Entering 2018, Mediterranean Migration Struggles Continue

Alarm Phone 8 Week Report, 11 December 2017 – 4 February 2018

+++ 1,925 Alarm Phone emergency cases +++ 2017, a year of radical transformations in the Mediterranean +++ Situation in the Central Mediterranean +++ About 8,000 arrivals in 2018, 321 deaths +++ Mobilisations against Repression continue +++ Developments in the Aegean and Western Mediterranean +++ Summaries of Alarm Phone distress cases

On the 30th of December 2017, the Alarm Phone was contacted by travellers in the Western Mediterranean Sea.[1] After paddling for more than 10 hours, they were rescued by the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM). While they were in distress at sea, our Alarm Phone shift team stayed in close contact with them, and forwarded information about their location to SM, until it was confirmed that they were on board of a rescue vessel. This was the last Alarm Phone case of 2017. Two days later, on the 1st of January 2018, we received our first case of the new year. A group of travellers had arrived on Samos Island in the Aegean, but they were not able to leave the beach on which they had landed. Although we were not able to establish direct contact with them, we alerted the Greek coastguard to the group, and could later confirm that they had safely arrived in the camp on the island.[2] On the same day, we were alerted to two other emergencies in the Aegean region – fortunately, both boats were rescued to Greece.[3] Between October 2014, when we launched the Alarm Phone project, and until the end of December 2017, we have thus worked on a total of 1,925 emergency cases in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2017, we were engaged in 155 distress cases, during a year that saw tremendous changes and transformations in the Mediterranean space.

In all Mediterranean regions, unauthorised sea crossings continue. On the 16th of January alone, about 1,400 people were rescued in eleven rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean Sea. In total, about 8,000 people have crossed the sea in the first four and a half weeks of this year. While they show very vividly that many still try and succeed in crossing Europe’s maritime borders, even in very adverse condition, Mediterranean migration has overall decreased over the past two years – from the record-breaking 1,015,078 people in 2015, to 362,753 people in 2016, and 171,332 people in 2017.[4] While the number of sea-crossing has thus more than halved from 2016 to 2017, the number of deaths did not – with 3,119 deaths being recorded for the past year.

The year of 2017 was marked by several developments that severely impacted migratory escape through the Central Mediterranean: the unabated militarisation of the maritime space through the EU and its member states, the ongoing attempt to criminalise and delegitimise NGOs conducting search and rescue (SAR) operations in the Mediterranean, and an intensifying cooperation between the EU and its member states with the Libyan coastguards. In February, the European Council’s Malta Declaration announced the enhanced cooperation with Libya as a key priority, thereby emphasising the importance of Libyan forces in EU migrant deterrence efforts.[5] In the same month, a Sicilian prosecutor publicly announced an investigation into the alleged connections between SAR NGOs and smugglers, and the Executive Director of Frontex declared in a newspaper interview that smugglers profited from the presence of NGOs close to the Libyan coast.[6] Together with seven other organisations, the Alarm Phone decisively rejected the accusations by Frontex and the Italian prosecutor.[7] From May onward, the Libyan coastguards were involved in several clashes with SAR NGOs, starting with Sea Watch and later also involving ProActiva Open Arms.[8] In August, the Iuventa vessel of Jugend Rettet was confiscated in Italy and thus unable to continue its vital work.[9] In November, up to 50 people lost their lives when the Libyan coastguards interfered with an ongoing SAR operation.[10] Nine of the thirteen Libyan crew members had been trained by the EU military mission Eunavfor Med and their vessel had been donated by Italy.[11]

The criminalisation of NGOs, coupled with the increasingly aggressive behaviour of emboldened Libyan coastguards, have had dramatic effects: a year ago, about a dozen NGO assets were patrolling to rescue lives in the Mediterranean. Today, only Sea Watch, ProActiva Open Arms and SOS Mediterranée are continuing this work, while an increasing number of people who are trying to escape the inhumane conditions in Libya are pulled back.[12] According to the UNHCR, more than 15,300 people were captured by the Libyan forces and returned in 2017. According to an estimate by the IOM, even more than 19,000 people have experienced this practice.[13] Despite the uproar that a CNN report on conditions in Libya had caused across Europe and beyond in November 2017, there is no willingness o to change course.[14] In 2018, up until the 26th of January, about 1,430 people have experienced these cruel effects of EU containment policies.[15]

