The long summer of European border violence

Alarm Phone Six Week Report, 30 October – 10 December 2017

+++3,081 counted fatalities at sea +++ Increased returns to Libya and documented mass enslavement +++ Unprecedented movements from Morocco to Spain +++ General developments in the Central Mediterranean, Aegean Sea, and Western Mediterranean +++ Summaries of all Alarm Phone distress cases

Over the past six weeks, the period that this report covers, we have again witnessed significant developments in all three regions of the Mediterranean Sea. Off the coast of Libya, the spectacle of migrant interception has taken on a new dimension. In the presence of EU military actors, thousands of people on the move are captured by EU-financed Libyan authorities and abducted back to Libya where they face systematic forms of torture, rape, and enslavement. The crews of non-governmental humanitarians, while present at the scene and able to bring these people to safety, are prevented from intervening. Interceptions also occur in both the Eastern and Western Mediterranean contexts. In the Aegean Sea, those who escape Turkey’s intercepting authorities and survive the crossing, face inhumane reception conditions in Greek-European detention facilities. With winter approaching, the situation worsens and once again Europe has produced a humanitarian crisis and widespread migrant suffering. The Greek government, blackmailed by the EU, accepts that people freeze to death in tents, rather than allowing them to travel on to mainland Europe. In the Western Mediterranean region, we witnessed unprecedented movements – the arrival of about 3,900 people in Spain in November alone constitutes a new record, never was a higher number of arrivals recorded in a single month.

Cemetery of Strangers, Zarzis/Tunisia

Hundreds of lives have been lost in several shipwrecks in the three Mediterranean regions over the past six weeks, and the overall death count of Europe’s borders has jumped to 3,081 documented fatalities this year.[1] In light of the decreased overall crossings, 2017 has the highest migrant death rate of the past many years. Knowing well the risks to their lives, people of various backgrounds and ages embarked nonetheless, from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Turkey. While the reasons for their escape were diverse, what they had in common was the desire to find safety in Europe and many have now found in death at sea a common fate.

Among them were the seven travellers whose bodies were found in a rescue operation on the 1st of November off the coast of Libya.[2] Two days later, four people drowned and up to eight went missing in the Aegean Sea – the Alarm Phone had been alerted to their sinking boat, near Kalolimnos Island.[3] The bodies of 26 Nigerian girls and women were retrieved in the Central Mediterranean over the first November weekend, when two boats capsized – more than 61 people remain missing and can be presumed dead.[4] On Monday the 6th, about 50 people drowned due to the reckless behaviour of the Libyan coastguards.[5] A day later, a man died when trying to cross from Morocco to Spain in the Western Mediterranean – he was on a boat that the Alarm Phone had assisted.[6] In mid-November, the bodies of three children were found in the Aegean Sea.[7] They were part of a Turkish family of five – the bodies of the parents remain missing. On the 18th, three others drowned when trying to reach Ceuta from Morocco.[8] On the 23rd, the lifeless body of a young woman was found by the NGO SOS MEDITERRANEE.[9] Two days later, at least 25 people lost their lives in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast.[10] On the same day, a 10 year old Afghan boy with disabilities was found dead in a boat that had left Turkey to reach Lesvos Island.[11] On the 28th of November, 28 people went missing and can be presumed dead when they tried to reach Spain from Morocco – the Alarm Phone had been alerted to their attempt to cross, which only six people seem to have survived.[12] A few days later, the Alarm Phone was informed again about a boat in distress in the Western Mediterranean – three people disappeared this time and the search operation has been concluded without a result.[13]

These are some of the known fatalities of the past six weeks – we will never know, especially in some of the larger shipwrecks, how many people have really died. At the same time, despite the increasingly vicious obstacles that the EU migrant deterrence regime has erected in their paths and despite the increasingly tough weather conditions that make sea journeys even more dangerous, 162,468 people have been documented as having reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year.

We as the Alarm Phone will continue to support these disobedient movements across the Mediterranean. One of our new interventions, ‘Solidarity Messages for those in Transit’, is a video project that aims to reach travellers along their migratory trajectories. Through the videos, survivors of the border regime speak directly to those still wanting and needing to escape. The first three videos about the fingerprint issue have been released in Somali, Amharic and Tigrinya, with English subtitles and can be found on Facebook and YouTube (see https://www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone/videos/2012580772349489 and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8euh2Zh5e_PHnovsiUiCBQ/videos?disable_polymer=1).

Developments in the Regions 

Central Mediterranean Sea

The situation in the Central Mediterranean Sea remains devastating. Over the past six weeks, and although about 6,300 people were able to reach Italy, we have witnessed ever-more drastic deterrence measures that seek to contain people on the move in North Africa, especially in Libya, preventing migrant boats from reaching international waters, or forcing them back if they have succeeded in getting that far. 19,452 returns back to Libya were counted up to November 28, and several more interceptions were witnessed by the humanitarian NGOs over the past two weeks.[14] The Libyan coastguards, funded and trained by the EU, have continued to harass non-governmental Search and Rescue forces in order to adhere to their role as Europe’s well-paid frontier guards.

