Sea-Watch’s reconnaissance plane convinces a merchant vessel not to abandon 70 people in the Mediterranean
MIGRANTS and refugees heading to Europe are “systematically subjected to a litany of abuses” from the moment they enter Libya, the UN warned today.
A fact-finding report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council and published today states that “the violence that has plagued Libya since 2011, and which has continued almost unabated since 2016, has enabled the commission of serious violations, abuses and crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, against the most vulnerable.”
The report also warns that the EU-supported Libyan coastguards ensure that the people they intercept in the Mediterranean are returned to detention centres run by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) where “they face intolerable conditions calculated to cause suffering and the desire to utilise any means of escape — including by paying large sums of money to militias, criminal gangs, traffickers and smugglers who have links to the state and profit from this practice.”
The authors describe the Libyan coastguard’s (LCG) interceptions at sea as “violent or reckless, resulting at times in deaths.”
Once disembarked, the report says, “migrants are either transferred to detention centres or go missing, with reports that people are sold to traffickers.
“Interviews with migrants formerly held in DCIM detention centres established that all migrants — men and women, boys and girls — are kept in harsh conditions, some of whom die. Some children are held with adults, placing them at high risk of abuse.
“Torture, such as electric shocks, and sexual violence, including rape and forced prostitution, are prevalent.”
Some 87,000 people have been intercepted by the LCG since 2016, the report says, “and there are currently close to 7,000 migrants in DCIM detention centres, including large percentages of children.”
Over 5,000 people have been rounded up by the Libyan authorities in Tripoli since last Friday and placed in detention centres, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) warned on Sunday.
“On October 1, 2021, Libyan authorities conducted a widespread security operation in the Hai Alandalus municipality that included raids on houses and temporary accommodations used by migrants and asylum-seekers, specifically affecting those present in the area of Gargarish,” the organisation said in a situation report.
“This has adversely affected the situation of migrants in the area resulting in loss of life, casualties, and mass detention.
“One migrant was reported to have lost their life, while at least 15 others were injured, six seriously so, including two referred to intensive care,” the report says.
“What else do EU States need to stop [supporting] the Libyan Coastguard and forced returns?,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) asked on social media today, sharing a link to the UN report.
MSF’s rescue ship Geo Barents recently saved 60 people stranded off the coast of Libya. During one of the ship’s rescue missions last month, the crew watched as Libyan Coastguard intercepted refugees before they could reach them.
Meanwhile, the crew on board the NGO reconnaissance plane Seabird convinced a merchant vessel to save the lives of about 70 refugees in distress in the Mediterranean.
The hotline organisation Alarm Phone alerted the authorities, as well as Seabird’s operators Sea-Watch, about the distress case off the Libyan coast on Saturday.
A few hours later, Seabird found the boat next to the Asso29 merchant vessel and the Bouri oil platform.
“Seabird circled the boat for several hours until late in the evening and was in constant contact with the merchant vessel and oil platform,” Sea-Watch posted on social media today.
“The captain of the Asso29 denied that it was a distress case. But eventually, our crew was able to convince him to rescue.
“The so-called Libyan Coastguard was on its way to the boat as well and probably would have pulled the people back to Libya, if our Seabird crew hadn’t gotten the Asso29 to save the boat in time.
“Yesterday, the people were able to disembark in Lampedusa.
“The failure of the EU often results in merchant vessels breaking the law and refusing to rescue people at sea. Our operation on Saturday showed that we can and must stand together with merchant vessels captains against the inaction of the sea rescue coordination centers.”
Around 49 people were still drifting through Malta‘s search-and-rescue (SAR) zone by the time this article was published.
According to Alarm Phone’s latest update this afternoon: “16h since our first alert to authorities, [the] 49 people are still drifting in the Mediterranean Sea.
“No rescue has been launched yet. We urge Malta and Italy to fulfil their responsibilities to coordinate a SAR operation, and to rescue now!”