Tag Archives: Rescue at Sea

Approximately 40 Migrants Reported Dead After Merchant Ship Approached Migrant Boat

Reuters and other news agencies report that rescued survivors arriving today in Sicily told Save the Children that about 40 persons died – other survivors reported that “lots” of people died – after “dozens of people fell into the sea when they saw the merchant ship approach” their overloaded rubber dinghy. The migrant boat left Libya and was rescued on Sunday south of Sicily.

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UK Delays Deployment of Navy Ship in Mediterranean Until Italy Agrees to Accept Rescued Migrants

Another example of why ships, commercial and military, may sometimes avoid rescuing migrant boats: the Guardian reported yesterday that the UK has kept the HMS Bulwark at anchor in Sicily “amid a diplomatic spat over where rescued people should be disembarked and processed. … Involvement was held up by deliberations between the Italian and British foreign ministries. Britain, which agreed to send the ship after emergency EU talks last month, sought guarantees that the migrants rescued by HMS Bulwark could be taken to Italian ports once they are saved from the high seas.”

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Highlights from Frontex Annual Risk Analysis 2015 – Detections of Illegal Border-Crossing Between Border Crossing Points

Frontex released its Annual Risk Analysis 2015 (also here) on 28 April. Over the next few days I will post some key points and excerpts from portions of the 70 page report which are most relevant to migration by sea. See Executive Summary and Statistical Annex. 2015-04-28_Frontex_Annual_Risk_Analysis_2015-COVER

This post contains excerpts and key points from the ARA, Section 3, Situational Picture in 2014 / Detections of illegal border-crossing between border crossing points:

• In 2014, detections of illegal border-crossing reached a new record, with more than 280 000 detections. This was twice as many as the previous record of 140 000 detections in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring;
• With a record level of migrants crossing the border illegally, resources are devoted to their immediate care, but not towards screening;
• Syrians and Eritreans did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry but rather in other Member States;
• As in 2013 and in 2011, the Central Mediterranean route was the main area for illegal border-crossing into the EU, representing 60% of all detections in 2014;
• Around 3 400 people died or went missing at sea in 2014;
• Civilian vessels have been increasingly involved in the detection and rescue of migrants at sea. More than 600 merchant ships have been diverted from their routes to rescue persons at sea in 2014;
• An increasing number of cases have been reported of cargo vessels being used to smuggle migrants from Turkey directly to Italy. This new trend affects the Eastern Mediterranean route, as the departure area, and the Central Mediterranean area, as the arrival area;
• In 2014, 50 800 detections were reported in the Eastern Mediterranean area, representing 18% of the EU total. This was twice as many as in 2013, mostly due to a sharp increase in detections in the Aegean Sea (from 11 829 in 2013 to 43 377 in 2014);
• In 2014 there were 7 842 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Western Mediterranean region, which consists of several areas of the southern Spanish coast and the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla. This total shows an increase of 15% compared to the total of 6 838 reported in 2013.;
• Detections of illegal border-crossing on the Black Sea were extremely rare. However, since 2013, Bulgaria and Romania have reported an increasing number of detections, totalling 433 migrants in 2014.

Excerpts:

“3.3. Detections of illegal border-crossing between BCPs [along land and sea routes in 2014]

In 2014, detections of illegal border-crossing reached a new record, with more than 280 000 detections. This was twice as many as the previous record of 140 000 detections in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring. This unprecedented number of migrants crossing illegally the external border has roots in the fighting in Syria that have created the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Indeed, most of the detections at the borders concern migrants from Syria, who later applied for asylum within the EU. [***]

With a record level of migrants crossing the border illegally, resources are devoted to their immediate care, but not towards screening and obtaining information on basic characteristics like their nationality. As migrants quickly continue their journey to other Member States, increasing the movements of persons staying illegally within the EU, this puts the EU internal security at risk. [***]

Indeed, Syrians alone (79 169) represented more than a quarter (28%) of the total as shown in Figure 3. [SEE BELOW.] They were also the top nationality for other indicators, in particular asylum applications, reflecting the dire situation in Syria and the desperate plight of Syrian asylum seekers. However, the vast majority of Syrians did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry but rather in other Member States for many different reasons, notably because they expect to receive more attractive welfare benefits.