Shortly after the NGO Sea Watch launched its new mission with its Sea Watch 3 vessel on the 1st of November, one of the Libyan coastguard units issued a warning against them and the NGO Proactiva Open Arms on Facebook.[15] Only a few days later, on November 6, when the Sea Watch crew was alerted to a distress case by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) 30 nautical miles off the Libyan coast, the Libyan coastguards interfered into their rescue operation. 58 people were able to board Sea Watch 3, but one infant could not be reanimated and died. The Libyan coastguards forced the remaining passengers onto their vessel and returned them to Libya. In this reckless manoeuvre, about 50 people lost their lives.[16] As it turned out, the Libyan coastguard vessel was the Ras Jadir which was donated by Italy to the Libyan authorities in April 2017.[17]

Also in the following weeks, the cooperation between EU forces and Libyan coastguards led to grave human rights violations at sea and returns to Libya, violating international law and the non-refoulement principle.[18] On the 24th of November, the vessel of the NGO SOS MEDITERRANEE was instructed by MRCC Rome to simply stand by as 3 boats were intercepted in international waters by the Libyan coastguards while a EU military aircraft was monitoring the scene: “This dramatic event is extremely hard […] for our teams to witness; they are forced to observe, helpless, as operations result in people being returned to Libya, a place that the survivors have consistently describe[d] a hell.”[19] On the same day, the NGO Mission Lifeline was prevented from conducting a search operation by  EU military vessel, stating “Illegal action by EU Member States takes on a new dimension.”[20]

Feeling emboldened by EU support, the Libyan coastguards can act with impunity and hardly any restraint in their quest to abduct people in the high seas and return them to Libya. That even ‘friendly fire’ incidents can ensue is therefore not a surprise. In late November, the head of the Libyan coastguards apologised for the ‘unprofessional behaviour’ of one of their units that had aggressively approached a German military vessel part of EUNAVFOR MED and fired shots. He promised that such aggressive behaviour would not be shown again, at least not toward the vessels of the EU military mission.[21]

That the conditions the intercepted travellers are returned to in Libya are harrowing, is nothing new – hundreds of witness accounts of survivors and reports of human rights organisations have long testified to the deeply inhumane situation for people in transit who are stuck in Libya’s detention cages where they face torture, rape and extortion.[22] Due to the intensified interceptions at sea and the increase in returns, even more people than before have to endure in overcrowded detention centres. Despite such long-held knowledge of these conditions and Europe’s complicity in producing and maintaining them, a CNN report from mid-November exposing slavery auctions in Libya caused an outcry of indignation among EU officials and institutions – with some calling for a mass evacuation of Sub-Saharan migrants by an international task force. The cynicism and hypocrisy underlying these propositions – thus in effect calling for an evacuation of those whose escape had been prohibited by EU-funded interceptions and returns – beggars belief and has taken on a new dimension.[23]

Sincere outrage has prompted tens of thousands to take to the streets in various cities in Africa and Europe to protest the treatment of black Africans in Libya, with many making a direct connection to Europe’s border regime.[24] The scenes of slavery in Libya have also overshadowed the fifth African Union – European Union summit that took place between the 29th and 30th of November.[25] While seemingly agreeing on the commitment to end slavery in Libya and evacuation of at least several thousand people stuck there, it remains unclear where they would be flown out to – what can be feared is their return to their countries of origin or other African countries, which would effectively accomplish Europe’s desired goal, to prevent them from reaching EU territory.[26]

In a related matter, legal action has been taken by the Italian Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) against the Italian Foreign Ministry, arguing that some of the funds of the so-called Africa Fund had been misused by being allocated to the Libyan coastguards with the aim to financially support interceptions and returns, also in the knowledge that some of the Libyan coastguards have been or to still are involved in people smuggling themselves.[27] In the meantime, the UN-backed Libyan government and Italy agreed on December 9th to create a ‘joint operations room’ to curb migrant movements via the sea.[28]

In neighbouring Tunisia, the shipwreck on the 8th of October with about 50 fatalities continues to cause a public outcry, with mothers of the disappeared organising public protests.[29] While for much of this year, Tunisian crossings were not that substantial in comparison to migration movements from Libya, they increased dramatically over the summer, especially in September and October, when more than 4000 people arrived in Italy over the course of two months.[30] However, the Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni suggested on the 25th of November that the crossings had gone down again.[31] Meanwhile, the reception of the Tunisian ‘harragas’ is appalling, and hundreds of Tunisians have gone on hunger strike in the detention centre of Lampedusa in order to protest their confinement, mistreatment, and the threat of deportation.[32] Following information from FTDES, per week, about 60 Tunisians were deported back to Tunisia in September and October.[33] Despite the decrease in crossings, the Alarm Phone is currently working on “Safety at Sea” flyers to be distributed among people seeking to leave, so that their journeys might be a little bit less dangerous.

In late November, several members of the Tunis Alarm Phone team went to the coastal city of Zarzis, where Chamseddine Marzoug has created a cemetery for the drowned. Over the past 12 years, he has buried about 400 people there.[34] Due to recent strong rainfalls, some of the graves were at risk of getting uncovered, and so we supported Chamseddine in repairing the damages. Thanks to donations, we were also able to plant several trees to turn the cemetery into a more dignified place and to also prevent further erosions of the ground.

