Tag Archives: Readmission Agreements

Commission Communication on Migration of 4 May

The European Commission today issued a Communication on Migration (COM(2011) 248 final) in response to the ongoing arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers in Italy and Malta and in response to the calls by Italy and France for changes in the implementation or interpretation of the Schengen Agreement.

France has welcomed the Commission’s Communication: “We note with interest that the Commission is considering establishing a mechanism for the temporary reintroduction of controls on some sections of internal borders in cases of difficulties or failures of a Member State. We also welcome the emphasis on strengthening the operational capacity of Frontex, the prospect of ultimately creating a European border guard that France has repeatedly called for. Finally, we welcome with satisfaction the intention of the Commission to propose a suspension clause of the liberalization of visa abuse.” (“Nous relevons ainsi avec intérêt que la Commission envisage l’établissement d’un mécanisme permettant la réintroduction temporaire des contrôles à certaines sections des frontières intérieures en cas de difficultés ou de défaillances d’un État membre. Nous nous félicitons aussi de l’accent mis sur le renforcement des capacités opérationnelles de FRONTEX, avec la perspective de créer à terme un système européen de garde-frontières que la France a régulièrement appelé de ses vœux. Nous accueillons enfin avec satisfaction l’intention de la Commission de proposer une clause de suspension de la libéralisation des visas en cas d’abus.”)

Excerpts from the Commission’s Communication on Migration:

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The purpose of this Communication is to set recent and future policy proposals in a framework that takes account of all relevant aspects and allows the EU and its Member States to manage asylum, migration and mobility of third-country nationals in a secure environment.

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The continuously evolving situation in our Southern Neighbourhood requires rapid responses. Building upon the European Council Conclusions of 11 and 25 March, the European Parliament’s Resolution of 5 April1, and, the joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of 8 March, the Commission will present on 24 May a package of proposals to ensure a coherent EU approach in the area of migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries.

However, the need to address this challenging and evolving situation should not lead to a short-term approach limited to border control without taking account of long-term issues.

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The EU should also ensure that it has in place safe and efficient asylum procedures for people in need of protection. Sixty years after the signature of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, it is time for the EU to reaffirm its commitment to offer protection to any persecuted third country national or stateless person arriving on its territory. A Common European Asylum System, offering a high level of protection and reducing the disparities among Member States’ asylum systems, must be completed by 2012, as agreed by the European Council.

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At the same time, as recent events have starkly illustrated, the EU continues to face serious challenges in the development of its migration policy. The vulnerability of some sections of the EU’s external borders is a clear example, notably in the Southern Mediterranean and at the land border between Greece and Turkey. In particular, measures must be taken to prevent large numbers of irregular migrants, often exploited by unscrupulous criminal networks, from arriving in the EU. The EU should accordingly pursue a migration policy based on ensuring that inward migration is effectively managed and ensure that the need for enhanced mobility does not undermine the security of the Union’s external borders. While this Communication naturally focuses on regions of most immediate concern, the EU’s migration policy follows a geographically comprehensive approach.

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However, while the current crisis confirms the need for increased solidarity at the European level and better sharing of responsibility, it must be recognised that the EU is not fully equipped to help those Member States most exposed to massive migratory movements.

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Building on the experience gained so far with the current pilot project on relocation from Malta, the Commission will support an extension of this project in view of the current influx of migrants seeking international protection there, to be implemented in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration.

However, the currently available instruments fall short of fulfilling all the needs and providing a comprehensive response. They can only be resorted to in an ad hoc manner, and are entirely dependent on the will of Member States to voluntarily offer assistance – in whatever form – at a given point in time. This in turn exposes the EU to criticism and risks undermining the trust of the citizens in the EU.

The Commission will closely monitor the continuously evolving situation and may decide, if the relevant conditions are met, to trigger the Temporary Protection Directive3 to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from third countries that are unable to return to their country of origin.

The Commission will make further proposals during 2011 on delivering solidarity in a holistic manner and how concretely such assistance can be delivered. A number of different approaches are currently being studied, with a view to developing alternatives that will allow urgent needs to be responded to in a more rapid and structured fashion. This initiative will build on the appropriate legal basis of the Lisbon Treaty, such as Articles 80 and 78 paragraph 3, and will draw lessons from the situation in Greece, particularly at the land border between Greece and Turkey, and the crisis in the Southern Mediterranean; it will include possible ad hoc measures to be resorted to in case of particular temporary pressure on one or several Member States, as well as more structural means of ensuring solidarity, both financial and in the form of practical cooperation and technical assistance (e.g. via FRONTEX, EASO, joint operations).

