Daily Archives: June 25, 2015

Press Releases: Briefing on the 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: All right. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Hello, everyone. It’s good to be here. Before I answer your questions, let me take a few minutes to talk about the 2014 reports and highlight some of the major developments that we have documented in this past year.

As the Secretary emphasized, the Human Rights Reports demonstrate America’s commitment to human rights, and they’re a tool in their own right in the advancement of those rights. They cover 199 countries and entities. They strive to provide a comprehensive and factual review of conditions around the world. They are also the most widely read document that we put out at the State Department every single year. And I think that just reminds us that what America says about human rights around the world – just the words – matters greatly.

Now despite all the problems that the reports describe, I want to start by noting that people working for democracy and human rights around the world made many advances in the last year and in recent months.

In Burkina Faso, people stood up to uphold their constitution, part of a larger movement for term limits that is manifesting itself across Africa and in many parts of the world today.

In Ukraine, peaceful protests helped citizens reclaim their country’s traditions of freedom of speech and political choice.

In Afghanistan and Indonesia, millions people went to the polls and chose among all the candidates before them leaders with the most progressive, democratic visions of their country’s future.

This year – too late to be included in these reports – we saw two more elections in which people affirmed their right to choose and change their leaders in Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

That said, when you scan the headlines from Syria to North Korea to South Sudan, it’s clear that overall 2014 was a tough year for human rights and human rights activists. We highlight many specific cases, of course, in the reports, and more have developed this year; for example, the disappearance of Zimbabwean civil society activist Itai Dzamara, who has been missing for over 100 days now. The United States urges the Government of Zimbabwe to pursue a credible investigation of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Now as the Secretary said, one of the notable trends this past year was the brutality of non-state actors. These groups did not emerge from nothing. Violent extremism in Nigeria was exacerbated by the actions and in some ways the inaction of the previous government there. In Syria, Daesh’s rise was fueled by Assad’s horrific abuses. In Iraq, Daesh took hold because many in the Sunni community felt marginalized, that their legitimate grievances were being ignored by the government in Baghdad.

As President Obama noted in the 2015 National Security Strategy, many of our biggest national security challenges come from the biggest human rights failures. So our response to terrorist groups must be consistent with human rights too, which leads us to another troubling trend that the reports identify: the misapplication of counterterrorism laws to stifle criticism and restrict the space for civil society.

For example, in Saudi Arabia, peaceful internet activist Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 100 lashes by a court originally set up to try terrorists. Egypt has used a real threat of terrorism to justify the prosecution of nonviolent opposition figures, human rights activists, and demonstrators. Bahrain has a legitimate interest in protecting its people against violent groups, yet its government has focused much of its energy on prosecuting peaceful critics, including this year opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman. Last year in China, Ilham Tohti, an Uighur scholar who promoted moderation and reconciliation among ethnic groups, was sentenced to life in prison.

Now we ask partner governments to make many contributions in the fight against groups like Daesh, but amongst the most important contributions that we ask for is to set an example in their own societies that grievances can be addressed through peaceful democratic politics so as not to feed into terrorist propaganda that violence is the only answer.

Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine is another example of human rights crises sparking first-order challenges to our national security. Our 2014 reports highlight the abuses associated with this conflict and the territory Russian-backed separatists control and in Crimea. Meanwhile, even as Russia denies being involved in the conflict, it continues to detain Ukrainians on Russian soil. Many are aware that Russia is holding Ukrainian pilot and member of parliament Nadiya Savchenko. In fact, there may be many more cases. All should be returned home.

The Russian Government’s efforts to abolish domestic discussion of its intervention in Ukraine is just one example of how its behavior abroad mirrors and reinforces the persecution the Russian people face at home. Seventy-six of the country’s most respected NGOs are now listed as foreign agents, and a new law banning undesirable foreign organizations will intensify this trend. There has been no progress in identifying those ultimately responsible for past murders of journalists, activists, and – now with the killing of Boris Nemtsov – leaders of the political opposition.

Another prominent trend was the use of technology to control the flow of information. Last year, Gmail saw its traffic in China reduced to zero when Chinese authorities prevent mainland users from accessing it. In Turkey, government authorities blocked YouTube and Twitter for several days in the lead-up to elections. And in Cuba, while the government has publicly committed to expanding internet access, access remains restricted for the vast majority of the population – something that we will be working with U.S. service providers to help change.

Access to information is also critical to fighting corruption, and the Secretary highlighted that as another major theme of the reports this year: the connection between corruption, human rights abuses, and authoritarian governments. This is evident in many, many places. Venezuela is one country that we highlighted in this context in this report.

