A Collapsing Libya Threatens Migrants

For refugees in Libya, life has gone from bad to terrible.

Things are changing dramatically in Libya. Due to warring factions, power cuts occur daily in the oil-rich country, ISIS is pressing in, the fighting is about to escalate and migrants are braving Force Seven seas and the freezing cold to make an attempt to flee to Europe.

Migrants come from Africa and the Middle East, pushed to Libya escaping war and poverty. When they get there, new arrivals who manage to avoid detention are placed in ‘connection houses,’ where they are kept until smugglers assemble enough passengers for a boatload. As many as 100 people share a single toilet. Smugglers regularly abuse refugees in attempts to extort more money. In addition to corruption amongst police and militia, civilians in Tripoli have resorted to robbery due to the conflict.

Libya’s internal power struggle stretches across the Mediterranean coast from Tunisia to Egypt. Smugglers, desperate to cash in before the country implodes, have increased their operations. Rescuers picked up 5,600 people up last month, 50% more than January 2014.

Seas at Force Seven means 30-knot winds whip up waves over 5 metres high with temperatures dropped to dangerous lows. Yet thousands of women, children and men set out in rubber rafts without life jackets, proper clothing and any hope of being rescued due to dramatic cutbacks in naval presence. Libya is falling apart.

‘The situation in Libya is out of control,’ Roberta Pinotti, Italy’s defence minister told the Telegraph. ‘But as long as there are no clear parties to negotiate with in Libya, who do we deal with?’

While politicians dither over protocol, Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army and the Libya Dawn square off, with ISIS on the sidelines, for now. The conflict is crippling Libya’s economy, which relies heavily on the oil industry. In 2011, the country produced 1.6 million barrels of oil a day. Crude production has sunk to 300,000 barrels daily.

How does this affect refugees waiting for passage out of Libya?

The increased violence, broken economy and collapsed infrastructure forces smugglers to work harder to earn money. The numbers tell the story. Search and Rescue operations have picked up 19,500 people since November. As Libya’s situation deteriorates, more migrants will be at risk.

MOAS cannot change the situation in Libya or the European response, but MOAS can save lives. Help us fund our 2015 mission. It will be our most challenging year ever. No one deserves to die at sea.

MOAS has proved they can respond, coordinate and assist in Search and Rescue. We are looking to fund the 2015 season and look forward to discussing this topic further. Contact me at info@moas.eu