29. August 2015 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Libyans protest against smugglers after up to 200 drown off coast · Kategorien: Libyen, Mittelmeer · Tags: , ,

Quelle: The Guardian

Residents of one of Libya’s most notorious people-smuggling hubs take to the streets after bodies found by Libyan coastguard

Residents of one of Libya’s most notorious people-smuggling hubs have staged an anti-smuggling protest after the discovery of up to 200 corpses in waters close to the town.

The bodies were found on Thursday by one of Libya’s few coastguard vessels about a kilometre from Zuwara, the western port that is a major departure point for refugees hoping to reach Italy.

The incident is the latest tragedy of the European migration crisis, and if the death toll is confirmed it would mean that more than 2,500 people have drowned in the Mediterranean so far in 2015 – a record figure for this stage in the year.

Mohsen Ftis, a representative of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Zuwara, where the group trains local people to deal with washed-up bodies, said he had seen 40 bodies recovered from a half-sunk wooden fishing boat, and placed on the beach. Up to 160 other corpses are understood to still be floating in the sea, while between 100 and 200 survivors were rescued, according to different reports.

Ftis said: “What I saw last night, it’s unbelievable. There is no right word to describe it. In front of me 40 bodies, including women and children.”

The BBC reported that a second boat had sunk in a separate incident, leading to more deaths – but this report could not be verified.

Ftis said many Zuwara residents had delivered a powerful reminder of the human cost of the town’s principal source of income. “Most of the town came out and demonstrated,” said Ftis. “They said it wasn’t human. They were emotional. They were very angry and they don’t like it.”

Photographs showed dozens of residents standing in Zuwara’s main square, holding pictures of the corpses, and slogans such as “Against illegal migration”.

Protests against the smuggling trade are not unprecedented in Zuwara. Some residents also rallied in the summer of 2014 after bodies washed up on Zuwara’s shore. But the practice continues in the absence of law and order and amid indifference from some residents, who feel that the smuggling trade, however unethical, is the only sizable source of income for many families – particularly after the closure of a local chemical factory.

One Zuwaran merchant interviewed earlier this year by the Guardian said: “If you smuggle, you’re providing an income for many people. One person will be able to pay the local doctor, another person will be able to pay their labourers. So smuggling has a regional benefit.”

The incident has highlighted how the death toll in the Mediterranean may be far higher than is believed.

Statistics compiled by the UN rely mostly on reports from European rescue missions, but bodies regularly turn up on the shores of both Libya and the eastern Tunisian coast. Owing to the breakdown of the Libyan state and reticence from the Tunisian government they sometimes go undocumented.

Fouad Gamoudi, MSF’s field coordinator in Libya and Tunisia, said: “The management of dead bodies in Zuwara is handled by volunteers. None of them are paid. The person who identifies the bodies is a vet – because they don’t have a forensic doctor. Over two years, he’s gained some expertise. But he’s the only one who’s doing it.”

Meanwhile in Tunisia, Gamoudi said the government “wants to keep the number very discreet. They never tell us [the total]. When there are bodies, they receive instructions to move them very fast from the beaches – so that no one talks much about them. They put the issue on the table, but without revealing statistics.”

What is nevertheless clear to aid workers is that the number of both deaths and departures from Libya remains high.

The north African country is no longer the primary springboard for people attempting to reach Europe by irregular means, after the Turkey-Greece crossing emerged as a far more popular route in 2015, particularly for Syrians. The war in Libya, stricter visa regulations for Syrians in Egypt and Algeria, and the comparative ease of crossing from Turkey are three factors that have made Libya a less desirable and less accessible departure-point for those fleeing the Syrian civil war.

But Libya is still experiencing record numbers of departures. An unprecedented wave of people from African countries such as Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria are still using it as a means of reaching Europe – and thousands are still dying in the attempt.

In a separate incident on Thursday, 71 migrants were discovered dead in a lorry in Austria. They are believed to be mainly Syrians attempting to reach northern Europe from Greece and the Balkans.

The UN announced on Friday that 300,000 people have reached Europe by sea so far in 2015 – around a 40% increase on the figure for the whole of last year.

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