News (EN)

A LETTER TO THE ITALIAN AUTHORITIES, EU MEMBER STATES AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS.

24-10-2021

 

Dear Respective authorities:


We are the forgotten refugees and migrants living in
Libya presently in front of the UNHCR headquarter After our houses got raided and most of us taken to detention centers. We are the survivors and victims  of all atrocities, torture, arbitrary detentions, false persecutions, extortions and human rights violations.

It is with bleeding hearts and sorrowful souls that we write this letter to bring to your attention what it means to be forgotten and not to be looked at as a human being or a disrespect to one’s rights. With each passing day since the 1st of October, we sink more into the depth of despair, being exposed to heat and cold, abandoned and forced  to sleep in the streets without shelters , without food and  with no access to toilets.

We are refugees and we do not know or engage  in  politics. Our own will and wish is to live in a peaceful environment free of destruction, in a society that welcomes our ideas and invests in us to make the world a better place for all. 

In the last 23 days of our peaceful demonstration in front of the UNHCR Libya office. A lot has happened and is happening, people with physical injuries haven’t been able to access treatment, others developing critical psychological issues, children and pregnant women sleeping in the open without shelter, no food, no showers and sanitary pads for women. Therefore; we are calling on the authorities and the whole world to recognize us as humans, respect and protect our rights. And the Libyan authorities should  respect and apply the international law of seeking asylum applicable in Africa. 

We also acknowledge and admit that in recent years, human rights activists and international humanitarian organizations have been advocating for our rights to be protected and respected internationally, but so much hasn’t changed and today we are here to make calls ourselves.

We are victims of civil wars, we are victims fleeing religious and political persecutions, amongst us are those seeking decent life, education and freedom to live humanly. But the Italian authorities and the EU member states have been only aggravating our sorrowful souls, by paying the Libyan authorities and its militia groups publicly and in the backdoors to kill us while in the desert, on the sea and in  horrible concentration camps.

All these have been a violation to human rights and a crime against humanity. Libya today is a cemetery to thousands of innocent refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants fleeing unbearable situations in their countries of origin. And the idea or the political will was and is fully accepted and funded by the Italian authorities and EU member states.

We call on  the Italian authorities and EU member states pouring funds to Libya to make sure that their actions and political wills do not harm us and violate our rights.

And to make sure that the forcible deportation to the Libyan inhumane detention centers then to countries of origin is stopped. 

We also call on them to cooperate with the Libyan authorities to close all detention centers in Libya and set free our brothers and sisters who are currently detained in inhumane conditions, being extorted, raped, tortured and killed. 

We call on the Italian authorities, EU member states, church members, religious groups and international humanitarian organizations to find durable solutions to us in our countries of origin, where war and poverty reigns, to offer us more educational opportunities, to invest in us and in our countries with the millions given out to the Libyans to kill and hinder us from accessing the EU borders. The EU and member states are obliged to respect and protect our rights and those found in violations of our rights should be held accountable. 

We call on all Humanitarian international organizations and heads of states, host countries, like Canada, the US, and European states  to offer us more lands of safety and resettlement opportunities.

We continue to reiterate our calls for a quick evacuation for the refugees who have been sleeping outside the UNHCR headquarter for over three weeks to countries of safety. As we fully understand that the EU and member states have enough resources and capabilities to end these atrocities and miseries that we are going through.

 

® All Rights Reserved Refugees and Migrants in Libya 2021.

 

News (EN)

New judiciary acquittal coming for the “Mare Jonio” ship

“Rescue at sea cannot be criminalised; it is an obligation”.

Once again, a request has been made to dismiss the absurd charge of “aiding and abetting illegal immigration.” But there’s more: according to the Agrigento Public Prosecutor’s Office, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, financed by the Italian government, cannot rescue anyone, because it actually captures and deports. And the disgraceful attempts to block civilian rescue ships on administrative pretexts, based on rules that “do not exist in Italian law”, are swept under the carpet.

