UNITED Press Release 18/06/2010
International Refugee Day - 20 JUNE 2010

13.824 Deaths: Blood on European Hands

- Since 1993 at least 13.824 migrant deaths have occurred as a result of European immigration policy

- 266 drowned trying to enter Fortress Europe only in the last year

- Each case has been documented by UNITED in the updated List of Deaths

- The List includes several deaths in European detention facilities and by deportation procedures and due to the externalisation of Fortress Europe

- Italy-Libya agreement is an open violation of legal obligations under the Geneva Convention

- Human Rights Watch report calls on European member states to refuse to participate in Frontex operations that send migrants to abuse in Libya

13.824 Migrant Deaths Documented by UNITED

The List of Deaths is a document that UNITED has been producing since 1993 as part of its ongoing campaign Fatal Realities of Fortress Europe. It includes all reported deaths that have occurred as a consequence of European immigration policy, due to clandestine journeys to Europe, border militarisation, detention conditions, deportation procedures and the unimaginable physical and psychological suffering inflicted by ineffective and thoroughly unworkable asylum policies. This year the list features 13.824 cases; the figures are not getting smaller, the stories do not get less harrowing.

It is impossible to know the real death count, experts estimate it is likely to be three times higher than those documented. The List of Deaths is compiled using news sources, reports, testimonies, artwork and documents produced by NGOs, research institutes, journalists, governmental sources, artists and film-makers among others.

These 13.824 are not only statistics, each one is a human life with its own personal history, background, reasons for fear and hopes for the future. The EU failed to protect each one.

The bodies of Mohamed Abagui and Jonathan Sizelina were found in a detention centre in Barcelona in May 2010 within the space of one week; in the same month, the death of a 40 year old Kenyan man in a UK detention centre occurred when he was denied medical treatment; whilst carrying out a deportation order at Zurich airport in March 2010, police forcibly restrained Joseph Ndukaku Chiakwa, who died as a direct result of their brutality.

In May 2010, the body of 20 year old Abdoulaye was found hidden under a lorry in Malaga, he had travelled from Ceuta, where he had applied for asylum. In spite of having permission to travel freely across Spanish territory, guards misinterpreted recent changes to asylum procedures and prevented him. If the authorities themselves are unable to understand the correct procedures, how can migrants be expected to?

Then there are those who never even reached European soil, countless lives are lost at sea; 23 died near the Comoros Islands in November 2009; whilst travelling from Turkey to Greece, 22 drowned in December of the same year and then 19 in January 2010; 11 migrants died on the way from Algeria to Spain when their boat capsized in April 2010.

European borders have become increasingly complex territories. The Italy-Libya pushback operations, arising from an agreement between Berlusconi and Ghaddafi signed in 2005 illustrates the externalisation of EU political borders.

As Libya has not ratified the Geneva Convention, forcing migrants to places where their lives and freedom are threatened is an open violation of Italy's legal obligation. Libya's mistreatment of migrants and disregard for human rights has been widely reported; earlier this month, 20 migrants from Chad, Nigeria and Egypt among others were executed for alleged criminal offences without fair trial, police killed 12 in a Benghazi detention centre in August and countless other have died from thirst after being dumped in the desert around Libyan borders. Little is known of these abuses and as the Libyan government ordered the UNHCR office in Tripoli to shut down only last week, it will be increasingly difficult to monitor and report on the mistreatment of migrants and asylum seekers.

By externalising deportation, Europe cannot guarantee that the rights in the Geneva Convention are respected; without even being screened they are denied the fundamental right to seek protection and apply for refugee status. Human Rights Watch say that EU member states must demand that Italy complies with its legal obligations by ending these operations to Libya and must also stop cooperation with Frontex, the border control agency contracted by the EU, who are facilitating these human rights abuses.

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