Many of those who find themselves (again) in Libya are supposed to be ‘humanitarianly evacuated’ by actors that carry out what the EU border regime desires: deportations carrying a humanitarian cloak. Some of these cynical returns are organised by international migration managers, such as the IOM, or private actors, such as MOAS.[16] In 2017, more than 19,000 people from 25 countries were repatriated from Libya – a dramatic increase from the 3,000 who were returned in 2016.[17] The plan now is to repatriate up to 10,000 people over the first two months of 2018.[18]

Europe’s strong desire to close the Central Mediterranean route that we have seen this past year is set to drive EU policies and initiatives also in 2018. Already the roadmap set out by Commission and the most recent Council Conclusions from December 2017 make clear that priorities will remain an intensified cooperation with Libya, including ‘assisted voluntary returns’ from there, and the overhaul of a range of EU policies and directives dealing with unauthorised migration.[19] Within the first half of 2018, the Commission plans to adopt new proposals on the Asylum Agency (a strengthened version of EASO), Eurodac, the Qualification Regulation, the Reception Conditions Directive, and to formally open negotiations with the Council on the Dublin Regulation. In addition, it calls on member states to contribute more to the pools of equipment and personnel that the European Border and Coast Guard uses for their operations, and aims to increase deportations conducted by them by at least 20% compared to last year. While we will have to wait for the negotiations between the various EU institutions to come to an end to see the full results of the initiatives currently underway, it is clear that most of them will be aimed at making access to Europe even more difficult, while worsening conditions for those who are already there.

Given the radical transformation of the Mediterranean space that we have observed and taken part in over the past years, in terms of both unprecedented movements as well as unprecedented forms of border violence, we cannot predict how this year will develop, and where we might be when we look back a year from now. And yet, the path that we are currently on seems quite clear, at least according to the EU and its member states: the reinforced militarisation and surveillance of the Mediterranean (as the new Frontex operation Themis already demonstrates), heavier investments in border enforcement (including the further strengthening of Frontex, more surveillance, more border technologies), restrictions on movement through third country allies (including the  funding, training, and equipment of border authorities of authoritarian regimes), the accelerated privatisation of border control to security corporations, the further precaritisation of migrants already present in Europe through restrictions on their mobility, rights and dignity, as well as accelerated deportations, including those branded as ‘voluntary returns’ or ‘evacuations’, through which vulnerable populations are returned to war zones and regions ravaged by civil conflicts and/or poverty.[20]

As always, these border enforcement measures will mean that migratory journeys will become increasingly lengthy, costly, and deadly. The dying has already begun in the new year – 321 fatalities have been officially counted, but clearly, there are many more who have gone uncounted.[21] On the 6th of January, about 64 people died after their rubber dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, 86 people were rescued.[22] A day later, during large-scale rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean, two women were found dead.[23] On the 9th of January, between 50-100 people are estimated to have gone missing in a shipwreck off Libya – only 16 people seem to have survived.[24] In mid-January, Salvamento Maritimo stated that a boat drifting off the Canary Islands had carried five dead bodies. Two others who had attempted to swim ashore, lso lost their lives.[25] Around the same time, the NGO SOS MEDITERRANEE found an empty rubber boat in the Central Mediterranean – nobody knows what has happened to its passengers. On the 20th of January, two dead persons were retrieved in a rescue operation carried out by Salvamento Maritimo 10 nautical miles west of the Alboran Island in the Western Mediterranean.[26] Proactiva Open Arms reported on the 22nd of January of three deaths, including one three-months old baby.[27] Three dead travellers were also discovered on a boat that was returned to Morocco on the 23rd of January.[28] On the 27th of January, SOS MEDITERRANEE reported of a particularly tragic emergency situation: “After having been at dawn a direct witness to the interception of a rubber dinghy in international waters by the Libyan Coast Guard, the Aquarius was mobilized for the rescue of sinking rubber boat in international waters off the Libyan coast. In the end of the day, 98 people were pulled into safety. Two women died and many more are missing.”[29] On the 2nd of February, about 90 migrants, mostly from Pakistan, died in a shipwreck off Libya.[30] Two days later, up to 47 people drowned off the coast of Morocco.[31]

Given these continuous atrocities at sea, it remains crucial also in the new year to mobilise against the forces that construct a deadly obstacle course for those who want to, and need to, escape. In light of the vicious criminalisation campaign against activist networks and humanitarian actors engaged in ‘flight help’ and/or rescue, what is required is a strong solidarity front that speaks back when activists and rescuers are turned into smugglers and criminals. And that not only in Europe, Turkey and Northern Africa, but everywhere. In the Mediterranean they use the sea to kill, in the US-Mexico borderlands, the desert. We voice our solidarity with the activists of the No More Deaths network that provides water and basic care for travellers attempting to cross the desert between Mexico and the US. In January, after publishing video footage of the US Border Patrol cynically destroying water gallons, some of the activists have been arrested and now face legal charges.[32]

We as the Alarm Phone network promise to do what we can also in the new year to support disobedient movements through the sea. We have recently updated our ‘Risks, Rights, and Safety at Sea’ leaflet for the Central Mediterranean crossing between Libya and Italy. It can be directly accessed here:

https://alarmphone.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2018/01/Safety-at-Sea-CM-english-2018.pdf.

