German ex-secret service boss preaches racism

This 17 September 2018 says about itself:

German spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen under fire

Merkel will meet her coalition partners today to decide whether to fire her intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen. He’s under fire for questioning the credibility of reports of far-right violence against migrants.

By Christoph Vandreier in Germany:

Germany: Former secret service boss agitates against refugees and plays down right-wing terrorism

24 December 2019

One year after his removal as head of Germany’s domestic secret service, Hans-Georg Maassen (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) has become one of the spokesmen for the extreme right. On Tuesday, Markus Lanz offered him a platform on his talk show for his aggressive smear campaign against refugees as well as the trivialisation and justification of right-wing extremist terrorist attacks. The performance was in every respect that of a fascist ideologist.

For example, Maassen presented right-wing extremists who carry out terrorist attacks on defenceless refugees and their accommodation as concerned citizens. He declared, “The people who carry out the attacks on asylum shelters, at least the identified suspects, were for the most part not right-wing extremists, were not Nazis. They were middle-class people who had radicalised themselves.”

Maassen openly shared the motives of the right-wing terrorists and claimed that they only carried out their attacks because policies were being pursued that they did not want and that they “no longer saw themselves reflected in the media.” The media had talked about refugees coming in 2015, but it was immigrants that had come, said Maassen, who wants to deprive the hundreds of thousands of war refugees who have come to the country since 2015 of any protection.

According to Maassen, the reporting on refugees should have had “consequences”. But unfortunately, he laments, no director has had to resign. The former president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, as the German secret service is known, claimed that “People are calling out a mendacious press”, because the public broadcasters report “nonsense”.

Instead of “refugees”, Maassen said, the report should speak of “1.8 million Arabs” who had come to Germany. His aim is to stir up racist resentments in order to hide the tragic fate of the refugees. The media should stop reporting on “little girls with big eyes”, he said. As well as the word “refugee”, the term “distress at sea” should no longer be used in this context.

The media “are trying to generate a certain world view”, Maassen declared. “I do not accept this framework. I don’t accept the talk about refugees, the talk about distress at sea, but I do expect people to talk about what it’s really about.” In fact, the sea rescue missions, which can only save a small number of people from drowning, were a “shuttle service” to Europe, he claimed.

Maassen left no doubt that these brutal and radical right-wing positions have constituted the basis of his work as president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Talking to Lanz, he vehemently defended his public intervention regarding the right-wing extremist riots in Chemnitz. After neo-Nazis had rampaged through the city for days, attacked and hunted down immigrants and political opponents, Maassen falsely claimed in Bild Zeitung that there was no evidence of such activities and that it was possibly a case of “deliberate misinformation”.

In the meantime, it has been proven beyond doubt that there had been attacks and that a video, on which the press report was based, is authentic. Nevertheless, Maassen declared that his statement at the time was not an error. “I didn’t just do it intentionally, I did it deliberately,” he said on the programme. Then he made clear what his intention was.

Maassen accused the Tagesschau news broadcast of lying, and speculated about a conspiracy of the news programme with the Antifa, because the video concerned had been posted on an antifascist forum, among others, before it received news coverage. “Why did they accept an anti-fascist video as proof? What is the relationship between Tagesschau and Antifa? In my opinion, these are legitimate questions, which should be asked by the president of the domestic intelligence agency.”

Maassen was able to present all these right-wing extremist utterances on prime-time public television. And not only that. The moderator Markus Lanz described his right-wing extremist guest as an “excellent official”, agreed with him on several occasions and if he was annoyed at all, it was expressed over “framework” or “wording”—i.e., the terms used by Maassen. In terms of content, he did not oppose Maassen in any way, despite some disagreements. “You are right,” Lanz declared bluntly, adding as a reason, “You know that we have a population growth in Africa that is enormous.”

