Libya, European Union-subsidized hell for refugees


This video is called EXCLUSIVE: Full incident of 06 November 2017 with the Libyan Coast Guard.

Translated from Maite Vermeulen, 24 April 2019, on Dutch site De Correspondent:

At the end of 2017, a boat with 150 African migrants sank on the Mediterranean Sea. Some drown, some are brought to Italy, some disappear in a hellish Libyan detention center. 17 survivors are now taking legal action. And it may turn the entire European Union migration policy upside down. …

It is becoming increasingly difficult to rescue migrants in distress in the Mediterranean as the Libyan Coast Guard acts more and more aggressively in international waters.

The Libyans don’t do that for fun, but for money. The Libyan Coast Guard is funded, equipped and coordinated by Italy and the EU. That’s how we save migrants from drowning, is the official story. And, oh yes, nicely included: fewer migrants arrive in Europe this way. Because the Libyans take the migrants back to their own coast and put them there in detention centers.

That makes people in this room furious, especially researcher Charles Heller. He believes that the violence that these migrants endure in Libya, while according to international treaties they are entitled to a fair asylum procedure, is the greatest injustice of our time.

Hence the subject of the meeting: strategic litigation. … Start a lawsuit in the hope that this will result in case law that forces countries to review their policies.

… Heller’s work has previously been the basis for such strategic matters. He is at the helm of Forensic Oceanography, a research project at the University of London that reconstructs human rights violations at sea.

According to international and European law you cannot send refugees back to countries like Libya, where their life or freedom are at risk.

The question that now keeps Heller awake is: how can you hold Europe legally responsible for the actions of the Libyan coast guard? Or, as he says in his characteristic tone – thoughtfully but confidently – to the group in Paris: “How do you translate violence into violations?” …

Patrick has not slept for more than 24 hours. But there is no room to sit anywhere, let alone lie. They are packed like animals. They have not received any food, no drinks. With water from the toilet bowl in the corner, he flushed the salt from his mouth. He has scratches and bruises everywhere from the fighting on the sinking boat.

His daughter is dead. He knows for sure. In the wave caused by the Libyan coast guard ship, he saw the man holding her disappear overboard.

When he was pulled onto the deck of the Libyan ship, it was chaos – men and women were separated, the Libyans beat people with ropes.

He has seen his wife there, but he has not been able to talk to her.

Patrick is pushed around the prison, he is not allowed to stand anywhere. Fuck off, get out. A man taps him on the shoulder: asks if he’s from Benin City, too. ‘Yes Yes! I had a clothing store there”, says Patrick. The man gives him a place where he can crawl on his side against a wall. …

“It is possible that this case can prove Europe’s complicity in refoulement and death of migrants at sea, using all the video material and the recordings of radio traffic.” …

In Libya, where Samuel hoped to find work, he was abducted, sold at a slave market and forced to work day in, day out at a tomato farm.

After eight months he managed to escape, in the chaos of fighting between two armed groups. A Libyan who felt sorry for him said he could take him to a safe place in Egypt. Only on the rubber boat did he hear that they were going to Europe.

Samuel kept himself alive for more than two hours before being pulled aboard by one of Sea-Watch’s speedboats. When a boy who could not swim pulled him under water, he thought he would die. But he managed to drag him up and grab a life jacket. That way they both stayed afloat. …

When Charles Heller sees the images for the first time, he thinks: What have we done? It suddenly comes in: European Union policy has made the sea a deadly liquid.

The gigantic inequality in the value of human lives – he had never before seen that so clearly.

And that makes this case absolutely unique. Not before they had such a wealth of information at Forensic Oceanography to help reconstruct an incident. …

When Charles hangs up the phone, he knows: they are another step closer to their smoking gun. After weeks of trying, he finally got the Libyan Coast Guard Sergeant back on the line. He spoke to him earlier, just after the incident. But now Sergeant Masoud Abdel Samad has confirmed that they received the coordinates of the rubber boat from Rome on 6 November. In other words: without the Italians, the Libyans would never have been there.

It is one of the many pieces of evidence that Charles Heller and his colleague Lorenzo Pezzani have received.

Another favourite: a photo they found in the Reuters press agency archive, taken on May 15, 2017.

Right in the middle is the Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti,

Mr Minniti was minister in the previous Italian ´center left´ government. Not in the present right wing government.

surrounded by a myriad of cameras. Behind him lies a new, light gray boat. The number 648 is clearly legible on the bow.

Charles knows that number. He watched the Sea-Watch videos for hours: it is the same boat that the Libyan coast guard used on November 6, 2017. The same boat that capsized the “balloon” rubber boat of Patrick and Samuel.

In addition, internal EU reports show that eight of the thirteen Libyan crew members on boat 648 have been trained by the EU.

A whole team of legal experts is now involved in the case. It looks like they’re getting the evidence against Italy. …

Contact with the men who are still in Libya was emotionally the hardest – perhaps too heavy. The stories about torture, slave trade, electrocution. The tangible fear on the phone. …

At sea, migrants in need are increasingly left to their own devices. At the beginning of this year, the Sea-Watch 3 was the only European lifeboat to pick up drowning people. She traveled around Europe’s coasts for several weeks before being allowed to drop rescued migrants into a European port.

In February the boat was chained in Sicily by order of the Dutch government.

And in March, the EU also stopped its anti-smuggling operations in the Mediterranean.

‘Europe [the European Union] wanted to demoralise us, to keep us away, to make sure we wouldn’t save any more migrants’. Ben Cowles speaks to FABIAN HEINZ, volunteer activist aboard the migrant rescue boat Europe turned its back on.

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