In China, while the government cracked down on corruption, it also convicted civil society activists associated with the New Citizens Movement in retribution for their public campaign to expose official corruption, including Xu Zhiyong and Yang Maodong. China has now introduced draft laws on foreign NGOs, national security, and counterterrorism which appear to call into question its commitment to the path of opening to the world that has supported its transformation over the past three decades. We expressed our very serious concerns about these draft laws at the Strategic & Economic Dialogue this week and we will continue to do so.

Now these are all very tough issues. There is no single approach or remedy, and change sometimes takes a long time. But we must and do press for change because our hopes for peace and security and prosperity depend on respect for human rights. These reports make clear that this is the standard towards which we must strive and to which we will be held. And in that spirit, I welcome your questions.

MR KIRBY: Okay. We’ve got time for just a few of them. I’ll moderate. Please, Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just want to – one, and I’ll be very brief: Why was the report so late this year? I mean, the conspiracy theories are fast and furious out there. I’ve heard three myself. I’ll just mention them quickly: It had something to do with Trade Promotion Authority, or it had to do with the Strategic & Economic Dialogue which was just completed yesterday and offending China, or the Iran talks.

And then just secondly, I’m just wondering if you – your office – has any problem or sees any disparity between what the reports say about Iran and Cuba and the Administration’s engagements with both of them that are presumably coming to fruition pretty soon.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Got it, thanks. So first, on the delay: At the outset of this process, we decided – the Secretary and I decided that we wanted to release the reports at a time when we would both be here to do it. And that is admittedly not a requirement, but it’s something that we felt was important to demonstrate our commitment, his commitment to this issue. So what happened was with that in mind, we scheduled it for a date, first back in March. His travel schedule changed. We scheduled it for another date; it changed. At one point, I canceled a date that we had because I decided I wanted to go to Burundi to deal with the crisis there. And each time, it was, “Well, no big deal, because we’ll do it next week, we’ll do it next week.” And then the Secretary had his injury, which also obviously affected his ability to come down here and to do it.

The result was a delay that was far longer than any of us wanted. None of us were happy with it, but it – I think it’s fairly clear given what’s happening this week and where the Secretary is going next week that it had nothing to do with some of the issues that you mentioned. And if you want an alternative conspiracy theory, I will suggest that it was actually a devious plot to build interest and anticipation in the report so that you all will cover it. And Matt, I think you promised us wall-to-wall coverage.

QUESTION: Well, I didn’t – I promised that we would —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Can I hold you to that?

QUESTION: I promised that everyone would have wall-to-wall coverage, not just us.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Good, I’m – there you go.

QUESTION: And then on Cuba and Iran —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: But on Cuba and Iran, look, one of our sayings here is that engagement is not the same thing as endorsement. And with respect to Cuba, I think that is – that should be crystal-clear, that our opening to Cuba – and I’ve spoken about this many times – was designed because we felt that the new policy is better suited to promoting human rights in Cuba than the old policy. And as you well know, the opening was associated very closely with the release of over 50 political prisoners in Cuba. The situation needs to get far better before any of us can say that we are where we want to be, but we feel that what we have done is to take the Cuban Government’s – take away the Cuban Government’s ability to say that the problems on the island are the fault of the United States and the embargo, and to put the focus where it belongs – on their actions and on their policies.

QUESTION: What about Iran, Tom?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: On Iran – look, I mean, the nuclear talks – the purpose of the nuclear talks, as we have explained many, many times, is to deal with the nuclear issue. It is not to deal with the human rights issue. It’s a separate concern. But we have made it absolutely clear that we – regardless of the outcome of the Iran talks, we are going to continue to speak up and stand out and stand up for human rights in Iran; that if any sanctions are lifted as a result of a nuclear deal, the human rights-related sanctions will remain in place.

QUESTION: Tom, just to follow on that – on that answer and to ask you to elaborate a little bit, this is – this report’s a one-year snapshot, but it’s issued every year. So I’d just like you to explain what you see the trends are in Cuba and in Iran. Since President Rouhani became president in Iran in 2013, do you see any discernable improvement in Iran’s human rights record? And since the Obama Administration began its opening to Cuba, has there been any improvement in the human rights situation there, or is it pretty much as it was a year prior?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Sure. With respect to Iran, I can’t say that we have seen any meaningful improvement in the human rights situation in Iran, and if you read the reports and compare them to previous years’ reports, you will find the details of what we are concerned about. And it involves, obviously, widespread reports of torture; political imprisonment; repression against ethnic and religious minority communities; government harassment of journalists, bloggers, activists, and so forth.