Western Mediterranean

Despite bad weather conditions and a rough sea, the number of people attempting to cross from Morocco to Spain keeps rising. This year, arrivals have tripled in comparison to 2016, with more than 19,000 people arriving to Spain via the sea so far.[35] On Saturday the 11th of November alone, the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo reported that they had rescued more than 250 travellers and brought them to Spain. One week later, on Saturday the 18th of November, around 600 people were rescued and brought to Spain within 24 hours. Most of them, 431 travellers on 41 boats, arrived to the south-eastern coast around Murcia, whilst 110 people were rescued in the Alboran Sea and 48 in the Strait of Gibraltar. Over the same weekend, 50 boats departed from Algeria, heading towards Spain. These, however, were all intercepted by the Algerian authorities.[36]

Unfortunately, the increase in crossings has also led to an increase in the loss of life. As mentioned earlier, in the period that this report covers, the Alarm Phone has been directly involved in several emergency situations during which people have gone missing or died. On the 3rd of December we witnessed a clear example of Europe’s border externalisation policies having direct fatal consequences in the Western Mediterranean, when the Spanish Salvamento Maritimo refused to conduct a search and rescue operation, despite a precise localisation of the boat in distress, because it was located in Moroccan waters. This resulted in three people going missing, and we as Alarm Phone fear that they have not made it safely to land.

In Morocco the situation for Sub Saharan migrants remains extremely difficult. In the forests around Nador, where many people live whilst waiting for their chance to either jump the fence separating Morocco from the Spanish colony Melilla or take a boat to the Spanish mainland, people do not only have to cope with the cold winds and rain, but also with the Moroccan police, which raids their camps in the forests on a regular basis. On Saturday the 11th of November, the police carried out a massive raid, destroying and burning tents, and arresting 70 people who could not manage to escape. Two days later, they came back to the forests, and arrested an additional 35 people. All the of the arrested were deported to cities further towards the south of Morocco.

This tactic of moving people further away from the borders has long been employed in Morocco. Of course, far from solving any of the problems that Sub Saharan migrants face, it forces them to live in urban makeshift camps. The most well-established camp is in Fes, where people have found a place to seek refuge from the intense situation at the border for many years now. This camp, however, has been threatened with eviction since the 8th of October. Though no bigger eviction has been carried out yet, the harassment of Sub Saharan migrants by the authorities in Fes has increased, and many have been arrested in the streets and deported to places even further south. In Casablanca, the makeshift camp close to the train station has provoked tensions between Sub Saharan migrants and Moroccan residents who take issue with their presence. On Saturday the 25th of November, these tensions caused violent clashes which illustrate some of the grave problems Morocco has with integrating its Sub Saharan population.[37] It also clearly demonstrates that Morocco can certainly not be considered a safe country for this migrant population. Due to Europe’s externalisation policies, however, many are forced to endure these conditions, constantly at risk of being harassed.

The criminalisation of activists and search and rescue NGOs that we have long witnessed in other areas of the Mediterranean, seems to have emerged in the Spanish-Moroccan context as well. The human rights activist Helena Maleno from the organisation Caminando Fronteras, who has been advocating for migrant rights at the Spanish-Moroccan border for many years, is under criminal investigation from the court in Tangier. She is accused of being affiliated with smugglers, because of her work of alerting Salvamento Maritimo to cases of distress between Morocco and Spain.[38] We have strongly denounced these cynical attempts to criminalise Maleno.

Aegean Sea

People continue to arrive on the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea, even in late autumn with deteriorating weather conditions. Over the past six weeks, more than 4,000 people have landed their boats on Greek shores, and with 3,215 people making the crossing over the month of November 2017, the number of arrivals is far higher than in the same period the year before, when 1,991 arrived. As mentioned earlier, in the attempt to cross, several people lost their lives. On the 3rd of November, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat in severe distress near the Greek island Kalolimnos. We informed the authorities and a search and rescue operation was launched, but for several hours, they could not be found. A day later we received the sad news that four people had died and up to eight others gone missing, while 15 people were rescued.[39] In mid-November it emerged that the family of five who had drowned in the Aegean had tried to escape from persecution in Turkey – the parents Hüseyin Maden and Nur Maden as well as their three children Nadire, Nur, and Feridun.[40]

Interceptions in the Aegean Sea still frequently occur – the Turkish authorities announced in early November that they had stopped 310 people on a boat seeking to reach Europe, and returned them to Turkey.[41] Those who arrive safely on the Greek islands continue to face inhumane conditions in Europe’s detention centres. Forced into prisons, thousands try to survive the humanitarian crisis that Europe has produced. In light of the deteriorating weather conditions and the overcrowding of the little camp spaces, they face unbelievably undignified conditions, with many falling sick and getting increasingly frustrated.[42]