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FRONTEX’s role is key in channelling resources to places where the border is under pressure, as shown by the deployment – for the first time ever – of rapid border intervention teams to the Greek-Turkish land border in 2010 and the deployment of the joint naval operation HERMES to support Italy in 2011. FRONTEX’s legal framework needs be updated to allow it to be more effective in terms of its operational capacity to act at the external border. The Commission proposed the necessary changes in February last year5 and it is now urgent, especially in the light of recent events, that the Council and the Parliament approve this proposal before the end of this semester, as called for by the European Council.

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[A] clear system for Schengen governance is needed. Currently the Union still relies on an intergovernmental system of peer reviews to ensure the application of the common rules. The current revision of the Schengen evaluation mechanism should be based on a Community approach with participation of experts from Member States, FRONTEX and lead by the Commission. The proposed mechanism would ensure more transparency and improve the follow-up of shortcomings identified during the experts’ evaluations. The Commission will also issue guidelines to ensure a coherent implementation and interpretation of the Schengen rules.

A mechanism must also be put in place to allow the Union to handle situations where either a Member State is not fulfilling its obligations to control its section of the external border, or where a particular portion of the external border comes under unexpected and heavy pressure due to external events. A coordinated Community-based response by the Union in critical situations would undoubtedly increase trust among Member States. It would also reduce recourse to unilateral initiatives by Member States to temporarily reintroduce internal border controls or to intensify police checks in internal border regions which inevitably slow down the crossing of internal borders for everyone. Such a mechanism may therefore need to be introduced, allowing for a decision at the European level defining which Member States would exceptionally reintroduce internal border control and for how long. The mechanism should be used as a last resort in truly critical situations, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules. The Commission is exploring the feasibility of introducing such a mechanism, and may present a proposal to this effect shortly.

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One of the main purposes of the Common European Asylum System is to reduce the wide divergence in the outcome of asylum applications lodged in different countries of the EU, and to ensure a common set of procedural and substantive rights which can be relied on across the Union, while ensuring full compliance with the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees and other relevant international obligations.

In 2010, there were some 257 800 asylum seekers registered in the EU, or 515 applicants per million inhabitants. Ten Member States accounted for more than 90% of applicants registered in the EU17.

It is time to complete the Common European Asylum System by reaching agreement on a balanced package by the 2012 deadline agreed by the European Council in December 2009. To that end, the Commission will shortly put forward modified proposals on the Reception Conditions and the Asylum Procedures Directives. A balanced agreement on the revision of the Dublin Regulation must be reached, including on a last resort emergency mechanism in case of exceptional pressures, and on the revised Eurodac system.

[***]”

Click here for the Communication – COM(2011) 248 final.

Click here for Commission Press Statement and here for Commission FAQs.

Click here for French Government’s Point de Presse.

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650 Tunisians Repatriated by Italy Since 6 April

650 Tunisians have been summarily repatriated by Italy to Tunisia under the terms of the Italy-Tunisia agreement which took effect on 5 April.  The agreement reportedly allows Italy to return up to 60 Tunisian nationals per day on two flights.  Amnesty International’s Briefing Paper of 21 April, “Amnesty International findings and recommendations to the Italian authorities following the research visit to Lampedusa and Mineo”, is highly critical of Italy’s expedited return practice.

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

Click here for AI’s Briefing Paper.

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Tunisian Migrant Boats Stop Arriving in Italy (for the time being) – Amnesty Int’l Criticises “Collective Summary Removals”

Italy has been continuing to deport newly arriving Tunisian migrants pursuant to the terms of its new agreement with Tunisia, the terms of which have not been made public.  Under the agreement, Tunisia has apparently agreed to the expedited returns of its nationals from Italy.  300 Tunisians were flown to Tunisia from Italy last week.

The mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino De Rubeis, declared that the “immigration crisis” on Lampedusa is over (only 27 migrants remain on the island as of 26 April). The mayor called for the 500 extra police and military personnel who were brought to the island to deal with the migrants to leave as soon as possible so that tourists can use the hotel rooms currently occupied by the security personnel.

