A boat carrying Syrians sank off the coast of the Karpas Peninsula in Northern Cyprus earlier this week. Six people are reported dead, including two children. Two survivors were reportedly arrested on human smuggling charges. The boat is reported to have left the Syrian port city of Latakia which is approximately 100 km from the closest parts of Northern Cyprus.
Category Archives: Cyprus
The EU Observer reported two weeks ago that Cyprus “is worried that Syrian refugees could arrive en masse in the island-nation and in the EU more broadly if the conflict gets worse [and that Cyprus] is drawing up plans in case Syrian boat refugees arrive on its coast, a Cypriot source told this website.” What these plans may consist of is not clear, but during a recent visit to Malta, Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said that Cyprus and Malta shared “’common worries and interests’ over irregular migration … ‘We’re not racists but we must defend the rights of our countries’.”
While it is conceivable that Syrian refugee boats could head for Cyprus if the number of people forced to flee Syria continues to rise, but, as was the case with Libya, most will likely continue to flee across land borders to neighbouring countries and will not take to the sea. The UNHCR estimates that as of early this month, over 81,000 people have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq and that there are approximately 400,000 internally displaced persons within Syria. To the extent that some may flee Syria by sea, the portion of the island of Cyprus closet to Syria is the northeastern area which is controlled by Turkey.
Cyprus assumes the EU presidency on 1 July.
Click here for UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response Information Sharing Portal.
The Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) released its 2nd Quarter Report (April-June) for 2011 on 4 October. The 1st Quarter Report (Jan-March 2011) was released on 21 July. As always, while the information is a few months old, the reports contain a significant amount of information, graphs, and statistical tables regarding detections of illegal border crossings, irregular migration routes, detections of facilitators, detections of illegal stays, refusals of entry, asylum claims, and more.
Here are extensive excerpts from the Q2 Report:
In Q2 2011, all Frontex irregular-migration indicators increased compared to the previous quarter. The most important indicator, detections of illegal border-crossing, increased to a level not seen since Q3 2008 and correspondingly asylum applications are now at nearly the highest level since data collection began. What’s more, migration pressure at the border from migrants attempting to enter and stay in the EU increased even more than EU-level figures suggest, as they are offset against extensive reductions in Albanian circular migration.
In 2011 there were major and extensive developments in irregular-migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings: the first was seasonally increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a wide variety of migrants continued to be detected at very high levels. The second, and the undeniable hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of sub-Saharan migrants landed in Italy and Malta mostly having been forcibly expelled from Libya. [***]
4. Main points Q2 2011
- All irregular migration indicators increased relative to the previous quarter
- Compared to a year ago, there were significant EU-level increases in several irregular migration indicators, such as detections of illegal border-crossing, clandestine entries, and refusals of entry. There were also increased asylum applications
- Despite detections of Afghan migrants falling by a third compared to last year, they were still the most common nationality detected illegally crossing the EU external border. Most were previously resident as refugees in Iran
- In contrast, detections of all the other highly-ranked nationalities (Tunisians, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Ghanaians) increased massively relative to the same period last year
- In total there were over 40 000 detections of illegal border-crossings, a 50% increase compared to Q2 2010. These were the result of two simultaneous but independent routes of irregular migration: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Central Mediterranean routes:
1. In the Eastern Mediterranean:
– There were over 11 000 detections of illegal border-crossing, almost exclusively at the Greek land border with Turkey, which is comparable with the same period in 2010
– This flow currently attracts migrants from north Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia
– Groups of Dominicans were detected travelling to Turkey to enter the EU via the Greek land border
– Secondary movements are assumed from detections of (i) illegal border-crossings in the Western Balkans, (ii) false documents on flights to major EU airports from Turkey as well as Greece, and (iii) landings in southern Italy from Greece, Turkey and Albania
2. In the Central Mediterranean:
– Following a bilateral return-agreement between Italy and Tunisia, the massive influx of Tunisians to Lampedusa reported in the previous quarter decreased, but remained significant
– A very wide range of sub-Saharan Africans were detected on this route, some having been forcibly departed from Libya
– Italy reported more detections of illegal border-crossing in Sicily than ever before, a three-fold increase compared to the previous quarter; the increased flow was composed of migrants from Côte d’Ivoire as well as Tunisia and a range of other nationalities
– There were also increased detections of Egyptian migrants and facilitators landing in Sicily and Southern Italy from Egypt
– Italy and Malta reported huge increases in the number of asylum applications submitted by sub-Saharan African migrants. In Italy increases were particularly marked for Nigerians and Ghanaians
- Following their new visa-free status, fewer Albanians were detected illegally crossing the EU border, and illegally staying within the EU (both mainly in Greece). Instead they were increasingly refused entry to Greece and they were also increasingly detected at the UK border, either as clandestine entry or using false documents
- There was an increased flow of Georgian migrants towards Belarus (air and land), with increased illegal entries and asylum applications in Poland and Lithuania
- In Q2, Libya was the most significant source of irregular migration to the EU. However, more recently the ability of the Gaddafi regime to forcibly expel its migrant population to the EU has become compromised; the situation remains dynamic and uncertain[.]
