From file: Members of the Libyan Red Crescent are seen recovering the bodies of migrants that washed ashore east of Tripoli | Photo: EPA/STRINGER
From file: Members of the Libyan Red Crescent are seen recovering the bodies of migrants that washed ashore east of Tripoli | Photo: EPA/STRINGER

A UN agency reported that the bodies of three children washed ashore in Libya last week. The children are believed to have been part of a group of migrants bound for Europe.

The UN Children’s Agency UNICEF reported on Monday, May 31, that the bodies of three children, including a six-month-old baby and a three-year-old child, washed ashore in Libya last week. The children are thought to have been on a boat of Europe-bound migrants who are presumed to have drowned.

"Too many children are needlessly losing their lives in deadly migration routes as they search for safety and a better life," UNICEF stated, according to the news agency Associated Press (AP). On Twitter, the agency’s Libya office said it was "sad to confirm" that the bodies had "washed up on the shores of Zwara, a coastal city in Libya, situated 102 kilometers west of Tripoli," the Libyan capital.

'Simply horrific'

In a Twitter thread, UNICEF Libya stated that it is "simply horrific that more than 632 people, including children, have died attempting to cross the sea," this year alone. They added that almost 10,000 (9,659) migrants had been intercepted and turned back to Libya in 2021, including 483 children.

That many children, said the agency represented an "increase of 91% among children when compared to the same period in 2020." UNICEF added that it is "committed to support[ing] all governments across the Central Mediterranean to develop and implement care facilities and long-term solutions for children attempting to cross the sea."

On Monday, UNICEF called for "immediate action at all levels to protect the safety of children on the move in Libya, and for collective efforts to provide safer alternatives to sea crossing."

Other bodies wash up on Libyan beaches

The children are not the first bodies to wash up on Libyan shores this year. AP reported that earlier this month "at least 10 bodies of migrants" were found on the beaches of western Libya following two shipwrecks during which at least 30 people are presumed to have drowned.

At the time, a spokesperson for the UN migration agency IOM, Safa Msehli, posted on Twitter that their bodies "bear witness to the hardening policies and rising hostility towards people fleeing violence and extreme poverty."

Two fatal shipwrecks off the coast of neighboring Tunisia also resulted in about 70 more migrants presumed dead earlier in May.

Returned to Libya

Despite international organizations and NGOs repeatedly agreeing that Libya is not a safe place, the European Union and European member states like Italy continue to engage in agreements with the Libyan coast guard. These agreements involve funding and training the coastguard to prevent more migrants leaving Libyan shores as well as returning them to Libya if intercepted at sea.

Human rights groups have provided evidence that shows that many of those who are returned to Libya fall back into detention centers which are often controlled by armed groups and forced into paying a ransom in order to leave and reattempt their journey to Europe.

At the end of May (May 28), Msehli wrote on Twitter that "more than 10,000 migrants have been intercepted by Libyan entities so far this year and were taken to detention" centers. She adds that "only half of them are in these centers" today, calling the "broken system" an "abomination" where migrants are "fated to abuse and exploitation."

With AP

 

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