Saturday, October 21, 2017

MV "Lifeline" - caught in the act 

Incident with the Libyan Coast Guard on 26.09.2017 - NGO deception & facilitation of illegal  immigration

(click on image to enlarge)

Caught in the act

The first discovered wooden boat on 26.09.17 at no time was in danger of sinking or in any type of marine distress. The boat was seaworthy and equipped with a fully functional engine and simply called for “pick up” in a prearranged area. The migrants did not show any medical emergency requiring an assistance or transfer to another vessel as required by the international law and rescue at sea. (see "Lifeline” photos). The weather condition at the time: sea state - light breeze, weather - clear.

Video of the incident provided by the Libyan Coast Guard (26.09.2017)

The boat was recovered in Libyan contiguous zone only 22,3 NM from the shore (confirmed by the Libyan Coast Guard - see map). Subsequently all migrants were illegally transferred onboard the NGO vessel MV "Lifeline" (EU Council Directive 2002/90/EC). Later the boat was pro forma destroyed (burnt). 

What followed was a legal intervention of the Libyan Coast Guard and its vessel the LCG "Talil" (267).

The LCG vessel approached the MV "Lifeline" trying to establish repeatedly a radio contact to no avail. The Captain Friedhold Ulonska refused to communicate with the LCG vessel issuing instead an emergency call on "Chanel 16" asking for assistance. 

Capt. Friedhold Ulonska onboard the MV "Lifeline" - "Mission I" (formerly in command of another German NGO vessel the MV "Sea-Eye")

Repeated  calls by the LCG vessel to stop engines and an attempt at verbal communication with the captain were also left unanswered! 

The captain's reckless and life endangering stance led ultimately to a single warning shot and boarding of the MV "Lifeline" by an unarmed LCG officer.  During boarding a heated altercation ensued between LCG officer and "Lifeline" crew member. The LCG officer demanded the return of illegal migrants. The crew vehemently refused to comply with this demand. After an unsuccessful verbal persuasion the LCG officer simply returned onboard the LCG "Talil". 

Video provided by "Mission Lifeline e.V." although edited shows clearly the incident. (26.09.2017)

During the incident, at no time did the Libyan Coast Guard "attack" or "shoot at" the  MV "Lifeline as claimed by the German NGOs. These claims are simply untrue! 

The entire procedure was conducted in full accordance of the international law and standard rules of engagement practiced by any law enforcement agency at sea (see Coast Guard rules of engagement).

The Libyan Coast Guard vessel LCG "Talil" (267) involved in incident. (26.09.2017)

(*) According to international law responsible government agencies have the right to stop & board any foreign vessel suspected of immigration infractions UNCLOS’82  Art. 33.  

Position of MV "Lifeline" in Libyan contiguous zone (22,3 NM) during "pick up". (26.09.2017)

Screenshots of photos published by the German NGO "Mission Lifeline e.V." on Twitter showing the "pick up".

"Lifeline" RHIB" approaching the seaworthy migrant boat. (26.09.2017)

The "rescued" migrants (26.09.2017)
The illegal transfer of migrants onboard the MV" Lifeline". Note on the right side German state TV MDR reporter Mr. Markus Weinberg. (26.09.2017)
 The destruction of migrant boat. (26.09.2017)

The "Fake News"  

The German NGO provided in local press a "fictive narrative" of the incident in the hope of gathering a large media resonance and at the same time financial support of the public. Some of the headlines: "Dresden men rescue hundreds in Mediterranean and get shot at", "Coast Guard shooting at Lifeline" and "Soldiers shoot at Saxonian refugee helpers". (SIC!) Very similar pattern & narrative was used by another German NGO the "Sea Watch e.V." during their incident with the LCG on 10.05 2017.

Headlines from local Saxonian press

The man behind the deception

Mr. Axel Steier, Chairman of "Mission Lifeline e.V. - Dresden, Germany

A known far-left & "no border" activist. In 2015 co-founded an initiative "Dresden Balkan Konvoi" in support of NGOs & migrants in Idomeni camp (Greece). On 23.06.2017 Mr. Axel Steier was summoned by the German Federal Police Inspectorate being accused of "attempted smuggling of illegal aliens into the country". His first brush with the law in conjunction with facilitation of illegal immigration.

Police summon

The vessel  MV "Lifeline"

MV "Lifeline"

The MV LIFELINE (Ex- SEA WATCH 2), MMSI 244870698, GT 231, length 32 meters, built 1968, flag Netherlands. Jointly operated by NGO: German "Mission Lifeline e.V." and Spanish "PROEM-AID"

Photo & video credits: Libyan Coast Guard, Mission Lifeline e.V. & private 


* Interview with Libyan Coast Guard - 26.09.2017
* Twitter & Facebook: Mission Lifeline e.V.
* Twitter Proem-Aid:
* United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982:
* EU Council Directive 2002/90/EC:
* 29.09.2017 - Tagblatt: "On Tuesday Friedhold Ulonska the captain of  'Lifeline' dealt with Libyans" / "Friedhold Ulonska bekam es am Dienstag als Kapitän der 'Lifeline' mit den Libyern zu tun":
* 26.06.2017 - Sachsen Depeche: "Sea rescuers under investigation" / "Ermittlungen gegen Seenotretter ":


#SAR #LibyanCoastguard #migrants #migrantcrisis #TogetherForRescue #Frontex #Seenotrettung #LibyscheKüstenwache #wirschickeneinschiff #SeaWatch #OpenArms #OceanViking #AlanKurdi #together4rescue #UNHCR

#migrants #migrantcrisis #refugees #savinglivesatsea #savingmigrants #unhcr #ngo #ong #migranti #seenotrettung #jugendrettet #freeiuventa #seaeye #seawatchcrew #msf  #savethechildren #togetherforrescue #frontex #europol #reuters #dpa #bbc #afp #sachsischezeitung #mdr

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Migrant crisis: Sicily accuses charities of collusion with traffickers

The Times

By Philip Willan

26 August 2017

Magistrates in three Sicilian ports have opened investigations into suspected collusion between charities and Libyan people traffickers.

