Tripoli, 16 August:
Dozens of refugees die needlessly in the Mediterranean every year, according to a paper published by Human Rights Watch . . .[restrict](HRW) today.
The New York-based organisation argues that rescue operations are hampered by a lack of coordination and disputes over responsibility, as well as disincentives for commercial vessels to conduct rescues.
Hundreds of refugees attempt to reach Europe in unseaworthy vessels every year, and many of them die in the process; the known death toll this year is 170, and around 13,500 are thought to have died since 1998.
“It is chilling to think how many of these deaths could have been prevented,” said Judith Sutherland, Senior Western Europe Researcher for HRW. “Saving lives, not deflecting responsibility, needs to the imperative at sea.”
The European Union is developing a new European External Border Surveillance System, EUROSUR. It includes rescue at sea as a main objective, but does not include specific guidelines or procedures to ensure this objective is reached.
In June 54 migrants from various African countries died when their boat was stranded at sea for 15 days after leaving Libya for Italy. The only survivor was an Eritrean man who reported that all the other passengers had died of dehydration.
The vessel, an inflatable boat, had reached the Italian coast but was forced back to sea by strong winds. The sole survivor was found off the Tunisian coast on 9 July, floating on remnants of the boat. [/restrict]