Tag Archives: IOM

Statement: European Commission’s response to the migratory flows from North Africa

The European Commission released a statement on 8 April summarising its actions.  Excerpts:

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Measures addressing the migration flows towards the European Union

Urgent measures already undertaken

The massive displacement of populations from several North African countries has been putting the protection and reception systems of some of the EU Member States, in particular in Italy and Malta, under increasing strain. The European Union has responded to these serious challenges in a rapid and effective manner with the aim of stabilizing the situation.

Frontex has deployed the Joint Operation EPN Hermes Extension 2011 to assist the Italian authorities in managing the influx of migrants from North Africa, most of whom have been arriving on the island of Lampedusa. This mission was launched on 20 February 2011, only four days after receiving the official request from the Italian authorities, a clear signal of solidarity between Member States. FRONTEX stands ready to continue the mission as long as it will be necessary, and to expand it, provided that Member States will make available the necessary staff, vessels and equipment. In view of the above the Commission is launching the necessary procedures for reinforcing the FRONTEX 2011 budget with an additional EUR 30 million.

Europol has also deployed a team of experts to Italy in order to help the national authorities to assist in detecting and preventing possible criminal of trafficking of human beings.

Regarding the financial needs linked with the displacement, the Commission’s four migration-related funds (the External Borders Fund, Return Fund, Refugee Fund and Integration Fund) are available to Member States. For example, Italy, one of the major beneficiaries of these funds, has been allocated €55 million for 2010 and €75 million for 2011. Moreover, the Commission makes available an additional €25 million of emergency funding which can be quickly mobilised under the External Borders Funds and European Refugee Fund.

What measures could be undertaken in the short-term?

Should the inflow of irregular migrants and possible refugees continue, the Commission envisages a number of short-term measures that might be taken.

Reinforcing Frontex

  • 1) The Joint Operation EPN HERMES Extension coordinated by FRONTEX could be considerably strengthened, with additional technical resources made available by Member States, and adequate financial resources.
  • 2) It is essential that FRONTEX is finally given a stronger operational mandate through a revision of its legal basis, which the Commission tabled in February 2010 (IP/10/184)
  • 3) FRONTEX should speed up negotiations to conclude working arrangements with the countries of origin and transit of irregular migration in the Mediterranean in the region (for example, with Egypt, Morocco and Turkey), and receive a mandate to negotiate similar working arrangements with other relevant countries (for instance Tunisia)

Resettlement of third country nationals

The continuous and possible increase in the flow of refugees (e.g. Somalis, Eritreans etc.), in need of international protection, coming from Libyan territory is an issue of major concern. The EU will not only continue to provide humanitarian assistance through its humanitarian office (ECHO), but it is also ready to offer through the European Refugee Fund financial support in view of facilitating the resettlement of persons in need of international protection. Resettlement represents not only a life-saving measure for the refugees concerned, but is also an important responsibility-sharing gesture towards the countries hosting them. Showing solidarity with the countries neighbouring Libya that are under pressure through resettlement can help to maintain ‘protection space’, as well as contributing to dialogue and cooperation on other issues of migration and border management.

The Commission has therefore been encouraging EU Member States to offer resettlement places, in a spirit of responsibility-sharing and in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A meeting was held with Member States on 25 March at which details of the most urgent needs were explained by the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), both of whom are actively engaged on the ground in the region.

The current crisis in the Mediterranean clearly demonstrates how imperative it is that the Council and the European Parliament make an effort to rapidly reach an agreement on the adoption of the Commission’s proposal for the establishment of an EU joint resettlement programme. This proposal would provide a structured basis for annual priority-setting, and linking those priorities with financial incentives, thereby encouraging more Member States to become involved in resettlement activities, and enhancing practical cooperation between Member States to that end.

Solidarity / Temporary Protection Directive

In the event of a massive inflow of persons who are likely to be in need of international protection, the Commission would expect Member States to demonstrate concrete solidarity with each other by directly assisting the States bearing the greatest burden. This could involve the relocation to other Member States of some persons seeking protection, or who have already received an international protection status.

Concrete assistance could likewise be provided by the newly-created European Asylum Support Office, one of whose central tasks is coordination of assistance to Member States whose asylum systems are under exceptional pressure. This could involve the deployment of so-called ‘asylum support teams’ to reinforce the capacities of a State to process asylum claims and to ensure appropriate reception conditions for asylum seekers.