Regarding Eritreans, their detections in 2014 reached a record level (more than 34 500, compared to 11 300 in 2013). They were mostly arriving through Libya on the Central Mediterranean route. Like Syrians, they did not apply for asylum in the Member States of entry, but rather continued to other Member States. Many of the Eritreans stated that they had lived for some time in Libya but decided to leave because of the violence.

Detections of Afghans sharply increased from about 9 500 in 2013 to more than 22 000 in 2014. Afghans were detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route (mostly crossing the Eastern Aegean Sea), and then once again on the Western Balkan route. [***]

Central Mediterranean route

In 2014, more than 170 000 migrants arrived irregularly in the EU through the Central Mediterranean route (see Fig. 4).[SEE BELOW.] As in 2013 and in 2011, the Central Mediterranean route was the main area for illegal border-crossing into the EU, representing 60% of all detections in 2014. Detections were the largest between June and September at over 20 000 per month, but throughout the year, monthly detections were larger than in 2013. Most migrants were Syrians and Eritreans departing from the Libyan coast.

The vast majority were rescued by border-control authorities after issuing a distress call; however, despite best efforts there were many fatalities. Smugglers typically make use of frail, overcrowded boats, with limited fuel available to maximise their profits, putting migrants’ lives at considerable risk. The role of the Italian Navy and the JO Hermes/ Triton was crucial in rescuing an unprecedented number of migrants. Despite these efforts, around 3 400 people died or went missing at sea in 2014 and around 2 800 since the beginning of July according to UNHCR estimates.

Besides naval assets, civilian vessels have been increasingly involved in the detection and rescue of migrants at sea (see Fig. 5). [SEE BELOW.] According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), more than 600 merchant ships have been diverted from their routes to rescue persons at sea in 2014. These deviations are, in the words of the Secretary General, detrimental to shipping and are not offset by any realistic prospects of salvage awards.

In addition to migrants leaving from Libya, since September 2014, an increasing number of cases have been reported of cargo vessels being used to smuggle migrants from Turkey directly to Italy. This new trend affects the Eastern Mediterranean route, as the departure area, and the Central Mediterranean area, as the arrival area. This practice is further developed under the section related to the Eastern Mediterranean route.

As migrants were rescued in high-sea, they were reported as part of the Central Mediterranean route. Many were disembarked in Apulia and Calabria, to alleviate the burden on reception capacity in Sicily. From a statistical point of view, these disembarkations artificially inflated the number of migrants usually reported on the Apulia and Calabria route. In 2014, there were fewer migrants departing from Egypt and targeting this area of the Italian coast than in 2013. [***]

Eastern Mediterranean route

Since data collection began in early 2008, the Eastern Mediterranean has maintained its status as a hotspot of irregular migration (see Fig. 6). In 2014, 50 800 detections were reported from the area, representing 18% of the EU total. This was twice as many as in 2013, mostly due to a sharp increase in detections in the Aegean Sea (from 11 829 in 2013 to 43 377 in 2014). Detections remained comparatively much lower at the Bulgarian and Greek land borders with Turkey (12 262 in 2013 and 5 938 in 2014).

Sea border

Aegean Sea

Compared to the previous year, the sharp increase in the Aegean Sea in 2014 meant that migrants departed from more areas, and also arrived on a larger number of islands. While the islands reporting the largest number of arrivals remained Lesbos, Chios and Samos, detections were also reported from small islands from North to South, stretching capacity of surveillance. Many migrants claimed to be Syrian, and were thus handed an administrative notice allowing them to stay in Greece for up to six months, even without applying for asylum.

Screening processes of some migrants revealed a high degree of falsely claimed nationalities to avoid return. Not knowing the nationality of migrants who are illegally crossing the border and travelling within the EU is evidently a vulnerability for EU internal security. [***]

Increasing use of cargo ships

Since August 2014 the number of irregular migrants arriving in the Central Mediterranean from Turkey sharply increased compared to earlier in the year and to the same period in 2013. This sharp increase was directly related to the use of cargo ships to facilitate migrants and asylum seekers from Turkey to Italy (for example, see Fig. 7).

To date, Mersin has been the place where those wishing to travel to the EU in an irregular fashion have made contact with the smuggling networks. Wooden boats, however, have departed from various points along south-eastern Turkish coast such as Mersin, Adana and Hatay provinces to reach cargo vessels waiting off shore.

Smuggling migrants from Turkey on board large cargo vessels is extremely profitable, and such funds are likely to be an important source of income for smuggling networks also engaged in other criminal activities. This means that the criminal networks might be financing other criminal activities by exploiting and putting at risk vulnerable groups of displaced families from Syria.

