Tag Archives: Maritime Interdiction

HRC Adopts Resolution on Migrants and Asylum Seekers Fleeing North Africa; Calls for Inquiry Into Allegations of Failures to Rescue Boats in Distress

The UN Human Rights Council, 17th Session, on Friday, 17 June, adopted a resolution (A/HRC/17/L.13) on Migrants and Asylum Seekers Fleeing from Events in North Africa.  The Resolution recalls states’ obligations under human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, including the obligation of non-refoulement and called for ships patrolling the Mediterranean Sea to provide assistance to non-seaworthy boats leaving North Africa.

The Resolution also calls for “a comprehensive inquiry into the very troubling allegations that sinking vessels carrying migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the events in North Africa were abandoned to their fate despite the alleged ability of European ships in the vicinity to rescue them, and welcomes the call made by the Council of Europe in this regard on 9 May 2011.”  [NB – this quoted text is taken from a 15 June version of the Resolution and may not reflect the final approved language. frenzen]

The Resolution was adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 14 against, and no abstentions:

In favour (32): Angola; Argentina; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brazil; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Cuba; Djibouti; Ecuador; Gabon; Ghana; Guatemala; Jordan; Kyrgyzstan; Malaysia; Maldives; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Nigeria; Pakistan; Qatar; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Thailand; Uganda; Uruguay and Zambia.

Against (14): Belgium; France; Hungary; Japan; Norway; Poland; Republic of Korea; Republic of Moldova; Slovakia; Spain; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom and United States.

Excerpts from the Afternoon 17 June summary of the HRC meeting:

“OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), introducing draft resolution L.13, said the African Group recognized that due to the recent crisis situation in North Africa, migrants had suffered great hardship. Migrants were fleeing, not flowing out of North Africa. People were running away because their lives were at risk. Other root causes for migration did not apply in this case.  This resolution had been difficult to establish. Nigeria thanked all partners for their efforts in developing the draft resolution. The information emanating from North Africa was such that while neighboring countries did quite a lot in accommodating migrants, there were substantial difficulties in traveling from North Africa. Some people had even died at sea. Nigeria took note that some countries did provide assistance through their offices of migration or other mechanisms. The hardship suffered by migrants should be investigated in order to clarify the problems that arose and ensure this situation was not repeated. Nigeria believed that the Special Rapporteur, working with the High Commissioner, would be able to provide information about how to deal with such a situation in the future. The African Group would appreciate if the draft resolution would be approved by consensus.

[***]

ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that the European Union had assisted greatly with the humanitarian effort in Libya. From the outset the European Union had been at the forefront of humanitarian response. The European Union had been active in repatriating third country nationals.  This had been vital in reducing the stress on neighboring countries. The draft text was circulated late. The European Union had engaged in a constructive spirit on the text, while retaining a specific focus that would address the issue at stake in a more balanced and legally accurate manner, notably when referring to issues related to refugee law and law of the sea. It noted that this was particularly true with regard to PP7 and operative paragraphs, which introduced new language that was not consistent with public international law. The resolution did not capture the multi-dimensional aspects of the problem. There was no reference to the overall human rights situation in the region, and therefore the root causes of the plight of migrants.  The resolution did not refer to the responsibility of criminal traffickers and continued to characterize the situation in an unbalanced way. The European Union and its Member States had continued to observe the principle of non-refoulement. Not a single refugee had been subjected to refoulement. The European Union called for a vote and noted that it would vote against the resolution.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L. 13, said the United States shared concern for the migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the violence in Libya. A resolution requiring countries to recognize their obligations under international law and support victims of violence and migrants from Libya was important.  However, this resolution assigned the sole responsibility to countries of destination and avoided reference to the root causes of the problem. The draft resolution used language that misconstrued State obligations and responsibilities regarding those migrants and asylum seekers. The sponsors had delayed introduction of the draft resolution, thus allowing only a restricted period to review and provide comments on the draft resolution. The United States regretted that the manner the resolution was developed belied its importance and sent the wrong message to the Gaddafi forces.”

Click here for UN News Centre summary.

Click here for the AFTERNOON 17 June 2011 summary of the HRC meeting.