The Commission would also be ready to consider proposing the use of the mechanism foreseen under the 2001 Temporary Protection Directive (2001/55/EC), if the conditions foreseen in the directive are met. Consideration could only be given to taking this step if it is clear that the persons concerned are likely to be in need of international protection, if they cannot be safely returned to their countries-of-origin, and if the numbers of persons arriving who are in need of protection are sufficiently great. Resort to this mechanism would allow for the immediate protection and reception in the territory of EU Member States for persons concerned, as well as offering a “breathing space” for the national asylum systems of the Member States most directly affected.

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Click here for full Statement.

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200 or More Now Feared Dead in Migrant Boat Sinking Off Lampedusa – Boat Was Likely Coming from Libya, Not Tunisia

It now appears that the boat that capsized earlier this morning off of Lampedusa was carrying Sub-Saharan Africans and that it had sailed from Libya not from Tunisia. The boat departed from Zuwarah in western Libya according to the Times of Malta.  Woman and children were on board and are likely among the victims.  The accident occurred around 4:00 AM local time in very rough seas.  A call for help was made by satellite phone to Malta SAR.  ANSA reported a short time ago that 48 people have been rescued and approximately 20 bodies have been recovered.  IOM said that based on interviews with survivors there may have been as many as 300 people on board the boat.

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



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Frontex Releases its “Fundamental Rights Strategy”

According to a Frontex press release, “Frontex’s Management Board endorsed the Agency’s Fundamental Rights Strategy during its most recent meeting, on March 31. The approved document sets out the objectives, legal and political context, operational implications and implementation plan for the strategy.”  “The new strategy will be elaborated into an Action Plan, which has been requested by the Management Board with a view to adopting it at the next meeting, scheduled for May 24.”

I have done a quick read of the 8 page document and overall had a positive reaction to the strategy.  One weakness, and there are probably others, is that in the end “Member States remain primarily responsible for the implementation of the relevant international, EU or national legislation and law enforcement actions undertaken in the context of Frontex coordinated joint operations…”  (See Para 13 below.)  There is not much that Frontex can do about this, unless Frontex is given authority to act independently from individual MS.

The strategy does contemplate that Frontex can terminate a Joint Operation if respect for fundamental rights can not be guaranteed.  (See Para 15 below.)  I try to imagine how this strategy would operate within the current Joint Operation Hermes if the influx of Tunisians were to continue and expand and if Italy were to begin unilateral returns of Tunisian nationals (or others) to Tunisia without adequate process.  Would Frontex discontinue Operation Hermes?  It is hard to imagine that happening given the current situation in North Africa.

Here are some excerpts from the strategy consisting of some of the provisions which jumped out at me – the full document however should be consulted:

“Preamble

Frontex considers that respect and promotion of fundamental rights are unconditional and integral components of effective integrated border management.

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The Legal and Political Context

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13. Member States remain primarily responsible for the implementation of the relevant international, EU or national legislation and law enforcement actions undertaken in the context of Frontex coordinated joint operations (JOs) and therefore also for the respect of fundamental rights during these activities. This does not relieve Frontex of its responsibilities as the coordinator and it remains fully accountable for all actions and decisions under its mandate. Frontex must particularly focus on creating the conditions for ensuring compliance with fundamental rights obligations in all its activities.

The Operationalisation

Joint Operations

14. [***] One particular objective in [Joint Operations] is ensuring that the right to international protection must not be hampered by the law enforcement action and that persons seeking protection are referred to the competent national authorities to assess their case.

15. [***] Corrective measures should be taken in case of breach or serious risk of breach of fundamental rights. As last resort, Frontex might terminate a JO if the conditions guaranteeing the respect for fundamental rights are no longer met. [***]

17. Frontex will put in place an effective reporting system to ensure that any incidents or serious risks regarding fundamental rights are immediately reported by any participating officer or Frontex staff member and can be acted upon. This reporting should be the basis for effective monitoring of all its operations. The monitoring effectiveness and credibility will rely heavily on the commitment of national border guard services to report but also on the involvement of external stakeholders. The Operational Plan shall set out the modalities for reporting, including how and to who report.

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19. Alleged violations of human rights reported either by national or Frontex officers or third parties, when substantiated, will be followed up by Frontex by communicating and clarifying the situation in cooperation with the competent national authorities without prejudice to any resulting administrative or penal procedures. Member States should also inform Frontex on the follow-up measures.