Amnesty International issued a Briefing Paper on 21 April: “Amnesty International findings and recommendations to the Italian authorities following the research visit to Lampedusa and Mineo.”  Amnesty is highly critical of the expedited return practices that have been implemented by Italy.

Excerpts from the Briefing Paper:

“Collective summary removals, reportedly of Tunisian nationals, from Lampedusa, from 7 April 2011 onwards, following the signing of an agreement between the Italian and Tunisian authorities.

Amnesty International is extremely concerned by the enforced removal that began on 7 April from Lampedusa, following the recent signing of an agreement between the Tunisian and Italian authorities. At the time of writing these forcible returns were ongoing and had reportedly been carried out twice a day by air since 11 April.

On 6 April, the Italian Ministry of Interior announced that Italy had signed an agreement with Tunisia pursuant to which the latter committed itself to strengthening border controls with a view to preventing departures, and to accepting the speedy readmission of people who had recently arrived and who will be arriving in Italy. Amnesty International is particularly concerned that, according to the above-mentioned announcement, Tunisian migrants arriving onto Italian shores may be “repatriated directly” and with “simplified procedures”.

In the light of this announcement, and given, in particular, Amnesty International’s findings in relation to the total inadequacy of asylum procedures on Lampedusa, the organization believes that those people who have been subjected to “direct repatriations” following “simplified procedures” have been victims of collective summary removals.

As far as Amnesty International could ascertain, people have been removed from the island within one or two days of arrival. Thus, it appears highly unlikely that they would have had access to any meaningful or adequate opportunity to assert that they should not be returned to Tunisia on international protection or other grounds. In the circumstances those removals would amount to summary expulsions (cf. the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hassanpour-Omrani v Sweden and Jabari v Turkey). Such practices are strictly prohibited under international, regional and domestic human rights and refugee law and standards. Additionally human rights and refugee law and standards require that the removing state must provide an effective remedy against removal. Removing people without giving them the chance of exercising their right to challenge their removal through an effective procedure gives rise per se to a human rights violation. This is independent of whether removal would place the individuals concerned at a real risk of serious human rights violations, which, in turn, would constitute a breach of the non-refoulement principle.

Amnesty International calls on the government of Italy to:

  • disclose the agreement reached with the Tunisian authorities;
  • immediately desist from any further summary removals;
  • ensure that anyone arriving on Italian shores is adequately screened to assess any potential protection needs, and that they are provided with adequate information about their right to challenge removal on international protection or other human rights grounds; and
  • ensure access to fair and effective asylum procedures as well as access to procedures to challenge removal on other grounds.”

Click here and here for articles. (IT)

Click here for Amnesty’s Briefing Paper.

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JHA Council Conclusions on the management of migration from the Southern Neighbourhood – 11 April 2011

Excerpts from today’s JHA Council Conclusions:

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5. The Council calls on FRONTEX to continue to monitor the situation and prepare detailed risk analyses on possible scenarios with a view to identifying the most effective responses to them, and also invites FRONTEX to speed up negotiations with the countries of the region – and in particular with Tunisia – with a view to concluding operational working arrangements, and organising joint patrolling operations in cooperation with Tunisian authorities and in application of all relevant international Conventions, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (“the Montego Bay Convention”).

6. The Council urges Member States to provide further human and technical resources to support the Agency’s operations, and in particular the existing Joint Operations Hermes, Poseidon Land and Sea and the possible deployment of a RABIT operation in Malta, in accordance with needs identified by the Agency in the light of the developing situation.

7. In order to rapidly strengthen the competences of FRONTEX and put more effective tools at its disposal, the Council agrees to accelerate negotiations on amending the FRONTEX Regulation, in cooperation with the European Parliament, with a view to reaching agreement by June 2011.

8. The Council underlines the need to promote all relevant forms of cooperation on a performance-based approach in the field of migration, mobility and security with the countries of the region that are sufficiently advanced in their reform progresses, and that effectively cooperate with the EU and its Member States in preventing illegal migration flows, managing their borders and cooperating in the return and readmission of irregular migrants. The Council stresses the need for early progress in the area of return and readmission in the case of relevant third countries, and recalls in particular that all States have an obligation to readmit their own nationals.

