May 4, 2021 — The IRC is extremely concerned about the safety of migrants and refugees being returned to Libya, following a huge spike in the number brought back by the Libyan Coast Guard this weekend.
Since Thursday, the IRC’s teams have responded to four disembarkations in the west of the country, providing medical attention and Core Relief Items, including water, blankets and hygiene items to 696 survivors, including 79 women and 36 children, bringing the total of those returned to Libya so far this year to approximately 7,000 people.
Thomas Garofalo, Libya Country Director at the International Rescue Committee, said:
"Those returned are fortunate to have survived. So far this year, more than 500 people have tragically drowned or gone missing while attempting this journey - including more than 130 in a single shipwreck just last week. However, the situation for those returned to Libyan soil remains dire."
The vast majority of people assisted by the IRC this weekend were immediately sent to overcrowded detention centres, where they are now at grave risk of ill-treatment, exploitation and violence, and face a lack of access to basic services such as adequate hygiene and sanitation facilities.
These horrific conditions only push extremely vulnerable people to take further risky journeys. With legal pathways to safety almost non-existent, the endless cycle of return and exploitation will continue unabated unless urgent action is taken.
The international community has the means and the tools to reverse this trend and prevent yet more avoidable deaths this summer. The IRC calls on political leaders to urgently prevent the needless loss of yet more lives in the Mediterranean Sea by re-establishing search and rescue operations, strengthening coordination with all rescue actors, ending returns to unsafe ports, and working with the Libyan authorities to ensure the release of all migrants and asylum seekers from detention centres in the country.