With respect to Cuba, I think we did see a fairly dramatic decision by the Cuban Government to release the vast majority of political prisoners who we had been raising concern about for some time. We have not yet seen a letup in the kind of day-to-day harassment that civil society activists face in Cuba. Short-term arrests, unfortunately, have continued. I am not particularly surprised about that. We, in fact, I think, expected that precisely because the Cuban Government would be nervous about the implications of the opening, that in the short term they might actually intensify a crackdown. We very firmly believe that in the long run, for the reasons I mentioned in response to Matt’s question, this is going to put us in a much stronger position to promote human rights and to stand by civil society on the island.

MR KIRBY: Lesley?

QUESTION: Tom, can I just follow up on that? How many are those short-term detentions? You gave Congress a figure recently of since the – since Obama and Castro announced this agreement. Have we seen the numbers of prisoners increase or decrease? And what are they currently?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Well, there’s a distinction here between —

QUESTION: Short-term —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: — prisoners who have been convicted, right, who are —

QUESTION: Right.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: — in for months or years. Short term, we’re talking about people who were picked up for a day or two to prevent them —

QUESTION: Right.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: — from having a meeting or a rally or doing other things. What I mentioned to Congress – and we factually report the numbers as we get them – was a significant decline earlier this year.

QUESTION: Right.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: I was very cautious in not suggesting that we thought that this was necessarily a trend; it was simply a fact at that time. In the last few months we’ve seen an increase from those low numbers. And so as I just mentioned, this is a problem that continues.

MR KIRBY: Said.

QUESTION: Thank you, John. Thank you, sir. My name’s Said Arikat. I just want to talk about the section that pertains to Israel and the West Bank. Now, you cite figures that are really consistent with the United Nations Commission of Inquiry. My first question is: Why do you reject – if it’s so consistent, why do you reject the commission’s – the United Nations Commission of Inquiry? And second, you also cite improvement by both Israel and the West – and the Palestinian Authority. Could you share with us some of those improvements? Thank you, sir.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: For those details, I would refer you to the report on the commission of inquiry. Look, we – during the conflict, we made clear from this podium, the Secretary and others, that we supported Israel’s right to self-defense. At the same time, we were deeply concerned about the welfare of civilians and urged all parties to do all they could to protect civilians, particularly given the high civilian death toll in Gaza.

Now, with that said, it is important to look back. It is important to understand what happened, to learn the lessons, to apply those lessons. It’s also important to do it in a balanced way. And it’s no secret that we have long felt that that balanced approach has not been a hallmark of the Human Rights Council’s approach to Israel. And so our concerns about the report and the process we’ve made clear for that reason. Thanks.

MR KIRBY: You had a question?

QUESTION: You mentioned Venezuela as a country that you highlight in the report. Could you go over the specifics?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: I mentioned Venezuela first of all in the context of corruption. And I think that is deliberate. Well, I guess everything we say is deliberate. But the reason I mention that is that there is – we often hear from the Government of Venezuela very strong propaganda directed to the United States and American interference and blaming the United States for problems in the country. And yet we have also found that not only are there very high levels of corruption in Venezuela, but they often involve people who are part of the government, supporters of the government, and then enjoying the proceeds of their corruption in the United States. And that’s one reason why we took action earlier this year in imposing a visa ban not just against human rights violators, but against those responsible for high-level official acts of corruption in Venezuela.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name’s Elliot Waldman with Tokyo Broadcasting System. I was wondering if I could ask you – yesterday at the end of the Strategic & Economic Dialogue, Chinese officials, with regard to the NGO laws, said that it was a matter of strengthening rule of law within China, and that they had done it with consultations in – with other countries; that essentially there was nothing to worry about. I guess I’m wondering, when you raise the kinds of concerns that you just mentioned to us to Chinese officials, do you feel there is any kind of – do you feel they’re being receptive at all to it, or do you kind of feel like they’re – you’re repeating the same thing over and over again and it’s just falling on deaf ears?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: We’ll see. In my diplomatic career, I don’t think I’ve ever had a meeting in which people on the other side respond to a brilliant point that I’ve made by saying, “You know? You’re right, and we’re wrong, and we’ll change what we’re doing.” I think that the Chinese side received a very, very strong and unified message at the S&ED not just from me or the Secretary of State but from people from every agency on the dangers of this NGO law. And the reason why it was a unified message was that this affects everybody who does business in China. It potentially affects foundations. It potentially affects businesses. Potentially affects cultural exchange, student and educational exchange, in addition to people who are working on issues like rule of law and human rights.

