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«Examining the EU response to Irregular Migration through the Mediterranean Sea Tel & Fax : +41 22 788 19 71 Email: info Headquarters: 150 ...»

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The others who come from sub-Saharan Africa tend to be West African30 and are mainly nationals of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.31 The Arab Spring, its aftermath and many ongoing regional conflicts have also significantly increased the flow of migrants to Europe.32,33 Since the fall of the Ghaddafi regime, Libya has been the main exit point off the African continent for most migrants. 34,35 The end of his "Latest Deaths on Mediterranean Highlight Urgent Need for Increased Rescue Capacity," UNHCR News, April 15, 2015, Accessed May 23, 2015, http://www.unhcr.org/552e603f9.html.

Laurence Peter, "Why Is EU Struggling with Migrants and Asylum?" BBC News, May 28, 2015, Accessed May 28, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-24583286.

"Key Facts: Africa to Europe Migration," BBC News, July 2, 2007, Accessed May 27, 2015, Page5 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6228236.stm.

"Key Facts: Africa to Europe Migration" Dirk Kohnert.

“Key Facts: Africa to Europe Migration” Tuesday Reitano, Laura Adal, and Mark Shaw.


Tuesday Reitano, Laura Adal, and Mark Shaw.

Laurence Peter.

regime created a security vacuum that allowed migration at unprecedented levels. Currently, two rival governments are battling for control of the country. The chaos born out of a lack of a central government and secure borders has given smugglers the chance to thrive since there is inadequate intervention from authorities.

Migrants travel from all parts of Africa as well as Syria and Afghanistan to Libya so they can make the dangerous journey to Europe by sea. As it is, there are few other options for many of these migrants; all international flights from Libya are currently grounded.36 Syrians are increasingly being denied entry into neighbouring countries, so many fly to Sudan and travel across the Sahara to Libya, then board a boat from there.37 The three main smuggler routes taken to get to Europe are: the Western Mediterranean from North Africa to Spain; the Central Mediterranean from North Africa, especially Tunisia and Libya to the Italian islands of Sicily and Lampedusa, as well as Malta; and the Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Cyprus and Greece.38

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Sarah Almukhtar, K.K Rebecca Lai, Sergio Pecanha, Derek Watkins, and Jeremy White.

Sarah Almukhtar, K.K Rebecca Lai, Sergio Pecanha, Derek Watkins, and Jeremy White.

Alexandre Lusenti and Lisa Watanabe.

Smugglers’ prices range from 1,000 to 3,400 Euros per person depending on the route taken.39 Factors such as distance and difficulty of the route and the level of controls along the route affect the prices.40 For example, the route of Senegal to the Canary Islands, Spain costs between 800 and 1,200 Euros per person.41 This hefty sum for the average African acts to deter the poorest of the poor from leaving the continent.

Those who are able to pay and make the journey across the Mediterranean face violence and abuse by their smugglers42 as well as other unsafe conditions. The vessels the migrants are loaded onto are often overcrowded, under fuelled and not fit for travel. 43 Many migrants find themselves stuck at stops along the way for weeks or possibly years as they work to make the money required for the next leg of their journey.44 There are three main methods of payment open to migrants: upfront prior to departure, en route or by credit.45 By credit means that the fees are covered by a third party to whom the migrant is indebted. It is expected that the migrant will pay back the third party upon arrival at their destination. In many cases however, this method of payment leads to human trafficking.

Even migrants who have paid their own way are frequently subjected to trafficking as their vulnerability is taken advantage of. According to the IOM, many migrants leave without telling their families but with the intention to get in contact once they arrive at their destination country.46 This leaves many migrants extremely vulnerable to traffickers.

Despite these risks, migrants still flock to Europe, because for many the dangers they face in crossing the Mediterranean are minimal when compared to the dangers at home.

The largest irregular migrant group coming to Europe are Syrians, followed by Eritreans, Somalis and Afghans. Syrians are fleeing the bloody civil war that has taken hold over their country while Eritreans, Somalis, Afghans and other nationalities are trying to escape abject poverty and grievous human rights violations.

