Torture or Death - The Options Europe offers to Freedom-Seekers

Over 100,000 sea arrivals and 2,040 counted fatalities in the Mediterranean this year +++ Libyan abductions at high sea +++ Alarm Phone turns 4 years old +++ Transborder Alarm Phone meeting in Oujda/Morocco +++ Developments in all three Mediterranean regions +++ Summaries of 54 Alarm Phone distress cases

Introduction

More than 2,000 travellers searching for freedom and safety have died in the Mediterranean Sea so far this year. While about 100,000 people have arrived in Europe by crossing the sea, the overall death rate in 2018 is substantially higher than in the previous few years. The actual death toll of Europe’s borders is in fact much higher, but many who go missing are never accounted for. With over 1,100 officially lost lives off the coast of Libya, this region remains the deadliest in overall numbers, despite being the route that has seen a dramatic decline in crossings. By funding and training the so-called Libyan coastguards, Europe has directly contributed to the creation of a system of abuse and abduction at high sea. In legitimising Libyan forces who continue to be direct profiteers of the smuggling business, Europe is implicated in the process through which those escaping from violence, rape, and extortion are returned into the hands of their tormentors. Some of those who get onto unseaworthy boats have tried to cross several times but were, again and again, captured and forced back by the Libyan authorities, in coordination with their European allies.

This was the case on the 7th of November, when the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat in distress off the coast of Libya, carrying about 100 people, including 5 women and 3 children.[1] They had left from Al Khums and had been at sea throughout the night and for over 19 hours in total when they reached out to us. When we informed the Italian MRCC, they suggested that despite the boat’s position in the international SAR zone, the so-called Libyan coastguards should be notified. The Italian authorities insisted that they would not take any responsibility for the boat in distress. Given the lack of rescue options and the fact that MRCC Rome would notify the Libyan authorities in any case, Alarm Phone members also sought to contact the Libyan authorities – but without success. The travellers were found only the next morning, after MRCC Rome ordered the merchant vessel Nivin to their position. Given that the authorities in Rome were eventually coordinating this rescue operation, it constitutes a clear violation of international law that the merchant vessel brought the people back to Misrata/Libya. At the harbour, some disembarked but the great majority refused.[2] At the time of writing, the group of about 80 people are resisting disembarkation and we have voiced our strong solidarity with them.[3] In the meantime, a variety of actors have made their concerns about the forced interception and illegal return – refoulement – of these people public.[4]

The rescue vacuum in the Central Mediterranean Sea – due to the criminalisation of non-governmental rescuers and the intentional disengagement of European authorities from rescuing – has directly contributed to the high death count this year, and the return of thousands into conditions of confinement, torture, extortion, and sexual violence in Libya. The only chance for people to escape from Libya is to find a boat that is well-equipped and that carries enough petrol to overcome the death zone that stretches over 300 km – 160 sea miles – to reach Lampedusa by themselves and unnoticed while in the so-called Libyan SAR zone. Europe has handed over the mandate to the Libyan authorities to abduct precarious people at high sea. We fail to find words for the perversity of the situation – with torture or death seemingly being the only options left for people seeking safety in Europe.

This current situation reminds us of the period in 2013 when several hundreds of people were knowingly left to die at sea. One of these instances took place on the 11th of October 2013, when the rescue of a boat in distress was consciously delayed by the Italian and Maltese authorities, leading to the death of over 200 people.[5] On the first anniversary of this shipwreck, the Alarm Phone began its work and on the 11th of October 2018 it has turned four years old. In these four years, we became a network of around 150 activists from many different cities on all sides of the Mediterranean, mainly in Europe and Northern Africa.

When we launched our project in 2014, we did not know whether our phone number would circulate in migrant communities and whether anyone would call us from the sea. As a broad coalition of activist networks, we wanted to intervene more directly in the deadliest border zone of the world and be able to see and hear what occurs in the space of the Mediterranean Sea. This space has been deployed as a migrant deterrent by European states and institutions for way too long, costing thousands of lives. For too long, many violent border enforcement practices have remained invisible and unaccounted for. Over the past four years, we have seen what can happen, when people call activists from the sea and when we work collectively to undo Europe’s violent borders. In that time we have worked on 2,400 emergency cases in the different regions of the Mediterranean: 1615 boats in the Aegean Sea, 600 in the Western Mediterranean and 222 in the Central Mediterranean.

Behind these figures, there is a myriad of personal stories of struggle and survival that we will never be able to condense or adequately summarise in a form that would do these stories any justice. We have always regarded the attempts to cross the sea as moments in which the freedom of movement is enacted and expressed. Through our activism, we want to support these enactments and expressions and understand ourselves as part of an existing ‘migratory underground railroad’ that creates paths of escape in violent conditions. As we have said many times before – our work is not the solution. The Alarm Phone and Search and Rescue NGOs should not have to exist. People should never have to board these unseaworthy vessels and risk their lives just to cross a border. But as long as this is the case, as long as Europe violently ‘protects’ its borders against those it seeks to exploit elsewhere, but does not want to have in its midst, we will continue with our work. We will continue to listen to those in situations of life-and-death and support their expressions of freedom in whatever way we can.