Specifically, the cargo ships, which are often bought as scrap, tend to cost between EUR 150 000 and 400 000. There are often as many as 200–800 migrants on board, each paying EUR 4 500–6 000 for the trip, either in cash a few days before the departure or by Hawala payment after reaching the Italian coast. The cost is high because the modus operandi is viewed as being safe and has been demonstrated as being successful.

Hence, the gross income for a single journey can be as high as EUR 2.5 or even 4 million depending on the size of the vessel and the number of migrants on board. In some cases, the profit is likely to be between EUR 1.5 and 3 million once other overheads such as recruiters, safe houses, shuttle vessels, crew and fuel have been taken into account. Given this level of financial gain it is important to act against this modus operandi not only to stem the flow of irregular migration but also to limit the financial assets of the smuggling networks. [***]

Western Mediterranean route

In 2014 there were 7 842 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Western Mediterranean region, which consists of several areas of the southern Spanish coast and the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla. This total shows an increase of 15% compared to the total of 6 838 reported in 2013.

Like in 2013, the first half of 2014 showed most detections being reported at the land border, mostly from Melilla. Indeed, the Spanish authorities reported several violent attempts to cross the fence.

As mitigating measures, the fence has been upgraded. As a result, in the second half of the year, Spain reported more detections at the sea border than at the land border.

Once in Melilla, migrants are turned over to Spanish Police Headquarters for identification, and many are transferred to the Temporary Centre for Immigrants (CETI – Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes). However, this centre only has a limited capacity and some migrants had to be transferred to mainland Spain.

In terms of nationality, most of the migrants are from Western Africa, in particular from Cameroon and Mali. Algerians and Moroccans have also been reported among the top ten nationalities, but mostly at the sea border.

Since November 2014, Spain also reported an increase in detections of illegal border-crossing of Syrians at the land border (more than 250 in November and December), then applying for asylum. This increase, combining with increasing detections of Syrians using forged document to enter to the EU, has prompted Spain to open asylum and international protection offices at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla in March 2015.

Black Sea route

Detections of illegal border-crossing on the Black Sea were extremely rare. However, since 2013, Bulgaria and Romania have reported an increasing number of detections, totalling 433 migrants in 2014.

These incidents still constitute isolated cases, and are possibly linked to the increased surveillance on the Eastern Mediterranean route and the increasing number of migrants waiting in Turkey to reach the EU illegally. [***]”

 

Figure 3

 

Figure 4

 

Figure 5

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Mogherini at UN Seeking “Framework of International Legality” for Military Strikes on Smuggling Boats; Security Council Expected to Consider Issue in Coming Weeks

Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is currently at the United Nations and seeking support for the authorisation of EU military strikes on smuggling boats in Libya: “[The EU] need[s] to make sure we have a framework of international legality in which we want to operate. There’s nothing we’re going to do that’s outside the framework of work together with U.N. and/or in partnership with the Libyan authorities” She said that the EU was working in “strong coordination” with the EU members of the U.N. Security Council on the issue. (See also tweet from EU UN Mission: “Human trafficking is threat for security & stability for all countries & EU will work with all partners.”)

Yesterday Mogherini sought to assure Libya that whatever the EU does, should not be perceived as an attack against the Libyan people: “I want to make it very clear there is nothing the European Union is preparing or thinking of that is to be intended against Libyan people or the Libyan authorities in all their complexity.”

Bernardino León, the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), will brief the UN Security Council today (Wednesday, 29 April) regarding the dialogue between different Libyan groups that is being facilitated by the UN.

While León’s briefing is not expected to address the issue of authorising EU military strikes, according to What’s In Blue-Security Council Report, “[t]he humanitarian situation in Libya is likely to be of interest to Council members. … In a 21 April press statement, Council members expressed grave concern at the recent proliferation of the smuggling of migrants off the coast of Libya. Even though this issue exceeds the scope of the conflict in Libya and is expected to be tackled separately by the Council in the coming weeks, Council members might be interested in asking León about reactions among Libyans of the potential responses to this phenomenon which are being discussed by the European Union and others….”

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Migration Policy Centre – Policy Brief: “Drowned Europe”

Drowned Europe“, policy brief by Philippe FARGUES and Anna DI BARTOLOMEO, Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute, Florence.

