Deaths at sea highlight failings in Europe migration policy

Abdullah Jaber, whose son Mubarak died in a migrant ship sinking last month, sits at his home in Khartoum, Sudan, Friday, April 30 2021.

Abdullah Jaber, whose son Mubarak died in a migrant ship sinking last month, sits at his home in Khartoum, Sudan, Friday, April 30 2021. When more than 100 Africans hoping to reach Europe on a rubber boat called repeatedly for help in late April, a rescue never came. In all, approximately 130 people are believed to have died off the Libyan coast. It was the deadliest wreck so far this year in the Mediterranean Sea and has renewed accusations that European countries are failing to help migrant boats in trouble. | AP

Human rights groups, the U.N.’s migration and refugee agencies and international law experts say European countries too often ignore their international obligations to rescue migrants at sea and outsource operations to the Libyan coast guard.

CAIRO — As the waves pounded the gray rubber boat carrying more than 100 Africans hoping to reach Europe from Libya, those aboard dialed the number for migrants in distress frantically. In the series of calls to the Alarm Phone hotline, passengers explained that the dinghy had run out of fuel while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and was quickly filling up with water and panic.

On the other end of the line, activists tried to keep the migrants calm as they relayed the boat’s GPS coordinates repeatedly to Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities and later to Frontex, the European Union’s border and coast guard agency, hoping authorities would launch a rescue operation as required under international maritime law.

An analysis of logs and emails from Alarm Phone and the NGO SOS Mediterranée as well as reports by the Libyan coast guard show that the national authorities contacted responded slowly, insufficiently or not at all to the pleas for help. In all, approximately 130 people are believed to have died between April 21 and April 22 as they waited in vain for someone to save them, roughly 30 miles from the Libyan coast.

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It was the deadliest wreck so far this year in the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 20,000 migrants or asylum seekers have perished since 2014, and has renewed accusations that European countries are failing to help migrant boats in trouble.

Instead, human rights groups, the U.N.’s migration and refugee agencies and international law experts say European countries too often ignore their international obligations to rescue migrants at sea and outsource operations to the Libyan coast guard despite its limited capacity, reports of its ties to human traffickers, and the fact that those intercepted, including children, are placed in squalid, overcrowded detention centers where they face abuse, torture, rape and even death.

European nations, of course, routinely rescue migrants in distress. Since the April 21 wreck alone, the Italian coast guard and navy have rescued at least 149 people near its coasts. Spanish authorities, meanwhile, deployed military planes and helicopters as well as rescue ships to airlift three people and recover the bodies of 24 who had died in a wreck April 26 nearly 310 miles from the country’s Canary Islands.

Still, 2021 is …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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