Amnesty International released a report stating that the continued death and abuse of migrants is clearly linked to the EU’s policies. The report entitled, A perfect storm: The failure of European policies in the Central Mediterranean, has found that European leaders are prioritizing ways to prevent refugees and migrants from being able to depart from Libya in order to lessen the amount of migrants arriving to Europe.
The EU is doing this by working with Libyan authorities and coastguards. Specifically, they are providing the Libyan coastguards with training and other assets to make it easier for them to intercept refugees and migrants trying to escape by boat into international waters. Along with the EU efforts to make the journey more difficult for refugees and migrants to get to international waters and escape, the boats that refugees and migrants are loaded onto are of lesser quality due to insufficient amount of fuel, no life-jackets or safety features, and no way to call for help. So the boats alone already have no chance of making it to European coasts and are typically in need of rescue after they take off.
The EU states that they are trying to save lives by preventing dangerous crossings, but are actually making the situation much worse for refugees and migrants. They are increasing the risks of death at sea for refugees and migrants, and also increasing the chances of being imprisoned, tortured, and raped after being intercepted by the Libyan coastguards.
One man from Gambia shared his story with Amnesty International and stated that after being intercepted by one of the Libyan coastguards he spent three months in prison. He went on to say “you sleep like sardines in the cell, on your side, because there is no space. They beat you if you do not lie down in the right way. The water for the toilet was also for drinking…I saw three people being tortured while I was in prison. One boy died during [the] torture.”
As of right now, Italy and Greece are taking in the bulk of migrants and refugees. Since 2014, the Italian coastguard has rescued over 590,000 refugees and migrants, but unfortunately have had over 14,000 die while trying to reach a safer and better life. This year there are many more refugees and migrants trying to leave. In the first half of 2017 73,000 migrants and refugees reached Italy by sea, which is a 14% increase from the same time period last year. With that we are also seeing an increase in the death toll as well.
Last week, Italy threatened to close its ports in order to make the EU address the crisis that is happening with refugees and migrants. If the EU doesn’t step up now, the situation will only get worse and we will continue to see an increase in deaths and abuse. Amnesty International’s Europe Director, John Dalhuisen, states that “European states have progressively turned their backs on a search and rescue strategy that was reducing mortality at sea in favor of that has been thousands drown and left desperate men, women and children trapped in Libya, exposed to horrific abuses.” He continues by saying that “the EU must rethink its cooperation with Libya’s woefully dysfunctional coastguard and deploy more vessels where they are desperately needed.”