Frontex: More immigrants are dying off Libyan shores due to overcrowded boats

Migrants arrive in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at see on April 18, 2015 in Sicily. A surge of migrants pouring into Europe from across the Mediterranean won’t end before chaos in Libya is controlled, Italy’s prime minister said yesterday, as the Vatican condemned a deadly clash between Muslim and Christian refugees on one boat. Italian authorities have rescued more than 11,000 migrants making the often deadly voyage from North Africa in the past six days, with hundreds more expected, the coastguard said. AFP PHOTO / GIOVANNI ISOLINO[Photo credit should read GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images]
The EU’s border agency, Frontex, says more people are dying at sea because boats disembarking from Libya are dangerously overloaded, EUObserver reported.

Speaking to MEPs on Wednesday (12 July), Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri said that the crowded conditions are among the reasons behind the high number of drownings, it added.

“There are now approximately 170 migrants per boat, per dinghy, while two years ago there used to be approximately 90 migrants on board,” he said.

The comment follows a stinging inquiry report by the UK House of Lords, also released Wednesday, which says the EU naval mission Sophia, to seize migrant vessels, is contributing to a spike in deaths, EUObserver indicated.

Given the seizures, smugglers and traffickers appear to have resorted to using more unseaworthy rubber dinghies out of fear of losing better-equipped wooden boats. Dinghies now account for 70 percent of all boats leaving the Libyan coast.

Leggeri noted cases where smugglers remove outboard motors and then set the boats adrift. Others are simply towed out before being left behind, according to EUObserver.

“They have no food, they have no drinking water, they have no fuel,” he said. Over 181,000 crossed the same route last year – up from 153,000 in 2015.

Other EU rescue missions, coordinated by Frontex, operate up until the southern edge of Malta’s vast search and rescue zone. The limit has, in part, pushed NGOs and charities to carry out rescues much closer to the Libyan coastline. Most people are plucked from the sea within 20 nautical miles of the Libyan coast, and sometimes even closer, EUObserver wrote.

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