It follows the decision of a judge from Trapani in western Sicily to impound a ship operated by the German non-profit group Jugend Rettet (Youth to the Rescue) this month.

Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières are also under investigation, according to Italian media, but both charities said they had received no official communication to that effect.

The charities bitterly reject claims of collusion. Médecins Sans Frontières said it was “a heinous accusation”, for which prosecutors had been unable to produce supporting evidence.

The suspects in the Trapani investigation are said to include two skippers of the Iuventa, a former trawler operated by Jugend Rettet, a third crew member, and Father Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean priest who has frequently alerted authorities to the plight of his countrymen adrift on the Mediterranean.

The Trapani investigation has relied on testimony from an undercover police officer infiltrated into the crew of a ship operated by Save the Children and on bugs used to record on-board conversations.

Save the Children insists it has always respected the law and collaborated with Italian authorities.

It said it would take legal action to protect its reputation from the “false and defamatory information” being spread in the media by employees of the security company that had operated on its ships.

Among the first to alert authorities to alleged irregularities were two private security guards operating on board Save the Children’s rescue ship Vos Hestia. One guard recently renewed his accusations in an interview with the newspaper Quotidiano Nazionale.

The witness claimed traffickers communicated with charities by satellite phone, adding: “To tell the truth, I saw few migrants in danger of their lives.”


Save the Children charity workers detained at Mitiga

Libya Herald

23 August 2017

Three people working for Save the Children were detained yesterday at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport.

The UK charity said tonight it was not able to respond immediately to the Libya Herald’s enquiry but a staff member did confirm that some sort of incident had occurred at the airport.

It is understood that a Pakistani and an Egyptian were detained along with a Libyan who also worked for Save the Children.

Security at the airport is now in the hands of Abdul Rauf’ Kara’s Rada Deterrence Force. It has issued no statement on the detention of the charity workers.


NGOs - New allegations of "criminal association" from prosecutor in Catania

Prosecutor Zuccaro in Catania warns of much serious offenses than that of 'Iuventa' case in Trapani.

Il Giornale

By  Franco Grilli

13 August 2017

A second investigation may overwhelm the NGOs. This time it comes from the Prosecutor's Office in Catania and deals with the case followed by the Prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro who first reported the alleged liaison between migrant traffickers and the NGOs. The Catania investigation brings to light new allegations of "criminal association" aimed at favoring a clandestine immigration. The investigation shows that some NGO members were involved not only in direct contact with the traffickers but in addition shared some strategies with them for rescues and migrant transfer. Here is the substantial difference between the two investigations. The Trapani Prosecutor's Office is investigating only the individual conduct of some NGO crew members without advancing into the possibility of a common act. The investigation and collected evidence in Catania concerning traffickers and NGOs is far more in-depth and alleges not only sporadic contact activity but a likely organized liaison between rescue crews and the traffickers. In fact, the allegedly committed crime as suggested by the Prosecutor's Office in Catania is far more serious than the accusations coming from Trapani.

The scenario of the investigation could therefore rapidly change and give almost a face of "common act" to liaisons and contacts between NGOs and human traffickers.

Catania Public Prosecutor's Office
Dott. Carmelo Zuccaro
Piazza Giovanni Verga
95100 - Catania (CT)
Tel: 095/366111

(Originally published in Italian)

Source: "Catania - Other accusations against NGOs: it's a criminal association" / "Catania, altra accusa sulle Ong: È associazione a delinquere".

Second investigation launched against Save the Children boat docked in Malta

Catanese prosecutors are alleging that the boat Vos Hestia, which docked in Malta on Monday was in cahoots with traffickers facilitating clandestine immigration

Malta Today

By Denise Grech

18 August 2017

Prosecutors in Catania have alleged that the boat ‘Vos Hestia’, of Save the Children, is working with illegal traffickers to facilitate clandestine immigration.

The investigators claim that some NGO members were involved not only in direct contact with the traffickers but also shared some strategies with them for rescues and migrant transfer.

The search and rescue boat has been docked in Malta since Monday, as reports that the Libyan navy was threatening humanitarian vessels in Save the Children’s patrolling zones surfaced.

“A second investigation may overwhelm the NGOs,” Save the Children said in a reaction to the news.

This is the second investigation against search and rescue organisations, after prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro made waves last April when he reported that some NGOs, including Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), “could be financed by traffickers”.

The first Trapani investigation is, however, “far less serious” according to Save the Children, as it alleges that only some NGO members have made contact with illegal traffickers.

“People aboard the [NGO] ships are clearly aware of the time and place where they will find vessels carrying migrants, so they are clearly previously informed,” chief Trapani prosecutor Ambrogio Cartosio said.

Catania prosecutors however claim that the criminal activity is not sporadic or individual but an organized liaison between rescue crews and the traffickers.

In an interview with Italian paper Quotidiano, former Save the Children security officer Lucio M., said that the NGO is focused on business rather than saving lives.