4.1 Detections of illegal border-crossing
At the EU level, in Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since Q3 2008. The total of 41 245 detections during this reporting period is a 25% increase compared the previous quarter and a 53% increase compared to the same period last year (Fig. 2). Without question there were major and extensive developments in illegal migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings. The first was increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a range of Asian, north African and sub-Saharan African migrants were increasingly detected at very high levels. The second, and the undisputed hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was at the Italian islands in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of Tunisians, Nigerians and other sub-Saharan migrants landed in small sea vessels, the majority of which in Q2 had been forcibly departed from Libya.
Figure 2 shows the evolution of the FRAN indicator 1A – detections of illegal border-crossing, and the proportion of detections between the land and sea borders of the EU per quarter since the beginning of 2008. In Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since the peak of Q3 2008 nearly three years ago. Compared to a year ago, detections at the EU land border decreased by 42% to 13 742 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to fewer detections of Albanian nationals following their new visa-free status; elsewhere at the land border (including Greece) trends were roughly stable. In contrast, at the sea border detections increased nine-fold to some 27 500 detections (Fig. 2), the vast majority of which (95%) were in the central Mediterranean, forming the major development in irregular migration to the EU in 2011.
At the EU level, detections of illegal border-crossing increased by 53% compared to a year ago (Fig. 3). However, this level masks a lot of variation among Member States. First, and most importantly to the current situation, was a 4 200% increase in detections of almost exclusively African migrants in Italy. Related to this central Mediterranean flow, was a concurrent and massive increase in detections reported from Malta (from 0 to 710), and also increases further west into Spain (+61%). As a result, all these countries have seen increases in other indicators such as asylum applications of the most common nationalities (see relevant sections). [***]
As illustrated in Figure 4, for just the second time since records began in early 2008, in Q2 2011 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, which comprises the blue borders of Italy and Malta, exceeded those reported from both the (i) Eastern Mediterranean route of the land and sea borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, and (ii) circular migration from Albania to Greece.
Without question, in Q2 2011 the single most important irregular-immigration route in terms of detections of illegal border-crossing was the Central Mediterranean route, where detections increased in the beginning of 2011 to previously unprecedented levels (Fig. 4). In the first quarter of 2011, and uniquely compared to previous surges of illegal immigration, this flow was restricted to a single nationality – Tunisian, most of whom were responding to civil unrest in their home country by leaving towards the Italian Island of Lampedusa. In response to this almost unmanageable influx of irregular migration at a single and isolated location, a bilateral return agreement was signed between Italy and Tunisia, which allowed for the accelerated repatriation of newly arrived individuals. Hence, during the current reporting period, the flow of Tunisian migrants fell from over 20 200 in the previous quarter to 4 300 in Q2 2011.
However, civil uprising commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, and its effects on migration in the area, was not limited to Tunisia. For example according to multiple sources, in next-door Libya, migrants from sub-Saharan countries were in Q2 2011 being coerced to move towards the EU by the Gaddafi regime in response to the NATO Operation Unified Protector which commenced on March 27 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Thus, in Q2 2011, besides some continued departures from Tunisia, the flow in the central Mediterranean was composed of a single flow of large numbers migrants from sub-Saharan countries departing Libya in small vessels. [***]
4.1.1 Eastern Mediterranean route
Detections of illegal border-crossings on this route increased seasonally and in line with previous years, from 6 504 in Q1 2011 to 11 137 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to a massive increase in detections at the Greek land border with Turkey, where detections increased from 6 057 to 10 582. [***]
4.1.2 Central Mediterranean route
In Q2 2011 there were 26 167 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, a 10% increase even compared to the ‘peak’ reported during the previous quarter, and evidently a massive increase compared to the negligible detections throughout all of 2010. The vast majority of detections on this route were reported from Italy (25 500) where detections increased by 13% even compared to the ‘influx’ of migrants reported during Q1 2011. In Italy, Central African, Tunisian, Nigerian and Ghanaian were the mostly commonly detected nationalities, 90% of which were detected in the Pelagic Islands (14 300), most notably Lampedusa (Fig. 7). However, in Q2 2011 there were also more detections of illegal border-crossing reported from Sicily (2 260) than ever before; this figure is nearly three times bigger than that reported in the previous quarter and more than twenty times higher than during the same period last year (100). Compared to the previous quarter, in Sicily there were more detections of migrants from a very wide range of countries such as Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire and Tunisia. There were also over 710 detections reported from Malta, which is a sustained peak from the previous quarter (820) and extremely high compared to the negligible detections throughout 2010. In Malta there were much fewer detections of Somalis and Eritreans but there were increased detections of Nigerians and migrants from Côte d’Ivoire. However, migrants from Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt often claim to originate from sub-Saharan Africa in an attempt to appear as refugees, a fact which may render such comparisons of nationalities somewhat misleading.
