02 October 2007

September 2007

ROME - At least 99 migrants have died at the gates of Europe in September, according to our international press review. The victims along the European borders since the beginning of the year are 1,096, while 10.355 migrants have died since 1988. The last month 43 people were drowned off the Canary islands; 19 on the way to the French island of Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean; while 11 people died on the route between Algeria and Spanish coasts, 13 lost their life in the Strait of Sicily and 10 off Greek islands. Three Chechen girls, ages 6, 10 and 13, froze to death trying to cross by foot into Poland from Ukraine with their mother. The number of sea arrivals decreased (- 75% in Spain and - 7% in Italy), but not the victims. On the way between Libya and Sicily, 500 people have already died this year, in spite of the 302 of the entire 2006. In the meantime in Libya, the calvary of the 600 Eritreans detained in Misratah goes on. But Europe turns the eyes and Frattini announces a new agreement with Tripoli in order to return migrants intercepted in the sea.

The 10th September Frontex patrols resumed in the Strait of Sicily and south off Sardinia, along the Algerian way to Italy, from Annaba. In the first part of the operation called Nautilus II (which were held in June and July 2007) 464 migrants were intercepted and others 166 rescued. The Eu Commissioner, Franco Frattini, recently told that from 2008 these patrols will become permanent and that Libyan forces will cooperate. The commissioner has already asked 30 millions euro to add to Frontex budget (34 million in 2007), although if an amendment of the European Parliament asked to freeze immediately the 30% of the administrative expenses of the agency. Anyway, it's not a problem of money. Actually Fortress Europe is deeply concerned over the future cooperation with Libya in order to turn back migrants.

Frontex is already turning back them in Mauritania and Senegal, where more than 1.500 people have been intercepted in 2007 and where more than 18.000 Senegalese were repatriated from Europe in 2006. According to the Unhcr (High commissariat of the United Nations for Refugees) refugees are travelling on the route off illegal migration. Human Rights Watch reported deep concern over the abuses and tortures practiced against migrants in Libya. But the European Union is turning the eyes. Frontex has already a Libyan official of connection. Brussels offers to Qaddafi an electronic system of border patrols for his southern frontiers with Niger, Chad and Sudan, from where thousands of people enter every year in the Country, sometimes keeping travelling towards Lampedusa. Frattini will soon send a mission at Tripoli in order to install the equipment, as reported by the Italian minister of Home affairs, Giuliano Amato, the 18th September. The same day - what a schizophrenic Europe! - an official notice of the Presidency of the European Union condemned the “serious violations of human rights” in Eritrea. No mention was done about the 2,589 Eritreans asylum seekers arrived on the Sicilian coasts in 2006 escaping the dictatorship, representing the 12% of the 22,016 migrants landed illegally in Italy the past year, and the 20.8% of the 10,438 asylum seekers of the same period. And no mention was done about the 600 Eritreans detained from 1 year and 6 months at Misratah, 200 km at east of Tripoli, in inhuman conditions, with 3 pregnant women, 2 babies and tens of children. Another 70 Eritreans were arrested in Zawiyah during a raid in the night between 8th and 9th July 2007. 150 of them are refugees, recognized by the Unhcr, who is looking for their resettlement abroad. But the times tightens and repatriation seems to be closer and closer. Most of them have deserted the army and are fleeing the war. They crossed the Sahara desert and thrown themselves in the sea in order to reach Italy and ask for political asylum. If repatriated they risk their life, as 161 deserters were shot dead in Eritrea in 2005, according to Amnesty International. Fort their liberation the Eritrean diaspora demonstrated all over Europe the 18th September.

The Ue Green book for asylum also admitted that refugees travel without documents together with economic migrants. Actually, the first victim of the borders militarization is the asylum right. Eurostat shows it: 192,000 migrants applied for asylum in the 27 Ue Member States in 2006, just one fifth of the 670,000 requests presented in 1992 only in the old 15 Member States. The number of asylum seekers has halved in the last 5 years. The logic consequence a crackdown on illegal migration, which forgot that the majority of Iraqis, Eritreans, Sudaneses, Afghans and many other refugee can’t reach Europe if not illegally. Against them Europe draws up armies, racist laws, walls and detentions centres and turns them back to their war.

