Flight and migration across the Mediterranean to the EU
The flight and migration across the Mediterranean to the EU is a migration movement from the Near and Middle East , North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa . Common reasons are poor living conditions or armed conflicts in the refugees' home countries.
In politics and in the media, the term “ Mediterranean refugees” is often used , whereby this term refers to refugees in the narrower sense, those entitled to subsidiary protection and migrants with no prospect of asylum. The term boat people , which comes from English, is occasionally used.
According to a study by the International Organization for Migration, the route across the Mediterranean was the world's most dangerous route for migrants in 2014 .
The EU and its member states try to prevent refugee and migration movements across the Mediterranean, primarily through cooperation with third countries in North Africa. This policy has been criticized by activists for its human rights consequences, particularly in relation to Libya.
Causes of migration and countries of origin
There are many reasons why people leave their region of origin. A study by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development published in October 2014 names some basic factors as the main reasons for the high migratory pressure. According to this, demographic, economic, political and migration policy factors as well as security, education and the environment are decisive factors in people making the journey across the Mediterranean. In addition, the current quality of life and the quality of life expected in the EU destination country as well as the existing migration and information networks ( diaspora ) in the EU countries also play a role.
According to studies by Reiner Klingholz et al. the people who come to Europe from Africa are predominantly between 20 and 30 years old, mostly male, comparatively well educated and belong to the African middle class. In order to be able to organize flight and migration to Europe, one has to have the knowledge, establish networks and raise the necessary money. Poverty migration to Europe is a myth. People from countries with a gross domestic product per capita of less than $ 2,000 have a very low probability of migration. People from countries with a gross domestic product per capita of $ 8,000 to $ 13,000 are most likely to migrate. People from countries with a gross domestic product per capita of over $ 13,000 are less likely to migrate.
From Syria fled people because the local civil war . In Eritrea there is poverty, oppression and violence against critics of the regime and members of the opposition; the human rights situation under Isayas Afewerki's government is driving many people to flight. In northeastern Nigeria , many fled the violence of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram . After several offensives by the Nigerian army and armies from neighboring countries, Boko Haram has no longer controlled any villages or territory since 2016. Looking back on 2016, Frontex concluded that refugees and migrants, encouraged by the stories of those who had previously successfully crossed the Mediterranean Sea, would attempt the crossing, aware of the risk and reliance on humanitarian relief efforts.
In a discussion paper by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development , it is assumed that migration pressure will continue to increase. This is supported by the sustained high population growth, rapid urbanization and the generally good economic development in Africa and the Middle East. This creates an urban middle class that can organize and finance an exit. It is not the poorest part of the population who migrate, but those from the urban middle class who have the necessary knowledge and resources.
According to the former Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière , fewer and fewer Syrians and Iraqis came in the course of 2017, and more and more West Africans who wanted to come to Europe for economic reasons. In the case of economic refugees who do not need protection , however, neither the federal government nor other EU states are willing to accept them.
- the western Mediterranean route via the city of Agadez and via Morocco to southern Spain or the Canary Islands (also known as the Gibraltar route ),
- the central Mediterranean route, which also leads via Agadez and then goes directly or indirectly via Libya and leads to Lampedusa or Malta ,
- the Apulia-Calabria route, which leads from Turkey and Egypt (partly via Greece , but not via Libya) to Apulia or Calabria , with Frontex adding the numbers for this route since 2014 to those of the central Mediterranean route, and
- the Eastern Mediterranean Route, which leads to Greece via Egypt, Jordan , Lebanon , Syria and Turkey.
Development of arrival numbers in Italy
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In the course of the revolution in Tunisia in 2010/2011 , the number of boat refugees landing on Lampedusa and Sicily increased sharply . During the civil war in Libya (February to October 2011), many Libyans also crossed there. People from North Africa also fled during the Arab Spring .
In Italy, more than 170,000 migrants arrived by sea in 2014; most of them had been brought to Italy by the sea rescue operation Mare Nostrum (for origin see table). 74% were men, 10.7% women and 15.3% minors. Around half of the minors were without parents or other company . However, Italy registered only 150,000 of these, of which only 64,000 made asylum applications. The rest moved on to other countries such as Germany and Sweden.
The vast majority (90%, as of 2014) of migrants who reach Italy via the Mediterranean Sea come from Libya . Libya is used as a transit state in particular by people seeking protection from Eritrea , Syria, Egypt, Nigeria and Somalia (see transit migration ).
In March 1991, at the end of communist rule, tens of thousands of Albanians stormed the port of Durres and over 20,000 people reached the Italian port cities of Bari , Brindisi and Otranto in hijacked boats . About half of the newcomers were allowed to stay, the others were brought back. When around 17,000 refugees reached Bari in August, including more than 10,000 on the old freighter Vlora , the Italian government under Giulio Andreotti brought the people back by ship and aircraft within a few weeks despite the tumult. Amnesty International found that the provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention had been violated as no individual assessment was carried out. In the period that followed, irregular crossings to Italy became a lucrative line of business for organized crime, and the Italian coastguard, with the help of neighboring European countries, equipped to secure the external border.
In the same year, Italy supported Albania with payments of $ 120 million and food deliveries valued at $ 80 million, and sent 800 soldiers to Durres as part of Operation Pelican.
In the spring of 1997, thousands of Albanians fled the unrest of the lottery uprising , which destroyed the state, to the Italian region of Apulia . In March, the UN Security Council approved an Italy-led peace mission to stabilize Albania and secure humanitarian aid. Albania was saved from civil war and troops withdrew in August.
2003 to 2005
Between 2003 and 2005 Italy supported the construction of three internment camps at Gharyan , Kufra and Sebha . Italy also helped finance charter flights to return migrants from Libya to their home countries. Between October 2004 and March 2005, 1,500 irregular migrants were brought directly from Lampedusa to Libya despite protests by NGOs.
In 2004, Italy started constant military surveillance outside the Italian borders in the Strait of Sicily with Operation Constant Vigilance to curb illegal migration and smuggling gangs.
2008 and 2009
On August 30, 2008, Berlusconi and Gaddafi signed the Italian-Libyan friendship treaty . It also agreed on bilateral cooperation against illegal migration. The implementation of joint patrols to intercept boats was formally decided and the improvement of the border security infrastructure should be carried out through joint funding from Italy and the EU. As a result of the joint interception measures, the number of boat refugees arriving in Italy fell by 55% in the first half of 2009 compared to the previous year.
In 2009, according to a newly concluded agreement between Italy and Libya, 850 intercepted migrants were returned directly to Libya without recording their personal data. This push back policy was attacked by UNHCR and human rights groups while the EU was defending it.
According to Frontex, in 2014 many migrants who actually came from Egypt pretended to be Syrians in order to prevent deportation.
In 2015, the UN Refugee Agency noted a massive increase in the number of refugees from the Mediterranean Sea, mainly due to the civil war in Syria, the conflicts in Africa and the chaotic situation in Libya.
On the initiative of Austria, a Western Balkans conference took place on February 24, 2016 . The goal of the countries bordering the Balkan route was to find ways to reduce the high number of refugees and migrants coming to Europe. According to the Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner , Vienna considered short-term national solutions to be necessary in view of an outstanding EU solution. Austria and the Western Balkans finally reached an agreement. on alternately sending police officers to control particularly affected border areas. In addition, the criteria for the rejection of refugees and their registration are to be standardized. Greece was not invited to the meeting. At the EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on 7./8. March 2016, top representatives from the EU and Turkey discussed the implementation of the joint action plan to limit immigration via Turkey, on the basis of which the EU-Turkey Agreement of March 18, 2016 was concluded. In the EU-Turkey Agreement of March 18, 2016, it was agreed that Turkey will take back people who have traveled illegally to Europe, while the EU in return allows legal asylum seekers to enter. The EU wants to pay six billion euros to projects in Turkey and Turkish citizens should be able to enter the EU without a visa. These measures led to a very significant decrease in the number of refugees on the Balkan route.
The migration on the central Mediterranean route (the Italian Mediterranean) according to the UNHCR took significantly to 181,436 refugees.
In 2016, Spain reached 8,162 people by sea and 5,932 people by land near Ceuta and Melilla.
Greece reached around 173,450 people, with fewer than 4,000 people arriving per month as of May.
From January to early June 2017, more than 60,000 refugees were transported to Italy. About 7,300 people reached Greece and 3,200 Spanish territory during the same period. Most of the refugees come from Nigeria , Bangladesh and Guinea .
On July 6, 2017, the EU interior ministers met in Tallinn (Estonia) to discuss Italy's demands for more support. Italy's Interior Minister Marco Minniti said before the meeting that he wanted to insist that other EU countries take more refugees from Italy. Rescue ships should also bring migrants to ports outside of Italy. Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands rejected the request. The German government fears that such a step could encourage even more migrants to flee across the Mediterranean.