In the previous FRAN Quarterly (Q1 2011) it was reported a surge of irregular immigration (20 000 detections) on the Central Mediterranean route that was almost entirely restricted to a single nationality: Tunisian (Fig. 8). As a result of this influx, on 20 February the JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011 commenced in the central Mediterranean, and a bilateral agreement was reached between Italy and Tunisia on 5 April 2011, which resulted in the strengthening of police surveillance along the Tunisian coast and regular repatriations of Tunisian nationals from Italy. For example, according to data collected under JO Hermes 2011, some 1 696 Tunisians were repatriated between 5 April and 23 August 2011. The repatriation agreement is probably an effective deterrent, combining as it does, returns and surveillance, however some migrants have reported their boats being spotted by military patrols that did not take any action. According to the FRAN data, in Q2 2011 some 4 286 Tunisian migrants were still detected illegally crossing the border into Italy. Although a massive reduction, this still represents a very large and significant flow of irregular migrants into the EU.
In comparison to the reduction in flow from Tunisia, in Q2 2011 there was a large increase in migrants who had departed from Libya (Fig. 9). The migrants departing from Libya were mostly nationals from countries in the Horn of Africa, the sub-Saharan and Central African regions and, to a lesser extent, Asia. According to intelligence collected during JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011, most of these migrants had already been in Libya for over a year, originally heading to Tripoli via the traditional routes for sub-Saharan and Central African migrants. In Q2 2011, migrants tended to reach Italy on large fishing vessels that had departed directly from Tripoli or the nearby ports of Medina and Janzour. Most of these deported African nationals did not want to leave the country as their standard of living in Libya was high compared to their home countries. Several even stated that they would choose to return to Libya after the war. In Q2 2011 reports suggest that some migrants were instructed to reach embarkation areas on their own but had been caught by the military or police and then detained in camps or disused barracks until they were transported to embarkation areas and onto vessels bound for Italy. In each case the migrants were searched by the military before boarding and all their belongings were confiscated. According to reports, nationals of the sub-Saharan and Central African regions as well as from Horn of African countries have been recruited by the Libyan army/police to manage their compatriot migrants at gathering places or camps. In some cases the destination of vessels from Libya was Sicily, where the flow was characterised by waves of landings. For example there were around 11 landings on 13 May and 7 between 11 and 29 June, with the majority of boats arriving from Libya and Egypt. [***]
4.1.3 Western Mediterranean route
In Q1 2011 there were 1 569 detections of illegal border-crossings on this route to Southern Spain, which is nearly double compared to the previous quarter (890), and more than a 50% increase compared to a year ago (973). Some of this increase is due to better weather conditions at this time of year, but irregular migration pressure on this route is clearly higher than it was at the same time last year. [***]
In the longer-term, irregular immigration to southern Spain has been consistently decreasing since the beginning of 2006. Commonly cited reasons are Frontex Joint Operations in the area, effective bilateral agreements and more recently rising unemployment in Spain, particularly in sectors typified by migrants.* Nationalities traditionally associated with this route were Algerian, Moroccan and Ghanaian. [***]
4.1.4 Western African route
The cooperation and bilateral agreements between Spain and the rest of the Western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali) are developing steadily. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on this route over the last year, as are the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. In Q4 2010 Frontex reported a slight increase in the number of detections of illegal border-crossing at the Canary Islands, from a maximum of 50 during each of the previous 4 quarters, to 113 in Q4 2010. This increased level of detections persisted into the first quarter of this year (154), exclusively due to Moroccan nationals (152) displaced after the dismantling of migrant camps near the dispute Western Saharan region. However, during the current reporting period detections on this route decreased massively to a negligible 24 detections. [***]”
Click here for 2011 Q2 Report.
Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q2 Report.
Click here for 2011 Q1 Report.
Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q1 Report.
PACE Adopts Resolution and Recommendation Regarding the Interception and Rescue at Sea of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Irregular Migrants
Here are extensive excerpts:
“1. The surveillance of Europe’s southern borders has become a regional priority. The European continent is having to cope with the relatively large-scale arrival of migratory flows by boat from Africa, reaching Europe mainly through Italy, Malta, Spain, Greece and Cyprus.
