UN Migration Agency Presents Recommendations to Incoming EU Council Presidency, Austria

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has put forward three recommendations to the incoming Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union that are based on our view that better migration governance – national, regional and global – benefits the entire migration spectrum: migrants, their home countries and the countries of destination, and requires political courage, evidence-based vision, and a human-centred approach.

UNYesterday (02/07) IOM, the UN Migration Agency, presented its migration recommendations to Austria as it took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) on 1 July for a six-month tenure.

IOM is drawing attention to three key areas in its recommendations paper: Africa border and identity management, the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).

“Austria will be leading the rotating EU Presidency through a critical period in the second half of 2018 when the GCM focus shifts to implementation and the EU agrees its next multi-annual financial framework,” Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM Regional Director for the European Union, Norway and Switzerland, said in Brussels.

“Our recommendations are rooted in IOM’s conviction that better migration governance at all levels – national, regional and global – benefits not only migrants, but also their home countries and the countries of destination, and must be governed with political courage, evidence-based vision, and a human-centred approach,” added Ambrosi.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is meant to address all aspects of migration and will have implications for both the internal and external policies of the EU.

The EU and its Member States should be encouraged to promote a comprehensive approach to migration that would put the rights, needs, capacities and contributions of migrants at its core, with a view to ensuring their safety, dignity and human rights in line with the GCM vision.

The intergovernmental negotiations on the GCM are scheduled to close in July 2018 and the adoption of the Compact is expected to take place at an intergovernmental conference in December 2018. In this interim period between these two milestones, IOM calls on the Austrian EU Presidency to set up a process to prepare for the implementation of the Compact.

Building on the EU’s migration policy commitments to working with partner countries, as well as on its prioritization of Africa as a key region for cooperation on issues around human mobility, IOM recommends that the Austrian Presidency work with African counterparts towards enhancing their border and identity management capacities to benefit African intraregional mobility and to contribute to safe and regular migration to the EU, the latter supported also by EU’s own visa policy reform.

Finally, integration, social cohesion, human rights, humanitarian aid and development cooperation all need sound investment, as successful migration policies are a long-term societal ambition. For these policies to be strategic, results-oriented and long-term, they need to be properly resourced. This year’s consultations for the next EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework offer a unique opportunity for the EU and its Member States to ensure sustainable and ambitious financial commitments to create a Europe that unites and upholds its international commitments.

IOM calls on the Presidency to allocate appropriate resources for a strategic, results-oriented and long-term migration policy.

“IOM stands ready to support the Presidency and EU member states through its global expertise and operational tools to advance our joint commitment to improving global migration governance and ensuring that each and every migrant is assisted, with their fundamental rights upheld,” said Ambrosi.

IOM’s twice-yearly recommendations to the rotating EU Presidencies are guided by its Migration Governance Framework (MiGOF) which is the first, and so far only global detailed articulation of planned and well-managed migration policies.

The six-month incumbent Presidents of the Council of the EU work together in groups of three in the interest of continuity and coherency. The current Presidential trio comprises Estonia (July/December 2017), Bulgaria (January/June 2018) and Austria (July/December 2018). The presidential representatives chair meetings at every level and propose the guidelines needed for the Council to take decisions.

IOM Director General Welcomes Spain’s Offer of Safe Harbour for Migrants Aboard Aquarius

IOM, the UN Migration Agency has welcomed the decision by Spain to offer a safe harbour to over six hundred migrants – including scores of children and seven pregnant women – who have been waiting aboard a rescue vessel since Sunday (10/06)


The Aquarius picked up nearly 630 migrants, including over 120 unaccompanied children and seven pregnant women on Saturday (09/06). Photo: Getty

“I’m glad Spain has stepped forward to defuse this crisis, but I fear a major tragedy if states start refusing to accept rescued migrants as was threatened,” said IOM’s Director General William Lacy Swing. “Keeping the rescued people at sea is not, of itself, going to dissuade other migrants from crossing to Europe and they too will need to be rescued sooner or later,” he added.

