Tag Archives: WikiLeaks

EUNAVFOR MED-Six Month Report: No Indication of Refugee Protection Plan for EU Operations within Libyan Territorial Waters and No Reports of Human Trafficking

There is a lot of information in the EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA Six Month Report   (also here: EEAS-2016-126) that was released last week by WikiLeaks, but there are two subjects not discussed which jumped out at me.

No Discussion of Refugee Protection Plan

First, the Report does not contain information regarding what the EU military force intends to do with migrants who are intercepted or rescued by EU vessels if and when EUNAVFOR MED patrols begin to operate within Libyan territorial waters.

The Report’s ‘Next Steps and Key Challenges’ section [pp 19-21] discusses different EU contingency plans for Phase 2B of the operation and specifically discusses how suspected smugglers arrested by EU forces within Libyan territorial waters would be handled. The Report says suspected smugglers should not be turned over by EU forces to Libyan officials for criminal prosecution unless it can be ensured ‘that they [will be] treated in accordance with human rights standards that are acceptable to the EU and Member States.’ According to the Report, forty-six suspected smugglers have been arrested by EUNAVFOR MED in international waters (between 22 June and 31 December 2015) and all of these individuals have been turned over to Italian authorities for prosecution by Italy’s DNAA – Direzione Nazionale Antimafia ed Antiterrorismo. Italy is so far the only EU Member State prosecuting suspected smugglers.

But unlike the discussion regarding the treatment of suspected smugglers, there is no discussion in the Report about where migrants who are intercepted or rescued in Libyan territorial waters will be taken or how they will be processed. It is certainly possible that intercepted migrants would continue to be taken from Libyan territorial waters to Italy, as is currently the case with operations on the high seas, but I suspect this may not be the plan once EUNAVFOR MED operations are expanded to Libyan territorial waters.

The fact that there is no discussion in the Report of where intercepted migrants will be taken does not mean that EUNAVFOR MED does not have appropriate plans in place, but the omission is troubling because the Report makes clear that once Phase 2B (territorial waters) operations begin, EUNAVFOR MED forces will be interacting and cooperating with the Libyan Navy and Coastguard. (The Report also notes that if requested and if its mandate is amended, EUNAVFOR MED is ready to begin quickly providing capability and capacity building to the Libyan Navy and Coastguard.)

EUNAVFOR MED’s interaction with Libyan forces in territorial waters would, according to the Report, initially include Libyan ‘cooperation in tackling the irregular migration issue’, with the expectation that at a later point in time ‘Libyan authorities could take the lead in patrolling and securing their Territorial Waters, with support being provided by EUNAVFOR Med.’ The Report therefore describes a changing scenario where EU forces would first act alone in Libyan territorial waters, which would lead to some level of cooperation with Libyan authorities (joint patrols? shipriders?), which would finally lead to Libyan authorities taking the lead on enforcement activities, with the EU playing a supporting role of some sort.

The legality of the Phase 2B operations will depend on the details of how intercepted or rescued migrants are processed and where they are taken. EU Member States operating within EUNAVFOR MED would necessarily be exercising effective control over migrants when operating unilaterally or jointly with Libyan forces within Libyan territorial waters and EU Member States would therefore be bound by the non-refoulement obligations in the ECHR, the Refugee Convention, the CAT, and the ICCPR. Any such operations would be subject to the 2012 Hirsi Jamaa v Italy judgment of the ECtHR which rejected Italy’s past push-back practices and close cooperation with the pre-Arab Spring Libya, finding the push-back practices to violate the ECHR’s prohibition on non-refoulement and to constitute collective expulsion.

EUNAVFOR MED’s Phase 2B operation seeks to replicate what Frontex and Spain have done off the coasts of Mauritania, Senegal and Morocco since 2006 pursuant to Joint Operation HERA where Spain and Frontex initially deployed naval patrols in international waters, then negotiated bilateral agreements to move patrols to territorial waters, deployed joint patrols and shipriders within territorial waters, and then continued to provide various forms of support to Mauritania and other West African states to patrol their own territorial waters. Operation HERA succeeded in stopping most boat migration from West Africa, but did so in a manner which did not provide any process to screen intercepted migrants for claims for international protection and subjected intercepted migrants to refoulement.