ABSTRACT:
The drowning of 800 migrants, 19 April 2015, after the capsizing of a smuggling boat, triggered responses from across Europe. But when EU leaders met four days later, the news-cycle had moved on and the European Council, 23 April, gave a disappointing response. The 28 agreed to scale up their joint search-and-rescue efforts at sea to the more substantial efforts of what Italy has achieved alone in the last year. There were, also, a handful of other minor actions. Mr Junker, President of the Commission, lamented that the EU should be more ambitious. He was right, in as much as the EU meeting will not sustainably curb the deadly trends we have seen in the Mediterranean in recent years.

2015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Fig 12015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Fig 22015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Tab 1

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UNHCR Assisting 1200+ Migrants in Libya Intercepted by Libyan Coast Guard Over Past 10 Days

Full Text of UNHCR Press Statement, 28 April 2015:

“In Libya, UNHCR and its partners have been assisting some of the 1,242 people rescued at sea from unseaworthy boats or intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard in waters near Tripoli over the past 10 days, who have mostly been sent to immigration detention centres.

This includes a group of more than 200 people from the Horn of Africa intercepted at Tajura (16 km east of Tripoli) four of whom had serious burn injuries from a gas explosion two weeks ago at an unknown location where they were held by smugglers before boarding a boat bound for Europe. The group was taken to an immigration detention centre in Tripoli where medical staff from UNHCR’s partner on the ground treated burns and arranged the transfer to hospital of four seriously injured people. This included a 20-year-old mother with extensive burns to her arms and legs and her two-year-old son with extensive burns to his face.

UNHCR is aware of at least 2,663 migrants or asylum-seekers (including women and children) spread across eight immigration detention facilities across Libya run by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) – a significant increase from the 1,455 people in detention a month ago. The main nationalities in the centres are Somalis, Eritreans, Ethiopians and Sudanese as well as people from various West African countries. UNHCR understands that 15 immigration centres are now operational across the country. Foreigners in Libya can be arrested for lack of lawful immigration status and can spend anything from one week to 12 months in detention. UNHCR can generally organize the release of refugees and asylum-seekers registered with our office within a few days, although our capacity to register new arrivals to Libya is limited in the current security environment. We also advocate for the release of very vulnerable people, like pregnant women and also for alternatives to detention, if possible.

Our local staff and partners who visit immigration detention centres say conditions are poor, with urgent needs for more medical help, improved ventilation and sanitation as well as relief items. With the rate of detention on the rise, overcrowding compounds already tough conditions. In some centres, more than 50 people are crowded into rooms designed for 25. Temperatures are on the rise, as are the mosquitos which combined with poor ventilation could spread disease. At the request of local authorities, UNHCR is helping to ease the dire conditions. We are giving out soap, underwear, clothes and other items to detainees in the eight centres we can currently access.

There are some 36,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Libya (though some of these may have moved on), who are affected by the growing violence and lawlessness in the country. Among these, the largest group (18,000) are Syrians while Palestinians, Eritreans, Iraqis, Somalis, Sudanese make up significant groups.

Despite the volatile situation in Libya, UNHCR continues to help refugees and asylum-seekers through our national staff and NGO partners. We run two community development centres in Tripoli and Benghazi and have also expanded outreach this year through a mobile medical and social team in Tripoli. We also run dedicated hotlines to help people get registered, receive cash assistance, renew documents, or who are in detention. We are setting up another hotline with the Libyan Coast Guard to receive search and rescue updates.

Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to deliver aid like mattresses, blankets, clothing and kitchen utensils to thousands of internally displaced Libyans, and is supporting municipal authorities to track displacement and assess needs. Some 400,000 Libyans have been displaced by various waves of violence, according to UN figures.

For more information on this topic, please contact:
• In Tunis (covering Libya), Marwa Baitelmal on +216 228 344 31
• In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on +41 79 200 76 17”

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If the EU Attacks Migrant Boats in Zuwara, Libya, How Will It Select from Among the 100s of Boats?

Italy and other EU States are clearly in possession of information regarding the specific locations in Libya from where migrant boats depart. The Guardian’ s Patrick Kingsley has been reporting from Libya in recent days, interviewing smugglers and observing a migrant boat depart on at least one recent occasion from the port of Zuwara located west of Tripoli.

