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Europe must take responsibility for silent shipwreck

EUROPE’S maritime authorities must accept responsibility for 91 refugees who went missing off the coast of Libya last month, migrant rights campaigners have demanded. 

In the early hours of February 9 the rescue activist network Alarm Phone received a distress call from a sinking rubber boat in international waters. The refugees on board had fled Libya the previous evening.

“The migrants told us that they were in extreme distress, that their boat was deflating, the engine not working and that some people had already gone overboard,” Alarm Phone said yesterday. 

The activists provided Maltese and Italian maritime authorities with the boat’s location. Neither accepted the rescue as their responsibility. 

Alarm Phone also contacted the Libyan Coastguard which said it was “unable to conduct search and rescue operations as its ‘detention centres are full’.” 

“Their families keep on asking us where their loved ones are and what happened to them,” Alarm Phone said. 

“Unfortunately, due to the silence of authorities, and their unwillingness to co-operate, we have been unable to give answers to relatives and friends. 

“How long will they have to live with this uncertainty?”

“If all these individuals have lost their lives, their death is once more the result of European migration policies and the externalisation of borders to North Africa and elsewhere.”  

“The Mediterranean is a liquid cemetery because European states and authorities refuse to put an end to these lethal policies. 

“Instead, they restrict search and rescue operations, criminalise non-government rescuers and actively hide their own implication in the disappearance and killing of people at sea.”

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