Mediterranean death toll estimated at over 600


Migrants drowning at the Mediterranean Sea. Photo by AFP

from AHMED ZAYED in Tripoli, Libya
Libya Bureau
TRIPOLI, (CAJ News) – ALMOST 660 people have lost their lives or gone missing on the sea migration route between Libya and Italy this year.

The international medical humanitarian organisation, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), gave the figures amid indications more lives will be lost because of a hardliner stance taken by most European countries on illegal immigration.

MSF disclosed that since the start of 2023, almost ten people per day have lost their lives or have gone missing in the above-mentioned route.

The organisation warned that the latest measures by the Italian authorities directly target MSF’s Geo Barents search and rescue ship but the real price would be paid by those fleeing across the central Mediterranean.

An appeal has been lodged at the competent court against the detention of the Geo Barents.

On February 23, the Ancona coastguard notified Geo Barents of the 20-day detention with a fine of up to €10 000 (about $US10 500) for failing to provide the voyage data recorder (VDR) to authorities when the vessel arrived in the eastern Italian port city on February 17 to disembark people rescued at sea.

VDR is similar to a flight data recorder -known as a “black box”- on an aircraft.

The detention of Geo Barents is denounced as the latest example of the Italian government deploying its administrative powers to punish organizations involved in search and rescue activities aimed at obstructing civilian efforts to rescue people in distress at sea.

Since 2017, MSF reported it and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have faced frequent harassment by the authorities—including prolonged inspections and detainment—with the aim of preventing their lifesaving activities at sea.

“The detention of Geo Barents is taking place against the backdrop of virtually no state-led search and rescue capacity in the central Mediterranean,” said Virginia Mielgo González, MSF project coordinator on board the Geo Barents.

She said countries such as Malta and Italy consistently delayed, or, in some cases, failed to provide assistance to boats in distress in their own search and rescue regions.

Last Sunday, 63 migrants – including minors— died off the coast of southern Italy.

– CAJ News