Study: Beyond borders, beyond boundaries

My Dutch colleague Tineke Strik and I have commissioned a critical analysis of the EU's financial support for border regimes in Tunisia and Libya on behalf of the Green Group in the European Parliament.

You can find the entire study here German, English and French.

A two-page summary is available on German, English, Italian, French and Arabic.

Clear failings on the part of the Commission 

The border protection measures co-financed by the European Commission and the member states regularly result in serious human rights violations. These include the use of physical force or deliberate collisions by the Tunisian coast guard or the interception and deprivation of liberty of migrants, enslavement, forced labor, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling by the Libyan coast guard. 

These are enormous sums, over € 70 million each for Libya and Tunisia for the periods from 2018 to 2022; a detailed overview can be found in the first chapter of the study.

When allocating funds, the risk of human rights violations is not sufficiently taken into account, despite corresponding provisions in the NDICI regulation, among others, through which most measures have been financed since 2021. Even during the project period, it is unclear how the projects are monitored, as the European Commission does not provide any documents, citing confidentiality.

Next steps

Funds should only be disbursed if it can be ensured that they will not be used to support measures that are associated with human rights violations. A human rights impact assessment must not only be carried out at the beginning of the project; programs must also be reviewed and, if necessary, adjusted or interrupted during their term. To this end, it is important that sufficient documents are made available to the European Parliament. Civil society also has an important role to play here; it is important that civil society organizations are consulted in funding decisions.

Further information

In order to present the study, we held a conference on the same day. Event The human rights aspects in particular were discussed with Seawatch, the authors of the study and DG NEAR; a recording of the event can be made available on request.

You can download the summary (EN/DE/FR/IT/AR) and the entire study (DE/EN/FR) here download. The SZ also has reports.

European Parliament calls for sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea

Finally! The EU Parliament has in a resolution clearly spoken out in favor of an EU sea rescue mission. In addition, we demand, among other things, that information about sea rescue cases be shared immediately, that the criminalization of sea rescue organizations be refrained from and that ships be allowed into the next safe port after sea rescues.
I negotiated the resolution for our group and even if we cannot immediately force the Member States to implement the measures, it is a clear sign of where the majority in Europe stands.

The deaths in the Mediterranean cannot be tolerated any longer.

I took the cover photo on a sea rescue mission after we gave people life jackets. Often on the overcrowded inflatable boats you can hardly see a piece of boat – only dozens of people in acute danger of their lives. This reality that every day is decided on life or death of many people at our external borders and the decision is too often that people just have to die in case of doubt, that must never become normal. But it has become normal and we have to change that again. Parliament's decision unfortunately does not bring about any concrete change, because Parliament cannot decide on operations and has only very limited powers in this area. But it does increase the pressure on the heads of state and government and sends a clear signal against right-wing populism.

Here are some of the demands from the resolution

  • We call for an EU maritime rescue mission.
  • Member States and the EU should finally comply with applicable international law and come to the aid of people in distress at sea.
  • We demand that the Commission creates a new, reliable and sustainable approach that ensures sea rescue and that we are no longer constantly dependent on ad-hoc solutions. The Commission should provide material, financial and operational support for this.
  • Member States and Frontex should proactively operate search and rescue missions and provide or deploy all necessary and available boats and equipment to save lives.
  • All Mediterranean states and Frontex should share or provide information on sea emergencies to ensure rescue.
  • Rescued people should be assigned to the nearest safe haven.
  • The Commission should set up a sea rescue contact group to coordinate missions by Frontex and member states and regularly inform the Parliament about it.
  • Frontex should share information about its operations and comply with Union law, just as member states do.
  • The Commission must ensure that Frontex and Member States only enter safe ports after rescue and do not expose asylum seekers to danger.
  • The dead of Pylos should be recovered, identified, their relatives informed and more bodies searched for. The survivors must be distributed in solidarity in the EU.
  • We advocate that safe escape routes are the best way to prevent deaths and therefore call for humanitarian corridors.