5. The Assembly notes that measures to manage these maritime arrivals raise numerous problems, of which five are particularly worrying:
5.1. Despite several relevant international instruments satisfactorily setting out the rights and obligations of states and individuals applicable in this area, interpretations of their content appear to differ. Some states do not agree on the nature and extent of their responsibilities in specific situations and some states also call into question the application of the principle of non-refoulement on the high seas;
5.2. While the absolute priority in the event of interception at sea is the swift disembarkation of those rescued to a “place of safety”, the notion of “place of safety” does not appear to be interpreted in the same way by all member states. Yet it is clear that the notion of “place of safety” should not be restricted solely to the physical protection of people, but necessarily also entails respect for their fundamental rights;
5.3. Divergences of this kind directly endanger the lives of the persons to be rescued, in particular by delaying or preventing rescue measures, and are likely to dissuade seafarers from rescuing people in distress at sea. Furthermore, they could result in a violation of the principle of non-refoulement in respect of a number of persons, including some in need of international protection;
5.4. Although the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member states of the European Union (Frontex) plays an ever increasing role in interception at sea, the guarantees of respect for human rights and obligations arising under international and European Union law in the context of the joint operations it co-ordinates are inadequate;
5.5. Finally, these sea arrivals place a disproportionate burden on the states located on the southern borders of the European Union. The goal of responsibilities being shared more fairly and greater solidarity in the migration sphere between European states is far from being attained.
6. The situation is rendered more complex by the fact that these migratory flows are of a mixed nature and therefore call for specialised and tailored protection-sensitive responses in keeping with the status of those rescued. To respond to sea arrivals adequately and in line with the relevant international standards, the states must take account of this aspect in their migration management policies and activities.
8. Finally and above all, the Assembly reminds the member states that they have both a moral and legal obligation to save persons in distress at sea without the slightest delay, and unequivocally reiterates the interpretation given by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which states that the principle of non-refoulement is equally applicable on the high seas. The high seas are not an area where states are exempt from their legal obligations, including those emerging from international human rights law and international refugee law.
9. Accordingly, the Assembly calls on the member states, when conducting maritime border surveillance operations, whether in the context of preventing smuggling and trafficking in human beings or in connection with border management, be it in the exercise of de jure or de facto jurisdiction, to:
9.1. fulfil without exception and without delay their obligation to save people in distress at sea;
9.2. ensure that their border management policies and activities, including interception measures, recognise the mixed make-up of flows of individuals attempting to cross maritime borders;
9.3. guarantee for all intercepted persons humane treatment and systematic respect for their human rights, including the principle of non-refoulement, regardless of whether interception measures are implemented within their own territorial waters, those of another state on the basis of an ad hoc bilateral agreement, or on the high seas;
9.4. refrain from any practices that might be tantamount to direct or indirect refoulement, including on the high seas, in keeping with the UNHCR’s interpretation of the extraterritorial application of that principle and with the relevant judgements of the European Court of Human Rights;
9.5. carry out as a priority action the swift disembarkation of rescued persons to a “place of safety” and interpret a “place of safety” as meaning a place which can meet the immediate needs of those disembarked and in no way jeopardises their fundamental rights, since the notion of “safety” extends beyond mere protection from physical danger and must also take into account the fundamental rights dimension of the proposed place of disembarkation;
9.6. guarantee access to a fair and effective asylum procedure for those intercepted who are in need of international protection;
9.7. guarantee access to protection and assistance, including to asylum procedures, for those intercepted who are victims of human trafficking or at risk of being trafficked;
9.8. ensure that the placement in a detention facility of those intercepted – always excluding minors and vulnerable categories –, regardless of their status, is authorised by the judicial authorities and occurs only where necessary and on grounds prescribed by law, that there is no other suitable alternative and that such placement conforms to the minimum standards and principles set forth in Assembly Resolution 1707 (2010) on the detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe;
9.9. suspend any bilateral agreements they may have concluded with third states if the human rights of those intercepted are not appropriately guaranteed therein, particularly the right of access to an asylum procedure, and wherever these might be tantamount to a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, and conclude new bilateral agreements specifically containing such human rights guarantees and measures for their regular and effective monitoring;
9.10. sign and ratify, if they have not already done so, the aforementioned relevant international instruments and take account of the Guidelines of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on the Treatment of Persons rescued at Sea;
9.11. sign and ratify, if they have not already done so, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197) and the so-called “Palermo Protocols” to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000);
9.12. ensure that maritime border surveillance operations and border control measures do not affect the specific protection afforded under international law to vulnerable categories such as refugees, stateless persons, women and unaccompanied children, migrants, victims of trafficking or at risk of being trafficked, or victims of torture and trauma.
10. The Assembly is concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the respective responsibilities of European Union states and Frontex and the absence of adequate guarantees for the respect of fundamental rights and international standards in the framework of joint operations co-ordinated by that agency. While the Assembly welcomes the proposals presented by the European Commission to amend the rules governing that agency, with a view to strengthening guarantees of full respect for fundamental rights, it considers them inadequate and would like the European Parliament to be entrusted with the democratic supervision of the agency’s activities, particularly where respect for fundamental rights is concerned.
