European countries accused of complicity after 11 bodies were recovered from the Mediterranean off Libya

Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, has reported the recovery of 11 bodies and the rescue of dozens of people off the coast of Libya. The organisation criticised the migration policies of Libya and European countries. In a statement on Friday (7 June), MSF said its Geo Barents rescue ship had recovered the bodies after a search lasting more than nine hours. The operation was launched after an alert from the German NGO Sea-Watch, which also assists refugees and migrants. "Although the cause of this tragedy remains unknown, it is clear that people will continue to undertake dangerous journeys in their desperate search for safety. Europe must create safe and legal routes for them," MSF said in a post on X. "This catastrophe must end!" 

Sea-Watch noted that it was unclear whether the bodies were from a previously unknown shipwreck, and mentioned that attempts to contact the Libyan coastguard to recover the dead had gone unanswered. “The so-called Libyan coastguard – funded by the EU – ignored our call demanding that the bodies be recovered,” the group said. Thousands of people trying to reach Europe from Africa use Libya as a point of departure, with the Italian island of Lampedusa the closest European destination. These migrants make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to escape war, poverty and persecution.

Italy, which wants to stop the flow of migrants, has urged Libya and neighbouring Tunisia to do more to prevent such sea journeys. It has also restricted the operations of rescue ships, arguing that they encourage migration to Europe - a claim denied by charities. Underlining this policy, Italy announced on Friday (7 June) that it had ordered MSF's rescue ship to take 165 rescued people to the northern port of Genoa. This port is more than 650 nautical miles (1,200 km) from their location, significantly further than closer ports in Sicily, thus delaying aid to the rescued. The central Mediterranean route is the most dangerous migrant crossing in the world, with the UN recording more than 20,000 deaths and disappearances in the area since 2014. According to the International Organisation for Migration, more than 3,000 refugees and migrants went missing while attempting the route in 2023.

Source: and Aljazeera with other agencies
Photo: A handout picture shows Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) teams on a boat carrying the bodies of migrants in body bags recovered from the Mediterranean Sea, June 7, 2024. (MSF via Reuters)

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