(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported the results from a recent survey indicated that refugees who cross the sea from North Africa to Europe are usually terrified to make the trip but are forced into it by their smugglers.
Joel Millman, the IOM’s spokesperson, said the smugglers would force refugees on small and fragile boats at gunpoint. Smugglers would exploit refugees by demanding ransom from their families.
The survey, which was released on Tuesday, focused on refugees leaving from Libya. It found that 56 percent of refugees surveyed did not want to leave Libya. Less than 30 percent of the surveyed refugees said they wanted to make it to Italy, France or Germany.
Many of the surveyed refugees were young men who had come from Niger, Egypt and Sudan. 90 percent of the surveyed refugees left their home countries for economic reasons.
After the Libyan uprising in 2011 human smugglers operating in Libya took advantage of Libya’s political instability and the lack of security. As a result, the number of refugees drowning to their death in the Mediterranean Sea has increased at an alarming rate.
The refugee crisis in the Mediterranean region significantly worsened after the Libyan uprising that brought down the Gaddafi regime. Around 4,220 refugees died on their way to Europe so far this year, the highest number on record, said the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM).
In July, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) revealed plans to send warships and drones to expand on the European Union’s (EU) operation to regulate the mass migration of people from Africa to Europe.
Critics spoke against NATO’s plans calling them a “militarisation of a humanitarian crisis.” According to NATO, refugees fleeing Libya and other war-torn countries for safety, security, and a dignified life pose a threat to Europe. Stoltenberg further claimed that the seriousness of the “threat” posed by refugees demands a “joint effort.”
In an address at St. Peter’s Square in Rome last month, Pope Francis urged officials to be concerned for and take care of the refugees fleeing war, violence, and corruption in their countries in search of a better life.
“Today, the context of economic crises unfortunately fosters the emergence of attitudes that are closed and unwelcoming,” said the Pope.
“In some parts of the world, walls and barricades are being erected. Closure (of borders) is not a solution,” emphasized the Pope. “It ends up encouraging trafficking. The only path towards a solution is that of solidarity.”
A refugee’s journey involves an incredible amount of risk taking. After fleeing war, corruption and violence in their homeland refugees eventually find themselves face-to-face with a human trafficker who is likely to exploit them for their money. Refugees are then placed on small, fragile and overcrowded boats that almost always capsize before reaching Europe.
Though the UN survey suggests many refugees prefer to remain in Libya the situation in Libya is not favourable for refugees let alone Libyan citizens. Libya is currently suffering from widespread lawlessness, political chaos and instability and a failing economy.
Prominent humanitarian organizations spoke against the way the EU and NATO are dealing with refugees fleeing to Italy from Libya in search of a better life.
Doctors Without Borders is one of the organizations boycotting EU funds and initiatives to highlight their disapproval of the EU-NATO efforts to stop the flow of refugees.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also spoke out against NATO’s announcement. Judith Sunderland, the associate director of HRW, said, “NATO’s involvement in migration control signals a dangerous shift toward militarisation of a humanitarian crisis.”
Sunderland called on the EU to “expand safe and legal routes to Europe.”
She also added that “NATO help for EU operations should avoid trapping people in lawless and violent Libya, either through forced returns or asking Libyan forces to send people back”.