4. [***] the Assembly reminds the Committee of Ministers of its dual responsibility: to support those member states that are in need, but also to make sure that all human rights obligations are complied with in the context of the interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants, including by guaranteeing to those intercepted access to a fair and efficient asylum procedure.
5. The Assembly therefore calls on the Committee of Ministers to:
5.1. include in the training material all necessary elements to enable the trained persons to proceed to a screening assessment of the international protection needs of intercepted persons and to ensure that staff involved in the operations of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member states of the European Union (Frontex) are trained accordingly;
5.2. define, in close co-operation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), guidelines and standard operating procedures, when interception and rescue at sea takes place, determining minimum administrative procedures to guarantee that those persons with international protection needs are identified and provided with the appropriate protection;
5.3. continue monitoring the situation of large-scale arrivals of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, and in particular the issue of interception and rescue at sea, including by holding extraordinary meetings on the situation, where appropriate, and use the good offices of the UNHCR with its representative at the Council of Europe, where relevant.”
Click here for full text of Resolution 1821 (2011).
Click here for full text of Recommendation 1974 (2011).
The European Commission will consider and likely adopt a Communication on migration on Wednesday, 4 May. Below are excerpts from a draft document which appears to have been under consideration as of 15 April. The draft Communication [DRAFT 15-04-2011] includes proposals for burden sharing under certain circumstances and “a mechanism [for the introduction of] a coordinated and temporary reintroduction of [internal EU border] controls.”
Excerpts from the draft:
“Table of Contents
2……….. Crossing the borders
2.1…….. Coping with the crisis: the short-term measures
2.2…….. Border controls
2.3…….. Schengen governance
2.4…….. Preventing irregular immigration
3……….. Moving and living in an area without internal borders
3.1…….. Organised mobility
3.2…….. A consistent policy on mobility including visas
3.3…….. A properly managed legal migration
3.4…….. Building an inclusive society by integrating immigrants
4……….. Providing international protection to persons in need
5……….. Migration in External relations beyond the crisis
5.1…….. The Global approach to migration
5.2…….. Beyond the crisis: the EU and the Southern Mediterranean in partnership
Some Member States, such as Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus are more directly exposed to massive arrivals of irregular migrants and, to a limited extent, of persons in need of international protection. This is not a national problem alone, but needs also to be addressed at the EU level and requires true solidarity amongst Member States.
The EU must ensure quick assistance to all persons in need – as it has done notably at the Tunisian-Libyan border – and provide shelter to those in need of international protection. Whilst the EU must maintain and consolidate its tradition of granting asylum and protection it should also foresee the appropriate tools in order to prevent large number of economic migrants crossing the borders irregularly. To reach these objectives, managing effectively the EU borders is a condition of credibility inside and outside the Union.
The continuously evolving situation in our Southern Neighbourhood requires rapid responses. Building upon the European Council Conclusions of 11 and 25 March, and the joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of 8 March, the Commission will present on 24 May a package of proposals to address the EU approach in the area of migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries.
However, the absolute need to address this challenging and evolving situation should not lead to a short-term approach limited to border control without taking account of long-term issues. Dialogue and cooperation with countries of origin and of transit of these migrants is essential. Such collaboration needs to be built on security and good governance for the establishment of mutually beneficial policies in the field of legal migration. It also implies enhanced economic cooperation in order to develop the conditions for growth and employment in the countries of origin, to address the causes of irregular migration and to promote a pact for development and well managed legal migration in its various forms.
2.1 Coping with the crisis: the short-term measures
Those Member States that are most exposed to the growing flows of refugees and irregular migrants have been helped with the financial consequences of the displacement. To this end, around 25 MEUR which were identified under the External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund.
While the current crisis confirms the need for increased solidarity at the European level and better sharing of responsibility, it must be recognised that the EU is not fully equipped to help those Member States most exposed to massive migratory movements.
The financial resources available under the General programme “Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows” are inadequate to respond to all requests for assistance. First, these funds can not be mobilised easily; they are designed to intervene in a stable situation and not to tackle emergencies and crisis. Secondly, the magnitude of the problems largely exceeds the existing facilities.
In the context of the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, will have to draw lessons from the current crisis. For the EU to react quickly and effectively in the case of unforeseen events or emergencies, Home Affairs funding should be adapted so that it can be mobilised much more rapidly and flexibly, including in third countries.
In principle, other forms of solidarity exist to respond to the dramatic events taking place in the region. Building on the experience gained so far with the current pilot project on relocation from Malta, the Commission will support an extension of this project in view of the current influx of migrants seeking international protection there, to be implemented in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration. However, the currently available instruments fall short of fulfilling all the needs and providing a comprehensive response. They can only be resorted to in an ad hoc manner, and are entirely dependent on the will of Member States to voluntarily offer assistance – in whatever form – at a given point in time. This in turn exposes the EU to criticism and risks undermining the trust of the citizens in the EU.