In protest, revolts against detention on the Aegean islands continue. Seven minors, refugees of various nationalities, were arrested on the 16th of November at the Moria hotspot on Lesvos Island, following a revolt in the closed part of the camp for underage refugees.[43] They now face severe charges and await their trial. In the meantime, the trial for the so called Moria35 – 35 refugees accused after a protest in summer this year – has been postponed again and will probably take place in February 2018. In these cases, individuals were arbitrarily singled out and accused after the incidents, in order to frighten others. We stand in solidarity with the accused. In mid-November, local authorities of Lesvos called for a strike to protest the EU policies which have led to the detention of refugees on the Greek islands, turning them into prison islands.[44] Also on mainland Greece, we have witnessed forms of migrant resistance. On November 1st, 14 refugees occupied a part of Syntagma square in Athens and launched a hunger strike, demanding reunification with their families in Germany. Reunifications have been blocked mainly due to the actions of the German government. The seven women and men who went on strike refused to eat for 14 days –their struggle which received wide-spread attention and support continues, in different form.[45]

In the night of the 24th of November 2017, by the harbour of Thermi on Lesvos Island, unidentified persons vandalised the memorial that members of Welcome2Europe (http://w2eu.info/) had erected there in 2013 and where ever since a memorial ceremony was held once a year. The memorial carries the names of those who had drowned on their journeys to Europe. Two wooden paddles hold the plaque with the names of the dead and the memorial looks out to the sea, dedicated to those of all ages and backgrounds, whose lives ended at sea. In a statement, w2eu wrote: “The fact that the memorial was vandalised with black paint at night makes us both sad and angry. But it also gives us all the more the certainty that we need to continue even more passionately in our struggle to support people who have fled their homes and who, due to a politics of closed borders, have to risk their lives to secure a better future for them and their loved ones.”[46] A few days later, the vandalised plaque was replaced.

 Summaries of Alarm Phone distress cases

In the past 6 weeks, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was alerted to situations of distress in all three regions of the Mediterranean Sea. We were engaged in 24 distress cases, of which 2 took place in the Central Mediterranean, 14 in the Western Mediterranean and 8 in the Aegean Sea. You can find links to the individual reports of the past 6 weeks below.

 Central Mediterranean

On Tuesday, 31st of October, we received information about a boat in distress that had left Sabratha/Libya at 2:00am, carrying around 80 people. We didn’t find out the Thuraya number on board and didn’t know the GPS position of the boat. We monitored the rescues in the Central Mediterranean and tried to gather more information. Two days later, the contact person confirmed the rescue to Italy (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/754).

On Wednesday, 1st of November, we received information on a boat in distress with 60 travellers on board that had started at 2:00am in Libya; we couldn’t clarify whether in Misratha or al-Khoums. We were not able to establish contact to the boat and couldn’t find out a GPS position. We contacted the Moonbird, the light aircraft of Sea-Watch and the Humanitarian Pilots Initiative (HPI) that hence searched for the boat, but without results. We were not able to clarify what happened to the boat (See: www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/755).

 Western Mediterranean

On Tuesday, 31st of October, at 07:17pm, a contact person informed us about a boat in distress that had left Asilah towards Spain at 2pm. The engine of the boat had stopped. The distress was very urgent and the travellers asked us to inform both Spanish and Moroccan authorities. At 7:30pm we called Salvamento Maritimo Tarifa and passed the information. They said they were in contact with Moroccan Marine Royale that would have already started a rescue operation, as the boat was still in Moroccan territorial waters. At 8:30 we called the Marine Search and Rescue Centre in Morocco. At 8:43pm we received a GPS position from the boat. We passed it to the authorities. We continuously tried to reach the boat but couldn’t establish a connection. We talked various times to both Moroccan and Spanish authorities until at 0:41am MRCC Rabat confirmed the rescue of everyone on board. Also our contact person confirmed the rescue (See full report here: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/742).

On Thursday, 2nd of November, at 9:20pm, we received a call from a boat in distress that had embarked in Larache in Western Morocco, carrying about 50 people. They had been on the water for more than 10 hours and their engine had stopped. At 9:35pm we called the Spanish rescue authority Salvamento Maritimo. We couldn’t establish a connection to the boat any more. At 10:20pm we called Salvamento Maritimo again who told us that they had informed the Moroccan Marine Royale that would be searching for the boat. At 10:40pm we reached the travellers. At 11:25pm we received a GPS position of the boat that we passed to Salvamento Maritimo. They said that MRCC Rabat was coordinating the rescue. We exchanged various calls and emails with both Spanish and Moroccan authorities, until at 1:30am we received a call from MRCC Rabat that told us they would send a rescue asset. We requested support for the operation from Spain, as the people hadn’t been found yet. At 4:11am MRCC Rabat informed us about the rescue of 53 people. At 4:36am we reached one of the travellers that confirmed the rescue (See full report here: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/743).

On Sunday, 5th of November, at 5:33am, a contact person informed us about a boat in distress that had had left Tanger towards Spain, carrying 11 persons. At 5:58am, we established contact with the boat. They were travelling on a motorized rubber boat. They had already called Salvamento Maritimo themselves. At 6:31 they confirmed the rescue to Spain (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/744).

