120 people in life-threatening danger off the coast of Libya
Yesterday, around 4pm, we received a direct phone call from a boat in distress off the coast of Libya. They told us that they were in a severe emergency situation. There were about 120 people in total, including 86 men, 20 women and 13 children. We informed the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome, but they simply stated that it was the responsibility of the so-called Libyan coastguards
With no other option left, the people on the boat asked us to contact the Libyan authorities. Despite trying repeatedly, we were not able to reach them, showing once again that they are not a functioning coastguard able to respond to emergency situations. In the middle of the night, MRCC stated that the boat had been found and rescued by the Libyan coastguards. We do not know whether this is the case as we can neither reach the Libyan coastguards, nor the people on the boat.
With Europe criminalising non-governmental rescuers and handing over all responsibility to the Libyan authorities who have been involved human rights abuses over the years, this is what happens. We hope that they have survived. If they have, they will be abducted back to a country where they are confined in inhumane conditions.
Today, five years ago, over 360 people died in a shipwreck not far from the Italian island of Lampedusa. While the shipwreck of 2013 triggered a – short lived – humanitarian response, the mass fatalities today rarely make it into the news. Over 17.000 people have died in the Mediterranean since.