If the EU does press forward with its stated intention of destroying boats that may be used by smugglers, how will the EU select the boat or boats to be destroyed? Google Earth imagery dating from early this year shows approximately 125 large fishing boats moored in the harbour and another 100 boats on land immediately adjacent to the harbour. Dozens of smaller boats are also in the water and on land. (See screen shots below.) Additionally, the harbour is surrounded by at least five large warehouses, each approximately 100 metres in length. The Google Earth imagery suggests that additional boats may be located within some of the warehouses.

There is no effective and safe (or legal) means by which a particular smuggling boat can be identified and destroyed without destroying multiple other boats. As the Guardian’s Kingsley wrote, “smugglers do not maintain a separate, independent harbour of clearly marked vessels, ready to be targeted by EU air strikes. They buy them off fishermen at a few days’ notice. To destroy their potential pool of boats, the EU would need to raze whole fishing ports.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Sunday criticised the EU plan to use military force, telling La Stampa (as reported by Reuters), “[t]here is no military solution to the human tragedy playing out in the Mediterranean. It is crucial that we take a holistic approach that looks at the root causes, at security and the human rights of migrants and refugees, and have legal and regulated immigration networks.”

See previous posts on this topic: The EU’s Proposed Plan to Destroy Migrant Boats in Libya Must be Rejected by the European Council and UK and France to Seek UN Security Council Authorisation for Military Action Against Smuggler Boats.

Zuwara Harbour 2015 Via Google Earth

Zuwara Harbour.

Zuwara Harbour West Side Warehouses via Google Earth

Storage area and warehouses on west side of Zuwara Harbour.

Zuwara Harbour South Warehouses South 2015 via Google Earth

Storage area and warehouses on south side of Zuwara Harbour.

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UK and France to Seek UN Security Council Authorisation for Military Action Against Smuggler Boats

From Malta Today: “The United Kingdom and France, members of the United Nations Security Council, will kick off discussions in an attempt to obtain a UN resolution mandating the destruction of boats used by smugglers.”

From AFP: “Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi added that leaders from France and Britain, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, had ‘committed to get a resolution from the United Nations for an intervention in Libya.’”

Earlier today the Security Council released a short Presidential Statement regarding the “The Impact of the Humanitarian Crisis in Syria on the Neighbouring Countries.” Here are some excerpts from the PRST with bearing on the migrant and refugee flows in the region:

“[***] The Security Council expresses grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, including at the fact that over 220,000 people have been killed, including well over 10,000 children since the beginning of the conflict ; around half of the population has been forced to flee their homes, including over 3.9 million who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, among which are nearly 2.1 million children ; and that more than 12.2 million people in Syria require urgent humanitarian assistance including 440,000 civilians in besieged areas.[***]

The Security Council is alarmed that the Syrian crisis has become the largest humanitarian emergency crisis in the world today, threatening peace and security in the region with diverse implications on the neighbouring countries and the displacement of millions of Syrians into those countries, and calls to address further spill-over of the conflict in Syria into the neighbouring countries. [***]

The Security Council underlines the risk of further regional destabilization if the conflict, refugee crisis and the needs of the host countries are not adequately addressed. The Security Council stresses the importance of funding the humanitarian and development responses to the refugee crisis, providing support for national response plans, addressing the humanitarian needs of refugees, in particular women and children, both in camps and urban areas and through capacity building and technical support, strengthening the resilience of host countries and communities as components of stabilizing the region, preventing radicalization and countering the threat of terrorism and foreign terrorist fighters.

The Security Council notes with concern that the international response to the Syrian and regional crisis continues to fall short of meeting the needs as assessed by host governments and the United Nations, and urges all Member States, based on burden-sharing principles, to support the United Nations and the countries of the region, including by adopting medium and long-term responses to alleviate the impact on communities, providing increased, flexible and multi-year predictable funding as well as increasing resettlement efforts, and taking note in this regard of the Berlin Communiqué of 28 October 2014. [***]”

See also “Security Council Press Statement on Recent Maritime Tragedy in Mediterranean Sea” of 21 April 2015 – Full Text:

“The members of the Security Council deplored the recent maritime tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea that resulted in hundreds of casualties, and extended their deepest condolences to all those affected and to their families.

The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants, condemned and deplored the said acts and underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice.

The members of the Security Council called for the full implementation by State Parties of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The members of the Security Council expressed their strong support to countries in the region affected by the smuggling of migrants and emphasized the need to step up coordination of international efforts in order to strengthen a global response to this common challenge, and in order to protect these vulnerable migrants from being victimized by human traffickers.

