A charity that operates a rescue ship carrying more than a hundred migrants off the coast of Italy on Sunday said that it could not accept an offer from Spain to dock in Algeciras, citing an emergency situation on board.
The migrants, most of whom are African, were picked up by the Open Arms boat off the coast of Libya and have been waiting to disembark on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
“We do not accept Spain as a port to go because we are in a state of extreme humanitarian emergency. What they need is to be disembarked now,” Open Arms’ spokeswoman said.
“It is unthinkable to navigate for six days; that is what it would takes for us to arrive to Algeciras.”
‘We are in a state of humanitarian emergency,’ Open Arms’s Laura Lanuza said.
After the charity rejected the plan to go to Algeciras, in southern Spain, the Spanish government offered the captain of the boat the option to dock at the nearest Spanish port, but the prime minister’s office said the government had not received an answer, Reuters reported on Sunday evening.An Open Arms spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that the boat still had not answered Spain’s proposal.
France has offered to take in 40 people from the Open Arms, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told AFP on Sunday.
At least four migrants, wearing life vests, jumped into the sea to try to swim to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Open Arms founder Oscar Camps tweeted a video of the attempt, saying: “We have been warning for days, desperation has its limits.”
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Saturday reluctantly authorised 27 migrant children rescued at sea to disembark from the charity vessel anchored in limbo off Lampedusa for days.
In a letter, Salvini told Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte he could authorise the “alleged” minors to leave the Open Arms ship despite it being “divergent to my orientation”.
However, the remaining 105 adults and two accompanied children must stay on board in what the charity Proactiva Open Arms said were “untenable” conditions.
The General Secretariat of the Libyan Red Crescent Society confirmed Monday, the reception of about 1,200 food packets at its branch in Kufra Municipality, southeast of Libya, to be distributed to deserving families in the area.
The Secretariat explained, via its Facebook page that the aid was provided by the World Food Program (WFP), pointing out that the shipment will be distributed to the needy families, registered with the Red Crescent branch in Kufra.
Additionally, a fifth group of Sudanese nationals repatriated from Libya, which consist of 153 migrants has arrived at Khartoum Airport. The migrants were reportedly gathered from accommodation centres for migrants in Libya, as part of the Joint European Initiative to protect migrants, with funding from the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
This takes part of the plan by the GNA Interior Ministry to close down the migration centres in Misurata, Khoms, and Tajoura.
Migrants trapped in Libyan detention centres where many have been subjected to abuse would be evacuated to Rwanda under an emergency plan being discussed with international humanitarian agencies and the EU.
The proposal is part of an increasingly urgent effort to relocate thousands of migrants from Libya after a July air strike by forces opposed to the internationally recognised government in Tripoli killed dozens of people in a detention centre in the capital.
The Rwandan initiative stems from president Paul Kagame’s offer in late 2017 to accept up to 30,000 African migrants from Libya over several years, although it will initially involve a much smaller number of people. The EU is facing growing criticism over the plight of migrants as conflict worsens in Libya.
The EU-trained Libyan coastguard has been instrumental in stopping people making the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, but rescued migrants are then sent to detention centres. Human rights groups have documented multiple cases of rape, torture and other crimes at the facilities, some of which are run by militias.
But sceptics warn that evacuating migrants from Libya to Rwanda would not necessarily rescue them from their current limbo, unable to go home or to travel onwards. Marwa Mohamed, head of advocacy for Lawyers for Justice in Libya, a non-governmental group with offices in London and Tripoli, said the Rwanda plan risked “outsourcing the problem to another country”.
She added that the only viable long-term solution was for European countries to offer more pathways to migration, such as via resettlement or temporary working visas. “If you provide them with these legal routes, they don’t need to submit themselves into the hands of people smugglers and traffickers,” she said.
The UN estimates almost 5,000 migrants are in detention centres in Libya, about 70 per cent of them refugees and asylum seekers. The migrants earmarked for relocation are likely to be a mix of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and stateless people.
The centres in question are in Misrata, Tajoura and Khoms. Organisations that monitor the situation in Libya fear these closures may lead to even more overcrowding in the remaining centres. They also fear the possibility of many more migrants being left in the hands of traffickers.
The UN last month called for the dismantling of all detention centres for refugees in Libya, saying the facilities were not fit to house migrants.
Detainees in various centres have described routine torture, rape, malnutrition and the spread of diseases like tuberculosis due to the conditions they are forced to endure.
Campaign group Amnesty International has called conditions "horrific" and "inhuman".
"These detention centres, at least some of them, they work on a business model that involves smugglers, traffickers, sometimes forced labour," the UN refugee agency's top official in Libya, Jean-Paul Cavalieri, told the BBC.
Many African migrants hoping to reach Europe have been sold at slave markets in Libya, often as sex slaves or construction workers.
It is believed there are 12 detention centres in western Libya nominally run by the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.
Libya's plans to close three of the centres follows criticism that migrants were being returned to Tajoura after it was hit by a deadly missile attack in July.
That "outrageous" attack could amount to a war crime, said the UN's Libya envoy Ghassan Salamé and top human rights official Michelle Bachelet.
But the UN Security Council failed to condemn it after the US declined to endorse a joint statement, according to diplomats.
Tajoura Detention Centre is close to the capital, Tripoli, where there is ongoing fighting between the UN-recognised government and the Benghazi-based Libyan National Army which has vowed to take over the city.
Gender-based violence is the main reason why Nigerian women leave their country for Italy. Violence by men pushes women towards the edges of Nigerian society and eventually forces many to seek a way to leave.
That's the main conclusion of the report "Mondi connessi. La migrazione femminile dalla Nigeria all'Italia e la sorte delle donne rimpatriate" (Connected Worlds: Female Migration from Nigeria to Italy and the Fate of Repatriated Women). It was drafted by the international NGO ActionAid in collaboration with BeFree, a cooperative against trafficking, violence, and discrimination. The authors analysed 60 reports of the hearings of Nigerian women noted as alleged victims of human trafficking at the Rome territorial commission for the granting of international protection between 2016 and 2017.
In 61 percent of the cases analysed, the main reason the women left was gender-based violence against them - that includes violence against them inside and outside of their homes, as well as forced marriage attempts. Some 33.3 percent of women fled extreme poverty.
Almost all of the women that gave testimonies were from the Edo state in Nigeria, where human trafficking is endemic due to economic, political, and socio-political conditions. Most of them were young - 66 percent of the women were between 19 and 24 years old.
"Gender differences become [...] gender inequality: being a woman means having less power, fewer resources, and more difficulty to access education and employment. Being a woman is attributed to an inferior status, a lack, non-value," said Livia Zoli, head of the Global Inequality & Migration unit of ActionAid.
"A gender-based approach is indispensable to understand the different forms of expulsion from society, both in the original context and in the one they reach." She added: "This is one of the crucial aspects of the relationship: Trafficking is one of the tools held by male power to commit violence [against women]."
The trafficking and sexual exploitation of young Nigerian women have increased sharply in recent years in Italy. Some 11,009 Nigerian women landed on Italian coasts in 2016, compared with about 5,000 in 2015 and 1,500 in 2014, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The UN organisation estimates that about 80 percent of these women and girls are potential victims of human trafficking.