The Libyan Coast Guard brings refugees back to the mainland from the sea. Minniti demands that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) commit themselves to a code of conduct that only allows them to operate in Libyan waters if there is “obvious danger”. The UN refugee commissioner Filippo Grandi called for more support for Italy.
The Secretary General of Amnesty International , Salil Shetty , said that many of the G-20 countries (which met in Hamburg ) competed to assume as little responsibility as possible in the refugee crisis.
On July 26, 2017, the head of the Libyan "Government of the National Accord", al Sarradsch , asked Italy to deploy ships, planes and drones off the Libyan coast.
In August the Libyan government announced an expansion of its territorial waters . On August 10, the Libyan government declared an area off the coast, which extends far beyond Libyan territorial waters into international territory, a “ Search and Rescue Zone” (SAR zone) and requested aid organizations not to enter this zone. She threatened them with consequences in the event of an unauthorized entry into this zone. In contrast to the previously responsible Italian MRCC in Rome, a Libyan Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) will then coordinate the rescue operations.
The non-governmental organization Save the Children reported that this zone, which for them de facto amounts to a restricted zone , extends up to 70 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. The scientific service of the Bundestag criticized the unauthorized declaration of the zone in a legal opinion and made it clear that Libya may exercise certain control rights there, but according to international law, it should not hinder sea rescue by civil shipping.
Since the number of refugees on the central Mediterranean route (Libya-Italy) has decreased, the number of refugees from Morocco to Spain has risen: By mid-August 2017, 11,849 people had reached Spain by sea and around 3,500 by land. The number of new migrants arriving in Italy decreased by 57 percent from mid-June to mid-July 2017, according to Frontex, and continued to decline in August, although the time of year suggested an increase. According to the UNHCR, 17.2% fewer (99,742 instead of 120,448 in the previous year) migrants crossed the Mediterranean in 2017.
In 2017, according to the UNHCR, 119,249 migrants reached Italy; In 2016 there were 181,436 people.
According to figures from the UN organization IOM , around 113,145 migrants crossed the Mediterranean between the beginning of the year and December 19, 2018. It is estimated that 2242 people died during the crossing during the same period.
In the summer of 2018, Italy and Malta terminated the informal cooperation with non-governmental organizations that had previously been in place for four years. After the blockade and legal disputes, various non-governmental organizations began to cross Libya again in a coordinated action with several ships at the same time.
According to the International Organization for Migration, an estimated 34,226 migrants crossed the Mediterranean between the beginning of the year and July 17. According to a further estimate, 683 people had a fatal accident while crossing the river during the same period.
In June 2019, Italian authorities, with the help of a Frontex surveillance aircraft, seized a fishing boat under the Libyan flag, which, as a mother ship, had towed a speedboat up to about 40 km from Lampedusa, with which 81 migrants then headed for the island, while the mother ship headed for the African one Tried to drop the coast Its occupation consisted of Libyans and Egyptians, the migrants came from Bangladesh, Algeria, Syria, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. The procedure was described as tried and tested by the newspaper La Repubblica .
On August 29, the largest mass arrival since 2016 occurred when 13 boats with 546 people from Turkey landed on Lesvos near Skala Sikamineas within an hour. Most of them are said to have been migrants from Syria and Afghanistan. More than 10,000 people were cared for in the island's camp at the time.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic , activists were largely forced to suspend their sea rescue operations. The proportion of migrants who were able to gain access to European islands or the mainland fell accordingly. According to UNHCR estimates, around 800 people tried to get from Libya to Europe in March 2020. Fewer than 200 made it to Malta or Italy, the rest were picked up and transported back by the Libyan Coast Guard. In June, several private German sea rescue organizations complained about the tightening of the regulations by the Federal Ministry of Transport . Representatives of the organizations appeared in the Evangelical Press Service , complaining about the high costs that arise from the required conversions and that different boat driving licenses are now required for their humanitarian commitment than for leisure captains.
In June 2020, research by SPIEGEL , Report Mainz and the media NPO Lighthouse Reports showed that so-called push-backs were apparently carried out on the Aegean Sea . A video from May 13, 2020 showed that the Greek coast guard left migrants on a life raft. On June 4, masked strangers attacked a refugee boat in a speedboat. The research assigned the speedboat to the Greek coast guard. The Greek coast guard denied the allegations. The same research revealed that in one case, refugees who had reached the island of Samos were again released into the sea with life rafts.
A report by the UN Refugee Agency in August 2020 found that most of the people who entered the European Union via Libya did not need international protection. The report estimated that 70 percent of them were not entitled to asylum. The envoy for the UN refugee agency Vincent Cochetel warned that if no effective return mechanisms are put in place for the people, the entire asylum system would be called into question.
The Moria refugee camp and two other camps are located on the Greek island of Lesbos . In September 2019, around 10,000 people were housed there when the camp burned down. The fire broke out during protests by migrants who refused to quarantine after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus , according to the Greek Ministry of Migration .
According to an internal EU document, a total of 11,891 migrants in the Mediterranean were returned by the Libyan coast guard to Libyan prison camps in 2020, where, according to the United Nations and the European External Action Service, sexual violence, ransom, forced labor and killings are widespread. More than 4,500 people were intercepted and returned to the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan Coast Guard within the first four months of 2021.
EU migration policy
Until Spain joined the Schengen Agreement in 1991, Moroccan citizens could enter Spain without a visa.
In 2004, the EU arms embargo, which had been imposed on Libya for terrorist activities since 1986, was lifted under Italian pressure so that military equipment and surveillance technology for border security could be delivered to Libya.
In 2011, however, the United Nations Security Council imposed a new arms embargo, which was last extended for one year in July 2018.
Various politicians from EU countries have tried (again) to influence conditions in Libya since 2017. Ultimately, the left-wing democratic Italian interior minister Marco Minniti managed to reach agreements with local rulers according to which they would take stronger action against smugglers and receive money and other services in return.
The EU and Italy are participating in the reconstruction of the Libyan coast guard. As part of the EU Operation Sophia, 188 members had been trained by April 2018 and 300 by the end of 2018. By then, Italy had delivered 4 coastal defense boats, and 6 more were to follow.
In order to strengthen the new Italian government of Giuseppe Conte from Cinque Stelle and Partito Democratico , representatives of Germany and France apparently guaranteed the admission of the majority of the migrants landed by state or private sea rescuers in Italy and Malta during negotiations in Malta on September 23, 2019, without that their reasons for asylum must first be examined as before. The agreement is to be valid for 6 months and can then be extended. People who independently travel by sea to Italy or Malta, on the other hand, do not benefit from the agreement.
Task Force EU, African Union, UN and IOM (since 2017)
At the EU-Africa summit at the end of 2017, a task force made up of representatives from the EU, the African Union and the United Nations was set up to improve the humanitarian situation of refugees and migrants in Africa and especially Libya:
- Access for international aid organizations to camps under the Libyan unity government.
- Expansion of voluntary return. The African Union agreed to organize non-bureaucratic returns from Libya.
- Improved information exchange and awareness campaigns.
- Exchange of legal migration to Europe
- Support stabilization efforts. The EU and its member states agreed on the European External Investment Plan, which aims to support and encourage private investment in Africa. With a fund volume of 3.35 billion euros, investments of up to 44 billion euros are to be mobilized. By strengthening the African economy, young African people should be motivated to stay in their home countries.
The repatriation should take place as follows: The UN refugee agency should first identify politically persecuted people and migrant workers. Politically persecuted people should first be brought to safety in the neighboring countries Niger and Chad and then distributed to countries willing to accept them. Migrant workers should return to their countries of origin under the responsibility of the African Union and with the support of the International Organization for Migration , with the EU providing funds for reintegration assistance.
Legal migration channels for work and training in EU countries were also agreed. The then Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) spoke of bringing several hundred thousand young Africans to Europe for training every year. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) said that she does not think in terms of hundreds of thousands and that she does not want to commit to numbers.
By April 2018, 20,000 migrants had been returned to their home countries with EU funds. 137 human traffickers were arrested and turned over to the Italian judiciary. Libyan authorities have now closed 20 of the 53 internment camps. EU countries will take in 50,000 migrants by 2019 as part of the resettlement program, and Germany has agreed to take in 10,000 migrants.
On December 22, 2017, Italy began to transport the first people in need of protection directly from Libya to Italy by military aircraft.
The United Nations has two programs that receive substantial funding from the European Union. One is organized by IOM , the other by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Its employees are looking for refugees in need of protection in order to either fly them directly to Europe or to bring them to a safe host country via transit centers operated by the UNHCR in Niger, among other places. The main aim is to get the migrants in Libyan camps to voluntarily return to their homeland. From January to July 2019, 6,300 people were flown out of Libya.
A former employee of the International Criminal Court and the French Foreign Ministry and an Israeli lawyer accused the EU countries France, Germany and Italy of, among other things, crimes against humanity in a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court in June 2019 . They aimed to end the “Mare Nostrum” mission and concluded that the EU countries are responsible for thousands of deaths each year.
