Tag Archives: Malta

Boats4People Releases Mapping Platform to Monitor the Maritime Borders of the EU for Violations of Migrants’ Rights

Boats4People announced last week the release of a mapping platform to monitor “in almost real-time reported cases of migrants in distress at sea”. The project is called WatchTheMed and “is a collaboration between the Forensic Oceanography research project at Goldsmiths College and Boats4People, a campaign led by an international coalition of NGOs aiming at bringing an end to the death of migrants at sea and foster solidarity between both sides of the Mediterranean.”

Press Release: 03.07.2012 WatchTheMed

Boats4People Mapping Platform to Monitor the Maritime Borders of the EU for Violations of Migrants’ Rights

While Boats4People’s Oloferne boat is at sea, many other participants are contributing from the land in Italy, Tunisia, across Africa and Europe and even as far as the USA. Amongst them, researchers of the Forensic Oceanography research project at Goldsmiths, University of London, who, in the frame of the B4P campaign, have launched a new online mapping platform to monitor in almost real time the death of migrants and violations of their rights at the Maritime Borders of the EU.

Acting as a “civilian watchtower” over the Mediterranean, WatchTheMed aims to collect all possible sources of information concerning incidents at sea: distress signals send out by Coast Guards, news articles, reports by different partners, testimonies from migrants, satellite imagery. It inscribes these incidents within the complex political ecology of the Mediterranean: overlapping Search and Rescue zones, maritime patrols, radar coverage.

By assembling these multiple sources of information so as to document with the highest possible degree of precision incidents at sea and by spatialising this data, the aim is to develop a new tool to increase accountability in the Mediterranean.

During the three weeks of the B4P journey, the WatchTheMed platform will be regularly updated. Help us monitor the maritime borders of the EU by reporting an incident, maritime patrols or means of surveillance on the website www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com or send us an email at: obs@boats4people.org.

For more information on the Forensic Oceanography project visit:
http://www.forensic-architecture.org/investigations/forensic-oceanography/

WatchTheMed
Una piattaforma per mappare le violazioni dei diritti dei migranti ai confini marittimi dell’ EU.

WatchTheMed è una collaborazione fra Boats4People e il progetto di ricerca Forensic Oceanography del Goldsmiths College.

WatchTheMed vuole essere uno strumento per mettere fine all’impunità per la morte dei migranti in mare e la violazione dei loro diritti ai confini marittimi dell’UE. Per fare questo, monitora e mappa in tempo (quasi) reale casi di migranti in difficoltà in mare, di violazioni dei loro diritti e di decessi. Questi episodi vengono inscritti nell’ambito della complessa ecologia politica del Mediterraneo, con un attenzione particolare al Canale di Sicilia.

Questa mappa è un progetto pilota partito nel luglio 2012. Aiutaci a monitorare i confini marittimi dell’ Unione Europea, visita il sito www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com.

WatchTheMed
Une plateforme pour cartographier les violations des droits des migrants aux frontières maritimes de l’UE

WatchTheMed est une collaboration entre Boats4People et le projet de recherche Forensic Oceanography de l’Université de Goldsmiths, Londres.

WatchTheMed vise à être un outil pour mettre un terme à l’impunité qui entoure les morts des migrants et les violations de leurs droits aux frontières maritimes de l‘ UE. A cette fin, le projet observe et cartographie en temps presque réel les cas rapportés de détresse, de violations du droit et de morts en mer, et inscrit ceux-ci dans la structure complexe de la Méditerranée, en mettant l’accent sur le Canal de Sicile.
Cette carte est un projet pilote lancé en juillet 2012. Aidez nous à observer les frontières maritimes de l’UE, rapportez un incident en visitant le site www.watchthemed.crowdmap.com.

