Tag Archives: Migrant smuggling

UN Security Council to Vote Today, 8 October, on Resolution Authorising EU to Inspect and Seize Vessels on High Seas Suspected of Engaging in Smuggling or Trafficking of Persons

From What’s in Blue: The Security Council “is expected to vote [on 8 Oct. 2015] on a resolution aimed at disrupting human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants on the high seas off the coast of Libya. …

The draft resolution authorises member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking. Furthermore, the draft authorises member states to seize vessels if there is confirmation that they are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya. These authorisations are for a period of one year from the date of the adoption, and the draft stresses how these are given in exceptional and specific circumstances. …

It seems that the two most divisive issues during negotiations related to references to Chapter VII and the use of force. Several Council members, including Chad, Russia and Venezuela, raised concerns over the implications of having a Chapter VII resolution with a broad mandate. Following bilateral negotiations, the draft to be voted on is under Chapter VII but states that this is specifically to put an end to the recent ‘proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and trafficking of persons in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Libya’. …

In relation to the use of force, one of the difficulties was defining the instances in which member states are authorised to use force. The initial draft circulated by the UK included an authorisation to use ‘all necessary measures’ in confronting migrant smugglers or human traffickers. Some Council members wanted further guarantees that this was not a blanket mandate to use force. As a result of the members’ concerns compromise language was added to authorise member states to use ‘all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances’ in confronting them. …

While Council negotiations were put on hold during the high-level debate of the UN General Assembly, amendments were made to the draft in order to secure the consent of the Libyan permanent mission to the UN. …

Some Council members stressed the need to respect international refugee law, as well as the protection of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The draft underscores that it is not intended to undermine the human rights of individuals or prevent them from seeking protection under international human rights law and international refugee law.

The resolution is expected to provide legal backing for the EU NAVFOR MED’s operation in the high seas (which was renamed Operation Sophia on 28 September). … Council negotiations over a draft resolution authorising such an operation earlier this year (April-May) were put on hold following difficulties getting consent from Libyan authorities to operate in the territorial waters of Libya and its shore. Following the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean this summer, EU Council members decided to narrow the scope of the resolution to vessels operating on the high seas off the coast of Libya. A subsequent phase of the deployment of the operation in the territorial waters and on the shore of Libya is likely to be contingent upon the formation of a government of national accord in Libya.”

Full text of What’s in Blue article here.

1 Comment

Filed under European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UN Security Council, United Nations

2012 Frontex Annual Risk Analysis

Frontex posted its 2012 Annual Risk Analysis (“ARA”) on its website on 20 April.   (The 2012 ARA is also available on this link: Frontex_Annual_Risk_Analysis_2012.)  The stated purpose of the ARA is “to plan the coordination of operational activities at the external borders of the EU in 2013. The ARA combines an assessment of threats and vulnerabilities at the EU external borders with an assessment of their impacts and consequences to enable the Agency to effectively balance and prioritise the allocation of resources against identified risks….”

Highlights include:

  • 86% of the detections of irregular migrants in 2011 on the EU’s external borders occurred in two areas, the Central Mediterranean (46%) and the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily on the land border between Greece and Turkey (40%);
  • The 64 000 detections in 2011 in the Central Mediterranean were obviously linked directly to the events in North Africa.  The flow of Tunisians was reduced by 75% in the second quarter of 2011 as a result of an accelerated repatriation agreement that was signed between Italy and Tunisia;
  • There is a very high likelihood of a renewed flow of irregular migrants at the southern maritime border.  Larger flows, if they develop, are more likely to develop on the Central Mediterranean route because of proximity to Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt;
  • Irregular migration in the Western Mediterranean towards Spain remains low, but has been steadily increasing and accounted for 6% of the EU’s detections in 2011;
  • Cooperation between Spain and Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali, including bilateral agreements and the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast, are the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on the Western African route in recent years.  The situation remains critically dependent of the implementation of effective return agreements between Spain and western African countries.  Should these agreements be jeopardised, irregular migration is likely to resume quickly;
  • The land border between Greece and Turkey is now an established illegal-entry point for irregular migrants and facilitation networks;
  • According to intelligence from JO Hermes, women embarking from North Africa to the EU are in particular danger of being intimidated by their smugglers and forced into prostitution;
  • Austerity measures being implemented by Member States are likely to adversely affect operational environments of border control by reducing resources and by exacerbating corruption;
  • There is an intelligence gap on terrorist groups active in the EU and their connections with irregular-migration networks.  The absence of strategic knowledge may constitute a vulnerability for internal security.