And whatever China does, I think it is going to find that moving in this direction will result in a very concerted and unified push from quarters that it doesn’t necessarily – that it isn’t necessarily used to hearing from. And so we will see what happens. We’re very concerned about the implications of it and about the rhetoric of fear of cultural infiltration that the Chinese Government is using to justify this law domestically and what that says about China’s future development.

MR KIRBY: Take just a couple more.

Right here.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this briefing. Two things: You mentioned at the top of the briefing that this is the most read document that the State Department issues. Could you give us the numbers, quantify that somehow? And secondly, in the section on Iran, I notice that you don’t refer to any American citizens by name. You just call them dual citizens, and I’m wondering why that is.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Yeah. On the first – I’ll have to get you the numbers. I don’t —

QUESTION: Okay.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: I don’t know them off the top of my head. But it has long been so, and it continues to be the most widely read document.

On the dual citizens, we generally – and there’s not an absolute rule on this but we generally don’t mention American citizens by name when we mention them in this report. We followed this year the same practice with respect to Amir Hekmati, to Pastor Abedini, and to Jason Rezaian – we followed the same practice as last year with the exception that Jason’s case is new this year – in the sense that we describe them; it’s absolutely clear that these are the cases that we describe, but we didn’t name them.

I think one reason for that is that the report cannot be a comprehensive listing of people, of individuals who are detained around the world under these circumstances. So what we tried to do is to us the stories of the cases to illustrate a larger human rights problems. And so that really is the main point of naming them in the first place, to talk about the pattern in Iran or others in other countries of detaining people unjustly for reporting stories or the peaceful exercise of their opinions.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Janne.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Tom. Concerning on the human rights situation in North Korea, what is the United States destination for the improvement of human rights in North Korea currently?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: What is our?

QUESTION: Destinations.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Destinations?

QUESTION: Yes.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Well, our destination still appears quite off – far off, that our destination is that the people of North Korea should enjoy the same rights and freedoms as the people of South Korea and the people of every country in the world who are able to speak their minds and elect their leaders and to travel where they want, and not to be, for goodness sakes, placed in labor camps because of something they’ve said or thought or because of who their relatives are.

Now that, as I mentioned, destination seems very difficult to achieve, but I think it is very, very interesting that in the last several years we have seen inside North Korea far greater awareness among the population of what their rights are and of how people outside of North Korea live. What has sustained this regime over many, many years is – has been its ability to deny people that knowledge. And its ability to do that has eroded considerably in the last few years and we are doing everything we can to try to get knowledge and information to the people of North Korea so that this trend continues.

I think one lesson we’ve learned from changes in many other countries is that change takes time, but when it comes it often surprises us and goes very quickly. And I think that day will come when we see that happen in North Korea.

QUESTION: Do you feel that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un bring into ICC – International Criminal Court – in the near future?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: I think that the leadership of North Korea is under more pressure on human rights today than it has been at any point in its history, and that is partly, frankly, because of the efforts of this Administration and our allies and partners in Japan and South Korea and all over the world to support this commission of inquiry and its recommendations and to bring this issue to greater public attention. And it is interesting how the North Koreans have responded. People used to think they didn’t care what we think about their human rights record. That is clearly not true.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Thank you, honorable assistant secretary, and thanks to Secretary Kerry for this report. This is Mushfiqul Fazal. On Bangladesh, do you think this – the human rights situation of Bangladesh is satisfactory, as Bangladesh is facing many challenges on democracy, human rights, and people rights?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Again, for the details – I’m sure you’ll read the chapter – but I can say that since the one-year anniversary of the flawed 2014 elections in Bangladesh, we have been in regular contact with political leaders, with civil society, to urge a peaceful resolution to the political impasse there, to end the violence that has disrupted daily life and killed and wounded innocent victims. We’ve condemned in very strong terms the use of violence for political objectives, but also emphasized the government’s responsibility to allow peaceful political activity and to use appropriate levels of force in dealing with threats to law and order.

MR KIRBY: You’re the last one, Elise.

