The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 60 persons drowned last week attempting the cross the Mediterranean and enter Europe.
Officials caution that “the central Mediterranean remains one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes, claiming thousands of lives.” As desperate individuals seek refuge from harrowing conditions, such as conflict, persecution, and forced labor, the dangerous journey exposes them not only to life-threatening risks but also to exploitative conditions.
“Not enough is being done to save lives at sea”
There are no state-led search and rescue ships actively patrolling the areas where boats are most likely to encounter difficulties. In fact, the E.U.’s current arrangement with the Libyan coastguard, which includes training and equipment, focuses on interception and return – taking those discovered on boats back to Libya and locking them up in migrant detention centers.
The burden then falls on NGOs, such as Alarm Phone, a hotline for people on boats in distress, to attempt search and rescue missions. Alarm Phone reports that, in this case, on receiving the distress call, they reached out to the Libyan coastguard, which said they would not search for the migrants. This is both alarming and yet sadly unsurprising given that there is no mandate to rescue persons in trouble at sea, only to prevent persons crossing borders into Europe.
The IOM reports that over 2000 people have died on this route this year alone.
Death or exploitation – or both
People attempting to make the journey from Libya are escaping unimaginable horrors and are vulnerable to exploitation.
Samy Magdy and Renata Brito from the Associate Press report,
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders, which it shares with six nations. The migrants are crowded onto ill-equipped vessels, including rubber boats, and set off on risky sea voyages.
Those who are intercepted and returned to Libya are held in government-run detention centers rife with abuses, including forced labor, beatings, rapes and torture — practices that amount to crimes against humanity, according to U.N.-commissioned investigators.
The abuse often accompanies attempts to extort money from the families of the imprisoned migrants before allowing them to leave Libya on traffickers’ boats to Europe.
Join the movement
Together with other activists and organizations, we’re making it clear to the European Union that we won’t stand for its complicity in modern slavery.
We cannot let the E.U. and member states continue to prop up this horrific system just to stem new arrivals. Join the fight today.