Member State Ministers meeting at the Defence and Foreign Affairs Council have this weekapproved a military operation in the Mediterranean in order to “break the business model of smugglers and traffickers of people in the Mediterranean”. This decision follows the adoption of the broader European Migration Agenda by the European Commission last week which will be put to the Council for approval at the end of June. The first phase of the military operation will be focused on gathering intelligence on smugglers’ networks and the following phase will include searching, seizing, disrupting and destroying the vessels of smugglers.
This move has been met with broad criticism from NGOs, including ECRE, some MEPs as well as the Italian Coastguard due to the even greater risk to which the operation may expose refugees and migrants.
ECRE has raised concerns that this operation can lead to refugees and migrants taking even more dangerous routes to reach Europe. “The solution to putting the smugglers out of business is to increase safe legal channels for migration,” Michael Diedring, ECRE Secretary General stressed.
Human Rights Watch has also pointed to the potential dangers of such an operation. “Smugglers and traffickers often show a complete disregard for human life and dignity, and they should be held to account, but military action could expose migrants and asylum seekers to serious risks,”said Judith Sunderland from Human Rights Watch.
Members of the Italian Coastguard, leading search and rescue operations, have also called for more focus on saving lives of people in distress at sea and the use of European navies in search and rescue operations, instead of military activities. Leopoldo Manna, who heads the emergency response at the Guardian Costiera has urged “European navies to give him more control over their boats in order to streamline Mediterranean search-and-rescue activities”.
During a plenary session in Strasbourg this week, some MEPs also raised concerns about the plans to launch the so-called EUNAVFOR Med naval operation. “Military action in order to sink refugee vessels would entail collateral damage – the death of people, refugees, ships’ captains and others,” MEP Gabriele Zimmer stated. “All we are doing is pushing these people back across the Mediterranean, behind the Libyan border, where refugees are arrested, mistreated and deprived of human dignity. We push them out of sight and out of mind.”
MEPs have also voiced concerns over some of the items in the recently publish European Migration Agenda, particularly with regards to the quota system for the distribution of asylum seekers within Europe and the low number of resettlement places (20,000) proposed by the Commission. Speaking about the relocation scheme, MEP Cecilia Wikström stressed that asylum seekers cannot be distributed based solely on quantitative data, but that factors such as family ties and language should be taken into account.
“Factors such as ties to a member state – such as a family member residing there, existing language abilities and the strength of the existing ethnic community – should be taken into consideration to promote effective long-term community integration,” ECRE’s Michael Diedring has also argued.
The quota scheme for distribution of asylum seekers among Member States has been already dismissed by a number of EU countries such as the UK, France, Spain and Hungary.
EU leaders have accepted that using force will kill adults and children boarding boats in Libya. This is no high-minded crusade Julia O’Connell Davidson
EU leaders this week announced that their response to the staggering loss of life among migrants crossing the Mediterranean in unseaworthy vessels would be military action. They aim to employ deadly force to smash the so-called “networks” that operate out of Libya to orchestrate the perilous sea crossings. Read more
Institute of Race Relations questions commitment to human rights after analysis of people who died in detention
“Racist” asylum and immigration policies have led to the UK having one of the highest death rates of migrants across Europe over the past five years, according to an audit examining the state’s treatment of asylum seekers.
Analysis by the London-based Institute of Race Relations thinktank found that the highest numbers of deaths of asylum seekers and migrants were in some of the most affluent countries, with the UK having the third largest death toll, during a period mostly governed by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. Read more
The home secretary, Theresa May, has hardened Britain’s refusal to accept a mandatory European Union refugee quota system being put forward in Brussels this week in response to the Mediterranean migrant boat crisis.