The members of the Security Council urged all Member States, including countries of origin and transit, to cooperate with each other and with relevant international and regional organizations, including the IOM [International Organization for Migration], in addressing illicit migration flows, and dismantling smuggling networks in the region.

In that regard, the members of the Security Council urged all States to comply with their applicable obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law.”

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Official Statement: Special meeting of the European Council, 23 April 2015

Full text:

“1. The situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.

2. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria.

3. We today commit to:

Strengthening our presence at sea

a) rapidly reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon by at least tripling the financial resources for this purpose in 2015 and 2016 and reinforcing the number of assets, thus allowing to increase the search and rescue possibilities within the mandate of FRONTEX. We welcome the commitments already made by Member States which will allow to reach this objective in the coming weeks;

Fighting traffickers in accordance with international law

b) disrupt trafficking networks, bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;

c) undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers;

d) at the same time, the High Representative is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible CSDP operation to this effect;

e) use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions;

Preventing illegal migration flows

f) increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes, building on current CSDP operations in the region, as well as on regional cooperation frameworks (Rabat and Khartoum processes); step up dialogue with the African Union at all levels on all these issues;

g) reinforce our political cooperation with African partners at all levels in order to tackle the cause of illegal migration and combat the smuggling and trafficking of human beings. The EU will raise these issues with the African Union and the key countries concerned, with whom it will propose the holding of a summit in Malta in the coming months;

h) step up cooperation with Turkey in view of the situation in Syria and Iraq;

i) deploy European migration liaison officers in key countries to gather information on migratory flows, co-ordinate with national liaison officers, and co-operate directly with the local authorities;

j) work with regional partners in building capacity for maritime border management and search and rescue operations;

k) launch Regional Development and Protection programmes for North Africa and the Horn of Africa;

l) invite the Commission and the High Representative to mobilise all tools, including through development cooperation and the implementation of EU and national readmission agreements with third countries, to promote readmission of unauthorised economic migrants to countries of origin and transit, working closely with the International Organisation for Migration;

m) while respecting the right to seek asylum, set up a new return programme for the rapid return of illegal migrants from frontline Member States, coordinated by FRONTEX;

Reinforcing internal solidarity and responsibility

n) rapid and full transposition and effective implementation of the Common European Asylum System by all participating Member States, thereby ensuring common European standards under existing legislation;

o) increase emergency aid to frontline Member States and consider options for organising emergency relocation between all Member States on a voluntary basis;

p) deploy EASO teams in frontline Member States for joint processing of asylum applications, including registration and finger-printing;

q) set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU, offering places to persons qualifying for protection.

4. The EU institutions and the Member States will work immediately on the full implementation of these orientations. The Presidency and the Commission will present next week a roadmap setting out work up to June.

5. The European Council looks forward to the Commission Communication on a European Agenda for Migration, in order to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive approach to migration. The European Council will remain seized of the situation and will closely monitor the implementation of these orientations. The Council and the Commission will report to the European Council in June.”

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Post Meeting Remarks from Council President Tusk: EU to destroy smugglers’ boats in line with int’l law; triple resources for Frontex Operation Triton; seek better co-operation with countries of origin and transit; coordinate resettlement of more refugees

Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the special European Council meeting on migratory pressures in the Mediterranean – 23/04/2015, 22:00

Full Text:

“Good evening. Today, we discussed the dramatic situation in the Mediterranean at the highest political level. Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration.

Let me be clear. Europe did not cause this tragedy. But that does not mean we can be indifferent. We are facing a difficult summer and we need to be ready to act.

Therefore, leaders have agreed four priority areas for action.
First, leaders have asked the High Representative to propose actions in order to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels before they can be used. Naturally, this will be in line with international law and respect for human rights. We will step up co-operation against smuggling networks by working through Europol, and by deploying immigration officers to third countries.

Second, we have agreed to triple the resources available to Triton, our border mission in the Central Mediterranean, and to enhance its operational capability. The mission will continue to carry out its mandate and respond to distress calls where necessary. I am happy to announce that leaders have already pledged significantly greater support, including many more vessels, aircraft and experts, and money.

Third, we need to limit irregular migration flows and to discourage people from putting their lives at risk. This means better co-operation with the countries of origin and transit, especially the countries around Libya.

