'Libya coastguard left small child and woman to drown', migrant group claims

'Libya coastguard left small child and woman to drown', migrant group claims
A migrant aid group has claimed that Libya's coastguard left three people, including a toddler, to their fates in the Mediterranean Sea.
3 min read
17 July, 2018
Thousands of African migrants have attempted to cross the dangerous Mediterranean waters this year [AFP]

Libyan coastguard left three migrants - including a woman and a toddler - to drown in the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday, after they intercepted 160 Europe-bound migrants off the country's shores, a migrant aid group has claimed.

Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish rescue group, said it found one woman alive on Tuesday and another dead, along with the body of a small child who was aged around five.

Their bodies were found amid the drifting remains of a destroyed migrant boat, around 80 nautical miles from the Libyan coast.

Images and videos of the wreckage and the dead bodies were shared by the group on social media.

The survivor was named as Josepha, a 40-year-old woman from Cameroon.

Proactiva Open Arms accuses both a merchant ship sailing in international waters and Libya's coast guard for failing to help the three migrants.

Ayoub Gassim, Libyan Coast Guard spokesman, said earlier that a boat carrying 158 migrants - including 34 women and nine children - had been stopped Monday off the coast of the western town of Khoms. 

The passengers were given humanitarian and medical aid and were taken to a refugee camp in Khoms.

Libya now serves as one of the key transit points for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and Asia to Europe.

Traffickers have exploited the general lawlessness in Libya to establish a new routes for illegal migration to Europe.

Italy's new populist government has vowed to block the entry of migrants across the Mediterranean and has given aid to Libyan authorities to do that. 

This tactic has been criticised by human rights activists, saying migrants being returned to Libya face beatings, abuse, rape and slavery.

The head of Proactiva Open Arms, Oscar Camps, on Tuesday blamed the Italian government's cooperation with Libyan authorities for the death of the woman and the toddler.

"This is the direct consequence of contracting armed militias to make the rest of Europe believe that Libya is a state, a government and a safe country," Camps said in a video posted on Twitter.

The three people had refused to board the Libyan vessels with the rest of the intercepted migrants, with the three people abandoned to the waters when the migrants' boat was destroyed.

He also said their deaths were the result of not allowing aid groups like Proactiva to work in the Mediterranean. Some 1,443 people are dead or missing in the dangerous Mediterranean Sea route up to July 15 this year, according to the UN migration agency.

Both Italy and Malta have blocked aid groups from operating rescue boats, either by refusing them entry to their ports or by impounding their vessels and putting their crews under investigation.