The Home Office has said it will refuse to accept any refugees under this week’s proposed EU emergency resettlement programme. But it has now said it will also refuse to take part in any future permanent EU system to relocate asylum seekers who make it across the Mediterranean or to resettle refugees from outside Europe. Read more
EU Law Analysis, May 2015: In two days’ time (Wednesday May 13th), the EU Commission is due to present a communication on a new EU immigration and asylum agenda. I’ll look at this agenda in detail later, but one key issue calls for comment already: will the UK have an opt-out from mandatory refugee quotas?
Part of the Commission paper has been leaked, and it’s clear that at least on the issue of resettlement of refugees, the current draft of the paper is more ambitious than the conclusions of EU leaders, agreed a couple of weeks ago (see my comments on their conclusions here). In particular, the Commission plans to propose mandatory rules on ‘relocation’ of asylum-seekers and ‘resettlement’ of refugees. In EU jargon, ‘relocation’ refers to those already in the EU, while ‘resettlement’ applies to those currently in non-EU countries. The first group do not necessarily have valid asylum claims, while the latter group usually have their status as refugees positively assessed before they are admitted to the territory. Read more
The Conservative party has a small, outright, majority. A Conservative government will need the support of the right of the parliamentary Conservative party, a section hostile to both the European Union and to human rights legislation, to go it alone on any issue. The Government will need to work with other parties to have a majority on matters where it does not have the support of the right of its parliamentary party and whether those parties will be minded to support it on such matters or to see it fail is as yet unknown.
The Conservative party manifesto commits the party to repealing the Human Rights Act 1998, to introducing a British Bill of Rights and to curtailing the role of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular where deportation cases are concerned. Read more
On 16 April 2015, Cambridge City Council became the 13th Council to pass a motion against the destitution of asylum seekers. The motion was proposed by Cllr. Mike Pitt (Lib Dem) and passed without any votes against.
The Council notes that asylum seekers can still legitimately be in the United Kingdom following initial refusal of their claims, because they are appealing the decision or because it is not possible for them to return home. Many originally refused applications are then allowed on appeal. However while waiting for a final outcome they can be left with minimal or no support and in some cases in destitution. The cashless azure card scheme does not give enough money for people to live on, does not allow them to save or use public transport, and is dehumanizing.
The principles of natural justice would suggest that they should have decent support to live and assistance with the legal process to ensure they are heard fairly. Refugees who have been waiting for our processes should be expected and allowed to work to support themselves, both to improve integration and reduce the burden on the state, during the legal processes.
The Council further notes the long standing campaigning of the “Still Human, Still Here” campaign to raise this issue.
The Council should
* Bring a report to the relevant scrutiny committee to consider joining the “Still Human, Still Here” campaign and any impacts this may have on council activity as soon as reasonably possible.
*Write to both Cambridge’s MPs and to the Home Secretary and Immigration Minister, following the General Election, asking them to support those seeking protection from persecution.
* Endorse the findings of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Asylum Support for Children.
* Ask group leaders to work through the Local Government Association to encourage other Councils to join the campaign.
‘‘Everyday Borders’ reviews trends in immigration control procedures over the last decade and more, pointing to distinct movement in the direction of greater surveillance and policing of the communities in which migrants live, and considers the implications that this has had both from the standpoint of the individuals who have had to live under this constant scrutiny, and also the cohesion and solidarity of wider networks.’
OPEN LETTER TO THE EU HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENTS
‘No More Excuses’ for Deaths at Sea:
Reform Policies, Save Lives!
Ahead of the EU’s extraordinary summit of 23 April 2015, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) is calling on the 28 Heads of States and Governments to urgently reconsider the proposed package of measures to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. The EMHRN exhorts EU leaders to shift their focus away from surveillance, intelligence gathering and border controls towards a genuine human rights perspective – with the protection of migrants and refugees at the heart of their concerns. Read more
“Is it fair that every person whose claim for Asylum has already been scrutinised by the Home Office and agreed, should now, from 6th April, be obliged to pay out the massive sum of over £1200 per head, including children; in order to renew permission to stay here: or face removal back tothe country from which they have fled? “