The Agrigento Public Prosecutor’s Office has asked the Judge for Preliminary Investigations for the complete acquittal from all charges of the Commander of the ship Mare Jonio and the Head of Mission of MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans for the rescue operation carried out on 9th  May 2019. It is therefore moving towards dismissal for Captain Massimiliano Napolitano and coordinator and shipowner Beppe Caccia, who had been under investigation for two and a half years for crimes and offences such as “aggravated aiding and abetting illegal immigration” and two violations of the Navigation Code.

On 9th May 2019, the Mare Jonio ship, engaged in an observation and monitoring mission in the central Mediterranean, spotted in international waters in the SAR area attributed to Libya, about 35 miles north of Zuara, a small dinghy overloaded with thirty people, including two pregnant women, a 2-year-old girl and several unaccompanied minors. The rubber boat was taking on water and its engine had broken down: a few more hours and it would have sunk. The people on board, from Chad, Bangladesh, Sudan, Cameroon, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, who had no safety equipment at all, told the investigators that, certain of death, they had started to pray. Once rescued on board our ship, the Mare Jonio refused any contact with the Libyan authorities and disobeyed orders from the Italian Ministry of the Interior to hand over those survivors to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard in Tripoli. Instead, the Mare Jonio sailed north, disembarking all 30 rescued people the next morning in the safe port of Lampedusa. A police operation by the Guardia di Finanza, under the orders of the Viminale (Italian Ministry of the Interior), led to the confiscation of the ship, which lasted until the following August, and the opening of investigations against the Captain and the Head of Mission.

Thanks to the excellent work of our lawyers Serena Romano and Fabio Lanfranca, and after two and a half years of in-depth investigations, the Agrigento Public Prosecutor’s Office concluded that our behaviour and choices were absolutely legitimate, in that we had “fulfilled our duty to rescue people in danger of their lives at sea” and their subsequent disembarkation in a safe port. But the request for acquittal, signed by Public Prosecutors Salvatore Vella and Cecilia Baravelli, also states three things of crucial importance.

The first: given the situation in Libya and the criminal behaviour of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, it was right and proper not to communicate, let alone submit to the coordination of the authorities in Tripoli. Secondly, it was just as right and legitimate to request the safe port of disembarkation (“Place of Safety”) from the Italian authorities alone and to head to Lampedusa without hesitation. The third, referring to alleged violations of the Navigation Code for failure to comply with the Palermo Maritime Directorate’s Warning to “carry out rescue operations at sea in a stable and organised manner” without having obtained “the necessary authorisations and certifications” for the ship. A complaint which, since then, had paved the way for numerous cases of inspections and “administrative detentions” of civil fleet ships engaged in rescue activities in the Mediterranean. The Prosecutor’s Office of Agrigento clearly states that “the Mare Jonio was not required to obtain any SAR certification (…) since there is no prior certification in the Italian legislation for civilian vessels to carry out this activity’, just as the idea of establishing ‘a maximum number of shipwrecked people that can be boarded’ during a rescue operation is not admissible, as this is a matter for the exclusive assessment of the Commander of the vessel involved.

These are extraordinarily relevant points which, taken as a whole, confirm the full legitimacy of the work of the organisations and ships of the civil fleet engaged in the central Mediterranean. Once again, an enquiry into our actions is coming to a conclusion, confirming that there was nothing “unlawful” or “criminally relevant” in our choices. On the contrary, they have been and continue to be fair and correct in the face of continuing violations of fundamental rights and of international and national law, and of the outright illegal and criminal behaviour of States. In the words of the Agrigento Public Prosecutors: “certainly the activity of saving human lives at sea cannot be criminalised per se, because constitutes indeed a legal obligation for every seafarer”.

 

 

20th October 2021

News (EN)

“Let’s Dream Together”: migrants in Libya at the meeting with Pope Francis

“Let us dream together”. This was the appeal that Pope Francis made to the movements around the world at the fourth world meeting of popular movements.

