‘European Union condemning refugees to death’

This 15 November 2018 video says about itself:

🇮🇹 🇱🇾 Rescue at Sea: Migrants in the Mediterranean | People and Power

As long as there is war, poverty and insecurity in Africa and the Middle East, migrants and refugees will try and seek a better life in Europe.

For many years now, one of the principle transit routes has been the dangerous sea crossing over the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy. Images of anxious people crammed into small and manifestly unsafe boats … have become sadly familiar around the world, as have the stories of sinkings and drownings that tragically are regularly attendant on these journeys. As a result, and against a background of hardening anti-migrant sentiment in Europe, the problem of how to best respond to and control this phenomenon – and reduce the number of fatalities – has become ever more hotly debated.

For the last five years, EU navies have maintained a presence in the area to discourage people from making the journey. And since 2017, the Libyan coastguard, with the active support of the Italian government, has also become more active, mounting aggressive patrols off its long coastline. … their methods, focused mainly on deterrence, policing and security are increasingly at odds with those of other groups operating in the area since 2014 – NGOs running maritime search and rescue (SAR) missions to aid migrants in peril.

In August 2017, Italy asked all NGOs working in the area to sign a code of conduct, which in effect put strict legal and logistical constraints on their ability to operate. As a result, by mid-2018, only four NGOs were left pursuing SAR missions in the Mediterranean and there had been a number of highly charged stand-offs with the authorities.

In March for example, after a tense altercation between Libyan coastguards and a vessel from Proactiva Open Arms involving 218 migrants and refugees, the NGO’s ship was impounded in a Sicilian port for a month, with the crew held under investigation by the Italian authorities for allegedly “conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration”.

Then in June 2018, Italy refused to let the Aquarius – a ship run by SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) – disembark 600 rescued migrants in Italian ports. When Malta also declined to accept them it became a Europe-wide dispute. Eventually, the migrants were off-loaded in Spain, but this and other incidents had a chilling effect on NGOs and for a time left the Libyan coastguard as almost the only rescue option in Central Mediterranean waters.

Much of the opposition to the NGOs’ activities seems to stem from a belief that their presence encourages migrants to embark on journeys they would otherwise avoid, or even, in the words of Italy’s controversial new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, that they act as a “taxi service”.

The NGOs reject this claim entirely, but it highlights the fundamental differences between humanitarian groups seeking to save lives on the open seas and those focused on trying to dissuade people from making the treacherous crossing in the first place.

It also raises serious questions about the way that long-standing international maritime norms on nautical rescue are allegedly being ignored – with sometimes fatal consequences. What is clear is that when no-one is available to help those in peril, lives will be lost.

In November 2018, the UNHCR said that more than 2,000 refugees and migrants have died on the Mediterranean route this year and that the number of drownings has escalated sharply. In September alone, the refugee agency said one of every eight people making the dangerous journey towards Italy had been killed.

This, it said, was due in part to the “legal and logistical restrictions that have been placed on a number of NGOs wishing to conduct search and rescue (SAR) operations.” … it added that any vessel with the capability should be allowed to come to the aid of those in need. Moreover, anyone rescued in international waters should not be taken back to Libya where conditions are not safe. With access to both sides, we sent filmmaker Paula Palacios to investigate the background to this complex debate and what may happen next.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Stopping rescuing boat migrants is “very disturbing news”, says Sea-Watch

Sea-Watch rescue organization is concerned about the fate of boat migrants who will soon make the crossing from Libya to Europe. “The chance of death increases for them”, says spokesperson Jelle Goezinnen.

It was announced today that the European Union will no longer pick up migrants from the Mediterranean from Monday on. The two ships that are still part of Operation Sophia are going back to the port. A few helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft will remain available to search for smugglers from the air.

The only question is who the crew should then notify if a migrant boat in trouble is spotted. There is nothing about this in the new mission agreements. “They can’t call anyone, so people are going to drown. Something else is not possible”, Goezinnen expects.

“Libya does not have capacity”

He strongly rejects the suggestion that the Libyan coast guard can help. “I always call it the ‘so-called’ coast guard.

It is more like a corrupt paramilitary gang, extorting, torturing and killing refugees and selling them into slavery.

In a country like Libya, where there is no central authority, you can’t speak of a real coast guard. They also have no capacity at all.” In addition, the circumstances under which migrants are jailed in Libya are terrible.

Private organizations such as Sea-Watch also have too few options to save more migrants, Goezinnen admits. “We will do what we can, but this is really an issue for the European Union.”

According to UN refugee organization UNHCR, more than 2,200 people drowned in the Mediterranean last year. Goezinnen: “That is 2,200 too many. Quite the contrary, much more rescue capacity must come from the EU.”

An additional problem is that there are hardly any aid organizations active on the Libyan coast. Currently it is only one: the Sea-Eye ship Alan Kurdi

called after the Syrian refugee little boy drowned near the Turkish coast

has been in the area since yesterday. There, the rescue workers look for the 41 people on a rubber boat from whom nothing has been heard for three days.

Sea-Watch would also like to leave for the area again, but according to Goezinnen the Dutch government does not allow that. He says that the Sea-Watch 3, which sails under the Dutch flag, cannot sail due to new rules announced by Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen. …

Sea-Watch would also like to leave for the area again, but according to Goezinnen this is not allowed by the Dutch government. He says that the Sea-Watch 3, which sails under the Dutch flag, cannot sail due to new rules announced by Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen.

Merchant ships are left for possible rescue at sea. According to international maritime law, captains are obliged to save people in need or people who are drowning. But there is not that much shipping traffic off the Libyan coast, trackers show on the internet. Also, ships regularly pass by migrants deliberately, Médecins Sans Frontières said last year, because they are not sure that they can land the people in Europe.

Soldiers in military fatigues with machine guns, balaclavas and bulletproof vests stride across the deck of the tanker El Hiblu 1. They confront frightened, unarmed migrants, including women and children, whose only possessions are what they can carry. This description of the tanker arriving at port in the Maltese capital La Valletta paints in graphic detail the inhumanity of the merciless European migration policy, which uses violence against refugees and makes their lives hell: here.

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