Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 2312 (2016) (S/2017/761) [EN/AR]
The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 15 of Security Council resolution 2312 (2016), in which the Council requested me to report on the implementation of the resolution, in particular with regard to the implementation of its paragraph 7.
The report covers developments since my previous report, of 7 September 2016 (S/2016/766), until 31 August 2017. The information and observations herein are based on submissions by Member States, regional arrangements and other relevant stakeholders. The United Nations system, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the Panel of Experts established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) were also consulted.
II. Smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya
Since the issuance of my previous report, men, women and children have continued to die or go missing at sea on their way to Europe. As at 31 August 2017, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had recorded more than 2,410 deaths and disappearances in the Mediterranean Sea and 123,994 arrivals in Europe by sea in 2017. The so-called “central Mediterranean route” from Libya to Italy continues to be the most active migratory route into Europe. In 2016, UNHCR and IOM recorded the arrivals of more than 181,500 people in Italy by sea, 90 per cent of whom had departed from Libya. As at 31 August 2017, some 99,105 people, originating largely from sub-Saharan African countries, had arrived in Italy in 2017.
The European Union naval operation (EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia) has reported that, since the beginning of its mission in June 2015, and until 31 August 2017, the operation has rescued 39,818 persons in the southern central Mediterranean. The operation estimates that since October 2016 around 140,210 persons have been rescued by different vessels in the central Mediterranean Sea.
According to EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia, vessels operated by international non-governmental organizations conducted search and rescue operations just outside the Libyan territorial waters limit of 12 nautical miles. Some officials in Europe opined that search and rescue operations to prevent loss of life at sea could present a dilemma, by acting as a pull factor to those crossing irregularly and facilitating the task of smugglers who only require their vessels to reach the high seas. Push and pull factors and the operational context across the Mediterranean remain complex and a strictly evidence-based approach to the issue is needed. It is of paramount importance to underline that the first priority must always be to save lives and that the presence of search and rescue operations has undoubtedly prevented countless deaths.
As at 19 July 2017, IOM estimates that 11,122 persons have been intercepted and rescued by the Libyan Coastguard, coastal security and fishermen in 2017, while 348 human remains were retrieved along Libyan shores. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern about abuses and violations against such persons by the Libyan Coastguard during search and rescue operations, which, in some instances, further endanger the lives of people in distress at sea. Intercepted or rescued migrants are rarely provided with life jackets. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has documented the use of firearms, physical violence and threatening language by Coastguard officials during search and rescue operations, within and beyond the territorial sea of Libya, that induce panic among people in unseaworthy vessels seeking assistance. Other recorded behaviour includes jumping on board migrant vessels without warning, and colliding with vessels in distress. Such acts risk capsizing already unseaworthy boats and cause panic among people in distress, some of whom jump into the water without life jackets. According to UNSMIL and OHCHR, immediately following rescues or interceptions at sea, Coastguard officials routinely fail to identify and meet the specialized needs of migrants and asylum seekers in vulnerable situations, including pregnant women, unaccompanied minors, and those with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions.
Organized transnational criminal networks continued to exploit the conflict and security situation in Libya to conduct their smuggling and trafficking operations, which in turn has fuelled instability and undermined governance structures. Existing networks that are used for the smuggling of migrants and refugees, as well as smuggling infrastructure and logistics, may also be used to clandestinely transport illicit goods such as fuel, drugs or weapons. The Panel of Experts established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) has also separately reported to the Security Council, under its mandate, on the different illicit sources of financing, such as the smuggling of migrants, arms and fuel, by armed groups and criminal networks in Libya (see S/2017/466). The Libya sanctions regime, in particular its arms embargo, the measures aimed at preventing illicit exports of petroleum, including crude oil and refined petroleum products, and the sanctions designation criteria, may apply to the acts and activities of smugglers and traffickers.
According to EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia, individual fares on an inflatable boat can reach €1,000, while reports on the cost of travel on a wooden boat range from €1,500 to €3,000, depending on their size and the number of persons on board. Each rubber boat can accommodate approximately 120 persons, allowing migrant smugglers to make illicit gains of up to €120,000 for each rubber boat launched. Using larger wooden boats typically embarking 400 persons, it is estimated that migrant smugglers and traffickers could earn between €600,000 and €1.2 million per vessel. Smugglers generally conduct launches of up to five or more vessels at once.
The loss of life at sea is largely attributed to the use by smugglers of unseaworthy and overcrowded vessels that lack the capacity to reach European shores. The smugglers continue to profit from migrants seeking to reach Europe and to benefit from the dearth of safe and regular pathways for migration, as well as taking advantage of the desperation of those fleeing from conflict or persecution.
Women and girls, and also men and boys, experience serious human rights abuses, including sexual violence at the hands of smugglers, traffickers and other criminal groups in and en route to Libya.
In resolution 2312 (2016), the Security Council recognized that among those being smuggled in the Mediterranean, in particular off the coast of Libya, there may be persons who meet the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto, and stressed that the rights of migrants and asylum seekers must be respected under international human rights and refugee law. According to Eurostat data for persons arriving in Italy in 2016 from the seven most common source countries in West Africa (Nigeria, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Senegal, Mali and Ghana), the average grant rate of some form of protection was 27 per cent, and among those arriving from Eritrea, Somalia and the Sudan, 70 per cent. This amounted to more than 68,500 nationals of those countries being granted protection in the European Union member States in 2016, including over 54,000 granted refugee status or subsidiary protection. The routes and the composition of groups arriving remain in flux and include persons in vulnerable situations, the majority of children arriving unaccompanied.
Since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2312 (2016), Member States have, unilaterally, bilaterally and multilaterally, including through regional organizations, taken measures to counter smuggling and trafficking off the coast of Libya and to strengthen search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean Sea. These include the strengthening of border control agencies and border management through capacity-building and training, along with targeted deployment of naval assets and operations in the Mediterranean Sea.