Here you can find the complete text on german and english.

Andreas Scheuer amends ordinance to make sea rescue more difficult

For several years now, European states have been trying to strengthen human rights observation and to make sea rescue at the EU's external borders more difficult and to criminalise it. Germany has now also issued further rules that could spell the end for the missions of some aid organisations. The model for this approach seems to be the Netherlands where similar reasons were used last year to obstruct sea rescue operations.

The change in law followed a lengthy legal battle. After the Federal Ministry of Transport fixed the observation vessel "Mare Liberum" in April 2019, the association sued and was upheld by the Hamburg Higher Administrative Court in September 2019, so that the ship could continue to operate.

With a current regulation, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer is specifically making humanitarian aid at Europe's external borders more difficult. The German government has been pursuing this goal for some time, but has so far been defeated in court. Now the transport ministry is creating a new legal basis for itself in order to be able to legally detain ships because they cannot meet the new security requirements.

Security concerns are only a pretext

New excuses are always being sought to prevent humanitarian aid at Europe's external borders. Meanwhile legislators are arguing with the safety of people on the water in order to prevent sea rescues. That such arguments are being used in the face of thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean is more than cynical.

The German government is obviously trying to prevent the observation of the human rights situation in the Mediterranean. In speeches, it continues to emphasise the relevance of human rights and sea rescue, but away from the public eye it then does the opposite. Anyone who acts in this way gambles away the credibility of politics.

Preventing sea rescue, firing on those seeking protection, undignified and life-threatening conditions in European refugee camps: when one looks at Europe's external borders and the actions of European states, one unfortunately wonders when the EU member states will have to declare moral insolvency.

You can find more information on the Homepage of Mare Liberum. Details and legal assessments on the amendment of the Ship Safety Regulation, can be found at here.

Europe must not outsource sea rescue to Libya

The report "Places of Safety in the Mediterranean: The EU's Policy of Outsourcing Responsibility" of the Heinrich Böll Foundation points out that the North African Mediterranean states cannot be regarded as "safe havens" and that the EU cannot therefore outsource sea rescue to these states. This is particularly true for the civil war country Libya.

Since 2014, over 20,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean. Mediterranean Sea have drowned. The member states of the EU fail to agree on a joint on a joint programme for sea rescue and accept the death of these people of these people so that as few of them as possible reach Europe. They cooperate with criminal militias in Libya and deliberately accept the violation violations of fundamental rights. Some politicians even propose to send the refugees directly to North Africa, including the Libyan war zone, to the Libyan war zone.

Against this background, this study has important policy implications, noting that the EU and its member states cannot shirk their responsibility to save people in the Mediterranean.

Italy and Malta may not close ports

The policy of EU states such as Italy and Malta to close their ports and denying NGO ships access to their ports is costing people their lives. people's lives and is just as illegal as shifting the rescue to Libya.

The member states and the EU must rescue fugitives and migrants* and bring them to European ports, not only for moral reasons but also for legal ones. Your ports must remain open to rescue ships.

Deadliest route in the world

The route from Libya to Europe is the world's deadliest migration route in the world. The main reason for this is that the EU has stopped its has suspended its rescue activities in the Mediterranean. The naval operation Sophia, which saved the lives of more than 40,000 migrants and refugees. the operation. There is currently not a single state rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

Civil organizations that try to close this gap are often obstructed are often obstructed, prosecuted or have their vessels confiscated. are confiscated. By suspending all sea rescue operations and also actively preventing NGOs from saving lives, it is partly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the Mediterranean.

This study makes it clear that the EU and its member states cannot evade this responsibility by outsourcing sea rescue to Libya or other North African Mediterranean countries.

Libya and other states in North Africa are not safe havens

Libya is one of the most unsafe and dangerous places for refugees in the world. People intercepted by the Libyan coast guard are taken to camps where they are subjected to inhumane conditions.., rape, exploitation and even arbitrary killings.

