Tag Archives: International Maritime Organization

NY Times: The Outlaw Ocean Series – Stowaways and Crimes Aboard a Scofflaw Ship

The first instalment of a four part NY Times series, The Outlaw Ocean, by Ian Urbina was published yesterday. The first instalment, Stowaways and Crimes Aboard a Scofflaw Ship, follows the activities of one particular ship, including an incident where two stowaways were forced overboard and left adrift on a makeshift raft while the ship was at sea off West Africa. From the NYT: “The Outlaw Ocean series was a deep collaboration, with many parts of the newsroom working with Ian Urbina on a quest to reveal lawlessness on the high seas. The hope for the project was to take readers inside that lawlessness, using video, photography, mapping and design tied closely together.”

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HRW Briefing Paper: Hidden Emergency-Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean

Human Rights Watch released a briefing paper on 16 August entitled “Hidden Emergency-Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.”  The briefing paper, written by Judith Sunderland, a senior researcher with HRW, reviews recent events in the Mediterranean, provides updates on new developments, including the EUROSUR proposal and IMO guidelines that are under consideration, and makes recommendations for how deaths can be minimized.

Excerpts from the Briefing Paper:

“The death toll during the first six months of 2012 has reached at least 170. … Unless more is done, it is certain that more will die.

Europe has a responsibility to make sure that preventing deaths at sea is at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration, not a self-serving afterthought to policies focused on preventing arrivals or another maneuver by northern member states to shift the burden to southern member states like Italy and Malta.

With admirable candor, EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said recently that Europe had, in its reaction to the Arab Spring, ‘missed the opportunity to show the EU is ready to defend, to stand up, and to help.’ Immediate, concerted efforts to prevent deaths at sea must be part of rectifying what Malmström called Europe’s ‘historic mistake.’

Europe’s Response to Boat Migration

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European countries most affected by boat migration—Italy, Malta, Greece and Spain—have saved many lives through rescue operations. But those governments and the European Union as a whole have focused far more effort on seeking to prevent boat migration, including in ways that violate rights. Cooperation agreements with countries of departure for joint maritime patrols, technical and financial assistance for border and immigration control, and expedited readmission of those who manage to set foot on European soil have become commonplace.

The EU’s border agency Frontex has become increasingly active through joint maritime operations, some of which have involved coordination with countries of departure outside the EU such as Senegal. Even though in September 2011 the EU gave Frontex an explicit duty to respect human rights in its operations and a role in supporting rescue at sea operations, these operations have as a primary objective to prevent boats from landing on EU member state territories. This has also prevented migrants, including asylum seekers, from availing themselves of procedural rights that apply within EU territory.

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Italy had suspended its cooperation agreements with Libya in February 2011, and has indicated it will respect the European Court’s ruling and will no longer engage in push-backs. However, past experience suggests that an immigration cooperation agreement signed with the Libyan authorities in April 2012, the exact contents of which have neither been made public nor submitted to parliamentary scrutiny, is unlikely to give migrants’ human rights the attention and focus they need if those rights are to be properly protected.

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Preventing Deaths in the Mediterranean

It may be tempting to blame lives lost at sea on unscrupulous smugglers, the weather, or simple, cruel fate. However, many deaths can and should be prevented. UNHCR’s recommendation during the Arab Spring to presume that all overcrowded migrant boats in the Mediterranean need rescue is a good place to start.

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Recognizing the serious dimensions of the problem, specialized United Nations agencies such as the UNHCR and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), have been working to produce clear recommendations. These include establishing a model framework for cooperation in rescue at sea and standard operating procedures for shipmasters. The latter should include a definition of distress triggering the obligation to provide assistance that takes into account risk factors, such as overcrowding, poor conditions on board, and lack of necessary equipment or expertise. UNHCR has also proposed that countries with refugee resettlement programs set aside a quota for recognized refugees rescued at sea.

The IMO has also been pursuing since 2010 a regional agreement among Mediterranean European countries to improve rescue and disembarkation coordination, as well as burden-sharing. The project, if implemented successfully, would serve as a model for other regions. A draft text for a memorandum of understanding is under discussion. Negotiations should be fast-tracked with a view to implementation as quickly as possible.

If Europe is serious about saving lives at sea, it also needs to amend the draft legislation creating EUROSUR. This new coordinated surveillance system should spell out clearly the paramount duty to assist boat migrants at sea, and its implementation must be subject to rigorous and impartial monitoring. Arguments that such a focus would create a ‘pull factor’ and encourage more migrants to risk the crossing are spurious. History shows that people on the move, whether for economic or political reasons, are rarely deterred or encouraged by external factors.

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From the HRW press statement:

The “briefing paper includes concrete recommendations to improve rescue operations and save lives:

  • Improve search and rescue coordination mechanisms among EU member states;
  • Ensure that EUROSUR has clear guidelines on the paramount duty of rescue at sea and that its implementation is rigorously monitored;
  • Clarify what constitutes a distress situation, to create a presumption in favor of rescue for overcrowded and ill-equipped boats;
  • Resolve disputes about disembarkation points;
  • Remove disincentives for commercial and private vessels to conduct rescues; and
  • Increase burden-sharing among EU member states.”