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21. In addition to pursuing a regular exchange of information with external partners engaged in fundamental rights protection activities, in particular the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Frontex will endeavour to ensure their regular involvement in the relevant operational activities in accordance with the Working Arrangements with these partners. The involvement of these external partners or others should be foreseen in the Operational Plan, which should also define the scope of the cooperation.

22. Frontex will also seek advice from its external partners on the relevant instructions or guidelines for officers taking part in Frontex activities. These instructions or guidelines, which should form an integral part of each Operational Plan, could relate to methods for better identifying people seeking international protection, proper treatment of vulnerable groups including potential victims of trafficking or fundamental rights monitoring of operational activities. The final aim is to promote the highest standards in compliance with fundamental rights by the development and promotion of best practices.

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External Relations

28. Frontex cooperation with Third Countries’ border-guard services is conducted under the EU External Relations Policy and shall therefore be guided by the principle of the respect of human rights. Frontex is committed to adjusting its cooperation arrangements and activities to the EU foreign policy measures adopted as a consequence of the human rights situation in the partner Third Country.

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The Implementation

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38. In order to increase the transparency and credibility of this process, external third parties, in particular those representing civil society, shall be involved. Their concerns and perspectives must be taken into account for the evaluation and revision of the strategy. Frontex, national border-guard services, external partners and representatives of civil society shall therefore have the possibility to exchange views and suggest means of improvement for the strategy and the Action Plan in a consultative forum, to be convened periodically at Frontex Headquarters.

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Click here for the Frontex strategy document.

Click here for Frontex press release.

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Italy Considers Offering €1500 to Tunisian Migrants Who Agree to Leave

The Italian government has tentatively considered the possibility of offering €1500 to any Tunisian who agrees to return to Tunisia.  Foreign Minister Frattini said that Italy could pay the funds to those migrants willing to leave and that the funds would then be reimbursed to Italy by the EU Commission.  The IOM would likely be asked to administer the program.  The proposal was immediately and strongly criticised by Umberto Bossi the head of the Northern League and a fellow minister in the Berlusconi Government.  Bossi called for the migrants to be returned to Tunisia.  A statement posted later in the day on the Foreign Ministry web site said that the proposal would “be activated only in the presence of a full financing on the part of the European Union.”

The situation on Lampedusa continues to deteriorate.  There were approximately 1000 new migrant arrivals yesterday.  The migrant population on the island is approximately 5000 with 2500 people sleeping rough in makeshift tents made of plastic sheeting.

Click here and here for articles.  (IT)

Click here for brief statement from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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IOM: New Migrant Arrivals on Lampedusa Lead to Massive Overcrowding

Full text:  “IOM Press Note – Monday 21 March 2011 – New Migrant Arrivals on Lampedusa Lead to Massive Overcrowding —  The arrival of more than 1,630 irregular migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday 20 March and overnight Monday 21st has led to massive overcrowding at the migrant reception centre where IOM and partners monitor reception assistance and provide legal counselling to migrants, asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors.

With the weekend’s arrival of Tunisian migrants bringing the current number of migrants on Lampedusa to nearly 4,780 and the reception centre built to host 800 people, migrants are being hosted wherever possible around the island.

This includes about 2,000 migrants at the port area which doesn’t have the sanitation facilities needed to host such numbers of people and who for the past few days have been sleeping in the open without adequate protection from the elements and in whatever space they can find.

Among the nearly 4,780 migrants on Lampedusa are about 200 minors. IOM and UNHCR worked with partner Save the Children to find suitable accommodation for all the minors who have arrived in recent days and who could not be left to sleep at the pier with no blankets or mattresses.

IOM also found safe accommodation for 13 women away from the overcrowded reception centre.

With boat landings taking place during the day and night, IOM and partners are working in shifts to ensure assistance is provided 24 hours a day.

Staff report that the situation on the island, which has a population of 5,000, is critical and tense and that rapid transfers to other migrant reception centres elsewhere in Italy are essential.

Since February, around 14,000 Tunisian migrants have arrived on Lampedusa. With migrant reception centres in Puglia in southern Italy and on Sicily also fairly full, Italian authorities have established a centre at an ex-NATO base residence at Mineo on Sicily.