The Commission will closely monitor the continuously evolving situation and may decide, if the relevant conditions are met, to trigger the Temporary Protection Directive to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from third countries that are unable to return to their country of origin.
The Commission will make further proposals during 2011 on delivering solidarity in a holistic manner and how concretely such assistance can be delivered. A number of different approaches are currently being studied, with a view to developing alternatives that will allow urgent needs to be responded to in a more rapid and structured fashion. This initiative will build on the appropriate legal basis of the Lisbon Treaty, such as Articles 80 and 78 paragraph 3, and will draw lessons from the situation in Greece, particularly at the land border between Greece and Turkey, and the crisis in the Southern Mediterranean; it will include possible ad hoc measures to be resorted to in case of particular temporary pressure on one or several Member States, as well as more structural means of ensuring solidarity, both financial and in the form practical cooperation and technical assistance (e.g. via FRONTEX, EASO, joint operations).
Finally, as an important gesture of solidarity towards the North African countries (especially Tunisia) which are currently hosting large number of persons in need of international protection who cannot be returned to their countries of origin, and in order to maintain ‘protection space’ in these countries, it is important for EU Member States to accept to resettle some of these persons.
2.3 Schengen governance
A mechanism must also be put in place to allow the Union to handle situations where either a Member State is not fulfilling its obligations to control its section of the external border, or where a particular portion of the external border comes under unexpected and heavy pressure due to external events. A coordinated response by the Union in these critical situations will increase trust among Member States. It will also reduce the need for unilateral initiatives by Member States to temporarily reintroduce internal border controls or to intensify police checks in internal border regions. However, even when such initiatives are taken within the limits set by the acquis, they inevitably slow down the crossing of internal borders for everyone. To be used as a last resort in truly critical situations, a mechanism may therefore need to be introduced allowing for a coordinated and temporary reintroduction of controls at one or several sections of the internal border. Such a mechanism would apply for a limited and pre-determined period of time, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules. The Commission is exploring the feasibility of introducing such a mechanism, and may present a proposal to this effect shortly.
Click on this link “DRAFT 15-04-2011” for draft Communication.
Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, & Spain Issue Joint Communiqué Regarding Response to North African Migration
“Joint Communiqué II
(Nicosia, 19 April, 2011)
Following the meeting in Rome on the 23rd February 2011, the Home Affairs and Internal Security Ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta as well as the representative of the Minister of Interior of Spain, met again today in Nicosia and discussed the continuing dramatic developments in the Southern Mediterranean region. At the end of the meeting it was decided to issue the following Joint Communiqué.
The Home Affairs and Internal Security Ministers of the Mediterranean Member States of the EU:
Recalling our February 23rd,2011 Joint Communiqué, we have repeated our utmost concern for the unfolding events in relation to the humanitarian situation as well as to the massive illegal immigration flows and movements of possible beneficiaries of international protection that affect our countries;
Taking into account that the escalating events in countries of Northern Africa and the greater Middle East are destabilising the region and acknowledging that political reforms and democratic transitions will not take effect immediately and that their outcome is still uncertain;
Bearing in mind Europe’s longstanding tradition and commitment to the provision of international protection to people in need, in accordance with the Geneva Convention and in line with humanitarian principles and full respect of human rights;
Underlying that security and stability in the Mediterranean is directly linked to the security and stability of the EU as a whole and that effective response to this challenge requires joint efforts, commitment and solidarity from all EU Member States;
Stressing that the current emergency situation with regard to the massive illegal immigration flows and movements of possible beneficiaries of international protection brings upon the Mediterranean Member States additional social, economic, administrative and demographic burden, to that already prevailing;
Recalling the already existing intense and continuous migratory pressure at the south eastern external borders of the EU;
Expressing deep concern about the conflict in Libya and its consequences in terms of sufferings of countless human beings and growing number of displaced persons fleeing the war and taking into account that huge number of people in need of international protection could arrive at the most exposed Mediterranean Member States in the immediate future;
Emphasizing that the possible prolongation of such influxes of illegal migrants and asylum seekers to the Mediterranean Member States, cannot be managed without the concrete and substantial support and solidarity from the rest of the EU’s Member States; alternatively, the situation will seriously jeopardize our ability, and subsequently the Union’s ability, to manage the displaced persons and provide those in need with international protection as well as undermine our common security;
Stressing that the arising situation will challenge and undermine the efforts of those Member States to reform their overburdened national asylum systems;
Reaffirming the urgent necessity for EU to provide concrete and immediate support to Member States on the EU southern external borders;
Stressing the need for additional actions and policies with a view to implement the EU principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility as expressed in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and in line with the Stockholm Programme, the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, the Global Approach to Migration, the relevant European Council Declaration of 11 March 2011 and Conclusions of 24 and 25 March 2011, the JHA Council Conclusions of 11and 12 April 2011 on the management of migration from the Southern Neighbourhood and the JHA Council Conclusions of 25 and 26 February 2010 on 29 measures for reinforcing the protection of the external borders and combating illegal immigration;
Therefore we, the Ministers of Home Affairs and Internal Security of the EU Mediterranean Countries, have adopted a common position on the emerging situation in our region and urge the European Union to practically offer operational as well as financial support to Member States which face mass and disproportionate mixed migration flows, by fully mobilizing all available EU assets, instruments and capabilities, either existing or additional ones,.