In order to ensure that non-refoulement obligations are respected and that rights of migrants are otherwise protected, as the EU and EUNAVFOR MED move towards implementation of Phase 2B operations within Libyan territorial waters, more information and transparency is needed to determine and monitor the legality of all aspects of the operations.

No Reports of Human Trafficking

The second perhaps less significant piece of information that jumped out at me as I read the Report was the lack of any suggestion that EUNAVFOR MED patrols have discovered evidence of human trafficking. The Report makes multiple references to trafficking, but always in conjunction with human smuggling, eg, ‘smuggler and traffickers’ business model’, ‘smuggler and trafficker vessels’. The use of the trafficking term seems to be a continuation of the use of imprecise terminology (and possible ongoing confusion over the differences between human trafficking and smuggling as well?). But the Report’s ‘Smugglers’ Business Model’ section [pp 6-8] is clearly only discussing acts of smuggling.

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WikiLeaks Releases Classified Documents Describing EU Plans For Military Strikes Against Libyan Migrant Smugglers

WikiLeaks has released two documents which describe the EU plans for possible military attacks on boats used by migrant smugglers in Libya:

Document 1: “Military Advice on the “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean””(also here)

Document 2: “PMG Recommendations on the draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean” (also here)

WikiLeaks Press Statement:

“EU plan for military intervention against ‘refugee boats’ in Libya and the Mediterranean

Today, WikiLeaks is releasing two classified EU documents, outlining the planned military intervention against boats travelling from Libya to Italy. The more significant of the two documents was written by the combined military defence chiefs of the EU member states. The plan was formally approved by representatives from all 28 countries on 18 May 2015.

Importantly, one of the documents acknowledges that ‘the political End State [of the military intervention] is not clearly defined’ and recommends that the European Commission issue further guidance.

The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure. It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe. The EU member states’ military chiefs advice is that there is a need to:

‘[draw] on the full range of surveillance, intelligence and information capabilities available to MS [member states] and Partners, and supported by Brussels (inter alia EEAS [European External Action Service] Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity – SIAC)’.

The plan also acknowledges the possibility of EU military use of force against groups such as ISIL ‘within the Libyan sovereign area’:

‘the threat to the force should be acknowledged, especially during activities such as boarding and when operating on land or in proximity to an unsecured coastline, or during interaction with non-seaworthy vessels. The potential presence of hostile forces, extremists or terrorists such as Da’esh [ISIL] should also be taken into consideration’.

The documents mark a departure from previous EU military strategy in its overt targeting of civilian infrastructure in Libya. Numerous EU countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom participated in NATO-led air strikes on Libya in 2011.

Human rights organisations have called on the EU not to put the lives of refugees and migrants at risk. The plan acknowledges that the EU risks negative publicity ‘should loss of life be attributed, correctly or incorrectly, to action or inaction by the EU force’. To manage this reputational risk, the documents recommend ‘an EU information strategy from the outset’ in order to ‘facilitate expectation management’. They also acknowledge the ‘need to calibrate military activity’ particularly within Libyan waters or ashore ‘in order to avoid destabilising the political process by causing collateral damage, disrupting legitimate economic activity or creating a perception of having chosen sides’.

Boats transporting people from Libya are the main means for refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa to reach safety in Europe. Since the destruction of the Libyan government in 2011 there has been a sharp increase in the numbers of refugees travelling to Europe from Libya. In 2014 more than 170,000 people are estimated to have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya. In 2014, this made up 60 per cent of the entire irregular migration into the EU.”

WikiLeaks description of Document 1 -“Military Advice on the “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”” (also here):

“Classified EU plan, approved by EU member states defence chiefs, for a year long (at least) military operation against Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure, including the destruction of docked boats and operations within Libya’s territorial boundaries. The document is significant. It sets out the intent of EU defence chiefs: the EU will deploy military force against civilian infrastructure in Libya to stop refugee flows. Given the previous attacks on Libya by several EU NATO members and Libya’s proven oil reserves, the plan may lead to other military involvement in Libya. Formally, the document is approved Military Advice from the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) on a “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”.

