Tragedies at European borders are costing thousands of lives while EU governments are ignoring their responsibilities with deadly consequences.
That is according to Isabel Simpson, executive director at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders) Ireland.
Over the course of 2021, the International Organisation for Migration documented more than 1,300 deaths in the central Mediterranean, a number that does not tell the full story, according to MSF Ireland, as many other shipwrecks went unreported.
“This number also shows an alarming increase in the mortality rate in the Mediterranean compared to the previous years,” said Ms Simpson.
In 2021, the illegal interceptions of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean by the Libyan coast guard tripled compared to 2020.
Ms Simpson said this was as a direct consequence of the European governments’ decision to outsource the management of the migration flows to the Libyan government.
“More than 30,900 migrants have been intercepted by the Libyan coast guard in 2021; the majority of these people have been brought to the detention centres,” she said.
“Our teams in Libya witnessed that migrants end up locked in arbitrary detention for an indefinite period of time in dangerous detention facilities characterised by physical abuse, sexual violence, exploitation, limited access to healthcare and deprivation of basic services such as food, water, proper ventilation and light.”
As for the people rescued at sea by MSF, Ms Simpson said most of them have recounted “harrowing journeys”.
“There are men, women, children, some of them travelling alone, who have fled a cycle of exploitation, abuse and detention in Libya where the majority of migrants and refugees are kidnapped by militias and armed groups and held captive.”
Ms Simpson criticised European governments for turning their backs on the issue.
“Tragedies at the European borders continue to cost thousands of lives while the European governments dangerously continue to ignore their responsibilities with deadly consequences,” she said.
“European governments, rather than ensuring a state-led search and rescue capacity in the central Mediterranean Sea, ceded responsibility for overseeing Mediterranean rescue operations to Libya.
“EU member states have condemned people to drown because of reckless policies of non-assistance and their irresponsibility already claimed more than 22,800 lives since 2014.
“MSF urges all European member states to ensure a state-led, dedicated and proactive search and rescue capacity in the central Mediterranean Sea, and also to provide for a quick and adequate response to all distress calls, as well as prompt disembarkation of survivors in a place of safety.”