This massive promotion of Maassen—not only by broadcaster ARD, but by numerous other media—shows that his views are not a matter of a single individual or an extreme right-wing aberration. Maassen’s right-wing and anti-refugee positions have been known for a long time. In August 2012, the government consciously appointed him president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in order to defend and continue the operations of the extreme right-wing networks within the agency that became known after the uncovering of the series of murders carried out by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU).

In his official capacity, he had also maintained close ties with politicians of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and discussed the annual reports of the Verfassungsschutz (secret service) with them. While the AfD, its fascist Höcke “wing” and its neo-Nazi environment are not mentioned at all in the chapter on “Right-wing extremism”, anyone who criticises capitalism is defamed as being a left-wing extremist by the Verfassungsschutz and subject to secret service surveillance.

In 2018, Maassen included the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei (Socialist Equality Party, SGP) as “left-wing extremist” in the Verfassungsschutz report for the first time, because it opposes the growing militarism and massive shift to the right in official politics, thus expressing the broad opposition in the population. In doing so, the secret service does not even pretend that the SGP is violent or anti-constitutional, explicitly confirming it pursues its goals by legal means. The secret service justifies its surveillance of the SGP solely on the grounds that it advocates a socialist programme and criticises capitalism.

The SGP has therefore brought a legal action against the federal Ministry of the Interior before the Berlin Administrative Court. “While the Office for the Protection of the Constitution holds its protective hand over terrorists and finances and controls the right-wing extremist scene via confidential informants, anyone who opposes the shift to the right and opposes the right-wing murder gangs and the AfD is placed under secret service observation,” the SGP states.

Since Maassen was forced into early retirement last November, he has repeatedly confirmed this assessment. In November, he published a fascistic manifesto in the Swiss newsweekly Weltwoche, in which he declared “the future of Germany” and “the stability of our democracy” were endangered by socialism. A month later, he stated in the right-wing Catholic daily newspaper Tagespost that anyone calling for the “expropriation of all so-called capitalists” should be classified as left-wing extremist.

Now, on one of the most well-known talk shows on public television, he declares that right-wing terrorists who hunt down refugees and set fire to their accommodation are not extremists.

At the same time, the grand coalition of the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats has installed Thomas Haldenwang (CDU), who had worked for five years as Maassen’s deputy, to continue the course of the former head of the secret service. The 2019 Verfassungsschutz report does not mention the right-wing extremist terrorist networks in the military, the AfD and other organisations, while the SGP, left-wing youth groups and anti-fascists are defamed as “left-wing extremists”.

This shift to the right by the political establishment can only be understood as arising from its enormous fear of the social movements that are currently breaking out all over the world, and especially in France. The promotion of extreme right-wing positions and the aggressive action against socialists shows that the ruling class in Germany is increasingly using authoritarian and fascist methods to openly impose its policy of militarism and blatant social inequality against the growing resistance in the working class.

European Union returns refugees to Libyan slavery

This 23 January 2018 video says about itself:

New videos expose torture of African refugees in Libya

New videos have emerged showing African refugees being abused in Libya. Illegal detention centres, extortion and slavery have become common as many people trying to reach Europe are either caught or returned to Libya.

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid reports.

By Ben Cowles:

Monday, December 2, 2019

Europe suggests NGO rescuers hand refugees back to Libya’s ‘criminal groups’

THE European maritime authorities are ducking their responsibility for refugees crossing the Mediterranean and, worse, are referring NGO rescue ships to “criminal groups”, the refugee rescue fleet has told the Star.

Two NGO-operated ships, the Alan Kurdi and the Ocean Viking, saved over 100 people from unseaworthy boats during three separate missions in the central Mediterranean last Thursday after the refugees had fled human rights abuses in Libya.

Both ships contacted the Libyan maritime authorities, as international law dictates, but their calls were ignored.

Maltese and Italian authorities have been asked to provide the rescue ships with a port of safety, but none had been offered by the time the Star went to press.

Conditions on board the Alan Kurdi — operated by German charity Sea Eye and named after a three-year-old Syrian-Kurdish boy whose dead body washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015 — have deteriorated dramatically since it rescued 84 people last week.

