Belgium in Brief: Leaving people to die at sea

Belgium in Brief: Leaving people to die at sea
Credit: MSF

While this summer's warm temperatures mean dry lawns and sunburns for most people living in Belgium, they are also seeing an increasing number of boats leaving the Libyan coast to make their way to Europe via the world's deadliest sea migration route in the Mediterranean.

As the EU continues to neglect rescue operations in these sea migration routes, civilian organisations are taking it upon themselves to save the lives of hundreds of people crammed into boats embarking on a journey for a better life.

However, their resources to continue this work are running out, Juan Matías Gil of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Search and Rescue who works on MSF's ship, Geo Barents, told @LaurenWalkerH of The Brussels Times last week.

Since 27 June, Gil was part of three missions that rescued a total of 1,045 people from boats in distress. "Our ship can normally carry 300 people, but there are now 500 adults, mostly men, and 159 children on board, including 129 unaccompanied minors." On board were also five babies. The youngest was 24 days old.

Rescue organisations follow the principles of maritime law and request coordination for their operations, but the Libyan maritime authorities almost never respond, said Gil.

And when they do respond, they tend to send survivors back to Libya, even though the United Nations says the country cannot be considered a safe place as many migrants are kept in detention centres where they systematically face abuse.

"Most people we have saved say they would rather die at sea than go back to Libya," Gil said.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"]'People will die': EU continues to neglect rescue operations in sea migration routes Credit: Rahul Dhankani/MSF[/caption]

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