"The NGOs don't give a hoot about migrants. It's only a business of the moment,” he sated, arguing that he faced threats from STC before speaking out.

Lucio also claims that STC is purposefully hiring Eritrean and Libyan men who liaise with traffickers, giving them the exact position of boats full of asylum-seekers.


NGO and migrants, the witness: What rescues? I'll unveil the traffickers

Interview with the security officer from 'Save The Children' ship: "A system of contracts worth millions that is also based on omertà (code of honor) agreement"


By  Giorgio Caccamo 

11 August 2017

The former police officer Lucio M. speaks out: "What rescues? It's all business. We have never saved anyone who was dying. It seemed more like a race for them and who comes first".

The testimony of a ship's security officer from 'Vos Hestia' of the well-known NGO 'Save the Children' who was interviewed by the daily national "QN" explaining the great bluff behind organizations that say they are rescuing so-called migrants trying to reach our shores.

How long were you on board? What was your position?

"I stayed just over a month, between September and October 2016. I was charged with the security on 'Vos Hestia'".

What did you see during the rescue at sea?

"Let's face the truth: few were in life's danger. Once we took a boat with people in good health 10 minutes from the Libyan coast and not far out at sea. This was the explicit wish from the 'Save the Children' in London while all other European offices were opposed to it".

Other inconsistencies?

"I remember we had a good British cultural liaison who spoke Arabic. At some point he left the ship and in his place came an Italian-Eritrean young man. Does it matter? Yes, it does. Two days later a boat full of Eritreans arrived and it was the STC (Save the Children ) team leader who gave the captain the exact position of the boat".

Are there comparisons with other NGOs?

"It seemed like a race and who comes first. For me it was a strange attitude. The 'Iuventa' (ship of the German NGO 'Jugend Rettet') is too small, so it was understood that they will play a supporting role. Once we were in the Libyan waters with other NGOs and no rubber boats were seen. Then one day calls the 'Iuventa' and says 'we have 400 people on board'. But in five days we didn't see anyone! And then if you load all those people, can you tell me where the boats are? It means that the traffickers have delivered them".

So there are relationships between some organizations and traffickers?

"They are obvious. Often is the trafficker who gives the position with a satellite phone and certainly not the migrants. When there is an inflatable boat with dozens of people on board it seems as though they have made an appointment..."

No NGOs can be excluded?

"Perhaps some people could be genuinely animated by a humanitarian spirit. But this talk of going to the Libyan coast is neither here nor there. Thousands of people aided only 20-25% perhaps were worthy of help".

And who were the others?

"We loaded young Maghrebs who were expelled from Italy. For them this was the only way to try to come back. But who am I to say who we going to bring to Italy? We did not bring desperate Syrians or those of Mali who run from hunger. Personally, it was a problem of consciousness for me".

Did you feel responsible for the situation that was bigger than you?

"I also felt a little complicit with a shameful activity which I could not tolerate. There were clashes with STC because I could not report anything to the port authorities or police. The sense of their politics seemed to be 'keep everything hidden'. We couldn't even warn the MSF (Doctors Without Borders) that a boy on board had a serious form of tuberculosis."

How did they treat outsiders?

"Yes, it was palpable, they did not want us on board but the ship's owner insisted. I don't know if I can use these words, but we Italians were a bit shitty for them... I know the ones who were still on board they tried to replace them with an English team".

Do you think ultimately everything is reduces to a business?

"I've been in the police for 30 years, I know what's going on - you always need to follow the money trail. I would like to know how much money did the Ministry of Interior give to STC? Why is this not addressed? On board I was told that the transactions were running at half a million per month, 6 million EURO a year, only for Save the Children. And this money comes from institutions. STC also receives many donations, I imagine millions of dollars at no cost. Regarding this I have a personal idea..."

Which is?

"The NGOs don't give a hoot about migrants. It's only a business of the moment. I will not hide that there is also some fear of speaking out".

What are you afraid of?

"We were threatened. Me and my other colleagues have worked really hard in a stressful and demanding situation. Then we said 'enough', one could not go on. You see too much dirt".

What exactly?

"I remember a support operation for 'Iuventa'. There were 140 migrants. Shortly before our arrival a boat with two Libyans sped off with another boat in tow. I wasn't the only one that saw it. The entire ship, the captain, the STC operators. But nobody says anything, this really pisses me off".

Why don't they say anything?

"Well, because if the captain would say anything, those who sign the contract with Save the Children would lose money. Last year the Dutch ship's owner 'Vroon' with headquarters in Genoa, Italy stayed for four months in Alexandria, Egypt. They told me that they don't have work! And then a contract rains from the sky for 500 thousand Euro per month... They can't risk losing it".

Is there a political other than economic aspect?

Do you know what really displeased the Save the Children? The fact that the ship is Italian. They would prefer to have an English crew but instead were forced to take an Italian doctor and us as a security which de facto made us 'security advisors'".

How do you feel about your experience?

"It's a gamble. But still I will reveal what I've seen, even if I don't work on a ship anymore. Our lives have been put at risk. It's a shameful situation".

(Originally published in Italian)


* Quotidiano 11.08.2017 - "NGO and migrants, the witness: What rescues? I'll unveil the traffickers" / "Ong e migranti, il testimone: Macché salvataggi, vi svelo i traffici":
* Il Giornale 13.08.2017 - "Signals and lies: how NGOs protected traffickers" / "Segnali e bugie: così le Ong proteggevano i trafficanti":

German NGO collusion with Libyan human traffickers

10.06.2017 - The crew of German NGO "Sea Eye e.V." during a direct contact and transfer of migrants from the hands of traffickers.

