On Thursday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) condemned the negligence of Italy and Malta towards assisting boats in distress. As well as the indifference of the EU and its member states to the rising death toll, and ongoing violation of human rights in the Mediterranean sea.
More than 100 people lost their lives in the past week, as a result of “deadly” EU policies towards refugees and migrants. In the same week, at least 130 people were intercepted and forcibly returned to Libya, where they will be undoubtedly be subjected to ill-treatment, abuse, and torture. These have been widely documented across state-run detention centers.
“The current state of migration policies in Europe is a real cause for alarm,” says Sophie McCann, MSF UK Advocacy Officer.
“While our teams in the central Mediterranean witness negligence and indifference towards people who are prepared to risk their lives in search of sanctuary, here we are horrified to see the UK government show the same disdain for people seeking safety by introducing cruel and potentially lethal migration policies in its Nationality and Borders Bill,” she claimed.
“Instead of criminalising, detaining, and pushing back vulnerable men, women, and children, governments must introduce fair and kinder migration policies to prevent such losses of life at sea,” McCann added.
On 2 April, more than 90 people died after spending at least four days at sea, attempting to cross to Europe. The exact cause of death remains unknown. Four people survived the incident, and were rescued by the commercial tanker ‘Alegria 1’.
An MSF team immediately contacted the tanker to offer medical assistance to the survivors, and to request that it comply with legal and maritime obligations to transport the survivors to the nearest place of safety. Alegria 1 ignored MSF’s requests, and continued on its way to Libya.
“Our repeated offers to provide assistance to the four survivors and our plea not to return the people to Libya went unheard,” said Caroline Willemen, MSF project coordinator.
“These people fled the hell of Libya and then witnessed the death of dozens of their companions while drifting for several days at sea without any assistance. After this unimaginable ordeal, they have been condemned to be returned to Libya, re-entering the vicious cycle of violence, extortion, and abuse they were trying to escape. We urge Frontex and other European aircraft and vessels present in the area to reveal the circumstances of these tragic events,” she said.
Willemen stated that, “the withdrawal of the EU and its member states from search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean sea, and their support to the Libyan Coast Guard are at the root of the deaths and violations of human rights occurring in the central Mediterranean. When will Europe put an end to this, and embrace its responsibilities to protect lives instead of borders?”