Particularly, as the competent Ministers of the EU Mediterranean Member States, urge the European Union to:
Urgently present and implement proposals on the Global Approach to Migration as well as on Mobility Partnerships, in a spirit of genuine cooperation with the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood Region, also to effectively control and manage the current and the anticipated mass migration flows as well as situation-specific schemes on return and readmission.
Call on FRONTEX to immediately implement the provisions set out in section 5 of the JHA Council Conclusions of 11 April 2011, to speed up negotiations with the countries of the region – and in particular with Tunisia – with a view to concluding operational working arrangements, and organising joint patrolling operations in cooperation with Tunisian authorities and in application of all relevant international Conventions, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (“the Montego Bay Convention”).
Call on FRONTEX to intensify the monitoring of the situation based on risk analysis and encourage Member States to provide the Agency with further human and technical resources so as to continue its ongoing operations (Joint Operation Hermes, Joint Operation Poseidon Land and Sea and the possible deployment of a RABIT operation in Malta) in the light of the emerging situation. Furthermore, call FRONTEX to expand its operations, where and when necessary, to prevent illegal flows in the eastern Mediterranean area of Egypt and Syria. To this end, further adequate financing of FRONTEX should be considered so as to increase the Organization’s capabilities to fulfil successfully its tasks.
Enhance the operational capacity and the coordinating role of the FRONTEX Operational Office in Piraeus in order to effectively deal with the situation;
Accelerate work on the FRONTEX Amending Regulation with a view to an agreement by June 2011 which will strengthen its capacity, make it truly operational and improve its synergy with other bodies.
Promote practical cooperation with the countries of origin or transit of illegal migrants in the region in preventing and fighting illegal migration flows, inter alia by concluding Readmission Agreements, developing Voluntary Return Programmes, enhancing their capacity of border management and surveillance, expanding the Immigration Liaison Officers Network, promoting legal migration by exploring the possibility of concluding mobility partnerships;
Encourage Member States to expedite discussions on the proposal for recasting the Dublin II Regulation, including a mechanism to suspend the transfers to Member States facing particular pressure on their national asylum systems.
Urgently mobilize all available financial assistance through the External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund and in addition, as section 4 of the JHA Council Conclusions of 11 April, 2011 reads, activate supplementary funds that can be made available to Member States or FRONTEX at short notice when needed. In this vein establish a special solidarity Fund, when necessary, to tackle exceptional emergency situations and humanitarian crisis.
Deploy every available possibility by the European Asylum Support Office to offer practical support to the Member States of the Mediterranean Region in need. A permanent specialised mechanism should be set up through the EASO, which, at exceptional emergency situations, will provide Member States in need with the necessary logistical and technical support.
As a matter of priority, present a proposal for implementing a coherent and comprehensive mechanism for distributing responsibilities, on a voluntary basis, specifically regarding the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection among member states, in case of European countries faced with particular pressures, as a consequence of their geographical or demographic situation, especially when facing the sudden arrival of third country nationals in need of international protection.
Commit to the work on establishing a Common European Asylum System with a view to respect the 2012 deadline.
We the Ministers of the Mediterranean Member States of the EU agreed to meet again soon, at a date to be agreed, in order to further coordinate our efforts before the European Council of June this year.”
Click here for document.
The JHA Council yesterday rejected Italy’s call for a stronger EU response to what it describes as an impending migrant flow from North Africa consisting of hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers. Several EU governments described the Italian request as one that was based on exaggerated fears. Hungary’s interior minister, Sandor Pinter, told reporters that “we shouldn’t paint the devil on the wall until he appears.” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said “we shouldn’t be painting horror figures and encouraging refugees to come to Europe.” Another accused Italy of “crying wolf.”
IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said that while Italy should not shoulder a refugee burden on its own, no Libyans have arrived in Italy to date and she rejected the Italian estimates: “I don’t think in any shape or form you are going to see one-and-a-half million migrants suddenly flood into Europe. That is really not going to happen at all. That would really be fear mongering to the extreme.”