We have also released the second series of our video project ‘Solidarity Messages for those in Transit’.[33] This time, we have three videos in which survivors of sea journeys pass on advice on Rescue at Sea, spoken in Amharic, Somali and Mandinka, with English subtitles. You can find them on our YouTube channel and also on Facebook:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8euh2Zh5e_PHnovsiUiCBQ/videos?disable_polymer=1
Kindesha: https://www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone/videos/2045387629068803/
Yusuf: https://www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone/videos/2045382879069278/
Numu: https://www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone/videos/2045386465735586/

Lastly, save the date and join us for the We’ll Come United Parade on the 29th of September 2018 in Hamburg![34]

Developments in the Regions

Developments in the Western Mediterranean Sea

22,900 sea crossings were counted for the Western Mediterranean route in 2017.[35] In addition, 3,856 people successfully jumped the fences of the Spanish enclaves on Moroccan mainland, Ceuta and Melilla. This means that the number has more than doubled in comparison to 2016, when 12,923 successful border crossings were counted.[36] These arrivals in 2017 mark a record, surpassed solely during the peak of crossings to the Canary Islands in 2006, when nearly 38,000 travellers arrived in Spain.[37] And they seem to continue also in the new year. In January, 2,307 crossed into Spain, of which 1,501 arrived by sea.[38]

The rising number of crossings is partly due to the turmoil in the Moroccan Rif region that created departure opportunities from the Moroccan west coast, and partly due to rising migration movements from Algeria. Moroccans and Algerians account for about 40% of the successful border crossers to Spain, the remaining 60% are mainly from Western and Central Africa.[39] The number of Algerians attempting to cross has been rising since summer 2017, and intensified cooperation in migration control has been discussed between Madrid and Algiers.[40] Since the end of November, about 500 travellers who arrived in Murcia, mainly Algerians, have been brought to a detention facility close to Malaga. Deportations back to Algeria already started via ferries from Valencia, Murcia and Alicante.[41]

Already in the first week of 2018, on January 6th, a group of 209 people managed to jump the fences of the Spanish enclave Melilla – four persons were hospitalized.[42] Also in Ceuta there were several attempts to jump the fences: On the 12th of January, around 50 people were stopped by Moroccan forces. Only one man managed to climb the 5-meter-high fence at the Tarajal II border gate and enter the Spanish city.[43] In two other attempts in the night from 14th to 15th of January, a total of 350 people were pulled back by Moroccan forces.[44] The AMDH, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights reports of ongoing raids in the forests around Nador. On the 10th of January in the morning, the camps in Bolingo were attacked by the Moroccan ‘Forces Auxiliaires’ and around 35 men and women were arrested.[45] We often see these raids carried out in the aftermath of a larger successful crossing into Spain, showing that Moroccan authorities continue to function as Europe’s watchdog and frontier guard.

In the meantime, the criminalisation of Helena Maleno, a Spanish activist who has for many years assisted travellers and alerted Salvamento Maritimo to people in distress at sea, continues. On the 10th of January, Maleno appeared in court in Tangier over allegations that she has colluded with people smugglers. She was further questioned on the 31st of January, when she was interrogated for an hour and a half about accusations made against her by the Spanish police back in 2016.[46] It has not yet been decided whether and when she will be called in for a trial, but if the Moroccan court decides to find her guilty of human smuggling, she is at risk of receiving a lifetime prison sentence.[47]

Developments in the Aegean Sea

In 2017, and following the UNHCR, 29,718 people have crossed the Aegean Sea and reached one of the many islands.[48] Given that 173,450 people made it in 2016, and even 856,723 in 2015, this constitutes a rather drastic decrease, a consequence to a large part of the EU-Turkey deal from March 2016. And yet, there still are steady and continuous movements across the sea. 1,732 people have arrived on the Greek islands up to the 4th of February 2018.[49] While there are days without any boats, on others we see several landings, as was the case on the 28th of January when about 201 people arrived in one day. The composition of the travelling groups is remarkable and seems to signal a trend also in other Mediterranean regions, with more and more children and women taken to the sea. In the Aegean, in the first month of the year, nearly 40% of the passengers were children, and more than 20% women.