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10. The Council welcomes the outcome of the visits of the Presidency and the Commission to Egypt and Tunisia and the intention of the Commission to follow-up these visits by setting up dialogues with the authorities of these countries at senior officials’ level, in which Member States will also participate, and which will be aimed at promoting the swift development of cooperation on the management of migration flows. This dialogue should in first instance, focus on the identification and promotion of measures which can contribute in a concrete and effective way to the prevention of illegal migration, to the effective management and control of their external borders, to the facilitation of the return and readmission of irregular migrants, and to the development of protection in the region for those in need, including through regional protection programmes. Subsequently, this dialogue could explore the possibilities for facilitating people-to-people contacts using instruments such as mobility partnerships.

11. The Council stresses the importance of offering durable protection solutions to those in need of international protection present in the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood, and, in this respect, calls on the Commission and the Council’s preparatory bodies to examine the possibility of assisting those countries in capacity building in the area of international protection, including by activating existing regional protection programmes, and assessing the need for additional programmes in the region.

12. The Council recalls that resettlement of refugees on a voluntary basis, in particular those living for some years in a situation of protracted displacement and vulnerability, and having no other perspective, can represent a durable solution for them. The Council takes note of the willingness of certain Member States to consider offering resettlement opportunities for the refugees present in the region. The Council invites Member States to continue supporting UNHCR in the development of resettlement programmes and calls on the Commission to identify solutions for supporting financially such resettlement actions.

13. The Council underlines that the measures mentioned in the paragraphs above represent the immediate answer to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean, but that it is also crucial to put in place a more long-term sustainable strategy to address international protection, migration, mobility and security in general, and taking also the secondary movements to other Member States into account.

14. The Council welcomes the Commission’s intention to come forward for that purpose with proposals in response to the Declaration of the Extraordinary European Council of 11 March and the Conclusions of the European Council of 24-25 March, and notes that the Presidency stands ready to convene an extraordinary meeting of the Council on 12 May if necessary in the light of developments and to further consider these matters.”

Click here for full document.

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Italy to Begin Two Daily Repatriation Flights to Tunisia; Frontex Also Seeking Agreement with Tunisia to Expedite Returns

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said two daily repatriation flights to Tunisia will begin today, Monday.  Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen said Frontex is “trying to put in place ‘as soon as possible’ a new protocol with Tunisia on sending back irregular migrants….  Laitinen told a group of journalists in Brussels on Friday (9 April) that: ‘For the time being there have been no joint returns to Tunisia co-ordinated by Frontex, as we have no working arrangement with the relevant authority.’”

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

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Italy Repatriates First Group of Tunisians

Italy returned a group of 30 Tunisian migrants to Tunisia on Thursday evening.  They were returned to Tunisia under the terms of the new Italy-Tunisia migration agreement.  The migrants were flown from Lampedusa to Italy.

Click here and here for articles.  (IT)

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Italy-Tunisia Reach Migration Agreement: 6 Month Residency Permits for Tunisians Already in Italy; Accelerated Return Procedures for Newly Arriving Tunisians

Italy and Tunisia reached a new migration agreement on Tuesday.  It was signed in Tunis by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and Tunisian Minister Habib Essid.  Italy reportedly pressed Tunisia to quickly accept the repatriation of the 20,000 Tunisians who have arrived in Italy.  Tunisia refused to agree to the mass return of its nationals.

The compromise that was apparently reached will allow the 20,000 Tunisians who have already arrived in Italy to remain for at least six months with temporary residency permits and Tunisia in turn has apparently agreed to accelerated and simplified return procedures for newly arriving Tunisians that will not require fingerprinting or documentation.  Italy reportedly believes that the accelerated repatriation procedures, once implemented, will act as a deterrent to those Tunisians who may attempt to leave Tunisia after the agreement enters into force.

The accelerated return procedures are troubling in multiple respects.  While the overwhelming majority of persons who have reached Italy over the past two months are Tunisian nationals, over the past week or two for the first time there have been hundreds of non-Tunisians arriving in Italy and Malta.  Many are from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia and clearly have strong claims to international protection.  An accelerated return procedure will mean that persons with claims to asylum or who are in need of other forms of protection may not be properly identified.

