22 drivers from 11 countries to race for glory at 2022 Diriyah E-Prix    Korean concert of Stray Kids canceled due to bad weather    Britain Records 10,069 New Infections of Coronavirus    Kuwaiti Prime Minister Receives Qatari Foreign Minister    GCC Secretary General Stresses Importance to Serve Requirements of GCC Joint Market    Infection Control Department at IMC recognized as 'center of excellence'    Representatives of Arab Financial and Civil Aviation Authorities Hold 12th Meeting    MHRSD: 5,000 Saudi men and women join marketing jobs in 2 months    Joint Incidents Assessment Team in Yemen Refutes Number of Claims Raised by Global Bodies and International Organizations    Unified Call Center for Premium Residency soon    Microsoft for Startups celebrates GrowthX Accelerator's first cohort graduates from across MENA    Saudis in the camps of Iran and Hezbollah    EU must focus on climate, tech and security, Macron says    Korean President tours Riyadh Metro project    Female referee becomes first to take charge of AFCON match    MISA opens 6 international offices to promote 'Invest in Saudi'    Saudi woman gives birth to 5 sets of twins    Andrea Bocelli to return to AlUla's Winter at Tantora    KSrelief Assistant Supervisor General Meets Norway's Special Envoy for Yemen    KSrelief Distributes 18 Tons of Food Baskets in Sudan    KSrelief Signs Two Cooperation Agreements with IOM to Support Yemen with USD 20 Million    'Nobody told me' Downing Street party broke COVID rules, Johnson says    Korean President visits historical Turaif District, Diriyah Museum    Korean President Visits Station of Riyadh Metro Project    WHO expresses hope worst of Omicron wave is over    Egypt Records 1303 New Cases of COVID-19    Aramco Signs 10 Agreements During Saudi-Korean Investment Forum    SAIP, KIPO Sign an Advanced Strategic Partnership in the Field of Intellectual Property    2022 Winter Enrichment Program focuses on 'Resilience' in key sectors    Diriyah gears up for Formula E live music concerts as first day line up announced    Lewandowski crowned best FIFA men's player 2021    SFDA: Fat is a Source of Energy and Its Abundance is Linked to Chronic Diseases    Djokovic three-year visa ban could end early, says Australian PM    Two Saudi Players Participate for First Time in Winter Games    Secretaries General of Local and Regional Federations in Asia Concludes Conference    SAMF President Highly Commends Saudi Arabia Dakar Rally 2022    Makkah Governor Patronizes Closing Ceremony of Saudi Arabia Dakar Rally 2022    Reflections on celebration of Christmas    Royal Commission for AlUla to Hold Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022, Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo    Saudi Arabia's Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai Organizes a Dance Theatrical Show for Children    Saudi Arabia rebuffs UN resolution on 'sexual orientation'    Kabir Khan eyes on joint Indian – Saudi film projects    Saudi Film Commission Announces Incentives for Local and International Producers    Bollywood superstar Salman Khan to dazzle Riyadh Season on Dec. 10    Pilgrims Perform Dhuhr and Asr Prayers at Arafat Holy Site    Council of Senior Scholars: Muslim Brothers' Group Don't Represent Method of Islam, rather only Follows its Partisan Objectives, Violating our Graceful Religion    Eid Al-Adha Prayer Performed at the Grand Holy Mosque    Pilgrims Perform Dhuhr and Asr Prayers in Arafat Holy Site    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Libyan smuggling route grows 1 year after mass drownings
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 20 - 04 - 2016

When more than 800 people drowned last year on an overcrowded ship bound for Italy's southernmost isle of Lampedusa, the European Union deployed a round-the-clock flotilla that has saved thousands of lives on what remains one of the world's most perilous journeys.
But one year after Europe's deadliest migrant disaster, humanitarian and security efforts off the lawless coast of Libya face a growing challenge to catch smugglers and bring asylum-seekers to safety. Experts say crackdowns on migration across other EU borders mean that the southern Mediterranean crossing plied daily by smugglers operating out of Libya already is busier now than it was 12 months ago.
So far this year, 24,000 migrants have arrived in Italy via this route and tens of thousands more are waiting in the pipeline, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Rescue officials seek to ensure no repeat of the night of April 18, 2015, when a boat packed with an estimated 850 mostly African passengers capsized as a civilian freighter approached. Most were locked below decks; only 28 survived. Several other smuggling vessels sank in the first months of 2015, some without trace at a cost of untold lives, before EU naval reinforcements arrived that June to cast a safety net.