For Eritreans, the most commonly cited reason for leaving the country is military conscription.47 Eritrea is a country plagued with widespread poverty and an authoritarian government. Under the current regime, Eritreans are expected to serve compulsory military conscription for indefinite periods of time which is contrary to international law.

Furthermore, citizens are often subjected to arbitrary arrest and torture. When leaving the country, those who do not obtain an exit permit are seen as defectors. There is a military shoot to kill policy against defectors.

“Key Facts: Africa to Europe Migration” Page7 Tuesday Reitano, Laura Adal, and Mark Shaw.

Dirk Kohnert.

Laurence Peter.

Sarah Almukhtar, K.K Rebecca Lai, Sergio Pecanha, Derek Watkins, and Jeremy White.

44Tuesday Reitano, Laura Adal, and Mark Shaw, Tuesday Reitano, Laura Adal, and Mark Shaw.

Tuesday Reitano, Laura Adal, and Mark Shaw.

"What’s Behind the Surge in Refugees Crossing the Mediterranean Sea" Economics also plays a key role in why migrants are keen to flee for Europe. For Africans especially, their economic history has very often featured large population movements driven by the slave trade, colonialism, violent conflict, and poverty.48 Furthermore, to many young Africans, Europe is seen as the land of opportunity that cannot be attained in Africa if only they can just get there.

Today, most of Africa’s 680 million live under extreme poverty and insecurity. One only needs to look at the GDPs, approximately 9,984.1 billion dollars for the Euro zone and 621.9 billion dollars for Africa, to see why.49 Once they arrive in Europe, these migrants become contributors to their families back home through remittances. In terms of benefits, remittances are extremely important. They constitute the second largest source of external private finance to African countries after Foreign Direct Investment.50

Source: BBC News

Social reasons also drive migration from Africa to Europe. Various indicators of social welfare show the severe disparity in social provisions between Europe and Africa. Shown in the table below51, the difference in life expectancy of 33 years, effectively robs Africans of approximately one-third of their life.

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Public awareness of the ongoing irregular migration crisis in Europe began in 2007 with the highly publicized case of migrants off the coast of Malta being left clinging to a tuna net for days.53 The incident, in which the captain of the fishing vessel refused to let the migrants aboard his boat, drew widespread criticism and turned public attention to the Mediterranean crisis. The 27 migrant men were ultimately saved, but the situation highlights the ongoing climate towards migrants in Europe.

The drowning of 366 migrants on 3 October 2013, less than a mile off the shore of the Italian island Lampedusa, was also highly publicized. The increasingly frequent occurrence of such tragedies forced European leaders to begin examining their migration policies.

Due to the growing number of bilateral agreements between the most affected European countries and countries of origin, the principle of non-refoulement, a tenant of international refugee law, is routinely broken. The famous “Hirsi” case provides insight into the principle of non-refoulement and how the EU should deal with refugees in accordance with international human rights laws.

The “Hirsi” case of 2012 was a situation in which Eritrean and Somali migrants were intercepted by the Italian coast guard and returned to Libya, their point of origin, due to a bilateral agreement between Italy and Libya. When taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the court found that Italy had breached several obligations of the ECHR.

These include the right not to be subject to inhumane or degrading treatment (Article 3) due to the ongoing poor treatment of migrants in Libya and the country’s policy towards returning migrants to their country of origin even when this poses a risk to the migrants’ lives; the prohibition on collective expulsions (Article 4 of the Protocol) since their cases were not individually assessed; and the right to an effective remedy (Article 13) since the migrants did not have the possibility of appealing the decision to return them to Libya.54

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Dirk Kohnert.

Julia Choe, "African Migration to Europe," Council for Foreign Policy, July 10, 2007, Accessed May 23, 2015, http://www.cfr.org/world/african-migration-europe/p13726.

"Migrants Smuggled by Sea to the EU: Facts, Law and Policy Options," Migration Policy Center, 2013, Accessed June 2, 2015, http://www.migrationpolicycentre.eu/docs/MPC-RR-2013-009.pdf.

