IOM calls for alternative safe disembarkation mechanism for migrants rescued feeing Libya

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IOM Libya staff assist migrants at a disembarkation point in Tripoli. Photo: IOM 2020

GENEVA, FEBRUARY 19 –  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is calling on the international community including the European Union to find an alternative safe disembarkation mechanism for migrants rescued fleeing Libya by boat after roughly 200 migrants were returned to Tripoli, hours after the city’s main port was heavily shelled on Tuesday.

“Libya cannot wait,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda. “It is time for concrete action to ensure lives rescued at sea are taken to ports of safety, and to end the system of arbitrary detention.”

At least 1,700 migrants have been intercepted or rescued and returned to Libya by the coast guard since the beginning of the new year. More than 3,000 others arrived in Italy and Malta, many of whom were rescued by NGO search and rescue vessels.

There is a need for increased, comprehensive and state-led search and rescue capacity. A predictable and quick disembarkation mechanism, whereby Mediterranean states take equal responsibility in providing a port of safety to people rescued at sea, should be established as a matter of urgency.

The lifesaving efforts of NGO vessels operating in the Mediterranean should be recognized and any restrictions and delays on disembarkation must be lifted.

The humanitarian situation in Libya continues to deteriorate as the conflict enters its tenth month. Over 2,000 migrants remain detained in deplorable conditions, amid access challenges for humanitarian workers.

During the first two weeks of January 2020, nearly 1,000 migrants were returned to Libya, 600 of them have been taken to a facility under the control of the Ministry of Interior. Those migrants are now unaccounted for.

The United Nations continues to document abuse, torture, disappearances and dire conditions in Libyan detention centres. It is unacceptable for the current detention system to continue despite repeated calls to dismantle it and find alternative solutions that guarantee at least a minimum degree of safety and security.

Recent developments pose even greater threats to the safety of thousands of migrants. A new approach to the situation in Libya and the central Mediterranean is needed. Concern must now be translated into action to avoid further tragedies bound to occur, should the status quo continue. (@OnuItalia)