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Drowning tragedy requires urgent response from international community, says Jesuit Refugee Service

By Cian Molloy - 27 July, 2019

Irish warship at sea

LÉ William Butler Yeats (Photo: Irish Naval Service)

Following the Mediterranean’s deadliest drowning tragedy this year, the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy has called for immediate and urgent action to save the lives of desperate refugees.

More than 150 people were drowned off the coast of Tripoli on Thursday when a boat carrying around 350 people from Libya to Italy was shipwrecked.

Most of those who drowned were Libyans seeking to escape the violence that has engulfed their country since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011. For example, earlier this month, 53 people were killed, including six children, and 130 people were injured during an airstrike on a migrants’ detention centre in Libya. Most of the survivors of Thursday’s shipwreck are now being held in that same detention centre.

Other drowning victims in the tragedy included migrants from sub-Saharan Africa making their way to Europe, via Libya, in hope of a better life.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) expressed its condolences to the families of the drowned, as well as concern about the safety of the survivors who have since been brought back to Libya.

The JRS called on national governments and international organisations to immediately restore search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, such as the EU’s Operation Sophia, in which the Irish Naval Service vessels LÉ William Butler Years and LÉ Samuel Beckett played a part.

JRS also called on the international community to activate an evacuation plan for migrants from Libya, whose lives are in danger because of the daily violence and human rights abuses that occur there. The JRS called for legal entry routes into Europe for migrants, who are forced to put their lives in the hands of human traffickers because of the absence of safe and regulated routes.

Finally, the JRS called for the opening of humanitarian channels for those who flee from war, persecution and extreme poverty and who, therefore, have a right to ask for protection and reception in Europe.

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