Click here or on this link [ L.13 Document As Received ] for Resolution “document as received.”

Click here for Resolution “document as issued.” [NB – this may not be the final approved version.]

Click here  or on this link [ L.13 Oral Revision ] for Resolution “oral revision.”

Click herehere or here for final versions of resolutions when available.  [HRC Extranet registration may be required.]

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Filed under Hungary, Libya, Mediterranean, News, OHCHR, Statements, United Nations, United States

Italian Minister Proposes that NATO Ships Block Migrant Boats from Departing Libya

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni is calling for the NATO maritime blockade of Libya to be expanded to block the departure of migrant boats attempting to flee Libya.  Maroni said “I think you can intervene immediately by asking the NATO vessels already along the Libyan coast … to also be used to block people from leaving … This can be done right away if NATO agrees. It would be a solution to the problem.”

Click here and here for articles.

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UNHCR Denies Any Involvement with Italy-Libyan National Transitional Council Migrant Agreement

UNHCR spokesperson Laura Boldrini has said that the UNHCR was surprised at Foreign Minister Frattini’s claim that UNHCR was somehow involved in any new migration agreement between Italy and the Libyan National Transitional Council.  According to TM News Boldrini said  “there is no involvement of any kind relating to these operations and [UNHCR] reiterates its opposition to any action of expulsion at sea of ​​migrants heading for the Italian coast.”

Click here (IT) for article.

[UPDATE:   Click here and here for articles where Frattini clarifies he did not intend to suggest that UNHCR would be involved in the new agreement.   The agreement in question is being referred to as a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in the Fight Against Illegal Immigration, Terrorism, Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking.  (Un Memorandum d’ Intesa per la collaborazione nella lotta all’ immigrazione clandestina, al terrorismo, alla criminalità organizzata ed al traffico di stupefacenti.)

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Frattini Says Migrant Repatriation Agreement to be Signed Tomorrow with Libyan National Transitional Council

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said earlier today that an agreement would be signed tomorrow between the Italian government and the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC).  While no specific details of the agreement are being reported yet, the agreement will supposedly commit the NTC to taking steps to prevent the departure of migrants and also includes a repatriation agreement.  Frattini also said that the UNHCR will be a party to the agreement.  Frattini is quoted as saying that “unlike what happened with Gaddafi this agreement sees the UNHCR fully involved.”

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

[Update: UNHCR has expressed suprise at Frattini’s statement and said that it has no invovlement with this new agreement.]

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Frattini Says He Expects Libyan Rebels Will Soon Take Steps to Stop Migrant Departures

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said during a TV interview earlier today that “the [Libyan] rebels have said they will keep the international commitments of the Libyan state” relating to illegal immigration (”I ribelli hanno detto che manterranno gli impegni internazionali dello stato libico…”) and that he expects an “important political signal [from the rebels] in the coming days.”  (“Mi aspetto da parte loro un segnale politico importante gia’ nei prossimi giorni”.)

Libyan rebel leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, has previously said that a post-Gaddafi Libyan Government would respect “all agreements with Italy by the [Gaddafi] regime, including those involving combating illegal migration and oil contracts with Eni.” Specifically, Jalil has said that the rebels would “respect the Italian-Libyan Treaty signed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. … Any treaty or agreement [which was done] we respect it” and “we will try to implement the treaties.”

Click here, here, or here for article. (IT)

Click here for previous post on Jalil’s statement.

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1500+ Migrants Land in Lampedusa / NATO Helicopters Report Migrant Boat Sightings to Maltese SAR Authorities

Seven migrant boats from Libya carrying over 1500 migrants arrived in Lampedusa over a 12 hour period Friday night to Saturday.  The large number of arrivals follows an 11 day period when there where no arrivals on Lampedusa.  Improved sea conditions are again believed to be the main explanation for the timing of arrivals.

According to Maltese news reports, NATO Headquarters in Naples informed Maltese SAR authorities that a helicopter operating from a NATO vessel had sighted several of the migrant boats sailing north from Libya and search operations for the migrants boats were begun as a result.

