Amnesty blames EU for 'soaring' migrant death toll

Amnesty International has blamed 'failing EU policies' for the soaring death toll among refugees and migrants in the central Mediterranean

6 July 2017, 8:11am
The EU resettlement plan is focused on children, as well as victims of people smugglers and torture, from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan and Ethiopia
The EU resettlement plan is focused on children, as well as victims of people smugglers and torture, from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan and Ethiopia
Rights group Amnesty International has released a damning 31-page report linking “failing EU policies” to the rising death toll in the Mediterranean, as well as shocking abuses faced by refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centres.

In the report, Amnesty International said "cynical deals" with Libya consigned thousands to the risk of drowning, rape and torture, adding that the EU was turning a blind eye to abuses in Libyan detention centres, and was mostly leaving it up to sea rescue charities to save migrants.

Brussels wants all EU member states– to contribute to resettling a total of 37,000 vulnerable people from five north African countries by the end of 2018, in a move aimed at easing pressure on Italy.

Interior ministers meeting in Tallinn on Thursday to review a €81 million action plan unveiled by the European Commission to deal with the issue, will be called on by Dmitris Avramopoulos, the EU home affairs commissioner, to make voluntary pledges by the middle of September.

The EU resettlement plan is focused on children, as well as victims of people smugglers and torture, from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Most people making the perilous sea crossing from north Africa are deemed to be economic migrants not eligible for international protection. But the EU announced a relocation plan for vulnerable people as part of a package of emergency measures to help ease pressure on Italy.

"Rather than acting to save lives and offer protection, European ministers... are shamelessly prioritising reckless deals with Libya in a desperate bid to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching Italy," John Dalhuisen, Amnesty's Europe director said.

"European states have progressively turned their backs on a search and rescue strategy that was reducing mortality at sea in favour of one that has seen thousands drown and left desperate men, women and children trapped in Libya, exposed to horrific abuses," he said.

The plan, which has a strong emphasis on returning unwanted migrants, emerged as it was revealed that EU countries have paid in less than half of the funds promised to help African governments manage migration.

The Africa “trust fund” was announced with fanfare in 2015 to win African support for the deportation of unwanted migrants in Europe. Brussels has contributed €2.6 billion from the EU budget, but officials are frustrated that national capitals are not digging deeper into their state coffers.

Only €90 billion of a promised €202 billion has so far materialised. The UK has paid in €0.6 billion of its promised €3 billion, far less than Italy, which has paid €32 billion. France, Germany and Spain have put in €3 billion each, according to the latest data from the European Commission.

More than 2,000 people have died in 2017 so far trying to get to Europe.