Italy has done itself and neighbouring countries a disservice by repeatedly speaking of an “exodus of biblical proportions” and by suggesting that many hundreds of thousands of migrants are poised to take to the sea to try to reach Italy and Malta from Libya. These estimates are in all likelihood grossly exaggerated.
But even if you agree that Italy’s feared numbers are exaggerations, the fact that no irregular migrant or asylum seeker has apparently yet left Libya by sea is not at all surprising. Libya is in chaos and few people are likely to try to depart the country by sea until the level of violence begins to diminish. Libya has (or had) a functioning network of human traffickers and they will be ready to begin exploiting the chaos and to take advantage of desperate people seeking to flee at some point in the future. If Gaddafi manages to remain in power, once he is no longer concerned with his personal survival, his thoughts will at some point turn to revenge. Libya will presumably cease cooperating with Italy on the bi-lateral pushback practice, and Gaddafi will tolerate or encourage irregular migration towards Europe. So Italy is correct in that there is a real threat of significant numbers of migrants and asylum seekers leaving from Libya some time in the near future. The numbers could easily and quickly surpass the 6,000 who have left Tunisia for Lampedusa. Could the numbers surpass 30,000? 30,000 asylum seekers entered Sweden last year (population 9 million – Italy’s population is 50+ million) and Sweden has not received any extraordinary EU assistance as a result. Could the numbers exceed the hundreds of thousands that fled the Balkan wars in the 1990s? Possible, but probably not very likely.
The Ministers of the Interior of Italy, France, Spain, Malta and Cyprus met in Rome on Wednesday in advance of today’s JHA Council meeting and agreed to ask the EU for assistance in regard to the expected flow of migrants from North Africa. The Ministers will call for the creation of a special EU fund to provide financial support to the frontline states directly affected by significant numbers of migrants and for the redistribution or relocation of asylum seekers among all EU member states so that the states of first arrival do not experience an unfair burden. Michele Cercone, spokesperson for Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, noted that current European standards do not provide a mechanism for the redistribution between member states of migrants seeking asylum, other than on a voluntary basis.
Click here (IT) for article.
The Times of Malta reports today that Frontex “has been given instructions to start preparing for a possible unprecedented influx of immigrants and asylum seekers fleeing Libya towards the EU, particularly through Malta and Lampedusa.” “‘The fact that the Libyan regime does not seem to be in control of the huge expanse of the 2,000-km long Libyan coastline might already pose a big danger of a flood of asylum seekers crossing by rogue boats towards Malta, Lampedusa and Sicily,’ the sources said.” According to the article the planned response to a massive flow would involve all 27 member states. EU spokesman for Home Affairs Michele Cercone confirmed that Frontex was engaged in planning for a migrant flow from Libya, but said he would not “speculate on details and suppositions.” The article also states that “six EU Mediterranean member states [Malta, France, Cyprus, Spain, Greece, and Italy] will meet in Rome tomorrow in an urgent minisummit to devise a common stance on the immigration crisis facing the southern Mediterranean region, a day before official talks of EU justice ministers in Brussels.”
Click here article.
According to an article in the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman, Turkish Interior Ministry data indicates that human smuggling in Turkey has decreased since 2007, but that one consequence of increased enforcement within Turkey has been a diversion of human smuggling to the Turkish controlled northern portion of Cyprus.
“According to the ministry, the total number of illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and immigrants caught at land and sea borders with Syria, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria declined to 28,355 in 2009.” This number is in contrast to the 50,800 migrants reportedly arrested in 2008 and 7,465 arrested over the first six months of 2010.
The Ministry also reported a decline in known deaths: “In line with the drop in the number of immigrants trying to get to the West through Turkey, there has been a decline in the number of illegal immigrant deaths. In 2007, 82 immigrants died in accidents on the Aegean Sea and 102 went missing. The number of deaths dropped to 76 in 2008 and to 43 in 2008. The number of deaths in the first half of 2010 was nine.”
According to the article, there has been a diversion of smuggling operations towards Turkish controlled Cyprus and as a result the “KKTC [the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] [is] facing the biggest migration move ever in its history.” “In 2008, the number [of irregular migrants] doubled and increased to 568. It continued to increase in 2009. According to estimates, 750 migrants entered the island in 2009. … Illegal immigrants are brought by ships to Cyprus during the night and left in places that are far from settlement areas in Dipkarpaz and the İskele region. In addition to the KKTC, a similar number of immigrants are brought to Greek Cyprus. It is believed that illegal immigrants pay between $2,000-$3,000 on average to human smugglers to enter the KKTC. In the latest smuggling cases in Turkey, they pay $5,000-$10,000.”
Click here for article.
Click here Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site on Illegal Migration.
12th Conf. of International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (Cyprus 28/6-2/7) (Conferences)
The 12th conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration – IASFM12: Transforming Boundaries – will be hosted by the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, from 28 June to 2 July 2009.
Click here for conference information.