Bodies of 10 Europe-bound migrants wash up in Libya

Published May 12, 2021
MIGRANTS wake up after spending the night outside a camp on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy.—AP
MIGRANTS wake up after spending the night outside a camp on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy.—AP

CAIRO/ROME: At least 10 bodies of Europe-bound migrants washed up ashore in western Libya on Tuesday, a UN migration official said, after two shipwrecks this week left some 30 people presumed drowned.

The bodies were found near the western Libyan towns of Zuwara and Garaboli, said Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the Int­ernational Organisation for Migration. They are believed to be migrants who drowned earlier this week while trying to reach Europe, she said.

A boat carrying over 65 migrants capsized off Libya on Monday, leaving at least two dozen presumed dead. That followed the death on Sunday of five people, including a woman and a child, after their boat capsized.

The shipwrecks were the latest disasters in the Mediterranean Sea involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe. They came amid a spike in crossings and attempted crossings from Libya in recent weeks, with smugglers taking advantage of the calm sea and warm weather.In recent years, the European Union has partnered with Libya’s coast guard and other local groups to stem the dangerous Libya-Italy crossings. Rights groups, however, says those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups in squalid detentions centers rife with abuses.

They (bodies) all bear witness to the hardening policies and rising hostility towards people fleeing violence and extreme poverty, said the spokeswoman.

Italy urges EU ‘solidarity’

Italy called on Tuesday for “solidarity” from its European Union partners in managing increasing number of migrants after more than 2,000 people landed on its shores in recent days.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said there must be “structural changes” to the way the bloc managed migration, “with the activation of concrete and solid solidarity mechanisms, including emergency ones”.

She held up as an example an agreement made in 2019, in which a number of EU countries, notably Germany, France, Italy and Malta, agreed to share the number of migrants who land in Italy or Malta.

The deal was suspended with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Her remarks, issued in a statement by her office, came after a videoconference with ministers and representatives of the EU and North African countries, including Tunisia and Libya.

Lamorgese, who will visit Tunis on May 20 with the EU’s commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, also emphasised the need to work with the EU’s African partners.

Between Jan 1 and May 11 this year, almost 13,000 people who left the North African coastline landed in Italy, according to Italian government figures.

This is three times more than in the same period in 2020, and 13 times more than in 2019.

The weekend saw a surge in arrivals, with more than 2,000 taking advantage of the fine weather and landing at Lampedusa, where reception centres are overwhelmed.

The stretch of water between Sicily and North Africa is one of the world’s deadliest migration routes.

Some 621 people have died during the crossing since the start of 2021, according to the Inte­rnational Organisation for Migration (IOM).

After Tuesday’s meeting, hos­ted by Portugal as the holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, Spanish Interior Minister Fer­nando Grande-Marlaska emphasised “the need to invest in relations between the countries of origin, transit and destination as the only way to effectively manage migratory flows”.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021

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