Human Rights Watch has said that the EU’s border agency Frontex is facilitating the forced return of sea migrants to Libya rather than their rescue by NGOs or other vessels that would take them to Europe.
According to its report, sending migrants back to Libya makes Frontex “complicit in the abuse”, Judith Sunderland, HRW’s associate Europe and Central Asia director, said in a statement.
“By alerting Libyan authorities about boats carrying migrants, knowing those migrants will be returned to atrocious treatment, and despite having other options, Frontex is complicit in the abuse,” Sunderland explained.
Data, HRW said, supports the conclusion that the EU border agency’s approach is designed not to rescue people in distress but to prevent them from reaching EU territory, the organisation said.
This strengthens previous reports which claim the failure to inform rescue organisations about boats in distress or to issue mayday alerts to all vessels in the area illustrates Frontex’s willfully narrow interpretation of distress, it added.
Frontex, for its part, emphasises its obligation under maritime law to alert competent coastal authorities about situations of distress at sea.