On Wednesday the 7th of November at 11.33am the Alarm Phone received a direct call from a group of five travellers, amongst them one pregnant woman, in distress on their way from Tangier towards Tarifa. The travellers were forced to row, as their boat did not have a motor, and were therefore very tired. At 12.06 we called SM and passed on the information we had about the boat. At 12.10 we talked to SM again, and they informed us that they had localised the boat along with another boat with 11 travellers onboard, but as both were very close to the Moroccan coast, the search and rescue operation would be carried out by the Moroccan authorities. The following night did we receive a message confirming that both boats which SM had localised had been brought to Morocco. We learned about the tragic death of one person on the boat with 11 travellers. However, the rest of the people, including the pregnant woman, were alright and had been brought to the police station (See full report here: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/748).

On Wednesday the 8th of November at 4.08am a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat carrying seven travellers, amongst them two women, one of whom was pregnant, forwarding us their phone number and position. They had left the previous night at 7pm from a beach close to Tangier. As their inflatable boat did not have a motor, they were forced to row. At 5.16am we called Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and passed on the information we had, and they confirmed that they would initiate a search and rescue operation. At 8.20 we called SM again, and they informed us that they were still searching for the travellers, both with their boat and with a helicopter. So far, they had managed to rescue two boats carrying eight and ten travellers. At 11.37am the contact person informed us that the travellers had been rescued and brought to Spain, which was confirmed by SM shortly after (See full report here: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/749).

 On Tuesday, the 21st of November 2017, at 4.04am, we were alerted by a contact person in Morocco to a boat carrying 7 people in the Western Mediterranean Sea. The group had left the evening before, at about 10pm, and we received one of their phone numbers. We were unable to directly reach the travellers, but our contact person informed us at 4.21am, that the rubber boat was losing air. At 5pm, Salvamento Maritimo, the Spanish search and rescue organisation, informed us that they had also established contact to the boat but were unable to retrieve their GPS position. They had lost contact to the boat about 2.30am. They speculated that they may have already been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. At 6am, we received a second number from one of the persons on the boat, but also failed to reach him. At 9.24am, the Spanish authorities informed us that the Moroccan Navy had informed them about two boats carrying each 7 people who had been intercepted and returned to Morocco a few hours earlier. At 3.30pm, our contact person confirmed that the 7 people had been intercepted. They had been returned to Tangier, but were safe (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/752).

On Saturday, the 25th of November 2017, our Alarm Phone shift team received a message from a contact person at 4.08pm about a boat in distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea, carrying 34 people, including 2 women. They had left from Nador at 6am in the morning (local time Morocco) and wanted to reach Almeria/Spain. The people on board were unable to pass on their GPS position. After trying to reach the travellers directly several times, without success, our shift team contacted Salvamento Maritimo, the Spanish search and rescue organisation, and passed on the received information. About an hour later, we received further details about the size and colour of the boat, which we passed on to Salvamento Maritimo. They told us at 5.15pm that they had already sent out a boat as well as a helicopter to search for them. At 7.16pm as well as at 9.20pm, they informed us that they were still searching. The helicopter had to return to Almeria to tank fuel but would leave again shortly after. At 1.30am, Salvamento Maritimo stated that all people had been found and rescued. They were on their way to a Spanish harbour. At 2.18am, also our initial contact person confirmed that the group had safely arrived (See: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/753).

On Thursday, 28th of November, at 8:28pm, we were alerted to a motor boat in distress carrying 34 people, among them 29 men, 4 women and a 5-year old child. The boat had left from Assilah at 5am. At 9:28 we called the Spanish rescue authority Salvamento Maritimo in Tarifa. They stated to have searched the whole day for that boat and that they would continue searching. The next day at 8:10am we called Salvamento again. They had not found the boat, but a rescue boat, navy boats and a helicopter were still searching in the area. We continuously tried to call the boat, but it remained unreachable. Our contact person did not have news neither. At 6:08pm Salvamento confirmed that they would still search for the boat. The following day at 09:53 we received information from the contact person that only 6 travellers of the boat had survived. They had managed to reach Moroccan shores with their own forces and were in hospital by then. At 1:36pm we called Salvamento Tarifa, they also had the information that only six people had arrived in Morocco. The remaining 28 people are still missing (See full report here: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/757).

On Saturday, 2nd of December, at 8:45am we received information about a boat in distress coming from Tangier and carrying 9 people. They had disembarked at 7:22am; all of the travellers were men. We called the boat. We saw on vesselfinder that a rescue boat of the Spanish Salvamento Maritimo was already approaching them. At 9.29am the contact person confirmed their rescue to Spain (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/756).