Many of them have arrived on Lesvos Island where Europe’s hotspot remains an inhumane and dramatically overcrowded detention facility (for a detailed account of the situation on Lesvos, read the new report by Musaferat).[50] However, every few days now, 100 to 200 people are being transferred to the Greek mainland. Some containers, delivered from the mainland, have been set up as shelters for those staying outside in tents, presumably not least due to the increased media attention that has been drawn to the conditions inside the Moria camp.[51] Deportations to Turkey have not occurred over the past few weeks, but rather than being a sign of hope, it seems to be the consequence of a new deportation strategy that allows for deportations also from mainland Greece. This would suggest the reversal of an implicit agreement following the EU-Turkey deal of March 2016 that ‘merely’ people from the Greek islands would be subjected to deportations to Turkey.

As a recent report by Harekact has noted, the number of such ‘forced’ deportations is significantly lower than the so-called ‘voluntary’ returns from Greece to countries of origins through the ‘Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme of the IOM, which is mostly funded by the EU.[52] Between June 2016 and the end of December 2017, 2,100 people have been ‘forcibly’ deported to Turkey, while in the same period of time, 9,089 people have been ‘voluntarily’ returned to their countries of origin. Why would migrants who have endured the risky crossings then decide to be returned? Harekact’s investigation reveals that the inhumane detention conditions compel many to sign up for the IOM programme – it simply is a way to shorten their time in detention and avoid detention in Turkey. “Many people are literally broken by the unbearable living conditions in Europe’s refugee camps”, and the returns programme offers a way out. During their participation in the programme, “many migrants face detention and serious physical and mental harm.”

City Plaza in Athens, the best hotel in the world, offers the exact opposite: accommodation for refugees, run independently and with support of solidarity networks. They have called for an international day of protest on the 17th March 2018, under the banner “Stop EU’s Dirty Anti-Migration Deals”: “On the occasion of the International Day Against Racism and two years after the signing of the EU-Turkey deal we will take again the streets on the 17th of March! Join our fight Let’s fight together against the EU-border regime and struggle with us for a world without nations and borders!”[53]

Summaries of Alarm Phone distress cases

In the past 8 weeks, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was alerted to situations of distress in all three regions of the Mediterranean Sea. We were engaged in 17 distress cases, of which 1 took place in the Central Mediterranean, 8 in the Western Mediterranean and 8 in the Aegean Sea. You can find links to the individual reports of the past 8 weeks below.

Central Mediterranean

On Wednesday the 17th of January 2018 at about 6am, the Alarm Phone was directly called from a boat in distress with 7 people on board, who had departed from Abu Kammash / Libya. At 6.23am, we forwarded their GPS position to the Italian MRCC and recharged the travellers’ satellite phone with 10 units. At 8.05am, we called them again and received an updated GPS position and forwarded it again to the MRCC. At 10.25am, we were told by the Italian coastguard that the travellers were safe and had been rescued by a European vessel. Five days later, we learned from a contact person that this boat was indeed the boat we had been in contact with. The travellers had called him from Italy and were on their way to Rome (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/783).

Western Mediterranean

On Tuesday the 12th of December 2017, our Alarm Phone shift team was called directly from a boat, carrying 39 people in the Western Mediterranean, including 3 women. At 5.33am, when we spoke to them, they appeared to be in serious distress, and communication was difficult due to a lot of commotion on the boat. We understood that the boat was taking in water and that they were near Melilla. When we spoke to Salvamento Maritimo (SM) in Almeria at 5.56am, we passed on all the information we had received and they stated that they seemed to be located in Moroccan waters and were thus the responsibility of the Moroccan authorities. […] At 6.58am, SM Almeria called us to inform us that the Spanish Guardia Civil had localised the boat and rescued 37 people, including 3 women, to Melilla. Despite the slightly different number of passengers on the boat, we believed this to be the boat in question. Later, we discovered a source that spoke about this boat which had already been half-sunken when rescue forces reached it. At 6.40pm, one of the persons who had been on the boat called us and confirmed their safe arrival (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/767).

