I am sure that you have heard all about the refugee crisis. I know that in every war there are always refugees, and ever since the Vietnam war there have been boat people. Most of these people escape by paying someone to take them away from the country of conflict…. or at least that is what we have been told on many occasions. There are, of course, many of these “refugees” who leave for economic reasons. Within the last few days I have come across one story of someone who left the border area between Tunisia and Libya. He did not do it because of the conflict, but for economic reasons.
However, it is this story that caught my eye, because it contains details about those so-called refugees heading out from Libya. I should add here that the island of Lampedusa is stretched to the limit because of the “refugees” and that Malta is not helping in this particular crisis. However, it is in the detail of this story that is the reason I am blogging about it. This is the first time that I have ever heard of a regime forcing people into boats, leaving them to face the perils of being on the open sea, and leaving them to drown.
In a sign that the regime is trying to force a refugee crisis as a weapon against its Nato enemies, almost 1,900 people from Libya arrived in five boats on the Italian islands of Lampedusa and Linosa this weekend alone. Another vessel sank – bringing the total lost to four boats. Hundreds of bodies are now washing ashore along the Libyan coast. Some of the refugees said they were forced on to the boats by Libyan troops and police, the International Organisation for Migration reported. Others were given free passage, in contrast to the normal practice where migrants are charged fortunes for the crossing.
“The flow of migrants from Libya to Italy has undeniably accelerated very recently,” said the IOM’s spokesman, Jean Philippe Chauzy. “Until recently, the flow to Europe was overwhelmingly Tunisians and there were no departures [by sea] from Libya. But as of yesterday, a total of 12,360 people on 35 vessels have arrived in Lampedusa and Malta from Libya.”
*******UPDATE****** MORE REPORTS ON SAME SUBJECT
The UK Guardian is also running with this story and has some more detail about the complicity of the Libyan regime with regard to allowing immigrant workers to flee in unseaworthy boats.
The Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is allowing thousands of sub-Saharan African migrants on to overcrowded, unseaworthy ships in an apparently calculated attempt to use migration as a weapon to pressure Nato and the EU countries backing Libya‘s rebels.
Libyan officials admit they are not preventing boats full with African migrants embarking on perilous journeys to Europe. This is in protest at air strikes, which they say have destroyed the country’s coastguard.
Turning a blind eye to people smuggling has had disastrous effects, apparently leading to the deaths of hundreds of boat people during unsuccessful attempts to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, Malta, and other parts of Europe.
Officials are still assessing the death toll from the sinking of an unseaworthy and overcrowded ship that is feared to have claimed hundreds of lives when it went down less than two miles off Tripoli last Friday.
A senior UN official said there had been reports that some migrants had been ordered at gunpoint to board boats by the Libyan army.
Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said the agency had received reports that the Libyan army was organising and directing the exodus with scant regard for human life or for Libya’s international obligations.
Fleming said one survivor had told the UN refugee agency that he and others had initially refused to board a ship they believed to be dangerously overcrowded. Libyan soldiers fired their guns into the air to force people to go on board, the survivor said.
Other survivors told the UN that some ships were leaving Tripoli only for their captain to disembark once they were at sea and take a pilot boat back to shore. “They [the migrants] are told, ‘here’s the compass, you go that way’,” Fleming said.
However, survivors of Friday’s tragedy told the Guardian they did not believe Libyan soldiers or officials had been involved.
This is a very serious situation, but it also goes beyond the regime itself. There are people smugglers and extremely unscrupulous people involved. I suggest that you read the whole report and consider it for yourself, because there is more to the story than meets the eye.