Where will the accelerated return procedures be carried out?  Will migrants be rescued, brought to land, processed under the accelerated procedures, and then repatriated?  Or will Italy attempt to revive its push-back practice and attempt to turn boats around at sea?

The text of the agreement has apparently not been yet made public (at least I cannot find it), but various media reports suggest that its provisions include the following:

  • Six month temporary residency permits for Tunisian nationals who have already arrived in Italy (what happens when the six month period expires is not clear);
  • Temporary residency permits will allow free travel within the Schengen zone (but if the holder of the permit is outside of Italy when the permit expires, the person could apparently be returned to Italy);
  • Accelerated direct repatriation for newly arriving Tunisian nationals (the date on which the decree is signed will apparently determine whether a Tunisian receives the temporary permit or is subject to direct repatriation, the decree may be enacted as soon as today, Wednesday, 6 April);
  • Increased cooperation between Italy and Tunisia police / security forces;
  • Italy to provide 12 new and refurbished patrol boats and hundreds of off-road vehicles to Tunisia.

The announcement of this bi-lateral agreement comes one day after Frontex released its recently approved Fundamental Rights Strategy.  Click here for yesterday’s post about this strategy.  Note the following provisions within the strategy:

“14. [***] One particular objective in [Joint Operations] is ensuring that the right to international protection must not be hampered by the law enforcement action and that persons seeking protection are referred to the competent national authorities to assess their case.

15. [***] Corrective measures should be taken in case of breach or serious risk of breach of fundamental rights. As last resort, Frontex might terminate a JO if the conditions guaranteeing the respect for fundamental rights are no longer met. [***]”

It remains to be seen what Italy will do in regard to accelerated direct repatriations to Tunisia, but there is definitely the concern that the right to international protection may be hampered by Italy’s actions.  Frontex’s Joint Operation Hermes Extension is currently hosted by Italy.  Frontex may be obligated to act pursuant to its Fundamental Rights Strategy depending on what new practices are implemented by Italy.

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

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Tunisia Denies Reaching Migration Agreement with Italy; Berlusconi Travels Today to Tunis for Talks

Responding to statements made by Italian Ministers Maroni and Frattini that Tunisia was not complying with recent migration agreements reached during their 25 March visit to Tunis, a Tunisian Foreign Ministry source said on Saturday that no such agreement was finalised or signed.

A statement summarising the 25 March meeting between Italy and Tunisia, previously posted on the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site, said in relevant part that “bilateral and regional cooperation has also been discussed during this meeting, particularly regarding the management of migration flows and within the framework of a comprehensive and integrated approach.  As such, both sides agreed to conclude in the near future an agreement on joint management of migration and development in solidarity like agreements signed with other partner countries.” (“La coopération bilatérale et régionale a été, également, évoquée au cours de cette réunion, notamment, en ce qui concerne la gestion des flux migratoires et ce dans le cadre d’une approche globale et intégrée.  A ce titre, les deux parties ont convenu de conclure dans un proche avenir un accord relatif à la gestion concertée de la migration et au développement solidaire à l’instar des accords signés avec d’autres pays partenaires.”

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

Click here (FR) for Tunisian FM statement re 25 March meeting.

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Malmström and Füle to Visit Tunisia for Migration Discussion

Commissioners Cecilia Malmström and Stefan Füle are scheduled to travel to Tunisia 30 and 31 March to assess the situation at the refugee camps along the Tunisia-Libya border, including the camp near Djerba, and for discussions with Tunisian Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi and other officials.  Among the topics to be discussed will be the Tunisian nationals who have come to Italy in recent weeks, but who are not in need of international protection and who therefore are likely to be sent back to Tunisia by Italy. Malmström will be discussing with the Tunisian transitional government how the returns could possibly be carried out.

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

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Italian Ministers Frattini and Maroni in Tunis for Migration Negotiations

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni are in Tunis today for negotiations with Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi and others in an effort to seek Tunisian cooperation to prevent migrant departures from Tunisia.  According to a statement on the Italian Foreign Ministry web site, Italy is calling for “the resumption of cooperation to combat illegal immigration” and for “immediate and adequate coastal monitoring as well as cooperation in identifying and readmitting irregular migrants.”  According to ANSA, Italy is ready to offer economic aid, personnel and equipment (vessels, equipment, radar, etc.).”