We participated in the meeting with the movements of workers in the informal economy, cartoneros, indigenous people, peasants, exploited workers: the discarded and oppressed from all over the world who are self-organising to build another world from below and to fight together. Together today we shared our mutual experiences, we conveyed them to the Pope and together we challenged the inhuman extractivist capitalist system that grips the world, oppressing the poor and the land. For us in MEDITERRANEAN Saving Humans this is the “conspiracy for good”: organising ourselves to resist the violence and inhumanity that systems of power, even when they call themselves “democracies”, unload on women, men and children. As they do along the borders, as in Libya.

With us today were our brothers and sisters from Refugees in Libya, who have been demonstrating for a fortnight in front of the UNHCR headquarters in Tripoli, claiming for themselves and for all other migrants freedom from Libyan concentration camps and denouncing the deportations carried out at sea by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. A system, that of the “Libyan border” that our civilised and democratic governments finance and that has cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people.

We have told our brothers and sisters fighting in Tripoli that we are with them, we are together, and we will continue to dream and fight together with them and all the popular movements, to build from below, with our own hands, another possible world, where justice, freedom and universal fraternity are a reality. We are preparing to return to sea with the Italian civil rescue ship Mare Jonio even more convinced than before. Thank you, Pope Francis.

 

Link: https://youtu.be/m1RaNhdRzq8

News (EN)

World Meeting of Popular Movements: “The conspiracy of the good against the immutable”

MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans will participate to the next World Meeting of Popular Movements, which will see the participation and intervention of Pope Francis. The meeting, which will be held online on 16 October, brings together many realities of struggle and social activism from all over the planet, in what is a true global network of solidarity and cooperation that focuses on the struggle for change in favour of dignity, social justice and equality. Street vendors, cartoneros, miners, workers in marginalised and popular trades, movements for the right to housing, farmers and labourers: these are the “profiles” of so many situations of life and work, especially in the marginalised outskirts of cities, representing a humanity on its way to a promised land that has at its centre the rights of human beings and not the profits of a global market that makes the rich richer and richer and the poorer and poorer.

This imposed condition of life, precarious and poor, would seem to be the ineluctable destiny for billions of people, just as the accumulation of enormous wealth in the hands of the very few would seem to characterise the only possible world. But the struggles and determination of an entire planetary people to win better working conditions, better living conditions, and respect for their non-negotiable rights as human beings, draw a horizon of change that is not only possible but necessary.

This planetary movement is a people on the move: for this reason Mediterranea will bring its small and humble contribution as a witness of the struggles at the border. That of the central Mediterranean and the Balkan route, where its activists act, by sea and by land alongside women, men and children who every day challenge the violence and illegality of European institutions that want to prevent their right to a better life.

Migrants, in all their different and specific conditions, at every latitude and in every corner of the planet, find waiting for them the “Pharaoh’s armies”: barbed wire, tortures, concentration camps, killings, sufferings inflicted to keep them still, prisoners, to try to annihilate their dreams, desires, aspirations. Their hopes for a ‘promised land’.

Mediterranea, humbly, participates in this “conspiracy of good” against what seems immutable. Breaking through the barbed wire walls, supporting the people on their way all over the world, is tantamount to reaffirming every day the relevance of the Exodus and the battle for life and against death, to be waged against the armies of Pharaoh.

https://www.humandevelopment.va/en/eventi/2021/el-papa-francisco-participa-en-la-segunda-fase-del-iv-encuentro.html

News (EN)

Trapped at sea, waiting for rescue: 15 people killed by Fortress Europe

a report by Watch the Med - Alarm Phone

On 11 October 2021, Alarm Phone announced its 7th anniversary and commemorated the tragic shipwreck of 8 years earlier, 11 October 2013, when delays in rescue by Malta and Italy led to the deaths of over 200 people (https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1447518820659343360). On the same day, yet another tragedy unfolded off Libya and 15 people suffocated on board, while they were waiting for rescue (https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1447455425226477570).

As shown in the detailed timeline below, Alarm Phone had repeatedly alerted authorities to the wooden boat in distress with 105 people on board. The boat was just a few miles off the coast of Zuwara, Libya. Yet, it took about 10 hours for Libyan authorities to reach the boat. Italian authorities, on the other hand, just kept denying responsibility and refused to support a search and rescue operation. During this time, the boat was embarking water and at least 15 people, trapped on the lower deck of the wooden boat, lost their lives – probably due to the inhalation of toxic fumes.

