Humanitarian tragedy due to "invisible" drownings of migrants on average

 An increasing number of migrants are sailing to Europe despite the continent's closure of its ports and the prevention of any humanitarian ship from carrying out rescue operations ... In light of the Covid-19 epidemic, the Mediterranean has become an open prison Witness the major human tragedy, according to warnings by international NGOs.

With the European continent becoming the center of the global epidemic, only two ships carrying aid for people in distress continued their operations even after Italy and Malta closed their ports due to the new Corona virus in early April. These two vehicles are the Alan Kurdish ship of the German NGO "CI" and the Spanish "Aita Marie".

In light of the political and diplomatic tensions, a handful of migrant ships arrived in recent weeks, as was the case last weekend, when 79 people reached the coast of Italy, where the issue of immigration still wears great sensitivity and is often subject to political exploitation. In neighboring Malta, Prime Minister Robert Abela is facing an investigation into the deaths of migrants at sea accusing the armed forces and authorities of not intentionally saving them.

But since last week, all rescue work has stopped on average. The Italian coast guard has prevented the ships Alain Kurdi and Aita Mare from applying for "technical" reasons, while NGOs denounce what they describe as an unjustified maneuver aimed at "hindering their relief missions".

"In the event that the maritime relief operations are halted and countries slow down to rescue and disembark people, we will find ourselves in front of dangerous humanitarian situations," Vincent Kochtel, the special envoy for the Central Mediterranean region of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told AFP.

Kouchtel notes that 179 people have died in the area since January.

The situation is particularly sensitive because the number of migrant ships departing from the Libyan coast increased by 290%, or 6,629 attempts between January and the end of April, compared to the same period last year, and by 156% of the Tunisian coast, according to Vincent Cochtel.

"Whether there are ships at sea or not, there is no impact on the number of ships that sail. The period of Corona Virus has now demonstrated this comprehensively, at a time when we were hearing in European capitals that the presence of NGOs is what attracts migrant ships." .

He explains that "75% of migrants from Libya lost their jobs during the quarantine measures, which will lead them to despair."

Sophie Bo, director-general of the non-governmental organization SOS Mediterane, says the blocking of two ships' progression calls for a real question of why. This French-based organization runs the humanitarian Viking ship that will return to the sea "as quickly as possible" despite the "criminalization" of NGOs.

"This is truly tragic (...) and is inconsistent with international maritime law that imposes relief to any person as severe as possible. Currently, in the absence of witnesses, we do not know the magnitude of the potential tragedy" in the Mediterranean, she added.

Likewise, the International Organization for Migration warned that the central Mediterranean remains "the most dangerous migration area in the world, and in the current framework, the dangers of invisible drownings have increased far from the attention of the international community."

"The current stage is very complicated. We are accumulating the difficulties. From managing the epidemic to closing the ports and borders ... and adding to these restrictions is the absence of a coordination mechanism," explains Sophie Bo, referring to the agreement on migrant sharing between European countries that the understanding began at the end of 2019 in Malta but Its implementation is still late.

In a joint message addressed to the European Commission, seen by Agence France-Presse, the interior ministers of France, Italy, Spain and Germany called for the establishment of a "solidarity mechanism" on "search and relief" operations at sea, noting especially that "a handful of member states are currently carrying an excessive burden, which indicates To a lack of solidarity and could cause disruption to the entire system. "

Pending the conclusion of a European agreement that is still theoretical, and in the absence of humanitarian ships, 162 migrants remain stranded on two cruise ships in the Mediterranean.


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