Selected excerpts from the ARA:

“Executive Summary

[***] Looking ahead, the border between Greece and Turkey is very likely to remain one of the areas with the highest number of detections of illegal border-crossing along the external border. More and more migrants are expected to take advantage of Turkish visa policies and the expansion of Turkish Airlines, carrying more passengers to more destinations, to transit through Turkish air borders and subsequently attempt to enter the EU illegally. [Turkey reported an increase in 2011 of 26% in air passenger flow. See p. 12 of ARA.]

At the southern maritime borders large flows are most likely to develop on the Central Mediterranean route due to its proximity to Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, where political instability and the high unemployment rates are pushing people abroad and where there is evidence of facilitation networks also offering facilitation services to transiting migrants. [***]

There is an increasing risk of political and humanitarian crises arising in third countries which may result in the displacement of large numbers of people in search of international protection towards the land and sea borders of the EU. [***]

Various austerity measures introduced throughout Member States may result in increasing disparities between Member States in their capacity to perform border controls and hence enable facilitators to select those border types and sections that are perceived as weaker in detecting specific modi operandi. Budget cuts could also exacerbate the problem of corruption, thus increasing the vulnerability to illegal activities across the external borders. [***]

3. Situation at the external borders

[***] 3.2 Irregular migration

[***] Consistent with recent trends, the majority of detections [in 2011] were made in two hotspots of irregular migration, namely the Central Mediterranean area and the Eastern Mediterranean area accounting for 46% and 40% of the EU total, respectively, with additional effects detectable across Member States.  [***]

Central Mediterranean route

[***] Initially, detections in the Central Mediterranean massively increased in early 2011, due to civil unrest erupting in the region, particularly in Tunisia, Libya and, to a lesser extent, Egypt. As a result, between January and March some 20 000 Tunisian migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. In the second quarter of 2011 the flow of Tunisian migrants was reduced by 75% following an accelerated repatriation agreement that was signed between Italy and Tunisia. … Since October 2011, the situation has eased somewhat due to democratic elections in Tunisia and the National Transitional Council successfully gaining control of Libya. However, the situation remains of concern, with sporadic arrivals from Tunisia now adding to arrivals from Egypt. There are also some concerns that the flow from Libya may resume. [***]

Eastern Mediterranean route

[***]Undeniably, the land border between Greece and Turkey is now an established illegal-entry point for irregular migrants and facilitation networks. [***]

Western Mediterranean route (sea, Ceuta and Melilla)

Irregular migration across the Western Mediterranean towards southern Spain was at a low level   through most of 2010. However, pressure has been steadily increasing throughout 2011 to reach almost 8 500 detections, or 6% of the EU total. A wide range of migrants from North African and sub-Saharan countries were increasingly detected in this region. 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 most common and increasingly detected were migrants of unknown nationality, followed by migrants local to the region, coming from Algeria and Morocco. There were also significant increases in migrants departing from further afield, namely countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria and Congo.

In 2011, two boats were intercepted in the waters of the Balearic Islands with Algerians on board, having departed from the village of Dellys (Algeria) near Algiers. However, most migrants prefer to target the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

Western African route

The cooperation between Spain and key western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali), including bilateral agreements, is developing. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on the Western African route over the last years, as is the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. Despite a slight increase at the end of 2010, detections on this route remained low in 2011, almost exclusively involving Moroccan migrants.[***]

3.3.4 Trafficking in human beings

[***] According to information received from Member States, the top nationalities detected as victims of human trafficking in the EU still include Brazilians, Chinese, Nigerians, Ukrainians and Vietnamese. In addition, victims from other third countries like Albania, Ghana, Morocco, Moldova, Egypt, Indian, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic have also been reported, illustrating the broad geographical distribution of the places of origin of victims. Most THB cases are related to illegal work and sexual exploitation in Europe.

In some cases, the distinction between the smuggling of migrants and THB is not easily established because some of the migrants are initially using the services of smugglers, but it is only later, once in the EU, that they may fall victim to THB. According to intelligence from JO Hermes, this is particularly the case for women embarking for illegal border-crossing from North Africa to the EU. Once in Europe, some of them are intimated by their smugglers and forced into prostitution.

A worrying trend reported during JO Indalo is the increasing number of detections of illegal border-crossing by minors and pregnant women (see Fig. 15), as criminal groups are taking advantage of an immigration law preventing their return. Although it is not clear whether these cases are related to THB, women and children are among the most vulnerable. Most of these women claimed to be from Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon and were between the fifth and ninth month of pregnancy. Minors were identified as being from Nigeria, Algeria and Congo.