On Wednesday the 13th of December 2017, our shift team was informed at 4.30pm by a man in Morocco about the departure of a boat, carrying 53 people, including 5 women, who had left from Nador/Morocco at around midnight. He said that they wanted to reach Malaga and last time he spoke to them, at 9am in the morning, they already seemed to have been close to Spain. Since that call, he had lost contact and was worried about their well-being. At 5.01pm, we spoke to SM and they stated that they had rescued 3 vessels, but none of them matched with the description of the boat in question. At 6.36pm, our contact person in Morocco had still not heard about the whereabouts of the people. At 8.04pm, SM told us that the Spanish Guardia Civil had informed them about this boat – the people had arrived in Malaga, and there were 5 women on board. Shortly afterwards, when we spoke to our initial contact person, he confirmed that he had just heard from the boat-people – they had safely reached Malaga on their own (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/768).

On Wednesday the 13th of December 2017, at 5.10pm, we were informed by a contact person in Morocco to a boat that had left at 5am, carrying 35 people, including 7 women and 1 child. Our contact person stated that the last time he was able to speak to them, their engine had broken down and their phone might now be out of battery. We were unable to reach the boat directly and contacted SM. They said that they were conducting a search operation. At 8.18pm, when we spoke to SM again, they confirmed that one of the several boats that had been rescued, carried 35 people. Our contact person then informed us that 3 people had died on the journey. On Twitter, Salvamento Maritimo spoke of 2 people who had gone missing. While we believe that there were fatalities, it is difficult for us to verify whether 2 or more people have lost their lives (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/769).

On Saturday the 16th of December 2017, our shift team was informed at 5.24am by a contact person in Morocco about three small boats that were trying to cross the Western Mediterranean, carrying 11, 6 and 6 people respectively. They had left at midnight (local Moroccan time) from Tangier and our contact person told us that their rubber boats were losing air. […] Our shift team was unable to reach the people directly, and so we contacted SM at 5.51am. We were informed that SM was involved in search and rescue activities concerning 5 boats, approximately in the same area. At 7.40am, SM confirmed that they had rescued two rubber boats, but it was not possible to verify whether these were the boats we had been alerted to. At 11.24am, our contact person in Morocco stated that the boat with 11 people had returned to Morocco and the travellers were currently in a hospital. We informed SM and they stated that they were still looking for a boat with 6 people, after just having rescued a boat with 7 people. At 11.41am we learned that on the boat that had returned to Morocco there had been 10 instead of 11 people, but one person went missing after he had gone overboard. SM later tweeted that they had rescued people from 5 boats. Later on, our contact person confirmed that the two other boats we had been alerted to were rescued to Spain (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/770).

On Sunday the 17th of December 2017, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted at 2.40am by a contact person in Morocco to a boat in distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea. Following his account, it was carrying 13 people, including 3 women. We were unable to reach the travellers directly, but received further information via our contact person at 3.15am. The group had started around 10pm the evening before in Tangier Med and the last direct exchange with them had been 30 minutes earlier. They were on a green rubber boat, without an engine, and the boat was losing air. At 3.20am, we contacted SM and passed on all the details we had gathered. They promised to launch a search and rescue operation. At 4.40am, our contact person confirmed that the people had been rescued. Shortly after, SM also confirmed that they had rescued a boat with 12 people. We later found out that one woman who had planned to go with the group, stayed back in Morocco (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/771).

On Sunday the 17th of December 2017, our shift team was informed at 8.15am by a contact person in Morocco to a boat in distress, carrying four people. After several attempts we were able to establish contact with the boat at 8.27am. They confirmed that they had left from Tangier Med and were on a rubber dinghy, trying to reach Tarifa. We spoke to SM at 8.34am and they had already learned about this case and were searching for them. At 8.42am, the boat-people stated that they could see two container vessels in the vicinity. At 9.13am they stated that they could see a helicopter but were not sure whether the helicopter had detected them. We saw that a Spanish search and rescue vessel was approaching their location and we informed the boat-people about these developments, which reassured them. At 9.54am, they were able to pass on their current GPS position via WhatsApp to us, which we passed on to SM. SM confirmed that they were heading into this direction. At 10.41am, the boat people confirmed to us that they had been rescued (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/772).

On Saturday, 30th of December, at 10:04am, we received a call from a boat with 11 people on board. They had left from Tanger at 1am, rowing towards Spain. We tried to locate them by checking on vessels in their surrounding. At 10:30am we called the boat again. They had seen the rescue boat of SM but it hadn’t stopped. At 10:38am SM confirmed that they were already searching for the boat, and we informed them that they had passed the boat some minutes before. We couldn’t reconnect to the travellers, but at 10:58am we received a message from them with the GPS coordinates of their position. At 11:01am we called SM and passed on the position. At 11:38am we called the boat again. SM answered the call and confirmed the rescue of everyone on board to Tarifa/Spain (See: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/773).