“It’s insane. No-one is taking responsibility for this,” Sea Eye’s head of communication Julian Pahlke told the Star.

Sea Eye's crew pull refugees from an unseaworthy boat in the central Mediterranean

This photo shows Sea Eye’s crew pulling refugees from an unseaworthy boat in the central Mediterranean.

“Four people collapsed on board the ship on Sunday. Two people have collapsed today. A woman tried to kill herself on Saturday by jumping overboard. She was evacuated to Malta.

“Everyone on board is exhausted. It’s cold and it’s windy and people are sleeping on deck covered in blankets. Our team is so stressed that it’s getting hard for them to look after the rescued.”

When the Alan Kurdi’s crew contacted the maritime rescue co-ordination centres in Malta, Rome and even Bremen in Germany, the latter suggested that the ship should contact the Libyan coastguard.

“We are not going to do that,” Mr Pahlke said. “We are not going to break international law by handing refugees over to criminal groups and back to a war zone.”

The Ocean Viking — jointly operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) — was in international waters between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa with 60 refugees on board as the Star went to press. Its crew also refused to break international law.

Libya cannot be considered a place of safety,” SOS Mediterranee director of operations Frederic Penard told the Star.

“Everybody says this every day, including European leaders and their governments. The situation in the country is very well documented.

“But at the same time, European leaders refuse to accept responsibility for the co-ordination of some of our cases, including the designation of a port of safety, and they keep referring us back to the Libyan coastguard, which is unable to provide a place of safety because their country is not safe.

“The European Union’s policies here are grossly incoherent. On the one hand, they clearly acknowledge that the situation in Libya is a problem, which clearly disqualifies the country as being safe. But on the other hand they refuse to abide by international maritime conventions.”

The EU withdrew all of its search and rescue ships in April after pressure from Italy’s then far-right … coalition government. Since then, a small number of NGO ships have been the only vessels in the Mediterranean carrying out the humanitarian work formerly done by the bloc.

Many NGO activists have been persecuted for their efforts and charities such as Sea Watch, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Mission Lifeline and Jugend Rettet have had their ships seized by the Italian and Maltese authorities.

MSF UK humanitarian representative Liz Harding warned that despite the EU’s extremely limited dedicated search and rescue presence in the Mediterranean, people continue to attempt to cross the world’s deadliest migration route.

Ms Harding told the Star: “MSF calls on EU member states, including the UK, to urgently provide proactive and sufficient search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as to end punitive actions against NGOs trying to provide life-saving assistance.

“Additionally, there must be sustainable, reliable and predictable disembarkation mechanism for survivors in safe places where they will be treated humanely and will be able to seek asylum. Libya is not, and cannot be considered, a place of safety.”

You can follow the Star’s coverage of the civil refugee rescue fleet here.

A FIVE-DAY standoff that left over 100 refugees stranded at sea finally came to an end today when the EU authorities allowed two NGO rescue ships to dock in Italy. The Alan Kurdi, operated by German charity Sea Eye, and the Ocean Viking, crewed jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), saved the lives of 144 refugees last Thursday in three separate missions. It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon, however, when the Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando responded to the Alan Kurdi’s plea for shelter on Twitter that the two ships were granted a port of safety: here.

‘It shouldn’t be civil society versus European governments’. SOS Mediterranee’s DAVID STARKE tells the Star how EU member states have abandoned their commitments to international maritime and refugee laws when it comes to rescues carried out by the civil rescue fleet.

German Protestant Church raising funds to join civil refugee rescue fleet in the Mediterranean: here.

German mayor driven away by anti-refugee racists

This 23 November 2919 video from Germany says about itself (translated):

Because of witchhunt: Mayoress gives up office | Sky Germany

Solidarity from state and federal politics: Martina Angermann had condemned the behaviour of a “paramilitary” gang who had tied an Iraqi to a tree.