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UNHCR Reports 54 Persons Dead After Migrant Boat Drifts in Mediterranean for 15 Days

The UNHCR reported yesterday that UNHCR staff interviewed the sole survivor of a migrant boat that departed from Tripoli for Italy in late June with 55 people on board.  The survivor was interviewed in Zarzis, Tunisia. “According to the survivor, there was no water on board and people started to die of dehydration within days. Many drank sea water, including the man who survived. He was rescued [off the coast of Tunisia] floating on the remains of the [inflatable] boat and a jerry can. According to the survivor over half of the deceased were from Eritrea, including three of his relatives.”  According to the UNHCR press statement “[s]o far in 2012, over 1,300 people have arrived by boat from Libya in Italy. A boat, reportedly carrying 50 Eritreans and Somalis, is currently at sea. They refused to be rescued by Maltese military forces [on 9 July].  Over 1,000 people on 14 boats have arrived in Malta from Libya so far this year. Two other boats were intercepted by Maltese authorities, but the majority elected not to be rescued and continued to Italy.  UNHCR Italy estimates that so far this year some 170 people have been declared dead or lost at sea attempting to make the journey from Libya to Europe.”

Click here for UNHCR press statement.

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Moderately Large Numbers of Migrants Reaching Malta and Italy

Hundreds of migrants have been arriving in Malta and Italy over the past month.  According to Maltese officials 712 persons have arrived in Malta over the past five weeks.  A total of 832 people have arrived since the beginning of the year.  Hundreds of migrants have also reached Italian territory, landing on Sicily or elsewhere.  Good weather has facilitated the voyages.

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

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PACE Migration Committee Report: Lessons Learned and Recommendations for States

The PACE Migration Committee report, “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”, released yesterday, is a must read for anyone concerned with this topic.  In addition to documenting the events of March-April 2011 and the resulting deaths of 63 persons, the report makes a series of recommendations as to how search and rescue should be carried out in the future:

“13. While the [rapporteur’s] investigation focused on a single incident, the lessons learnt have implications for the way in which search and rescue should be carried out in the future. As a consequence, the [Parliamentary] Assembly recommends that member States:

13.1. fill the vacuum of responsibility for an SAR zone left by a State which cannot or does not exercise its responsibility for search and rescue, such as was the case for Libya. This may require amending the International Maritime Search and Rescue Convention (SAR Convention). In the case in question, two Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (Rome and Malta) were aware that a boat was in distress, but neither took the responsibility to start a search and rescue operation. Rome, being the first MRCC informed of the distress situation, had a greater responsibility to ensure the boat’s rescue;

13.2. ensure that there are clear and simple guidelines, which are then followed, on what amounts to a distress signal, so as to avoid any confusion over the obligation to launch a search and rescue operation for a boat in distress;

13.3. avoid differing interpretations of what constitutes a vessel in distress, in particular as concerns overloaded, unseaworthy boats, even if under propulsion, and render appropriate assistance to such vessels. Whenever safety requires that a vessel be assisted, this should lead to rescue actions;

13.4. tackle the reasons why commercial vessels fail to go to the rescue of boats in distress. This will require dealing with:

13.4.1. the economic consequences for the rescuing vessel and its owners, and the issue of compensation;

13.4.2. the disagreement between Malta and Italy as to whether disembarkation should be to the nearest safe port or to a port within the country of the SAR zone. The International Maritime Organization should be urged to find a solution to the matter and step up its efforts towards a harmonised interpretation and application of international maritime law;

13.4.3. the fear of criminalisation (trafficking or aiding and abetting irregular migration) by those who go to the rescue of boats carrying irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees;

13.4.4. legislation to criminalise private shipmasters who fail to comply with their duty under the law of the sea, as is already the case in certain Council of Europe member States;

13.5. ensure that, in accordance with the Hirsi v. Italy judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, after the rescue operation, people are not pushed back to a country where they risk being treated in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights;

13.6. tackle the issue of responsibility sharing, particularly in the context of rescue services, disembarkation, administration of asylum requests, setting up reception facilities and relocation and resettlement, with a view to developing a binding European Union protocol for the Mediterranean region. The heavy burden placed on frontline States leads to a problem of saturation and a reluctance to take responsibility;

13.7. respect the families’ right to know the fate of those who lose their lives at sea by improving identity data collection and sharing. This could include the setting up of a DNA file of the remains of those retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea. In this context, the ongoing work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other organisations should be acknowledged and supported;

13.8. follow up Assembly Resolution 1821 (2011) on the interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants;

13.9. ensure that the lack of communication and understanding between the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and NATO, which led to no one taking responsibility for the boat, is not reproduced in future NATO operations, and ensure that NATO introduces a mechanism to co-ordinate its assets in SAR operations in direct contact with relevant Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres wherever possible.”