It would be helpful if NATO’s press office would include information on NATO’s search and rescue activities and sightings of migrant boats in its daily Unified Protector Operational Media Update.  The Update already includes a daily tally of NATO air operations (sorties and strike sorties), hits, maritime arms embargo activities (hailings, boardings, interdictions), and humanitarian assistance movements.

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

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Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News

Icelandic Coast Guard Rescues Disabled Migrant Boat Near Crete

An Icelandic patrol boat participating in Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon in the eastern Mediterranean rescued approximately 93 migrants from a disable vessel near Crete.  One media report indicated the passengers may be Egyptian.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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Filed under Egypt, Frontex, Greece, Iceland, Mediterranean, News

CoE HR Commissioner: Europe should increase air surveillance to spot and rescue migrant boats

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg issued a new Comment, “African migrants are drowning in the Mediterranean,” in which he voices the concern that “preventing migrants from coming [to Europe] has become more important than saving lives” and calls for a dramatic increase in “surveillance – from the air – along the Libyan coast and further out in order to spot any fragile [migrant] vessels at sea and safely prepare a rescue.”

Excerpts:

“The drowning tragedies in the Mediterranean are not a new phenomenon; … [European deterrent measures] ha[ve] not prevented people from trying to reach Europe, but it has made the journey more dangerous and given the smugglers a reason to increase their prices. The boats have become more and more overcrowded and more of them have capsized.  Smugglers have a responsibility; they take on board much too many migrants in much too unsuitable boats – and thereby put lives at risk. …

Europe has a role in this. The imperative principle of ‘rescue at sea’ must not only be respected for those close to a sinking ship; there is also a need to increase dramatically surveillance – from the air – along the Libyan coast and further out in order to spot any fragile vessels at sea and safely prepare a rescue.  In view of the ongoing military operations it would be difficult to argue that there are no resources for such reconnaissance activity. Indeed, the escalation of the armed conflict has contributed to the acute situation of the sub-Saharan migrants.

European governments and institutions have more responsibility for this crisis than they have demonstrated so far. Their silence and passivity are difficult to accept. When preventing migrants from coming has become more important than saving lives, something has gone dramatically wrong.”

Click here (EN) or here (FR) for full statement.

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Filed under Council of Europe, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, Statements, Tunisia

Interview with Frontex Spokesperson Michal Parzyszek

Frontex spokesperson Michal Parzyszek was interviewed by the Sofia News Agency on 27 May.  Here are some excerpts:

Current Frontex sea operations: “Operation Hera, which is in the territorial waters of Senegal and Mauritania; Operation Indalo in Spanish waters; Operation Hermes in Italian waters; Operation Aeneas in Italian waters; Operation Poseidon in Greek waters.”

Frontex operations in Italy: “The help on part of Frontex in the southern waters, including in Italy, is more on providing risk analysis – to give a better idea of what is going on, and what can happen.  …  So in terms of [Frontez] assets, there are just two airplanes and two boats which are deployed there under Frontex in the waters south of Sardinia and south of Lampedusa.  …  There are 10-15 Frontex experts that are identifying the migrants once they reach the reception facilities there. They are deployed to Caltanissetta, Catania, Trapani, Crotone, and Bari….”

Arrivals to Lampedusa:  “It varies every day. You have days when you have no arrivals, and then suddenly you have 1 000 people arriving to Lampedusa. Since the start of the operation on February 20, 2011, there have been almost 31 000 people that arrived to Lampedusa.”

Irregular migrants prefer entering Greece rather than Bulgaria: “… In the case of Greece, a readmission agreement with Turkey doesn’t truly work; in the case of Bulgaria, the cooperation with Turkey is much better so the Turkish authorities – if they receive proper documentation and justification – they accept people back.  This is a very important element – potential migrants know that if they cross the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, there is high probability that they will be sent back to Turkey so they don’t choose that way….”

(HT to Euro-Police.)