Developments in the Western Mediterranean Sea

So far in 2018, over 49,300 people have reached Spain by crossing the sea, making it the most frequently Mediterranean route this year. Over 600 people have lost their lives at sea. October was the busiest month, with nearly 11,000 crossings. In the past six weeks, the Alarm Phone was dealing with 18 cases in the Western Mediterranean, of which eight boats made it to Spain, eight were intercepted, one had to return to Morocco on their own and for one boat we were not able to find out what happened to the travellers. Unfortunately, in several of the cases we have dealt with in the region we have witnessed people dying at sea. Without access to safe ways to travel to Europe they were forced onto dangerous routes and lost their lives as a consequence.

Deaths in the Western Mediterranean

Sadly, in the last six weeks covered in this report, we have witnessed many deaths at sea between Morocco and Spain both in situations where we were directly involved and in those we learned about only later.

-On the 2nd of October, there was a shipwreck of a boat convoy carrying 60 people in the Alboran Sea – 34 people drowned.[6]

-On the 9th of October, the Moroccan Navy shot once again at a boat, this time carrying 58 people of Moroccan nationality. They were intercepted close to Larrache in Western Morocco. One minor was hurt.[7] The incident barely featured in international media despite the shocking behaviour of the Moroccan Navy – shooting for the second time in a short period at people trying to flee toward a better life.

-On the 11th of October, we worked on a distress case concerning 11 people who were rowing from Tangier toward Tarifa. They had spent more than 24 hours on the water until they managed to return to the Moroccan shore. Two people died during this odyssey. Our shift teams repeatedly called both Spanish and Moroccan authorities and requested assistance and tried to facilitate the engagement of a helicopter of SM to search the boat, as we did not have a GPS position and therefore could not localise the boat. MRCC Rabat told us that SM would have to make a request first to fly with their helicopter into the Moroccan aerial zone. SM told us they would only act if Morocco demanded their help. So in the end, the boat was not found as both authorities refused to communicate with each other.

-Only the next day, on the 12th of October, another tragedy happened, when a boat of 56 travellers capsized. Four bodies were retrieved from the sea, and 17 travellers remain missing.[8]

-On the 26th of October, we had another Alarm Phone case with travellers who had left from Nador, which resulted in the death of an infant.

-On Saturday the 27th of October, 20 bodies were found on Charrana Beach, near Nador, whilst only four survivors were rescued by local fishermen. The travellers, who were all young Moroccans, had left the day before from a beach close to Melilla.

-On Sunday the 4th of November, we were informed about two boats leaving from Nador carrying 56 people each. We later learned from Helena Maleno that on one boat only 25 people could be rescued. Once again, dozens of people who were searching for freedom have lost their lives at Europe’s cruel maritime borders.

Whilst these tragedies continue to occur, the NGO rescue vessel Aita Mari is still waiting in the Spanish port for a permission to begin a rescue mission in the Western Mediterranean. So far, the Spanish authorities have avoided responding to their request. They have therefore now started a petition, urging the Spanish government to allow them to rescue lives at sea.

Raids, Refoulements, Repression

According to the anti-racist group GADEM, more than 6,500 people were arrested and pushed-back to the south of Morocco or towards Algeria between July and September 2018.[9] There are no other or even official statistics on arrests, refoulements and deportations to countries of origin. Once again, two Alarm Phone members were deported on 25th and 29th of October and informed us directly about the situation at the police stations, during the deportation process and later in their attempt to return to the north. The arrests continue to be violent and without any legal justification or basis. A young woman testified that her passport was torn apart in front of her eyes by a police officer. Videos circulate, showing at least 40 passports that were found in a trash bin in Tangier, simply thrown away by the police.

The practice of detention in Morocco is wholly arbitrary and legally unsubstantiated. Article 35 of Act No. 02-03 provides that one can only be detained for a maximum period of 24 hours from the date of the arrest, and that only a judge may authorise the extension of this detention period for a maximum period of 15 days. However, no one was brought before a judge at any stage of the proceedings. A significant number of persons detained have largely exceeded the maximum legal time limit for detention. At times, people are held for several days in two respective Tangier police stations before the push-back to the south of the country as there are not enough buses available (or for other reasons, some spoke about a strike of the bus companies for example). Some are beaten up badly when trying to resist or protest. One man was beaten up with such force that he fell into a coma and eventually died. A minor had to be hospitalised after being beaten up by the police.

The Central Police Station seems mainly to be used for those who the Moroccan authorities seeks to deport to their countries of origin. People are detained here sometimes for more than a month. A group of Cameroonian nationals who were detained at the beginning of September was still at the Central Police Station on the 8th of October. In all three detention facilities, conditions are unbearable. Detained people report of not receiving any warm clothes or blankets for the night. Up to 100 people in a single room would have to sleep on small mattresses in the basement or the courtyard. Access to sanitary facilities is limited. At night, people have to urinate in bottles. The detained people receive insufficient food and water (only bread) and sick people do not receive medical treatment. The law 02-03 (Article 36) foresees in case of detention access to interpreters, to a lawyer, to representatives of the home country, to medical treatment etc., but the law is simply not applied. Two people supposedly under UNHCR protection were deported as well as a group of minors. Minors and pregnant women have been arrested and detained, people with legal status as well (among them 2 Congolese students who were eventually released).