Another modus operandi is for the criminal groups to convince their victim to apply for international protection. Such modus operandi was illustrated by the verdict of a Dutch court case in July 2011, when one suspect was convicted for trafficking of Nigerian female minors. The asylum procedure in the Netherlands was misused by the criminal organisation to get an accommodation for the victims. The victims were forced to sexual exploitation in several Member States. [***]

5. Conclusions

[***] 1. Risk of large and sustained numbers of illegal border-crossing at the external land and sea border with Turkey

The border between Greece and Turkey is very likely to remain in 2013 among the main areas of detections of illegal border crossing along the external border, at levels similar to those reported between 2008 and 2011, i.e. between 40 000 and 57 000 detections per annum. [***]

Depending on the political situation, migrants from the Middle East may increasingly join the flow. In addition, migrants from northern and western Africa, willing to illegally cross the EU external borders, are expected to increasingly take advantage of the Turkish visa policies, granting visas to a different set of nationalities than the EU, and the expansion of Turkish Airlines, to transit through the Turkish air borders to subsequently attempt to enter the EU illegally, either by air or through the neighbouring land or sea borders. As a result, border-control authorities will increasingly be confronted with a wider variety of nationalities, and probably also a greater diversity of facilitation networks, further  complicating the tasks of law-enforcement authorities.

This risk is interlinked with the risk of criminal groups facilitating secondary movements and the risk of border-control authorities faced with large flows of people in search of international protection. [***]

3. Risk of renewed large numbers of illegal border-crossing at the southern maritime border

The likelihood of large numbers of illegal border-crossing in the southern maritime border remains very high, either in the form of sporadic episodes similar to those reported in 2011 or in sustained flows on specific routes originating from Africa.

Irregular-migration flows at the southern maritime borders are expected to be concentrated within one of the three known routes, i.e. the Central Mediterranean route, the Western Mediterranean route or the Western African route. Larger flows are more likely to develop on the Central Mediterranean route than on the other two routes, because of its proximity to Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, where political instability and high unemployment rate among young people is pushing people away from their countries and where there is evidence for well-organised facilitation networks.

On the Western Mediterranean route, the situation remains of concern because of the increasing trend of illegal border-crossing reported throughout 2011. According to reported detections, the situation on the Western African route has been mostly under control since 2008 but remains critically dependant of the implementation of effective return agreements between Spain and western African countries. Should these agreements be jeopardised, irregular migration pushed by high unemployment and poverty is likely to resume quickly despite increased surveillance.

The composition of the flow is dependent on the route and the countries of departure, but includes a large majority of western and North Africans. Mostly economically driven, irregular migration on these routes is also increasingly dependent on the humanitarian crisis in western and northern African countries. Facilitators are increasingly recruiting their candidates for illegal border-crossing from the group that are most vulnerable to THB, i.e. women and children, causing increasing challenges for border control authorities.

4. Risk of border-control authorities faced with large numbers of people in search of international protection

Given the currently volatile and unstable security situation in the vicinity of the EU, there is an increasing risk of political and humanitarian crises in third countries resulting in large numbers of people in search of international protection being displaced to the land and sea borders of the EU. The most likely pressures are linked to the situation in North Africa and the Middle East. In addition, the situation in western African countries like Nigeria may also trigger flows of people in search of international protection at the external borders. [***]

6. Risk of less effective border control due to changing operational environment

At the horizon of 2013, the operational environments of border control are likely to be affected, on the one hand, by austerity measures reducing resources, and on the other hand, by increased passenger flows triggering more reliance on technological equipment.

Austerity measures have been introduced throughout Member States in various forms since 2009. The most obvious examples are found in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the Baltic countries. These measures could result in increasing disparities between Member States in their capacity to perform border controls and hence enabling facilitators to select border types and sections that are perceived as weaker in detecting specific modi operandi.

Budget cuts could also exacerbate the problem of corruption, increasing the vulnerability to illegal activities across the external borders.

Austerity measures will inevitably impact on the efficacy of border-control authorities in detecting and preventing a wide array of illegal activities at the borders, ranging from illegal border-crossing through smuggling of excise goods to THB. [***]

8. Risk of border-control authorities increasingly confronted with cross-border crimes and travellers with the intent to commit crime or terrorism within the EU

[***]There is an intelligence gap on terrorist groups that are active in the EU and their connections with irregular-migration networks. The absence of strategic knowledge on this issue at the EU level may constitute a vulnerability for internal security. Knowledge gained at the external borders can be shared with other law enforcement authorities to contribute narrowing this gap.”

Click here or on this link: Frontex_Annual_Risk_Analysis_2012, for 2012 Frontex ARA.

Click here for Frontex press statement on the 2012 ARA.

Click here for my post on the 2011 ARA.