With the weather worsening and concerns growing for the welfare of the most vulnerable migrants aboard the Aquarius, the Spanish Government has offered to receive the ship, although it will another three to four days sailing to reach port. The Aquarius picked up nearly 630 migrants, including over 120 unaccompanied children and seven pregnant women on Saturday (09/06).

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the SOS Mediterranee operated-ship rescued migrants from rubber vessels and took some others from “Italian navy ships, Italian coast guard ships and merchant vessels”.

IOM believes that all EU Member States need to do more to support front-line states and welcomed the Spanish initiative to bring the migrants to safety.

“Stopping one boat or more in the Mediterranean Sea is not an answer to Europe’s migration challenges,” Director General Swing said. A comprehensive approach to migration governance is needed, combining opportunities for safe and orderly movement, humane border management and countering migrant smuggling and trafficking.”

“Saving lives should always be our top concern. We must urgently find a means to help these rescued migrants and work for a comprehensive method of supporting migrants and States throughout Europe,” he said.

IOM urges the EU to re-consider a revision of the Dublin regulation based on the European Parliament’s proposal, and to reach agreement in Council to ensure solidarity among member states fully respecting the provisions of the Treaties.

Two pilots spend savings on plane to rescue migrants in Mediterranean Sea


José Benavente, right, and Benoit Micolon founded Pilotes Volontaires to scan the Mediterranean for migrant vessels in distress.Isabelle Serro/Pilotes Volontaires

Two French pilots, José Benavente and Benoit Micolon, have bought a plane with their own savings to rescue migrants at sea.

Their first mission on May 12 proved a turning point for rescue efforts at sea when Benavente and Micolon spotted two boats.

According to NBC, the first was empty. It had been marked “SAR 12/05/18,” indicating the migrants had been rescued earlier in the day. The other, a Zodiac inflatable boat with over 100 people on board, was in the midst of its own rescue operation.

After six hours and 870 miles in the air, Benavente and Micolon returned to Malta satisfied.

“Today was rich in emotion,” they posted on the Facebook page of their aid group, Pilotes Volontaires (Volunteer Pilots). “After three months of preparation, we were finally able to carry out our first surveillance flight.”

Benavente, 49, has been involved in humanitarian work for 25 years. He told NBC News he’d been mulling how to put his passion for flying to good use since first hearing of migrants dying at sea some 15 years ago while stationed in Africa for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The haunting image of Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015, spurred him into action and he began following the work of nonprofit groups in the Mediterranean.


Image: Pilotes VolontairesPilotes Volontaires made their first flight over the Mediterranean on May 12. Isabelle Serro/Pilotes Volontaires

They named their single-engined MCR 4 plane “Colibri” — “Hummingbird” — after a Native American legend in which a hummingbird tries to stop a forest fire by picking up water and putting it, drop by drop, onto the burning trees. Asked by other animals what it is doing, the little bird replies: “I’m doing what I can.”

The friends raced against the clock to get their venture off the ground by May, when favorable weather conditions bring a surge in the number of migrants boats — and with it, the death toll.


New Study Concludes Europe’s Mediterranean Border Remains ‘World’s Deadliest’

 IOM, the UN Migration Agency’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), on Friday released a new report reviewing the evidence of Four Decades of Cross-Mediterranean Undocumented Migration to Europeand concludes that Europe’s Mediterranean border is “by far the world’s deadliest.”


Relying on analysis of IOM estimates from the Missing Migrants Project, the report states that at least 33,761 migrants were reported to have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean between 2000 and 2017 (as of 30 June). Professor Philippe Fargues of the European University Institute, the report’s author, notes that this number likely under-reports the actual scale of the human tragedy, even as the record number of migrant deaths may have begun to subside in 2017 due in part to cooperation between the EU and Turkey, and now Libya, to stem migrant flows.

“Stopping migration and eradicating deaths at sea may [be] conflicting objectives. Shutting the shorter and less dangerous routes can open longer and more dangerous routes, thus increasing the likelihood of dying at sea,” Prof. Fargues states in the report.