European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)
In June 2002 the European Council in Seville decided, on the basis of a feasibility study for the establishment of an EU border police, to set up ad-hoc centers which were supposed to gather practical experience in cross-border cooperation in border security. In 2004, the Eastern Sea Borders Center in Piraeus and the Western Sea Borders Center in Madrid were established for the Mediterranean region for cooperation between EU states and third countries and for joint patrols.
Securing the EU's external borders , including the maritime ones, falls under the sovereign responsibility of the respective state. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, or Frontex for short, has been coordinating and supporting the nation states in this task since 2005 . Frontex is a joint agency of the European Union. According to a 2013 report by Pro Asyl , Frontex participated in push-back operations when refugee boats were pushed back into Turkey. The European External Sea Borders Ordinance (EU No. 656/2014) regulates the international legal obligation to rescue at sea and the principle of non- refoulement for border surveillance operations under Frontex coordination since 2014. The Regulation (EU) no. 656/2014 (Seeaußengrenzenverordnung) applies only to Frontex, not for coastguards of countries.
Against the background of the refugee crisis in Europe , Frontex should help to implement effective external border security in the Mediterranean as well, in order to enable travel without personal controls within the Schengen area again.
According to research results by Spiegel , Lighthouse Reports, Monitor and Liberation published at the end of April 2021, Frontex is opposed to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 that refugees may not be brought back to Libya because they are threatened with torture and death. According to the research, when refugee boats were identified on the Mediterranean Sea, Frontex did not notify civilian European rescue ships through its own aerial reconnaissance in most cases - even if these were closest to the position of the refugee boats - but rather the Libyan sea rescue coordination center or the Libyan coast guard. According to an internal EU document, a total of 11,891 migrants in the Mediterranean were returned by the Libyan coast guard to Libyan prison camps in 2020, where, according to the United Nations and the European External Action Service, sexual violence, ransom, forced labor and killings are widespread. More than 4,500 people were intercepted and returned to the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan Coast Guard within the first four months of 2021.
EU NAVFOR Med
On June 22, 2015, the European Union started the first phase of a three-phase operation to combat gangs of people smugglers in the Mediterranean. The deployment of the European Union Naval Force - Mediterranean (EU NAVFOR Med) is subordinate to the External Action Service of the EU (EAD). To date, however, the EU has received neither a mandate from the United Nations Security Council nor the approval of North African coastal states for this military operation .
The main task is to combat tug networks off the Libyan coast. The operation led to the arrest of 110 people smuggling suspects by Italian authorities from May 2015 to May 2018. 400 ships used by smugglers were destroyed. In September 2016 it was decided to include two support tasks in the reconstruction of the Libyan coast guard and navy and in the prevention of illegal arms transports in the mission mandate.
Criminalization of undocumented departure
Undocumented departure was made a criminal offense in the Maghreb states , not least because of pressure from the former European colonial powers . In Morocco from 2003, in Tunisia from 2004 and in Algeria from 2008, undocumented departure will be prosecuted.
The human trafficking plays in the migration across the Mediterranean a decisive role and represents a huge economic factor of international organized crime . Its mechanisms and hierarchies describe the criminologist Andrea Di Nicola and the journalist Giampaolo Musumeci in her book Confessions of a trafficker. The billion dollar business with the refugees. Di Nicola and Musumeci argue that people smuggling is the most profitable business after drug trafficking . Your book also shows close links between the smuggling business and the drug trade. If people smugglers are caught, the smuggling bosses and middlemen mostly remain undetected, as in the drug trade.
Doing business with migrants is an important economic factor in some regions. The commander of the EU operation off the coast of Libya, Admiral Enrico Credendino , estimated in a report from December 2016 that the coastal towns concerned would generate around 325 million euros a year from people smuggling.
In 2016, 96% of those surveyed from the group of migrants who landed in Italy stated that they had previously used the services of a smuggler's ring on their way.
According to estimates by the European Union, 1.6 billion US dollars were generated in Libya in 2016 from human smuggling.
Initially, fishing boats in Libya were misused as refugee boats. Rescue ships of the Italian Navy or the EU picked up the people, but let the empty boats drift so that smugglers could salvage and reuse them. In mid-2015 it was decided that the participants in the naval mission should sink the empty boats in the future.
In April 2015, the Italian Coast Guard reported that Libyan smugglers were running out of boats. They shot at coast guard ships several times to force empty refugee boats to be returned.
In the first half of 2015, 67 boats were rendered unusable by EUNAVFOR MED and 48 suspects were arrested. As a result, a change in the tactics of people smugglers was noted, who now used more rubber boats and less valuable wooden boats. In the first ten months of 2016, only 40 wooden boats were counted, but 225 rubber boats.
The inflatables were bought in China via the Internet platform Alibaba and shipped to Libya via Malta or Turkey. Maltese customs officials discovered such a shipment of 20 large inflatable boats in February 2016, but declared that they were legally unable to prevent the deliveries. According to press research, more than 5000 Chinese-made inflatable boats were delivered to Libya between 2012 and 2016 via the EU member Malta alone.
On July 17, 2017, the foreign ministers of the EU countries decided on export restrictions for inflatable boats and outboard motors that could be used to transport migrants. The assets of the backers of the Libyan smuggling gangs are to be frozen and their members are to be banned from entering the country.
In July 2018, Frontex rescued a group of 450 people off the Italian island of Linosa on a wooden boat coming from Libya.
According to international law of the sea ( SOLAS of 1974 ), every skipper on the high seas is obliged to provide immediate assistance in the event of distress, regardless of nationality, status and circumstances in which the person seeking help is found, if he is informed of a specific emergency situation. According to the SAR Convention of 1979, states must also provide help in the event of distress and provide medical care to those seeking help and bring them quickly to a safe place. The state Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers ( MRCC) coordinate the rescue measures.
Landing the rescued people in a “safe place” turned out to be problematic in the course of the migratory movements across the Mediterranean. There is no definition of a “safe place” as a place on land where people rescued from distress at sea can have their status checked with or without documents under protection guarantees and apply for asylum. However, there is an obligation for states to cooperate with the responsible rescue centers to determine a safe place. A decision should be made depending on the situation, whereby, according to the lawyers Fiona de Londras and Siobhán Mullally , aspects such as the principle of non-refoulement should also be observed.
In relation to the European Union, there is a complex set of rules made up of various provisions. De Londras and Mullally commented in 2015 that the law of the sea is not suitable for solving the landfall problem, because border security and the right of asylum are the real problems here. Under the law of the sea, no state is obliged to take in people who have been rescued from distress at sea. In areas under the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights, however, people seeking protection must be given access to an asylum procedure in accordance with EU standards. Since (2015) there were no countries on the Mediterranean that otherwise meet these standards, such persons must be granted access to the EU. Should those seeking protection find themselves outside the territorial waters of EU states in a situation in which EU law is applied - for example, when ships owned by state authorities of the EU states are involved in a rescue, such as in Frontex missions - Article 18 of the Charter applies Fundamental rights of the European Union and here too those seeking protection must be granted access to an asylum procedure within the EU.
Members of private aid organizations must expect criminal prosecution by national law enforcement authorities if they violate national laws without acting justified through sea rescue.
In view of the shipping accidents in the Mediterranean, the EU has been accused of inaction on refugee and asylum policies. The rescue operations off the coast of Libya, carried out by state and non-state actors in the Mediterranean Sea, are being used by smugglers to bring migrants to Europe. Frontex estimates for 2017 that dangerous crossings in unseaworthy boats will be organized with the main aim of being discovered by EU forces or private initiatives. The actors involved in rescue operations in the Mediterranean would unintentionally support the criminals in carrying out their smuggling business with minimal costs and better chances of success. The UN special envoy for Libya therefore pointed out that establishing statehood in Libya was one of the most effective ways of reducing the number of immigrants.
In February 2012, the European Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling in the Hirsi Jamaa case because Italy had deported refugees rescued in the Mediterranean Sea on the basis of a controversial bilateral agreement with Libya and had repeatedly violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The court made it clear that neither collective deportations nor deportations to countries where those seeking protection were at risk of torture were permitted. Furthermore, the asylum seekers were denied legal remedies.
The operation Marenostrum was a joint activity of the Italian Navy and Coast Guard for rescue of refugees . At the same time, the smugglers should be picked up in the background. After 400 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean Sea within a few days in autumn 2013, Italy organized the operation. Mare Nostrum started on October 18, 2013 under the direction of Admiral Guido Rando. The then Italian Defense Minister Mario Mauro said that the mother ships of the tugs should also be identified and the refugee boats would be escorted to the mainland. More than 36,000 refugees had reached the Italian coast by mid-May 2014, and 80,000 by the end of August 2014. Operation Mare Nostrum ended on October 31, 2014. Many European politicians believe that the operation was an additional incentive for refugees to take the risk of crossing. Furthermore, the operation would have made their work easier for smugglers, because they could send refugees on their way in unseaworthy boats. According to the International Organization for Migration , Operation Mare Nostrum saved a total of around 140,000 people from 2013 to October 2014. Despite Mare Nostrum, 3,000 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in the first 10 months of 2014 alone.