Note: the migrants are wearing life jackets and are in seaworthy vessel with engine still in place. The traffickers' boat is in immediate proximity with the German NGO "rescue crew" commencing an illegal transfer.  Upon transfer completion the boat is subsequently towed back to shore to be reused for the next "human cargo" delivery. The markings on the side "SAR 23/05" (May 23rd) indicate that this particular boat was already used in a "SAR Op".

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Source: "Seefuchs" crew member

Abhorrent deception - Spanish NGO bears full responsibility for senseless migrant' deaths at sea


click to enlarge

The Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms claims of "a rescue that came too late" could not be further from the truth. 

The independent & multi-source tracking of the NGO "Open Arms" vessel movement between 19-25.07.2017 paints a very different picture. During this time the vessel on numerous occasions entered illegally the Libyan territorial waters and was conducting unauthorized "SAR patrols" at times even 1 nm from the shore! Such a reckless and illegal activity naturally could not produce any other results but tragedy. The mere presence of an NGO rescue vessel encourages the human traffickers to immediately launch unseaworthy boats packed with as many people as possible. 

The dubious activity of the NGO vessel was reported to and scrutinized by the Italian Coast Guard. Additionally, when confronted with evidence and facing public backlash the Spanish NGO attempted to deny any wrongdoing by offering only a scurrilous explanation via twitter and claiming that: "our AIS signal has been hacked to show we're in Libyan waters" (sic!). 

This is yet another example of NGO deception following their ulterior agenda at the cost of human lives.

 click to enlarge 

25.07.2017-12.33 hrs 
 click to enlarge 

click to enlarge

NOTE: NGO "Proactiva Open Arms" employs an on-board professional photographer Mr. Santi Palacios who specializes in "impact & SFX" photography. His art work earned him a wide recognition as well as an extensive critique of his peers for producing staged imagery, especially that of "fake drowning migrants" in the Aegean Sea in 2015/16. His art work:


NGO "Open Arms" Vessel Tracking - Screenshot Examples 19-25.07.2017:
* NGO "Proactiva Open Arms" Twitter:
* Elizabeth Collett of the Migration Policy Institute: "They are in boats that cannot go a certain distance beyond a few miles from the Libyan coast. However, they are using those boats because of the presence of the NGOs."
* The Spectator – "Madness in the Med: how charity rescue boats exacerbate the refugee crisis - They claim to be saving lives, but they are colluding in a people-trafficking operation":

BBC report - Caught on camera MSF collusion with human traffickers. 

WATCH how MSF (Doctors Without Borders) crew rubs shoulders with the traffickers and patiently waits for them to remove the engine to be reused. Subsequently, the MSF crew casually picks up their freshly delivered "human cargo". The Italian Coast Guard was called only later to destroy the inflatables. Listen also to MSF unapologetic and arrogant statement.

(VIDEO) Migrant crisis: Smugglers in the Mediterranean:

BBC - Europe

15 July 2017


Humanitarian act or political activism? - NGOs contesting EU Border Regime 

This week the Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro confirmed officially to the media an extensive involvement of EU "No Border" activists in the migrant crisis:  some NGOs subscribe to "a no border ideology, a kind of humanitarian extremism," but he argues, "In the face of the tragedy that's happening, I prefer humanitarian extremism to other types of extremism."

On board the German NGO "IUVENTA" - ship's mess - Lampedusa 21 June 2017

The Spanish and German NGOs involved in migrant rescue activities are an integral part of the so-called "No Border" movement that challenges the EU Border Regime and at the same time through deceptive and indiscriminate actions puts lives of innocent migrants gravely at risk.

The "No Border" network refers to a loose associations of NGOs, autonomous organisations, groups, and individuals in Europe and beyond. They support freedom of movement and resist human migration control by coordinating international border camps, demonstrations, direct actions, and anti-deportation campaigns. Common slogans used by the network include: "No Border, No Nation, Stop Deportations!" and "No one is illegal. The "No Border" network has existed since 1999.

An example of German NGOs affiliation and their campaign "Ferries Not Frontex" 

German NGO Sea-Watch e.V. members & supporters carry a banner: 
"Legalize Smuggling - Ferry Connection Africa-Europe Now".

The "Mediterranean Rescuers" at G20 "Welcome to Hell" Summit in Hamburg

IUVENTA's rescue team off Libyan coast - 13 September 2016

Kathrin Schmitt - IUVENTA's rescue team leader and a former Idomeni Camp (Greece) activist.

Sascha Girke - IUVENTA's head of operations and a former Lesbos (Greece) rescuer. 

Ruben Neugebauer current spokesman of Sea-Watch e.V. and a far-left radical activist with the past. Well known for his diverse activities and deceptions. The migrant's "March of Hope" from Idomeni camp on 14 March 2016 (Greece) caused the lives of 3 innocent migrants who drown being led by NGOs. The leading organizing force behind this march was the German "Zentrum für Politische Schönheit" (Center for Political Beauty) a left-wing radical organization. Mr. Neugebauer a member of this organization was in Idomeni at the time.

