Doctors Without Borders Recovers 11 Bodies, Rescues Dozens Off Libyan Coast Amid Criticism of Migration Policies

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Doctors Without Borders Recovers 11 Bodies, Rescues Dozens Off Libyan Coast Amid Criticism of Migration Policies

In a harrowing development off the coast of Libya, the aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) has reported the recovery of 11 bodies and the rescue of dozens of individuals. This tragic event underscores the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean and the contentious migration policies of both North African and European nations.

The MSF’s Geo Barents rescue vessel conducted a search operation lasting over nine hours after being alerted by the German non-governmental organization Sea-Watch. The operation, which unfolded on Friday, led to the grim discovery of the bodies amidst the treacherous waters, a situation that continues to highlight the perils faced by migrants seeking safety in Europe.

“As we cannot determine the reason behind this tragedy, we know that people will continue to take dangerous routes in a desperate attempt to reach safety, and Europe must find safe and legal pathways for them,” MSF stated on X, formerly known as Twitter. “This catastrophe must end!”

Doctors Without Borders Recovers 11 Bodies, Rescues Dozens Off Libyan Coast Amid Criticism Of Migration Policies

Sea-Watch has raised concerns about the lack of response from Libya’s coastguard regarding the recovery of the deceased. “The so-called Libyan coastguard – financed by the EU – ignored our call demanding that the bodies be recovered,” the organization reported, adding to the growing criticism of European support for Libyan maritime operations.

Libya remains a primary departure point for thousands of individuals fleeing war, poverty, and persecution in Africa. The Italian Island of Lampedusa is the nearest European destination for many migrants, who risk their lives on the perilous Mediterranean crossing. The central Mediterranean route is notoriously the most dangerous migrant crossing in the world, with the United Nations documenting over 20,000 deaths and disappearances since 2014.

Italy, which has taken a hard stance on migration, has repeatedly called on Libya and neighbouring Tunisia to intensify efforts to prevent migrants from embarking on these dangerous journeys. The Italian government has also imposed stringent measures on the operations of rescue ships, accusing them of incentivising migration, a claim firmly denied by humanitarian organisations.

On Friday, Italy enforced its policy by directing the MSF rescue vessel to transport 165 rescued individuals to the northern port of Genoa. This decision required the vessel to travel over 650 nautical miles (1,200 km) from their rescue position, bypassing closer ports in Sicily and significantly delaying assistance to the survivors.

The International Organisation for Migration reported that more than 3,000 refugees and migrants went missing in 2023 while attempting to cross the central Mediterranean. Despite a drop in the number of arrivals in Italy in 2024—fewer than 21,800 compared to nearly 53,300 in the same period last year—the dangerous nature of these journeys remains unchanged.

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