Regularly people are fleeing from the police station (some managed to jump the wall) and from busses (that is why now all people are handcuffed). On 6 October 2018, three men were called and transported to the airport for deportation to Cameroon. One of them opposed his expulsion and was taken back to the Central Police Station three days later, on October 9, 2018. He was injured at the arm and tibia, consequences of police violence. Between September and the beginning of October alone, about 89 persons were deported to their country of origin from Tangier police station, among them 6 minors.[10]

The killing of the young Moroccan student Hayat by the Moroccan police has caused an outcry amongst many Moroccans as videos of the incident have gone viral. During a football match in Tetouan, fans protested under the slogan “venger Hayat” (revenge Hayat). However, these protests are met with repression from the Moroccan state. 19 of the protesting fans are now facing charges, whilst one person was already sentenced to two years in prison for calling for protests on Facebook.[11]

Situation at the enclaves Ceuta and Melilla

Our local team informs us that raids happen so regularly in the forests around Melilla/Nador (Bolingo, Segangan, Karia, and elsewhere) that the people who live there take the plastic covers that they use to construct sleeping places and their belongings with them during the day instead of constructing a steady camp. Also here, the situation is unbearable. At Bolingo, a forest close to Nador, 205 women and 82 children currently live in highly precarious conditions. Also on the other side of the fence, around 100 Tunisians who entered Melilla in order to continue to mainland Spain started a hunger strike on 18th of October to protest against the living conditions in the CETI and to demand their transfer to mainland Spain. Many of them have already stayed for over 7 months in the CETI.[12] In the meantime, discussions around substituting the concertina barbed-wire fences with aluminium panels that people cannot climb (to avoid people ‘getting hurt’) continue. Decisions are not taken yet, but on the 6th of November, the Interior Minister of Spain Marlaska re-assured again that the concertina barbed-wire would be removed.[13] When and with what it will be replaced remains to be seen.

In the morning of the 21st of October at around 9am, around 300 Sub-Saharan Africans attempted to jump the fences separating Melilla from the rest of Morocco, close to Pinos de Rostrogordo. Of the 300 people, 208 managed to enter Melilla. One person died shortly after entering Melilla, and was found together with four other wounded people. The cause of the death is still unclear, but it has been announced that an autopsy will be carried out.[14] Following this, the Spanish government, for the second time this year, put their old bilateral agreement with Morocco concerning “express deportations” into practise, and deported 55 of those who had managed to enter Melilla back to Morocco. Such rapid procedures inevitably compromises the rights of those people, of whom many were not in a condition to receive legal advice.

Alarm Phone Meeting in Oujda/Morocco

From October 31 until November 5, the Alarm Phone had its biannual transborder meeting in Oujda/Morocco. More than 80 people who are located in Africa and Europe came together. Besides internal meetings, we organised a press conferences, a public gathering, a sit-in at a central square in the city, a trip to the Moroccan-Algerian border, as well as a commemoration at a Moroccan beach.

At the beach in Saidia, we read out a text to remember and protest the thousands of lives lost at European and other borders:

We come here together today to commemorate those who have lost their lives while trying to find a place of safety and freedom. Many of us here have directly experienced the violence of borders and have suffered greatly. We want to think of those who are not with us anymore, relatives, friends, and thousands of others who we have never personally met. We are devastated that we could not help them, that we were not able to prevent their deaths. Their suffering obliges the living to not forget, to come together to build a more just and equal world for all.

The space of the Mediterranean Sea could be one of encounter and exchange but instead it has been turned into a graveyard. A philosopher once wrote: ‘Death associated with water is more dream-like than death associated with earth, the pain of water is infinite’. When people disappear at sea, it is much more difficult to mourn for them, to accept that they are gone. What we will never accept are the reasons for their disappearance. The racist system that divides people for the privilege of a select few [For the full text here.

Developments in the Central Mediterranean

With about 23,500 people coming from Libya and Tunisia and arriving in Italy and Malta, the Central Mediterranean has been the least frequented one of the three main maritime routes to Europe. The decline in arrivals is dramatic. In October 2018, merely about 1,000 people arrived while about 6,000 did so in 2017, and in 2016 even over 27,000. Despite this decline, the Alarm Phone was alerted to six distress situations in this region over the past six weeks. Five boats came from Libya of which three were forcibly intercepted and returned to Libya while one was rescued to Italy and another one to Malta. One boat came from Tunisia and was intercepted and returned to Tunisia (see summaries of AP cases below).

