Discord won’t help ease woes of migrants - GulfToday

Discord won’t help ease woes of migrants


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The quest for freedom through the seas comes at a great cost to human life. This is what migrants bear, and continue to bear, as they cross the Mediterranean in a dangerous bid to escape tyranny, hardship and extreme suffering.

More than 100 Europe-bound migrants were feared dead in a shipwreck off Libya, in the latest loss of life as attempts to cross the Mediterranean increase during the warmer months.

In Tunisia, a similar scene was unfolding: Navy divers recovered another body on Saturday from a migrant boat that floundered and sunk off the coast of the eastern part of the country, bringing to 22 the number of known dead, including nine women and a baby, as police searched for the smuggler.

SOS Mediterranee, which operates the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said late on Thursday that the capsized rubber boat, which was initially carrying around 130 people, was spotted in the Mediterranean Sea northeast of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The aid vessel did not find any survivors, but could see at least ten bodies near the wreck.

The migrant traffic has raised the question among European Union countries and Libya over who is responsible for saving those at sea.

The European humanitarian organisation said that those missing will likely join the 350 people who have drowned in the sea so far this year. It accused governments of failing to provide search and rescue operations.

In the years since the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime leader Muammar Gadhafi, war-torn Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and flounder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route.

The International Organisation for Migration said that this would be the largest loss of life in the central Mediterranean since the beginning of 2021. At least 300 other people have drowned or gone missing in the central Mediterranean so far this year, a significant increase compared to the same period last year.

“These are the human consequences of policies which fail to uphold international law and the most basic of humanitarian imperatives,” tweeted Eugenio Ambrosi, chief of staff of the International Organization for Migration.

Alarm Phone, a crisis hotline for migrants in distress in the Mediterranean, accused European authorities of refusing to coordinate a search operation, leaving it solely in the hands of the Libyan coast guard.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with Libya’s coast guard and other local groups to stem such dangerous sea crossings. Rights groups, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centres rife with abuses.

The EU has fought bitterly since 2015, when over a million people, most of them Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan refugees, arrived on its shores, the majority through Greece.

A new pact to tackle the issue was put forward by the European Commission last September but a final deal has yet to be reached.

“Mandatory solidarity” is the most sensitive part of the pact, obliging each country to host some migrants by either accepting migrants, sponsoring their return to countries of origin or offering material assistance on the ground to arrival countries.

The right-wing nationalist governments of Poland and Hungary oppose the plan, even though under the Commission proposal the EU would pay a country 10,000 euros per adult taken in.

Even as an agreement is yet to be inked, migrants are dying. The tragedy is that those related or very close to the migrants who died will never know what happened to their loved ones.

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