Category Archives: Mediterranean

(EN) UNHCR official criticises ‘the radicalisation of migratory dreams’

(EN)

UNHCR official criticises 'the radicalisation of migratory dreams'

An official from the UN’s refugee agency has sparked controversy by expressing concern over the alleged “radicalisation of migratory dreams”.

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, was commenting on the Open Arms migrant rescue ship.

The vessel had been stranded off the Italian island of Lampedusa for weeks with Rome refusing to allow it to dock.

Spain offered to let the migrants disembark in Mallorca but the NGO Open Arms rejected this saying it would exacerbate the already trying conditions on board.

This prompted Cochetel to tweet: “Open Arms rejects Spanish offer of safe haven… while I understand the difficulty of the situation on board, I am very concerned by the radicalisation of the migratory dreams & demands of some migrants & refugees in Libya & neighbouring countries.”

His comments came shortly before the Open Arms ship, which was stranded at sea for 19 days, was eventually allowed to disembark in Italy after an Italian prosecutor ordered the seizure of the ship.

People were quick to respond to Cochetel on social media.

“Radicalisation of migratory dreams? Just wow,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) communications adviser Alessandro Siclari tweeted.

Siclari told Euronews he was surprised by the statements of the senior UNHCR official, but that ultimately the tweet reflected Cochetel’s personal opinion and does not represent the views of the UN agency.

Another social media user questioned the UNHCR’s mandate, stating, that they thought the agency was “concerned by the radicalisation of the EU Member States refusal to comply with asylum and SAR international laws and regulations. Did I misunderstand your mandate?”

Cochetel defended his comments in response to our article, tweeting: “There is no controversy, it is just abnormal that some refugees refuse to attend language & vocational training classes, job placement in some countries because they claim that they only want to go to EU & that UNHCR has an obligation to resettle them!”

Euronews reached out to Cochetel directly but he did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

Cochetel later said his tweets “may have been misunderstood”.

“Too many refugee lives are being lost/ruined on the dangerous routes to Europe via Libya. It cannot be the best/only solution. Most refugees don’t make this choice. Some protection solutions exist along the way & more legal pathways needed,” Cochetel wrote on Twitter.

The tweets prompted a debate on where asylum seekers may or may not apply for protection.

Seeking asylum in Europe

Charlie Yaxley, a UNHCR spokesperson for Africa, the Mediterranean and Libya explained there is a “rising trend” of “people who insist on only wanting to seek asylum in Europe.”

In a statement provided to Euronews, Yaxley said: “People fleeing from conflicts in East and West African countries typically apply for asylum in neighbouring countries. The asylum system in place since the 1951 Refugee Convention requires you to apply in the country you are in,” he explained. “Asylum seekers do not have the choice on where to ask [for] asylum.”

On Twitter, Yaxley further responded: “A person should apply for asylum in the territory they are in. You cannot withhold your asylum claim in the hopes of getting a better offer elsewhere.”

But many international lawyers state that this interpretation of international refugee law is contested.

“Based on what data is the UNHCR accusing their own clients — people in need of international protection — of wanting more [than] they are entitled to by law?” said Omer Shatz, an international law lecturer at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (SciencesPo).

“Under international law, no one is obliged to file [an] asylum claim in [their] first state of arrival or transit. Cochetel’s political statements contradict the fundamental principles on which UNHCR is founded and operating, they are more appropriate to Salvini and far-right politicians.”

Adel-Naim Reyhani who works on asylum and migration law at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights said that there is a dispute about the concept of “safe third country” or “first country of asylum”.

“International law does not contain any obligations of refugees as to where asylum should or must be claimed,” he said.
James Hathaway, who is the director of Michigan Law School’s Program in Refugee and Asylum Law wrote on Twitter that “individuals are free to travel to whatever state they wish to make a claim”.**

Shatz added that as a matter of policy, “you do not want all refugees to be stuck in neighbouring countries… as a matter of fact, today most of the world’s refugees are already located in neighbouring, African countries.”

