British site: Europe does not care about the fate of migrants and leaves them drowning in the sea
The British Middle East Eye website revealed in a report that the aerial surveillance operations carried out by European countries over the Mediterranean do not aim to save irregular migrants from the danger of drowning, but rather leave them to face their fate.
Word in the report, prepared by journalist and film director Katherine Hearst, that migrants crossing the sea in boats from Africa towards Europe are often left drowning by European and Libyan coastguards despite their knowledge of their whereabouts at sea.
On April 22, the ship “Ocean Viking” – affiliated to the non-governmental organization “SOS Mediterranee” that carries out relief and humanitarian aid work – spotted on April 22 the wreck of a sunken rubber boat off the Libyan coast, with dozens of bodies floating On the surface of the water in the middle of bad weather and stormy weather.
The rescue ship, “Ocean Viking”, said that it went to the coordinates of the boat’s location as soon as it received a distress signal from the “Alarm Phone” – a volunteer organization that runs a “hotline” for rescue operations in the Mediterranean – about migrants in difficulty, but it was not found. to any survivors of the accident.
The British website stated – in its report – that the efforts made by the Alarm Phone Authority and the desperate attempts of the passengers of the stricken boat contrasted starkly with the response of the authorities, who “either did not pick up the phone or ignored their responsibility.”
Seven hours after the distress call, the passengers of the boat saw a plane flying overhead. This was a surveillance plane of the European Frontex agency for monitoring the external borders of the European Union, which quickly left the scene of the accident to reach the national rescue centers in Italy, Malta and Libya. It also launched a distress call to alert nearby ships.
A Frontex spokesperson told Middle East Eye that several merchant ships that happened to be in the area had started to come to the scene to provide assistance. Due to the bad weather and the fact that the plane was about to run out of fuel, she was forced to return to her base late at night.
In her report, Catherine Hearst quoted Dina Dadusk – a volunteer at Alarm Phone – as saying that irregular migrants were left to die not once or twice, but 3 times after being abandoned by the Libyan Coast Guard, adding that although the personnel of the Frontex Agency to monitor the external borders of the European Union I spotted their boat and they left due to bad weather.
By linking these evidence with each other, Dadosk drew one conclusion, which is that what happened was nothing but a “coordinated effort” between these parties. Dadosk and her co-worker Britta Rabe believe that the incident that occurred last April was not an isolated tragedy as much as it was “part of a pattern”.
According to the British website report, the steady removal of rescue equipment, starting with the Italian government’s suspension of the maritime rescue operation called “Mare Nostrum” that lasted from October 2013 until October 2014, and the conversion of Frontex Agency to the use of air surveillance as of April 2019, all this created a void in search and rescue operations in the central Mediterranean.
This shift has had a tangible impact on the work of Dadosk and Britta Rabe, as all they can do is stay by the telephone hotline and connect the emergency calls to the relevant authorities, knowing they will fall on deaf ears.
According to the United Nations International Organization for Migration, mortality rates in the Mediterranean increased from 1,448 in 2020 to 2,041 in 2021.
According to the same organization, the illegal operations to push back migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, “a grouping of militias and people smugglers”, have also increased. About 31,500 people were intercepted in 2021, compared to 11,900 in 2020.
European air traffic control operations are largely dependent on the private sector, a network of arms and technology companies contracted by Frontex, which Katharine Hirst describes in her report as “vague and unregulated”.
Last year, Frontex awarded a €100 million contract to companies operating drones to monitor irregular migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, including state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, a global public company based in in Israel.
The report revealed that the Israeli army has been using these drones in its attacks on the Gaza Strip, “which means that it can be developed from aircraft that monitor the borders into a proven combat tool.”
The report indicated that the drones used by Israel Aerospace Industries can fly for 24 hours and cover an area of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from altitudes of up to 35,000 feet.
As for Elbit Systems’ unmanned aircraft, they are able to operate for 26 hours at an altitude of up to 30,000 feet.
Air surveillance technology – according to the British website – is another tool used by state parties to evade their legal obligations to rescue people at risk, since the law does not apply to drones.