Finally, we will do more on refugee protection. The European Union will help front-line Member States under pressure and co-ordinate the resettlement of more people to Europe on a voluntary basis, and with an option for emergency relocation. For those who do not qualify as refugees, we will operate an effective returns policy.
Leaders had no illusions that we would solve this international human emergency today. Therefore, we have tasked the Commission, the Council and the High Representative to step up their work based on what we have now agreed. This issue remains our priority and the European Council will come back to it in June.

As a final remark, let me repeat that the European Union is completely opposed to the death penalty. It cannot be the answer to drug trafficking. I am referring here to Mr Atlaoui, the French citizen who has been condemned by the Indonesian authorities. Thank you.”

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Frontex Prepared to Immediately Expand Air Surveillance

Frontex Press Statement:

“Frontex is looking forward to implement the conclusions of the European Council to be held this afternoon in Brussels and has already started preparing the implementation of the Home Affairs/Foreign Affairs Council held in Luxemburg on Monday, 20 April, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said.

‘My proposal is to increase as an immediate step air surveillance in the Mediterranean Sea south of Italy and Malta in addition to the vessels currently deployed, which is aimed at enhancing search and rescue capacities in the area,’ Leggeri said.

Leggeri has suggested increasing the aerial assets taking part in the Frontex-coordinated Triton operation also following two incidents when people smugglers have used weapons to reclaim boats following search and rescue operations in which vessels taking part in Triton were involved.

‘Assets co-funded by the agency have helped save thousands of lives in the Mediterranean. Frontex will continue within its mandate to do everything it can to fulfil this responsibility,’ Leggeri said.”

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Text of Draft European Council Statement (via Statewatch)

From Statewatch, here is the text of the Draft European Council Statement that will be considered today:

DRAFT EUROPEAN COUNCIL STATEMENT

1. The situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.

2. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria.

3. We today commit to:

Strengthening our presence at sea

a)rapidly reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon by at least doubling the financial resources for this purpose in 2015 and 2016 and reinforcing the number of assets, thus allowing to increase the search and rescue possibilities within the mandate of FRONTEX; [p.m.: welcome pledges]

Fighting traffickers

b) disrupt trafficking networks, bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;

c) undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers. The High Representative is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible CSDP operation to this effect, in accordance with international law;

d) use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions;

Preventing illegal migration flows

e) increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes in order to prevent potential migrants from gaining access to Mediterranean shores, building on current CSDP operations in the region, as well as on regional cooperation frameworks (Rabat and Khartoum processes); step up dialogue with the African Union at all levels on all these issues;

f) deploy European migration liaison officers in key countries to gather information on migratory flows, co-ordinate with national liaison officers, and co-operate directly with the local authorities;

g) work with regional partners in building capacity for maritime border management and search and rescue operations;

h) launch Regional Development and Protection programmes for North Africa and the Horn of Africa;

i) invite the Commission and the High Representative to mobilise all tools, including through development cooperation, to promote readmission of unauthorised economic migrants to countries of origin, working closely with the International Organisation for Migration;

j) set up a new return programme for the rapid return of irregular migrants from frontline Member States, coordinated by FRONTEX;

Reinforcing internal solidarity

k) set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering at least 5,000 places to persons qualifying for protection;

l) increase emergency aid to frontline Member States and consider options for organising emergency relocation between Member States;

m) deploy EASO teams in frontline Member States for joint processing of asylum applications, including registration and finger-printing.

4.The EU institutions and the Member States will work immediately on the full implementation of these orientations. The European Council looks forward to the Commission Communication on a European Agenda for Migration, in order to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive EU approach to migration. The European Council will remain seized of the situation and will closely monitor the implementation of these orientations. The Council and the Commission will report to the European Council in June.

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Recent UN Security Council Statements on Libya and Migrants

The special meeting of the European Council will occur later today. Based on various press reports, it seems that the EU will decide to pursue several courses of actions in response to the situation in the Mediterranean, including taking steps – presumably by military force – to identify, capture and destroy migrant boats in Libya before the boats are used by smugglers. HR Federica Mogherini will reportedly be instructed to seek authorisation for the military strikes from the UN. (Click here (IT) and here (EN) for articles)  (Here is the Draft European Council Statement via Statewatch.)

The most recent UN Security Council resolution on Libya (Resolution 2213) was adopted on 27 March 2015; the Resolution extended the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until 15 September 2015. The Resolution also took note of, among other matters, the dire situation faced by migrants in Libya and called on the Libyan government to promote and protect “the human rights of all persons in Libya, particularly those of African migrants and other foreign nationals.”