Indeed, often those fleeing violence and conflict end up in refugee camps set up by the UNHCR.

Some ask for asylum in countries enduring violence and conflict such as Libya, which hosts over 40,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.

Global displacement is at a record high, according to the International Organisation for Migration with “current estimates” at around 244 million international migrants globally.

“The dream of arriving in Europe is not given in the Geneva Convention, but the comment on the aspirations of migrants could have been avoided by UNHCR, an organisation that was created to protect asylum seekers,” said Matteo Villa, an expert on migration issues at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies.

“The Open Arms issue has nothing to do with migrants’ dreams, who make no difference between arriving in Spain or Italy, but has to do with a problem created by European countries. Saying that migrants have unattainable dreams on the ship doesn’t reflect the complexity of the problem, no matter what international law says. It was not a good time to make that comment,” Villa said about the Cochetel tweet.

“In essence, the message was ‘stay where you are and be happy about what states offer you’,” Reyhani tweeted about the UNHCR response.

(EM) El Gobierno rechaza ahora al Aquarius y asegura que España “no es el puerto más seguro”

(EMVideo thumbnail

El Gobierno rechaza ahora al Aquarius y asegura que España “no es el puerto más seguro” Foto: GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / REUTERS | Vídeo: MSF / EL MUNDO

El Gobierno rechaza por ahora atender el llamamiento del Aquarius para desembarcar a los 141 inmigrantes rescatados el viernes frente a las costas de Libia porque España “no es el puerto más cercano y, por tanto, no es el puerto más seguro”, informan a este diario fuentes de Moncloa.

Así pues, el Gobierno de Pedro Sánchez mira ahora a otros países de la Unión Europea, especialmente a Francia, para ver si en esta ocasión se ofrecen a aceptar el barco, como ya hiciese España el pasado mes de junio en Valencia, cuando la embarcación gestionada por las ONG SOS Mediterranée y Médicos sin Fronteras se hizo cargo de 629 personas rescatadas en unas circunstancias similares. Por lo pronto, Malta e Italia mantienen el pulso negándose a abrir sus puertos al Aquarius, lo que ha puesto a prueba la política migratoria de Sánchez.

Fuentes de Moncloa explican que el Gobierno reaccionó en aquella ocasión ante una “emergencia humanitaria, cuando era evidente que estaban cerrados todos los puertos y nadie se hacía cargo”. Ahora, en cambio, desde el Ejecutivo entienden que todavía hay que esperar a ver cuál es la “disposición de otros países”. Las miradas se dirigen a Francia, que se encuentra geográficamente más cerca del barco. “Por eso decimos que ahora no es el puerto más cercano y no es el puerto más seguro”, subrayan estas fuentes.

Barcelona se ofrece y pide no cambiar de criterio

Mientras el Gobierno se aleja de aquella decisión del pasado mes de junio de recibir en Valencia a los inmigrantes rescatados por el Aquarius, el Ayuntamiento de Barcelona se ha ofrecido hoy “una vez más” para acoger el barco y ha reclamado al Ejecutivo que no cambie de criterio y que “continúe comprometido” en la defensa del “derecho a la vida y el refugio”.

En una rueda de prensa recogida por Efe, la teniente de alcalde de Derechos Sociales, Laia Ortiz, ha exigido a los Estados de Europa que sean “responsables” y que estén comprometidos porque estas personas “están huyendo y necesitan ser rescatadas”. “Barcelona siempre estará comprometida con la vida”, ha insistido en su oferta al Gobierno para ser el puerto seguro que necesita el barco.

En términos similares se ha expresado el residente del puerto francés de Sète-Frontignan y ex ministro de Trabajo, Jean-Claude Gayssot, según recoge Europa Press. “La única condición es primero la luz verde de las autoridades francesas. Entiendo que las cosas son complejas, incluida la necesidad de luchar contra los traficantes. Pero aquí, se trata de vidas humanas”, ha afirmado a la espera de que se pronuncie el Gobierno de Francia.