"Migrants Smuggled by Sea to the EU: Facts, Law and Policy Options."

but does not differ from the Dublin II Regulation which has been in effect for over a decade across Europe.

Under the 2003 Dublin II Regulation of Europe, the first country in which an asylum seeker lands is solely responsible for that person’s asylum application. 56,57 This has predictably placed the greatest burden on Mediterranean countries (Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta)who are closest to Africa. For example, in 2006, Spain received about 636,000 migrants, nearly half of the EU total.58 The small island of Malta has seen up to 200 migrants per week at certain times.59 Other non-European countries along the travel route, such as Morocco, have also been strained.60 As the crisis intensified, it became increasingly obvious that the Dublin II Regulation could not continue indefinitely due to the strain it put on Mediterranean. Despite this, there was and continues to be significant disagreement amongst European countries on how to deal with the problem, with many countries hesitating to accept more migrants. In the meantime, countries have been taking individual steps to address the crisis.

On 18 October 2013, Italy began a search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, whose aim was to save the lives of migrants at sea. Mare Nostrum used military vessels, helicopters, planes, drones and manpower to rescue migrants at sea, in line with international maritime law that calls for all persons at sea to be saved regardless of their nationality, status or circumstance.61 The operation which ended the week of 27 October 2014,62 picked up 163,000 irregular migrants in 2014, according to UNHCR.63 In November 2014, Mare Nostrum, whose costs could no longer be covered by Italian authorities, was replaced by the EU operation Triton.

Triton is operated by the EU border agency Frontex. The Schengen Agreement, which allows for free movement of peoples within its area, included measures to defend the external European border. One such measure is Frontex. The agency detects among other things, illegal crossing into the Schengen area. Triton is different from Mare Nostrum in that its primary purpose is border security, not search and rescue. The operation is cheaper than Mare Nostrum and patrols only 30 nautical miles off the Italian coast.64

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Julia Choe.

Julia Choe.

"Migrants Smuggled by Sea to the EU: Facts, Law and Policy Options."

Alan Travis, "UK Axes Support for Mediterranean Migrant Rescue Operation," The Guardian, October 27, 2014, Accessed June 2, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/27/uk-mediterranean-migrant-rescue-plan.

"Europe's Deadly Immigration Policy," Bloomberg View, April 20, 2015, Accessed June 2, 2015, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-04-20/europe-s-deadly-immigration-policy.

"Europe's Deadly Immigration Policy" "Europe's Deadly Immigration Policy" some truth to this since some smugglers load migrants onto boats with insufficient fuel then call for help66, migrants continue to make the journey with or without a search and rescue operation.67 Cutting off the operation increases the number of at sea deaths; it does not decrease the number of irregular migrants.

Spain on the other hand has gone a different route in dealing with its migrant influx. For a long time, the country granted special treatment to citizens of former colonies allowing many to migrate.68 In recent years, however they have been forging bilateral agreements with African countries regarding repatriation. The agreements exchange repatriation for funding to help the returned migrants. These agreements are however incredibly unpopular within African countries and are facing strong public opposition.

Comparatively, France has a much stricter approach to dealing with irregular migrants. Due to France’s harsh policies, even Africans from former French colonies are increasingly choosing France over Spain.69 In 2011, Italy granted nearly 30,000 migrants from Tunisia temporary protection and travel through the Schengen area.70 This caused France to introduce temporary border checks at the French-Italian border. It also led to a modification of the Schengen Border Code allowing the reintroduction of interior border controls when a Schengen state fails to protect the external border or a significant number of migrants cross the external border.


In response to the crisis, European Union leaders held an emergency summit on 23 April

2015. At the summit, the leaders agreed to increase patrols in the Mediterranean in order to disrupt trafficking networks and capture boats before migrants board them.

Following the summit, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, was tasked with drawing up a plan to tackle and reform European migration policies. The European Agenda on Migration, drafted by the European Commission, was subsequently released on 13 May 2015.

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