In several of the distress situations that reached us, European coastguards, and in particular the Italian MRCC, rejected their responsibility to conduct SAR operations. At the same time, they repeatedly suggested to us to inform the ‘responsible’ Libyan authorities. Despite being an illegitimate actor in any case, they could also not be reached via their official phone hotline. Libya, it cannot be stated often enough, is not a safe country but one of civil war where a variety of factions use the business of smuggling as well as migrant containment to fill-up their war chests.[15] In the Libyan detention centres, the situation remains unbearable. In late October, a Somali refugee who had been deported from Italy back to Libya set himself on fire. According to his friends, he had lost all hope of being relocated to a safe country. Detainees from different camps reported of at least eight deaths in the Triq al Sikka centre this year and at least four deaths in the Zintan centre within the past months.[16] As in the sea, these known figures of migrant death are certainly merely the tip of the iceberg as many cases of torture and death will never be documented.

Despite the constant de-legitimation and criminalisation campaigns targeting non-governmental rescuers conducting SAR operations, the ‘humanitarian turn’ in the Mediterranean Sea is far from over. The civilian reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird is flying again and in early October, the NGO vessel Mare Jonio left the harbour for its first mission. Its Italian flag will – hopefully – make it more difficult for the Italian government to prevent it from docking in Italian harbours. As Michael Hardt and Sandro Mezzadra, members of the activist project wrote: “We joined this mission because of our desire not only to help provide humanitarian aid for those who risk death at sea but also to intervene in the toxic political atmosphere of Italy, Europe, and beyond. Faced with a seemingly interminable state of emergency in which governments enact racist and reactionary policies, often with the support of electoral majorities, we need to protest against them and resist them to protect the vulnerable, and defend past gains.”[17]

Thanks to the presence of Mare Jonio, 70 people in distress were rescued on October 13 – not by Mare Jonio itself, but due to its presence and constant pressure on authorities.[18] They also were a key player in the coordination of the rescue of another boat in distress with 30 people on board on November 8-9, in which the Alarm Phone was also involved. As reported via their online presence “Mediterranea”, the Italian as well as the Maltese authorities failed to launch SAR activities for about 9 hours, despite knowing of the boat in distress. Delaying rescue appears as one of the strategies deployed to circumvent maritime SAR obligations – a behaviour both irresponsible and illegal.[19] Only through the presence of non-governmental actors can such politics of delay be documented and ideally prevented in the future. We hope that other non-governmental actors such as Sea-Watch 3, the Aquarius, or Open Arms will be able to return soon to the deadliest region of the Mediterranean.[20]

Developments in the Aegean Sea

With a total of about 28,500 arrivals on the Greek islands this year, the number of total arrivals approximates the one in 2017 when about 29,700 people reached Greece by crossing the sea. October was the busiest month so far in 2018. During October, 113 boats made it to the islands, carrying a total of 4,023 people.[21] From the 1st of October to the 11th of November 10, the period covered in this report, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 30 boats in distress in this region – 12 of them were returned to Turkey.

Lethal incidents close to the Turkish coast

During the last 6 weeks, the Alarm Phone was again confronted with deadly incidents between Turkey and Greece and we mourn for one woman and two children who lost their lives. On the 27th of October, we were alerted through an emergency message sent from a speed-boat near Akyarlar/Turkey that was heading towards Kos Island. The boat had already begun to capsize. The Turkish coastguards were immediately informed, but they arrived too late. One pregnant woman died, five children and seven adults were rescued.[22]

Already 5 days before, on 22nd of October, in the very early hours of the day, our Alarm Phone shift team witnessed another tragedy in the Aegean Sea. This time the shipwreck occurred right by the coast of Bodrum/Turkey. When we called the Turkish coastguards, they had already been informed about this case. Most of the people were able to swim back ashore, but later two children died in the hospital. This shipwreck is one of several that have occurred over the past few weeks in the Aegean Sea. Despite the difficult conditions in Greece and Europe as such, many still seek to escape from Turkey and risk their lives doing so.[23]

On 11th of October, a large shipwreck occurred off the Turkish coast when a boat carrying 35 travellers, many of them Kurds, capsized on its way to Lesvos island. Turkish authorities were alerted to the situation when the only survivor, a Kurdish woman who had managed to swim back to the shore, approached the police wearing wet clothes and a life jacket. Her five children and husband drowned. At least 19 of the victims are believed to be Kurds from Duhok and Zakho. Afghanis are also reportedly among the dead. Fourteen bodies have been retrieved from the waters off the coast of Turkey. The others remain missing.[24]

On 12th of November in the early morning, a boat carrying approximately 15 people capsized near Dikili/Turkey. Two people managed to swim to shore, three were later rescued by the Turkish coastguards.  Four dead bodies have been found and six people are still missing. According to media reports, amongst the passengers mainly from Afghanistan there were four children. The five survivors were all adults. The boat was heading towards Lesvos.[25]

Pull-Back by the Turkish Coastguards

On the 3rd of October, the Alarm Phone dealt with a boat carrying 29 adults and 13 children that was later pulled-back by the Turkish coastguards. The boat had already crossed into Greek waters and we had therefore notified the Greek coastguards. The Greek authorities reacted only slowly to our demand to launch a SAR operation and asked a range of questions rather than immediately alerting their coastguard assets – which caused a delay in rescue efforts. The Turkish coastguards arrived at the location of the boat and returned it to Turkey – a practice violating international law. Afterwards we received a message from one of the travellers: “The Turkish CG took us against our will. They entered the Greek territory and took us. How do you allow them to do this. They tried to sink us. And we have children. They humiliated us and spilled the fuel on the boat on us.”