The current European policy of supporting this Libyan coastguard and making it the doorman of Europe is deeply inhumane and violates international law, and the EU and its member states have a duty to take people to a safe place where their lives and safety are not threatened and where they are safe from persecution. 

The study shows that these safe havens exist only in Europe, which means that seven concrete political demands:

1. we need a European sea rescue mission!

The Member States must be proactive in carrying out rescue operations at sea by making ships and resources available, and the European Commission must coordinate them and provide financial support to Member States to improve their ability to save lives at sea. 

2. EU cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard must be ended

Europe must not evade its obligations in sea rescue by shifting responsibility to a country that can under no circumstances be considered a safe place. The EU must stop cooperating with Libya. Instead of funding the Libyan coast guard, which is also an association of warlords, the EU should invest in its own sea rescue capabilities.

3. people rescued from distress at sea in the Mediterranean must be brought to Europe

the study shows that none of the north african Mediterranean states can generally be classified as a safe haven. for vulnerable groups such as LGBTI or other minorities, these states are not safe. since it is not feasible to determine which territories would be safe for people and which would not, on board the rescue ships, Europe cannot shirk its responsibility and must bring people to safe havens in Europe. this also applies to NGO ships. cooperation with the libyan coast guard is a violation of international law.

4. the criminalisation and intimidation of NGOs must stop

Ship captains* and crew members must not be prosecuted for rescuing people in distress at sea. These people are life-savers*, not criminals. The European Commission must decide that humanitarian aid must not be criminalised by the Member States.

5. the EU must work closely with NGOs

Civil organisations cannot exempt member states from their obligation to rescue people in distress themselves, but they can help save lives. The EU should support NGOs in the rescue effort by opening its ports to them, simplifying the registration of ships for sea rescue and informing them about emergencies.

6. Europe needs a reliable redistribution mechanism

The EU Commission must develop a solidarity-based and humanitarian alternative to the Dublin system, in which the rights and wishes of the refugees are respected. A high level of solidarity and readiness to receive refugees must also be promoted financially. In this context, the readiness of local and regional authorities and regions should be taken into account and supported with EU funds.

7. the EU must stop misusing development funds for migration prevention 

The EU is supporting the Libyan coastguard through the EU Trust Fund for Africa. This is a misuse of funds that are supposed to be used for development cooperation. The aim of development cooperation is to fight poverty, not migration. In general be made much more transparent about how EU money is used in third countries. are used.

Request: Attack on rescue ship Alan Kurdi by Libyan militias

In order to be able to exercise my parliamentary control function as a Member of the European Parliament, I have the opportunity to put questions to the European Commission. The Commission must answer these questions.
On 02/28/2020, I received answers from the Commission to the following questions:

Question for written answer E-003535/2019 to the Commission

Subject: Attack by Libyan militias on the rescue ship Alan Kurdi

Men fired warning shots and threatened with their guns on board, endangering not only the crew of the Alan Kurdi, but also some 90 people in distress at sea. The Libyan ships had no boat identification.
There is also information that Abd Al-Rahman Al-Milad, known as Al Bija, who is on an EU sanctions list for involvement in human smuggling, has again taken over as head of the Zawiya coast guard.

1. can it be ruled out that the militias involved in the attack or the regional unit of the Libyan coast guard in Zawiya are being financed or trained by the EU, or is it at all comprehensible which funds flow to which coast guard?

2. what information does the Commission have about the militias involved in the attack and what steps have been taken, for example, to press another Libyan coast guard to investigate the case?

3. according to a new decree issued by the government in tripoli, NGO vessels operating in libyan waters will in future be required to obtain a licence from the libyan authorities; how will the Commission help to ensure that the libyan authorities bring this decree into line with international law and do not apply it in international waters, for example in their sea rescue zone?

