Shocking footage of the so-called Libyan coastguard shooting in the direction of a boat carrying migrants in international waters off Malta is the latest criminal conduct by an entity that, in recent years, has often violated the most fundamental rules of rescue at sea and of human rights law.
The latest images, taken in international waters in the central Mediterranean on June 30, are shocking and revolting. The pursuit, the close-range shooting at unarmed migrants, the systematic attempts to ram the boat and the high-speed manoeuvres could have caused a massacre in Maltese SAR waters, where the Libyans conducted their nefarious operation.
The event reminded me of an incident in 2017 when a man was dragged continuously through the water by a rope attached to a Libyan coastguard boat sailing at high speed, with similarly brutal disregard for human life.
Paradoxically, the means by which these criminal acts are conducted are the same means that Europe provides to the Libyan coastguard. They inhumanely open fire on migrants, fishermen and humanitarian organisations and try to ram and overturn the boats, putting the lives of people who are inside and outside the Libyan SAR in danger, as it was documented by the videos of the Italian coastguard and NGOs.
Since the beginning of 2021, more than 800 people have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Despite an increased resurgence of violence in many parts of the world, driving more people to risk their lives migrating in search of safety, strategic political discussions continue to be delayed.
The international summits, which began in May with Italy’s request for a voluntary migrant redistribution mechanism among the European countries and continued at the end of June with the second international conference on Libya, have resulted in a stalemate: postponed as if the tragic deaths at sea were not an emergency.
There is general silence around the ceaseless violence taking place in Libya’s detention camps- Regina Catrambone
Once again, the leaders of the 27 states decided to close their eyes, ignoring any possible supportive decision and failing to produce any meaningful strategy to save human beings. Although the language of these international agreements and meetings condemn migrant smuggling and commit to fighting human trafficking, the words do not reflect reality.
There is only one issue on which there is unanimity: the management of external borders. Once again, deals modelled on the agreement with Turkey are favoured, with states backing agreement renewals with Libya and the creation of new memoranda of understanding with other North African states. Meanwhile, there is general silence around the ceaseless violence taking place in Libya’s detention camps.
European short-sightedness is obvious in the face of conflict and violence that international summits pretend not to see, like the dramatic situation unfolding in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region on the border with Eritrea.
For months, the armed conflict there has been accompanied by horrific violence, where thousands of women and girls are allegedly victims of mass rape in the midst of a genocide against the entire population. International humanitarian workers are among those slaughtered.
The inhumane violence that is taking place in these areas, as well as the situation in Libya, continue to be treated inconsistently by international bodies.
There is an urgent need for increased awareness, solidary and concrete action from the European Union and from all global governance. The suffering of people forced to leave their homes or who find themselves in inhuman situations that none of us should ever experience must not be ignored.
On behalf of civil society, I continue to appeal to European and global leaders so that, in such a difficult time, concrete actions can be put in place.
Such actions include the creation of European humanitarian corridors and the implementation of #SafeAndLegalRoutes.