On Tuesday, 23rd of January, at 12:35am, a contact person informed us about a missing boat that had left from Nador at 5:00am towards the Spanish enclave Melilla, carrying 16 people. We couldn’t establish direct connection to the boat. At 1:00pm we called the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo. They stated they would search for it with two naval assets and an airplane. In the ongoing we continued to try to reach the boat and also sent an email to the respective authorities to document the alert. Salvamento Maritimo answered via email that they would be coordinating the search and rescue operation with the Moroccan Marine Royale. At 4:20pm we called Salvamento again, that stated that the Moroccan forces had rescued a boat in the area. We failed to establish a connection to the contact person and the travellers until the next day. They were all safe but had been taken back to Nador (for the full report see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/781).

Aegean Sea

On Thursday, the 14th of December 2017, at around 3am, our shift team received a message from a person, informing us that a boat had capsized in the Aegean Sea and the passengers, 50 in total and including 20 children, had rescued themselves onto some rocks in the sea. We received the GPS coordinates of the people and they showed them very close to Dikili/Bademli, the Turkish mainland. We spoke to the Turkish coastguards at 3.05am and they said that they had information about the situation but could not get near the rocks as it was too dark. They said they would launch a rescue operation at sunrise. At 5.37am, they said that they would start around 6am with the operation and at 6.53am they confirmed that their boats would soon reach the rocks and start evacuating the people. Our contact person confirmed that they could see the boats approaching. At 7.11am he told us that two boats had arrived and begun to evacuate the people. According to him, everyone was safe (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/766).

On Monday, 25th of December, at 11:31pm, we received information about a boat in distress in Greek waters close to Mytilene-City, carrying 40 passengers. We couldn’t establish contact to the boat. At 11:37pm we called the Greek Coast Guard in Piraeus. We passed the GPS position we had received by the contact person. We still couldn’t reach the boat, but the contact person informed us at 0:07am that a Coast Guard unit had reached the boat. At 0:17am the Greek Coast Guard called the Alarm Phone and stated the boat would be in Turkish Waters and the Turkish Coast Guard would already be at the position. We clarified that the GPS position was indeed in Greek waters and the Greek Coast Guard agreed to conduct a SAR operation. At 0:35am they called again and stated the boat would be 5 miles east of the given position and would be rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard. At 2:20am the contact person confirmed that the travellers had been brought to Turkey (see full report: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/776).

On Monday, 25th of December, at 0:15am we received information about an overcrowded boat carrying around 80 travellers that was in heavy distress close to the Turkish coast north of Dikili.

At 0:30am we informed the Turkish Coast Guard and documented the alert via Email.

At 1:42am we called the Turkish Coast Guard again that informed us that the boat had been rescued, but one girl had already passed away on board. This was later confirmed in a press release by the Coast Guard Command that stated the rescue of 76 persons in the respective area (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/775).

On Monday, 25th of December, at 0:03am we got alerted to a boat headed towards Lesvos. At 3:14am we received information by another contact person about the same boat. The contact person told us that the boat in distress had been hit by another boat. At 3:40am we received a GPS position that showed that the boat was close to Mytilene/Lesvos and in Greek waters. At 4:10am we informed the Greek Coast Guard that said they were conducting a SAR operation for that case already. The contact confirmed that the travellers had been transferred safely to the rescue ship of the Greek Coast Guard (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/774).

On Monday the 1st of January, at 6.45am, a contact person forwarded the Alarm Phone shift team a position and phone number of a group of travellers. The travellers had reached Samos, but could not get away from the beach on which they had landed. It was not possible for us, nor for the contact person to reach the travellers, as their phone seemed to be off. At 6.52am we called the Greek coast guard, and passed on the information we had about the travellers. The next morning at 9.30am we received the confirmation by the contact person that all travellers reached the camp in Samos (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/777).

On Monday the 1st of January, at 9.56pm, our shift team was alerted by a contact person to a group of 64 travellers in distress. The contact person forwarded us the phone number of the travellers, and a position showing that they were close to the Greek island Chios. The situation was very urgent due to high waves. At 10.29pm we called the Greek coast guard and passed on the information about the distress. Half an hour later, in a second call, the coast guard informed us that they had not been able to reach the travellers. At 11.19pm the contact person informed us that the travellers had been rescued, and that everyone was alright. This was later confirmed by the Greek coast guard (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/778).