Experts say that net is fragile.
"There could be a shipwreck tomorrow. Two boats could collide on the high seas. Even a strong multinational presence can't provide a 100 percent safety net," said Federico Soda, director of the IOM's office in Rome, which oversees the central Mediterranean and North Africa.
Most of those 24,000 migrants were scooped up by Italian coast guard and EU vessels from recklessly overloaded vessels that were left drifting, engines dead, between Libya and Italy in a body of water dubbed the Lampedusa Triangle.
Even if their amateur pilots had the requisite navigation skills, few vessels carry enough fuel to complete the approximately 300-kilometer (185-mile) crossing to Lampedusa from Libya.
Soda said about 350 people have died so far this year trying to cross the southern Mediterranean route, nearly as many deaths over the same period as the far busier smuggling routes between Turkey and the eastern islands of Greece.
Now, as EU authorities work to halt that eastern Mediterranean flow of migrants and deport them from Greece back to Turkey, analysts anticipate that asylum-seekers from the Mideast and Asia may see Libya once again as the most temptingly open gateway to Europe.
They note that Libya's paramilitary chaos may make the North African nation a particularly attractive launching point for Europe-bound migrants because EU authorities won't deport migrants back to such a danger zone. Virtually all of this year's arrivals from Libya have been Africans — but observers say that could be about to change.
"We should expect tens of thousands to attempt to depart this spring and summer bound for Lampedusa. With the closure of the EU-Turkey border to migrants, we may learn once again how closing one route pushes people to another route," said Matteo de Bellis, an Amnesty International researcher who just completed a fact-finding mission to Italy's main migrant processing center on Lampedusa.
"Even with the best search-and-rescue framework in place, we must expect hundreds of more deaths this year. When you pack 100 people or more into a rubber dinghy for what is arguably the most dangerous crossing of them all it will never be possible to save everyone," de Bellis said.
EU nations are maintaining a fleet anchored primarily in Lampedusa that operates under the codename Operation Sophia. It includes Italy's largest warship, the aircraft carrier Cavour, and is commanded by an Italian rear admiral, Enrico Credendino. It uses surveillance aircraft and satellite imagery to identify boats leaving Libya's shores, particularly Zuwara west of Tripoli and Misrata to the east, and pounces on them once they exit Libyan territorial waters.
The fleet's official mission is to confront smugglers and deter illegal immigration to Italy, but in practice the effort has become one of the 28-nation bloc's biggest rescue missions in its history. It works in tandem with an older search-and-rescue effort codenamed Operation Triton overseen by the EU border agency Frontex, which deploys ships to rescue migrants from the seas nearer Sicily and Malta.
On Monday, these two operations rescued more than 2,000 people from eight boats that had been spotted by a Luxembourg-provided surveillance plane. A Norwegian vessel took 898 migrants to Sicily, including 224 children, while a German ship delivered 738 others to Lampedusa. Doctors on board the Cavour performed a life-saving abdominal operation on an African man airlifted onto the carrier.
The UN Security Council in October empowered the EU fleet to begin arresting smugglers and seizing their craft in international waters north of Libya. The force temporarily grew to nine ships, a submarine, three surveillance aircraft, five helicopters and a drone as it destroyed 67 smuggler boats and arrested 46 smugglers, according to Credendino's January report on the fleet's first six months.
Credendino suggested that smugglers were increasingly relying on rigid inflatable craft — many of them ordered from China and shipped to Libya via Turkey and Malta — rather than larger wooden vessels, because of the fleet's seizure and destruction of larger craft. He noted that around 8 percent of the smuggled travelers had started their sea journey on Egypt's coast, choosing to travel west for rescue by the EU fleet.
His report pointed to the need to rebuild a credible Libyan government that would allow EU ships into Libyan waters and EU law officials into the ports themselves to confront smugglers more decisively. He wrote that the EU naval force could not safely end its deployment before helping to create "a capable and well-resourced Libyan coast guard."
Analysts, however, say Libya is nowhere close to being a stable partner, with three rival governments still feuding in Tripoli and the eastern port of Tobruk. The United Nations-backed "unity" government has only recently returned to Tripoli from exile in neighboring Tunisia but remains confined to a naval base defended by a militia and can enter and leave the country only by boat.
"Europe cannot solve the problem in the central Mediterranean on its own. It needs a stable government in Libya," Soda said. "Until that day comes, this migrant route will keep producing tragedies."

Clic here to read the story from its source.