportionate mixed migration flows, by fully mobilizing all available EU assets, instruments and capabilities, either existing or additional ones,.

Particularly, as the competent Ministers of the EU Mediterranean Member States, urge the European Union to:

Urgently present and implement proposals on the Global Approach to Migration as well as on Mobility Partnerships, in a spirit of genuine cooperation with the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood Region, also to effectively control and manage the current and the anticipated mass migration flows as well as situation-specific schemes on return and readmission.

Call on FRONTEX to immediately implement the provisions set out in section 5 of the JHA Council Conclusions of 11 April 2011, to speed up negotiations with the countries of the region – and in particular with Tunisia – with a view to concluding operational working arrangements, and organising joint patrolling operations in cooperation with Tunisian authorities and in application of all relevant international Conventions, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (“the Montego Bay Convention”).

Call on FRONTEX to intensify the monitoring of the situation based on risk analysis and encourage Member States to provide the Agency with further human and technical resources so as to continue its ongoing operations (Joint Operation Hermes, Joint Operation Poseidon Land and Sea and the possible deployment of a RABIT operation in Malta) in the light of the emerging situation. Furthermore, call FRONTEX to expand its operations, where and when necessary, to prevent illegal flows in the eastern Mediterranean area of Egypt and Syria. To this end, further adequate financing of FRONTEX should be considered so as to increase the Organization’s capabilities to fulfil successfully its tasks.

Enhance the operational capacity and the coordinating role of the FRONTEX Operational Office in Piraeus in order to effectively deal with the situation;

Accelerate work on the FRONTEX Amending Regulation with a view to an agreement by June 2011 which will strengthen its capacity, make it truly operational and improve its synergy with other bodies.

Promote practical cooperation with the countries of origin or transit of illegal migrants in the region in preventing and fighting illegal migration flows, inter alia by concluding Readmission Agreements, developing Voluntary Return Programmes, enhancing their capacity of border management and surveillance, expanding the Immigration Liaison Officers Network, promoting legal migration by exploring the possibility of concluding mobility partnerships;

Encourage Member States to expedite discussions on the proposal for recasting the Dublin II Regulation, including a mechanism to suspend the transfers to Member States facing particular pressure on their national asylum systems.

Urgently mobilize all available financial assistance through the External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund and in addition, as section 4 of the JHA Council Conclusions of 11 April, 2011 reads, activate supplementary funds that can be made available to Member States or FRONTEX at short notice when needed. In this vein establish a special solidarity Fund, when necessary, to tackle exceptional emergency situations and humanitarian crisis.

Deploy every available possibility by the European Asylum Support Office to offer practical support to the Member States of the Mediterranean Region in need. A permanent specialised mechanism should be set up through the EASO, which, at exceptional emergency situations, will provide Member States in need with the necessary logistical and technical support.

As a matter of priority, present a proposal for implementing a coherent and comprehensive mechanism for distributing responsibilities, on a voluntary basis, specifically regarding the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection among member states, in case of European countries faced with particular pressures, as a consequence of their geographical or demographic situation, especially when facing the sudden arrival of third country nationals in need of international protection.

Commit to the work on establishing a Common European Asylum System with a view to respect the 2012 deadline.

We the Ministers of the Mediterranean Member States of the EU agreed to meet again soon, at a date to be agreed, in order to further coordinate our efforts before the European Council of June this year.”

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