QUESTION: The Secretary mentioned countries that the U.S. is friendly with might have a problem with this report. But I’m just wondering on the opposite of that. I mean, when you look at a country like Egypt, clearly the death sentence of Mohamed Morsy and some of the other things that you’ve had problems with happened this year. But clearly last year there was a massive crackdown on not just people who had committed crimes, but also just in general members of the Muslim Brotherhood. And there has been a criticism that the U.S. has not been as forceful as it could be because of its important relationship with the new Sisi government. And I’m wondering – if you look back on the last year, you had some problems in Bahrain, clearly Egypt is another issue where you have a close ally. And I’m wondering if those – if you could reflect a little bit about the past year and how – whether these political, important national security relationships make it difficult for you to be able to advance human rights in the way that a human rights defender, such as yourself, looks at these issues.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Sure. These are difficult issues and they require difficult choices. If it was easy, I wouldn’t be interested in having this job. It would be really boring.

People – even people who are deeply committed to the defense of human rights around the world often disagree about the best way to do it. But as you mentioned, I’ve been here for a year now, and I’ve been in all the discussions and conversations and involved in virtually all the decisions that we’ve made on those issues. And I can tell you that the objective of defending human rights, the objectives that the Secretary very eloquently just spoke about, have been front and center in everything that we have tried to do.

I mean, look at how we launched our campaign against ISIL – by first and foremost seeking a more inclusive government in Iraq and then launching an effort to protect the Yezidi people from a potential genocide. Look at how we’ve leveraged TPP to try to get improvements in labor rights and human rights in Vietnam, or how we used the Cuba opening in the way that I just discussed, or prioritize the democratic transition in Sri Lanka before re-engaging there. So I – time and time again, I think we have made decisions with that objective in mind, often getting results, including some of the ones that I mentioned. And then sometimes it’s very difficult because this is not the only interest that we have in the world. It is an interest. It is intimately related to our national security and our prosperity, but it is not the only one. And it would not be – it would be childish and unrealistic to suggest that it can be or should be the only one.

With respect to Egypt and Bahrain, two countries that are in the middle of a region in turmoil where we have very important interest in partnering with governments in the fight against terrorism, among other things, we have still kept this issue front and center. We have not gone back to exactly the same military relationship that we had with Egypt before all of this started. We encouraged, as you know, very strongly the release of Mohamed Soltan and we were very happy to see that happen. And we will continue to press for the release of all of the other activists, opposition – non-violent opposition figures who remain in prison, and the Egyptian Government knows that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR KIRBY: Thanks, everybody. We’re going to have to call it there. Thank you. Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MALINOWSKI: Thank you, everyone.

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini upon arrival at the…

Check against delivery

It will be a Council largely dedicated to our response to migration. Only few months ago we came here with the priority of saving lives. We have done a lot when it comes to our external action. I expect the Council today to recognise the important work we have done with the Foreign Ministers; with the rest of the Commission when it comes to saving lives at sea; when it comes to cooperation with third countries: countries of origin, countries of transit. And also with the launch of the operation against the smugglers that the very same Heads of State and Government asked me to prepare two months ago and that is launched now.

I expect the Council to take consistent and coherent decisions when it comes to internal policies on migration and share responsibility and solidarity among all Member States in this respect.

Tomorrow we will have the chance to discuss the security dimension together with the NATO Secretary General.  I will present an assessment of the global challenges we face and present my work in view of the new EU global strategy for the future.

I will also report on the work we have done in these past months on counterterrorism, [as far as external affairs are concerned].

In Italian

Credo che sia molto importante che oggi il Consiglio riconosca il lavoro che è stato fatto in questi mesi sul versante esterno. Rispetto all’operazione che è stata lanciata, in tempo record di due mesi, e rispetto al dialogo con i paesi di origine e di transito. Soltanto una settimana fa ero qui con i ministri dei paesi subsahariani del Sahel per lavorare su come meglio gestire i flussi migratori, come meglio gestire i flussi migratori, come meglio sostenere anche loro in questa sfida, che è anche un interesse europeo. Credo che oggi i capi di Stato e di Governo dovranno essere altrettanto coerenti e consistenti per quanto riguarda la parte interna delle nostre politiche di accoglienza anche perché la parte interna delle nostre politiche rafforza la nostra credibilità quando andiamo a parlare con i nostri interlocutori in Africa o nel mondo arabo e condividere la gestione di questi flussi. Credo che se la discussione andrà come spero che vada, come ho già detto un po’ di tempo fa, sarà una soluzione non perfetta, ma comunque rivoluzionaria nell’accogliere il principio di solidarietà che fino a qualche settimana fa non era sul tavolo.

Grazie

Link to the Videos:

http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I105781

http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I105793

EU toughens stance on migrant returns

OXFORD, 25 June 2015 (IRIN) – More than 125,000 migrants and asylum-seekers have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, all carrying the hope that they will be able to start new lives in Europe. Many more will have arrived by other means using forged documents or will have overstayed on their visas.