Operation Mare Nostrum, run solely by Italy, was replaced in November 2014 by Operation Triton, led by Frontex. Triton was initially significantly less financially equipped than Mare Nostrum and the ships were initially not allowed to move more than 30 nautical miles from the Italian coast. In this regard, the EU Commission made it clear at the beginning of October 2014 that Frontex is a border surveillance agency and not a rescue agency ; “Triton” could not replace the “Mare Nostrum” operation, but only supplement it. The respective member state continues to be primarily responsible for sea rescue in national territorial waters. On April 23, 2015, the heads of state and government of the EU decided at a special summit in Brussels to increase the funds for the mission by EUR 26.25 million and to expand the area of operations to around 138 nautical miles south of Sicily. In addition to stronger satellite surveillance, 3 aircraft, 18 patrol boats and two helicopters are available. In May 2015, the amphibious landing ship HMS Bulwark , the frigate Hessen and the task force supplier Berlin participated in the rescue of thousands of shipwrecked migrants . The Berlin and Hessen were replaced by the Werra tender and the Schleswig-Holstein frigate in June 2015 . The EU states decided in principle in 2015 to distribute the refugees arriving in Italy and Greece. In practice, however, the distribution to other EU states has so far remained far below plan, and some EU states have refused to redistribute themselves entirely.
Operation EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA was also launched on June 22, 2015 . At least one light aircraft carrier ( Giuseppe Garibaldi (551) ) and 5 other ships as well as 3 helicopters and 3 aircraft are always available for SOPHIA . The main task of SOPHIA is the fight against criminal smuggling networks. Sea rescue is carried out on the basis of seafaring tradition and in accordance with the UN Convention UNCLOS (Law of the Sea), as is the case with all ships, and is coordinated in the area of operation by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center Rome. From May 2015 to May 2018, German marines rescued 22,534 people from distress, Operation Sophia rescued 49,000 people in total.
The operations led by Frontex and Operation Sophia initially had a different focus, but became an SAR intervention in the area of the Libyan SAR zone, which Libya is no longer operated .
The EU states could not agree on the redistribution of the rescued persons brought to Italy in accordance with the mandate, so that in the summer of 2018 Italy threatened to block access to Italian ports not only for private but also for marine rescuers. The Italian high command of Operation Sophia then paralyzed the sea rescue by ordering the warships in places where neither refugee routes nor smuggling routes run. When the Sophia mission was extended in March 2019, the use of sea-going units was suspended due to the open distribution issue. The UNHCR called this de facto cessation of sea rescue an oppressive setback for a Europe of humanity. After the termination, activists from Germany and individual politicians demanded the resumption of SOPHIA in the summer of 2019, but were unable to mobilize a majority among European countries for such an action.
List of state / military ships and aircraft involved in sea rescue
The list contains some of the state ships or types of ships and aircraft that were previously used in sea rescue. According to EU information, the Sophia Mission was involved in the rescue of almost 730,000 refugees from 2015 to 2019.
- Airplanes and helicopters
Rebuilding the Libyan Coast Guard
Libya has been seen by many as a failed state since the civil war in 2011 and the fall of the dictator Gaddafi . As of 2014, government action against people smuggling and for rescuing boat refugees fell sharply in Libya during the civil war .
In the Mediterranean, the situation arose that the Libyan authorities could no longer meet their responsibility for the Libyan SAR zone . During Operation Triton, many attempts were made to contact Libyan SAR officials in response to rescue calls from ships, but contacts were refused. The difficulty arose that international law has a regulatory loophole with regard to SAR interventions in the territory of a third country. The Frontex-led operations and Operation Sophia initially had a different focus, but became an SAR intervention. At the same time, the EU is supporting the reconstruction of the Libyan coast guard.
In June 2016, the Council of the European Union decided to help build the capacity of the Libyan coast guard so that it can again take action against smugglers and carry out search and rescue activities. In February 2017, 89 members of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy completed their training. Four Libyan Coast Guard patrol boats were overhauled and six more deployed. By the beginning of July 2017, the Libyan coast guard had rescued 10,000 people from distress at sea.
Non-governmental rescue organizations
Many aid organizations considered the state measures for sea rescue on the Mediterranean Sea to be inadequate and took the initiative themselves. After they have been rescued, the NGOs hand over the rescued persons, if possible, to the mostly larger state ships for transport to Italian ports.
By 2013, government agencies had systematically prevented fishing boats and freighters from fulfilling their duty to rescue refugees in distress in the Mediterranean. In 2004 the ship Cap Anamur of the aid organization Cap Anamur / German emergency doctors took 37 refugees on board off the African coast. The three-week blockade and subsequent seizure of the ship as well as the process initiated by the Italian public prosecutor's office for assistance with illegal immigration attracted media attention. On October 7, 2009, the Agrigento Maritime Court acquitted the three accused because a skipper who rescues emigrants from danger on the high seas is fulfilling international maritime law obligations of sea rescue and this cannot be punishable under national law.
When NGOs, the UNHCR refugee agency and the IOM criticized the fact that the Frontex border guards did not take sufficient care of people in distress, newly founded private sea rescue organizations emerged from 2014, which, alongside traditional rescue organizations, sent rescue ships to the Mediterranean.
- Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been using the Luxembourg supply ship Bourbon Argos since May 9, 2015, to intensify its sea rescue efforts in the Mediterranean, which it has been running with Migrant Offshore Aid Station since May 2, 2015 with the help of the MY Phoenix yacht . MSF stopped using its own ship in August 2017 because of fear of clashes with the Libyan coast guard. The medical team of MSF at the Aquarius of SOS Mediterranee but should remain.
- The SOS Méditerranée association has been operating the rescue ship Aquarius in the Mediterranean since February 2016 .
- The international Watch the Med initiative has been running a hotline for people seeking protection in distress since October 11, 2014 . This is intended to create the possibility of sounding the alarm if a request for help is not sufficiently heard by the coast guard or - as has often happened - on the open sea, contrary to international law, is pushed back (so-called push-backs ). After a call for help, the initiative itself contacts the responsible authorities to ask them to act. As a result of the boat accidents in the Mediterranean Sea in October 2013, “Watch the Med” set itself the task of documenting deaths and human rights violations at Europe's external sea borders on its online platform.
- The German Society for the Rescue of Shipwrecked People (DGzRS) and the DLRG rescued 1,138 people in the Aegean Sea with the rescue cruiser Minden from March to June 2016 and helped train Greek sea rescuers.
- The private organizations with one or more ships in action in 2016 included the German associations Sea-Watch , Sea-Eye and Jugend Rettet mit dem Schiff Iuventa , the Dutch Lifeboat Project, the Spanish Proactiva Open Arms and the Migrant Offshore Aid Station . Several aid organizations, including Doctors Without Borders and Sea-Eye, temporarily suspended operations in August 2017 because of fear of attacks by the Libyan coast guard following the Libyan declaration of an SAR zone. In autumn 2017, the German association Mission Lifeline was added, which operates a ship that Sea-Watch bought.
- Save the Children with their SAR ship VOS Hestia (until 2018).
The merchant ships also provide assistance in distress at sea and rescued 7,225 boat refugees alone and 15,214 boat refugees with the support of various official ships in the period from November 2014 to April 2015.
During the refugee crisis in Greece, the Greek sea rescue capacities were insufficient. As part of the Rescuers help program , rescuers from the International Maritime Rescue Federation supported the Greek forces with their own boats and personnel. Including the NGOs DGzRS, DLRG , Migrant Offshore Aid Station , Sea-Watch , Redningsselskapet , Sjöräddningssällskapet and Royal National Lifeboat Institution . The Greek search and rescue service Elliniki Omada Diasosis (Hellenic Rescue Team) undertook over a thousand rescue missions in 2015 and was awarded the Nansen refugee award for this.