From today, 21 March, IOM staff will be present at Mineo where, as part of an Italian government funded project, the Organization will provide legal counselling to migrants and monitor reception assistance.

The vast majority of the migrants who have arrived on Lampedusa are young men who have left Tunisia either to find employment in Europe or to be united with families. For further information, please contact Flavio di Giacomo, IOM Rome, email: fdigiacomo@iom.int – Tel: +39.06.44.186.207 or +39.347.089.89.96

For additional information:

Jemini Pandya Tel : 41 22 717 9486 – Mobile : 41 79 217 33 74, Email : jpandya@iom.int

Jumbe Omari Jumbe Tel: 41 22 717 9405 – Mobile: 41 79 812 77 34, Email: jjumbe@iom.int

ISDN Line : 41 22 788 38 61″

I don’t have a link to this press briefing other than the following google docs link here. First posted on Euromed-MigrAsyl.

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Migrants Being Prevented from Leaving Libya

According to several media reports, Libyan soldiers have prevented up to 30,000 migrant workers from fleeing Libya to Tunisia.  “The migrant workers were rounded up and apparently held in Libyan immigration buildings near the Tunisian border last week, Ibrahim Osman of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told The Associated Press.”  If this information is correct, it would explain the sudden drop in the numbers of persons trying to cross in to Tunisia in recent days.  According to IOM, as of 8 March, 224,661 migrants have reached Libya’s borders with Tunisia, Egypt, Niger and Algeria.

Click here and here for articles.  (EN)

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Most EU States View Italy’s Concerns Over Refugee Threat As Grossly Exaggerated

The JHA Council yesterday rejected Italy’s call for a stronger EU response to what it describes as an impending migrant flow from North Africa consisting of hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers.  Several EU governments described the Italian request as one that was based on exaggerated fears.  Hungary’s interior minister, Sandor Pinter, told reporters that “we shouldn’t paint the devil on the wall until he appears.”  German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said “we shouldn’t be painting horror figures and encouraging refugees to come to Europe.”  Another accused Italy of “crying wolf.”

IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said that while Italy should not shoulder a refugee burden on its own, no Libyans have arrived in Italy to date and she rejected the Italian estimates:  “I don’t think in any shape or form you are going to see one-and-a-half million migrants suddenly flood into Europe.  That is really not going to happen at all.  That would really be fear mongering to the extreme.”

Italy has done itself and neighbouring countries a disservice by repeatedly speaking of an “exodus of biblical proportions” and by suggesting that many hundreds of thousands of migrants are poised to take to the sea to try to reach Italy and Malta from Libya.  These estimates are in all likelihood grossly exaggerated.

But even if you agree that Italy’s feared numbers are exaggerations, the fact that no irregular migrant or asylum seeker has apparently yet left Libya by sea is not at all surprising.  Libya is in chaos and few people are likely to try to depart the country by sea until the level of violence begins to diminish.  Libya has (or had) a functioning network of human traffickers and they will be ready to begin exploiting the chaos and to take advantage of desperate people seeking to flee at some point in the future.  If Gaddafi manages to remain in power, once he is no longer concerned with his personal survival, his thoughts will at some point turn to revenge.  Libya will presumably cease cooperating with Italy on the bi-lateral pushback practice, and Gaddafi will tolerate or encourage irregular migration towards Europe.  So Italy is correct in that there is a real threat of significant numbers of migrants and asylum seekers leaving from Libya some time in the near future.  The numbers could easily and quickly surpass the 6,000 who have left Tunisia for Lampedusa.  Could the numbers surpass 30,000?  30,000 asylum seekers entered Sweden last year (population 9 million – Italy’s population is 50+ million) and Sweden has not received any extraordinary EU assistance as a result.  Could the numbers exceed the hundreds of thousands that fled the Balkan wars in the 1990s?  Possible, but probably not very likely.

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

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AlertNet: Poor migrant workers feared unable to flee Libya violence

From AlertNet: “Tens of thousands of impoverished migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia may be trapped by the escalating violence in Libyan cities, unable to leave the country because they cannot pay for transport to border areas, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday. … ‘We are very concerned for all those migrants who may wish to leave, but cannot,’ Laurence Hart, IOM’s chief of mission for Libya, said in a statement. …  IOM spokesman Jean Philippe Chauzy told AlertNet around half a dozen states … to evacuate their nationals from Libya. The agency says it currently does not have the funds to launch such an operation, and will make an appeal for additional contributions on Friday. …  On Wednesday, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said it had received ‘alarming reports’ Libyans were turning on refugees from other African countries, suspecting them of being mercenaries fighting for Gaddafi’s administration. ‘African refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea have told us that just being a black face in Libya is very dangerous at the moment,’ spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes told Reuters….”

