Devastating Shipwreck Off Libya Claims More than 70 Lives: IOM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 15 asylum seekers to relocate safely from Italy to Spain. The relocation – carried out by IOM in cooperation and with the support of the Italian Ministry of Interior, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), and the Spanish Government, and with coordination from the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission – was the first from Italy to Spain since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The relocation operations, which are funded by the EU via the emergency assistance strand of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), was one of several movements carried out in the last two months. Since September, 184 asylum seekers have been relocated from Italy to other EU Member States since September 2020, including to France (59), Germany (109), Portugal (12) and Finland (4).

“The mounting loss of life in the Mediterranean is a manifestation of the inability of States to take decisive action to redeploy much needed, dedicated Search and Rescue capacity in the deadliest sea-crossing in the world,” said Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission.

“We have long called for a change in the evidently unworkable approach to Libya and the Mediterranean, including ending returns to the country and establishing a clear disembarkation mechanism followed by solidarity from other states. Thousands of vulnerable people continue to pay the price for inaction both at sea and on land.”

So far this year, at least 900 people have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach European shores, some due to delays in rescue. More than 11,000 others have been returned to Libya, putting them at risk of facing human rights violations, detention, abuse, trafficking and exploitation, as documented by the United Nations.

IOM has recorded a recent upsurge in departures from the country with some 1,900 being intercepted and returned and over 780 arrivals in Italy from Libya since the beginning of October alone.

Worsening humanitarian conditions of migrants detained in overcrowded centres, widespread arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, and the extortion and abuse are alarming. In the absence of any safeguards for migrants returned to the country, the Libyan Search and Rescue zone must be redefined to allow for international actors to conduct life-saving operations.

IOM maintains that Libya is not a safe port for return and reiterates its call on the international community and the European Union to take urgent and concrete action to end the cycle of return and exploitation.

Continuous restrictions on the work of NGOs conducting crucial rescue operations work must be lifted immediately and their crucial interventions recognized in line with the humanitarian imperative of saving lives.