As the European Union called on member countries to contribute more to the effort to resettle refugees, Amnesty International released a blistering report on Wednesday which charges that EU policies have made the Mediterranean route from Africa to Europe more deadly than ever for the tens of thousands of refugees who attempt the crossing.
More than 2,100 refugees have died so far this year while crossing the Mediterranean sea in overcrowded, rickety boats. According to estimates, at least 85,000 have made the journey from countries including Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, and Ethiopia—most of those aiming to escape extreme poverty and conflict.
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In its report, Amnesty International finds that the EU has failed to prevent the increase in drownings of refugees, and has done nothing to stop the abuse of migrants at the hands of the Libyan coastguard.
In April 2015, the EU strengthened its search-and-rescue efforts in the Mediterranean Sea, a move that decreased deaths of refugees. But since then, European governments have gradually shifted their focus to preventing refugee boats from leaving Libya, with the help of the Libyan coastguard. The work of rescuing drowning refugees in the Mediterranean has been left to NGOs in recent months.
Amnesty International writes that this change has been “a failing strategy that has led to ever more dangerous crossings and a threefold increase in the death-rate from 0.89 percent in the second half of 2015 to 2.7 percent in 2017.”
According to the report, “There are also serious allegations that members of the coastguard collude with smugglers and evidence that they abuse migrants.”
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