Tripoli, 22 September 2013:
As yet another boatload of illegal migrants to Europe was detained yesterday by the Libyan coastguard, the European . . .[restrict]Union is stepping up efforts to stem the tide of asylum seekers who risk everything making the perilous sea crossing from Libya,
At a meeting in Madrid on Thursday, EU member states agreed to join forces with Libya as part of the Seahorse Merditerraneo programme to stem illegal immigration into Europe. The project, which in the next three years will involve the training of Libyan coast and border guards and the establishment of sophisticated satellite-based monitoring and communications, is based on the Seahorse Atlantico programme.
There, similar cooperation and systems saw the number of migrants intercepted at sea fall from 31,000 in 2006 to just 332 last year. The United Nations Commission for Refugees believes that last month, at least 27 boats with over 3,000 passengers, the majority from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, left Libya bound for Europe.
Most of the attempts to cross to Europe are made in the summer, during the relatively benign sea state. But regardless of the weather, it is clear that some of those seeking a better life in Europe, do not make it, in their often overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels. In May this year, an empty inflatable was found eight miles off the coast with nothing on board save documentation and mobile phones, presumably from passengers who had somehow perished.
Yesterday’s interception by the Libyan coastguard discovered 207 immigrants, including Eritreans and Somalis, crowded into a wooden boat. Navy Chief of Staff Ayoub Kasim told the Libyan news agency LANA that there were 29 women and children on the vessel. He said that all were escorted to Khoms where they were handed over to “the correct authorities”, adding that all were likely to be deported to their home countries.