On Monday the1st of January, at 9.15pm, our shift team received a direct call from a person stranded on Samos along with 15 other travellers, amongst them 4 women and 8 children. We agreed to continue talking on WhatsApp to receive their exact position, but after the initial call it was no longer possible to reach them. At 3.54am they called us again, but the call was abruptly interrupted, as someone arrived at the beach. After this, it was again not possible to reach the travellers. The following morning, support groups on Samos informed us that the 16 people were at the hot spot on Samos (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/779).

On Sunday, 28th of January, at 7:22am, we received information by a contact person about a boat in distress near Mytilene/Lesvos, carrying 55 passengers. We couldn’t reach the boat and called the Greek Coast Guard at 7:38am. We continued to communicate with the contact person since we still couldn’t establish direct contact to the boat. At 8:32am we received the information that the Greek Coast Guard had arrived at the boat. We couldn‘t confirm the rescue directly with the people on board, but at 11:34am the contact person confirmed that all 55 people had been rescued to Lesvos (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/782).

[1] http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/773

[2] http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/777

[3] http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/779, http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/778

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

[5] http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/02/03/malta-declaration/

[6] https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article162394787/Rettungseinsaetze-vor-Libyen-muessen-auf-den-Pruefstand.html

[7] https://sea-watch.org/europas-zivile-rettungsorganisationen-weisen-frontex-vorwuerfe-zurueck/

[8] https://sea-watch.org/libysche-marine-bringt-bei-illegaler-rueckfuehrungsaktion-sea-watch-crew-und-fluechtende-in-akute-lebensgefahr/; https://www.neues-deutschland.de/artikel/1060738.libysche-kuestenwache-beschlagnahmt-spanisches-ngo-schiff.html

[9] https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/heute-journal/libyen-weitet-hoheitsgewaesser-aus-100.html

[10] https://sea-watch.org/update-beweise-libysche-kuestenwache/; https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde19/7561/2017/en/

[11] http://www.andrej-hunko.de/presse/3867-libyan-coast-guard-attacks-rescuers-after-training-by-eu-military-operation

[12] http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/migrants-libya-pushed-back-pulled-back-409483752; http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22393http://www.fr.de/politik/flucht-zuwanderung/fluechtlinge-auf-dem-mittelmeer-fehlen-die-retter-a-1429784

[13] https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/61535

[14] http://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/14/africa/libya-migrant-auctions/index.html

[15] https://reliefweb.int/report/libya/unhcr-flash-update-libya-20-26-january-2018

[16]   http://data2.unhcr.org/en/news/20443, http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2017-12-17/local-news/MOAS-carries-out-first-ever-aerial-evacuation-mission-74-vulnerable-refugees-taken-out-of-Libya-6736182714

http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/world/83090/74_vulnerable_refugees_evacuated_from_libya_in_moas_first_aerial_mission#.WjqhpHkiHIU

[17] https://mobile.twitter.com/Lyobserver/status/950438845069357056?s=08

[18] https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article172471440/Libyen-Deal-EU-will-gestrandete-Migranten-schnell-in-Sicherheit-bringen.html

[19] https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-migration/20171207_communication_on_commission_contribution_to_the_eu_leaders_thematic_debate_on_way_forward_on_external_and_internal_dimension_migration_policy_en.pdf, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/32204/14-final-conclusions-rev1-en.pdf

[20]http://www.dw.com/en/frontex-launches-new-eu-border-control-mission-operation-themis/a-42417610?maca=en-rss-en-world-4025-rdf, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-italy/in-new-eu-sea-mission-ships-not-obliged-to-bring-migrants-to-italy-idUSKBN1FL62M, http://mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKBN1E91SG#click=https://t.co/I7UAIErOhQhttps://www.news24.com/Africa/News/germany-to-fund-more-surveillance-along-tunisia-libya-border-20171215https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/12/libya-european-governments-complicit-in-horrific-abuse-of-refugees-and-migrants/, http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2017-12/fluechtlinge-eu-westafrika-menschenrechte-schlepper-fluechtlingspolitik/komplettansicht, http://taz.de/Wie-Niger-die-Fluchtrouten-dicht-macht/!5468121/, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-italy-libya/u-n-evacuates-refugees-to-italy-from-libya-for-first-time-idUSKBN1EG23T

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

[22] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/07/eight-people-die-and-86-rescued-from-sinking-dinghy-off-libya?CMP=share_btn_fb,
http://www.medicisenzafrontiere.it/notizie/news/almeno-64-vittime-tra-cui-molti-bambini-nel-primo-naufragio-del-2018