The rescue organisation “Refugee Rescue”, located in the north of Lesvos, reported about a similar incident: “On the night of Thursday October 4th 2018, Mo Chara [the rescue boat of Refugee Rescue] was requested to assist the Hellenic Coast Guard in transferring new arrivals into the port of Skala Sykamineas. They were just four people in total. All were male and reported to be from Afghanistan. All four were minors, aged 14, 15, 16 and 17 years old respectively. All were traveling unaccompanied and were in a state of distress. The clothes and hair of each of the boys was wet. Despite emergency blankets, they were shivering profusely and hypothermic – two severely. They told the Refugee Rescue crew that they had jumped into the sea when their dinghy was intercepted by Turkish Coast Guard. They reported that the Hellenic Coast Guard was on scene at the time, and had rescued them from the water. According to their testimony, the boat they had been traveling in was originally carrying 60 people, and that the remaining people had been taken back to Turkey by the Turkish Coast Guard. They also described how their boat had been stopped with a rope, and how the families on board were crying because they did not want to go back to the camp in Turkey, where it was “dangerous” and they were treated badly. Evidence suggests the Turkish Coast Guard intercepted the boat in Greek waters. (…) Refugee Rescue has submitted a statement of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, urging the UN Refugee Agency to fully investigate this incident, and to put to pressure on authorities that undermine their international obligations that needlessly put lives at risk.”[26]

Criminalisation

The criminal accusations brought by Greek prosecutors against activists for their efforts to rescue migrants and asylum seekers at sea appear entirely unfounded, Human Rights Watch noted in early November.[27] Human Rights Watch analysed court records and other documents in the cases of two of the four activists currently in pretrial detention. The two foreign volunteers Sarah Mardini, 23, and Sean Binder, 24, have been detained for more than two months now. They have been accused among others for assisting illegally refugees to enter Greece, being a member of a criminal organization, and espionage. A petition for their release is still running and we ask to sign it in solidarity: https://www.freehumanitarians.com/support-them

Moria Camp

The Greek ministry of health promised to close the Moria camp if the living conditions could not be improved. They had also announced the transfer of 3,000 people to the Greek mainland in September. But still, there are around 9,000 people in Moria, suffering in horrible circumstances. Needless to say, the camp is incredibly overcrowded and the most urgent and basic needs of the people are not met while diseases and mental illness continue to spread and grow.[28]

CASE REPORTS

Over the past 6 weeks, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was engaged in 54 distress cases, of which 18 took place in the Western Mediterranean, 30 in the Aegean Sea, and 6 in the Central Mediterranean. You can find short summaries and links to the individual reports below.

Western Mediterranean

On Monday, 8th of October, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 3 boats in distress at the Western Mediterranean. Two boats in the Strait of Gibraltar were eventually intercepted by the Moroccan Marine Royale. One boat coming from Nador was rescued to Spain (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1050 ).

On Tuesday, 9th of October, at 8:55am CEST, we were alerted to a boat in distress in the Strait of Gibraltar. It was a rowing boat that had left from Tangier towards Tarifa. We called the Spanish rescue authority Salvamento Marítimo at 9:29am. We lost contact to the boat and the contact person until 12:47am, when the travellers confirmed that they had been intercepted by the Moroccan Marine Royale (see full report here: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1051).

On Thursday 11th October, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats in the Western Mediterranean. One boat was rescued by Spain. One boat eventually had to return to the Moroccan shore on its own, after an 20 hours odyssey, having been neglected by both Spanish and Moroccan authorities (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1052).

On the 25th of October 2018 at 1.10pm CET, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat carrying 38 people (including 9 women and 3 children). The shift team had difficulty contacting the boat directly for many hours but made contact with Salvamiento Maritimo to make sure they were alerted to the case. The Alarm Phone continued to try to figure out where the boat was and if it had been rescued by keeping up with news and rescue operations. Finally we learned by a contact person that they were rescued by SM and arrived safely the previous night around 10pm to Almeria (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1077).

On October 26th, 2018, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to four cases of distress. Three boats were eventually rescued to Spain, but a small baby died in the second case. One boat was intercepted and brought back to Morocco by the Marine Royale (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1078).

On October 27th, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 3 boats in distress in the Western Mediterranean. Two were intercepted and returned to Morocco. There is no info on the third (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1079).

On Saturday the 3rd of November the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to 2 boats in distress. One was brought back by the Moroccan navy and the other was rescued by the Algerian authorities (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1075).

On Sunday the 4th of November At 9.10am the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to two boats in distress which had left from Nador at 5am local time. Our contact person told us that one of the boats had been rescued to Spain, and that the other boat’s engine had broken and water was coming into the boat. For the boat still in distress we contacted SM at 10:10am, who said that they were already aware of the case and that a rescue mission was underway. We received no more information until the next day, when at 10:20am SM told us that they were still searching for the boat. At 10pm our contact person heard from one of the survivors from this boat that approximately 30 of his fellow travellers had died. He also told us that the boat had been taken to Melilla. On Tuesday the 6th of November the authorities confirmed that there were at least 31 people dead (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1076).