WikiLeaks description of Document 2 – “PMG Recommendations on the draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean” (also here):

“This is the document of recommendations from the Politico-Military Group (PMG) and Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM), who work with the support of the General Secretariat of the Council in the Council of the European Union, to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) on the “Draft Crisis Management Concept for a possible CSDP operation to disrupt human smuggling networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean”. On 5th May 2015 the PSC discussed a possible EU military CSPD operation to disrupt human trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean region, including seizure or destruction of shipping vessels, based on a Crisis Management Concept (CMC).”

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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”….”

Click here and here for full Cable.

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WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: EU-Libya Framework Agreement Hangs on ICC, Trade, Migration

This cable provides the views of the US Embassy in Tripoli as of July 2009 regarding the EU-Libya Framework Agreement negotiations.  A round of EU-Libya negotiations took place on 13-14 July 2009.  The cable was written by the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires at the time, Joan Polaschik, and is titled:  “EU FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT HANGS ON ICC, TRADE, MIGRATION.”

According to the cable, Libyan negotiator Mohammed Siala “railed against language stating that the [EU and Libya] agreed to discuss crimes against humanity in an international context, angrily stating that any mention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) or text similar to that of the Rome Statute would cause a total breakdown of the framework negotiations.”  Negotiations on migration issues however went more smoothly according to the cable: “the chief EC negotiator told EU diplomats that the negotiations [on migration] were a ‘step forward’ and that more progress was made than expected with no major objections from either side on the draft as presented….”

Excerpts from the cable:

“1.(C/NF) Summary: The latest round of EU-Libya Framework Agreement negotiations hit snags over sensitive political issues and were slowed by Libya’s inefficient technical bureaucracy. The Libyans denounced the International Criminal Court and decreed that any language similar to the Rome Statute was off limits. Trade talks stalled when the Libyans announced that they had not examined the draft paper (presented in early 2009) and were unable to produce trade statistics from 2007/2008 or provide data on the Libyan tariff system. Talks on migration went more smoothly than expected, but significant issues remain before the agreement could be given to member states for approval. EU diplomats in Tripoli are skeptical that the EC will be able to get an agreement that can be implemented by both sides within the remaining two rounds of talks….

POLITICAL DIALOGUE: THE EC DANCES ON LIBYA’S ‘RED LINE’

2.(C/NF) Representatives of the European Commission (EC) based in Brussels conducted the latest round of Framework Agreement negotiations July 13-14 in Tripoli with sessions focused on political dialogue, trade and commerce, and migration. Diplomats from EU member states — participating as observers to the EC-Libya negotiations — said that discussions on the political framework were particularly heated. Libyan negotiator Mohammed Siala railed against language stating that the two parties agreed to discuss crimes against humanity in an international context, angrily stating that any mention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) or text similar to that of the Rome Statute would cause a total breakdown of the framework negotiations. According to the UK embassy, nothing in the political dialogue paper is binding on either party and is merely agenda-setting for future discussions. EC negotiators were not/not pushing for Libya to accede to the ICC….

TRADE AND MIGRATION: HITS AND MISSES

4.(C) … On migration, the chief EC negotiator told EU diplomats that the negotiations were a “step forward” and that more progress was made than expected with no major objections from either side on the draft as presented….”

Click here or here for the full Cable.

Click here for a post regarding an earlier US cable discussing the state of EU-Libya framework negotiations in 2008.

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WikiLeaks 2008 US Cable: Background Regarding EU-Libya Framework Agreement Negotiations

This cable provides the views of the US Embassy in Tripoli regarding the state of the EU-Libya Framework Agreement negotiations in July 2008.  It was written by the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, John Godfrey.  The cable is titled: “THE EU-LIBYA FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT: VENI, VISAS, VETO.”  The cable states that Libya views the EU Framework Agreement as “a ‘reward’ for Libya’s decision in July 2007 to release six [Bulgarian and Palestinian] health workers accused of intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV/AIDS.”  The cable describes threats to veto the framework agreement by individual EU member states in an effort to secure bi-lateral concessions from Libya and describes Libya’s claim that the “draft language initialed by [EU] Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner ‘commits’ the EU …  to funding a ‘surveillance mechanism’ along Libya’s land and sea borders to combat illegal migration.”

