Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Development in a statement welcomed the European Commission’s “European Agenda on Migration” but “urge[d] [EU] Member States not to put any refugees or migrants in the line of fire, and to design any [anti-smuggling] operation in complete conformity with international law.” Sutherland urged the EU to take steps to ensure that Frontex Operations Triton and Poseidon “are at least equal in effect to Mare Nostrum” and “to make search-and-rescue the top priority…”
Tag Archives: United Nations
HR/VP Mogherini’s remarks earlier today to the Security Council contained very few details on the EU proposal to engage in “systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers in accordance with international law.” Here is one excerpt from her remarks:
“[M]y presence here at the Security Council today is so important for us. We have in these weeks prepared for a possible naval operation in the framework of the European Union Common Security and Defence Policy. The mandate of this operation is currently being elaborated with the EU Member States in Brussels, and will be discussed by the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, in a week from now, in exactly a week from now on 18 May, with a possibility of taking decisions, the first decisions already. We want to work with the United Nations, in particular with the UNSC. …”
Full text here.
UN Security Council, 11 May, Briefing and Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Smuggling of Migrants in the Mediterranean
Full text from “What’s in Blue” (published by Security Council Report):
“On Monday (11 May) the [Security] Council will receive a briefing by Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on the EU response to the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. After the briefing, Council members are expected to hold an informal interactive dialogue with her. At the request of Chad, the permanent observer of the AU to the UN, Ambassador Tete António, will also participate in these meetings.
This briefing comes after the 19 April incident in which more than 700 migrants drowned when the overcrowded boat on which they were traveling sank near Libya. According to the [International] Organization for Migration, more than 1,700 migrants have drowned since the beginning of January in the Mediterranean Sea. In a 21 April press statement, Council members expressed grave concern at the smuggling of migrants off the coast of Libya, highlighting the implications for regional stability. On 22 April, at the request of the UK, Council members exchanged views on this issue under ‘any other business”’
Mogherini is expected to brief Council members on the integrated strategy by the EU to address the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. The strategy includes the provision of bilateral development assistance to countries on the southern and eastern Mediterranean basin—as well as to countries of origin and transit—while tripling the financial resources available to operations Triton and Poseidon, currently existing in the territorial waters of EU member states. In a 20 April joint meeting of EU foreign and interior Ministers, chaired by Mogherini, the Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos of Greece presented a plan to respond to migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean, which would entail a systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers, inspired by the EU Atalanta Operation deployed to fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. The plan was endorsed in a 23 April meeting of the EU Council, and negotiations are ongoing at the EU to agree on the Crisis Management Concept, which is the basis for operational planning and conduct of any EU mission.
Since that meeting, discussions among EU members of the Council (France, Lithuania, Spain, and the UK) and Italy on a draft resolution apparently authorising such an operation have been ongoing. It seems some permanent members have been able to provide inputs. It appears the idea is for a Chapter VII resolution that will authorise an EU operation to use all necessary measures to inspect, seize and dispose of vessels when there are grounds to believe that they are participating in the smuggling of migrants. The draft may be circulated to the wider membership of the Council in the coming days.
Although most Council members have not seen the draft text, they are aware of some of its elements and are expected to seek information that might feed into any negotiations of the draft. Council members are likely to want to know more about the expected geographical scope of the resolution (whether this includes the high seas, the territorial waters of Libya or even its shore) and whether the EU is seeking Libya’s consent. In this context, Council members might inquire about Mogherini’s recent conversations in Tunisia with Libyan political actors, and the potential impact of such an operation on the political process. Some Council members might be worried that asking for the consent of the Tobruk-based government could negatively impact the talks, which are aimed at the formation of a government of national unity.
Some Council members may echo concerns regarding the protection of human rights and international refugee law that have been raised by the Secretary-General as well as the UN High Commissioners for Human Rights and Refugees. In particular, they might ask about the fate of the migrants taken into custody, and note the importance of respecting the guarantees of international law, notably the 1951 Refugee Convention and the principle of non-refoulement. When the programme of work was adopted, a briefing by the High Commissioner for Refugees, along with the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, was being considered for some point in May. Some Council members may have expected these briefings to happen before engaging in discussions about the regional responses to the smuggling of migrants; however, at press time, it was unclear if and when they will be held.