Those from countries subject to conflict or severe human rights abuses such as Syria and Eritrea have a good chance of being able to remain in the European Union as refugees. But the majority will be classified as irregular migrants who, in theory, can be returned to their home countries. 

In practice, many member states lack the capacity to round up and return thousands of undocumented migrants and failed asylum-seekers to home countries that are often reluctant to receive them.

In 2014, more than half a million third-country nationals were found to be “illegally present” in the EU. The vast majority were issued with so-called return decisions ordering them to leave within a prescribed period. Those who didn’t comply were supposed to be removed by force, but in reality only about 40 percent were, according to Eurostat figures.

In some countries, the percentage was considerably lower. Italy, for example, only returned 5,310 irregular migrants in 2014, despite being the most popular landing point for migrants arriving by sea. By contrast, the UK returned 46,610 migrants – 71 percent of the total number of people it issued with return decisions.

Faced with increasing chaos at its borders, the EU Commission is urging member states to take a tougher stance on returns. Draft conclusions from Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels note that “all tools shall be mobilised to promote readmission of illegal migrants to countries of origin and transit,” and that an increased budget will be made available to support more effective returns.

In a 9 June letter to interior ministers, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos pointed out that, “Economic migrants pay high prices to smugglers to bring them to Europe… knowing that once they are in the EU they have a good chance to stay here, even if they are ordered to leave.”

In an effort to increase return rates, Avramopoulos urged EU leaders to make use of “coercive measures,” including the use of detention to prevent migrants absconding before they can be returned.

Increased use of detention 

He called on countries confronted with large numbers of arrivals to take advantage of an emergency clause of the EU Return Directive that allows irregular migrants, including families with children, to be detained in prisons rather than in separate immigration detention facilities, for up to 18 months.
Italy is the only country that has ever applied the emergency clause, during the influx of migrants and asylum-seekers to Lampedusa Island as a result of the Arab Spring in 2011.

The detention of migrants, including minors, for longer periods in prison settings would be viewed as a major retrograde step by rights groups, who have long campaigned for an end to immigration detention altogether. Not only, they argue, does it have negative effects on those detained, particularly children, but there are also more humane alternatives that would cost the taxpayer less.

“I think it represents a hardening of attitudes as part of a general concern about trying to manage the big increase in numbers,” Steve Peers, a law professor at the University of Essex, told IRIN.

Forced fingerprinting

Writing for the UK non-profit website Statewatch, Peers pointed out that the EU Commission also recently published a paper providing guidelines for the use of force – as a last resort – on migrants who refuse to be fingerprinted.

“To say the least, this is hard to square with the EU’s frequent professions of support for the human rights and decent treatment of migrants,” he wrote.

The issue of fingerprinting and identifying migrants on arrival is crucial to improving return rates, noted Avramopoulos in his letter. It is also central to the soon-to-be launched “Hotspot” approach outlined in the European Agenda on Migration, which will see the European Asylum Support Office, Europol and Frontex deploying staff to frontline states, Greece and Italy, to assist with the screening and identification of new arrivals.

Faced with record numbers of boat arrivals in the past year, Greece and Italy have been accused of neglecting to register and fingerprint large numbers of migrants who have then proceeded north through Europe’s border-free Schengen zone to countries such as France and Germany. Under the EU’s Dublin Regulation, asylum-seekers can be returned to the first member state where they were registered, but without fingerprint records such returns are impossible.

EU leaders are expected to reach a decision about a deal to relocate 40,000 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy to other member states by the end of July. Key to the agreement will be a commitment by the two frontline states to implement the Hotspot approach and fingerprint all new arrivals.  

“In a way it undercuts the relocation process because it could mean that more [asylum-seekers] will end up in Italy,” said Peers, adding that Greece has remained exempt from returns under the Dublin Regulation because of the poor state of its asylum system and detention conditions.

Return agreements with third countries

Other measures aimed at improving return rates include amending the role of EU border agency Frontex so it can initiate return operations. Currently, Frontex is limited to coordinating returns after being approached by member states. 

The EU also plans to offer various incentives such as trade agreements and development aid to persuade countries of origin, particularly those in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, to take back their citizens through readmission agreements.

Avramopoulos described the EU’s eastern flank as “well-covered” by such agreements with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and nations in the Western Balkans, but pointed out that “the EU has no readmission agreements in force with the North African countries,” although, “not for lack of trying.”

