02 April 2007

March 2007

22 victims of illegal migration to EU in March 2007. 18 between Turkey and Greece and 4 off Canary islands, while other 100 people died off Yemen. Arrests and deportations keep on in Libya, and Frontex is preparing 30 new operations for the next months

ROME - 22 victims of illegal migration to EU in March. 18 between Turkey and Greece and 4 off Canary islands, in Spain. Other 100 people died in the Gulf of Aden, after smugglers forced them overboard in stormy seas in an effort to make a fast getaway from security forces. Meanwhile arrests and deportations keep on in Libya, while Frontex is preparing 30 new operations for the next months. According to Fortress Europe, from 1988 the victims of illegal migration to EU are at least 8,175. And others 1,000 - 1,500 are the victims of the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia and Yemen. Since the reopening of the conflict in more than 57.000 people escaped from Somalia.

Collateral Effects. Tenerife, 8 March 2007. Salvamento intervention prevent the umpteenth tragedy off the Spanish archipelago. Far along the horizon of a stormy sea, 49 young people tighten to the edges of a cayucos furrowing seven meters high waves, 35 km at the south of the island. Finally all are rescued, but 3 people aboard have already died few days before, during a 7 nights long travel. The group departed from Nouadhibou, in Mauritania, the 1st March. A man died after the first days of hard navigation. His body was abandoned in sea. Three others people also died, after days without water neither food. The supplies were not sufficient. The captain didn’t foresee Frontex patrolling.

Frontex’s plans. The 15th February 2007 Frontex, the European agency for the management of operational cooperation at the external borders, started a new operation of sea and air patrolling off Canary islands. Hera III. Spain, France, Luxemburg, Portugal, Germany and Italy participate. Objective: to discourage illegal migration, rejecting the pirogues in the sea. In order to avoid the European patrols, the migrants boats are sailing more and more off the coast along longer routes. The result – writes El Dia - is that “the passengers arrive in worse conditions, when not died”. The Italian Coast guard, already engaged in the previous Frontex mission, had already denounced it. Studying the navigation systems found aboard the boat, it demonstrated how the migrants departed more and more from the south, sailing up to 300 miles off the Senegalese coast. But EU strategy does not change. During 2007 Frontex will spend 34 millions euro, relying on 19 airplanes, 24 helicopters and 107 ships put at disposal by the Member States. In the next months - the director of the agency, Ilkka Laitinen, declared - 30 operations of borders control will be launched, 3 of which off Canary islands. The objective seems to be the creation of a system of permanent patrolling of the Mediterranean.

Special cleaning. The 11th March, 8 Egyptians were arrested in Annaba, in Algeria, while departing on a Zodiac to Sardinia island. Four days before, 32 Algerian were intercepted from the Italian police in Porto Pino, in Sardinia. And the night of the 6th March, 113 people arrived in Lampedusa island, in Sicily. But in the meantime Libya began to clean up the Italian courtyard. Between the 15th and 28th February 1,067 young people of several nationalities were arrested between Tripoli and Zuwarah and others 1,299 were deported in the same period. From September at least 9.635 people were deported from Tripoli. From the 1st of March Libya ask also Africans citizens for a Visa. Qaddafi gave an ultimatum to the harrag, the illegal migrants. The figures about arrests and deportations speak of a hunt for migrants, and give deep concern, especially at the light of the reports over Libyan jails condition, already denounced from EU, Human Rights Watch and Afvic reports. Reports speaking about tortures, arbitrary arrests and collective deportations, even in the desert. But the end justifies means. Italy and Europe, in the mere accounting of disembark, approve Tripoli results. For the African harrag, pursued in the popular quarters of the shoreline between Misratah and Zuwarah, it does not remain that the last card to play: throw themselves in the sea, at all costs, at all risks.

A cemetery called Aegean. The 17th March the Greek Coast guard retrieved the bodies of 7 illegal migrants washed ashore on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, among them a 10 years old child. Others 4 people were missing. The boat sank during a thunderstorm. From Kusadasi, Turkey, they depart only with stormy sea, in order to avoid the Greek Coast guard patrolling. 62 people drowned in Aegean sea during the last three months. The 2007 is the worst year. During all 2006 the victims were 73, and they were 98 in 2005. From 1996 at least 514 people lost their lives here, and among them 252 were missing.

Made in Turkey. Other 7 people died ten days after, the 28th March, frozen to death on the icy mountains of Van, along Turkish-Iranian border, trying to cross the frontier by foot. Here, every year, thousands of Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis enter Turkey, across the snowy forests, by foot or riding horses, leaded by Kurdish guides. Iraq, Iran, and Syria, are the access doors on Turkey. The ticket for Greece is bought in Istanbul. Via earth, hidden in the trucks directed to Alexandroupolis and Orestias. Or via sea, towards the islands of Samos, Lesvos and Hios. Greece is only an intermediate stage. The goal is more at the north. Italy, Norway, Germany, or France, and from this last one to England, after a period hidden in the forests of Calais, pursued for months by the French Gendarmerie, waiting for hiding oneself on the trucks ready to embark for Dover, on the other side of the Channel.

Athens does not remain to watch. In the first nine months of 2006 Greece authorities arrested more than 23.000 foreigners without a residence permit. And between 2003 and 2006 – according to the Turkish government - Greek Coast guard rejected and abandoned in sea, in Turkish territorial waters, at least 5,800 of about 22.000 people disembarked in the Aegean’s islands in the same period. The majority were Somalis, Iraqis and Afghans. Departed from Countries in war seeking for political asylum in Europe, nobody allowed them to apply for a demand of protection, even if perhaps it wouldn’t be useful. In 2005 Greece granted asylum only to 88 of 4,624 asylum seekers, just the 1.9%, one of the lower protection rates in the world.
The situation in Turkey is not better. In February, migrants detained in Edirne camp - close to the Greek border, at the north – set on fire, for three times, the centre where they are arbitrary inmates since months, in sign of protest. A video of the revolt is on Youtube.

Meanwhile in Somalia. Perhaps some of the 450 Somalis departed from Bosasso the 26th March escaping from war, were directed in Turkey and from there in Europe. For many of them the travel turned to be a tragedy. Smugglers forced people overboard in stormy seas in an effort to make a fast getaway from security forces. Official data of the United Nations speaks about 29 people dead and 71 reported missing. It’s the last act of the Somali tragedy. From January 2006 Yemen received more than 30.000 refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia. The victims of the Gulf of Aden crossing - 250 km from Bossasso, 16 from Djibuti - would be at least 800 in 2006, according to UN, 300 of which were reported to be missing. But at the bottom of the Gulf lie down the bodies of at least others 360 young people drowned between 1998 and 2002, according to the few news in the press.