Mayor Martina Angermann, MDR photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 22 November 2019:

The mayor of the German town of Arnsdorf has resigned her post after continuing threats. Martina Angermann (61) has been sick at home with a burnout since February and has applied for early retirement.

Arnsdorf, a place with some 5000 inhabitants in the eastern state of Saxony, came in the news in 2016 when four men tied an Iraqi refugee with psychological problems to a tree. One of the perpetrators was a municipal councillor on behalf of the right-wing populist

Dear NOS and other journalists: stop abusing the word ‘populist’ as an euphemism for neo-fascist racists.

party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Mayor Angermann has strongly condemned the action several times, which led to a storm of criticism, hatred and (death) threats from the right wing.

Incidentally, the investigation into the abuse case was quickly cut off and the four men were not on trial.


Last month the AfD group in the Arnsdorf local council called on mayor Angermann to resign because of her illness. The party threatened to put her position to a vote, but it did not come to that.

According to the German news site Focus, Angermann’s party, the Social Democratic SPD, speaks of a witchhhunt against the mayor. “For months she has been verbally attacked, threatened and intimidated,” says party secretary Homann. Minister of Justice Lambrecht says to broadcaster MDR: “If people withdraw from their social involvement because of threats, then our democracy will be jeopardized.”

Dear Ms Lambrecht and other SPD politicians: you are correct in this. However, the racism which now has driven Mayor Angermann into illness and retirement is partly the fault of your party. As your CDU-CSU-SPD coalition government, eg, stopped the investigation into the far-right paramilitary violence against that Iraqi refugee in Arnsdorf. And as that government massively deports refugees to war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, falsely claimed to be ‘safe’.

The student’s association (Asta) at the University of Hamburg has been bombarded with hate mail and threats of violence after students protested against a founding member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), Bernd Lucke, who returned to his teaching post at the university: here.

Greek right-wing government attacks civil liberties

This video says about itself:

Protesters denounce criminal negligence of the Greek Coast Guard during recent migrant boat sinking off Agathonisi in which sixteen people lost their lives. On 16 March sixteen people, including at least five children, drowned when the small boat they on capsized in the Aegean Sea. The only three survivors raise serious allegations against the authorities. Relatives of those lost at sea- including an Afghan mother who lost her two sons gather at Syntagma square in Athens to protest and demand responsibilities about the incident, as the Greek Coast Guard ignored the emergency calls.

Athens, Greece, 04 April 2018.

From the Dawn of the Greks blog, 12 November 2019:

The repression wave in Athens continues…

Clashes between students and riot police erupted in the Economic University AOSEE in downtown Athens yesterday September 11th. Dozens of students entered the premises of the institution in order to protest the Senate decision to close the University for a week “deliberately and for no reason”, as they say. …

Today, November 12th, the riot police in Athens evacuated one more squat in the center of Athens at Bouboulinas street, where 138 refugees and migrants were living. The situation with the repression wave of the new [right-wing] government remains out of control. Many squats and social spaces in Athens have been evacuated already. Mainly the victims are migrants and refugees.

From the Keep Talking Greece site, 11 November 2019:

Greek gov’t brings back Blasphemy Laws, penalty up to 2 years in prison

The conservative Greek government brings back the Blasphemy Laws the previous government SYRIZA had abolished less than six months ago. Violating the blasphemy laws could send those insulting God and the Greek Orthodox Church up to two years in prison.

GREECE will shut down overcrowded refugee camps on islands and replace them with tight-security holding facilities, officials announced today: here.

Right-wing Greek government attacks refugees

Refugees in Greece, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Greece votes on stricter asylum law, aid organizations are worried

Today, a bill is being discussed in the Greek parliament with rigorous changes to the asylum law. That will be voted on tonight, because the centre-right government of Prime Minister Mitsotakis wants to introduce these new, harsher rules as quickly as possible.

The government hopes that this will make it easier to deport migrants … Athens is struggling with considerable backlogs in the asylum procedure and with the largest influx of refugees and migrants from Turkey since 2016. Nearly 44,000 people entered Greece via the sea this year.


