News / Africa

UN Ask Mariners to Aid Libyan Refugees in Mediterranean

A migrant carries a suitcase after arriving at the port in Benghazi from the besieged Libyan city of Misrata, May 5, 2011
A migrant carries a suitcase after arriving at the port in Benghazi from the besieged Libyan city of Misrata, May 5, 2011

The United Nations refugee agency is appealing to European states and Mediterranean boat captains to rescue people fleeing Libya by sea. This appeal comes just days after a ship carrying 600 people sank soon after departing from Tripoli. 

The U.N. refugee agency says it is very concerned by the growing death toll of those fleeing war-torn Libya via the Mediterranean Sea. It says an increasing number of people are leaving in unseaworthy vessels and then encountering problems.  Their distress calls often either draw no response or go unheard.

The latest tragedy came when an overcrowded boat capsized shortly after leaving the Libyan capital on Friday.  At least 16 bodies, including two babies, reportedly have been recovered, but the U.N. believes there were many more drowning victims.  

The flimsy vessel was crammed with more than 600 passengers - most believed to be either immigrants to Libya or temporary workers from sub-Saharan African countries who were stranded when the uprising there began.

The U.N. has heightened the urgency of its appeal to European states and to ships in the Mediterranean to act on the maritime tradition that obliges seafarers to rescue people in distress.  

“Any boat that is leaving Libya should be considered at first glance as a boat in need of assistance," said U.N. spokeswoman Melissa Fleming. "Basically, we believe that all of these boats are carrying people who are trying to escape, many of whom are also weakened by the conflict.  And please do not wait for a call of distress.  We are appealing - please, just go to the boat, see if they need assistance and if they do, please rescue them.”  

The U.N. reports 12,360 refugees from Libya have arrived in Italy and Malta.  Since March 25, at least 800 people did not make it to a safe harbor.  That casualty list does not include anyone from the boat that went down last week with 600 people aboard.

Fleming says such a great loss of lives in less than two months, across heavily trafficked sea lanes, cannot have escaped mariners' notice.

“Given the conflict in Libya, it is being heavily patrolled," she said. "So we believe that something needs to be improved to ensure that no more lives are lost. We should consider [the sea] a border just like the Tunisian border or just like the Egyptian border, where people are able to safely make it across and achieve some form of safe refuge. This is actually probably one of the most dangerous means of escaping Libya right now.” 

The International Organization for Migration says those who risk their lives to board rickety smugglers' boats are also, in many cases, victims of exploitation and abuse.  

Refugees usually pay hundreds of dollars to leave Libya by sea.  But more and more, the migration organization says, travelers meet even worse treatment.  Too often they are stripped of all belongings - their money, their luggage, their mobile phones - by unscrupulous ship operators.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid