Desperate refugees have now been labeled hi-jackers and pirates when the briefly took control of the merchant ship that had rescued them. They group commandeered the ship, the El Hiblu 1, and turn it toward Europe when they learned that it heading back to Libya. The 108 refugees efforts to reach their destination was called "an act of piracy."
Rather than accuse them for trying to escape their fate, Medicins Sans Frontiers wrote that the "desperate and dangerous situation" underscored "the broken system at sea and the despair of vulnerable people."
"Imagine escaping from a concentration camp," wrote the rescue group Mediterranea Saving Humans on social media. "During the escape they catch you and want to bring you back. Would you rebel? So they made the 'pirates' of the freighter El Hiblu 1, to save themselves and their children. Imagine, then judge."
Libya as documented by numerous aid agencies in countless reports is not a safe haven. Tens of thousands of refugees who have been returned to Libya are forced to live in conditions which the United Nations has called "an outrage to the conscience of humanity." At Libyan detention centers migrants are locked up indefinitely with no access to medical care, little food, and the constant threat of rape, torture, and human trafficking.
The European Union announced it would suspend its sea-based patrols of the Mediterranean Sea, which have allowed the E.U. to rescue thousands of migrants and refugees in recent years.
The end of the E.U.'s sea rescues will mean "more interceptions by Libyan forces and return of women, men, and children to nightmarish conditions and treatment in Libya," explained Judith Sunderland, associate director for Europe at Human Rights Watch.
We applaud the bravery of the refugees who took action to avoid being sent back to Libya.