Disturbing footage published by the Libyan Observer (TRIGGER WARNING – IMAGES OF DEAD BODIES https://twitter.com/Lyobserver/status/1447855514432442373 ) shows how the 15 asphyxiated people were being pulled out from the lower deck by fellow travellers. The video was shot by the so-called Libyan coastguard, who was evidently NOT helping to retrieve the bodies or checking on the health condition of the rescued – some people might still have been alive. Instead, they just watched and filmed.

In 2014, the Alarm Phone was launched with the aim of preventing deaths due to delays in rescue and non-assistance. Over the past seven years, the situation has only worsened, with the creation of the so-called Libyan search and rescue zone and the so-called Libyan coastguard.

On 11 October 2021, as in several other cases over the past years, we witnessed once again how the task of the so-called Libyan coastguard is not to rescue people, but to deter people from reaching Europe, on Europe’s behalf. To Europe, it does not matter whether people drown or are forced back to Libya: what counts is that they do not touch European soil, no matter the human costs.

This tragedy happened at the same time as thousands of migrants in Libya fear for their lives as they are being hunted down, threatened, detained, and killed by militias and police forces (See: https://twitter.com/RefugeesinLibya). EU member states keep on ignoring the ongoing disaster and continue their collaboration with the Libyan authorities and the UNHCR continuously claims that they cannot provide sufficient assistance.

We are angry, sad, and tired. We stand in solidarity with the families and friends of the 15 people whose lives were stolen by the EU border regime. We demand an immediate end to this organised violence, and this organised abandonment. We demand the abolition of this racist system that produces nothing but suffering and death. We demand to stop killing people at EU borders, to stop financing the so-called Libyan coastguard, to stop financing Frontex operations. We demand the freedom of movement for all.

TIMELINE – 11 October 2021

04:04 CEST – A group of about 105 people in distress calls Alarm Phone via a satellite phone. We later find out that they had departed from Zuwara the evening before. We can hear people screaming in the background. The situation on board appears very critical already in this first call and we do not manage to gather key information about the boat and its GPS position.

05:21 – After several attempts to communicate with the people in distress, we manage to receive the first GPS position of the boat: N33°07′, E12°09′.

05:35 – Alarm Phone speaks again with the people in distress to confirm the position and they read the following: N33°05′, E12°09′. The call breaks. Alarm Phone tries to re-establish contact to confirm key information, whilst being engaged in several other distress cases in other maritime regions.

06:02 – The people in distress call again and report that people are dying and that they want to be rescued as soon as possible, even if it means being returned to Libya.

06:10 – Alarm Phone sends the first mail to Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities, with several NGOs and international organisations in cc, mentioning that the travellers in distress reported that 2 people died.

06:38 – Alarm Phone tries to reach the so-called Libyan Coastguard and Zuwara Coastal Police via phone on several phone numbers, but in vain, as nobody answers the calls.

06:46 – Alarm Phone calls the Italian coastguard, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome, and informs them about the distress situation. They answer that we should try again to call Libyan authorities and hang up.

07:15 – The people in distress keep calling and say that the engine stopped, and their boat is sinking. They read an updated GPS position:  N 33°04′, E 012°10.

07:35 – We manage to reach a Lieutenant Colonel of the so-called Libyan coastguard, who asks Alarm Phone to send an updated position and promises they will send an asset.

07:40 – The people call again and read a new position: N33°04′, E012°10, which we forward to all authorities.

08:30 – Alarm Phone speaks to the people in distress again. They tell us that there are 5 pregnant women and 10 children on board. Communication keeps being difficult.

08:55 – Alarm Phone starts making public pressure for rescue and tweets: About 105 people are in danger off #Zuwara, #Libya, incl. pregnant women and approx. 10 children. According to people, the weather is deteriorating. We alerted relevant authorities and demand that a rescue operation is immediately launched! #DontLetThemDrown twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1447455425226477570

10:22 – The people in distress call Alarm Phone and say that they can see a boat approaching them. They think it is a rescue asset, but eventually it does not come close enough. We then realise it was a fishing vessel which left again without helping.

