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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sea crimes: Illegal migrants abandoned at sea, in need of help

Urgent help need to resuce 59 people abandoned at sea off Libya as they were attempting to reach Italy as set out here:
Coastguards in Falmouth, Cornwall, have launched a rescue operation to try to save 59 people abandoned on an inflatable boat off the coast of Libya.

An Ethiopian based in the UK appealed to them for help after receiving a call by satellite phone from the boat.

A Coastguard spokesman said the group, which includes four pregnant women, were cast adrift after being falsely told they were in Italian waters.

They were, in fact, only 64 miles from the north African coast.

The group are understood to have left north Africa two days ago, trying to get to Europe.

This is a truly awful episode in human trafficking
Simon Rabett, rescue centre co-ordinator

The spokesman said there were 15 women, seven children and 37 men on board.

"The craft is taking water and it has no engine," he said.

"The weather has worsened, they have no food or water.

"They had all their money taken from them."

Coastguards located the craft early on Wednesday and were working with both the Italian and Maltese authorities and with the British Embassy in Tripoli to get assistance.
UPDATE: For what it's worth, this Wikipedia article makes a distinction between "human trafficking" and "human smuggling" as does this U.S. Dept of State site:
Those who are smuggled have consented to be smuggled. Trafficking victims, according to the UNODC, "have either never consented or, if they initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive actions of the traffickers."

Another major difference, according to the UNODC, "is that smuggling ends with the arrival of the migrants at their destination, whereas trafficking involves the ongoing exploitation of the victims in some manner to generate illicit profits for the traffickers."

The United Nations' Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime defines the "smuggling of migrants" as "the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or permanent resident."
The Protocol mentioned above states, in part:
Smuggling by sea is not only dangerous for migrants, but is also a highly complex legal area for authorities, since crime at sea falls under international law. In October 1999, the Italian police, navy and coastguard tracked down a boat, which they suspected of smuggling, making its way from Albania to the Italian coastline. In an effort to escape authorities and lighten his load, the helmsman, an Albanian smuggler, threw his human cargo overboard. An estimated 100 migrants--Albanians, Turkish and Iraqi Kurds, Pakistanis and Kosovars--had been hiding in a wooden hold of the boat. Several victims were rescued, but many drowned. Every night Italian officials head for the water, capturing at least one boatload in human cargo, and sometimes even up to 20. While the trade in illegal commodities, such as drugs, cigarettes and weapons, is covered under international agreements, the trade in human cargo at sea and the treatment of victims is an area that is not yet regulated. As a result, a set of separate clauses was included in the Protocol to fight against the smuggling of migrants by sea.

The Protocol sets forth that Member States are required to cooperate in order to prevent and suppress the smuggling of migrants by sea, in accordance with international law. Measures include:

* When requested, helping to stop a vessel suspected of smuggling migrants;

* Confirming registry of a vessel strongly suspected of smuggling migrants and then requesting authorization from the flag State to take appropriate measures, such as boarding and searching the vessel;

In addition to the above, several safeguard clauses have been built in under Article 9 ensuring:

* That the migrants on board a vessel are treated safely and humanely;

* Using clearly marked aircraft and ships identifiable as being on government service in order to take actions at sea in cases of migrant smuggling.
Interpol site on human smuggling. The U.S. has a Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. Exactly how "international law" is applied in such case is something I am researching.

UPDATE2: At least an abstract of an article on the impact of the Protocol says it might work, with a huge but:
Since this paper is written from a refugee protection perspective, it therefore examines who refugees are, why they resort to the use of people smugglers, and the dangers they face in doing so. It also considers the subsequent challenge for the international community to safeguard the rights of smuggled refugees and asylum seekers within the broader context of migration management, particularly in regard to the right of non-refoulement and access to protection. Here, two ‘challenges’ appear to have arisen: firstly the manner by which states differentiate between refugees and asylum seekers and undocumented migrants (or so-called ‘economic migrants’), who also resort to, or are exploited by, people smugglers and traffickers; and secondly, the procedures and methods states develop to prevent their asylum systems from being abused for immigration purposes. Accordingly, the Smuggling Protocol is examined to ascertain whether it can and will solve these aforementioned difficulties, and especially whether it adequately safeguards refugee rights. This paper concludes that whilst the Smuggling Protocol has the potential to do such, its application (and the extent of that application) ultimately depends on the will of the State Parties, and thus could amount to nothing more than a list of ‘good intentions’. (emphasis added)
UPDATE3: A defense of human smuggling on an abstract level here. I doubt the author would defend the pond scum who left these "smugglees" on the high seas.

UPDATE4: Nice look at the issues here.

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