France is to supply the Libyan navy with six speedboats destined for coastguard operations to intercept migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. The move was described as “scandalous” by medical aid NGO Doctors without Borders, which underlined the horrific fate that awaits intercepted migrants, who are placed in notorious internment camps in Libya. A recent report by UN agencies denounced the camps for practices of violence, torture and rape, and solemnly called on EU countries to ensure they give “no support” to the Libyan coastguard that “contributes to bringing rescued migrants and refugees back to Libya”.
More than 300 migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a clandestine convoy from Libya to Italy were reported drowned this week when their boats overturned off Lampedusa, just days after 29 other seaborne migrants were discovered dead from hypothermia close to the Italian coast. The tragedies follow the narrow rescues in December and January of more than 1,200 Syrian migrants from two rusting ‘ghost’ freighters left abandoned by people smugglers to their fate. Earlier this month, Mediapart’s Carine Fouteau joined the Týr, an Icelandic coastguard ship patrolling the central Mediterranean as part of an operation mounted by the EU border-policing agency Frontex. She heard the harrowing experiences of the Týr’s proud crew who have already rescued 2,000 migrants in difficulty, and questioned Frontex officials about what is an increasingly confused mission. But she begins this report with the dramatic events she witnessed aboard the Týr, when a drifting, apparently crewless rusting freighter suspected of carrying hundreds of migrants in its hold was left to its fate overnight in strong seas - because no-one had sent out an SOS.