10:48 – The aircraft Seabird of Sea Watch is flying towards the distress case. Seabird reports a boat roughly at N33°00′, E012°13′, and confirms that a fishing vessel in the vicinity  is leaving the scene.

11:10 – The colonel of the so-called Libyan coastguard lets Alarm Phone know that their vessel is underway, and that they will keep Alarm Phone updated.

11:56 – The people on board lose their satellite phone and keep communicating with Alarm Phone via their mobile phone and WhatsApp. Alarm Phone is also contacted by a relative of someone on the boat, who is himself in contact with the people in distress.

13:19 – The colonel of the so-called Libyan coastguard confirms their vessel is still searching but could not find the people in distress.

13:19 – Alarm Phone tweets an update: ~7 hours since our first alert to authorities, the so-called Libyan Coastguards allege they have launched a search and rescue operation but people on board continue to report their situation is critical. They need to be rescued right now. #DontLetThemDrown https://twitter.com/alarm_phone/status/1447522179600506882

14:11 – The relative of one of the people on the boat calls Alarm Phone after speaking to the people in distress. He confirms that the people are still in distress at sea. He reports that according to the people on board water is entering the boat, that it is a double deck boat and that both engines are broken. He also sends an updated position of the people in distress: N32°58′, E012°12 received [email protected]:00 CEST – Alarm Phone forwards this position to authorities at 14:31.

14:19 – The colonel of the so-called Libyan coastguard informs Alarm Phone that the so-called Libyan coastguard might have found the boat and is now engaged in a rescue operation. He reports that there are dead people on board and that the boat is sinking.

14:52  – The colonel of the so-called Libyan coastguard informs Alarm Phone that their asset is still on scene and engaged in the ‘rescue’ operation. He confirms that the boat is embarking water and that people are piled on each other. He reports that there are dead bodies inside the boat and that it is difficult to get them because the boat is sinking and about to capsize.

18:12 – The colonel reports to Alarm Phone that the Sabratha vessel of the so-called Libyan coastguard recovered 14 dead bodies. He still does not know how many people were found alive.

22:05 – UNHCR Libya tweets an update about two boats intercepted off Libya (https://t.co/A0GYHypYKb): “Bodies of 15 persons recovered as 2 boats arrived at Tripoli Naval Base this evening. 177 survivors were provided aid, some in need of urgent medical help by UNHCR and partner, @RESCUEorg. The passengers had set off from Zwara and Alkhoms the night before (2 boats).”

 

News (EN)

MEDreport September 2021

curated by Silvia Decina and Gabriele Suriano

In September, the number of people who were forced to flee across the Mediterranean and reached Italy totalled 7,209. Since the beginning of the year, 46,291 people have arrived in Italy.
The number of people fleeing Libya and Tunisia continues to rise. It is obvious that this number has doubled in just the first 9 months of this year compared to the entire preceding year. The work carried out by humanitarian vessels is very precious and necessary. Is a Mediterranean Sea without their presence even conceivable?

The death toll is also constantly increasing. According to the IOM, the number of people who have died attempting to cross the central  Mediterranean since the beginning of this year has more than doubled compared to the same period last year. Incidents of refoulement have also continued to increase in this period.

Notably, the largest single autonomous arrival of people coming from Libya was recorded in September – 686 people aboard a fragile, old, 15 meter iron fishing boat.

Read our full report for September 2021 (link to download):

MedReport_2021_09_ENG
News (EN)

MEDreport August 2021

curated by Silvia Decina and Gabriele Suriano

In August, 9,945 people were forced to flee, crossed the Mediterranean Sea and managed to arrive in Italy.

Since the beginning of this year, the total number of people arrived in Italy is 39.082.

Even so, there are many people who have found their death in the central Mediterranean. Despite the pandemic and the extremely critical situation in Libya, the number of landings has not drastically increased, as many had predicted. We cannot ignore, however, the dirty work carried out daily by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, to which Rome and Brussels continue to entrust the control of the southern borders of Europe. A confirmation of the activity of interception by the Libyan militiamen is detectable by analyzing the data of last month and, in particular, the days from July 15 to 19: no landings in Italy despite the numerous departures from the Libyan coast.

