“Doctors Without Borders”, the humanitarian aid organization, is sounding the alarm. A year after the start of the latest rescue mission in the Mediterranean, more than 3,000 people have been rescued, but hundreds report experiences of violence. Most have experienced torture, kidnapping or arbitrary detention in Libya, according to a report released by Médecins Sans Frontières to mark its first anniversary.
Against this background, the aid organization is once again calling for an end to the “European policy of isolation”.
Teams from “Doctors Without Borders” sailed the Mediterranean eleven times within a year on the chartered ship “Geo Barents”. In 47 missions since June 2021, 3138 people have been rescued and 6536 medical examinations have been carried out. Ten people could only be rescued dead from the sea.
The vast majority of survivors have fled Libya, but come from countries with long-standing conflicts, war or extreme poverty. These are countries like Eritrea, Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Bangladesh or Egypt.
34 percent of those rescued were children and young people, 89 percent of them alone, separated from their families. According to the report, 265 people reported violence, torture or ill-treatment. 620 cases of violence against rescued people were also registered. Médecins Sans Frontières fears an even higher number of unreported cases.
Most of the incidents occurred after refugees were apprehended by the Libyan Coast Guard. According to their reports, the perpetrators were 34 percent guards in the detention centers and 15 percent members of the Coast Guard. Eleven percent of the cases involved non-governmental or military police forces and ten percent involved smugglers or smugglers.
The teams from “Doctors Without Borders” document a high level of violence against women and children – 29 percent of the victims were minors, the youngest of them was just eight years old. 18 percent of the victims are women. Among the most common consequences: burns, broken bones, head injuries, injuries caused by sexualized violence, mental disorders.
Marie von Manteuffel, an expert on migration at “Doctors Without Borders Germany”, emphasized that in 2021 most people had died on the Mediterranean Sea to date and at the same time more than ever – 32,000 – had been pushed back to Libya by the coast guard, sometimes violently.
Two sad records due to European Union policy; it leads to “more people dying in the Mediterranean and at the same time more money flowing into the system of people smugglers”.
The organization is now urging “to find political answers to the urgent needs of people in emergency situations such as in Libya or in distress at sea”. Manteuffel emphasized that non-governmental organizations “should not be used as humanitarian stopgap fillers”.
For many, the flight ends in the central Mediterranean. Before that, some of the people crossed the Sahara on foot, defenseless, at the mercy of human traffickers. But some of them were then deported from Libya back to Niger, which borders to the south. Or they ended up in detention camps in Libya without a legal basis, where they were held for months and years, tortured and mistreated.
“Doctors Without Borders” was founded on June 9, 1993 in Germany. The association is one of 23 sections of the international network of “Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders” that was established in 1971. It is based in Berlin. More than 725,000 private donors in Germany support global medical work. Aid projects are coordinated in eleven countries.
In total, tens of thousands are involved in more than 70 countries. They are doctors, nurses, psychologists, administrative staff and logistics experts. The network received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for its worldwide commitment.