A shipwreck off the coast of Libya has claimed the lives of 150 refugees and migrants, the most recent incident in a line of tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea. This is a stark reminder of the humanitarian crisis emerging out of the country, and of the urgent need for search and rescue missions to be resumed in the Mediterranean Sea. 

While the battle in Tripoli rages against a backdrop of dysfunctional governance, more than 5,000 people remain trapped in detention centres. Around 60% of them are confined in close proximity to the violence. Yet refugees who have attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety continue to be intercepted by the Libyan Coastguard and returned; the numbers have doubled since the start of the conflict in April with around 4,000 people having been intercepted and returned to Libya in July alone.

Thomas Garofalo, Director for IRC Libya, said:

“Refugees and migrants in Libya are immensely vulnerable and are entitled to humanitarian protection under international  humanitarian law. Commitments from the international community must be dramatically expanded: Europe must step up and scale up evacuations to enable people to seek safety, and those who are intercepted at sea must not be returned to Libya. The first, and perhaps the most urgent, step that can be taken is for Search and Rescue missions by NGOs to be decriminalised and for Operation Sophia to be reinstated and provided with a Search and Rescue capacity. Only then will be able to avoid tragedies such as the one we have seen today.”