On 21 April, after the most recent migrant boat accident, the Security Council released a Press Statement regarding the boat accident and “expressed their concern at the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants…”

The press statement is not a formal statement from the Security Council, but may provide some limited insight into how members of the Security Council view the relationship between the flow of migrant boats and a possible threat to international peace and security and how the Security Council might respond to the EU request.

Full Text of the 21 April 2015 Press Statement:

“Security Council Press Statement on Recent Maritime Tragedy in Mediterranean Sea

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Dina Kawar (Jordan):

The members of the Security Council deplored the recent maritime tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea that resulted in hundreds of casualties, and extended their deepest condolences to all those affected and to their families.

The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants, condemned and deplored the said acts and underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice.

The members of the Security Council called for the full implementation by State Parties of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The members of the Security Council expressed their strong support to countries in the region affected by the smuggling of migrants and emphasized the need to step up coordination of international efforts in order to strengthen a global response to this common challenge, and in order to protect these vulnerable migrants from being victimized by human traffickers.

The members of the Security Council urged all Member States, including countries of origin and transit, to cooperate with each other and with relevant international and regional organizations, including the IOM [International Organization for Migration], in addressing illicit migration flows, and dismantling smuggling networks in the region.

In that regard, the members of the Security Council urged all States to comply with their applicable obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law.

For information media. Not an official record.”

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Very Few Migrants Reaching Italy Apply for Asylum

While roughly 170,000 migrants over the past 14 months have reached Italy or been rescued and brought to Italy, according to UNHCR and Eurostat figures, very few of them are applying for asylum in Italy. Eurostat data through November 2014 indicate approximately 25,200 asylum applications from all nationalities were filed in Italy during the first six months of 2014; the number increased to approximately 27,000 during the period July-November 2014.

Eurostat data further show that only 455 asylum applications were submitted by Syrians in Italy during the January-November 2014 period, whereas over the same period over 28,000 Syrian asylum applications were submitted in Germany.

According to Italian press reports, “[n]ew figures from the UN’s refugee agency showed 25,077 people applied for asylum in Italy during the first six months of 2014. The highest number in Europe was recorded in Germany, which received 77,109 applications, followed by France (54,131) and Sweden (38,792).”

Click here for Eurostat “Asylum and new asylum applicants – monthly data”.

Click here for Eurostat “Asylum and new asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Monthly data (rounded)”. (Conduct search by modifying “+Citizen” option at upper right.)

Or click here for main Eurostat website and search for “asylum.”

Click here for news article.

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IOM Report on Recent Use of Cargo Ships to Transport Syrians to Italy

Excerpts from a short IOM report released on 6 January 2015 on the recent use of cargo ships, specifically the Blue Sky M and the Ezadeen, to transport Syrians towards Italy:

“IOM analysts do believe the prospect of single-nationality cargoes – on these latest voyages, migrants fleeing Syria – creates opportunities for smuggling rings to employ certain economies of scale that were not apparent in the more ‘mixed’ passenger manifests seen leaving Egypt and Libya in 2014.”

“‘The predictability of thousands now fleeing Syria every month allows smugglers to plan for a reliable stream of customers, which of course allows them to set a price point,’ explained Joel Millman, a spokesperson for IOM in Geneva. ‘So they can predict how much revenue each trip will bring, and then quickly deploy vessels and crews’. Millman added that Lebanon’s recent decision to require visas of Syrian migrants seeking to enter Lebanon may divert new migrant traffic to Turkey’s coasts, which will swell demand for smugglers’ services.”

“In the last four months of 2014 IOM learned of larger ‘mother’ ships waiting in open water to receive passengers ferried out by smugglers. Larger ships leaving Turkey loaded with migrants from Syria began appearing in greater numbers late last year in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

“Maritime experts calculate that such ships normally would be available for between USD 100,000 and USD 150,000, allowing smugglers to earn upwards of USD 3 million for voyages like the two that ended in recent days, with up to 900 migrants crammed on board.”

“‘This new route is a direct consequence of the Syrian crisis,’ added IOM’s [Federico] Soda. ‘Despite the end of the Mare Nostrum’s rescue-at-sea operations, arrivals continue because of the many crises close to Europe.’”

Click here for report.

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