Aegean Sea

On Monday, 8th of October, at 6:21am CEST we have been alerted to a boat with 40 people in distress close to Bodrum. We tried to reach the Turkish Coast Guard to request assistance, but we had to call various numbers in order to reach someone. Only at 7:40am we reached the TCG. They informed us that they had found the boat and had brought it back to Turkey (see full report here: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1053).

On Wednesday, 10th of October, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 3 boats in the Aegean Sea. One boat on its way to Farmakonisi island with 9 people on board was brought back to Turkey. A group of 49 people who had already landed on Farmakonisi island got eventually picked up by the Hellenic Coastguard and was brought to Leros. The third boat was rescued by the Hellenic Coastguard to Samos. On the same day a tragedy happened when a boat sank near Lesvos island. Nine dead bodies were found, one woman rescued and at least 25 people are still missing (see full report here: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1054).

On Thursday, 11th of October at 5:41am, we were alerted to a group of 64 people who stranded on a rocky beach at the north east of Samos island. Their boat was damaged and they were stuck in the mountains of the island. At 8:40am the contact person confirmed that the travellers had been picked up by the police (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1055).

On Saturday, 13th of October, we have been alerted to 2 different boats on the way towards Samos. Both have been found and brought back by the Turkish Coast Guard (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1056).

On Tuesday, the 16th of October 2018, we were contacted at 6.30am CET and informed about a boat in distress carrying 33 people, including 19 men, 9 women and 5 children. We received a phone number on the boat and were able to reach it shortly afterwards. The man on the boat shouted ‘help, children’ but no further information could be obtained. We were able to speak again at 6.53am and 7.04am where we received their GPS position, showing them east of Chios Island/Greece. At 7.24am we spoke to the Greek coastguards. At 11.43am, we spoke to the Greek coastguards again and they confirmed the rescue of the boat (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1057).

On Wednesday the 17th of October 2018, the Alarm Phone assisted two boats in distress in the Aegean Sea. One was returned to Turkey, the second one rescued to Greece (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1058).

On Thursday, the 18th of October 2018, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to two boats in distress. Both reached Chios Island/Greece safely (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1059).

On Saturday, the 20th of October 2018, at 2.03am, we were alerted to a boat in distress, carrying 37 people, including 15 children. We reached the boat at 2.15am, but the connection was too bad to communicate. At 2.16am, we received a GPS position, showing the boat close to Chios Island. We informed the Greek coastguards and in turn informed the people on the boat that rescue was coming. At 3am the people on the boat confirmed that they had been found and rescued by the Greek coastguards (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1060).

On October 22nd 2018 at 5.30am, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a case of a shipwrecked boat where a child’s body had been found dead. The boat had been carrying 18 people including several children. The shift team alerted the Turkish coastguard to the case, though they already knew about it. Although most people were able to swim ashore, two children later died at a Turkish hospital (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1067).

On October 23rd, 2018 at 1.35am CET, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat of 50 people in distress in Turkish waters that was sinking. The shift team was not able to establish direct contact with the boat but called the Turkish coastguard to inform them of the situation. The Turkish coastguard informed the Alarm Phone at 2.51am that the rescue ship was approaching the boat. The shift team was unable to confirm the rescue with the passengers themselves (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1068).

On October 27th, 2018, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to two cases. The first was a distress case: although the boat of 13 people was rescued by the Turkish Coastguard, one woman was found dead. The other boat had 20 people and was also rescued by the Turkish Coastguard (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1069).

On October 28th at 6.46am CET, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat of 11 people making its way towards Rhodes Island. The shift team had difficulty establishing contact though several attempts were made. At 7.40am they were finally able to make contact and confirm the boat’s position. The travelers had already landed on Rhodes island. At 9.52am, the travelers asked the shift team to call the local police. The Alarm Phone was able to send the position of the police station to the travelers who said they would go (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1070).

On Monday the 29th of October the Alarm Phone shift team were alerted to four groups of travellers. Two boats were rescued by the Greek coast guard and brought to Samos, and one boat and a group of travellers stranded on a rocky island were rescued by the Turkish coast guard (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1071).

On Tuesday the 30th of October we were alerted to a boat on its way to Farmakonisi. The people on board were rescued by the Greek coast guard and brought to Leros. A few hours later we were alerted to another, very overcrowded boat between Chios and Samos. We were unable to establish direct contact with the boat, but it was rescued by the Greek coast guard and taken to Chios (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1072).

On the 1st of November at 12:16am the Alarm Phone shift team were alerted to a boat carrying 19 people, their engine had stopped working. Once we received the GPS coordinates and made contact with the boat we informed the Greek coastguard of the case. At 1:45am we got information from the contact person that the boat had arrived to Kos by itself, which was confirmed at 2:07am (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1074).