On Sunday the 3rd of December, at 08:03am, we got alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress that had left from a beach south of Tangier towards Spain at 5am, carrying 21 persons. At 09:10am we managed to establish communication with the boat. Their engine wasn’t working anymore and they reported that people had fallen into the water. At 09:15am we alerted the Spanish rescue authority Salvamento Maritimo (SM). Only at 10:18am did we manage to re-establish contact to the travellers. The situation was getting more dangerous due to rising waves and water that entered the boat. […] At 10:50am we managed to get a clear indication of their position. At 10:52am we called Salvamento to pass the news. […] At 11:22am we called SM who emphasized that the boat in distress was in Moroccan waters and therefore the case would not be their responsibility, and they had informed the Moroccan authorities. At 11:35am we called the Moroccan Rescue Coordination Center MRCC Rabat. They confirmed to have received the information from SM and said they would start a rescue operation. During the following days we were continuously calling SM and MRCC Rabat to put pressure on them to continue the search. MRCC Rabat kept confirming that they were still searching for the boat, whilst SM claimed to have no responsibility in the case, as the boat had been in Moroccan waters. On the 6th of December at 5.47pm we chose to conclude that the three people had gone missing, as MRCC Rabat informed us that they were now mainly looking for other boats in the area. This catastrophe could probably have been avoided, if SM had chosen to act in the interest of saving lives at the point where we had a clear indication of the whereabouts of the boat. Instead they acted in the interest of fortress Europe, whose policy it is to push back the task of saving lives to their neighbouring states, without assuming any responsibility for the outcome (See for full report: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/760).

On Monday, the 4th of December, at 4.10pm, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to 30 travellers, amongst them two women, in distress. The travellers were on their way towards Spain, and had left from around Al Hoceima at 3am. The contact person forwarded us their phone number, but neither we nor the contact person were able to reach the travellers, and the contact person informed us, that last time they had been in contact with the travellers was at 5am. We therefore agreed that we would alert the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) to the distress case. At 4.35pm we called SM and passed on the information we had. They told us that they had just rescued a group of 30 travellers, with two women amongst them, and they were sure that this was the same group. At 5.47pm we got a confirmation from the contact person that the travellers had been rescued (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/761).

On Friday, the 8th of December, at 9.05am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to 4 travellers on their way to Spain. They had left at 4am from Cap Spartel, close to Tangier. The contact person forwarded us their phone number and a position showing that they were still in Moroccan waters, but we were informed that they were doing alright and wished to continue on their own. We received two more locations, showing that they were going the right direction. At 11.06am the contact person informed us that they had been rescued by the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM). This was later confirmed in a tweet by SM (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/762).

On Friday, the 8th of December, at 9.05am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to 35 travellers, amongst them four women and two children, on their way from Nador to Spain. We reached the travellers, who informed us that their engine was not working, and asked us to call the coast guard. At 9.48am we called the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and passed on the information we had. At 10.03am we spoke to the travellers again, who told us that water was now entering the boat. At 10.42am we passed on the information we had to MRCC Rabat. When we spoke to SM, they told us that the Moroccan authorities would take over the search and rescue operation, as the travellers were in Moroccan waters. At 1.04pm we called MRCC Rabat, who confirmed that they had already sent a rescue vessel to the position. When we called them back at 5.03pm, they confirmed that the rescue had been carried out, and that all the travellers were safe. This was shortly after confirmed by the contact person (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/763).

On Saturday, the 9th of December, at 12.16pm, the Alarm Phone shift received a call from a contact person, alerting us to three travellers who had left from south of Tangier at 4am. They had left in an inflatable boat without a motor. His last contact to the travellers was at 6am, at which time they had been doing alright, but he had not been able to reach them since. He forwarded us the phone number of the travellers, but we also did not manage to reach them. We therefore agreed with the contact person that we would alert the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM). When we called them at 1.52pm, they informed us that the Moroccan Navy had intercepted a boat with three travellers earlier that morning. At 3.42pm the contact person confirmed to us that his friends had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/764).

 Aegean Sea

On Monday, 30th of October 2017, at 00:14am, we received information about a boat in distress in Turkish territorial waters on its way to Mytilene/Lesvos. The boat carried 40 travellers and the engine of the boat was not working any more. We couldn’t establish contact with the travellers. At 00:32am we informed the Greek Coast Guard about the boat.The Greek officer refused to operate in the Turkish territorial water and told us he will report the case to the Turkish Coast Guard. At 00:50 we informed the Hellenic Coast Guard in Mytilene, that said they would send a rescue ship. At 01:18am we also informed the Turkish Coast Guard. At 02:04am we received an email from the Turkish Main Search and Rescue Center, confirming the rescue of 40 travellers by the Turkish Coast Guard (See full report here: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/741).

On Friday, 3rd of November, shortly after midnight, we received information via a contact person about a sinking boat between the Greek island Kalolimnos and Turkey. At 00:28am we called the Greek authority JRCC Piraeus and informed them about the emergency situation. We could not establish direct contact to the people on board. At 00:59am we confirmed with JRCC Piraeus that the search for the boat was ongoing. At 05:26 we talked again to the authority that informed us about a rescue operation in the area. At 07:53am they stated that the operation was still ongoing; we didn’t receive further information. At 07:58am, we saw that the Kalolimnos Immigrant and Refugee Support Group informed on Facebook about a shipwreck in the area of our case. They stated that 13 people (8 men, 4 women and one child) had been safely transported to Kalolimnos, while one woman had lost her life and about 10 people were still missing. At 11:30am we called JRCC Piraeus again but didn’t get any further information. On 4th of November we received the information of the contact person that in total 4 people had died, 15 had been rescued to Greece and 6 people had gone missing (for the full report, see; http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/751).

