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Migrant Deaths in Mediterranean Continue Regardless of Global Compact

Migrants' boat reportedly destroyed by Libyan coastguards; Spanish NGO ship rescue sole survivor with the bodies of a woman and toddler.

Spanish NGO ship Proactiva Open Arms rescuing the sole survivor, Josepha, of three abandoned by Libyan coastguards 90 miles from shore.

The United Nations just celebrated its first ever Global Migration Compact on Friday, yet countries like Italy continue to close their borders to African migrants leaving from Libya. As deaths continue in the Mediterranean Sea, what can the international community truly do to stop the crisis?

After agreeing upon the first ever Global Migration Compact on Friday, the United Nations still remains idle on the migration crisis happening in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Global Migration Compact was deeply celebrated, as it was approved by 191 member nations except for the United States and now Hungary. Both countries decided against the compact as they felt it went against their country’s interests. General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák championed the compact, stressing: “It does not encourage migration, nor does it aim to stop it. It is not legally binding. It does not dictate. It will not impose. And it fully respects the sovereignty of States.”

Shortly after the passing of the compact, reports of how severe Libya’s migration crisis made headlines. Yesterday, Spanish NGO rescue group Proactiva Open Arms found a woman with the bodies of a dead woman and a toddler 90 miles from Libya’s coast. The head of Proactiva Open Arms reported that the three were abandoned by Libyan coastguards after they refused to board their ship nearly 60 hours prior in fear of being taken back to the inhumane migrant conditions in Libya. The rescue group stated the coastguards destroyed the migrants’ boat, then abandoned them after the three refused to board Libyan ships.

Òscar Camps, head of Proactiva Open Arms, blamed Italy’s cooperation with Libyan authorities for the deaths. On Twitter, he stated: “This is the direct consequence of contracting armed militias to make the rest of Europe believe that Libya is a state, a government and a safe country.” He continued by saying: “The blame for this crime falls on Matteo Salvini’s policies.”

The Spanish ship decided to return to Spain after Italy offered to take in the rescued woman but not the two bodies. The same ship was recently turned away by both Italy and Malta  earlier this month with 60 rescued migrants aboard. Another NGO ship, the Aquarius, was also refused by Italy and Malta while it was carrying more than 600 migrants and refugees before being allowed to dock in Spain.

Aboard the Proactiva Open Arms was NBA Grizzlies player Marc Gasol, currently helping the organization save refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. After the rescue, he tweeted: “Frustration, anger, and helplessness. It’s unbelievable how so many vulnerable people are abandoned to their deaths at sea. Deep admiration for these I call my teammates at this time @openarms_fund.”

During a press briefing yesterday, La Voce asked Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq again about Libya’s migration crisis, centering upon the situation with Proactiva Open Arms. In response, the Deputy Spokesman said: “The Secretary-General and his special representative Mr. Salalmé have made it very clear they do not believe the conditions on Libya are conducive to host these migrants. We want to make sure that other nations can handle the challenges posed by having so many migrants on the high seas. And again our priorities are to make sure that their lives will be protected and that their basic dignity and human rights are protected as they seek asylum or try to find some place to stay that is safe for them and for their families.”

The answer follows United Nations Special Envoy Ghassan Salamé’s briefing to the Security Council on Monday about the recent increased violence and instability in Libya. He emphasized that the “status quo in Libya cannot be sustained.”

He continued: “If we are to avert this and support the Libyan people to chart a course to the future they deserve, the unified support of this Council, Member States involved in Libya and our partner regional organisations, is vital.”

The instability Libya is facing shortly follows increased urgency in its migration crisis. Days ago, international pressure mounted from the UN Refugee Agency on Libya to halt its migration detention centers where migrants returning from the Mediterranean Sea were being detained. Stories of inhumane conditions in the centers provoked the response.

Although the United Nations championed the Global Migrant Compact, claiming a historic step for migrants worldwide, the organization remains complacent in holding countries accountable in their contributions towards the current migration crisis. While NGO’s saving refugees continue to be criminalized by countries who simultaneously close their borders to incoming migrants and refugees, lack of an active response from the UN only allows these inhumane and illegal decisions to escalate.

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