On the 2nd of November at 5:49pm the Alarm Phone shift team was contacted and asked for information about a group of missing travellers and if they had reached Cyprus already. We contacted the Cyprus Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), but were told that there had been no arrivals. At 8:20am on the 3rd of November we contacted the Turkish Coastguard asking about this case. They told us that they had found a boat, and once we had provided the travellers’ names, they confirmed that this was our case. They told us that everyone was safely taken to Mersin, which was later confirmed by our contact person and the Turkish Coastguard report (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1073).

On the 6th of November 2018, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress. There were a total of 26 people on the boat. At 10.24pm, we informed the Greek coastguards to the case and passed on the information. At 10.37pm we received an updated position which we passed on to the coastguards at 10.38pm. The Greek authorities informed us at 10.48pm that they had a patrol boat near the boat in distress. At 10.50pm, our contact person confirmed that they had been rescued by the Greek coastguards (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1080).

On the 7th of November 2018, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress. We received their GPS position and the information that there were 15 people, including several women and children on the boat. At 2.11am, we informed the Greek coastguards about the case. At 2.28am, the Greek authorities confirmed to us that a patrol boat would reach the location about 5 minutes later. … At 2.51am, we received the confirmation from the contact person and also by two people on the boat that they were found and rescued by the Greek coastguards (for full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1081).

On the 8th of November 2018, the Alarm Phone was alerted at 2.45am by a contact person to a boat in distress, carrying a total of 39 people, among them about 25 children and women, one of whom was pregnant. We shortly afterwards spoke to the travellers on the boat and they confirmed their GPS position. The contact person stressed that the pregnant woman was about to give birth on the boat. … We informed the Greek coastguards at 3.14am. … At 4.20am, the coastguards confirmed that they had rescued the people who were then transported to Leros Island (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1082).

On the 9th of November 2018, the Alarm Phone was alerted at 1.58am by a contact person to a boat in distress carrying 21 people, including 8 children. We received their GPS position and were able to reach the boat at 2.04am and they confirmed their distress situation. At 2.07am we contacted the Greek coastguards and passed on the information on the case. At 2.23am we spoke to the people on the boat and informed them that a rescue operation would be launched. At 2.53am we spoke to them again and they were very anxious but could see a boat approaching them. At 3.13am the contact person confirmed their rescue which was also confirmed by the Greek coastguards at 3.19am (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1083).

On the 10th of November 2018, we were alerted by a contact person at 2.30am to a boat in distress, carrying 46 people. We tried to reach the travellers repeatedly but were unable to get through. At 2.47am we contacted the Greek coastguards and passed on the GPS position of the boat. They told us that they had rescued a boat in the vicinity of the position about 35 minutes earlier. We then agreed to try and verify whether this was the boat in question. We learned via the contact person that most of the travellers were from Africa and when we spoke to the Greek authorities at 3.05am they confirmed that the rescued were mainly from Congo. Afterwards, we were in regular exchange with the authorities and finally we received one day later a message from the travellers who confirmed the rescue to Lesvos (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1084).

Central Mediterranean

On Tuesday the 2nd of October at 3.48pm, the Alarm Phone shift team received a direct call from a boat which had left from Libya. At 5.57pm we managed to reestablish contact to the boat, and learned that they were 120 people, including 20 women and 13 children, and that they were in urgent distress as high waves were entering the boat, and they were out of fuel and thus left drifting. An hour later, we received their position, showing that they were still within the so-called Libyan search and rescue zone. At 7.55pm we called the Italian coast guard and forwarded the information we had. They told us that the Libyan authorities were already aware of and in charge of the case. At 11.48pm the Italian coast guard informed us that the Libyan authorities had probably found the boat, and an hour later we spoke to them again, and they confirmed that the travellers had been rescued and brought back to Libya (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1061).

On Friday the 5th of October at 11.49am, the Alarm Phone shift team received a direct call from a rubber boat which had left from Al Khums at around 2am. On the boat were around 40 travellers, including three children and five women, of which one was pregnant. At 3.35pm the travellers called us again and managed to give us their position. In a phone call to the travellers an hour later, we could hear a plane I the background, and soon after we learned that the civil aircraft Colibri had spotted the boat, which was now in international waters. Civil rescue vessels, as well as the Italian coast guard and a close by merchant vessel had been made aware of the distress situation. At 11.44pm we received a confirmation that the travellers had been intercepted by the Libyan “coast guard” and brought back to Libya (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1062).

On Monday, the 15th of October 2018, at 3.25pm, we were informed by a contact person about a boat that had left Tobruk/Libya the day before, leaving relatives worried. We learned via the brother of one of the travellers that it was a wooden boat carrying 25 people, which had left the evening before at around 9 or 10pm local time. … On the 17th of October, at 9.38pm, we finally received the confirmation from one of our contact persons that the people had indeed safely reached Malta (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1063).

On Tuesday the 16th of October 2018, the Alarm Phone was alerted at 11.55am by a contact person to a boat that had left from Zarzis/Tunisia. We could not reach the people on the boat and decided to inform the Italian and Maltese authorities to the situation at 4pm. In the evening, MRCC Rome confirmed that they were looking into the situation. At 8.55pm, we learned that the people may have been intercepted and returned to Tunisia. The next day, at 1.30pm, our contact person confirmed that the boat had been intercepted and the people were back in Zarzis (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1064).

