In a shocking report, the Amnesty International has blamed “failing EU policies” for the soaring death toll among refugees and migrants in the central Mediterranean.
So far this year, more than 2,000 migrants and refugees have died while trying to get to Europe, the report said. In 2015, the European Union strengthened a search and rescue program that prevented deaths in the Mediterranean, the report states, but now, the focus is on smugglers as they launch boats out of Libya.
Interior ministers from EU countries are meeting in Estonia to discuss the migrant crisis and the European Commission’s plan to combat it, which calls for splitting $92 million — half to Libya to boost the coast guard’s ability to stop smugglers as they launch boats and half to help Italy take care of migrants that make it to the country. The EU has not responded to the report.
The commission proposes to use more than 50% of the funds to boost the Libyan coastguard’s capacity to stop traffickers launching boatloads of migrants out to sea to be rescued.
Italian ports have continued to see a large number of migrants arrive in the past year, putting stress on the country’s asylum system. Earlier this month, officials suggested closing Italy’s ports to foreign rescue ships – something which is legally difficult, but indicative of the strain the country is under.
The report said, European states have progressively turned their backs on a search and rescue strategy that was reducing mortality at sea in favor of one that has seen thousands drown and left desperate men, women, and children trapped in Libya, exposed to horrific abuses.