2017-02-28 14:17:29 UTC
EU Chief: Charities Are Encouraging Thousands of Migrants to Sail from
Africa to Europe
The head of the European Union’s border agency has hit out at the increasing number of charities which are rescuing migrants off Libya, saying they simply encourage traffickers to take even more risks with people’s lives.
Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Frontex, told the German newspaper Die Welt
that rescue operations “should be re-evaluated”. He claimed that 40 per cent of recent rescue operations are now carried out by non-governmental organizations.
Under international maritime law, anyone in danger at sea must be rescued. But Leggeri said that charity rescue boats in the vicinity of Libya were leading traffickers to “force even more migrants on to unseaworthy boats with insufficient water and fuel than in previous years”.
Migrant sailings this year are estimated to have risen by about a third to more than 13,000. About 300 people are thought to have died so far. During 2016, it’s thought that 181,000 people made the crossing to Europe, many of whom head for Italy.
Frontex stated in a report published this month that people traffickers no longer automatically give migrants satellite phones to alert the Italian coastguard to their whereabouts. Instead, they assume they will be seen by ships waiting outside Libya’s territorial limit of 12 nautical miles.
Aid officials have said that traffickers are stealing engines from vessels, leaving them to drift.
A Frontex spokeswoman said : “If there is a need to conduct a search and rescue operation, Frontex vessels go as far as needed to assist those in distress. This often happens on the limit of the Libyan territorial waters.”