[23] http://www.libyanexpress.com/two-women-drowned-290-migrants-rescued-off-libyas-shores/

[24] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-libya/survivors-coastguard-say-dozens-of-migrants-missing-off-libya-idUSKBN1EY2LP

[25] https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-spain/seven-migrants-die-trying-to-reach-spains-canary-islands-idUKKBN1F422E?il=0

[26] http://www.eldiario.es/andalucia/almeria/Fallecen-personas-naufragio-inmigrantes-Alboran_0_731427298.html

[27] https://twitter.com/openarms_found?lang=de

[28] https://www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone/photos/a.1526182797655958.1073741828.1525906057683632/2048935218714044/?type=3&theater

[29] http://sosmediterranee.org/tragic-day-for-aquarius-in-the-mediterranean-a-fatal-shipwreck-and-new-interception-of-migrant-boat-by-libyan-coast-guard/?lang=en

[30] https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-libya/migrant-boat-capsizes-off-libya-90-feared-dead-mostly-pakistanis-idUKKBN1FM16P

[31] http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/spain-several-migrants-found-dead-off-moroccan-coast, http://www.dw.com/en/at-least-20-migrants-found-drowned-near-spanish-enclave-of-melilla/a-42446644

[32] http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/border-patrol-arrests-humanitarian-aid-provider-and-two-individuals-receiving-care/, https://theintercept.com/2018/01/23/no-more-deaths-arizona-border-littering-charges-immigration/

[33] ‘Solidarity Messages for those in Transit’ is a video project that emerged through the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone network. It aims to reach travellers along their migratory trajectories, in order to support them when they navigate the many border obstacles and traps that the EU and its member states have erected in their paths. Through the videos, survivors of the border regime who reached their desired destinations and people still on the move, speak directly to the many thousands who are forced onto dangerous migration routes or into inhumane conditions in Libya and elsewhere, to those who risk their lives when escaping via the sea, and to those who face oppression and the threat of forced deportation after arriving in Europe.

[34] https://www.facebook.com/welcomeunited/

[35] http://frontex.europa.eu/pressroom/news/migratory-flows-in-2017-pressure-eased-on-italy-and-greece-spain-saw-record-numbers-aZQrlj

[36] http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2017/12/27/nouvel-afflux-de-migrants-vers-l-espagne_5234762_3214.html

[37] http://cadenaser.com/ser/2018/01/05/sociedad/1515171457_350908.html?ssm=tw

[38] http://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean/location/5226

[39] http://frontex.europa.eu/pressroom/news/migratory-flows-in-2017-pressure-eased-on-italy-and-greece-spain-saw-record-numbers-aZQrlj

[40] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171122-tension-between-algeria-spain-as-illegal-migration-increases/

[41] http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2017/12/27/nouvel-afflux-de-migrants-vers-l-espagne_5234762_3214.html

[42] https://politica.elpais.com/politica/2018/01/06/actualidad/1515263236_144335.html

[43] https://elfarodeceuta.es/subsahariano-consigue-cruzar-pasando-tarajal-ii/

[44] http://elpueblodeceuta.es/not/25826/fuerzas-marroquies-impiden-que-350-inmigrantes-salten-la-valla-fronteriza-de-ceuta/, https://elfarodeceuta.es/subsaharianos-parada-taxis-marruecos/

[45] You can find some video footage here: https://www.facebook.com/AmdhNador/?hc_ref=ARQE5EbV8rmXzPCfZBcvL4BGxv-6aa7K9g4oUHL532HkCbv1Xu7hdJKm8u95kB6AQ20&fref=nf

[46] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/10/spanish-activist-helena-maleno-in-moroccan-court-over-people-smuggling-charge

[47] http://www.taz.de/!5480759/

[48] http://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean/location/5179

[49] http://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean/location/5179

[50] http://musaferat.espivblogs.net/en/2018/01/07/info_january_2018/; see also for statistics on migrants on the different Greek islands: http://mindigital.gr/index.php/προσφυγικό-ζήτημα-refugee-crisis/1862-national-situational-picture-regarding-the-islands-at-eastern-aegean-sea-10-01-2018

[51] http://www.ekathimerini.com/224066/article/ekathimerini/news/lesvos-authorities-block-ship-with-container-homes-for-refugees

[52] http://harekact.bordermonitoring.eu/2018/01/30/the-myth-of-voluntary-deportations-assisted-voluntary-return-and-reintegration-from-greece/

[53] https://www.facebook.com/sol2refugeesen/posts/1819464638345871

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