Records of contacts with the Libyan Coast Guard show that castaways are receiving no help

The response of the Libyan Coast Guard, tasked with intercepting and returning boats with migrants and refugees traveling to Europe and rescuing the people in need in their waters, is not enough: those responsible do little to work together or react on some Situations just not refer to cases passed on to them, according to communication tapes between the Italian Coast Guard and Libya.

The 3,000 pages of eavesdropping logs by Libyan Coast Guard officers describing a number of cases are part of a case by Italian judges revealed in a joint investigation by The Guardian, Italian broadcaster RAI News and Domani.

For example, between March 22 and 27, 2017, several requests for help from hundreds of people who embarked in a number of unconditional boats in Sabratha, Libya, were received at the Maritime Coordination Center in Italy. The center contacted the head of the Libyan coast guard, Massoud Abdalsamad, and two other officials. But “the result was negative several times”. The Italian authorities lost contact with the boats and on March 29 the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) confirmed the deaths of 146 people, including children and pregnant women.

On May 24, 2017, two boats that had left Libya with hundreds of people started pouring water and one of them capsized, the Guardian says. The Italian Coast Guard received an SOS request from people on board and contacted Abdalsamad. There were 55 contacts and no response. According to the UNHCR, 33 people died.

On June 16 of the same year, ten inflatable boats were in trouble (these ships do not have the right conditions for such voyages). Many of these boats were in Libyan territorial waters.

“Today it starts. It’s vacation here. But I’ll try to help, ”said Abdalsamad. “Maybe we can get there tomorrow,” he replied. Also on that day, says the Guardian, the Libyan official said that many migrants were rescued from these boats. According to the IOM (International Organization for Migration), 126 people had died by the end of this week.

The Libyan Coast Guard has long been accused of not doing enough to rescue migrants and refugees on boats and the European Union has been accused of leaving that task in their hands. In an interview with PÚBLICO in 2019, lawyer Omer Shatz, who is part of a team that has brought a lawsuit against officials of the European Union because of the death in the Mediterranean Sea before the International Criminal Court (ICC), said: “A boat has sunk and there is floating a Portuguese helicopter, a French ship, drones. And nobody does anything. They only take NGO boats [organizações não governamentais] and wait for the Libyan Coast Guard boats to arrive. “

The Italian trial, according to the Guardian, “appears to show that the Italian authorities knew that the Libyan authorities were either unwilling or unable to deal with boats carrying migrants at sea, despite Italy’s investigations into the role of boaters. Promoted NGOs that prevented them from carrying out private rescue missions ”.

“Delays in communication and the lack of coordination capacity of the JRCC (Libya’s Rescue Center) put people’s lives even more at risk and cause unacceptable human costs,” he told the British newspaper Ellen van der. Velder, who is responsible for the management of rescue operations for Médecins Sans Frontières. “The crux of the matter, however, remains the fact that the European Union is giving border surveillance priority over search and rescue operations and taking responsibility for the maritime coordination of much of the sea in the rescue efforts of Central Libya.” .

Libya is also accused of returning migrants and refugees it intercepts or rescues at sea to detention centers where they are subjected to ill-treatment, ill-treatment and even torture.

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