The report analyzes irregular migration across the Mediterranean since the 1970s. It highlights that irregular arrivals to Europe have increased in response to more restrictive migration policies by some European countries.

Prime examples from the report are the irregular migration from North Africa and Turkey to Europe in the 1970s, after visa requirements were introduced for temporary labour migrants from these regions. These policies encouraged those who were already in Europe to stay, increased irregular migration of family members to join their relatives in Europe and gave way to the smuggling business. Absence of legal pathways for asylum-seekers and refugees to travel to Europe and seek asylum also increased arrivals by sea along the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean routes since 2009.

The study also highlights differences between the modern pattern of migration from Africa to Italy, mostly via Libya, and that from the Middle East to Greece via Turkey. For example, Professor Fargues concludes that since 2009, “arrivals to Greece from Turkey are primarily of nationals from origin states affected by conflict and political instability (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria), who would be likely to receive refugee status in the EU.” These asylum-seekers had no options for humanitarian visas or regular migration in their countries of origin, the report states.

Arrivals to Italy from North Africa largely originate across sub-Saharan Africa in response to deep migratory pressures – population growth coupled with limited livelihood opportunities, high unemployment and poor governance and political and economic instability.

People from major refugee-source countries were a minority of migrants arriving in Italy, except for a short period in 2013–14. However, the number of first residence permits issued in Europe in 2009–2016 to African nationals – an indicator of regular migration – was higher than that of African migrants arriving irregularly by sea. The report also notes that most migrants in Libya come from countries that are not among the top countries of origin of migrants smuggled to Italy.

The report concludes by acknowledging the limitations of available data on irregular migration and identifying further research and data needs.

New UN Migration Report Shows Complex Evolution of Pathways, Cost of Eastern Mediterranean Route

New data released by IOM, the United Nations Migration Agency, reveals a complex evolution of migrant arrivals in Europe via the so-called Eastern Mediterranean Route. The Agency’s main findings are that the cost of getting into Europe has increased significantly when compared to 2016, the routes have changed, and different countries of destination are being prioritized.


Syrian refugees crossing the Serbian-Croatian border. File photo: Francesco Malavolta / IOM 2015

Many migrants are now paying upwards of USD 5,000 to get into the European Union, with those coming from Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan being charged the most. Greece and Bulgaria are being used as transit countries into the Western Balkans, with Northern Europe as the goal destination. While the most popular destination up to June 2016 was overwhelmingly Germany, migrants now seek to get to France, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Austria and Denmark as well.

“With increased border controls, it has become harder to reach Europe,” noted Livia Styp-Rekowska, IOM’s Border Management Specialist in Vienna. “One constant, however, is the increase in sums demanded.”

“The response to smuggling cannot be piecemeal,” she added. “It must provide protection and assistance to smuggled migrants; address the causes of migrant smuggling; enhance states’ capacity to disrupt the activities of migrant smugglers; and promote research and data collection on migrant smuggling.”

There are also indications that people have been exploited along the route, and have incurred huge debts to make their way to Europe.

water“Loss of life at sea is tragic and should be averted at all costs, but there are other dimensions,” noted Styp-Rekowska. “One also has to remember that those who make it often have their lives put on hold. Our research shows that 40 per cent of refugee and migrant children have had no schooling in the past year. Almost one in three children reported that the last time they went to school was more than two years ago and just as many have missed one to two years of schooling. Twenty-three per cent said they have never gone to school.”

IOM’s flow monitoring surveys are part of the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) activities in the Mediterranean. The initiative began in October 2015 and is conducted within the framework of IOM’s research on populations on the move through the Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes to Europe.

Between January and June last year, 6,401 surveys were conducted in Greece, Hungary, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The sample size for the period between January and June 2017 consists of 2,140 surveys. The analysis focuses on the comparison of migrant profiles and characteristics of their journeys between these two time periods.