Policing the Central Mediterranean: mass drownings and systematic torture of persons of African descent : CSDM submission on racism in EU border control practices for the upcomming report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the subject of human rights violations by law enforcement agencies against Africans and persons of African descent.
European border control practices have made the Central Mediterranean the deadliest migration route in the world. Thousands of Africans drown every year because European states have decided not to put an end to preventable deaths but have instead obstructed independent NGO rescue operations. Thousands of other refugees and migrants are « pulled back » to Libya – with European assistance – where they face extreme violence including torture, rape, starvation and forced labour.
Today we have submitted information to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in view of the preparation of the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers (Human Rights Council Resolution 43/1).
In our submission, we urge the High Commissioner to shed light on the illegal law enforcement practices in the Central Mediterranean and call for the establishment of international mechanisms to bring them to an end, including the creation of avenues for redress for victims.
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On 26th June 2020, we asked the Committee against Torture to open an inquiry under Article 20 UNCAT into the responsibility of Italy for the systematic torture of migrants pulled-back to Libya. We have made a follow-up submission jointly with the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) informing the Committee on relevant developments along the Mediterranean migration route. These developments have occurred during the summer months when migratory movements across the Mediterranean reached their peak.
The issue set out in this further information concerns the repeated occurrence of sea vessels with rescued migrants being refused permission to disembark at a safe port by authorities in both Italy and Malta. As a consequence of refusing such permission, the vessels are prevented from docking at the nearest safe port from the point at which migrants are rescued in accordance with established principles of human rights and maritime law. This has resulted in the migrants enduring prolonged periods of time in the Mediterranean Sea on board a vessel without adequate resources or medical attention or the ability to seek protection under the Refugee Convention. For the reasons set out below, these occurrences are demonstrative of a « Closed Ports » policy and amount to evidence of a systematic practice of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of migrants by both Italy and Malta.
Read submission here.
On Friday 4th September 2020, the CSDM along with Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch and Mediterranea lodged an appeal seeking an urgent intervention by the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on Migrants Rights concerning the 27 migrants on board the Maersk Etienne. The Government of Malta still refuses to provide a safe port.
Today, the CSDM spoke to an official of Danish Shipping industry and confirmed that on Sunday 6th September 2020, 3 migrants jumped over board the Etienne in to the Mediterranean Sea risking serious injuries. The migrants were rescued by the Etienne crew, but there are deep concerns of significant psychological harm to the 3 migrants and also to the others on board. The Maersk crew on board continue to provide support and resrouces to the migrants in these difficult circumstances. An update to the appeal has now been submitted to the UN Special Rapporteurs, urging an immediate invervention.
Download .pdf of the Update to the Urgent Appeal, lodged on 7th September 2020 concerning the serious deterioration situation on board the Etienne.
It has now been 33 days since the Government of Malta has continued to refuse a safe port for the migrants on board, leaving them stranded without adequate food, water, medical resources or basic safety. This is the longest period of time that a commercial boat with rescued migrants has been denied a safe port in recent history.
The International Chamber of Shipping, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have all issued a statement condemning the Maltese and wider European response to the humanitarian crisis and urged the Government of Malta to permit the migrants to disembark.
We urge the UN Special Rapporteurs to immediately intervene by contacting the Government of Malta under the UN Special Procedures Mechanism and help ensure humanitarian assistance and safe disembarkation for the migrants on board.
Today, the CSDM collaborated with Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch and Mediterranea – Saving Humans, requested an urgent intervention from United Nations Special Rapporteurs seeking humanitarian assistance and safe disembarkation from the Government of Malta for the 27 migrants rescued and on board the commercial vessel Maersk Etienne.
Download .pdf of letter sent to UN Special Rapporteurs seeking urgent intervention for migrants on board Maersk Etienne
The 27 individuals, including a child and pregnant woman, were rescued by the commercial vessel Maersk Etienne on 5th August 2020 while fleeing from Libya, where migrants are subject to torture, inhumane and degrading treatment. In accordance with international human rights norms and standards and established principles of maritime law, permission was sought from the Maltese government for the migrants to disembark at a Maltese port. This permission has been unlawfully refused.
It has now been 30 days since the Maltese government refused permission to disembark and the vessel remains effectively stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. An official for Maersk has stated « our crew continue to provide as much support and assistance as they can to this vulnerable group, but they lack the resources to offer sustained humanitarian and medical care… a tanker ship is neither designed nor equipped to accommodate additional people; we therefore find ourselves in a situation where our supplies are rapidly depleting ». Despite the plea for humanitarian assistance and safe disembarkation, the Maltese governemnt have continued to refuse to cooperate.
In a letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on the Rights of Migrants, the CSDM, Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch and Mediterranea – Saving Humans request an urgent intervention to ensure that the migrants are permitted to disembark and for international human rights law to be enforced.
In the Swiss law journal Asyl, we explore whether Italy can be held accountable under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment for the human rights violations againt migrants pulled back to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard.
For article in pdf, click here.