They come from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, and they board on tourists ferries in Greece, at Patras and Igoumenitsa, heading to Italy. Every day Italian police finds tens of migrants without documents in the Adriatic ports. They are kept aboard until the ship departs again towards Greece, where they are arrested and maybe readmitted in Turkey, which sometimes deported them to their homeland. During September, according to Italian press agencies, 194 migrants were turned back from the Italian Adriatic ports, 95 of them were Iraqis, 30 Turks and 19 Afghans, most of them “readmitted” in Greece. The 19th September, an Iraqi family – father, mother and four children from 1 to 8 years old – were turned back from the port of Ancona to Greece. During August at least 362 people were turned back in the same way. From the port of Bari, according to the Border Police, 850 migrants were turned back in Greece in 2006, and 300 of them were Iraqis and 170 Afghans. The 9th April 2007, still from Bari, at least 150 Iraqis were turned back in the same day and 120 Iraqis were turned back in August 2007 and 43 in September. Turning back an asylum seeker is forbidden by the Italian law and by the Un Convention on Refugees. The European Parliament also, and the Unhcr, expressed recommendations against the readmissions in Greece of Iraqis.

Greece has never recognized the status of political refugee to any Iraqi, according to a recent Eu report. At the contrary, Greece signed a readmission agreement with Turkey in 2001. In the first eight months of 2007 Greek authorities arrested over 4,500 migrants, many of whom were deported in Turkey, including Iraqis, as recently documented by the “World organization against torture”. And from Turkey, in July, 135 Iraqis were repatriated, according to the Unhcr. The 11th September Turkish authorities arrested 145 migrant during raids in Edirne and Ipsala, close to the Greek border, Izmir, in front of the Greek island of Hios, and Istanbul. 50 Afghans, 21 Somalis, and 74 Iraqis, Mauritanians, Rwandans, Georgians, Palestinians, Burmans. “All them will be repatriated” told official reports. Meanwhile Istanbul started building a 473 km wall along the Iraqi border in order to stop the Kurds workers party (Pkk) armed struggle and the entries of migrants. Syria also has closed the east frontier point of Tanaf, and Saudi Arabia has invested 3,2 billions of dollars in order to draw up a 900 km barbed wire fence all along its border with Iraq. And then you asked why asylum applications decreased..

Fences which remember those of Ceuta and Melilla and evoke the ghosts of the 17 migrants shot dead by the Moroccan Forces Auxiliares and by the Spanish Guardia Civil during the summer and the autumn of 2005. Two years later, the 21st October, a caravan of solidarity will come back on those places, in order to keep alive the memory of the victims of a war, that one against migrants, which is not yet ended and which is reaping victims also on the eastern front.

The new curtain passes from Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Rumania. And the externalization of Ue borders patrols is entrusted to Ukraine. The 14th September 2007, three Chechen girls, aged 6, 10 and 13, froze to death trying to cross by foot into Poland from Ukraine with their mother. “Ukraine regularly subjects migrants and asylum seekers to abuse, including extended detention in appalling conditions, violence, extortion, robbery and forced returns to face torture or persecution”, Human Rights Watch said in a report released in November 2005. “The asylum system is barely functioning, leading to the forced return of people to countries where they face persecution or torture” the report said. At that time, Hrw asked Ue a clear set of benchmarks including access to asylum, legislative improvements and the upgrading of reception and detention conditions in Ukraine before any new readmission agreement, as it documented the use of return agreements between Ukraine and its EU neighbours to summarily return migrants and asylum seekers to Ukraine, with deep concern over asylum seekers from Chechnya and Uzbekistan often returned to Russia, despite the risk of persecution they face in that country. Ucraina returned 5,000 migrants in 2004 and 2,346 in the first half of 2005, the 50% towards former Soviet Republics, the other to China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Ue knew about this reports, but Brussels has already signed a readmission agreement with Kiev the 18th June 2007. The agreement should come into effect within the end of the year. Hrw report was released two years ago, but the more recent documents of Pawschino, an Ukrainian association, confirmed nothing has changed.