Most of the cable’s text follows:

“(C)  Summary.  The Government of Libya (GOL) remains keenly interested in pursuing a European Union-Libya Framework Agreement and views a more formalized partnership with the European Union (EU) as a “reward” for Libya’s decision in July 2007 to release six foreign health workers accused of intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV/AIDS. Certain EU members, unsure that a more formal cooperation mechanism would be beneficial and sensing Libya’s eagerness, have used the threat of a veto to push their bilateral agendas, particularly with respect to commercial and human rights issues.  One year after Libya and the EU agreed in principle to pursue an agreement, a sizeable perception gap exists between the two sides on the merits of a more formalized partnership.  Despite occasional differences with the EU, most recently over the French-backed Union for the Mediterranean proposal, the GOL will continue to seek an EU framework agreement, in large part because of Muammar al-Qadhafi’s desire to be taken seriously by European leaders. End summary.

BULGARIAN MEDICS CASE HAUNTS EUROPE

2.  (C)  Libya’s much-heralded decision in July 2007 to [release] six foreign health workers imprisoned since 1999 on charges of intentionally infecting children in Benghazi with the HIV/AIDS virus frames current discussions on an EU-Libya Framework Agreement.  Widely seen by Europeans in Libya as a successful alignment of European and Libyan interests, the denoument of the Bulgarian medics case – particularly their immediate pardon upon their arrival in Bulgaria – remains a lasting embarrassment for key elements of the Libyan regime.  The GOL, preoccupied with avoiding the public perception that it caved to foreign pressure to resolve the case, has trumpeted a putative EU framework agreement as a significant concession and a positive coup for Libyan diplomacy.  In an hours-long televised news conference just days after the medics left, Foreign Minister Abdulrahman Shalgham and Under Secretary for European Affairs Abdulati Obeidi boasted that a draft agreement, initialed by EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner during her July 2007 visit to Tripoli, would pave the way for easier access to Schengen visas for Libyan citizens and increased EU infrastructure investments in Libya. Ferrero-Waldner’s announcement in February 2008 that the EU Commission had submitted a recommendation to the Council of Ministers to grant a mandate to open negotiations with Libya stoked GOL hopes for rapid progress.

3.  (C)  French, Spanish, and German diplomats describe Libya’s primary objective in pursuing an EU framework agreement as reducing the mandatory waiting period for Schengen visas for Libyan nationals from the current 10 days to 48 hours.  …

4.  (C)  The July 2007 EU-Libya draft also lays out cooperation in the fields of human rights, health, and development.  U/S Obeidi informed French Ambassador Francois Gouyette in June 2008 that Libya agreed in principle to negotiate a human rights chapter within the framework agreement; however, Obeidi categorically refused to include discussions of individual human rights cases in the EU negotiations.  … In addition, the GOL has claimed that draft language initialed by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner “commits” the EU …  to funding a “surveillance mechanism” along Libya’s land and sea borders to combat illegal migration.

VENI, VIDI, VETO

5.  (C)  Certain EU members, sensing Libya’s eagerness to move ahead, have threatened to block a framework agreement as a means by which to secure bilateral concessions, chiefly on commercial and human rights issues.  Italian Economic and Commercial Counselor Domenico Bellantone said that Italy is prepared to veto any framework agreement unless Libya ends a series of discriminatory commercial practices that target Italian firms operating in Libya.  …  French and Greek diplomats in Tripoli have hinted that they may also dangle a veto threat to resolve commercial disputes.  The Netherlands have approached certain EU members about a possible veto over Libya’s outstanding private debt to Dutch firms. Danish Consul-General George Wallen recently told EU Ambassadors in Tripoli that Denmark would veto a framework agreement with Libya unless the GOL lifts bans on Danish imports and Danish participation in infrastructure projects in Libya (prompted by a Danish magazine’s re-publishing in February 2008 of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad).  Denmark also wants the GOL to release Jamal al-Hajj, a Danish-Libyan dual-national arrested on February 16, 2007 in connection with plans to hold a peaceful political demonstration.  Maltese diplomats have said Malta is considering a veto over dissatisfaction with Libya’s maritime patrols in its designated Search and Rescue (SAR) area and continuing concerns over the lack of cooperation by the GOL in efforts to stem the flow of irregular migrants from Libya to Europe.