On Wednesday, the 7th of November 2018, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat in distress off the coast of Libya, carrying about 100 people, including 5 women and 3 children. At 18.18h CET, we received a direct phone call from one of the travellers. He told us that there were about 100 people on the rubber boat that had left from Al Khums, including several women and children who urgently needed to be rescued. They had left already the night before on a rubber dinghy and were at sea for over 19 hours when they reached out to us. …At 7.46am we spoke with MRCC Rome and they suggested that the Libyans had intercepted the boat (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1065).

On Thursday, the 8th of November 2018, the Alarm Phone was called at 19.09h CET from a boat in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea. The call was quickly interrupted but we were able to re-establish contact at 19.36h when the anxious passengers told us that there were women and children on a plastic dinghy. No further information could be gathered during this phone conversation. Later we received their GPS position which we passed on to MRCC Rome at 21.01h. … At 00.53am, MRCC Rome confirmed that the boat had been rescued and the passengers brought to Lampedusa (for the full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1066).

 

 

 

[1] http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1065

[2] https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N1XN4DD?fbclid=IwAR0mrxsb0VrNN70CemBw0x5eK_DL1I52xSI-dnlfMaVXp9HWLSpxgHirz08

[3] https://www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone/posts/2253585511582346?__tn__=-UC-R

[4] https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/libya-migrants-refusing-disembark-ship-must-not-be-forced-detention

[5] http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/32

[6] https://www.i24news.tv/fr/actu/international/europe/185466-181002-naufrage-au-large-du-maroc-11-corps-de-migrants-repeches-en-mer

[7] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/642991/societe/maroc-la-marine-royale-tire-sur-une-embarcation-de-migrants/

[8] https://elpais.com/politica/2018/10/12/actualidad/1539336766_329088.html?id_externo_rsoc=TW_CC

[9] https://mailchi.mp/808145bec8c4/note-expulsions-gratuites

[10]https://gallery.mailchimp.com/66ce6606f50d8fd7c68729b94/files/3690d5cc-2b47-404c-a43d-ca0beeb7e383/20181011_GADEM_Note_Expulsion_gratuite_VF.pdf

[11] https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2018/10/18/au-maroc-deux-ans-de-prison-pour-avoir-denonce-sur-facebook-la-mort-d-une-migrante_5371428_3212.html

[12] https://elfarodemelilla.es/tunecinos-ceti-huelga-hambre-queremos-salir-melilla/

[13]https://www.ceutaactualidad.com/articulo/inmigracion/marlaska-insiste-eliminar-todos-elementos-cruentos-frontera/20181106182950074247.html

[14] https://www.laprovincia.es/espana/2018/10/21/muere-inmigrante-salto-masivo-valla/1109344.html

[15] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/04/libya-war-zone-eu-refugees-tripoli-fighting

[16] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/africa/somali-returned-to-libya-under-italian-policy-sets-himself-on-fire-1.3675942?fbclid=IwAR0b1_UdNQllUYQb8KWjLSBoTgBYmJY9UUchI7pQwyOAkZ8m5ARz-bAotZQ#.W9KabcVZL1I.facebook

[17] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/09/migrant-rescue-ship-racist-politics-italy-us

[18] https://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/10/12/news/gommone_con_70_persone_in_avaria_davanti_a_lampedusa_mare_jonio_chiede_intervento_guardia_costiera_che_rifiuta-208829172/?refresh_ce

[19] https://mediterranearescue.org/news/mediterranea-denuncia-prassi-governative-che-mettono-a-rischio-le-vite-umane-per-non-assumersi-la-responsabilita-di-salvarle-segnalazione-di-un-gommone-con-27-persone-in-difficolta-e-stata-ieri-dir/#more-1033

[20] https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5545200&s=Seenotretter/https://sea-watch.org/sea-watch-3-verlaesst-malta/

[21]  https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/photos/a.285312485325196/470927870096989/?type=3&theater

[22] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-coast-guard-rescues-30-migrants-in-aegean-sea-138331

[23] https://www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone/posts/2242111906063040?__tn__=-R

[24] http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/111020184 and http://www.ekathimerini.com/233481/article/ekathimerini/news/migrant-boat-capsizes-off-turkey-9-killed-dozens-missing

[25] https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/11/12/world/europe/ap-eu-europe-migrants.html

[26] https://tinyurl.com/y7jtvglx 

[27] https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/05/greece-rescuers-sea-face-baseless-accusations?fbclid=IwAR3RH8Nv5qd5rLCh5NhGZykd3b8WIEX5CGBNScBCJpAPA6f8TUQK8mjw2XM

[28] https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/photos/a.285312485325196/467124170477359/?type=3&theater; Franziska Grillmeier, one of the journalists who visited the counter-surveillance project ‘Mare Liberum’ in September 2018, published a report about Moria on the 9th of October. She is one of the few European journalists who is not only accusing the humanitarian situation and the living conditions in the camp but who critically investigates the European border and camp policies as the reasons for such misery in the camp. https://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2018-10/lesbos-auffanglager-moria-asylzentren-fluechtlinge

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