More and more international organizations and many Greek aid organizations are now criticizing the government plans. Eg, the UN refugee organization UNHCR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are concerned. “The proposed changes endanger people who need international protection,” said Philip Leclerc, UNHCR representative in Greece.

According to Human Rights Watch, numerous procedural changes are being implemented that impede access to a fair asylum process and affect the right to appeal. “It is a clear attempt to increase the number of deportations in the light of the recent increase in asylum seekers,” said Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Eva Cosse.

The organizations are calling on the bill not to be hurried through parliament and to adjust the law.

Harsher policy

It seems that the government is not sensitive to that. …

The conservative government has already indicated that it wants to pursue a tougher policy when it took office in July. The long asylum procedure must be streamlined and asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies must be returned to Turkey or to the country of origin.

Athens also constantly advocates a fair redistribution of refugees within the European Union. Prime Minister Mitsotakis said again at a conference yesterday that Greece cannot handle the problem alone.

Most refugees don’t really want to get asylum in Greece. They want to travel on to other countries where they can meet with relatives or friends; and where there is not as much economic ruin and unemployment as in Greece, hit by European Union austerity. However, razor wire and other European Union anti-refugee policies are stopping refugees’ intended travel to the north-west.

Crisis on islands

In the meantime, the situation on the Greek islands where there are refugee camps (Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos) is becoming increasingly acute. There are now more than 30,000 refugees on the islands and all camps are overcrowded. There are also major problems with housing, medical care, hygiene and safety.

The Greek asylum system is overloaded. Asylum seekers arriving on islands are told that their first appointment with the asylum service will be only in 2021 or 2022. According to the deal the EU concluded with Turkey in 2016, only vulnerable groups such as minors, the elderly and the sick are allowed to leave the islands.

“Strict deadlines, more rules and more requirements for the documents that refugees must submit in the procedures are no solution,” says lawyer Maria Papamina of the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR). The organization therefore fears that refugees, and certainly the most vulnerable groups, will have no chance of asylum or appeal with the new rules. The GCR argues for better access and more personnel in the asylum service and adequate legal assistance.

In an exposure of the nightmare confronting refugees seeking passage into Europe, footage published by the German newspaper Der Spiegel shows Greek authorities performing illegal “push-backs” at the Greek-Turkish border in northeastern Greece. The footage confirms what refugees and non-government groups have described as taking place for years: here.

‘European Union anti-refugee policy is racist’

The remains of an inflatable rubber dinghy off Libya that was carrying 15 people, all of whom were rescued by rescue ship Open Arms

By Ben Cowles in Britain:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

EU accused of ‘institutional racism’ in the way it handles Mediterranean rescues

‘If white Europeans had been on the boat, they probably wouldn’t have had to wait so long’, NGO says after EU nations ignored the boat’s distress call

THE European Union was accused of institutional racism for the way it handles rescues in the Mediterranean today after calls about another refugee boat in distress went unanswered.

German charity Sea Watch discovered an inflatable boat with 15 people on board adrift in the Mediterranean yesterday from its reconnaissance plane, Moonbird.

“Our crew accompanied the boat for hours and tried to inform the merchant ship Vos-Aphrodite, only a few miles away, about the acute sea emergency, and to coordinate a rescue”, Sea Watch tweeted yesterday afternoon.

“Several contacts failed and none of the ships in the vicinity attempted to rescue [the people].

“We received information from the so-called Libyan Coastguard that their ships would remain in port due to ‘bad weather’. We’ll search for the boat tomorrow, with the sad expectation that EU authorities are once again responsible for the death of people by refraining from assistance.”

Fortunately the Spanish NGO migrant rescue ship Open Arms was in the area and tweeted today that it had found and rescued the 15 people on board.

Open Arms said the refugees‘ dinghy was taking on water and was about to sink. “15 people: six men, two women, two children and five minors. Everyone is safe,” the charity tweeted this afternoon.

