Connect with us

News

I’m a medic on a rescue ship in Italy – right now, authorities are using coronavirus as an excuse to let migrants die

s

  • I’m a medic on a rescue ship in Italy – right now, authorities are using coronavirus as an excuse to let migrants die

Despite the pandemic, non-assistance and deliberate delays have become the new norm in Maltese and Italian rescues zones, causing more disappearances and deaths, both at sea and in Libya.

Refugees and migrants swimming and shouting for help from crew members from the Migrant Offshore Aid Station's Phoenix vessel off the coast of Italy, 24 May, 2017

Refugees and migrants swimming and shouting for help from crew members from the Migrant Offshore Aid Station’s Phoenix vessel off the coast of Italy, 24 May, 2017 ( Getty Images )

The coronavirus spread into Italy about one month ago. Early warnings from the authorities didn’t give the impression that the disease could bring with it thousands of deaths and, despite the reality in Wuhan, for several weeks we kept speaking about it as if it were just another seasonal flu.

At the end of February, my grandfather died. He was an old man, with comorbidity and terminal cancer. The doctors didn’t investigate too much further. But many other people died in these same weeks, and not all of them were old, or had a previous advanced chronic disease.

Soon after, the whole of Italy went into a complete lockdown. All of a sudden, everything stopped. And an issue that was dominating the news until the day before, disappeared from the general concern: the migration crisis. What would happen to it now that Italy was facing the coronavirus pandemic?

The nationwide lockdown didn’t only mean empty streets and empty bars. The humanitarian vessels operating in the Mediterranean have moored in Italian ports, put in quarantine after disembarking the last people they could rescue at sea. Civil aerial reconnaissance aircrafts are grounded. The Lampedusa hotspot has been locked into quarantine.

Despite the current health emergency in Italy, however, desperate departures from the northern coasts of Africa have not stopped.

READ  EU tells Italy to stop collaboration with Libya

On 14 March, the Alarm Phone NGO monitoring for distress calls at sea reported two distress cases of ships carrying more than 200 castaways in international waters between Malta and Lampedusa.

The majority (112 of them) had already been located by a Frontex aerial asset in the early morning, as reported by sources in Alarm Phone and documented by Angela Caponnetto, Italian reporter covering Lampedusa. The 112 on board spent about 48 hours at sea before being eventually rescued by Maltese authorities, 18 hours after receiving the Alarm Phone alert.

The remaining castaways were on a rubber dinghy in sight of the Maltese oil tanker ship Gineshli since the early morning. Alarm Phone recordings testify how migrants on the dinghy had been communicating with the tanker to ask for floaters and water.

Instead of coordinating with its tanker, Malta called up the Libyan Coastguard, guiding the Libyan vessel Ras Al Jadar to the second distress case of the day. The 46 people on board were intercepted and taken back to Libya when they were only 80 miles away from the Maltese coast.

It is not the first time that the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, reportedly made of armed militias trained in Europe and cooperating with EU border agency Frontex, are called in to perform illegal push-back operations inside European rescue-zones.

On the night of the 9 February, Aita Mari, the rescue ship of the Basque humanitarian organisation Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario, witnessed another joint operation between La Valletta and the Libyans happening in Maltese waters. Michele Angioni, the first officer on board the Spanish ship, said that the humanitarians offered to intervene, but the Maltese authorities ordered them to stay away from the case as a military plane, probably Maltese, was flying over the rubber dinghy.

READ  Greece evicts vulnerable refugees, leaves them on the streets - MSF

A reconstruction of the events based on the testimonies of the people on board and collected by Alarm Phone shows how the Maltese Armed Forces, first to arrive on the scene, had purposely delayed the rescue operation so as to allow for the arrival of the Libyan coastguard to bring the dinghy back to Libya.

This operation, illegal under international law, was prevented only by the castaways jumping into the water once they had understood what was happening.

In November last year, The Times of Malta exposed a secret deal between Malta and Libya to prevent further migrant arrivals, a negotiation that involves coordinated intervention by the Armed Forces of Malta and the Libyan coastguard. A similar negotiation was already revealed taking place between Italy and Libya, when known Libyan traffickers were invited by the Italian intelligence for a round table in Sicily, in 2017.

The coastal countries’ reluctance to take responsibility is reflected by the purposeful delay in rescue operations, which now has no more witnesses, as the humanitarian assets are all blocked in quarantine because of the coronavirus emergency.

Non-assistance, purposive delays, and even pushback are becoming the new norm in the Maltese and Italian rescue zones, causing more disappearances and deaths, both at sea and in Libya. But at the times of coronavirus, there is no humanitarian presence at sea, which can monitor, denounce and counter these crimes.

The fact that so many people are still attempting to cross the Mediterranean despite the lockdown of European countries and the absence of NGO ships in quarantine is strong proof against those accusing NGOs of being responsible for the so-called migration “pull-factor”. Once again, it has become clear that the only thing driving this crisis is a push factor: the deprivation of the most basic human rights in the middle of a civil war in Libya. That’s why the coronavirus outbreak won’t stop people fleeing Libya and seeking asylum in Europe.

READ  Hondurans, Salvadorans relive abusive experiences at US border

Even at the time of the coronavirus emergency, people fleeing Libya have the fundamental right to save themselves and demand asylum. The coronavirus pandemic should not trump on anyone’s right to live and escape violence and war. Aid coming to Italy to tackle the pandemic should also take into consideration the fact that Italy and Malta are still the safe ports for people fleeing the hell of Libya. They too, are facing this pandemic.

Valeria Alice Colombo is an Italian Doctor and Crew member on Sea Watch 3. She is also a member of the journalistic collective Brush&Bow

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
23 − 2 =


News

Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

READ  256 men, women, children die in Mediterranean Sea routes as at April 22

“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

READ  IOM Supports “Strategic Diaspora Mobilization” During COVID-19 Outbreak in Mauritania

“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  Removing barriers for immigrant medical professionals is critical to help fight Coronavirus

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

News

A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  Include migrants in vaccine plans, IOM urges at Regional Health Conference

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

News

Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

READ  Forced back home by the pandemic, Venezuelan grandmother sees no choice but to flee once again

“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  Gavi, IOM join forces to improve immunization coverage for migrants

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  Hondurans, Salvadorans relive abusive experiences at US border

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2019 Voice for African Migrants. Site Design: Semasir Connect