Answer from Ms Johansson
on behalf of the European Commission:

The Commission has always considered it a priority to support the capacity of partner countries to improve search and rescue services for sea rescue, and appropriate management of migration requires a balanced approach ranging from ensuring protection for people in need to strengthening border management.

The main recipient of EU funds from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the General Coastal Defence Administration under the Ministry of Interior of Libya, has so far received a series of basic training courses for nearly 100 staff. 477 Libyan Coast Guard and Ministry of Defence naval officers under the Ministry of Defence have received training on human rights and international law, among other things, in Operation Sophia. This training has been carried out following a review process which ensures that the officers concerned are not on the UN sanctions list. The head of the Coast Guard, Abd Al-Rahman al-Milad, on the UN sanctions list is under investigation. The Libyan Coast Guard has informed the Commission that he has been suspended from the operational service.

Libya has ratified the Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue Services and in December 2017 announced the Libyan Search and Rescue Zone, clearly establishing that the primary responsibility for coordinating rescue operations in the designated region lies with the Libyan authorities. The Commission will continue to closely monitor the projects and improve cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard and the General Coastal Defence Administration in the context of these projects and in the framework of the EU Integrated Border Management Support Mission. The Commission's objective is to assist Libya to assume responsibility in its territorial waters in compliance with international standards.

Study proves: Migration to Europe independent of sea rescue

The "Migration Policy Center" comes in the study "Sea Rescue NGOs: a Pull Factor of Irregular Migration?"concludes that people don't get on dinghies in the rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean because there are rescue ships there. This confirms the results of previous studies, such as "Death by Rescue"[ Door Closes ] And... Border Deaths in the Mediterranean.

The present study has investigated for the period from 2014 to October 2019, whether there is a correlation between the presence of NGOs and the number of people who set off from Libya on their way across the across the Mediterranean Sea towards Italy is related. The is not the case. The evaluation took place month by month over the period of five years. During this time, the political situation on the Mediterranean Sea has changed dramatically several times. Instead of rescuing people from distress at sea rescue people from distress at sea, civilian aid organisations have had to take over this task in recent years. have had to take over this task in recent years. But their work is not only made more difficult – often they are criminalised and intimidated for their humanitarian work and intimidated. This is often coupled with accusations that the sea rescue is increasing the number of people fleeing Libya. But the study shows once again that this connection does not exist.

There are understandable motives that force people on the dangerous crossing. Libya is a politically disrupted state, where refugees and migrants from refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are threatened by torture, enslavement, sexual abuse and existential poverty. The people don't get on the rubber dinghies because there are boats to rescue them. There but more people die when there are no ships to rescue them.

In most cases, people do not wear life jackets and are not equipped with communication or navigation tools navigation equipment. Many cannot swim. The completely overcrowded boats are usually unable to reach the next safe place on their own. reach the next safe place. This alone puts people in distress at sea.

There is no evidence to support the assertion that people make their escape presence of lifeboats, there is no evidence. Nevertheless such connections are repeatedly brought into the discussion. Thus the FDP recently claimed in a Tweet of October 8, 2019, that Seehofer's promise, to take in people rescued from distress at sea in Germany would drive more people on the Mediterranean Sea.

Spiegel Online writes under the title: "More rescuers, more refugees - why this is so not true", which the results of the previous studies, which are now confirmed by the new study. confirmed by the new study. The migration scientist Matteo Villa collected data on how many migrants departed from the Libyan coast from the beginning of January to the end of June 2019, and Libyan coast and on how many of those days boats from private sea rescue sea rescue NGOs were in operation. His conclusion is that on the 31 days that NGOs were operating in the Mediterranean, the tugboats sent an average of sent 32.8 people out to sea; on the 150 days when no NGOs were present, the tugboats were present, the traffickers sent an average of 34.6 people on their way. Villa's conclusion, according to Spiegel Online: "The pull factor does not exist."


Sea Rescue NGOs: a Pull Factor of Irregular Migration?

Death by Rescue

Border Deaths in the Mediterranean