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The confirmed death of 111 people - and the death toll potentially as high as 200 off the coast of Lampedusa - has reignited the debate on the protection of asylum seekers trying to reach Europe. The vast majority of people trying to cross the Mediterranean are escaping conflict and persecution in their own countries and more people will lose their lives unlessthere is a concerted effort by European and North African countries to find safe mechanisms for people to seek asylumsays Nigel Clarke, Danish Refugee Council Country Director in Libya.
In the last twenty years an estimated 17,000 migrants and asylum seekers have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean.
“The tragedy off the coast of Lampedusa is yet another reminder of the desperate measures people will take to seek safety and security in countries that respect human rights. However, this is just the newest example and the death toll in the Mediterranean is a reality we cannot ignore. Without legal access to asylum procedures and protection we are leaving desperate people with no alternative to dangerous illegal traveling routes,” says Nigel Clarke, DRC Country Director in Libya.
As a transit country and departure point for Europe Libya has a key role in containing migrants and asylum seekers in the region. Libya has no legal framework for assessing asylum needs and granting asylum. At the same the population of migrants refugees and asylum seekers face a lack of legal documentation, insecure housing, problems accessing education and health services, exploitation in employment and the daily risk of arbitrary arrest and detention.
“Libya is itself a country in transition, where efforts to restore security and establish a system of good governance are still in their infancy. The Libyan authorities need every assistance from the international community to meet these objectives whilst also developing effective migration and asylum procedures,“ says Nigel Clarke and continues: “Tangible policies from the European community, such as the establishment of migration channels and increased refugee resettlement quotas would go a long way towards so-called ‘burden sharing’ and set a positive example to Libyan authorities.”
The adverse conditions for migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers results in a shrinking space for migrants, refugees and migrants who are extremely marginalised in Libyan society. This treatment creates inevitable ‘push’ factors forcing those people with no option to return to move on, especially to safer third countries in Europe.
“Greater efforts needs to be made from the European community as well as Libyan and North African states and all other actors to avoid perpetuating this dangerous mode of migration which ends so often in tragedy” , says Nigel Clarke.
The Danish Refugee Council has been working in Libya since 2011. The organization works with migrant communities, asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable groups as well as with the Libyan authorities and civil society organizations.
DRC will continue to work with the most vulnerable populations in Libya whilst raising awareness of the causes and drivers of mixed migration. A coordinated effort is urgently required to address the issue, both in Libya and at source and destination countries. DRC stands ready to assist where we can, to alleviate the suffering of desperate individuals and families, and to address their immediate protection needs.