Read our full report for August 2021 (link to download):

MedReport_2021-08_English_version
News (EN)

Defund Frontex, Build a European Search and Rescue programme

Over 18,709 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea since 2015. Their fundamental right to life was denied to them by the EU and its Member States, whose conscious, deliberate and carefully planned policies continue to condemn innocente lives at sea to date.

Everyone of these deaths is a direct consequence of Europe’s ever-growing obsession with borders; a mindset deeply rooted in the continent’s racist and colonialist worldview, crystallised into a rampant anti-migration political agenda.

Key to the enforcement and advancement of this border-centric, life-depriving agenda lies the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).
Frontex is currently the EU’s most powerful agency, with a €5.6 billion budget and it own army of 10,000 border guards due by 2027. The neglectful growth and expansion of the EU border agency took place during the period in which the Mediterranean Sea became the world’s deadliest migration route.
These events, which don’t merely coincide in time but are in fact closely intertwined, reveal a political choice being made as to where the EU’s priorities – and the valuable resources that come within – lie.

By choosing not to deploy the necessary resources to save lives at sea, the EU’s deliberation inaction has caused the death of thousands of people at sea. By relentlessly reinforcing its border policing, and by externalising further border control by the means of dangerous partnerships, the EU’s calculated action has condemned thousands of innocent lives.

Meanwhile, Frontex has not only become the central actor in implementing the EU’s wish to prevent people from seeking safety in Europe; the Eu border force has also used its expanded powers to pursue an agenda of its own, which further endangers the lives of people on the move.

The time is long-overdue to reverse this course. We must dismantle the structures that have caused – and continue to cause – violence and death at sea. In their place, we must build new systems and structures that create safety for all.

Read the full document, researched and authored by Frag Den Staat and Sea-Watch, down below:

DefundFrontex_briefingpaper
News (EN)

EU deals with contractors in order to surveil migrants

By Andrea Palladino, first published in Domani

Sovereign Global UK, a company owned by the businessman Fenech, who was arrested for violating the embargo on the sale of arms to Libyans, appears in the ESA’s Rapsody project, which is supposed to control the Mediterranean with drones. 

It is a grey area in the heart of the Mediterranean, a shadowy zone where the word ‘sovereignty’ is above all business. Weapons and ammunition manufacturers, brokers specialising in security and the supply of contractors, ships loaded with automatic rifles that function as real floating santabarbara (powder keg). In this no man’s land where traffickers and governments meet, migrants are first and foremost a lucrative business.

The ultra-technological project named Rapsody and sponsored by the European Space Agency (Esa) is an unexpected gateway into this world. An acronym for Remote Airborne Platform with Satellite Oversight Dependency, it involves the creation of a latest generation drone system designed for the European Maritime Safety Agency (Emsa), the European Commission operational arm in the Mediterranean. The drones will have powerful cameras capable of filming and taking pictures of the waters, images to be used for Search and Rescue operations, an activity that in Italy, Spain, Greece and Libya means trying to save the lives of thousands of migrants crammed into fragile rubber dinghies. Or – according to Frontex philosophy – turn them over to the Libyan Coast Guard, to send them back to the detention centers in Tripoli.

The project has as main contractor the Portuguese company Tekever, which is specialized in drones. It is partnered by Dsl, a spin-off of the University of Bremen, which deals with electronics. Alongside these companies there is England’s Sovereign Global UK. Nothing to do with technology: it is a piece of a holding company created in 2013, operating between Britain, Djibouti, West Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Malta. It has a well-known specialization in the industry: private security, contracting and arms supply. Until a few years ago, it operated a small fleet, with ships transformed into arsenals, real depots of automatic rifles available to armed escorts of convoys in the Gulf of Aden. The founders and managers are two Frenchmen, Bruno Pardigone and Jerome Paolini. Entrepreneurs who, through a complex Maltese and English corporate network, report to one of the most important arms dealers in Europe, James Fenech, a businessman arrested last year for violating the arms trade embargo with Libya.