Click on the following links for:

PACE Press Statement

Full report – provisional version (PDF)

Last letter from NATO (PDF)

Graphic: map showing reconstruction of the voyage and other annexes (PDF)

“Boat people” web file

Video recording of press conference 

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PACE Migration Committee Approves Report on “Lives Lost in the Mediterranean” and Calls on NATO and Responsible States to Conduct Full Inquiries into the Failures to Rescue

The report, “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”, was adopted this morning by the PACE Committee on Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.  It will next be debated in a plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly, probably on 24 April.

Here is the full text of the PACE press statement and links to the provisional version of the report:

“Strasbourg, 29.03.2012 – A failure to react to distress calls and a ‘vacuum of responsibility’ for search and rescue are among a ‘catalogue of failures’ which led to the deaths of 63 people fleeing the conflict in Libya by sea during a tragic 15-day voyage in March 2011, according to a committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

A report by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), adopted this morning in Brussels by PACE’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, says Italian search and rescue authorities, NATO, the flag states of naval vessels in the area, the Libyan authorities and reckless smugglers are among those who share responsibility.

The boat, which left Tripoli with 72 people on board a week after the beginning of international air strikes on Libya, washed up on the Libyan coast 15 days later with only nine people still alive – even though distress messages giving its last known position were regularly broadcast to all ships in the area.

NATO ‘failed to react to distress calls’ in a military zone under its control, the committee says, pointing out that the Spanish Navy frigate Méndez Núñez, under NATO command, was reported to be only 11 miles away, although the Spanish authorities dispute the distance. An Italian military vessel, the Borsini, was 37 nautical miles away. Both vessels can carry a helicopter.

The committee says it finds ‘credible’ the testimonies of the nine survivors of the incident, who said that a military helicopter dropped water and biscuits to them and indicated it would return, but never did. On the tenth day of the voyage – with half the passengers dead – they said ‘a large military vessel’ approached, close enough for them to see crew with binoculars, but sailed away without effecting a rescue.

‘Many opportunities of saving the lives of the persons on board were lost,’ the committee concludes. It demands that NATO conduct an inquiry into the incident and provide comprehensive answers to outstanding questions, and calls on the European Parliament to seek further information, including satellite imagery. National parliaments of the states concerned should also carry out inquiries. There should also be an overhaul of maritime regulations to fill the ‘vacuum of responsibility’ when a state cannot carry out search and rescue in its assigned zone, and to deal with the dispute between Italy and Malta over which country should be responsible for disembarkation of those rescued at sea.

The report is due to be debated at the April plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly, probably on Tuesday 24 April.

Full report – provisional version (PDF)

Last letter from NATO (PDF)

Graphic: map showing reconstruction of the voyage and other annexes (PDF)

“Boat people” web file

Video recording of press conference

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The Guardian’s Advance Coverage of PACE Report – “Lives Lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is Responsible?”

The Guardian has reviewed a copy of the report prepared by Ms. Tinke Strik which will be presented to the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons on Thursday, 29 March.  The Guardian describes the report as “a damning official report” that documents “[a] catalogue of failures by Nato warships and European coastguards [which] led to the deaths of dozens of migrants left adrift at sea [ ].”

