Sunday, June 09, 2019

Where is the help?

The risk of migrants and refugees becoming shipwrecked in the Mediterranean and dying at sea is the highest it has ever been due to a lack of NGO rescue ships and the conflict in Libya hastening departures at an alarming rate, the UN has warned. Anti-immigration policies introduced by the Maltese and Italian governments have driven the sharp decrease in rescue missions.

“If we do not intervene soon, there will be a sea of blood,” said Carlotta Sami, the spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, in Italy. Sami said: “We are witnessing a sharp increase in departures. Obviously, migrants have no say in how or when to leave. The traffickers make that decision for them. They couldn’t care less if the people arrive dead or alive. In recent days, more and more vessels have been overflowing with people. Who will save them if they become shipwrecked?”

Criminalised by authorities, deflagged, struck by seizures and judicial investigations that have so far proved groundless, NGOs have been gradually forced to abandon the central Mediterranean.
Of the 10 NGO rescue boats that were active in the Mediterranean, only one – operated by the German organisation SeaWatch – remains. Three weeks ago, SeaWatch 3 was seized by authorities for carrying 47 people. The boat has since been docked in Licata, Sicily, but will head towards Libya in a few days.
Giorgia Linardi, the spokeswoman in Italy for SeaWatch, said: “Our airplanes have identified 20 dinghies carrying migrants in distress since 10 May. The situation is alarming. We sighted dinghies that waited hours and entire nights before being rescued. These are intolerable conditions. It is absurd that there is no aid in the world’s most militarised and travelled maritime area.”

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