Sovereign Global is not a new name in the complex migration scenario. Until March 2017 it owned the ship Suunta, a vessel that after a quick change of ownership and name change – it is now called C Star – was leased to the neo-fascist and racist organisation Génération Identitaire. After its departure from Djibouti, the ship was used by far-right militants for a long anti-NGO campaign in the central Mediterranean.

On board were a dozen Italian, French, Austrian and German leaders of Génération Identitaire. From the on-board radio they contacted the rescue ships, ordering them to move away from the area where the migrants were shipwrecked. For the French Interior Ministry, which disbanded the neo-fascist organisation last March, it was a paramilitary militia.

Photo Credit: Domani newspaper

Esa’s silence
Little information is available on the Esa Rapsody drone system. On the project page of the European Space Agency website, there is a list of companies involved, a few hints about their use (maritime security, anti-pollution and search and rescue operations) and little more.

No information is available on the tender for the selection of contractors and the amount funded. A presentation published on 30 November on the ESA website provides some technical data: the drones used are equipped with various sensors, laser illuminators, maritime radar, and Ais sensors to track the position of ships.

The space agency did not wish to respond to a request for more information on the choice of partner and contractors: “It’s holiday season at ESA, the people you need are all out of the office,” was the press office’s response to an email sent by Domani.

The return of Blackwater
In the heart of the Maltese village of Mellieha, with just over seven thousand inhabitants, is the Fieldsports armoury. Seen from the outside, it is a small shop window, a stone’s throw from the main church: if you ask around,’ says the Maltese newspaper The Shift, ‘the inhabitants describe the shop as a simple meeting place for local hunters. It is an appearance. This is the starting point of the empire of James Fenech, a businessman who is now considered one of Europe’s leading arms dealers, including warriors. He sells to everyone, including the European Commission: Fieldsports turns out to have been in 2017 the supplier of arms and ammunition to the European Union’s Eucap Sahel mission, created six years ago to deal with the crisis in northern Mali, one of the key strategic nodes at the origin of migratory flows.

Fenech was, for more than a year, partner and co-director of Pardigon in a British company specialized in war material, the founder of Sovereign Global, the supplier company of the ESA. And the two also share solid ties with the giant contractor Blackwater.

The American group, which has become famous for the heavy shadows on its operations in Iraq, was founded by Erik Prince, a businessman who has always been tied to the world of contractors. Fenech uses the name and logo of Blackwater to produce – through its subsidiary Pbm limited – high precision ammunition. The factory is not so far away: for two years it has been operating in Poggibonsi, in the province of Siena, run by Fenech’s Italian partner Nicola Bandini, another well-known arms dealer.

James Fenech is today under investigation in Malta on the charge of having given logistic support to a group of mercenaries contracted by two companies of Dubai, traceable – according to Bloomber – to a former affiliate of the American Blackwater.

Pardigon itself has had close relations with the Blackwater world. According to a cable disclosed by Wikileaks, the founder of the Sovereign group in 2013 helped the American mercenary company to set up in Djibouti.

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, had signed a long article in the Financial Times on 3 January 2017 proposing that the European Union should entrust contractor companies with the management of the migration crisis. In the financial statements of Sovereign Global, Pardigon and Paolini wrote clearly in 2014 that the future of their business lay in that direction.

After the collapse of the anti-piracy escort business, the group managed to secure a valuable contract to support the Nigerian Coast Guard. With one foot in the door of Esa’s space surveillance project over the Mediterranean, the Libyan front is not so far away.

News (EN)

This is how Frontex will monitor migrants from space

By Andrea Palladino, first published in Domani

Anyone carrying a cell phone in the Mediterranean may soon be under surveillance by the European agency, Frontex. This information will also be shared with the Libyan Coast Guard. 