 On Sunday the 12th of November 2017, at 3.32am, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone shift team to a group of 27 travellers in distress on their way to Rhodes, forwarding us their position and phone number. During the time the people were at sea, we continuously tried to reach them, but we never managed. The position from the contact person showed that the travellers were in Turkish waters, so at 3.40am we called the Turkish coast guard. They were not interested in the information about the distress case, and hung up on us. We therefore called the Greek coast guard, who advised us to call the Turkish coast guard in Ankara. However, the coast guard in Ankara did not want to hear about the distress neither, so we sent them an email with all the information to make sure they were aware of the case. Between 4.40 and 5.45am we called the Turkish coast guard many times. Most of the times the line was either busy, or the officer hung up straight away. At 6.00am we called the Greek coast guard, who still had no information about the rescue operation. At 7.42am we reached one of the travellers, who informed us that they had been brought back to Turkey by the Turkish coast guard, and that they were all alright (See full report here: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/750).

On Tuesday the 14th of November 2017 at 10.26pm, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a group of 35 travellers who had stranded on the Greek island of Samos and provided us with their phone number. At 10.43pm, we talked to them directly and were told that they were 20 adults and 15 children, including a pregnant woman, a 1 month old baby and a person with heart problems. They had crashed into the rocks of the island and some people had fallen into the water and were wet and injured. At 10.45pm we called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus and forwarded all information we had received so far. At 0.12am, we learned that the fire brigade on the Greek island of Samos was searching for the travellers since two hours. We stayed in contact with the travellers throughout the night, but only in the early morning of the next day, they could be picked up and rescued by Greek authorities (for the full report, see http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/745).

On Wednesday the 15th of November 2017 at 4am, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat in distress in the Aegean Sea, close to the Greek island of Ro, with 13 travellers on board. At 4.04am, we learned that their boat’s engine had started to work again and we received updated GPS position directly from the travellers. At 5.11am, we called the port police on the Greek island of Kastellorizo, who were already aware of the boat in distress. In a call at 8.36am, the Greek coastguard in Piraeus confirmed to us that 13 travellers had been rescued during the night and had most probably been brought to the port of Kastellorizo. At 9.45am, our contact person confirmed to us that they had been rescued by the Greek coastguard and that everyone was fine (for the full report, see http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/746).

On Thursday the 16th of November 2017, at 5.06am, a contact person provided the Alarm Phone with the phone number and GPS position of 40 travellers in distress in the Aegean Sea, close to the Greek island of Lesvos. Ten minutes later, we called the Greek coastguard on Lesvos, who knew already about the case but asked us for the boat’s latest position. At 5.30am and again at 5.40am, we tried to call the travellers directly, but did not reach them. At 5.56am, we talked again to the Greek coastguard and were told that the boat had just been rescued, with many children on board. At 11.20am, the contact person confirmed to us that the boat he had been in contact with had indeed been rescued and all travellers were fine (for the full report, see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/747).

On Thursday the 7th of December, at 4:47am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 40 travellers in distress. The contact person forwarded us the phone number and position of the travellers, showing that they were still very close to the Turkish coast. At 5.12am we managed to reach the travellers, who had only left Turkey at 4.45am. They informed us that they were in distress, but before we were able to understand the situation, the line was interrupted. After talking to the contact person about the situation, we agreed that we should call the Turkish coast guard. At 6.38 we called the Turkish coast guard, but due to language barriers we did not manage to pass on the information. At 7.35am the contact person informed us that the travellers had been brought back to Turkey, and that they were all alright (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/758).

On Thursday the 7th of December, at 5:09am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of travellers in distress on their way to Chios. We did not get any more information, but the contact person forwarded us their phone number and position, showing that they were close to Chios, in Greek waters. At 5.25am we managed to reach the travellers. They were shouting for help, but did not speak English. We tried to call them back with an Arabic interpreter, but this did not work. An hour later they informed us via WhatsApp that they were okay, and had been rescued by the Greek coast guard. This information was confirmed by the contact person. In a tweet, it was announced that a boat with 71 people just arrived on Chios, amongst them 38 children and 14 women. We assume that this must be the boat we were in contact with (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/759).

[1] http://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean

[2] https://www.avvenire.it/attualita/pagine/marina-libica-invia-migranti-in-italia-ancora-morti

[3] http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/751,

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-greece/at-least-three-dead-scores-rescued-off-greek-islands-as-arrivals-rise-idUSKBN1D30TK

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/europe/italy-migrants-teenagers-dead.html

[5] http://taz.de/Toedliche-Seenotrettung-im-Mittelmeer/!5459105/

[6] http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/748

[7] https://stockholmcf.org/turkish-family-of-five-got-drowned-in-aegean-sea-as-trying-to-flee-from-erdogan-regimes-persecution/

[8] http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/spanien-fluechtlinge-101.html

[9] http://sosmediterranee.org/dramatic-week-in-the-mediterranean-more-than-800-people-rescued-by-sos-mediterranee-whilst-crew-witnesses-interceptions-at-sea-by-the-libyan-coast-guard/?lang=en

[10] https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N1NV0AX

[11] http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2017/11/25/greece-afghan-boy-frontex-lesvos/