List of non-governmental ships that are or have been used for sea rescue
|ship||organization||flag||length||Remarks||picture||Period of use||Stipulations|
|Sea Eye||Sea-Eye||Netherlands||26 m||Used in the Mediterranean since 2015. The ship broke down in autumn 2018 due to engine failure and was stranded in Málaga . Out of service since autumn 2018.||2015-2018|
|Alan Kurdi||Sea-Eye||Germany||38 m||Active in the rescue service since December 2018. The ship was named after Alan Kurdi , a then 2-year-old refugee child from Syria. His body was washed up on a beach. A picture of it got a lot of media attention.||From December 2018 until fixed||Fixed in Italy since May 2020.|
|Eleanor||Mission Lifeline||Germany||20 m||Seized in Pozzallo since September 2019.||From May 2019 until fixed||Seized in Pozzallo since September 2019.|
|Lifeline||Mission Lifeline||Netherlands (controversial)||32 m||In use in the Mediterranean since March 2016. First as Sea-Watch 2 , as the ship was replaced by Doctors Without Borders from the former Dignity I , which went into service as Sea-Watch 3 . The ship is now no longer in use.||From 2016 as Sea-Watch 2 from Sea-Watch
From 2017 as Lifeline of Mission Lifeline
|Mare Liberum||Mare Liberum||Germany||21 m||Acquired and rebuilt by the Sea-Watch organization in 2015, transferred to the Mare Liberum organization after a number of deployments. The successor ship was the Sea-Watch 2 , as it could offer more options than the Sea-Watch .||From 2015 by Sea-Watch as Sea-Watch
From 2018 by Mare Liberum as Mare Liberum.
(previously Dignity I from Doctors Without Borders )
|Sea-Watch||Germany||50 m||Active in refugee rescue as Dignity I for Medicos Sin Fronteras España from around 2015.
Transferred to the Sea-Watch organization in 2017 . It gained international fame when Captain Carola Rackete drove the ship into the port of Lampedusa without a permit . She could not guarantee the safety of the people because she was denied a Scherer harbor for a long period of time. The ship was then arrested for 6 months.
|2015-2017 by Doctors Without Borders as Dignity I.||2018
July 2019 - December 2019
July 2020 - now
|Sea-Watch 4||Sea-Watch , Doctors Without Borders||Germany||60 m||The ship was bought by Rescue Together , Sea-Watch and Doctors Without Borders in 2020 . It was previously used as the Poseidon research vessel .||From August 2020|
|VOS Prudence||Médecins sans frontières Belgique||Italy||75 m||Use discontinued in October 2017.||Until October 2017|
|Aquarius||SOS Méditerranée , Doctors Without Borders||Gibraltar||77 m||The two organizations chartered the ship in 2016 and had to end their use with it in 2018. The successor ship, the Ocean Viking, followed in mid-2019 .||February 2016 - end of 2018||Difficulty with registration and flag|
SOS Meditérranée ,
(formerly together with Doctors Without Borders )
|Netherlands||69 m||Since the Aquarius could no longer be used, the Ocean Viking was chartered. Since the two organizations ended their cooperation in spring 2020, SOS Méditerranée is now using the ship alone.||From mid-2019 until it is determined||Seized in Italy since July 2020 for exceeding the number of passengers.|
|Bourbon Argos||Doctors Without Borders , Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)||Luxembourg||69 m||Use discontinued in August 2017.||2015 - August 2017|
|Phoenix||Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)||Belize||40 m||Used in the Mediterranean from August 2014 to August 2017. The ship was later used off the coast of Myanmar and Bangladesh.||August 2014 - August 2017|
|Alex||Mediterranea Saving Humans||Italy||16 m||The ship was only intended as an escort ship for the Mare Jonio, but saved 54 people in June 2019 and was completely overloaded. On July 6, the ship entered the port of Lampedusa without a permit.||Use because of COVID-19 pandemic set|
|Mare Jonio||Mediterranea Saving Humans||Italy||20 m||On May 9, 2019, the crew of the Mare Jonio, together with the Italian coast guard, rescued 66 people. The then Italian interior minister was unable to seize the ship due to a lack of evidence.||Use because of COVID-19 pandemic set|
|Golfo Azzurro||Proactiva Open Arms||Panama||40 m||The former fishing vessel was used in the Mediterranean for a few weeks in the summer of 2016. According to their own statements, the activists saved 1,500 people from drowning.||From June 2016 for a few weeks|
|Open arms||Proactiva Open Arms||Spain||37 m||On January 27, the crew rescued 363 people from distress at sea. Due to a shortage of supplies, the crew wanted to enter Malta, but this was refused. On February 2, the ship entered Sicily.||From the beginning of 2017||March 2018 for about a month
Detained since early 2019.
|Aita Mari||Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario (SMH)||Spain||32 m||Will be detained by the authorities in Barcelona in 2020, active in rescuing refugees since 2019.||Fixed in Barcelona since May 2020|
|VOS Hestia||Save the Children||Italy||59 m||Rescuing children was particularly important to the organization, but the operation was discontinued in 2017 as planned.||September 2016 to October 2017||Not known to the public|
|Iuventa||Youth saves||Netherlands||33 m||In 2016, Jugend Rettet sent Iuventa to the Mediterranean. On August 2, 2017, the ship was confiscated by Italy. Prior to this incident, sea rescue in the Mediterranean was not actively prevented by the EU. Legal proceedings are pending against the captain Pia Klemp and other crew members. According to its own information, the association saved 14,000 people from distress at sea.||From 2016 until fixing||Seized by Italy since August 2017 on suspicion of aiding and abetting illegal immigration and human smuggling.|
(previously Seefuchs from Sea-Eye )
(previously Netherlands )
|26 m||Working for the Sea-Eye organization since 2017 . The ship was donated to the Spanish organization Proem Aid in March 2019.||From 2017 by Sea-Eye as a sea fox
From March 2019 by Proem Aid as Life.
|Until November 2018 for 6 months in Italy.|
|Minden||Lifeboat Project||Germany||23 m||Used by the DGzRS and the DLRG in the Aegean Sea from March 2016 to the beginning of July 2016. Used by LifeBoat between Libya and Lampedusa from the beginning of July 2016 to September 2017 (see 23.3 meter class of the DGzRS ).||March 2016 to July 2016 in the Aegean by DGzRS and DLRG.
July 2016 to September 2017 from LifeBoat in the central Mediterranean.
Criticism of non-governmental rescue organizations
In 2017, the Africanist and journalist Stephen Smith criticized the non-governmental rescue organizations for their actions, which he describes as ethically motivated . Follow your conscience; according to Max Weber , responsibility for the consequences of these actions lies with God. The non-governmental rescue organizations in the Mediterranean would collect migrants who only want a better future and are ready to use their lives for blackmail. The non-governmental groups then showed all their “dedication” to unloading the migrants on the Italian coast, a “safe place”. However, these rescue organizations did not provide the funds for accommodation, supplies and vocational training for these landed migrants. However, according to Smith, one must also take responsibility for the consequences of one's own actions beyond moral narcissism, something Weber describes as an ethics of responsibility .
According to statements from 2017, Frontex and other experts consider the transport of refugees to Europe by private helpers as one of the pull factors that create or increase incentives to migrate. The private aid organizations do part of the business of people smugglers; the tugs force their customers onto unseaworthy boats, where they have to wait for sea rescuers. As a rule, the refugees do not know beforehand that they will have to wait for rescue on unseaworthy boats. In addition, there will never be enough rescuers to prevent every misfortune. In December 2016, Frontex registered the first case in which people smuggled the migrants directly onto an NGO boat. Frontex also expressed concern about the interaction between NGOs and smugglers:
- There are clear indications that the tug boats already know the precise direction in which to reach an NGO boat before they set sail.
- While in the summer of 2016 2/3 of the rescues took place after an emergency call was made, since October 2016 there has only been an emergency call in almost every 10th case. During the same period, the share of NGOs in rescues rose from 5% to 40%.
- Rescued refugees taken over by NGO boats often did not cooperate with Frontex officials. Some said they had been warned not to cooperate.
The architect and political scientist Charles Heller and the architect Lorenzo Pezzani , researcher in the Forensic Oceanography department of the Forensic Architecture Agency at the University of London , contradicted the Frontex allegation in 2017 that the rescue offer of the NGOs was a "pull factor": the NGO fleet responded to changes in smuggling behavior triggered by the anti-smuggling operation (of the EU) [...]. [...] While the actions of the SAR NGOs could have unintentionally contributed to solidifying the change in smuggling behavior, there is so far no evidence of criminal cooperation with the smugglers (...). The Forensic Architecture Agency works closely with NGOs. The blurring of the boundaries between science and activism is intentional, since the work of the Forensic Architecture Agency per se sees itself as political.
Testimonies from refugees, which are available to the German Joint Analysis and Strategy Center for Illegal Migration (Gasim) 2020, indicate that people smugglers used the tracking function of the NGO ships to determine their position via freely accessible websites. Furthermore, the smugglers had made contact themselves in individual cases by means of satellite telephones. Concerted departures from Libya were found in the presence of NGO ships.