Both Sea Watch and Open Arms condemned the EU’s inaction as well as its relationship and funding of the Libyan Coastguard.

“If Libya is not a safe place and its ‘coastguards’ do not go out to rescue lives in danger if there is bad weather, they should stop calling themselves coastguards”, the charity’s founder Oscar Camps tweeted yesterday.

Sea Watch said: “A Libyan Coastguard that doesn’t send a boat for weather reasons; merchant ships who refuse any communication with our [search and rescue] reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird and official maritime rescue co-ordination centres who value formal responsibilities more than human lives.

“If white Europeans had been on the boat, they probably wouldn’t have had to wait so long. That is institutional racism. Fortunately, our crew was able to find the small rubber dinghy again this morning and co-ordinate a rescue with our friends from Open Arms.”

Meanwhile the Alan Kurdi and the Ocean Viking — civil refugee rescue ships operated by German charity Sea Eye and French charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) respectively — were today finally given permission to disembark the refugees they rescued in the Mediterranean in the past two weeks.

The Alan Kurdi rescued 91 people in Libyan waters on Saturday as armed, Libyan-flagged speedboats attempted to disrupt the operation by firing bullets into the air and the sea.

The Sea Eye’s chairman Gorden Isler said Berlin’s silence to the armed attack on the Alan Kurdi was deafening. “If we were a merchant ship and had transported diesel engines or crude oil, then there would certainly be reactions from the federal ministries,” he tweeted.

The Ocean Viking rescued 104 people on October 18 and has since spent 11 days at sea with nowhere to go and no word from Europe.

Michael Fark, MSF head of mission for Libya and Mediterranean, said the charity was relieved France, Germany, and Italy finally agreed to relocate all of the 104 survivors on board the Ocean Viking, and the 90 people on board the Alan Kurdi.

“These prolonged, inhumane standoffs must not continue. It is unacceptable to strand people at sea, waiting days and weeks while European states debate whether and how to fulfil their humanitarian and legal obligations.

“It’s disappointing that only three states were part of this solution. All European states must live up to their principles.

“This means agreeing on the implementation of a predictable and humane disembarkation mechanism for everyone rescued at sea, that also shares responsibility, easing the burden on coastal states.”

European inaction condemned as NGOs rescue over 100 people in the Mediterranean: here.

Refugees in trouble, Greece, Libya

African refugees are rescued from a dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea

From daily News Line in Britain:

Lesbos: epicentre of refugee crisis

12th October 2019

WARS in Syria and Afghanistan are driving refugees through Turkey as they make their way to Greece. Many land on the Greek island of Lesbos, which is now an epicentre of the country’s migrant crisis.

It’s a dangerous journey – but one made slightly easier by Refugee Rescue, the last remaining humanitarian rescue boat in the area. 16,000 refugees have fled to a Greek island this year.

With a crackdown on refugees in Turkey, and tough immigration policies elsewhere in Europe, the number of people fleeing to Lesbos by sea has soared to more than 16,000 this year, according to the UN.

That’s the biggest influx since 2016. As the only NGO left in Lesbos with a rescue boat, the group is working overtime, all the time.

‘We are tired, we are tired,’ said Giannis Skenderoglou, a crew coordinator for the group. ‘But that, that’s our job.’

Refugee Rescue said: ‘Refugee Rescue is a grassroots NGO operating a skilled Search and Rescue (SAR) team on the North Shore of Lesbos, Greece. Our boat crew and rescue vessel “Mo Chara” are on call 24 hours per day, ready to assist those in distress at sea.

‘Onshore, our land teams man spotting operations that keep watch along the treacherous coastline, and work alongside partners to provide emergency relief for those who have just arrived.

‘Refugee Rescue was founded in response to inadequate SAR infrastructure in 2015 when thousands of people were arriving to the island by boat, having been displaced by war, conflict and persecution.

‘Dinghies often directly navigate towards dangerous rocks or shallows that can easily break the floor of these flimsy rubber boats, causing them to sink or capsize.