Click on the following links for the Guardian’s articles:

Migrants left to die after catalogue of failures, says report into boat tragedy

How a migrant boat was left adrift on the Mediterranean

Drastic action needed to prevent more migrants dying in boat tragedies

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Human Rights Organisations Renew Call for NATO and Governments to Release Information Regarding Migrant Deaths in Mediterranean Sea

Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and 9 other human rights groups on 26 March sent letters to NATO and the defence ministers of France, Italy, Spain, Canada, the UK, and the US calling for the release of information to clarify events surrounding the deaths of 63 migrants who died approximately one year ago after their disabled boat drifted for days within an area that was heavily patrolled by NATO warships.  The renewed call for release of information is being made in connection with the scheduled release on 29 March of the PACE Migration Committee Report, “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”  Representatives of HRW and FIDH will participate in a press conference on 29 March, 2 p.m. CET, with Ms. Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), when Ms. Strik releases the report.

Click on the following links for copies of the letters sent to: NATO, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States. (EN)

Click here for the 26 March PACE press release and information regarding 29 March press conference.

Click here for the 26 March HRW press release.

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PACE Report on “Lives Lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is Responsible?” Scheduled for Release on 29 March

The draft report prepared by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), “Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?”, will be considered on 29 March in a closed session by the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

If the draft report receives committee approval it will be released to the public by Ms. Strik at a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m. CET.  Representatives from HRW and FIDH will participate in the press conference.  (Click here for HRW press release.) The report will be next be considered during “plenary debate by the 318-member Parliamentary Assembly, probably on Tuesday 24 April during its spring session in Strasbourg.”

Full text of PACE press release:  “Strasbourg, 26.03.2012 – Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on ‘Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?’ will present her draft report at a press conference in Brussels on Thursday 29th March 2012.

The report is the result of a nine-month inquiry, launched at the request of 34 Assembly members, following a March 2011 incident in which it is alleged that 63 people attempting to flee the conflict in Libya died at sea after their appeals for rescue were ignored, including by armed forces operating in the area.

Ahead of her presentation, Ms Strik commented: ‘Since the beginning of 2011 at least 1,500 people are known to have perished in the Mediterranean trying to reach European soil – despite this being one of the busiest and best-monitored seas in the world. My inquiry has focused on one particularly tragic incident, in which 63 people died, to try to establish who bears responsibility for their deaths. I have been deeply shocked by what I have learned.’

As part of her inquiry, Tineke Strik spoke at length with survivors, search and rescue authorities from Italy and Malta, as well as NATO and EU officials, and put detailed written questions to a number of governments, including those with vessels with aircraft-carrying facilities in the area at the time. She also obtained a reconstruction of the voyage using the science of forensic oceanography.

The same day, prior to the press conference, Ms Strik will present her report to PACE’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, meeting in closed session. If approved by the committee, the report will go forward for plenary debate by the 318-member Parliamentary Assembly, probably on Tuesday 24 April during its spring session in Strasbourg.

* * *

Notes for editors

Press conference

The press conference will take place at 2 p.m. on Thursday 29th March at the Council of Europe office in Brussels (Avenue des Nerviens 85 / Nerviërslaan 85, B-1040 Brussels). The rapporteur will be joined by representatives of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch. A video recording of the press conference will be made available at the link above, and on the PACE website, as soon as possible after it ends.

Copies of the report

If approved by the committee, the full text of the report will be posted on the Assembly’s website at around 2 p.m. Central European Time.

Contacts

Angus Macdonald, PACE Communication Division, mobile +33 (0)6 30 49 68 20.
Andrew Cutting, Council of Europe Office in Brussels, mobile +32 (0)485 21 72 02.

Motion: the request for an inquiry

PACE President’s statement, May 2011

Web file and timeline: Europe’s boat people

Video recording of press conference (when available)

Click here for PACE Press Release of 26 March.

Click here for Committee meeting agenda.

Click here for HRW Press Release of 26 March.

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UNHCR: “Mediterranean takes record as most deadly stretch of water for refugees and migrants in 2011”

Full Text of UNHCR Briefing Note, 31 January:

“This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Sybella Wilkes – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 31 January 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

According to UNHCR estimates, more than 1,500 people drowned or went missing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2011. This makes 2011 the deadliest year for this region since UNHCR started to record these statistics in 2006. The previous high was in 2007 when 630 people were reported dead or missing.

