Approximately 2000 new migrants in more than 20 boats arrived in Lampedusa on 14-15 March. Some were rescued and some reached Lampedusa on their own. One boat is believed to have sunk near Tunisia and approximately 35 persons are believed to be missing.
According to a UNHCR briefing yesterday, just over 10,000 migrants, nearly all young Tunisian men, have arrived in Italy since mid-January. UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said that “[t]he outflow from Tunisia is unrelated to the ongoing crisis in Libya. From our interactions with Tunisians arriving in Italy over past weeks, we believe that most are seeking employment and better economic opportunities, rather than international protection. UN staff and partners in Tunisia report that some villages appear largely empty of their young male population, with only women, children and elderly people remaining. This type of outflow is not atypical of countries in transition, and we are well aware of the many demands on the Tunisian authorities at present. Solutions to this type of flow need to be found in dialogue between the concerned governments, including arrangements for the orderly and dignified return of persons who are found not to be in need of international protection, and the establishment of opportunities for labor migration which can meet the needs of countries on both sides of the Mediterranean.”
The standoff with the Moroccan ferry, the Mistral Express, continues. The ship left Libya several days ago and is located in international waters about 20 miles from the port of Augusta, Sicily. Italian authorities have refused to permit the ship to enter Italian waters and are considering providing fuel to the ship while it remains at sea in order to prevent any of the 1800+ mostly Moroccan passengers from attempting to leave the ship and enter Italy.
Click here for UNHCR press briefing.
Click here, here, here, here, and here for articles. (IT)
Boats containing over 1000 Tunisians arrived in Lampedusa on Monday. The boats are reportedly leaving Tunisia from the southern coast from the port of Zarsis and the island of Djerba, an area near the border with Libya.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Monday that “we know that criminal organizations that operated by moving illegal immigrants from Libya have reappeared and are now repositioning themselves in the south of Tunisia. (“Al ministro dell’Interno Roberto Maroni che parla di altre ‘migliaia e migliaia di persone pronte a partire’ e lancia un allarme: ‘abbiamo notizia – spiega – che sono riapparse le organizzazioni criminali che operavano prima in Libia facendo partire i clandestini e che adesso si stanno riposizionando nel sud della Tunisia’.) Maroni said that “Italian intelligence had reported ‘thousands and thousands of young people’ heading for … Zarzis and Djerba, and that it would require a ‘significant commitment’ from EU countries to block their departure.”
Click here (IT), here (IT), here (IT), and here (EN) for articles.
Credit: Lampedusa, ancora sbarchi dalla Tunisia-FOTOGALLERY- LASTAMPA.it:
Migrant arrivals in Italy continue with over 1000 migrants reaching Lampedusa in at least 11 different boats on Sunday.
Click here (IT) and here (IT) for articles.
After a week or so without any migrants arriving in Lampedusa, ten boats carrying approximately 500 persons arrived in Lampedusa and nearby Italian islands over a 24 hour period 1st-2nd March. Improved weather conditions are the most likely explanation for the new boat arrivals. Highlighting the difficulties of maritime surveillance, one of the migrant boats with 22 migrants landed on the island of Linosa, roughly halfway between Lampedusa and Malta, without being detected.
According to Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, to date 2,000 Tunisians have applied for some form of protection; less than 400 asylum requests have been made. According to Maroni, most of the Tunisians have expressed a desire to go to other European countries, generally France or Germany.
Maroni said that Italy’s agreement with Tunisia limits repatriation of Tunisians to four persons per day and Italy is therefore currently negotiating with Tunisia to increase the number of persons who may be repatriated. If the daily limit is not changed it would take years to return the thousands who have arrived in Italy.
Click here (IT), here (IT), and here (EN) for articles.
Malta’s Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici met with Frontex Executive Director Ilkka Laitinen. Mifsud Bonnici said Malta is unwilling to host a new Frontex mission due to its fear that intercepted or rescued migrants would be taken to Malta. During a press conference (click here for article and short video), Laitinen said that Frontex was not willing to give estimates of the numbers of migrants it believes may seek to leave Libya, but said it was preparing plans for seven different scenarios. The plans “could include strengthening air and maritime surveillance, increased capacity to deal with those seeking protection at ports and airports and an improved repatriation mechanism for those who did not meet the criteria for humanitarian protection.” Laitinen reiterated that “push backs and diversions are not an option for people seeking protection.” Laitinen did not address the burden sharing question other than to say that it was a political question that did not involve Frontex.
Click here, here, and here for articles.
The Hungarian Presidency and LIBE have released summaries regarding today’s LIBE Committee meeting. Here are some points from the two summaries:
- Commissioner Malmström emphasized that, so far, migrants had not started coming to Europe from Libya, but the EU had to prepare for this possibility;
- Frontex Director Laitinen made it clear that the region should not be seen as a whole, but as separate countries with separate problems;
- Laitinen underlined that from Tunisia only economic migration could be seen so far, but for the moment, as Tunisian authorities have regained control of the migration flow, this had stopped, as well. Since 26 February, no migrants had arrived to Lampedusa.
- Laitinen also stressed that Italy was not the only entry point for migrants from North-Africa. Greece should not be forgotten in this context. Low-cost flights from North-Africa to Istanbul were operating, bringing many migrants who then were trying to enter the Schengen area through the Greek-Turkish border;
- Laitinen said that the possibility of extending Hermes to address Malta’s needs was being examined. More money and staff might be needed if the current emergency persists;
- MEPs urged Member States to accelerate work on the “asylum package” and stressed the need for solidarity as regards relocating migrants;
- Malmström said that most of the current migration from Tunisia to Lampedusa appears to be for economic reasons;
- Malmström said that “Frontex and Member States may not push away people in need of international protection”;
- MEP Simon Busuttil (EPP, MT) said the three main priorities in Libya are halting violence, sending humanitarian aid and planning for a possible immigration emergency. “What if a mass influx turns into Europe, is there a plan in the drawer to be pull out if this happens?” “Member States show no appetite for relocation.”