Filed under Aegean Sea, Analysis, Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Mediterranean, News, Reports

UNODC Issue Paper: Smuggling of Migrants by Sea

UNODC yesterday released an Issue Paper entitled “Smuggling of Migrants by Sea.” The paper, drafted by Ms Marika McAdam under the supervision of Ms Morgane Nicot (UNODC), is based largely on “answers received to questionnaires and discussions that took place in the context of an expert group meeting held in Vienna, Austria on the 13th to the 15th of September 2011.”

Excerpts from UNODC statement: “While the smuggling of migrants by sea accounts for only a small proportion of the total number of migrants smuggled worldwide, it accounts for the highest number of deaths among smuggled migrants. … The paper covers the international legal framework relating to the smuggling of migrants by sea, current responses to and challenges posed by such smuggling and recommendations to strengthen responses. … It is hoped that the practical experiences of responding to the smuggling of migrants by sea, addressed by the issue paper from the perspectives of countries of origin, countries of transit and countries of destination, will help other Member States in formulating their responses to suit their local contexts.”

Executive Summary: “Smuggling of migrants is defined by Article 3 of the Migrant Smuggling Protocol supplementing the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention (UNTOC), as ‘…the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a state party of which the person is not a national.’ The specific nature of the sea-based component of the smuggling journey resulted in a dedicated section on the issue in the Migrant Smuggling Protocol. While smuggling by sea accounts only for a small portion of overall migrant smuggling around the world, the particular dangers of irregular travel at sea make it a priority for response; though more migrant smuggling occurs by air, more deaths occur by sea.

The journey of the migrant smuggled by sea often starts a significant distance away from the coast of departure. Some journeys to the coast may take mere days, but others can take place over years during which the migrant must work en route to raise money for his passage. Arduous desert crossings and victimization by smugglers and other criminals en route mean that some do not survive overland journeys to the coast. Contrasted with these extreme experiences, economically empowered migrants can afford a higher level of smuggling service and may experience no particular hardship, simply travelling through various international airport hubs toward the coastal country from where their sea journey commences.

The type and size of vessel used to smuggle migrants by sea depends on the time, place and financial capacity of migrants undertaking the smuggling journey. In some countries, boats of only a handful of passengers are commonly intercepted by authorities, while in others vessels of several hundred people have been used. While voyages may be comfortable when conditions at sea are mild and the vessel is equipped with adequate food, water and sanitation, the journey is a harrowing one for the majority of migrants who report rough conditions, terrible cold and scarce food and water.

The nature of the crime and its relationship with smuggling of migrants by land and by air means that it is a successful crime type that yields high profits for smugglers with all the risks being borne by migrants. Indeed, migrant smuggling by sea can be understood as a criminal business, which is competitively run as such. Smuggling by sea is generally carried out by flexible criminal groups or individuals operating on the basis of repeated contractual arrangements, rather than by hierarchical organizations.

There are two methods used when vessels approach coasts of destination. One aims to reach land by evading detection by authorities, the other sets out to be detected and intercepted or rescued by authorities in territorial waters of destination coastal countries. In both situations, detecting smuggling vessels at sea is a key challenge for coastal states which may have limited resources and large search and rescue areas of responsibility.

Upon detecting vessels, the key challenge is to balance objectives with obligations at international law, including the Migrant Smuggling Protocol. Smugglers are generally well‐informed about states’ protection obligations and act to exploit them, instructing migrants what to do upon interception to increase their chances of gaining entry into and remaining in countries of destination. For instance, officials responsible for intercepting vessels at sea have been faced with situations of people sabotaging their own vessels to force authorities to carry out rescues. Suggestions made in respect of encountering migrant smuggling at sea include increased support of coastal states through joint patrols and provision of resources, and increased compliance with international legal standards and obligations in carrying out interceptions of smuggling vessels at sea.

While responding to the situation at hand and ensuring that persons on board are appropriately assisted, a key challenge is to seize evidentiary opportunities to investigate smuggling‐related crimes. The complex nature of migrant smuggling networks and their modus operandi means that smugglers cannot be identified purely by looking to smugglers who may be on board boats; the transnational criminal network itself must be traced from a smuggling vessel, back to the coast of embarkation, and from there back to countries of transit and origin. Suggestions made for improved investigation and prosecution of migrant smuggling by sea include harmonizing domestic legislation with the UNTOC and the Migrant Smuggling Protocol. Further it is suggested that sentences imposed for smuggling offences be publicized as a means of deterring would-be smugglers. Capacity building measures are also suggested so as to increase identification of smugglers on vessels, and to better link sea-based crimes with land-based smugglers.