While discussions about migration at Thursday’s EU Summit focused on how to improve return rates, rights groups and NGOs called on EU leaders to rethink policies that are failing to provide protection and adequate reception facilities to large numbers of asylum-seekers and vulnerable migrants. 

Referring to “a crisis of human suffering” at EU borders, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) accused member states of neglecting their humanitarian duty.

“The current system, which includes the Dublin Regulation, is clearly not working. Returning vulnerable people to Italy under the Dublin Regulation should immediately be suspended,” said Loris de Filippi, president of MSF Italy. 

“Urgent action should be taken to allow asylum-seekers entering through EU’s southern borders to get the assistance and protection they are entitled to according to EU directives.”

ks/ag

Niger attacks Boko Haram targets after militants intensify activity inside Niger

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African securityNiger attacks Boko Haram targets after militants intensify activity inside Niger

Published 25 June 2015

Niger’s army has said it killed fifteen Boko Haram militants in land and air operations against the Islamist group. Earlier this year, frustrated by the Nigerian army’s ineffectiveness, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger told Nigeria that they would join the war against the Islamists – including conducting operations inside Nigeria. The military operations by the three countries have pushed Boko Haram out of many areas it used to control – but in retaliation, Boko Haram has intensified its attacks on Nigeria’s three neighbors.

Niger’s army has said it killed fifteen Boko Haram militants in land and air operations against the Islamist group. The army said it also took twenty prisoners and destroyed an armored vehicle, twenty-six motorbikes, and two caches of food and fuel.

Colonel Moustapha Ledru of the Niger army did not say whether the Chadian army, which has positioned large numbers of troops in Niger, had participated in the operation. Ledru also refused to answer questions about whether the operations have taken place in Niger or inside neighboring Nigeria.

VOA reports that since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its campaign to establish a strict Islamic state in Nigeria’s north east, the Nigerian military has proven itself no match for the militants. Hollowed out by corruption and demoralized by incompetent leadership, the army’s ineffectiveness allowed Boko haram to expand its control over larger areas, and expand its area of operations.

Nigeria refused offers of help from neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger – but earlier this year, when Boko Haram, unmolested by the Nigerian military, began to operate inside these three countries, they told former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan that they would begin a military campaign against the militants – including attacking Boko Haram in Nigerian soil. Jonathan, who was locked in a tight presidential election campaign – which he would subsequently lose – accepted the ultimatum of Nigeria’s neighbors, and allowed their armies and air forces to operate inside Nigeria.

The tide of the war against the militants had turned, and Boko Haram had been pushed back from many areas it used to control.

The Chad air force had proved especially effective, inflicting heavy losses on the militants.

The Nigerian army also appeared to have been invigorated by the performance of its neighbors, and in the last few months showed itself to me a more effective fighting machine.

In an effort to retaliate against the growing involvement of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger in the war, Boko Haram has increased its terror activities inside these countries. A double suicide attack carried out by Boko Haram caused carnage in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, earlier in June, killing thirty-three people and wounding more than 100 others. The announcement by the Niger army’s operation came after an attack by Boko Haram militants in south-east Niger last week killed thirty-eight civilians, most of them women and children. The attack in Diffa province near Nigeria was the deadliest in Niger by the jihadist group since a raid in April killed seventy-four people.

Niger’s interior minister has ordered the military to conduct air and land operations as the country’s security forces seek to “capture and neutralize” the attackers.

Earlier this week, Boko Haram gunmen killed at least forty-two people in two separate attacks in north-east Nigeria, as the Islamist group continues to attack civilians.

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Globalstar Now Offers Pan-African Satellite Coverage

African Businesses to Benefit From Leading Edge, Low Cost Satellite Communications

COVINGTON, La., June 25, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Globalstar, Inc. (NYSE MKT:GSAT) today announced that its gateway in Gaborone, Botswana has gone live, enabling Globalstar to deliver affordable simplex coverage over the African continent. This new gateway, in partnership with Broadband Botswana Internet (BBi), provides Globalstar’s full line of simplex services, including its SPOT portfolio of affordable personal tracking and life-saving solutions.

Much of the African continent has limited terrestrial and/or cellular infrastructure. In these regions in particular, Globalstar’s satellite services, which leverage the industry’s only complete next generation satellite constellation in orbit, provide a compelling must-have solution for seamless tracking of people and assets. The Globalstar network enables professional, corporate and government users to monitor vital infrastructure, taking advantage of the capabilities of M2M and the emerging Internet of Things. Globalstar simplex solutions can also enhance the effectiveness of life-saving emergency first responder services.

