Mixed Migration Hub Trend Bulletin, August 2018
- Morocco launches anti-smuggling operation
- Armed Clashes in Tripoli Take Heavy Toll on Migrants
- EU says it won’t reply to Italy’s ‘threats’ over migrants
- Rescue vessel Aquarius allowed to dock in Malta
Cyprus rejects the idea of controlled processing centers
- Cypriot officials have rejected the idea of setting up migrant processing centers in Cyprus. The proposal had come in a concept paper circulated by the EU presidency and based upon conclusions of the European migration summit in June. The paper proposed the creation of ‘controlled centers’ in EU member states along the Mediterranean to process newly arriving migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and to determine if they qualify for international protection in an efficient manner. Cypriot officials said that Cyprus already hosts 15,000 asylum seekers and expressed fears that centers could turn into long-term detention facilities. Speaking with a local media outlet, Minister of Interior, Constantinos Petrides, advocated for the creation of an automatic mechanism for redistributing newly arriving migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and further added, “We have serious reservations regarding the operation of large centres in Europe, especially in the absence of this mechanism. There must be a holistic approach and not one that deals with the issues in piecemeal fashion.”
Rival protests in Germany’s Chemnitz
- Rival groups of protestors took to the streets of the German city of Chemnitz in their thousands on 1 September to protest for and against immigration. The protests came after days of violence and unrest following the stabbing of a young German man and the arrest of an Iraqi and a Syrian on suspicion of murder. In the days leading up to the protests, groups of rightwing extremists launched attacks on persons they suspected to be foreign. The incident and its aftermath have once again brought deep divisions with regards to immigration policy in Germany to the fore. German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, expressed the government’s support for the pro-migration rally and its opposition to xenophobic right-wing rhetoric with a tweet that read, “The Second World War started 79 years ago. Germany caused unimaginable suffering in Europe. If once again people are parading today in the streets making Nazi salutes, our past history forces us to resolutely defend democracy.“
Rescue vessel Aquarius allowed to dock in Malta
- On 15 August, the search-and-rescue vessel Aquarius was allowed to dock and disembark 141 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers at the Maltese port of Valetta following a five-day standoff between Italy and Malta. The situation was resolved after Spain brokered a deal that would see those rescued, as well as a further 114 rescued by Maltese authorities on 13 August, distributed between Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Luxembourg. On 14 August, Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, tweeted, “Spain has coordinated a pioneering agreement with 6 countries to distribute the reception of #Aquarius people. It has been possible thanks to the path that we undertook in June, promoting a common and supportive response to the migratory flows. Spain will welcome 60 people.” According to the terms of the deal, Portugal will take in 30 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers while France, Germany and Luxembourg will take in the remaining 51.
- UN agencies, human rights and humanitarian organizations have welcomed the deal and Malta’s decision to allow the ship to dock but have also warned of the dangers posed by continued standoffs involving boat landings and disembarkations. Speaking about the incident, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi said, “UNHCR welcomes the end to the deadlock around the Aquarius and the fact that 141 children, women and men are no longer stranded at sea. But the situation should never have come to this in the first place. It is wrong, dangerous and immoral to keep rescue ships wandering the Mediterranean while governments compete on who can take the least responsibility.” Mr. Grandi further added, “There is an urgent need to break away from the current run of impasses and ad-hoc boat-by-boat approaches on where to dock rescued passengers.”
- On a related story, staff from SOS Mediterranee, which operates Aquarius, revealed that those rescued had said that five ships had passed them at sea without offering them assistance and blamed obstacles placed by European countries for the ships’ refusal to assist. A spokesperson for the NGO said, “This could be due to the high risk of being stranded and denied a place of safety.”
German Chancellor promises to speed up removal of failed asylum seekers
- German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, vowed to take action on failed asylum seekers following calls for her removal by rightwing groups over her migration policy. Chancellor Markel said that she will increase efforts to expedite the removal of persons whose applications for asylum were rejected. Speaking on 16 August, she said, “I made clear that we have a situation now where not all problems have been solved, especially deportations are still a big problem. The federal government will assume more responsibility here, especially by helping to procure the needed documents.” German authorities have said that the difficulty in deporting failed asylum seekers stems from their lack of travel documentation and countries’ reluctance to issue provisional identification documents for them. of a repeat of the 2015 ‘migration crisis’. 500 police officers and 220 soldiers participated in this border exercise. The exercise was conducted under the supervision of the Austrian defense and interior ministers. The exercise was conducted to improve Austria’s readiness in the face of large-scale movements even though there are currently barely any crossings across the Austrian border. Austrian officials feared a knock-on effect from a possible German decision to close Germany’s borders.