A perfect storm: The failure of European policies in the Central Mediterranean

TitelA perfect storm: The failure of European policies in the Central Mediterranean
Typ der PublikationReport
InstitutionAmnesty International

A humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in the central Mediterranean as thousands of people die at sea in the desperate attempt to reach safety or a better life in Europe. In the first half of 2017 73,000 refugees and migrants reached Italy by sea: 14% more than in the same period the previous year. Around 2000 have lost their lives, bringing the mortality rate this year to 2.7%. This represents a three-fold increase over the second half of 2015, when EU-led search and rescue efforts were at their height.

The immediate cause for the rising death toll is that the conditions in which refugees and migrants have been made to cross the sea have deteriorated. Partly in response to EU-led efforts to disrupt their activities, smugglers in Libya have been loading more people onto boats of a lesser quality, mostly inflatable rubber ones, with insufficient fuel, no lifejackets or other safety features, and often with no means to call for help, such as a satellite phone. These boats have virtually no chance of reaching European coasts by themselves
and they are in need of rescue from the moment they depart.

The magnitude of the loss of life so far and the likelihood of imminent large shipwrecks occurring at any moment, as departures continue, should have prompted European leaders to deploy more ships dedicated to rescue operations as close as possible to Libyan territorial waters. Instead, European leaders have prioritized measures to prevent refugees and migrants from departing from Libya in order to keep the number of arrivals in Europe down, notably through increased cooperation on migration with the internationally recognized Libyan authorities. In the past year, the centrepiece of their strategy has been
cooperation with the Libyan coastguard. With the purported aim of saving lives at sea by preventing dangerous crossings, European governments have provided the Libyan coastguard with training and assets and have encouraged it to intercept refugees and migrant boats trying to reach international waters.

This reckless European strategy is not just failing to deliver the desired outcome of stopping departures and preventing further loss of life, but is in fact exposing refugees and migrants to even greater risks at sea and, when intercepted, to disembarkation back in Libya, where they face horrific conditions in detention, torture and rape. (from the executive summary)