6.  (C) European diplomats believe that apart from help in combating illegal migration from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia through Libya to Europe, Europe has little to gain from a closer partnership with Tripoli.  In absence of a more formal agreement, some European countries have pursued bilateral cooperation that they privately assess as being more nimble and effective than broader cooperation under an EU framework agreement might be.  Italian diplomats characterized a recent donation of six vessels to Libya’s coast guard and an offer to train Libyan border security officials as Italy’s bilateral response to what they view as a lack of meaningful EU engagement on illegal migrant flows through Libya.  Greek DCM Ioannis Stamatekos lauded Italy’s move and said Greece may follow suit. Maltese Poloff Daniel Malina said that Malta, lacking resources to make a large equipment donation, hoped to keep the critical migration issue on the EU’s radar during Council deliberations over the Commission’s mandate to pursue the framework agreement.

DON’T RAIN ON MY CHARADE

7.  (C)  Twelve months have passed since Ferrero-Waldner initialed a draft memorandum on an EU-Libya framework agreement; however, a year of inaction does not appear to have dampened GOL perceptions that relations with Europe are on an up-swing. While senior European diplomats in Tripoli are quick to point out that formal negotiations with Libya on any kind of European-Libyan cooperation agreement have yet to even begin, many GOL officials speak of key Libyan negotiating positions, such as the 48-hour Schengen visa point, as if they’re already in place. …  A series of high-level European visits, most recently that of Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, have helped attenuate the GOL’s disappointment over what it perceives as slow progress on the framework agreement and on implementing commitments made during al-Qadhafi’s visits to Spain and France in December 2007.

8. (C) Comment: Libya’s interest in a closer partnership with Europe seems sincere; however, the GOL’s foreign policy, particularly at the senior levels, remains somewhat fickle. Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi’s visit to Madrid and Paris last December sparked a surge of pro-European rhetoric in Tripoli – in one instance, Qadhafi threatened to pull Libyan investment from sub-Saharan Africa to redirect to his new European friends.  More recently, though, al-Qadhafi orchestrated a meeting of Arab Maghreb Union leaders in Tripoli to publicly disparage Sarkozy’s Union for the Mediterannean proposal (reftel).  Characterizing the proposed union as “insulting”, he claimed it would undermine Arab and African member states’ commitments to the Arab League and African Union, and told former British Prime Minister Tony Blair he was concerned that the proposal represented an effort by southern European states to create a North African bulwark against illegal migration from sub-Saharan Africa and to “further legitimize” Israel.  Despite such disagreements, Qadhafi’s interest in being taken seriously, particularly by his “friends Nicholas (Sarkozy) and Silvio (Berlusconi)”, will continue to drive the GOL’s keen interest in finalizing a framework agreement with the EU.  End comment.   GODFREY”

Click here or here for full cable.

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WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: Italian Ambassador to Libya questions sincerity of Libya’s commitment to combatting illegal migration

This US Department of State cable, released by WikiLeaks on 1 Feb 2011, was written by Gene Cretz, US Ambassador to Libya.  The cable is entitled “The Frogman Who Couldn’t Swim: A Cooperation Cautionary Tale.”  (The cable’s title refers to an incident where Libya sent a member of its Public Security organization who was unable to swim to Italy for training in underwater explosives detection and demolition.)

The cable was written on 17 February 2009 in the same month that the provisions of the Italy-Libya agreement relating to Italy’s maritime push-back practice took effect and three months before the first major interceptions and forcible returns of hundreds of migrants to Libya which occurred in May 2009.  If the US Ambassador’s reporting in the cable is accurate, it would suggest that Italy’s Ambassador to Libya at the time did not believe that Libya was about to begin cooperating with Italy on illegal migration.  Though the cable does point out that comments made by the Italian Ambassador “pre-dated the early February visit to Libya by Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni, who signed an MOU to implement earlier agreements on counter-migration and counterterrorism cooperation.”