A wide range of Africa-based commercial and government users, as well as consumers, can now take advantage of Globalstar’s new blanket simplex coverage:

Oil & gas providers operating in Africa can benefit from precise, time and resource-saving solutions from the M2M-based, SmartOne product line. Remote workers in remote areas on land or offshore, can keep head office, customers, family and friends abreast of their location with SPOT Gen3(R). It also provides a one-touch lifeline in an emergency.

African mining, construction and engineering companies can help safeguard staff and equipment even in the most remote areas of the continent with SPOT Gen3 and SPOT Trace and SmartOne products.

Commercial trucking companies can more accurately track and monitor their fleets with SmartOne from Globalstar. At the core of SmartOne is a vibration sensor that alerts owners to any motion, such as attempts of theft. The device not only relays a vehicle’s location accurately, but it can dynamically report engine runtime and monitor faults, both of which can significantly enhance operating efficiency.

Farmers in Africa can monitor their valuable livestock with Globalstar-enabled tracking collars including FindMyAnimal (www.findmysheep.com). Animals can be tracked wherever they roam, helping to protect against theft and mitigating the risks of natural predators. The collars can also help farmers remotely monitor the status of water and feed sources for far-flung herds. Globalstar-enabled tracking collars are being used to protect livestock throughout Northern and Central Africa. Now farmers everywhere in Africa can benefit.

Animal preservation agencies can better help ensure the survival and welfare of Africa’s many endangered species by using Globalstar powered wildlife tracking solutions provided by Globalstar’s VAR partners. Globalstar’s small, rugged devices are being used to monitor several elephant herds in North Africa. With the Botswana teleport now live, scientists and preservation professionals across Africa can gain a better understanding of migration patterns and animal behavior which will lead to more effective conservation.

Local and National Governments of Africa will be able to leverage the Globalstar satellite constellation to better safeguard military and other first responder personnel even in areas beyond cellular.

For consumers, sportspeople and adventurers, the SPOT Gen3 safety device can summon help with the touch of a button. It also gives family and friends peace of mind with the ability to track the user’s route. Since 2007, SPOT has been responsible for over 3,500 rescues worldwide. Plus, SPOT Trace provides leading satellite-enabled anti-theft protection for cars, motorcycles, boats, ATV’s or any other valuable item a consumer may want to keep tabs on. Intelligent motion sensors alert the user of any unexpected movement. SPOT Trace is small, rugged, waterproof and easy to conceal – and can make all the difference in safeguarding valuable possessions.

“Expanding our service throughout Africa demonstrates Globalstar’s ongoing commitment to making our technology globally accessible,” said Jay Monroe, Chairman and CEO of Globalstar. “We see this region as a significant growth opportunity for our low cost satellite solutions. For the first time, people and industries in this burgeoning region will have access to affordable satellite solutions for personal and asset tracking and we look forward to working with BBi to make our technology available to more people and businesses across Africa.”

For more information or to contact a sales representative, please click here.

About Globalstar, Inc.
Globalstar is a leading provider of mobile satellite voice and data services. Globalstar offers these services to government, commercial and recreational users around the world. The Company’s products include mobile and fixed satellite telephones, Simplex and Duplex satellite data modems and flexible service packages. Many land based and maritime industries benefit from Globalstar with increased productivity from remote areas beyond cellular and landline service. Globalstar customer segments include: oil and gas, government, mining, forestry, commercial fishing, utilities, military, transportation, heavy construction, emergency preparedness and business continuity as well as individual recreational users. Globalstar data solutions are ideal for various asset and personal tracking, data monitoring and SCADA applications. www.globalstar.com

About SPOT LLC
SPOT LLC, a subsidiary of Globalstar, Inc., provides affordable satellite communication and tracking devices for recreational use. SPOT Global Phone uses the Globalstar network to transmit two-way voice and data communications. SPOT messaging devices use both the GPS satellite network and the Globalstar network to transmit text messages and GPS coordinates. Since 2007, SPOT has provided peace of mind by allowing customers to remain in contact completely independent of cellular coverage, having initiated over 3,500 rescues worldwide. For more information, visit FindMeSPOT.com.

Note that all SPOT products described in this press release are the products of SPOT LLC, which is not affiliated in any manner with Spot Image of Toulouse, France or Spot Image Corporation of Chantilly, Virginia. SPOT Connect is a trademark of SPOT LLC. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

CONTACT: For media information please contact:
Charlie Murray
charles.murray@globalstar.com