Preventing migrant smuggling by sea requires states to balance their obligations in international law with their legitimate interests in protecting state sovereignty from violation by organized crime groups. But law enforcement efforts alone are not adequate to prevent migrant smuggling by sea; the Migrant Smuggling Protocol stresses that prevention efforts must address root causes that lead a person into the hands of smugglers in the first place. Suggestions made for preventing migrant smuggling at sea include raising awareness about the dangers of sea smuggling journeys and the criminality of smuggling. Suggestions are also made to raise awareness of those who influence political and policy decisions, so policies put in place protect state sovereignty, uphold international obligations, and are not vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers. Also emphasised is the responsibility of coastal states of departure to intercept smuggling vessels before they embark on sea journeys. Beyond this, comprehensive data collection, analysis and research are suggested to strengthen evidence-based responses.

Experts from countries of origin, transit and destination unanimously agree that the most essential ingredient for effective and comprehensive response to migrant smuggling by sea is strengthened international cooperation to remove areas of impunity for smugglers along smuggling routes. Suggestions made for cooperating in response to migrant smuggling at sea include aligning activities with the Migrant Smuggling Protocol and increasing the role of UNODC in facilitating cooperative response. The value of bilateral and regional cooperation arrangements is stressed, with emphasis on flexible cooperative networks for effective and efficient on-the-ground response. Regular coordination meetings and joint operations are suggested to improve strategic and operational interagency coordination, as is the empowerment of central designated authorities to address migrant smuggling by sea.

In short, while it is difficult to make generalizations about migrant smuggling by sea, two key points hold true around the world. Firstly, migrant smuggling by sea is the most dangerous type of smuggling for the migrants concerned, making it a priority concern for State response. Secondly, efforts to combat smuggling of migrants will be unsuccessful unless cooperation is strengthened not only between countries of sea departure and arrival, but also among the countries of origin, transit and destination along the entire smuggling route.”

Click here for Issue Paper.

Click here for UNODC statement.


Filed under Analysis, Reports, UNODC

Is Libyan Government Facilitating Migrant Boat Departures from Libya?

Gaddafi and other Libyan officials in recent weeks have made statements to the effect that Libya will no longer prevent irregular migrants from leaving Libya and have made threats that Libya will encourage irregular migration.  (6 March, Gaddafi: “I want to make myself understood: if one threatens [Libya], if one seeks to destabilize [Libya], there will be chaos, Bin Laden, armed factions.  That is what will happen. You will have immigration, thousands of people will invade Europe from Libya. And there will no longer be anyone to stop them….”)

Now that migrants boats are again leaving Libya and arriving in Italy and Malta, it is unclear what role, if any, the Libyan government may be playing.  In an article in yesterday’s Times of Malta there is a short statement by an Eritrean man who had just arrived in Malta from Libya on a migrant boat.  His statement suggests that the Libyan government may be facilitating the departures:  “[a] man said he had been in Libya for five years and this was not the first time he had tried to escape.  ‘The boats were organised by the same people,’ he said, referring to a Libyan racket which was widely believed to enjoy the support of the North African regime.  The migrants said they paid between $500 and $1,000 for their journey – meaning that those who organised the boats were pocketing an average of $200,000.”

Click here for article.


Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News

COE Seminar: Human rights dimensions of migration in Europe (Istanbul, 17-18 Feb)

Thomas Hammarberg, COE Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Turkish Chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers are holding a migration and human rights seminar in Istanbul, 17-18 February.  From the Commissioner’s web site:  The seminar “aims to exchange views on the most important discrepancies between European migration laws and practices and human rights standards, as well as on optimal ways to provide assistance to states in reflecting on and revisiting their migration policies.”

Three general topics will be addressed: Human rights challenges of migration in Europe, Unaccompanied migrant children, and Smuggling of migrants.  Scheduled speakers and participants include:

  • Karim Atassi, UNHCR Deputy Representative to Turkey;
  • Tina Acketoft, PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population;
  • Emily Logan, Irish Ombudsman for Children;
  • Rebecca O’Donnell, Save the Children, Brussels;
  • Elisabet Fura, ECtHR Judge;
  • Martin Fowke, Unit on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, UNODC;
  • Richard Ares Baumgartner, Frontex Senior External Relations Officer ;
  • Professor Dr. Nuray Ekşi, Chair of Private International Law Department at the Law Faculty of ĺstanbul Kültür University;
  • Professor Theodora Kostakopoulou;

Click here for draft programme.


Filed under Aegean Sea, Colloques / Conferences, Commissioner for Human Rights, Committee of Ministers, Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights, Frontex, Turkey, UNHCR, UNODC