[12] http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/757

[13] http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/760

[14] Please note that there are several different figures on migrant interceptions by the Libyan coastguards in circulation. While according to the IOM – an international migration ‘manager’ and henchman of countries of the Global North – there were 19,452 returns, the UNHCR has counted 14,201 returns in total between January and the end of November. See: https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/situation_reports/file/IOM-Libya-Maritime-Update-Libyan-25Oct-28Nov.pdf, https://data2.unhcr.org/es/documents/download/61146

[15] https://sea-watch.org/sea-watch-3-erste-rettungsmission/, https://www.facebook.com/2020m202/posts/1748933628733600

[16] https://sea-watch.org/en/dramatic-rescue-operation-sea-watch-3/, http://taz.de/Toedliche-Seenotrettung-im-Mittelmeer/!5459105/

[17] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/12/libya-european-governments-complicit-in-horrific-abuse-of-refugees-and-migrants/

[18] https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/community/2017/11/24/the-case-for-italys-complicity-in-libya-push-backs?utm_campaign=170de441f5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_30&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Refugees+Deeply&utm_term=0_8b056c90e2-170de441f5-117597529

[19] http://sosmediterranee.org/dramatic-week-in-the-mediterranean-more-than-800-people-rescued-by-sos-mediterranee-whilst-crew-witnesses-interceptions-at-sea-by-the-libyan-coast-guard/?lang=en

[20] https://twitter.com/seenotrettung?lang=de

[21] http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/mittelmeer-libyen-entschuldigt-sich-fuer-drohung-gegen-bundeswehr-a-1180308.html

[22] http://www.irinnews.org/special-report/2017/11/01/libyan-migrant-prisons-europe-s-making, https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5459545&s=Libyen&SuchRahmen=Print/ 

[23] http://edition.cnn.com/specials/africa/libya-slave-auctions, http://www.liberation.fr/debats/2017/11/30/libye-derriere-l-arbre-de-l-esclavage_1613662, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/29/voluntary-evacuation-planned-for-migrants-in-libya-detention-camps, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/slavery-walls-fortress-europe-171128094218944.html

[24] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/19/world/africa/libya-migrants-slavery.html

[25] http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/international-summit/2017/11/29-30/

[26] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42179434, http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/article/european-policies-trapping-migrants-and-refugees-libya?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=social, https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5463687&s=Sklaverei/

[27] https://www.asgi.it/asilo-e-protezione-internazionale/libia-italia-ricorso-fondi-cooperazione/, https://www.ecre.org/ngo-takes-italy-to-court-over-misappropriation-of-development-funds-directed-to-libyan-coastguards/, https://theintercept.com/2017/11/25/libya-coast-guard-europe-refugees/

[28] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-libya/libya-and-italy-to-set-up-operations-room-to-tackle-migrant-smuggling-idUSKBN1E30L8?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=5a2c169604d30109a86ec945&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter

[29] https://alarmphone.org/en/2017/11/01/mourn-the-dead-respect-the-survivors-create-safe-passages/?post_type_release_type=post, https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5456982&s=Tunesien/

[30] https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/12/tunisia-migration-europe-italy-deal.html

[31] https://www.thelocal.it/20171125/tunisian-migrant-influx-back-under-control-italy-pm

[32] https://www.avvenire.it/attualita/pagine/marina-libica-invia-migranti-in-italia-ancora-morti,

https://www.facebook.com/3ocha9oropa1/videos/746330178900681/

[33] https://ftdes.net/

[34]  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/02/refugee-graves-were-a-common-sight-in-libya-now-its-tunisias-turn,

http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-tunisia-migrant-cemetery-20171126-story.html

[35] https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/world/europe/2017-11-19-six-hundred-african-migrants-rescued-near-spain/#

[36] http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/spanien-fluechtlinge-101.html

[37] http://www.leseco.ma/tous-les-reportages/61661-affrontements-a-ouled-ziane-le-previsible-et-l-indesirable.html

[38] https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/shrinking-space-for-civil-society/defendingmaleno?var_mode=calcul

[39] http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/751

[40] https://dtj-online.de/tuerkische-familie-auf-der-flucht-aus-der-tuerkei-verstorben-91766,
https://stockholmcf.org/turkish-family-of-five-got-drowned-in-aegean-sea-as-trying-to-flee-from-erdogan-regimes-persecution/

[41] http://www.ansa.it/sito/notizie/mondo/europa/2017/11/04/turchia-fermati-310-migranti-nellegeo_22004e0a-2849-4eab-98e7-7f25ea1360ce.html

[42] https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-12-08/overcrowded-refugee-camp-lesbos-making-children-sick

[43] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2017/11/21/angry-migrants-vandalize-facilities-at-moria-camp-in-lesvos-photos/; https://www.amna.gr/en/article/207124/Seven-minors-arrested-over-violent-incidents-at-Moria-refugee-hotspot-on-Lesvos

[44] https://m.news24.com/World/News/greek-island-calls-strike-against-eu-refugee-policy-20171117

[45] http://hungerstrike.commonstruggle.eu/2-weeks-hunger-strike-great-contribution-antiracist-movement/

[46] http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2017/12/03/the-memories-of-the-dead-will-not-be-erased-with-black-paint/

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