In the past, it has been difficult to get agreement on resolutions authorising the interception of vessels, whether in the context of the implementation of sanctions or counter-piracy measures. Some Council members feel strongly about not contravening the freedom of navigation principle codified in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. As such, they have tended to focus their discussions in the past on issues such as the procedures to authorise the interdiction, whether the consent of the flag state is required, and where the interdiction is authorised to happen.”
Amnesty International Report: ‘Libya is Full of Cruelty’ – Stories of Abduction, Sexual Violence and Abuse from Migrants and Refugees
Amnesty International has released a new report entitled: “’Libya is Full of Cruelty’ – Stories of Abduction, Sexual Violence and Abuse from Migrants and Refugees.” (also available here.)
Key points include (see formal AI recommendations below):
- “Widespread abuses by armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and organized criminal groups in Libya as well as systematic exploitation, lawlessness and armed conflicts are pushing hundreds of thousands of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees to risk their lives by attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea”;
- “In many cases, migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea have been subjected to prolonged beatings in [detention] facilities following their interception and arrest by the Libyan coastguard or militias acting on their own initiative in the absence of strong state institutions”;
- “While Amnesty International welcomes the EU’s commitment to increase resources for search and rescue operations, it is also concerned that some of the proposed measures, in particular plans to ‘systematically identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers’ would effectively contribute to migrants and refugees being trapped in Libya and expose them to a risk of serious human rights abuses”;
- “As more people are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, the priority for the international community must be to dramatically expand search and rescue operations and take effective steps to urgently address human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Libya. EU governments must also increase the number of resettlement places, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection”.
“Amnesty International makes the following recommendations:
To European governments
- Urgently ensure the deployment of naval and aerial resources at a scale commensurate with foreseeable departure trends and which should patrol the high seas along the main migration routes. Whether such deployment occurs within the framework of Frontex Joint Operation Triton or through other agreements, it is crucial that ships and aircraft are delivered promptly and deployed in the area where most of calls for assistance come from and a great number of shipwrecks occurs;
- To reduce the numbers of those risking their lives at sea, increase the number of resettlement places, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection and ensure that refugees have effective access to asylum at land borders;
- Ensure that any action against smugglers and traffickers is addressed through law enforcement measures, governed by human rights law and standards, and that it does not contribute to migrants and refugees being trapped in Libya without any means of escaping the violence;
- Ensure that human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including against migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in Libya, are addressed as part of the political dialogue aimed at ending the ongoing conflicts, and that a mechanism is put in place to monitor the human rights situation on the ground following any subsequent settlement. EU governments must also insist that Libyan authorities, armed groups and militias end the systematic indefinite detention of migrants and refugees based on their immigration status; all refugees and asylum-seekers and migrants detained for immigration purposes must be released.;
- Investigate and bring to justice in fair trials those involved in trafficking of persons.
To the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria:
- Keep the borders open to all individuals in need of international protection regardless of whether they have valid travel documents or meet visa requirements.
To governments along the smuggling route:
- Ensure that any regional co-operation aimed at addressing irregular migration and dismantle smuggling networks fully complies with international law and standards, and does not infringe upon the rights and safety of asylum-seekers and refugees, with particular regard to the right to freedom of movement, the right to asylum, and the absolute prohibition on refoulement.
To militias, armed groups and Libyan authorities:
- Release anyone detained solely on the basis of their immigration status, nationality, race, religion or ethnicity;
- Make clear to all those under your command that torture or other ill-treatment, rape and sexual assault will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Remove from the ranks anyone suspected of such abuses;
- Facilitate visits by independent organizations to immigration detention centres and other places of detention;
- Ensure that all those deprived of their liberty can communicate regularly with their families and have access to adequate medical care.”
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.
HRC Adopts Resolution on Migrants and Asylum Seekers Fleeing North Africa; Calls for Inquiry Into Allegations of Failures to Rescue Boats in Distress
The UN Human Rights Council, 17th Session, on Friday, 17 June, adopted a resolution (A/HRC/17/L.13) on Migrants and Asylum Seekers Fleeing from Events in North Africa. The Resolution recalls states’ obligations under human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, including the obligation of non-refoulement and called for ships patrolling the Mediterranean Sea to provide assistance to non-seaworthy boats leaving North Africa.
