Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

Frontex: Overpacked boats increase death toll at sea

  • Operation Sophia is seizing boats used by migrants (Photo: Frontex)

The EU's border agency, Frontex, says more people are dying at sea because boats disembarking from Libya are dangerously overloaded.

Speaking to MEPs on Wednesday (12 July), Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri said that the crowded conditions are among the reasons behind the high number of drownings.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"There are now approximately 170 migrants per boat, per dinghy, while two years ago there used to be approximately 90 migrants on board," he said.

The comment follows a stinging inquiry report by the UK House of Lords, also released Wednesday, which says the EU naval mission Sophia, to seize migrant vessels, is contributing to a spike in deaths.

Given the seizures, smugglers and traffickers appear to have resorted to using more unseaworthy rubber dinghies out of fear of losing better-equipped wooden boats. Dinghies now account for 70 percent of all boats leaving the Libyan coast.

Leggeri noted cases where smugglers remove outboard motors and then set the boats adrift. Others are simply towed out before being left behind.

"They have no food, they have no drinking water, they have no fuel," he said. Over 181,000 crossed the same route last year - up from 153,000 in 2015.

Other EU rescue missions, coordinated by Frontex, operate up until the southern edge of Malta's vast search and rescue zone.

The limit has, in part, pushed NGOs and charities to carry out rescues much closer to the Libyan coastline.

Most people are plucked from the sea within 20 nautical miles of the Libyan coast, and sometimes even closer. Around 85,000 people have landed in Italy since the start of the year, with the vast majority having left from Libya.

Most people who end up in Libya have gone there to work with no intention to leave for the EU. But many are also trapped, given the deplorable conditions, and find themselves with little alternative but to take a boat. The more unfortunate ones are sold into slavery or worse.

Libya has no functioning authority to oversee its search and rescue zone. Instead, the EU is training an ill-equipped Libyan coastguard. Those rescued by the Libyans often end up in detention centres, some of which are run by armed militias.

Unable to offload the problem onto a non-existent Libyan government, the EU has turned to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to help people return to their home countries.

"Many migrants are still in Libya and are desperate to leave and therefore will board any craft, however dangerous or risky the enterprise seems," said Sandro Gallinelli, an Italian coastguard captain.

Italy has largely been left to deal with the issue alone given the lack of help from other EU member states.

The issue has pushed Rome into asking other EU states to open their ports. It has also prompted authorities to draft controversial code of conduct rules for NGO rescues.

Gallinelli, echoing similar comments made by the Italian leadership, said piecemeal efforts by member states and a Libya in turmoil means that many more are likely to take the dangerous journey.

"The real problem for Europe is not what we are facing today - it is what we could be facing and what we will certainly be facing tomorrow," he warned.

Most Libya migrants not headed to EU, aid group says

The International Organisation for Migration interviewed thousands of migrants in Libya last year. It found that 60 percent did not want to go to Europe, but had aimed to remain and find work in Libya.

Italy to impose tough rules on NGOs

Italian authorities will release a code of conduct for NGOs, which prevents them, among other things, from entering Libyan territorial waters. A draft copy of the code says NGOs will be banned from Italian ports on failure to comply.

Interview

David Miliband: EU should take over 500,000 refugees

David Miliband heads the US-based International Rescue Committee, an international aid organisation. In an interview with EUobserver, he says the EU should take over 500,000 refugees.

EU monitoring of Libyan coastguard done by Libyans

The EU trains the Libyan coastguard and set up a monitoring mechanism to ensure they respect the human rights of migrants. But the mechanism only requires Libyans to file reports about themselves.

UN criticises EU policy in Libya as 'inhuman'

The EU's policy of helping the Libyan coast guard to return people plucked from the sea is "inhuman", says the UN's human rights chief, given that most end up in dire conditions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  3. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  4. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  5. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  6. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  7. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  8. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  9. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  11. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  12. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'

Latest News

  1. 1.3 million European citizens in call for glyphosate ban
  2. EU 'cannot afford' lengthy German deadlock
  3. David Miliband: EU should take over 500,000 refugees
  4. EU bans 'geo-blocking' - but not (yet) for audiovisual
  5. EU monitoring of Libyan coastguard done by Libyans
  6. Greek opposition leader promises end to 'surreal' era
  7. Refugee case could topple Slovenia government
  8. Leak: EU states weaken post-Dieselgate testing