‘Smugglers abandon groups of refugees on rocks and inaccessible beaches. Many boats also land on treacherous rocks and people are then stranded in locations that are difficult to reach. There is no cliff rescue here, no helicopter to come and help them, and people are often impossible to reach from land.

‘Hundreds have already lost their lives and people are still crossing the perilous stretch of water between Turkey and Lesbos every day. As long as people are denied safe passage to Europe, they will continue risking their lives unnecessarily, forced to take what is now one of the world’s most dangerous migratory routes in search of refuge.

‘By offering a consistent and skilled emergency response along this treacherous coastline, we seek to make this journey a little less deadly, with the hope of stopping any more lives being needlessly lost to The Aegean.’

Meanwhile, Médécins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) issued its own statement on Libyan refugees and migrants.

MSF said: ‘MSF is currently working to provide medical help to people trapped in appalling conditions in Libyan detention centres.

‘People are detained simply because of their migration status in overcrowded conditions, with a lack of access to sufficient food, water or medical treatment.

‘A recent assessment of just one of these centres found alarming levels of malnutrition, with some people held in a room so small there was no space to lie down. Worse still, one third of the people detained indefinitely in this centre were children.

‘But in recent days, things have got even worse. Fighting in and around Libya’s capital Tripoli led directly to the deaths of 40 vulnerable migrants and refugees after a detention centre in Tripoli was hit by an airstrike on 2 July.

‘Trapped in these centres, and at severe risk of being caught in the crossfire, migrants and refugees are unable to flee the fighting and are suffering from increased disruption to food and other supplies – some report not having eaten for days.’

Just seven of the 28 EU member nations agreed to launch a new system to help those rescued in the Mediterranean. A large majority of European Union member countries have refused to back a plan to quickly get migrants off boats in the Mediterranean Sea and distribute them among willing EU partners.

At a meeting of EU interior ministers, only Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal offered to take part in the ‘fast-track’ plan drawn up by Germany, France, Italy and Malta, which would screen migrants, relocate asylum seekers and return people who do not apply or qualify for asylum, all within four weeks.

‘We were seven yesterday, seven this morning and seven this evening. So things haven’t changed much,’ said a downbeat Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s minister responsible for migration. ‘Why us, and why no one else?’

For more than a year, humanitarian ships that have picked up migrants from Libya in unseaworthy boats were blocked from docking or disembarking passengers in Italy or Malta. Italy’s former anti-migrant interior minister even threatened to jail the crews of charity-run rescue ships.

The stance taken by the two countries resulted in standoffs that kept rescued migrants at sea for weeks until other EU nations pledged to take at least some of the people seeking safety or better lives in Europe.

Tuesday’s meeting in Luxembourg had been meant to gauge enthusiasm for the temporary plan, in which countries would make ‘pre-declared pledges’ on how many asylum seekers they would accept. Details of the scheme are sketchy, but it would operate for at least six months, unless migrant arrivals increase dramatically.

Earlier, France’s European affairs minister, Amelie de Montchalin, had claimed that several countries were willing to accept asylum seekers.

‘I think there are around ten countries that are ready to play the game. Perhaps others,’ she told reporters. ‘We are going to be able to say that when a boat arrives, we know who to call and that there are countries ready to send teams in.’

But Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said that those who agreed to take part ‘are those three or four states that had already said they were available, like Luxembourg and Ireland.’ She said she hoped that more EU partners would sign on by the end of the year.

Asselborn said that … those opposed to migrant-sharing quotas in the past – countries like Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – ‘remain against it’.

Well over a million migrants arrived in the EU in 2015, most of them refugees from countries at war like Syria or Iraq, sparking one of Europe’s biggest political crises as nations bickered over who should take responsibility for them and how much others should be forced to help.

New arrivals have now dropped to their lowest levels in about seven years, particularly between Libya and Italy, but EU countries are still unable to agree on the best way forward, and far-right and anti-migrant parties have taken advantage of the confusion.