Click here for full article.

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WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: Libya takes back 500 Italy-bound migrants

This US Department of State cable, released by WikiLeaks on 31 Jan 2011, was written in May 2009 and describes the first major interdictions of migrants by Italy under the terms of the Italian-Libyan Friendship Agreement.  The events described in the cable are the subject of the communicated case currently pending before the Second Section of the European Court of Human Rights, Hirsi and others v Italy, Requête no 27765/09.  Click here for previous post on the Hirsi case.

Excerpts from the Cable:

“Implementation of a key component of the Italian-Libyan “friendship agreement” has begun, as Italy has returned approximately 500 migrants rescued and interdicted at sea to Libya over the past week. Libyan authorities have notified the local offices of IOM and UNHCR before returning boats arrive in Tripoli to facilitate medical screening, identification, and consular notification. The returnees are then placed in immigrant detention centers. UNHCR has interviewed a number of the detained returnees, noting that only “a handful” of the 500 are likely asylum seekers – mostly of Somali and Eritrean origin; the rest are economic migrants….”

“Libya has accepted the return of three tranches of migrants interdicted or rescued at sea by Italian authorities in recent days, beginning implementation of a key component of the Italian-Libyan “friendship agreement” signed last August aimed at reducing the flow of migrants from Libya to Italy. In each case, the Italians contacted the Libyan navy, which agreed to accept their return to Libya. The Libyan navy did not/not agree to take the migrants on Libyan vessels; rather, in one case, it instructed Italian energy company ENI, which operates an offshore platform in the area, to tow an African vessel to shore; in the other cases, it permitted the Italian navy to transport the migrants back to Tripoli. Once in Tripoli, according to the Italian Embassy, the migrants were processed in an orderly fashion and sent to a detention center.”

“The first group of 227 returnees arrived in Tripoli on May 7. A regional IOM team in Tripoli implementing a G/TIP-funded workshop to enhance Libya’s response to human smuggling and trafficking was on hand to help screen the arrivals and visit one of the three detention centers where the migrants were held….”

“IOM staff here characterized the recent returnees as “the usual suspects” of Nigerian, Nigerien, Ghanaian, and South Asian nationality. The UNHCR mission reportedly interviewed many of the returnees and found fewer than 10 migrants who were likely asylum seekers including “four or five” Somalis and “a handful” of Eritreans….”

Click here or here for the full cable.

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Global Migration Group Statement on the Human Rights of Migrants in Irregular Situation

The Global Migration Group (GMG) issued a Statement on the Human Rights of Migrants in Irregular Situation on 30 September.  Excerpts from the Statement follow:

“The Global Migration Group is deeply concerned about the human rights of international migrants in an irregular situation around the globe….

Too often, States have addressed irregular migration solely through the lens of sovereignty, border security or law enforcement, sometimes driven by hostile domestic constituencies. Although States have legitimate interests in securing their borders and exercising immigration controls, such concerns cannot, and indeed, as a matter of international law do not, trump the obligations of the State to respect the internationally guaranteed rights of all persons, to protect those rights against abuses, and to fulfill the rights necessary for them to enjoy a life of dignity and security….

The GMG calls upon States to review the situation of migrants in an irregular situation within their territories and to work towards ensuring that their laws and regulations conform with and promote the realization of the applicable international human rights standards and guarantees at all stages of the migration process. The GMG recognizes the difficulties many States face and stands ready to continue to support them in their efforts to ensure the effective implementation of appropriate legislation, including through capacity development….

The irregular situation which international migrants may find themselves in should not deprive them either of their humanity or of their rights….”

GMG is an inter-agency group bringing together 12 UN agencies, the World Bank, and the International Organization for Migration to promote the application of relevant international instruments and norms relating to migration, and to encourage the adoption of more coherent, comprehensive and better coordinated approaches to the issue of international migration.

(As noted by Prof. William Schabas on his blog.)

Click here for the full Statement.

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