Excerpts from the Cable:

“ITALY ALARMED BY INCREASE IN NUMBER OF ILLEGAL MIGRANTS TRANSITING LIBYA

2. (C) At a recent meeting hosted by the U.K. Ambassador to discuss counterterrorism engagement efforts, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiani expressed profound frustration with difficulties Italy had encountered in trying to cooperate with the GOL on counterterrorism and combatting illegal migration (Italy views the two issues as being linked).  Italy was alarmed by the marked increase in the number of illegal migrants that had arrived in Italy – primarily on the island of Lampedusa – from Libya.  By way of example, he offered that 1,300 Tunisian illegal migrants traveled from Libya to Italy in 2007.  In 2008, 5,900 Tunisians made landfall in Italy after departing from Libya’s coast.  The number of migrants from Somalia – “a derelict state” – who had arrived in Italy increased from 5,110 in 2007 to 31,764 in 2008.  The number of Nigerians had increased threefold and featured a heavy contingent of prostitutes and narco-traffickers.

LIBYA DELAYING COOPERATION TO LEVERAGE EU FRAMEWORK NEGOTIATIONS?

3. (C) Noting that smuggling illegal migrants was highly profitable, that the GOL claimed to exercise tight control over travel within Libya, and that senior regime officials traditionally had a direct stake in highly lucrative enterprises (licit and otherwise), Trupiani said it was “implausible” that large numbers of illegal migrants had transited Libya without at least the tacit consent of GOL officials.  The substantial increase in the number of illegal migrants meant a corresponding increase in the amount of money involved.  He speculated that there could be a “logical nexus” between smuggling of illegal migrants, arms trafficking and movement of terrorists, and lamented that no one appeared to be holding the GOL accountable for its failure to more effectively address those inter-related problems.  Worse, the GOL appeared to be deliberately delaying engagement with Italy and other European partners to leverage negotiations for a Libya-EU Framework Agreement (EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner was in Tripoli February 9-10 for the latest round of negotiations).

***

6. (C) Trupiani was not optimistic that bilateral cooperation would improve in the near term. (Note: Our exchange with Trupiani pre-dated the early February visit to Libya by Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni, who signed an MOU to implement earlier agreements on counter-migration and counterterrorism cooperation (further details septel).  End note.)  He cited lack of human capacity and rampant corruption and nepotism as limited factors….”

Click here or here for the full cable.

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WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: Libya takes back 500 Italy-bound migrants

This US Department of State cable, released by WikiLeaks on 31 Jan 2011, was written in May 2009 and describes the first major interdictions of migrants by Italy under the terms of the Italian-Libyan Friendship Agreement.  The events described in the cable are the subject of the communicated case currently pending before the Second Section of the European Court of Human Rights, Hirsi and others v Italy, Requête no 27765/09.  Click here for previous post on the Hirsi case.

Excerpts from the Cable:

“Implementation of a key component of the Italian-Libyan “friendship agreement” has begun, as Italy has returned approximately 500 migrants rescued and interdicted at sea to Libya over the past week. Libyan authorities have notified the local offices of IOM and UNHCR before returning boats arrive in Tripoli to facilitate medical screening, identification, and consular notification. The returnees are then placed in immigrant detention centers. UNHCR has interviewed a number of the detained returnees, noting that only “a handful” of the 500 are likely asylum seekers – mostly of Somali and Eritrean origin; the rest are economic migrants….”

“Libya has accepted the return of three tranches of migrants interdicted or rescued at sea by Italian authorities in recent days, beginning implementation of a key component of the Italian-Libyan “friendship agreement” signed last August aimed at reducing the flow of migrants from Libya to Italy. In each case, the Italians contacted the Libyan navy, which agreed to accept their return to Libya. The Libyan navy did not/not agree to take the migrants on Libyan vessels; rather, in one case, it instructed Italian energy company ENI, which operates an offshore platform in the area, to tow an African vessel to shore; in the other cases, it permitted the Italian navy to transport the migrants back to Tripoli. Once in Tripoli, according to the Italian Embassy, the migrants were processed in an orderly fashion and sent to a detention center.”

“The first group of 227 returnees arrived in Tripoli on May 7. A regional IOM team in Tripoli implementing a G/TIP-funded workshop to enhance Libya’s response to human smuggling and trafficking was on hand to help screen the arrivals and visit one of the three detention centers where the migrants were held….”