The expert Kilian Kleinschmidt, on the other hand, warns of naivety: “Of course, rescue operations have a calming effect on those who embark on the journey. And the smugglers think of that too. ”Professor Belachew Gebrewold explains:“ The more people arrive, the more information flows back to their home countries ”, this can encourage more people to migrate. The flaw of the Oxford study is that the time periods examined are too short. The effect only has a time lag because people first have to find money and organize everything. The documentary filmmaker Michelangelo Severgnini reported after visiting refugee camps in Tunisia: "Of course there is a pull effect." He advocates an immediate evacuation of asylum seekers from Libya to Europe and the countries of origin of the stranded people and for information campaigns with the aim of preventing people from even making their way to Libya. The way across the sea is “a barbaric way to migrate: It's sick and crazy. That has to stop immediately. "
The philosophy professor Frank Dietrich from the University of Düsseldorf is critical of the activities of the NGOs. “It is not enough to invoke the good intentions that are undoubtedly there”. The helpers would have to acknowledge that “there is a pull and the presence of NGOs actually induces people to choose the risky route across the Mediterranean”. At least from the perspective of the utilitarian school of thought, this can be morally justified if NGOs save more lives than endanger them. This would be decided according to how strong the suction effect is. In his view, everyone has a right to a decent life. However, every state has the right to determine its own political fate, including by deciding whether and how much migration it allows. Help can also take the form of on-site help.
The Austrian Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Sobotka, accused NGO ships of penetrating Libyan territorial waters and taking over the refugees there from the smugglers. The German Interior Minister de Maizière described the actions of NGO ships in July 2017 as not arousing confidence. As examples, he cited investigations by the Italians, according to which NGO ships would illegally switch off their transponders and thus conceal their position. NGO ships have also sailed into Libyan waters and switched on a headlight in front of the beach to give smugglers a destination. The managing director of Doctors Without Borders replied that headlights were needed to search for shipwrecked people, but that the on-board headlights could not be seen from land beyond the 12-mile zone. The transponders are switched off when foreign armed ships approached in order to protect themselves. A representative of the organization "Sea-Eye" stated that one had to drive with the headlights on to avoid collisions. De Maizière was then accused by the opposition of raising the mood against refugees without any evidence. The Green politician Göring-Eckhart accused de Maizière of creating a mood against refugees, the left-wing politician Korte spoke of cynicism and coldness.
The Italian public prosecutor's office is investigating Jugend Rettet on suspicion of promoting illegal immigration. Their ship Iuventa was confiscated in early August 2017; the public prosecutor's office presented testimony, photos, videos and recordings of conversations that are supposed to prove that the crew did not rescue people from distress at sea, but took over refugees directly from the tugs when the sea was perfectly calm. Among other things, migrants were taken in by intact boats with which the tugs then drove back, or empty boats were brought back to the tugs, one of which was recognized during a later sea rescue. The investigation files expressly do not assume the crew's financial intentions, but rather a kind of helper protagonism .
Michael Tatzgern, an expert on tug activities for the Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office , said in an article in Welt from July 2018: “The more NGO ships there are in the vicinity, the more rubber dinghies are going to sea”.
In November 2018, UN human rights experts expressed concern about continued "smear campaigns against NGOs" and the "criminalization of the work of defenders of migrants' rights" in Italy.
A report by the Spanish government, which became known in February 2019, came to the evidence-based conclusion that more rescue ships sailing in the Mediterranean lead to more deaths in the Mediterranean. The reason is seen in the planning of the rescue operations by the tug organizations, which therefore used increasingly cheaper and less seaworthy boats. Spain finally withdrew the exit permits from private rescuers at the beginning of 2019 due to non-compliance with safety standards; According to journalists, the authorities did not want to find themselves again in a situation in which they are forced to take on a ship full of migrants that no country in Europe wants.
Code of Conduct for NGOs (July 2017)
The EU interior ministers agreed on July 3, 2017 that the Italian government should develop a “code of conduct for NGOs” in order to improve the coordination of the organizations operating in the Mediterranean. According to the legal opinions of the scientific services in Brussels and Berlin, the code of conduct that has been drawn up is not legally effective because it violates international law and could block the centuries-old tradition of sea rescue or let it come to nothing.
The code of conduct includes the following points:
- A ban for NGOs to enter Libyan waters, unless there is a "danger of imminent danger to human life at sea".
- Transponders for locating the ships must not be switched off.
- Telephone calls or the transmission of light signals are prohibited. Contact with smugglers should be prevented.
- The NGOs are obliged to bring the rescued persons to the nearest “safe haven” themselves and not to hand them over to ships of the Italian coast guard or from international operations. An exception applies in emergencies.
- Search and rescue operations by the Libyan coast guard must not be hindered.
- The police must be left on board for investigations into smuggling networks.
- The financing of the sea rescue must be disclosed.
- The sea rescue centers of the states under whose flag the NGO ships sail must be informed about rescue operations.
- A certificate must be available, which proves "the technical suitability for rescue activities" - as required by normal Italian and merchant ships.
- The NGO ships must submit the usual documents to the authorities "at least two hours before reaching the port" after a rescue operation, including those relating to the course of the operation and the health situation of the rescued persons.
- Transmission of all information that could be important for an investigation by the Italian police, as well as the handover of "any object that could be evidence or evidence of an illegal act".
To resolve the conflict, three NGOs (Save the Children, Migrant Offshore Aid Station and Proactiva Open Arms) agreed to an Italian proposal for rules of conduct on July 31, 2017, while five others refused. Doctors Without Borders refused because they did not want to use their own ships to bring the people on board to Italy themselves. In order to have more time for rescue operations, the organization wants to hand the people over to other ships that are supposed to carry out the transport. A representative of "Jugend Rettet" stated that neutrality was violated if one had to help the authorities with investigations or even if Italian police were on board. A representative from Save the Children, however, stated that the organization had largely complied with the rules in the past and that they would not be a problem in the future either.
Dispute about the destination ports for refugees rescued from distress at sea
Nele Matz-Lück, professor of public law with a focus on the law of the sea at the University of Kiel , sees a legal gap in the conventions on the law of the sea. The coastal states are not automatically obliged by their sovereignty to let rescued persons ashore, but could instead provide them with medical care on board, for example.
Valentin Schatz from the Chair of International Maritime Law at the University of Hamburg says that Italy should have assigned a port. A return of refugees to Libya would be illegal, so it is understandable to head for the nearest port of Lampedusa. The ship is not designed for a further voyage without mooring to the flag state of the Netherlands. “The law is somewhat more on the part of the NGO, but ultimately the international law of the sea does not regulate how this situation is to be resolved”.
The Scientific Service of the German Bundestag basically sees no right to access a national port and to allow those rescued to disembark. However, it can be argued with the emergency port law if there is an immediate and unavoidable danger to the lives of crew members or passengers threatened without outside help. However, there are also restrictions for this.
The rescue ship Open Arms of the Spanish organization Proactiva Open Arms was arrested by Italian authorities in Pozzallo in March 2018 after the crew had previously refused to follow the instructions of the responsible Italian rescue control center MRCC, the on-scene coordination for a rescue operation to the Transfer to Libyan Coast Guard. The Open Arms crew did not hand over the previously rescued 218 people to the Libyans who had asked them to, but instead brought them to the port of Pozallo despite the threat of violence from the Libyan coast guard. The activists said they feared violating the non-refoulement principle by handing the people over to the Libyans in international waters. The president of the association was also surprised that the Libyan ship was in the region at all. The ship was released on April 16, 2018 by court order that Proactiva had acted correctly because Libya is not considered a safe place for the repatriation of migrants. The preliminary proceedings against the captain and the head of mission for the alleged formation of a criminal organization and aiding and abetting illegal immigration were discontinued by the Italian examining magistrate in May 2019.
In January 2019, Italy refused to allow the Sea-Watch 3 with 47 rescued migrants on board to enter one of its ports, as the next safe port in Tunisia was from the rescue location. Following a lawsuit by the captain of Sea Watch and several rescued people on board, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in interim legal protection that Italy must provide the people on board with medical and food supplies. The minors must also be provided with legal assistance on board. The applicants had requested that the Sea-Watch be allowed to call at an Italian port and drop off the migrants there. The court did not comply. After Germany, France, Portugal, Romania and Malta had agreed to accept the people, the rescued were able to leave the Sea Watch 3 in Catania on January 31, after almost two weeks .
On June 21, Captain Rackete and several nationals from various African countries applied to the European Court of Human Rights for an interim order to force Italy to allow the Sea-Watch 3 to enter. However, the court rejected the urgent application on June 25, 2019, as provisional measures are only provided if there is an "immediate risk of irreparable damage". The situation on board the ship currently does not justify any coercion against Italy. Italy was informed that the court was relying on the necessary help from the authorities in relation to "those in the situation of vulnerability ".
Matteo Salvini , Interior Minister of Italy, criticized in July 2019 that the rescue organization Mediterranea Saving Humans did not bring the people taken on board the sailing yacht Alex to ports in Libya or Tunisia:
"If this non-governmental organization really has the security of migrants in mind, it has to go to the nearest port."