Click here for full interview.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, Black Sea, Bulgaria, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Mauritania, Mediterranean, News, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey

Migrant Boat(s) Sink Off Tunisian Coast / 250+ Feared Dead, 550+ Rescued

Tunisian authorities report that one or more migrant boats that had departed from Libya capsized and sank near the Tunisian coast on Tuesday near the Tunisian island of Kerkennah.  There are currently conflicting media reports on the number of boats involved.  The boat(s) are is thought to have been carrying approximately 800 people in total.  Over 500 people have reportedly been saved.  Approximately 270 are missing and assumed dead.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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UNODC Report: The Role of Organized Crime in the Smuggling of Migrants from West Africa to the EU

UNODC released a report on 30 May: The Role of Organized Crime in the Smuggling of Migrants from West Africa to the European Union.  From the UNODC web page: “… The new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) investigates the involvement of organized criminal groups in the smuggling of migrants from West Africa towards the European Union (EU).  The involvement of organized crime in the smuggling of migrants is a sensitive and controversial issue in West African countries, as the report discusses at various points. The publication contributes to better understand the underlying mechanisms and actors involved in this criminal process as a basis for policy reforms in countries affected.

Information in the report was compiled by a team of researchers from West Africa and Europe using both documentary studies and field research conducted in Mali, the Niger, Nigeria and Spain. …  UNODC, as guardian of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, possesses specific expertise and experience that could be put at the service of all countries affected to support them in matters linked to prevention, legislation, operations or prosecution.”

From the Report’s Summary:  “The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), through the European Union-funded ‘Law enforcement capacity-building to prevent and combat smuggling of migrants in the ECOWAS region and Mauritania (Impact)’, undertook to investigate the role played by organized criminal groups in the smuggling of migrants from West Africa to Europe.

The present report is aimed primarily at decision makers, law enforcement and judicial officials, but also at a wider audience interested in irregular migration. It contributes to a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms and actors involved in this criminal process as a basis for policy reforms in the West African countries concerned.  This report was prepared through desk and field research, conducted in Mali, Morocco, the Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Spain. Interviews were conducted with over 200 people in Africa and Europe belonging to three main groups: migrants, national authorities and non-governmental organizations, and smugglers.

Four main findings can be mentioned:

• Transnational organized criminal groups are generally involved in the smuggling of migrants from West Africa to Europe. However, there are important differences among them in terms of specialization and professionalism. With regard to trafficking in persons and the smuggling of non-African irregular migrants, criminal groups are clearly well organized and structured, and keep close contacts with operatives in several countries. On the other hand, other would-be migrants in West Africa have to deal with loose networks that are not permanently structured. Various groups of actors usually collaborate for one particular operation, and there are no exclusive relationships between those criminal groups.

• Specialization and the building of transnational criminal networks usually come as a result of increased efficiency in border interdiction. Within West Africa, freedom of movement gives little incentive, if any, to engage in the smuggling of migrants. However, the situation changes when there are natural obstacles, such as the sea, or man-made obstacles, such as surveillance

• In most cases, smugglers are migrants themselves. Realizing that their knowledge acquired through (often painful) experience may be used by other migrants in exchange for remuneration, some migrants decide to enter the business of smuggling of migrants. They may then become specialized professional smugglers, or they use their knowledge to finance the completion of their journey to Europe.

• Irregular migrants generally do not see themselves as victims, and smugglers do not see themselves as criminals. A complex relationship exists between irregular migrants and smugglers. The latter have an interest in maintaining the flow and feeding youngsters with dreams of success. These dreams are also kept alive in some West African countries by families and circles where important social value is attached to those who decide to leave, as well as by those who have made it to Europe, be it legally or illegally, even though their situation in Europe is often worse than it was at home….”

Click here for Report.

Click here for article on UNDOC web page.

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Filed under Analysis, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Morocco, Niger, Reports, Senegal, Spain, United Nations, UNODC

Some Refugees Who Fled Libya Return in Effort to Board Boats to Europe

Last week, UNHCR reported that hundreds of people who recently fled Libya to Tunisia and Egypt are returning to Libya in an effort to board boats for Europe.  “Among them are refugees, including members of the Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in the camps at Choucha near Tunisia’s border with Libya.”  UNHCR is warning of the dangers of trying to reach Europe by sea and of returning to Libya.  “UNHCR has met with refugees in Tripoli who are planning to make the perilous sea journey. ‘They are all aware of the high death toll, but they told us that they feel they have nothing to lose. One Eritrean man told us he would rather die trying to reach safety than continue to live in danger,’ [UNHCR’s chief spokesperson, Melissa] Fleming said.”  “Fleming [also] said that UNHCR had learnt with sadness ‘that people on track for resettlement, following interviews last year in Libya, lost their lives while trying to reach Europe recently. People in the middle of the resettlement process and vulnerable cases are prioritized in our interview schedule.’”