German NGOs:

- Jugend Rettet e.V. *
- LifeBoat gGmbH *
- Mission Lifeline e.V. *
- Sea-Eye e.V *
- Sea-Watch e.V. *


* "Contesting Europeanism: Migrant Solidarity Activism in the European Union" by Celine Cantat:
* "No Border" movement:
*  "The deadly new route into Europe":
* "Political activist Ruben Neugebauer - Over-flyer forced to pause / Polit-Aktivist Ruben Neugebauer - Überflieger mit Zwangspause":!5321886/

Supreme court overturns lower court ban on Libya-Italy migrant deal as Italian interior minister discusses issue with Fezzan mayors

Libya Herald

26 August 2017

The Supreme Court has reportedly overturned a ruling by a Tripoli court that theoretically blocked any negotiations between Libya and Italy on stemming the tide of migrants crossing them Mediterranean. In March, the Tripoli appeals court agreed with former justice minster Salah Al-Marghani, lawyer Azza Maghur‏ and four others objecting to the Memorandum of Understanding signed in February by Presidency Council (PC) chief Faiez Serraj and the Italians. The Tripoli court said that there could be no further negotiations between the two sides on the issue.

So far, the Supreme Court has made no statement about the counter-appeal brought by the Presidency Council. However, Marghani tweeted the news saying: “Sad day for Human rights, refugees and Libyan/Italian conscious [sic]. S. Court cancelled Suspension of Italian Sarraj MOU on migration.”

In fact, Serraj had already ignored the March ruling. Last month, he approved a now controversial migration control agreement with Italy effectively permitting the Italian navy to operate within Libyan waters to return migrants to Libya.

As if to highlight the Supreme Courts’s ruling on the MoU, Italian interior minister Marco Minniti today met with mayors from the south of Libya to discuss Italian support for measures to curtail the migrant flows. The meeting in Rome was also attended by top officials from the Libyan interior ministry as well as Italian ambassador to Libya Giuseppe Perrone. It was a follow-up to one in Tripoli in July at which Italy agreed to provide communities in Libya most affected by smuggling and human trafficking with alternatives for growth and development.

“Libya looks forward to the timely support of Italy and the European Union for the projects already proposed and those to be proposed in the future, aimed at improving the conditions of those living in areas affected by illegal trafficking”, a statement today from the Italian interior ministry read.

The ministry also pledged continuing Italian support for the Presidency Council and its government of national accord.

The mayors of Sebha and Qatrun did not attend the meeting for logistical reasons which the Sebha mayor blamed on the Presidency Council’s government of national accord.


Hard Borders

The Times

26 August 2017

Only the clearest possible message that illegal migration is not worth it will deter those risking their lives to reach Europe from Africa by sea

After three years of confusion there are signs that the European Union may at last be feeling its way towards a realistic response to the Mediterranean migration crisis. These signs come too late for the thousands who have died at sea and in the desert. They have yet to evolve into enforceable policies and whether they ever will is open to question, but some progress is better than none.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU’s commissioner for migration, tells The Times today that Brussels is considering imposing trade, aid and visa embargoes on migrants’ countries of origin to pressure them into helping repatriate those who are refused asylum. In Italy, which is bearing the brunt of the crisis, the interior minister has held meetings with mayors of key Libyan towns and cities to explore ways of policing Libya’s southern border. On Monday President Macron of France will convene talks between European and African leaders in Paris to add high-level impetus to European efforts to stem the migrant flow at source.

All three initiatives are based on the realisation that uncontrolled economic migration hurts the mainly African countries where it originates, destabilises the European countries where the migrants are heading and inflicts untold suffering on the people themselves. These should be uncontroversial ideas. Even so, they are starkly at odds with the thinking behind Germany’s decision to throw open its borders to refugees from the Middle East and beyond two years ago. Many but not all of them were fleeing Syria’s war, but that has not made it any easier for a disunited Europe to absorb them without political tension and localised strife.

Mr Avramopoulos was instrumental in the EU-Turkish scheme which, while by no means perfect, has cut the flow of migrants through southeastern Europe to a fraction of 2015 levels by giving Syrian refugees temporary status in Turkey. He appears to understand that the crisis in the central and western Mediterranean requires equally decisive action to persuade would-be migrants that the journey is not worth it.

That will in turn require border controls deep in the Sahara where traffickers bring their human cargo to Libya from Niger, Chad and Mali, as Italy insists. It will require Libyan unity, as Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, observed after a trip to Benghazi this week. Above all it will require a message of deterrence to be sent to sub-Saharan Africa by a more resolute EU, principally through the swift and efficient return of migrants denied asylum. Just 27 per cent of migrants in this category are repatriated. Seven in ten stay. This is the single biggest “pull factor” for those considering following them from Lagos, Douala or Accra. “If people know they have no chance to stay, they are less likely to come,” the commissioner says. His words should be a mantra for any EU heads of government still on the fence about a humanitarian and political emergency they have the power to end.

The Times’ series this week on the migration crisis has laid bare Europe’s failure to enforce a serious repatriation policy, the hell of Libya’s makeshift detention centres and the use of social media by traffickers to broadcast the torture of their captives to extort money from relatives. Despite everything the lure of Europe remains, not least because, as one Nigerian migrant stranded in Tripoli said, “if you go back to your land, you will be starting from below zero”.

This is why the co-operation of countries of origin matters. Mr Avramopoulos’s plan to secure it using restrictions on aid and development as well as visas represents a new willingness to use what concrete leverage Brussels has in Africa. There should always be avenues for legal migration, but the message from Europe must be clear: unchecked illegal migration will not be tolerated.


EU Ponders Tough Action Against Migrant-source Countries


By Jamie Dettmer

26 August 2017

ROME — The EU’s commissioner for migration says Brussels may withhold development aid and impose trade and visa restrictions on migrant-source countries in Africa and Asia to force them to take back failed asylum-seekers.

In an interview with Britain’s The Times published Saturday, Dimitris Avramopoulos said EU chiefs “are considering stopping funding of major development projects. We invested in these regions to create opportunities and keep people there.”