Click here and here for the two articles.
Filed under European Union, Frontex, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia, Turkey
Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen is in Malta today for discussions with Maltese officials about the situation in Libya and the possibility of a new migrant flow from Libya. It seems that the discussions concern the expansion of Joint Operation Hermes Extension or the creation of a new joint operation based in Malta. Before leaving Brussels earlier today, Laitinen said that “although the situation is fluid and until now no flows of asylum seekers to Europe has resulted, Frontex was preparing for such an eventuality.”
Click here (EN), here (IT) and here (IT) for articles.
LIBE will reconvene today, 1 March, 09:00-10:30, to discuss “the situation in the central Mediterranean…. They will consider the democratisation process in the region and its impact on migration flows and EU immigration and asylum policy. In attendance: Hungarian Presidency representative, H.E. Peter Györkös, Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs and Ilkka Laitinen, Executive Director of Frontex, the EU border security agency.”
Click here for live coverage.
Du blog de “Défense en ligne” écrit par Philippe Leymarie: “Guerre civile en Libye et options militaries.”
“Alors que le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU réuni vendredi dernier a décidé d’un embargo sur les armes et de sanctions contre le régime Kadhafi, la violence de la répression en Libye a incité les pays européens, qui n’envisagent pas d’intervention militaire pour le moment, à entamer une démonstration de force… navale, qui a pris forme en quelques heures, avec une célérité inhabituelle. Une petite armada converge en direction des côtes libyennes, dans ce qui pourrait, à terme, devenir une véritable opération, mêlant la dissuasion à l’humanitaire. …
“Dans la pratique, le déploiement de cette petite armada pourrait également constituer un cordon de sécurité afin d’éviter une fuite en masse par la mer de Libyens ou d’immigrés africains vers l’Europe – donnant plus de consistance à l’opération de surveillance « Hermès », entamée (sous la pression notamment de l’Italie, en première ligne) par l’agence européenne Frontex….”
Cliquez ici pour l’article complet.
The Malta Independent reported yesterday that Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen will visit Malta shortly “with a view to organising a Frontex mission that would be hosted by Malta but, [Justice and Home Affairs Minister] Dr Mifsud Bonnici stresses, not under the infamous guidelines that are being disputed [before the European Court of Justice] by Malta, Italy and the European Parliament.” Dr Mifsud Bonnici said “I have also made it a precondition that if we are to host this Frontex mission, it would not be under those guidelines and there is an agreement on that.”
Malta’s primary objection to the Frontex Sea Border Rule is likely due to provisions which require that intercepted migrants be taken to the country hosting the Frontex mission under certain circumstances. The relevant provision provides:
“2. Disembarkation- 2.1. The operational plan should spell out the modalities for the disembarkation of the persons intercepted or rescued, in accordance with international law and any applicable bilateral agreements. The operational plan shall not have the effect of imposing obligations on Member States not participating in the operation. Without prejudice to the responsibility of the Rescue Coordination Centre, and unless otherwise specified in the operational plan, priority should be given to disembarkation in the third country from where the ship carrying the persons departed or through the territorial waters or search and rescue region of which that ship transited and if this is not possible, priority should be given to disembarkation in the host Member State unless it is necessary to act otherwise to ensure the safety of these persons.”
Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has previously said that the Sea Border Rule guidelines can be negotiated by member states on a mission by mission basis and that before a mission starts participating member states can agree on different rules of engagement, which might include the sharing of responsibility where not all intercepted migrants would be brought to country hosting the mission.
Click here for Malta Independent article.
Click here for previous post regarding Malmström’s comments.
The assets dedicated to Joint Operation Hermes Extension continue to increase, although at present there are only two coastal patrol boats (Italian) participating in the Frontex mission. Ten surveillance aircraft will soon be deployed. See the table with the list of resources below.
While the naval assets dedicated to JO Hermes Extension are minimal, there is a growing number of EU and NATO naval ships in the Central Mediterranean. Nicolas Gros-Verheyde (writing on the Bruxelles2 blog (FR)) has counted 14 naval ships from EU states that are present in the waters near Libya; the ships consist of destroyers, frigates, electronic surveillance ships, and supply and support ships. Additionally, Turkey has two naval ships in the area.
Some of the naval ships have already been used to evacuate European and other non-Libyan nationals from Libya. What additional activity the EU ships may engage in remains to be seen. They may become involved in military activities (presumably with UN authority (?)) and/or they may play a yet undetermined role should there be a sudden flow of migrants and asylum seekers from Libya. If there is a sudden and significant migratory flow, the naval ships should function in a search and rescue manner, but there is always the possibility that if faced with large numbers of migrants, the navy vessels may be used to interdict, blockade, or otherwise to try to prevent migrants from leaving Libya.
Click here for link to Frontex update regarding deployed assets.
Click here and here for Bruxelles2 postings. (FR)
Table: Resources available to JO Hermes Extension 2011 as of February 25, 2011.
||2 Coastal Patrol Vessel, 1 aircraft, 5 experts, 2 cultural mediators
||10 experts, 1 aircraft
||2 experts, 2 aircrafts
||1 aircraft, 2 experts
||7 experts, 1 aircraft
||4 experts, 1 aircraft (at a later stage)
Filed under Algeria, Data / Stats, European Union, Frontex, General, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia
Frontex posted a situational map showing current and past information regarding migrant flows from Tunisia to Italy. The map is dated 25 Feb. 2011.