The organization Mediterranea Saving Humans refused to bring people rescued from the sea to Libya in July 2019, as the country is accused of serious human rights violations and torture in prison camps for refugees. The organization also refused to bring the rescued to Tunisia because Tunisia has temporarily closed its ports to migrants rescued from distress at sea, only allows landing on the condition that the migrants are immediately sent back to their countries of origin, and the possibility of asylum to apply in Tunisia would be excluded.
In 2020, a Sudanese and an Ivorian who had set off on a boat with about 40 other people near Tripoli in Libya on the night of April 8th to 9th tried to force their rescue judicially according to press research by Il Giornale . While they were on the road, they contacted the Italian migration attorney Lucia Gennari by phone, who immediately submitted a corresponding petition to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, demanding rescue and transfer to a safe harbor. A second submission followed later, describing the current situation on board and accusing Malta and Italy, which had closed their ports because of the COVID-19 pandemic , of various human rights violations. The people were ultimately saved from drowning by a fishing boat, which, however, brought them back to Libya.
Disability of NGOs
Several cases have been documented in which the Libyan coast guard used dangerous maneuvers to endanger refugees and representatives of rescue organizations. In July 2017, the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced that it had opened investigations against the Libyan Coast Guard into alleged attacks on sea rescue NGOs.
When the Maltese authorities blocked the departure of various ships of non-governmental organizations for several months in the summer of 2018 with references to irregularities in their registration, the Maltese government was accused by MEPs of "criminalizing" and "illegally" blocking private rescue organizations. According to a report by the newspaper Die Zeit , the expulsion ban had been issued without giving any specific reasons in order to force an apparently legally irrelevant declaration from the operating NGOs, according to which they would refrain from carrying out rescue missions in the future. In December 2018, Sea-Watch filed a lawsuit against the Maltese Ministry of Transport because it had arbitrarily prevented the Sea-Watch 3 from being freely available.
Malta and Italy have already refused to moor private rescue ships in their ports several times in order to achieve a pan-European distribution of the rescued boat refugees. Therefore, only a few rescue ships have been sailing in the Mediterranean since mid-2018 and at the end of the year two such ships were prevented for weeks from entering a European port with rescued persons.
Italy banned reconnaissance flights by the aid organizations Sea-Watch and Pilotes Voluntaires in 2019 on the grounds that the Moonbird and Colibri aircraft used so far would only be permitted for recreational and non-profit purposes.
Prosecutors accuse Matteo Salvini of detaining more than 80 rescued migrants on the rescue ship Open Arms in August 2019, beyond his authority. Salvini's immunity was lifted at the end of July 2020 to enable a trial in Palermo.
According to estimates by the project The Migrants Files, in which the NZZ was involved, an estimated 23,000 people died trying to reach Europe between 2000 and 2013. Janne Grote reported in 2014: "Three out of a hundred people who verifiably dared to cross over died in the past few years." Since 2014, the IOM has estimated more fatalities on the central Mediterranean route than on any other migration route. IOM personnel from Libya report that increasingly unseaworthy boats are used and that more crossings are started even in bad weather times.
What is less well known is that many refugees die of thirst on their way from Niger through the Sahara to the Libyan coast. According to estimates by experts, three times as many migrants die in the Ténéré desert as in the Mediterranean.
|Dead / missing||123||1,500||500||600||3,538||3,771||5,096||3.139||2,277||1,319||1,401|
|of which to Italy||4,450||64,300||15,200||45,300||170,100||153,842||181,436||119.249||23,370||11,471|
Analysis and Criticism
Due to the termination of Mare Nostrum in October 2014 and the limited scope of action of Frontex and Triton, there was a lack of suitable sea rescue ships on site, so that merchant ships had to carry a significant portion of the rescue operations, which were instructed accordingly by the MRCC . Frontex and the Italian Coast Guard were aware that the merchant ships were not suitable for such operations. When around 1,200 people were killed in two rescue attempts from commercial ships within a week, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker called the termination of Mare Nostrum a serious mistake. On April 23, 2015, the heads of state and government of the EU decided at a special summit in Brussels to increase the funds for the Triton mission (operation) by EUR 26.25 million and to expand the area of operations to around 138 nautical miles south of Sicily . In addition to stronger satellite surveillance, 3 aircraft, 18 patrol boats and 2 helicopters are available.
Frontex and NGOs see the main cause of an increasing number of deaths in the use of unseaworthy boats by the tugs. These are often overloaded; many boat occupants cannot swim and do not have life jackets. If you are in a boat with an interior below deck, you can often not make it out when the boat capsizes. Claudio Deiana (University of Cagliari), Vikram Maheshri (University of Houston) and Giovanni Mastrobuoni (University of Turin) come to the conclusion in a September 2019 working paper that there is a moral hazard problem. Because the tugs react strategically to increased search and rescue operations by sending more migrants out to sea in a much less safe way and thereby completely wiping out the safety gains from the search and rescue operations. While the tugs use a few seaworthy wooden boats when the SAR activity is low and only send them out when the sea is calm, when the SAR activity is high they use many cheap, non-seaworthy inflatables, which are also sent out despite the strong waves. The bottom line is that the security risk is roughly the same in both variants. Since inflatables are much cheaper than seaworthy boats, tugs have a higher profit margin and can still offer their service cheaper, which increases demand. A larger number of crossings leads to more deaths despite the same risk. Another problem is that many people smugglers work under the protection of organizations such as IS . Instead, the authors recommend improving the situation in their home countries and making legal migration possible.
Migration researcher Paul Scheffer criticized in an interview in March 2016: “Our refugee policy may have cost more lives than we saved” [from war and terror]. […] Most of them came from relatively safe countries. Our message to them was: Risk your life! Because whoever manages to overcome our limits will not be sent back. That has to stop. But I am absolutely in favor of Europe investing in the regions and, secondly, undertaking to take in a significant number of people from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon over a longer period of time. For example 300,000 every year. But this generosity has to be balanced with concern for one's own population, otherwise populists respond to this moral dilemma with 'Our people first' and representatives of the welcoming culture with 'The others first'. "
The Italian government argues that NGOs willingly or not become accomplices of the smugglers. Fewer private rescue ships resulted in fewer boat refugees and fewer boat refugees resulted in fewer deaths. The statistics from UNHCR and IOM can actually be used for this argument: from 5096 dead and missing in 2016 to 3139 in 2017 and 2277 last year (2019), the number of fatalities this year has fallen to 686 so far. However, UNHCR and IOM complain that while the absolute number of deaths has decreased, the percentage of deaths has increased in relation to the decrease in the number of crossings to Europe. In the first half of 2017, one in 38 migrants died during the crossing, in the first half of 2018 one in every 19 migrants. The UNHCR expressed concern that given the unscrupulousness of the tugs who continue to use unseaworthy boats, there would no longer be sufficient sea rescue capacities if it were made more difficult for non-state vessels to drop rescued migrants in a safe harbor. According to the UNHCR, NGOs are very important for sea rescue in the Mediterranean.
Serious boat accidents
Otranto accident in March 1997
On March 28, 1997, the Italian coast guard ship Sibilla collided with the motorboat Kates I Rades while attempting to intercept it in the Otranto Canal . At least 52 Albanian migrants drowned when the ship went down. After eight years of investigation, the captains of both boats were sentenced to several years in prison for causing a shipwreck and multiple negligent homicide in Italy.
Boat accident off Tripoli in March 2011
In March 2011, during the Libyan civil war , there was a boat accident off Tripoli , when Libyan tugs allowed a boat with 72 people to be driven from Tripoli in the direction of Lampedusa . After more than 18 hours, the fuel supply, food and water were almost exhausted and the boat was driven back to Tripoli by the current over a period of 15 days, during which time 61 people died of thirst at sea.
Survivors said the boat was sighted by helicopters, warships and fishing boats without attempting to rescue it. According to the resolution, none of these air and sea vehicles has been identified with certainty at the time of the decision. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution listing a catalog of human and institutional failure. These included the reckless behavior of the tugs and the fact that the Libyan authorities did not live up to their responsibility for the Libyan SAR zone and were even involved in the disembarkation of the boat by the tugs.
It also became apparent that there is a loophole in sea rescue law insofar as it does not regulate who is responsible for coordinating sea rescue operations if the country actually responsible is not in a position to do so itself. The MRCC in Rome had sent rescue calls to all ships in the region for ten days, but did not check whether a rescue had actually taken place. Particular concern was caused by the fact that a helicopter, warships and fishing boats - each of unknown nationality - are said to have seen the boat without helping. As a consequence, the Council of Europe recommended, among other things, that the member states should take over the SAR activities actually incumbent on Libya.
Accidents off Lampedusa October 2013
On October 3, 2013 , a 20-meter-long cutter manned by around 545 refugees from Somalia and Eritrea sank off the island of Lampedusa and came from the Libyan port city of Misrata . After an engine failure , according to witness statements, the captain set fire to a ceiling as a distress signal ; the fire was spiraling out of control. The ship capsized due to the panic of the crowded passengers on board . The Italian coast guard and local fishermen were able to save 155 people, around 400 drowned. The Tunisian captain was arrested for multiple willful manslaughter and average . The Italian public prosecutor's office opened an investigation into the survivors for illegal immigration . This was the standard procedure at the time and was controversial in Italian politics.
