GAETA, APRIL 23 – Italy has handed over to the Libyan coast guard the first two of 10 boats to rescue migrants from foundering smugglers’ boats, as part of a strategy Rome hopes will reduce the huge numbers of the rescued from reaching Italian shores.
The boats were handed over at a ceremony in Gaeta, Italy, where an initial group of 20 Libyan coast guard members completed training at the local port city naval school. Tens of thousands of migrants are being rescued at sea in operations coordinated by the Italian coast guard and taken to Italian shores. Many, however, are fleeing poverty and are not eligible for political asylum.
Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti, attending the ceremony, said Libya’s “stabilization” would give traffickers “less space to maneuver.” The minister said Italy would deliver the rest of the boats by June, and at that juncture Libya’s Navy forces will be “the strongest in northern Africa” to contain and contrast human trafficking.
Human rights advocates fear that if the migrants are returned on Libyan boats to the largely lawless northern African country, they will again risk torture, sexual abuse and exploitation as laborers, as many migrants have reported suffering while waiting months for smugglers to put them aboard boats. Attending the ceremony was Libyan Ambassador Ahmed E.I. Safar, who acknowledged that such abuses occur.
“Yes, there were abuses committed by people who did not have the right to be in those centers”, he told the press in Gaeta, adding that “instability in Libya is at the root causes of what happened and that “will probably happen again in the future”. The Ambassador promised that Libya will deal with this problem “in terms of monitoring, supporting, raising awareness” with the help of other countries and international organizations. (@OnuItalia)