He said countries which failed to cooperate with repatriations could face blanket visa restrictions. Germany recently threatened to withhold visas from the ruling elites of migrant-source countries that do not accept returnees.

But Avramopoulos appeared to indicate a much broader visa embargo is now being contemplated, saying “thousands of foreigners, from diplomats and doctors to students and researchers” would be impacted by the travel restrictions now under discussion.

“The EU is not afraid to make use of leverages in trade or visa policy. Let’s be honest: it is neither good for Africa nor for Europe that so many people cross the Mediterranean,” he said.

This is the first time EU commissioners have threatened to block access to European markets in response to a long-running migration crisis that’s roiling the continent and threatening to upend traditional party politics and empower populist nationalists.

The “hard borders” approach now being considered is being condemned by humanitarian NGOs, which often embrace a “no border” ideology.

On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron of France will chair talks featuring European and African leaders in Paris in a renewed bid to thrash out a more effective strategy to stem migrant flows. African leaders are likely to argue they need more development aid.

Italy's dilemma

The following day EU national leaders will hold one of their regular summits in which the migration issue will figure prominently. Both Italy and Germany have national elections in coming months and Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni and Germany’s Angela Merkel will likely want to show voters they are shutting down migrant routes.

Italy will push the EU to try to replicate with Libya a deal that was struck with Turkey last year, which largely shut down the migrant route through the Balkans. But analysts say such a deal would be unworkable when it comes to Libya given the lack of an effective central authority in the northern Africa state.

The migration influx has morphed into a political crisis for Italy’s left-leaning coalition government. In municipal elections earlier this year the coalition lost ground to center-right parties such as Matteo Salvini’s Northern League, which has called for a “stop to the invasion.”

Italy’s right-wing Forza Italia party has campaigned for the denial of landing rights to NGO ships carrying migrants. And even the maverick radical Five Star Movement is moving to an anti-immigrant position, calling for a halt to any new migrants being lodged in Rome.

Gentiloni has accused fellow EU nations of “looking the other way,” and not doing enough to assist Italy with the surge in migrants crossing the Mediterranean. A burden-sharing system across the EU has failed with just a few thousand taken off Italy’s hands by other EU member states.

Libya has become the main gateway to Europe for migrants and refugees from across sub-Saharan Africa, and also from the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Syria and Bangladesh. Many are fleeing war and persecution, but most who are using Libya are seeking to escape poverty. Italy has become the main point of arrival of those rescued off the coast of Libya.

As the economic migration has grown, with only a small proportion of asylum-seekers coming from countries engulfed in war, so sentiment in Italy has shifted with Italians becoming enraged at the strain the influx is having on the country’s migrant facilities, which are now all full, and the appearance of migrants even in far-flung villages.

600,000 asylum seekers

This week, police evicted more than a hundred Eritreans and Ethiopians from an abandoned office building near Rome’s central railway station. The occupants — who had been given refugee status — complained that Italy doesn't help asylum-seekers integrate, fails to house them and provide language classes.

In fact, the Italian authorities do, housing many in villages across the country, providing months-long language tuition and up to 45 euros a day per refugee. But many refugees bolt the system, preferring to live in large cities such as Rome, Naples, Milan and Bologna and to try their luck.

The sheer numbers — more than 600,000 asylum-seekers have entered Italy since 2014 — are overwhelming. And the assistance asylum-seekers do receive is increasingly infuriating ordinary Italians in villages migrants are sent to for temporary periods. “I don’t get that money from the government and we are struggling as well — we don’t have enough jobs for our kids and now migrant kids will be competing for the few jobs that are around,” says Anna-Maria Bianchi, a mother-of-two from a Lazio village just north of Rome.

The only good news as far as Italian authorities are concerned is that there has been a fall-off in the rate of new arrivals this August and July. Official figures show arrivals in Italy from North Africa dropped by more than 50 percent in July from a year earlier and August arrivals are down even further, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The decline is being put down to several factors — from changeable sea conditions to a heightened Libyan coastguard presence and a reduction in humanitarian rescue-refugee operations. There are also several probes by Italian authorities, who say NGOs have been colluding with people-traffickers.


Frontex-Director Fabrice Leggeri: 'Border control itself is not a panacea'

Rescue operations are "the obligation of all those who are at sea," says the EU's border control boss. In a DW interview, he describes the huge challenges the EU faces in a situation that means life or death every day.

Deutsche Welle

By Astrid Prange

19 August 2017

Deutsche Welle: The Libyan government announced that it will expand its coast protection area and would not permit humanitarian aid workers to enter the security zone. Who will save the refugees now when their boats sink, Frontex?

Fabrice Leggeri: I think it is very is important to understand that Frontex does not replace border control duties of the national authorities, but instead, we provide additional technical assistance to those countries that face an increased migratory pressure. In Italy Frontex currently deploys 13 vessels, 3 helicopters, 2 aircraft and 450 border and coast guard officers who assist the Italian authorities with border surveillance, Search and Rescue, identification and registration of the migrants in various hotspots across Sicily as well as intelligence gathering about the smuggling networks operating in the countries of origin and transit. We can adjust the operational levels if needed and if so requested by the Italian authorities with special attention to the protection of vulnerable groups and referral to the asylum authorities.

There is no question about the fact that Search and Rescue is the obligation of all those who are at sea and for Frontex it is a task we take very seriously – last year alone Frontex-deployed assets contributed to the rescue of 90 000 people in Italy and Greece alone and we continue to provide support with border surveillance and search and rescue.

