Tag Archives: Joint Operation Nautilus

Moreno-Lax, Int J Refugee Law, “Seeking Asylum in the Mediterranean: Against a Fragmentary Reading of EU Member States’ Obligations Accruing at Sea”

The latest edition of the International Journal of Refugee Law, contains an article by Violeta Moreno-Lax (PhD Candidate at Université catholique de Louvain; Visiting Fellow 2010-11 at Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford) entitled “Seeking Asylum in the Mediterranean: Against a Fragmentary Reading of EU Member States’ Obligations Accruing at Sea.”

Abstract: “Although both international and EU law impose a number of obligations on the EU Member States with regard to persons in distress at sea, their effective implementation is limited by the manner in which they are being interpreted. The fact that the persons concerned are migrants, who may seek asylum upon rescue, has given rise to frequent disputes and to episodes of non-compliance. Frontex missions and the Italian 2009 push-back campaign illustrate the issue. With the objective of clarifying the scope of common obligations and to establish minimum operational arrangements for joint maritime operations, the EU has adopted a set of common guidelines for the surveillance of the external maritime borders. On the basis of the principle of systemic interpretation, this article intends to contribute to the clarification of the main obligations in international and European law binding upon the EU Member States when they operate at sea.”

This is a revised and updated version of the paper presented at the 12th IASFM Conference held in Nicosia, 28 June-2 July 2009.  [The article was written and sent for typesetting before the various uprisings in North Africa – IJRL Editor, 4 March 2011]

Click here for link.  (Subscription or payment required.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis, Eastern Atlantic, European Court of Human Rights, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Senegal, Spain

Frontex Begins Consultations for Emergency Joint Operation –2010 Frontex Sea Border Rule Should Govern Joint Operation

The European Voice reports that Frontex began consultations yesterday with member states to identify what equipment and personnel they will commit to a planned joint operation with Italy to deter migrants seeking to leave North Africa. “Naval vessels, surveillance aircraft and enhanced radar tracking are likely to be deployed….”

Assuming an emergency joint operation is deployed in the coming days, it may to some extent simply be a revival of Frontex’s Joint Operation Nautilus (slated to be renamed Operation Chronos).  Less than two weeks ago, on 4 February Malta for the second year running announced that it would not host or participate in Operation Nautilus this year due to the success of Italy’s push-back agreement with Libya which eliminated the movement of migrants in the Central Mediterranean.

Malta, however, also likely refused to host the Frontex mission due to the 2010 guidelines governing Frontex enforcement operations at sea which require that intercepted migrants be taken to the country hosting the Frontex mission under certain circumstances.  The validity of the Frontex sea border rule is currently under review by the European Court of Justice.  The legal challenge to the rule was brought by the European Parliament.  Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil initiated the challenge within the LIBE Committee.  It will be interesting to see what role Malta will be willing to play in any new emergency joint operation.  Even though the Frontex sea border rule is under review by the ECJ, the referral clearly requested the ECJ “to preserve the effects of the measure until a new legislative act has been adopted.”  The rule therefore remains in effect.

Click here for EV article.

Click here for the Council decision on the surveillance of  sea external borders (the Sea Border Rule).

Click here, here, here, here, and here for previous posts on the sea border rule and the ECJ challenge.

1 Comment

Filed under Egypt, European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia

Malta Again Declines to Participate in Frontex Central Mediterranean Joint Operation

The Times of Malta reported on Friday that Malta has for the second consecutive year informed Frontex that it will not host or participate in joint sea patrols in the Central Mediterranean, saying that there is no need for the patrols given the drastic reduction in the number of boat people attributable to Italy’s push-back practice with Libya which has been in effect since 2009.  Only 47 migrants reached Malta in 2010 compared with 2,775 in 2008.  Frontex’s Central Mediterranean joint operation, referred to as Operation Nautilus (renamed Operation Chronos last year), has in past years operated during the summer sailing months when sea conditions are most favourable for small boats.

Last year Malta initially said that it would not host the joint operation due to the then recently approved guidelines governing Frontex enforcement operations at sea which required that intercepted migrants be taken to the country hosting the mission under certain circumstances.  A Maltese government spokesperson later said that the decision not to host the operation was not due to the new guidelines, but was due to Malta’s view that there was no longer a need for the operation because of the success of the Italy-Libya migration agreement. “The reason why we decided not to take part in [the 2010] mission is that we feel there is no need for this year’s EU patrol.  We have noticed that, following the introduction of joint patrols by Libya and Italy last year, the number of illegal immigrants reaching Malta has dropped significantly. We feel that, as long as this operation remains in place, there is no real need for another anti-migration mission on behalf of the EU.”

