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  • Migrants rescued by Libyan coast guard in a town east of Tripoli, Libya July 26, 2019.

    Migrants rescued by Libyan coast guard in a town east of Tripoli, Libya July 26, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 July 2019

The African migrants survived a tragedy in which some 150 people may have died, a recent estimate said on Friday.

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini Friday announced that 135 migrants, who remain at an Italian Coast Guard vessel, will not disembark in his country unless European countries agree to welcome them.

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115 Migrants Feared Dead as Boat Capsizes off Libya

"The European Commission has been officially requested to coordinate the distribution operations of immigrants remaining on board an Italian Coast Guard vessel. It is about 135 people. Awaiting official responses, no port has been assigned for the landing," Interior Minister sources told the media.

On Thursday, the Italian Coast Guard rescued African migrants who were in pneumatic boats drifting in the Mediterranean. The Italian officials also transshipped about fifty shipwrecks who had been rescued by the Italian fishing vessel Accursio Giarratano in international waters off Malta, a country that refused to receive them.

"I have ordered that no port be assigned before there is a redistribution across Europe of all migrants on board" Salvini said.

"Salvini closes ports also to the Italian Coast Guard: 135 migrants are waiting for a port. He announced that, pending replies from Europe, no port was assigned for landing migrants."

On July 23, fourteen EU countries carried out a meeting in Paris and gave their "agreement of principle" to a Franco-German initiative to create a temporary solidarity mechanism which allows the landing of rescued migrants and their subsequent distribution among EU territories. During this meeting, in which Italy did not participate, Salvini said it was "an error of form and substance".

Commenting on the French President Emmanuel Macron's proposal, the far right Italian minister said that "Italy will not be your refugee camp... If he expects us to sign a document [allowing] ships arrive at Italy, he is wrong... We are not anyone's escort ladies... I do not take lessons in generosity and democracy from Macron."

Despite the “Closed Ports” policy promoted by Salvini, hundreds of African shipwreckers are still arriving in Italy.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported Thursday about the possible death of 150 migrants who were shipwrecked off the coast of Libya while trying to reach Europe.

This tragedy occurred because most rescue ships are not active due to seizure threats made by the Italian authorities.

The only operational ship is the "Ocean Viking" of SOS Mediterranée and Doctors without Borders, but has not yet reached the area, and the Open Arms ship is docked in Sicily.​​​​​​​

On Friday, the UNHCR demanded from the European Union (EU) to resume maritime rescue operations and recognize the important role of humanitarian organizations in such tasks.

"NGOs are crucial in search and rescue operations. Their efforts should not be stigmatized or criminalized. There must also be EU rescue vessels in the Mediterranean," Charlie Yaxley, the UNHCR spokesperson said in Geneva.

"The Libya wreck shows once again how urgent our requests are to Europe and other governments to restore rescue operations and help in the suffering of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in the Libyan conflict."

This accident happened when a wooden boat, in which about 300 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants were sailing, had engine problems and began to sink.​​​​​​​

The Libyan Coast Guard took about 80 shipwrecks to the Tajura detention center, a site south of Tripoli which is not safe. According to reports,  50 migrants died in there after a bombing on June.

"In that center there are about 300 detainees, something that is totally unacceptable, so we ask that they be released," the UNHCR spokesman said.

According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 683 people have died so far this year on the three main routes of emigration in the Mediterranean.​​​​​​​

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