But it is important to understand that border control itself is not a panacea, but that only a global solution can be effective to manage these flows.

Should humanitarian aid organizations be more present in regions like Yemen, Uganda, Sudan instead of the Mediterranean Sea?

Frontex is an operational, not political organization, and our role is to provide technical assistance to those countries which face an increased migratory pressure. As I responded before: Search and Rescue is not only a legal obligation, but it is also a duty of all those who are at sea. There is no doubt that the smugglers are taking advantage of the tragedy of the refugees and migrants and are profiting heavily from their desperation; In 2015 it is estimated they profited between 4 – 6 billion euros from their dirty business. The situation at all external borders of the EU –  not only in Italy, but also increasingly in Spain and in Greece, remains very difficult and while not being one organization, the smugglers operating in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Turkey seem to have one thing in common: little concern for the safety of the migrants, putting 150 migrants on board of boats which should not be carrying more than 10, in difficult weather conditions. These often capsize shortly after leaving the shores of these countries resulting in terrible tragedies.

The solution to the current situation must consist of many elements, not one: eliminating the root causes of migration: wars, conflicts, poverty and famine, dismantling the ruthless criminal networks which are taking advantage of the desperate situation the migrants are in and, lastly opening up of legal channels allowing the refugees to apply for asylum without having to put themselves in the hands of the traffickers. But we all know there are many challenges related to these. Frontex has contributed to the arrest of some 600 suspects of smuggling and human trafficking and we will not tire to do more to disrupt these criminal activities.

In order to assure security management of European borders, Frontex has to cooperate with governments from neighbouring countries of the EU which are not sharing the same values. Where is the limit for cooperation?

Cooperating with countries outside the EU is an integral part of Frontex's mandate. Frontex has concluded working arrangements with the authorities of 18 countries. The primary objective is to share EU best practices, train the border guards of non EU countries how to conduct border control in full respect of fundamental rights. We concentrate on what can be improved.

We aim to intensify existing bilateral cooperation with EU's neighboring countries, as well as with countries of origin and transit for irregular migration. Frontex cooperates with law enforcement authorities, provides trainings to officers, organizes workshops, shares risk analyses to strengthen the border control capacities of the non-EU countries.

Last year, as part of the extended mandate of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex has started deploying liaison officers to third countries. At the moment we have a liaison officer in Turkey, Serbia and Niger. Their task is to monitor the migratory situation in the countries and strengthen the cooperation between host countries and Frontex.

In order to fulfill his mandate, Frontex is getting enough support from Brussels and EU members?

Responding to the unprecedented migratory situation in 2015, the European Commission on 15 December of the same year, presented a legislative proposal for the creation of a European Border and Coast Guard. It proposed creating a new agency on the existing structures of Frontex, to meet the new challenges and political realities faced by the EU at its external borders, especially related to migration and internal security.

The proposal was approved by the European Parliament and Council in a record time of just nine months, the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency was officially launched on 6 October 2016, giving Frontex a new and broader mandate. This clearly proves the strong commitment of European policymakers to strengthen the agency and to give us wider tasks, including the fight against cross-border crime and providing security within the Union.

Frontex currently deploys some 1,800 border and coast guard officers who work at external borders – not only along Europe's maritime borders, but also at land and at many international airports. These officers are deployed by 28 EU member states and four Schengen associated countries. We do see an important commitment not only from Brussels, but also from the European capitals with which we work very closely.

This email interview was conducted by Astrid Prange de Oliveira.


Migrants: Tajani in favor of dialogue with Tripoli, Benghazi

'But also with the tribes in the country's south'


25 August 2017

CATANIA - European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said Europe has a "duty to intervene" in the migrant crisis, in response to a journalist's question about a UNHCR report criticizing Europe because it can't extend its border to Libya.
"No one wants to extend the borders of Europe to Libya, but there's a problem that regards our continent: the significant migrant flows now, that will probably involve millions of people in the future if there's no intervention, are a fundamental problem for the stability and security of Europe," Tajani said.

"We must work to make Libya a more cohesive country, by favoring dialogue between Tripoli and Benghazi but also with the tribes in the country's south, without wasting more time. I think the migrant code of conduct for NGOs is a positive choice because it gives rules. We can't allow doubts regarding NGOs trying to help irregular migration. Therefore, to avoid this doubt, there must be rules and they must be respected. Of course, everyone who needs to be saved at sea must be saved at sea, but we have to prevent NGOs from undertaking operations that violate Libyan territorial waters and push immigrants to come to Europe, indirectly helping human trafficking organisations. Strength, not violence, must be used by Europe to stop this indecent trafficking of human beings," he said.


Facebook lambasted over ransom video of traffickers abusing migrants


By Emma Batha

25 August 2017

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - People smugglers are using Facebook to broadcast the abuse and torture of migrants in order to extort ransom money from their families, the U.N. migration agency said on Friday.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) lambasted the tech giant for failing to police the platform and help crack down on traffickers.

One video hosted on the site since June shows Libyan gangmasters threatening emaciated and abused migrants - mostly Somalis and Ethiopians - huddled in a concrete room.

IOM said the traffickers had sent clips to the captives’ families via the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp - a Facebook channel - along with threats that their loved ones would be killed unless ransoms of up to $10,000 were paid.

One young Somali man is seen lying face down with a concrete block on his back. “I was asked for $8,000,” he says, according to the IOM. “They broke my teeth. They broke my hand. I have been here 11 months. They put this stone on me for the last three days. It’s really painful.”