“IOM staff here characterized the recent returnees as “the usual suspects” of Nigerian, Nigerien, Ghanaian, and South Asian nationality. The UNHCR mission reportedly interviewed many of the returnees and found fewer than 10 migrants who were likely asylum seekers including “four or five” Somalis and “a handful” of Eritreans….”

Click here or here for the full cable.

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WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: UN Official says Libya, Italy shirking HR responsibilities

Several US State Department cables discussing Libya, Italy, Malta, and the EU have been released over the past several days by WikiLeaks.  I will post several of the memos over the next day or so.

Among the cables released by WikiLeaks on 31 January 2011, is a Cable written in August 2009 by Gene Cretz, US Ambassador to Libya.  The cable is headed: “UN OFFICIAL SAYS LIBYA, ITALY SHIRKING HUMAN RIGHTS RESPONSIBILITIES.” Excerpts from the cable:

“In a July 28 [2009] meeting with Pol/Econ chief and Poloff, UNHCR Chief of Mission Mohammed al-Wash complained that Italy was breaking its commitments to support UN and EU charters on human rights by returning asylum seekers to Libya with other economic migrants, and strongly denounced the Italian Coast Guard’s tactics while forcing migrants to return. He cited the example of the return of 80 migrants — including several refugees registered with UNHCR in Tripoli, Addis Ababa, and Cairo — interdicted by Italy on or around July 1 who later related their story to UNHCR staff. When the vessel carrying the migrants was stopped, three Eritrean representatives reportedly asked to speak with the Italian ship’s commander to inform him of their refugee status. Several on the boat produced their UNHCR attestations for the commander. Replying that he was under strict orders from his government to return migrants to Libya, the Italian commander reportedly ordered that all migrants – including those registered with UNHCR — be removed from their vessel for transport to Libya. Some of the migrants refused, leading to physical altercations between the migrants and the Italian crew that ended with the Italians beating some Africans with plastic and metal batons, leaving at least six injured. Migrants on the boat reportedly filmed the incident with their mobile phones, leading the Italian crew to confiscate phones, documents, and personal belongings that have not yet been returned….”

“Al-Wash alleged that the Italian government was intentionally stonewalling the UN. According to al-Wash, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiano refuses to meet with UNHCR and told al-Wash that he was a “troublemaker.” Al-Wash believed that that Trupiano was single-mindedly focused on returning migrants to Libya and claimed to be unaware that Rome had agreed in principle to accept 63 refugees for resettlement from Libya. UNHCR has also submitted to the GOI a list of 93 refugees that have been returned since Italy and Libya began joint patrols in May. According to al-Wash, Rome agreed to accept “20 or 30″ of the 93 refugees, provided EU states committed to a burden-sharing agreement, though states did not seem eager to undertake one. Al-Wash was hopeful the EC would intercede to bring Italy in line, citing the EC’s inclusion of Libya signing an MOU with UNHCR as part of its requirements for a Framework Agreement (ref A) and a recent letter from the Commission to the Italian Interior Ministry, reminding it of its obligations under the EU’s Human Rights Charter….”

“Al-Wash alleged that the Italian government was intentionally stonewalling the UN. According to al-Wash, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiano refuses to meet with UNHCR and told al-Wash that he was a “troublemaker.” Al-Wash believed that that Trupiano was single-mindedly focused on returning migrants to Libya and claimed to be unaware that Rome had agreed in principle to accept 63 refugees for resettlement from Libya. UNHCR has also submitted to the GOI a list of 93 refugees that have been returned since Italy and Libya began joint patrols in May. According to al-Wash, Rome agreed to accept “20 or 30″ of the 93 refugees, provided EU states committed to a burden-sharing agreement, though states did not seem eager to undertake one. Al-Wash was hopeful the EC would intercede to bring Italy in line, citing the EC’s inclusion of Libya signing an MOU with UNHCR as part of its requirements for a Framework Agreement (ref A) and a recent letter from the Commission to the Italian Interior Ministry, reminding it of its obligations under the EU’s Human Rights Charter.”

Click here or here for the full memo.

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