Click here for article.

See my previous posts:

Italy and Malta question need for Frontex sea patrols (9 July 2010)

Malta says Frontex Chronos Mission not needed due to success of Italy-Libya push-back agreement (29 April 2010)


Filed under Data / Stats, European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News

Details from Frontex General Report 2009 (Post 2 of 2)

Last week I posted a summary of the first part of Frontex’s 2009 General Report.  This second post summarizes the portion of the Report pertaining to Frontex’s sea operations.

The General Report 2009 provides selective information regarding the six major Joint Operations conducted at the sea borders.  With only one exception, no information or data is provided regarding the specific numbers of intercepted migrants or vessels.

Instead of numbers, the Report provides various descriptive terms which could mean almost anything.  For example, Operation Hera led to a “drastic decrease of migrants,” during Operation Nautilus there was a “remarkable decrease” in migrants, and during Operation Hermes, the numbers of migrants arriving and dying at sea “decreased dramatically.” The one exception is for Operation Indalo where the Report states that 750 irregular migrants and 10 facilitators were detected.

When desired, the Report provides details and numbers.  For example, Operation Poseidon utilized 4 open sea vessels, 6 coastal patrol vessels, 13 coastal patrol boats, six airplanes, 4 helicopters, and 152 experts who delivered 2680 man days of operational activities, but no data regarding the total number of irregular migrants intercepted at sea is provided.

Here is a summary of the information provided in the Report for each of the six major Joint Operations:

Poseidon 2009, Eastern Mediterranean (365 Days)

Poseidon was conducted along land borders as well as at sea.  Interpreters were deployed on board ships to facilitate the identification process of intercepted migrants.  Less than 10% of the interviewed migrants claimed their original nationality.  There was an overall reduction in migrant flow of 16% (land and sea) compared to 2008.  “The main operational objectives of the joint operation were achieved but there is a clear need for closer cooperation between local authorities.”

Hera 2009, Atlantic Ocean waters between North Western African countries and Canary Islands (365 Days)

Due to the permanent implementation of Joint Operation Hera and better cooperation from “involved African countries”, there was a notable reduction in migrants reaching the Canary Islands, 2280 in 2009 compared with 9200 in 2008.  Aerial and maritime surveillance conducted close to the territory of Senegal and Mauritania and local cooperation from police led to the decrease in migrants.  “Despite these clear successes, participation of more member States would greatly increase effectiveness and outcomes.”  [NF- While the Report does provide migrant arrival data for the Canary Islands, it is silent on the number of migrants intercepted at sea or within Senegal or Mauritania.]

Nautilus 2009, Central Mediterranean (172 Days)

There was a remarkable decrease in migrant arrivals in Malta.  A “significant obstacle to the effectiveness of the Joint Operation lay in the contrasting interpretations of the International Law of the Sea by Member States….”  The effectiveness of the operation compared with 2008 was not improved.

Hermes 2009, Central Mediterranean (184 Days)

“Due to the bilateral agreement between Italy and Libya, the number of people arriving from Libya, as well as the number of migrants died at sea, decreased dramatically….”  “In addition, the first examples of co-operation with Algeria should also be considered as promising.”  As with Nautilus, “differing interpretations of the International Law of the Sea led to a limited contribution by the Member States to the joint operation by maritime surface means.”  The effectiveness of the operation compared with 2008 can be considered as increased.

Minerva 2009, Western Mediterranean (39 Days)

The launch of the operation was delayed in 2009.  Its effectiveness compared with 2008 has remained the same.

Indalo 2009, Western Mediterranean (50 Days)

The lack of cooperation from Algeria is an obstacle for operational activities.  10 Facilitators and 750 irregular migrants were identified.

And as I noted in my earlier post, Frontex continued to devote the biggest single portion of its expenditures to maritime enforcement.  Almost 40% of Frontex’s total budget, over € 34 million, was spent on sea operations in 2009, constituting 55% of the operational budget.

This chart from the Report (p 23) shows the breakdown of expenditures within the 2009 Operational Budget (which was 71% of the total 2009 Frontex budget).

Click here for previous post.

Click here for the Frontex General Report 2009.


Filed under Aegean Sea, Algeria, Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Reports, Senegal, Spain