Click here for UNHCR statement.

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Filed under Egypt, European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia, UNHCR

Frontex Deployment, Repatriation Practices, and Diplomacy Are Responsible For Halting Migrant Arrivals in Canary Islands

From Europa Press: Juan Martinez, Chief Inspector of the Spanish National Police’s  Illegal Immigration Network and False Document Unit (UCRIF – Unidad Contra las Redes de Inmigración Ilegal y Falsedades Documentales), attributes the significant decline in the arrival of migrant boats in the Canary Islands to the deployment of Frontex, diplomatic management in the countries of origin, and repatriation policies.  The article notes the first migrant boat arrival in the Canaries in 1994, the peak years of 2006-2008, and the ensuing practices which have halted further migrant arrivals.

Click here (ES) for article.

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Filed under Eastern Atlantic, Frontex, News, Senegal, Spain

PACE Delegation Completes Visit to Lampedusa

A delegation from the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population has just completed a two day visit to Lampedusa.  The members of the delegation were Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EDG), Chair of the Migration Committee, Giacomo Santini (Italy, EPP/CD), First Vice-Chair of the Migration Committee, Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), Chair of the Sub-Committee on Refugees, Tina Acketoft (Sweden, ALDE), and Annette Groth (Germany, UEL).  The delegation reported that while the situation in Lampedusa in regard to newly arriving migrants is under control when compared with the situation earlier in the year, the “reception facilities on Lampedusa were inadequate for longer stays – especially for vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children – and that transfers to better-equipped centres elsewhere in Italy should be carried out within days: ‘In particular, the situation of the Tunisians that have been on the island in detention-like conditions for almost three weeks should be dealt with as soon as possible.’”

The delegation also said that “[t]he arrivals to Lampedusa are not the sole responsibility of a tiny island. There have been enough calls for responsibility-sharing and for solidarity. It is time that Europe acted on them. … Too many have already died at sea trying to reach Europe.  …  Europe must try to protect asylum seekers and refugees in a way that they are not forced to risk their lives first.”

Click here for PACE statement.

Click here for earlier announcement of the visit.

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EJML Article, Stefanie Grant: “Recording and Identifying European Frontier Deaths”

The latest edition of the European Journal of Migration and Law, Volume 13, Number 2, contains an article by Stefanie Grant, University of Sussex, entitled “Recording and Identifying European Frontier Deaths.”

Abstract: “Migrant deaths at EU maritime borders have more often been seen in the context of national border control, than in terms of migrant protection and human rights. The 2009 Stockholm Programme accepted the need for action to avoid tragedies at sea, and to `record’ and `identify’ migrants trying to reach the EU. But it did not specify how this should be done. There are parallels between these migrant deaths, and deaths which occur in conflict and humanitarian disaster. The principles of human rights and humanitarian law which apply in these situations should be developed to create legal and policy frameworks for use in the case of migrants who are missing or who die on EU sea frontiers. The purpose would be to enable evidence of identity to be preserved, to protect the rights of families to know the fate of their relatives, and to create common national and international procedures.”

“This article draws on publications by the author, including: ‘Migration and frontier deaths: a right to identity’, in Marie Bénédicte-Dembour and Tobias Kelly (eds.), Are Human Rights for Migrants?: Critical Reflections on the Status of Irregular Migrants in Europe and the United States, Abingdon, Routledge, 2011 [in press]; ‘The Legal Protection of Stranded Migrants’, in Ryszard Cholewinski, Richard Perruchoud and Euan Macdonald (eds.), International Migration Law: Developing Paradigms and Key Challenges, The Hague, T.M.C. Asser Press, 2007, pp. 29–48; and ‘International Migration and Human Rights’; expert paper for the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM), 2005.”

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

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