On October 11, 2013, 268 refugees drowned in a second accident between Malta and Lampedusa. 212 people were rescued from the capsized boat by the Italian and Maltese navies . Calls for help from the refugees had previously been improperly handled by the Italian and Maltese MRCC, so that rescue workers, inter alia. the Italian ITS Libra, only 50 km away , only arrived after the refugee boat capsized. Italian prosecutors charged two Italian officers with negligent homicide.
Disaster on February 6, 2014
Boat accident September 2014
More than 480 people are believed to have died in the refugee boat accident in September 2014 .
Four different refugee boats February 2015
Four refugee boats, each with up to 100 people on board, were believed to be in distress en route from Libya to Italy in early February. Few people could be saved. The number of victims is estimated at over 300. The UN described the tragedy as a signal to the EU that search and rescue services in the Mediterranean would not be sufficient after the termination of Mare Nostrum.
Disaster on April 12, 2015
On April 12, 2015, a refugee boat with around 550 people on board sank off the Libyan coast; 144 people were rescued by the Italian coast guard. Possibly capsized the ship when the passengers went simultaneously to one side when they saw an approaching Coast Guard vessel. On April 14, 2015, a refugee boat sank off Libya and 400 people have been missing since then. For the many nameless dead washed up on the Libyan coast, a separate cemetery, the Bir al-Osta Milad , was created in the capital Tripoli .
Collision with King Jacob April 2015
On the night of 18./19. In April 2015, a refugee boat with over 700 people on board capsized between the Libyan coast and Lampedusa; only a few of them could be saved.
One rescued reported that the smugglers had locked many people in the hold.
Corpse finds in Libya June 2016
At the beginning of June 2016, more than 100 bodies were found on beaches after boat accidents on the Libyan coast.
Calamity before Rosetta September 2016
After an accident on September 21, 2016, 111 Egyptians, 26 Sudanese, 13 Eritreans, one Syrian and one Ethiopian were rescued by fishermen off the Egyptian coast. The boat they were all on was supposed to go to Italy with a total of 400 to 600 people on board, but capsized eight nautical miles off the coast of Rosetta . Previously, people smugglers had been taking more and more people to the waiting refugee boat in small boats for several days, which, according to eyewitness reports, finally capsized when the last 150 people were taken on board.
Al-Chums accident in July 2019
On July 25, a boat accident occurred off the Libyan coast in which up to 200 people were killed. According to the Red Crescent , a boat with around 360 migrants that started in Al-Chums broke in two. By July 27, the Libyan coast guard and some Tunisian and Italian fishermen were able to rescue 160 migrants and recover 67 bodies, 138 people are still missing. The Italian coast guard ship Bruno Gregoretti took over the survivors from the fishermen. After a ban initially issued by Interior Minister Salvini had been lifted, the ship took them to the military part of the port of the Sicilian city of Augusta . The authorities have so far only allowed a few people ashore for medical reasons, including a pregnant woman and her family. The others are only allowed to disembark once their distribution to other EU countries has been clarified.
Violence and conflict among migrants
In April 2015, according to reports from boat occupants, Muslim refugees threw twelve Christian refugees overboard when water supplies became scarce. 15 of the alleged perpetrators photographed and reported by other inmates came into custody. According to Frontex and the International Organization for Migration, no such case was known to date, but violence on board is a problem when people of different nationalities, religions and ethnic origins are crammed together there, some of whom are enemies or who are at war with one another.
The media researcher Dieter Prokop wrote in 2017 with regard to the reporting on boat refugees from Libya and the deaths that it is not the social task of journalists to propagate grace out of a sense of humanity that overrides every right, because that would not only benefit those in need, but also the power cliques of the countries of origin who wanted to get rid of their unemployed or even rebellious young men, and the people smugglers and gangs of people smugglers. Prokop asked whether it was not absurd that “kind” television journalists kept silent about such connections. Corresponding statements in television reports, such as “these people are looking for a better life”, Prokop sees as a “moral club” and a refusal to provide journalistic information.
Matteo Renzi , then Italy's Prime Minister, said in April 2015: “The fact that there is such an increase in these death journeys shows that we are dealing with a criminal organization that makes a lot of money and, above all, many lives on the conscience Has."
According to media reports, Renzi and the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat considered a targeted police operation in Libya (extra-territorial) to be conceivable and necessary in June 2015.
On the occasion of the shipwreck on April 19, 2015, Renzi called for a special EU summit; this took place in June 2015.
According to Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian Navy has received an official invitation from Libya to take action against smugglers in the territorial waters of Libya.
The small island state of Malta has a good 400,000 inhabitants. Malta is located around 100 kilometers south of the south coast of Sicily and around 170 km east-northeast of Lampedusa . 2002 was the first year in which many boats came to Malta with refugees or those wishing to immigrate. From 2002 to 2017 around 19,000 refugees came to Malta. Malta has stipulated that people who come to Malta without papers will not be allowed to work .
Ulla Jelpke wrote at the end of 2013 that, according to "estimates by international refugee aid organizations, over the past two decades the EU asylum policy has claimed more than 20,000 lives of people who tried to flee across the seas from their home countries." Heribert Prantl from the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in April 2015: “This union is killing; it kills by failing to provide assistance. "
Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller called for an overall concept for Africa from the EU. He emphasized that Europe had "a great responsibility for the continent, including from its colonial past". Europe's prosperity is based, among other things, on the receipt of valuable raw materials at the lowest prices from Africa and the exploitation of the labor force there. The German economy could also contribute to a European development concept for Africa.
In 2017, the federal politicians Thomas Oppermann and Thomas de Maizière advocated the concept of working more closely with the transit countries and accommodating refugees from Libya in centers in other North African countries.
In the course of changing the flag of the rescue ship Seefuchs to the German flag in autumn 2018, the Federal Foreign Office explicitly praised the non-governmental organizations for their “important contribution to sea rescue” in the Mediterranean.
Austria advocated rigid immigration control (as of April 2017) with a view to the Mediterranean route. Austria's interior minister at the time, Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP), said that "a rescue on the open sea" could "not be a ticket to Europe because it would give organized smugglers every argument to persuade people to flee for economic reasons." He indicated that Austria could “raise” the border barriers on the Brenner within a few hours. In general, there is no alternative to a pan-European solution in which the EU's external border is effectively protected. Sobotka did not describe what a “pan-European solution” might look like.
In July 2017 after the G20 summit, Sobotka called for harsh penalties for rescue organizations in the Mediterranean in certain cases. Referring to the conflict between Frontex and non-governmental organizations , he accused individual aid organizations of cooperating directly with gangs of smugglers off the Libyan coast. Nobody should drown in the Mediterranean Sea. "But we have to [...] prevent so-called helpers from continuing to penetrate Libyan territorial waters with their boats and take over the refugees from the smugglers there directly."
The fact that Italy was the only European country to mobilize its navy, the coast guard and other authorities for the Mare Nostrum rescue operation on its own initiative was recognized and supported by many people in Europe. Heribert Prantl (Süddeutsche Zeitung) criticized the refugee policy in a comment in August 2014: “It is shameful that the EU, which has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is not even willing to bear the costs for the grandiose Italian rescue program Mare Nostrum. [...] Europe's politicians wash their hands in innocence - in the water in which the refugees drown. "The Swiss politician and journalist Roger Köppel said in April 2015 that under the title of the right of asylum, poverty migration is being encouraged and the entry of" Economic refugees “must be prevented precisely for humanitarian reasons.
The development economist Paul Collier mentioned ethical aspects in early 2015 : people would cross the Mediterranean because they know that they will get many more rights once they have made it to the beach in Lampedusa. This regulation in the European Union is consequently responsible for thousands of drowned people. You would literally be asked to take the risk of crossing. The asylum procedures have to be carried out in the countries of origin in order to bring only those who are really in need to Europe. Currently, only those people are rewarded who have enough money for the crossing and are willing to take risks. It also promotes a huge criminal industry that specializes in the smuggling of refugees.
In the first five months of 2016, ships operated by navies and aid organizations transported 48,000 people across the Mediterranean to Italy. A total of 200,000 people fled to the EU via the Mediterranean during the same period. According to the assessment of the commander of the Eunavfor Med Admiral Andrea Gueglio , the majority of them did not know that they had no chance of being recognized as persons entitled to asylum or refugees and that they would at some point be deported again.
Beppe Severgnini wrote in the New York Times on June 9, 2016 that the EU must therefore first improve its information policy in order to prevent refugees from making life-threatening journeys in advance. Asylum applications could also be processed outside of the mainland, similar to what Australia does.
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