Se da la circunstancia de que ésta es la primera acción que realiza el Aquariusdesde que desembarcó en España a 629 inmigrantes. Desde entonces, el debate sobre la inmigración irregular ha ido creciendo notablemente en el país por el aumento de la presión migratoria en las zonas fronterizas de Ceuta y Melilla y la llegada pateras a las costas andaluzas. De hecho, PP y Ciudadanos han aprovechado el asunto para redoblar su presión a Sánchez acusándole de haber generado un “efecto llamada” con su política de “gestos” en este tema.

En esta ocasión, en el Aquarius hay 141 inmigrantes, de los cuales 73 son menores de edad. Según informan las ONG que operan el barco, el 70% de los rescatados proceden de Somalia y Eritrea, aunque también hay personas nacidas en BangladeshCamerúnGhanaCosta de MarfilNigeriaSenegal,Marruecos y Egipto.

Contactos en la Unión Europea

Ante esta nueva crisis, la Comisión Europea ha dicho hoy estar en contacto con varios Estados miembros de la Unión Europea y ha ofrecido su “total apoyo diplomático” para resolver la situación, informa Efe.

“La Comisión está actualmente en contacto con un número de Estados miembros que se han acercado a nosotros a propósito de este incidente. Y como hemos hecho en numerosos casos previos, estamos preparados para aportar nuestro total apoyo diplomático (…) para resolver la situación”, ha declarado la portavoz de la Comisión Europea, Tove Ernst. El Ejecutivo comunitario, no obstante, no ha ofrecido detalles sobre los países con los que la Comisión ha tratado ni sobre el desarrollo de esas conversaciones.

En paralelo, Italia insiste en cerrar sus puertos. “Propiedad alemana, fletado por la ONG francesa, tripulación extranjera, en aguas maltesas, volando la bandera de Gibraltar. ¡Puedes ir adonde quieras, no a Italia!”, ha escrito el ministro del Interior italiano, Matteo Salvini, en Twitter.

(BBC) Migrant crisis: Spain arrivals triple compared with 2016

(BBC

Three times as many migrants have arrived in Spain so far this year compared to the same period in 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.

It means the number of sea arrivals in Spain – at 8,385 – could overtake Greece, which has had 11,713 people.

The shift may be because migrants are finding the Spanish route safer.

Earlier this week, footage showed migrants arriving by dinghy on a beach in Cádiz to the surprise of beachgoers.

The IOM say 11,849 people have arrived in Spain so far this year, compared with 13,246 in all of last year.

“We assume that some of the change is due to the fact that the route [to Spain] is considered a safe route up to the coast through Morocco,” Joel Millman, a senior IOM spokesman, was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

“It’s possible that Spain will outperform Greece this year,” Mr Millman said. “If so, that’s a big change.”

Map showing Central Mediterranean migrant routes

Many of those opting for the longer route to Europe are from west African countries including Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

Spain is still far behind Italy, which received 96,861 until 9 August, according to the IOM.

Overall numbers have fallen by almost 60% from the same period the previous year.

On Thursday, coastguards in southern Spain said 10 men from sub-Saharan Africa were rescued off Tarifa.

The coastguard said they were on a rickety boat off the southern town of Tarifa, in Cádiz province, where a boat full of migrants landed at a popular tourist beach on Wednesday, stunning tourists.

According to AFP, nine of the 30 or so migrants who arrived on the beach on Wednesday had been found.

They are all minors in their teens and, while they did not have any ID on them, are thought to be from Morocco, police were quoted as saying.

They will be taken to migrant reception centres, where they can apply for asylum in Spain, AFP adds.

The charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says Spain’s reception centres arealready overloaded and do not respond to the needs of the thousands of “desperate new arrivals”.

Earlier this year thousands of protesters called on the Spanish government to allow people fleeing war-hit areas such as Syria in the country.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.