Click here (IT) for article and here and here for statements on the Italian Foreign Ministry web site (IT).

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Migrant Arrivals in Lampedusa Resume; 10 Boats–500 Migrants Arrive During 24 Hour Period

After a week or so without any migrants arriving in Lampedusa, ten boats carrying approximately 500 persons arrived in Lampedusa and nearby Italian islands over a 24 hour period 1st-2nd March.  Improved weather conditions are the most likely explanation for the new boat arrivals.  Highlighting the difficulties of maritime surveillance, one of the migrant boats with 22 migrants landed on the island of Linosa, roughly halfway between Lampedusa and Malta, without being detected.

According to Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, to date 2,000 Tunisians have applied for some form of protection; less than 400 asylum requests have been made.  According to Maroni, most of the Tunisians have expressed a desire to go to other European countries, generally France or Germany.

Maroni said that Italy’s agreement with Tunisia limits repatriation of Tunisians to four persons per day and Italy is therefore currently negotiating with Tunisia to increase the number of persons who may be repatriated.  If the daily limit is not changed it would take years to return the thousands who have arrived in Italy.

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

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JHA Council Meets 24-25 Feb – Meeting Topics Include North African Migrants, EASO, Greek Asylum Reform, EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, and Frontex 2011 Work Programme

The two day JHA Council meeting begins today in Brussels.  According to the Background Note, “ministers will discuss the major influx of migrants from Northern Africa, particularly from Tunisia, to Southern EU member states, especially Italy. They will also look at the state of play on three other important internal border and migration issues:  the implementation of Greece’s National Action Plan on Migration Management and Asylum Reform; [and] the EU-Turkey readmission agreement. In this context, the Communication will present an evaluation and future strategy for EU readmission agreements;…  Ministers will then have exchange of views with the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as with the Executive Director of the recently established European Asylum Support Office (EASO).”  Additionally, “FRONTEX will present to the committee its work programme for 2011.”

Click here for Background Note and here for Agenda.

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Interview with Frontex Director Regarding the 5000 Tunisians in Italy

Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen was interviewed by Spiegel Online.  He expressed the view that Frontex’s main task in regard to the 5000 or so Tunisian migrants who have reached Italy over the past several weeks will be facilitating the return of most of them to Tunisia.  According to Laitinen, only a “very few” of the Tunisians have sought asylum protection.  He also said that Frontex “experts [had] come to the conclusion that the flight of the 5,000 had been planned for a long time. ‘Twenty human traffickers have already been arrested[.] They had just been waiting for the right opportunity.’”

While the view that most of the Tunisians who have arrived to date in Italy will not qualify for asylum or subsidiary protection is shared by many others, if and when people begin fleeing directly from Libya, whether they be Libyan or non-Libyan, there will almost certainly be a much larger number of qualified asylum seekers in any new migrants flows, especially if the Gaddafi regime remains in power.

Click here for article.

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ECRE Interview with Christopher Hein, CIR Director (Italian Refugee Council) Regarding Situation in Lampedusa

ECRE conducted an interview with Christopher Hein, Director of the Italian Refugee Council.  Here are some of the points he made regarding the migrant arrivals in Lampedusa and neighbouring islands:

  • The expeditious deportation of the group of Egyptians who arrived on Sicily earlier this week shows that the readmission agreement with Egypt continues to function whereas the agreement with Tunisia is not functioning at present;
  • CIR is concerned that if Frontex becomes involved with the current situation, Tunisian migrants may be returned indiscriminately;
  • EASO is not capable of assisting at present because it has no staff;
  • The migrants who have arrived need to be processed-  those seeking asylum should be subjected to asylum procedures, those seeking humanitarian protection should be subjected to the humanitarian procedures; and others, where appropriate, should be offered voluntary repatriation;
  • If much larger numbers of migrants were to continue to arrive, obligations under the EU Temporary Protection Direction might be triggered (COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof).

Click here for full ECRE interview

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WikiLeaks 2008 US Cable: Death of Key Libyan Official Hampers Counter-Migration Efforts / Malta’s Efforts to Negotiate Readmission Agreement With Libya On Hold

This cable reports comments made by Malta’s Ambassador to Libya, Joseph Cassar, about the negative impact caused by the death of Fawzi Ghariba, Director of International Cooperation for Libya’s Port Authority-equivalent, on Maltese efforts to coordinate migration control and SAR operations with Libya.  The cable was written in May 2008 by the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, Chris Stevens, and is titled:  “Death of Key Libyan Official Hampers Counter-Migration Efforts.