Last year is also a record in terms of the massive number of arrivals in Europe via the Mediterranean, with more than 58,000 people arriving. The previous high was in 2008 when 54,000 people reached Greece, Italy and Malta. During 2009 and 2010, border control measures sharply reduced arrivals in Europe. The frequency of boat arrivals increased in early 2011 as the regimes in Tunisia and Libya collapsed.

Our teams in Greece, Italy, Libya and Malta, warn that the actual number of deaths at sea may be even higher. Our estimates are based on interviews with people who reached Europe on boats, telephone calls and e-mails from relatives, as well as reports from Libya and Tunisia from survivors whose boats either sank or were in distress in the early stages of the journey.

Survivors told UNHCR staff harrowing stories of being forced onboard by armed guards, particularly during April and May in Libya. The actual journey took place on unseaworthy vessels with refugee and migrant passengers often forced into having to skipper boats themselves. In addition, some survivors told UNHCR that fellow passengers beat and tortured them. Judicial investigations are ongoing in Italy following these reports.

The majority of last year’s arrivals by sea landed in Italy (56,000, of whom 28,000 were Tunisian) while Malta and Greece received 1,574 and 1,030 respectively. The vast majority arrived in the first half of the year. Most were migrants, not asylum-seekers. Only three boats landed from mid-August to the end of the year. In addition, according to Greek government figures, some 55,000 irregular migrants crossed the Greek-Turkish land border at Evros.

We are disturbed that since the beginning of 2012, despite high seas and poor weather conditions, three boats have attempted this perilous journey from Libya, with one going missing at sea. This boat, carrying at least 55 people raised the alarm on 14 January, warning of engine failure. Libyan coast guards informed UNHCR that 15 dead bodies, all identified as Somali, were found washed up on the beaches last week, including 12 women, two men and a baby girl. On Sunday, three more bodies were recovered. It was confirmed later that all those that perished were Somali residents of the makeshift site in Tripoli known as the Railway Project.

The other two boats that made it to Malta and Italy in January required rescuing. The first rescue of 72 Somali nationals by the Italian coast guard took place on 13 January. Those rescued included a pregnant woman and 29 children.

The second boat was rescued by the Maltese Armed Forces on 15 January with the support of the US Navy and a commercial vessel. In total 68 people were rescued from a dinghy found drifting some 56 nautical miles from Malta. A baby girl was born on one of the rescue vessels. Another woman reported a miscarriage during the voyage.

UNHCR welcomes the ongoing efforts of the Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities to rescue boats in distress in the Mediterranean. We renew our call to all shipmasters in the Mediterranean, one of the busiest stretches of water in the world, to remain vigilant and to carry out their duty of rescuing vessels in distress.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Rome: Laura Boldrini on mobile +39 33 55 403 194

In Valetta: Fabrizio Ellul on mobile +356 99 69 0081

In Geneva: Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38”

Click here for link to statement.

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Rescued Somali Asylum Seekers in Malta Describe Dangerous Conditions in Libya

The first group of rescued migrants for 2012 arrived in Malta on 15 January after being rescued by an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat and an Italian cargo ship.  The 68 rescued migrants are Somali asylum seekers and had left Libya four days earlier.  Another boat carrying 72 migrants was rescued by the Italian coastguard on the 13th.  This boat is also believed to have departed from Libya.  UNHCR officials have interviewed the asylum seekers in Malta: “The new arrivals confirmed to UNHCR that the situation in Libya is still not stable and that it is particularly precarious for Sub-Saharan nationals. One Somali woman told UNHCR that they were afraid to go outside the house. Some even described the situation in parts of Libya as being similar to the lawlessness of Somalia. They explained that smugglers provided them with the only possible way out at this point.”  The Times of Malta reported that two of the asylum seekers said “they paid armed Libyan militiamen $400 each to facilitate their crossing of the Mediterranean.”

Click here, here, and here for articles.

Click here (IT) for article.

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Statewatch Analysis: The Arab Spring and the death toll in the Mediterranean: the true face of Fortress Europe

Statewatch released an Analysis by Marie Martin entitled “The Arab Spring and the death toll in the Mediterranean: the true face of Fortress Europe.”