British newspaper The Times, which ran the story on its front page on Friday, also quoted a young Ethiopian who had been held for 15 months. “They beat me with iron bars,” he said.

“They ordered me to pay $8,300 and my family cannot afford to pay that amount.”

Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe since 2014, and thousands have died trying.

Facebook, which has also been criticized for failing to stop traffickers using the platform to advertise their services, said posts by smuggling groups would be removed if reported.

“We encourage people to keep using our reporting tools to flag this kind of behavior so it can be reviewed and swiftly removed by our global team of experts, who work with law enforcement agencies around the world,” a spokesperson said.

But Facebook said it had not removed the June video as it had been posted by a Somali journalist and was important for raising awareness of the problem.

However, IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle accused Facebook of “arrant nonsense”, adding that the smugglers had used the journalist to publicize their demands.

He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it was totally inappropriate for Facebook to host a video showing the faces of vulnerable people being abused.

”Don’t let Facebook off the hook here,“ he said. ”It’s an absolutely nonsensical argument that it’s up to the public to notify Facebook of stuff that’s happening on Facebook.

“They should invest heavily in policing their platforms to stop vulnerable migrants being exploited, extorted and murdered.”

Doyle said the IOM had tried without success to talk to Facebook about targeting smugglers.

"They should stop smugglers telling people there's an El Dorado waiting for them in Europe when it's a lie," he added.

"It's not good enough to say, 'we are a technology platform, it's got nothing to do with us'."

Doyle said the IOM had tried to find the people in the video, but they had disappeared.

Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change.


Facebook removes posts made by people smugglers aiming to lure migrants

Social media content painting a positive picture of risky Mediterranean sea crossings is removed after Guardian highlights nature of material

The Guardian

By Karen McVeigh

25 August 2017

Facebook has removed several posts made by people smugglers openly advertising to attract migrants seeking passage to Europe.

Written in Arabic, many of the posts were accompanied by videos and testimonials of what the smugglers claim are successful trips across the Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece, and from Egypt to Italy. All were written in recent months, a time of year when many people attempt the journey.

People smugglers make about $35bn (£27bn) a year worldwide and the industry is the main driver of migrant deaths at sea, according to the head of the International Organisation for Migration. The number of migrants who have died crossing the Mediterranean has so far reached 2,400 this year.

A spokesman for Facebook said: “People smuggling is illegal and any posts that coordinate this activity are not allowed on Facebook. We have removed all of the content that the Guardian shared with us for violating our community standards. We encourage people to use our reporting tools to flag this kind of behaviour so it can be reviewed and swiftly removed by our global team of experts, and escalated to law enforcement where required.”

Facebook posts by smugglers attempt to paint a rosy picture of the service. They are often accompanied with images of large boats in calm seas or posts about “successful” trips. In one entry, a smuggler describes himself as a noble “hero”, enabling people to access a better life in Europe. Another, in response to a query on the risks involved, says: “Some are worried about safety and security. You have to understand, it’s in our interest to get you to your destination securely so that others will come.”

The sea crossing is one of the fastest-growing black markets in the world, sparking fierce competition between smugglers whose business rests on their reputation, said Paolo Campana, a criminologist at the University of Cambridge.

“Because there is no regulation, the trust problem becomes more acute,” he said. “To trust the wrong smuggler can have fatal consequences.”

Campana is examining social media posts and court records of prosecutions to analyse the networks behind smuggling operations and understand how migrants choose between them. “It is easy to enter the market, so it is competitive,” he said. “You have to advertise your services and you have to be perceived as a competent smuggler.

“What is on Facebook is just the surface. There are closed groups, which we do not have access to. If you see what is in the public domain, then there will be even more behind closed doors,” he said.

A researcher on his team, who analysed Facebook posts mainly from smugglers offering crossings to Syrians via the eastern Mediterranean route (to the Greek islands via Turkey), found evidence of smugglers offering an insurance scheme. If the initial boat was apprehended by Turkish coastguards, a second, third or fourth trip would be free. The prices varied from $450 for a small dinghy, to $1,500 for a “safe private yacht for families”.

Campana said he didn’t know how many crossings are negotiated on the internet, but said social media was just “one aspect” of the booming illegal trade. “In the last five years there have been 2 million illegal border crossings into the EU, including Britain. More than 95% of the journeys involved a sea crossing. And you can’t do a sea crossing without the involvement of one or more smugglers.”

Between 2014 and 2015, illegal border crossings along the eastern Mediterranean route, from Turkey to Italy and Greece, increased more than 17-fold, from about 50,000 to 885,000, although they have since dropped. On the central Mediterranean route, widely considered the most dangerous into Europe, the number of crossings has soared from more than 60,000 in 2011, to 181,000 in 2016.

Campana said the EU focus on policing and naval operations in the Mediterranean was counter-productive, but the issue was a “huge moral dilemma” for authorities.

“Naval operations are very noble; however, they have the unintended consequence of assisting the smugglers by taking the refugees off their hands very close to the Libyan coast – making the ‘product’ more attractive and, ultimately, increasing the number of journeys,” Campana said.

“This is a market driven by exponential demand, and it is that demand which should be targeted. Land-based policies such as refugee resettlement schemes are politically difficult, but might ultimately prove more fruitful in stemming the smuggling tide,” he said.

Joel Millman, a spokesman for IOM, said the organisation had come across Facebook posts from smugglers trying to use their name as an endorsement. “We have had some luck with Facebook, who have shut [posts] down on the basis they are fraudulent. But, unfortunately, they pop up again.”