Ambassador Cassar was reported as saying that the death of Fawzi Ghariba six weeks earlier “had negatively impacted the GOL’s responsiveness on illegal migration issues at a critical time.”  Cassar said Ghariba “played a key role in finalizing recent Malta-Libya and Italy-Malta bilateral cooperation agreements on migration issues [and that he] was an energetic and efficient operator and one of the only GOL officials who approached illegal migration with any sense of urgency.  Cassar “said efforts to finalize … a readmission agreement under which migrants found to have entered Malta illegally could be returned to their country of departure (Libya) rather than their countries of origin, had been frozen since Ghariba’s death.”

Most of the Cable’s text follows:

“DEATH OF KEY LIBYAN OFFICIAL HAMPERS COUNTER-MIGRATION EFFORTS…

HIGH SEASON FOR ILLEGAL MIGRANTS

2.(SBU) Maltese Ambassador Joseph Cassar pulled P/E Chief aside for a conversation on illegal migration as the latter penned a message in the condolences book for the recently deceased Sir Anthony Mamo, the first President of Malta. Saying it had been “a bad week”, Cassar noted that more than 70 illegal migrants had made landfall and requested asylum in Malta during a single 48-hour period earlier this week. More than half of the 70 individuals claimed to have departed from Libya’s coast, prompting Valletta to task its embassy in Tripoli to reiterate requests that the GOL increase patrols in its Search and Rescue area (SAR). Cassar noted that more vessels transporting illegal migrants appear to be calling via satellite telephones to claim distress and request assistance immediately after entering Malta’s SAR. He suggested that they did so to mitigate the chance that they would founder before being rescued.

KEY OFFICIAL’S DEATH DIMINISHES LIBYA’S RESPONSIVENESS

3.(SBU) Cassar said the GOL’s response to the Maltese demarche had been “disappointing”. He noted that the unexpected death six weeks ago of Engineer Fawzi Ghariba, former Director of International Cooperation for Libya’s Port Authority-equivalent and a key interlocutor on counter-migration efforts, had negatively impacted the GOL’s responsiveness on illegal migration issues at a critical time. (Note: Launches from Libya of vessels transporting illegal migrants typically increase in spring/summer months to take advantage of improved weather and sea conditions. End note.) Describing Ghariba’s operating style as “American”, he said the late official played a key role in finalizing recent Malta-Libya and Italy-Malta bilateral cooperation agreements on migration issues (reftel). More importantly, Ghariba was an energetic and efficient operator and one of the only GOL officials who approached illegal migration with any sense of urgency. In several cases, Ghariba had galvanized the GOL to deal with migration issues and prompted disparate GOL entities to coordinate their efforts through the force of his personality. On instructions from Valletta, Cassar has asked the GOL several times when a successor to Ghariba might be identified; however, the GOL has demurred, saying it would be unseemly to rush to appoint a replacement.

BROADER EFFORTS ON TRAINING, READMISSION AGREEMENTS ALSO IMPACTED

4.(C) Cassar said Malta has focused on enhancing training for Libyan CG officials patrolling Libya’s SAR area. He said efforts to finalize an agreement to provide such training, as well as a readmission agreement under which migrants found to have entered Malta illegally could be returned to their country of departure (Libya) rather than their countries of origin, had been frozen since Ghariba’s death. (Comment: A number of European countries have been pursuing similar readmission agreements with the GOL. All have encountered significant difficulty in attempting to finalize those, suggesting that factors other than Ghariba’s death may bear on Malta’s efforts. End comment.) He encouraged the U.S. to continue focusing on training and material assistance for Libya’s CG. (Note: Two Libyan CG officers are scheduled to participate in upcoming training programs at a facility in Malta that uses a U.S. Coast Guard curriculum. End note.) Suggesting that he did not agree with Valletta’s position that equipment donations [i.e., by wealthier EU countries like Italy] to Libya to combat illegal migration be predicated on the GOL “taking greater responsibility” for its SAR, Cassar described the Libyan CG’s equipment needs as “considerable”….”

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