Excerpt: “Throughout the uprisings in North Africa, the EU has maintained a discourse of double standards: supporting calls for freedom and democracy but greeting resulting population displacement with hostility. This has contributed to a record number of people dying at Europe’s borders during the first seven months of 2011. It is all about numbers when it comes to migration; about how large a flow came in, how many people asked for protection and how many applicants were “failed” or “rejected.” Numbers quantify the “threat” (e.g. the “invasion” of irregular migrants) and serve as a bargaining tool with third countries (allowing the acceptance of the externalisation of border controls in exchange for facilitating the mobility of a specific number of nationals). Numbers demonstrate whether the target of “x” thousands of annual deportations of irregular migrants is met. Numbers released by public authorities are meant to justify the need for migration policies and to show how efficiently they are implemented. Yet hidden numbers question the legitimacy of these policies – the death toll of people dying at Europe’s borders is such an example. For several years, Gabriele del Grande has monitored the situation at the EU’s external borders and kept a record of the number of deaths occurring in the context of irregular bordercrossings [2] on the Fortress Europe website. According to the website’s latest update, the EU’s borders have never been so “murderous” [3]: there were 1,931 deaths during the first seven months of 2011. [4] In 2008, a petition was brought before the European Parliament by the ProAsyl organisation, denouncing the  deathtrap at the EU’s borders” [5]: it was a particularly “murderous” year, with 1,500 deaths. It is terrifying to realise that this toll was exceeded in the first seven months of 2011. …”

Click here for Analysis.

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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….

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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.

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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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Malmström: Europe Failed Refugees in 2011

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström wrote an opinion article in The Times of Malta of 19 January:  “Refugees: How Europe failed- European promises of solidarity with people in need were tested in 2011. It is worrying to note that Europe, collectively, did not pass the test. Now, all member states of the European Union must take responsibility and make sure that 2012 will be a better year for asylum matters. … In the first half of 2011, over 75 per cent of all asylum applications were made in only six EU member states. That leaves a long row of European countries that can and must do more. And as over 700,000 people were forced to flee the violence in Libya, many ended up in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Of the 8,000 people identified by the UN as being in particular need of help, all EU member states only managed to promise to receive 400. Norway, a non EU-country, accepted nearly as many by itself.  Meanwhile, more than 50,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in rickety vessels to the EU. Far too many died trying. Others arrived at the Italian island of Lampedusa and Malta and, at a pledging conference last spring, European countries had the chance to show their solidarity. The result? A mere 300 refugees being relocated from Malta to other member states. …”

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PACE Rapporteur Completes Malta Trip

Ms Tineke Strik, the PACE Migration Committee rapporteur heading up the investigation into the deaths of boat people in the Mediterranean, completed a two day fact-finding visit to Malta.  From the Times of Malta reporting:  Ms Strik said that the “visit to Malta was important for my inquiry into who is responsible for lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea, and enabled me to piece together another part of the puzzle in the case of the ‘left-to-die boat’. … Nonetheless, the puzzle remains incomplete. Gaps remain and important questions still need to be answered. As time is precious in this kind of inquiry, I very much count on national authorities, NATO and the EU to provide me swiftly with the information I have requested.  … [T]he on-going dispute between Italy and Malta on their respective responsibility with regard to the disembarkation of boat people rescued at sea remains a cause of serious concern.”

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PACE Rapporteur in Malta

Ms Tineke Strik, the PACE Migration Committee’s rapporteur who is heading up the investigation into the deaths of boat people in the Mediterranean, is in Malta today and tomorrow in connection with the ongoing inquiry.  PACE Press Statement:  Ms. Strik “will make a fact-finding visit to Malta from 15 to 16 December 2011.  During her visit, the rapporteur will meet refugees who arrived from Libya after January 2011 to gather testimony on their experiences, and will meet officials from the Maltese armed forces who are involved in organising rescues. She will also meet representatives of NGOs and European and UN officials dealing with refugee matters on the island, and the Maltese delegation to PACE. … Her report is expected in the spring of 2012.”

Click here for press statement.
 

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