Boats carrying nearly 10,000 migrants in the Mediterranean were intercepted and returned to Libya in 2018

In 2018 so far, the Libyan coastguard has rescued, intercepted and returned to Libya nearly 10,000 migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach European shores. The statistics were revealed by the German Foreign Ministry on 18 September, referring to an inquiry by a political party.

The Libyan coastguard was supported in these rescue efforts by some EU member states. In July 2018, Italy inked a deal to transfer responsibility of rescuing shipwrecked migrants to the Libyan coastguard. To support the search and rescue efforts, the Italian government then boosted the Libyan coastguard fleet and capacity, by providing patrol boats, mid-sized vessels and training.

“Libya’s coast guard now carries this responsibility. It was trained by our own coast guard. And it has the capacity to fulfill its duty,” Italian Minister of Defense Elisabetta Trenta told broadcaster Sky24 last July.

Migrants who are transferred back to Libya are often sent to detention centres. These detention centres have been criticised by the UN and rights group as having poor living conditions, including “increasing overcrowding and lack of basic living standards”. The United Nations (UN) said it is aware of 20 detention centres in Libya, run by the Libya unity government. Its estimates that there are currently 8,000-10,000 people living in these detention centres.

Libya remains in a politically volatile state since the Arab Spring in 2011 that toppled then leader Muammar Gaddafi.

In latest developments, new fighting erupted in Tripoli on 17 September, ending the ceasefire and truce brokered by the UN just two weeks prior. According to Al Jazeera, street battles over the past few months saw migrants, many from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, being released from various detention centres, and then rounded up again into another one.

“As a consequence, riots and hunger strikes by refugees inside detention centers are taking place, demanding a resolution to their bleak living conditions,” said the UN refugee agency in a statement in August 2018.

TMP – 20/09/2018

Photo Credit:  Dozens of migrants are intercepted by Libyan coastguard.