Click here or here for HRW Briefing Paper.

Click here for HRW press statement.

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Filed under European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, Reports, Spain, Tunisia

Italy Criticises Malta Regarding Search and Rescue Response

Italian Interior Minister Maroni has criticised Malta for failing to immediately deploy rescue ships to assist the migrant boat that sank near Lampedusa.  The Armed Forces of Malta said that the migrant boat did not capsize until after two Italian coast guard boats had responded and were on scene attempting to render assistance.  The AFM said the first call for assistance was received Wednesday at 0025, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre of the AFM notified Italian Coast Guard headquarters in Rome and NATO headquarter in Naples at 0120, two Italian coast guard boats and an Italian fishing vessel, the Cartagine, were on scene by 0416, and the migrant boat capsized around 0535.  The migrant boat was closer to Italian territory than to Malta, but was located within Malta’s large Search and Rescue Area.  Italy and Malta have had past disputes over the boundaries of the SAR with Italy calling for the Maltese SAR to be reduced in size.

The Secretary-General of International Maritime Organization, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, issued a statement saying that “[i]t was ironic that the devastating news of this latest tragedy reached us while we were holding a [Legal Committtee] meeting with representatives of Italy and Spain to consider what measures countries in the Mediterranean Basin should take to deal with the increasing number of persons leaving north African and eastern Mediterranean countries to seek refuge in Europe.”

The statement also said that “IMO is in contact with Italy, Malta and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  The [Legal Committee] meeting mentioned above was hosted by IMO and held against a background of increasing movement of persons by sea for political and socio-economic reasons or as a result of armed conflict.  It was part of an on-going process aimed at improving existing provisions for rescuing migrants at sea and disembarking them at a place of safety, in accordance with the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention) and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention).”

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

Click here for article. (IT)

Click here for map the SARs.

Click here for IMO Statement.

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Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News

IMO Information Resources on Stowaways/Illegal Migrants/Treatment of Persons Rescued at Sea – update

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Knowledge Centre updated in August its  Information Resources document on “Stowaways / Illegal Migrants / Treatment of Persons Rescued at Sea.”

The document contains information, citations, and links to IMO documents, publications, circulars, and reports, as well as non-IMO citations and / or links to many other resources, including relevant UN reports, resolutions, and treaties.

Click here for the document.

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IMO Information Resources on Stowaways/Illegal Migrants/Treatment of Persons Rescued at Sea

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Knowledge Centre has posted an updated 20+ page Information Resources document to “assist those who are conducting research in the area of ‘Stowaways/Illegal Migrants/Treatment of Persons Rescued at Sea’.”

The document contains a wealth of information, citations, and links to IMO documents, publications, circulars, and reports, as well as non-IMO citations and / or links to many other resources, including relevant UN reports, resolutions, and treaties.

For example the contents include:

Provisions in UN and IMO Treaties…

IMO Material on the Website …

IMO Documents…

IMO Sub-Committee on Radiocommunication and Search and Rescue documents…

IMO Legal Committee documents…

IMO Maritime Safety Committee documents…

IMO Publications …

UN Materials …

Click here for the IMO Information Resources document.

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IMO Biannual Reports on “Unsafe Practices Associated with the Trafficking or Transport of Migrants by Sea”

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been collecting data on “unsafe practices associated with the trafficking or transport of illegal migrants by sea” since 1999.

Two times a year it releases a biannual report regarding incidents which are reported to the IMO by Member Governments.  The IMO describes the basis for the reporting as follows: “The Maritime Safety Committee, at its seventieth session (7 to 11 December 1998), in approving MSC/Circ.896 on Interim measures for combating unsafe practices associated with the trafficking or transport of illegal migrants by sea, invited Member Governments to promptly convey to the Organization reports on relevant incidents and measures taken to enable the updating or revising of the circular.”

In recent years (and perhaps since 1999), by far most of the reported incidents are provided by Greece.  Italy and Turkey have only reported a small number of incidents in recent years.  It is clear that most Member Governments do not routinely provide data for these biannual reports.

Even though a substantial number of incidents are not being reported and are therefore not documented in the reports, the biannual reports do contain an extensive amount of information dating back to 1999 regarding 2,030 incidents where 77,853 migrants were rescued or intercepted.

The reported data, when provided, include:

  • Ship’s name or description
  • Date and time of incident
  • Position of incident
  • Description of incident
  • Measures taken
  • Migrants (number and nationality; gender; adults/minor)

Click here for the Biannual Report issued 18 February 2010.

Click here for the Biannual Report issued 2 November 2009.

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Filed under Data / Stats, Greece, Italy, Reports, Turkey