Oxfam and other like-minded non-profit organizations accused the European Union and its member states of being complicit in the “tragedy” of migrants crossing from Libya to Italy. The aid organizations said that more than 5,300 people had died in the Mediterranean in the past two years. Two years after the EU-Libyan migrant deal whose aim was to stem the flow of migrants from North Africa to Italy, “people are now in even more danger at sea and are being taken back by the Libyan coastguard to face human rights abuses in Libya”, Oxfam said.
The aim of the deal the EU, led by Italy, was supposed to provide means for Libyan coastguards to be used by Tripoli in preventing people from leaving Libya for Europe. Instead, in the two years that followed, “more than 4,000 people have drowned in the Central Mediterranean alone, and more than 5,300 in all corners of the Mediterranean Sea, making it the deadliest sea in the world”, Oxfam said.
The findings by Oxfam and other organizations prompted them to urge European governments to stop sending migrants back to Libya. In their open letter last week, the NGOs said some countries have on purpose forced many of the organizations doing search and rescue operations to stop their work by preventing rescue ships from leaving their ports. People who are rescued by the Libyan coastguard are sent back to Libya, where they were “likely to be placed in arbitrary detention, abused, tortured or sold into slavery”. The UN refugee agency estimates that about 15,000 people have so far been returned to Libya.