The Resolution also calls for “a comprehensive inquiry into the very troubling allegations that sinking vessels carrying migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the events in North Africa were abandoned to their fate despite the alleged ability of European ships in the vicinity to rescue them, and welcomes the call made by the Council of Europe in this regard on 9 May 2011.” [NB – this quoted text is taken from a 15 June version of the Resolution and may not reflect the final approved language. frenzen]
The Resolution was adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 14 against, and no abstentions:
In favour (32): Angola; Argentina; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brazil; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Cuba; Djibouti; Ecuador; Gabon; Ghana; Guatemala; Jordan; Kyrgyzstan; Malaysia; Maldives; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Nigeria; Pakistan; Qatar; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Thailand; Uganda; Uruguay and Zambia.
Against (14): Belgium; France; Hungary; Japan; Norway; Poland; Republic of Korea; Republic of Moldova; Slovakia; Spain; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom and United States.
Excerpts from the Afternoon 17 June summary of the HRC meeting:
“OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), introducing draft resolution L.13, said the African Group recognized that due to the recent crisis situation in North Africa, migrants had suffered great hardship. Migrants were fleeing, not flowing out of North Africa. People were running away because their lives were at risk. Other root causes for migration did not apply in this case. This resolution had been difficult to establish. Nigeria thanked all partners for their efforts in developing the draft resolution. The information emanating from North Africa was such that while neighboring countries did quite a lot in accommodating migrants, there were substantial difficulties in traveling from North Africa. Some people had even died at sea. Nigeria took note that some countries did provide assistance through their offices of migration or other mechanisms. The hardship suffered by migrants should be investigated in order to clarify the problems that arose and ensure this situation was not repeated. Nigeria believed that the Special Rapporteur, working with the High Commissioner, would be able to provide information about how to deal with such a situation in the future. The African Group would appreciate if the draft resolution would be approved by consensus.
ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that the European Union had assisted greatly with the humanitarian effort in Libya. From the outset the European Union had been at the forefront of humanitarian response. The European Union had been active in repatriating third country nationals. This had been vital in reducing the stress on neighboring countries. The draft text was circulated late. The European Union had engaged in a constructive spirit on the text, while retaining a specific focus that would address the issue at stake in a more balanced and legally accurate manner, notably when referring to issues related to refugee law and law of the sea. It noted that this was particularly true with regard to PP7 and operative paragraphs, which introduced new language that was not consistent with public international law. The resolution did not capture the multi-dimensional aspects of the problem. There was no reference to the overall human rights situation in the region, and therefore the root causes of the plight of migrants. The resolution did not refer to the responsibility of criminal traffickers and continued to characterize the situation in an unbalanced way. The European Union and its Member States had continued to observe the principle of non-refoulement. Not a single refugee had been subjected to refoulement. The European Union called for a vote and noted that it would vote against the resolution.
EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L. 13, said the United States shared concern for the migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the violence in Libya. A resolution requiring countries to recognize their obligations under international law and support victims of violence and migrants from Libya was important. However, this resolution assigned the sole responsibility to countries of destination and avoided reference to the root causes of the problem. The draft resolution used language that misconstrued State obligations and responsibilities regarding those migrants and asylum seekers. The sponsors had delayed introduction of the draft resolution, thus allowing only a restricted period to review and provide comments on the draft resolution. The United States regretted that the manner the resolution was developed belied its importance and sent the wrong message to the Gaddafi forces.”
Click here for UN News Centre summary.
Click here for the AFTERNOON 17 June 2011 summary of the HRC meeting.
Click here for Resolution “document as issued.” [NB – this may not be the final approved version.]
OCHA Situation Report 4 on Libya. “HIGHLIGHTS/KEY PRIORITIES:
- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a meeting of United Nations agencies and regional organizations to discuss a coordinated approach to the humanitarian situation in and around Libya. He intends to appoint a special envoy responsible for coordinating the relief effort;
- According to IOM, 172,874 people, mainly migrant workers, have left Libya to date;
- The OCHA-led joint United Nations rapid assessment reported little evidence of destruction between the Egyptian border and Benghazi. There are concerns over the implications a fuel-supply cut will have on the continuity of water and power supplies for critical infrastructure;
- According to the Financial Tracking Service, US$35.6 million has been contributed and $10 million pledged from donors in response to the crisis.”
Click here for OCHA Situation Report.
Click here for OCHA Map and Data update.
UNHCR – “GENEVA, March 3 (UNHCR) – An operation to evacuate tens of thousands of people from the Tunisian border and fly them home was under way on Wednesday. Under a programme led by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 50 flights were planned on Thursday to take migrant workers, mostly Egyptians, back home. UNHCR flew home 177 people to Egypt on a first flight Wednesday evening…..”
Click here for UNHCR update.