At least 71 migrants returned to Libya after four days at sea

The Libyan coastguard has rescued at least 71 Europe-bound migrants who were stuck at sea for four days on 29 September.  The migrants were returned to Libya. 

According to Libyan officials, none of the migrants drowned or were hurt, though two were in poor condition after days at sea without food or water.

Alarm Phone, an independent organization supporting shipwrecked migrants in the Mediterranean, said that the stranded boat’s distress calls were ignored by Italian and Libyan authorities. According to the organisation, the migrants were found by the Libyan coastguard after “80h in distress at sea & shameful European non-assistance.” 

“This is a scandal and we hope that the 2 people in critical condition will not lose their lives because of such collective EU-Libyan policy of non-assistance,” the organisation tweeted on 29 September.

Shortly after their return to Libya, many of the migrants managed to flee Libyan authorities, who allegedly made no attempt to catch them.

A navy official in the town of Al-Khums said that there were “no orders to use force to intercept the migrants, and officials did not try to move them to detention centres.”

The Libyan coastguard spokesman in Tripoli, Ayoub Qassem, however, said that the migrants had been released after failed attempts to move them to detention centres, which are known among migrants for their overcrowded and inhumane conditions and reports of human rights abuses.

Libya is one of the major departure points for African migrants attempting to reach Italy by boat. However, with the support of the European Union,  many are intercepted and returned to Libya by the Libyan coastguard.

The Mediterranean is still among the riskiest routes for irregular migrants. More than 1,000 people, mostly African migrants and refugees, have died or gone missing on route so far this year.

TMP 14/10/2019

Photo: Davide Bonaldo / Shutterstock.com

Photo caption: Libyan coastguard is thoroughly working to intercept and return irregular migrants departed from Libyan shores.

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