Grainy photographs, a set of gray dots, three lighter stripes on a dark background with blurred shapes: they were Chinese rubber dinghies loaded with migrants having departed a few hours earlier from the Libyan coast- 370 people. Among them, nine children and four pregnant women. On October 10, 2015, Frontex announced, with great fanfare, the latest rescue in the central Mediterranean in coordination with the Italian authorities. It was not one of many routine operations: those vessels had been identified by analyzing satellite images scanning the waters between Libya and Italy. An unstoppable flow of data, images and coordinates entering the Eurosur Fusion Service platform was proudly announced to be a life-saving technology by the European border control agency.

Six years have passed. The strategy has already changed. The political and operational objectives are different now. The Libyan Coast Guard operates in those waters with a single rule of engagement: bring all shipwrecked migrants back to detention centers. It operates with money, equipment and technology kindly provided by Brussels and Rome. But above all, it operates with  valuable information that comes directly from the sky. Being very similar to the very powerful U.S. spy agency specializing in “sigint” or signals intelligence, it is a real NSA of the Mediterranean. Every second, this enormous amount of information, including interceptions, scanning of radio waves, high-precision photographs, eavesdropping on telephone conversations, GPS positioning, tracking of routes with millimetric precision, enters the “Fusion service” system managed by Frontex which is capable of generating intelligence reports.  Saving migrants is no longer the objective. This big eye on the Mediterranean is the long hand of Europe that is able, silently, to reject those who try to escape from Libya.

The partnership – The NSA of the Mediterranean operates mainly thanks to the collaboration with the military and security industry. Large companies specializing in intelligence have found a gold mine in the management of data to be provided to states committed to locking down borders. 

They’re aiming for space, asking for a ride for their satellites on billionaires Bezos’ and Musk’s missiles. They have a huge business in mind: “surveillance as a service” or rather,  the selling of data collected by spying from space. Data would be sold not only to states, but also to private individuals if they are willing to pay. 

In 2019, Frontex signed a contract for a pilot surveillance project in the Mediterranean with US-based HawkEye360. According to documentation published in the official European Gazette, the requested service involves “the interception of radio waves emitted by maritime radars, Ais transponders, satellite phones and, potentially of other assets, with geolocation of the equipment.” 

The no-bid contract was awarded directly for 1.5 million Euros. According to information available on the company’s website, HawkEye360 is financed by Advance which specializes in media and  technology, by Airbus, the aerospace company, by Esri, the international data analysis group, and by other holding companies active in cybersecurity, the space industry and intelligence services (Raytheon, Razor’s Edge, Night Dragon, Sumitomo, Space Angels and Shield).  In early July, HawkEye360 completed the launch of the last microsatellites specialized in radio frequency interception and currently has a network of 20 active satellites.

In the American company’s promotional video of its radio signal interception systems, it is possible to see the targets. In addition to maritime VHF channels and radar emissions, the satellites are able to scan the L band, that is the radio frequencies used by cell phones, satellites and the Galileo positioning system. Basically, all devices that emit waves can be monitored. “For example, according to a report published at the end of July by the American NGO Privacy International, the data would allow Frontex to track ships in the Mediterranean or potentially people in motion using satellite phones. In essence, anyone carrying a cell phone in the Mediterranean would be tracked. Frontex, responding to a request for further information from Privacy International, states that the system is currently only in a “pilot project” phase and that the agency “is not intercepting any communication.” However, the entire project is subject to secrecy constraints.  The European agency wrote to Privacy International stating, “Revealing information about the technologies used in the operational area by Frontex and member states  (…) could benefit criminal networks.”

Shared information – The information entering the Eurosur platform used by Frontex to monitor the Mediterranean is shared not only with EU member countries. The system’s regulations also provide for access by North African countries, including Libya. As previously stated, the European Border Agency provides valuable information to the Coast Guard in Tripoli to locate boats carrying migrants. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The 2019 Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights report revealed how “information collected by aircraft, drones and satellites from member states and EU agencies is shared with all relevant authorities, including those in Libya.” Valuable data for the Coast Guards in Tripoli, “this information appears to be particularly conducive to further interception and deportation by the Libyan Coast Guard to unsafe ports which is against international maritime law and human rights,” the Council of Europe report explained.

This time, aid for Libya’s efforts to push-back migrants comes directly from space. 

 


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