Published On: Sat, Apr 15th, 2017

EU leaving refugees to drown, say NGO rescuers

Araweelo News Network

Refugees wait to be rescued from a sinking dinghy off the Libyan coastal town of Zawiyah, March 20, 2017, as they attempted to cross from the Mediterranean to Europe. (Photo by AFP)

Roma(ANN)-Charity groups and NGOs have rescued over 2,000 desperate refugees in the rough waters of the Mediterranean in a single day, criticizing the European Union for failing to conduct necessary search and rescue operations to prevent further loss of life.

According to the Italian coastguard, 19 rescue operations by NGOs, including the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), were carried out on Friday and managed to rescue a total of 2,074 refugees aboard on 16 rubber rafts and three small wooden boats.

The MSF reported that a teenager had also been found dead in one of the inflatable boats, whose passengers had been saved by its ship Aquarius. The charity organization also tweeted that Aquarius and Prudence, another ship operated by the MSF, had managed to save 1,000 lives in nine boats.

The MSF also said that NGOs must fill the gaps in service provision left by Frontex, the EU border agency.

“Frontex Director [Fabrice Leggeri] says it’s a paradox that a third of rescues are done by NGOs. We agree. [But] where are Frontex boats in a day like this?” the MSF tweeted.

“Many more people could have died in a day like this if we arrived a few hours later. We are where we’re needed, what’s the EU doing meanwhile?” it added.

Frontex has restricted most of its patrols to less than 50 kilometers off the Italian coasts, while NGOs venture much further, towards the North African country of Libya.

Libya remains a major gateway for asylum seekers attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, with more than 450,000 people having made the crossing over the past three years.

Would-be asylum seekers wait to disembark in the port of Catania, on the island of Sicily, Italy, on March 21, 2017 from the ship Aquarius following a rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo by AFP)

The EU coastguard believes that saving further lives will encourage the human traffickers to fill the flimsy dinghies with more refugees and hearten the refugees to venture into the rough sea.

Leggeri recently said that NGOs rescue operations were “supporting criminal networks” of smugglers and traffickers. Earlier, he had said that rescuing refugees’ lives should not be a priority for the Frontex.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 32,000 refugees have arrived in Europe so far this year. However, over 650 people have died or are missing since January 1.

Frontex set the number of refugees crossed the EU border in 2016 at a total of 503,700 people. The last year’s figure, however, is dwarfed by over 1.83 million people, who illegally crossed the EU borders in 2015.

Earlier this week, the United Nations raised concerns about the increasing number of African refugees passing through Libya and being traded in slave markets.

Europe has been facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. Many blame major European powers for the exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East.

About the Author

- #Arraale Mohamoud Jama is a freelance and investigative journalist, writer and human rights activist with more than 20 years of experience. He writes about a range of topics related to social issues such as human rights, politics and security. Other topics in which Mr. Arraale is interested include democracy and good governance. Mr. Arraale has written extensively on regional and international events, and has worked with Somaliland newspapers and Human rights organizations. In 2008, he established #Araweelo #News #website# Network, which he currently manages. For further information, please contact: or Send an SMS or MMS to + 252 63 442 5380 + 252 63 442 5380 /

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