Italy’s Open-Borders Policy Causes 52 More Migrant Deaths Off Libyan Coast

CROTONE, ITALY - MAY 27: Members of the Italian Red Cross prepare coffins for the 34 migrants that died at sea on May 24 after the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) "Phoenix" vessel disembarked more than 600 people on May 27, 2017 in Crotone, Italy. More than 600 refugees and …
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THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Italy’s reckless open-borders policy has cost the lives of another 52 African migrants, who died Saturday off the Libyan coast while trying to make the perilous crossing to Italy.

According to eyewitnesses, the shipwreck of a migrant vessel off the coast of Libya threw passengers into the sea, resulting in scores of deaths before rescuers could arrive. The overloaded barge, carrying between 120 and 130 passengers, went down about six miles from the city of Gasr Garabulli, to the east of Tripoli.

Despite the record numbers of migrant deaths at sea in 2017, which have turned the Mediterranean into what Pope Francis has called a “vast cemetery,” Italy continues to encourage migrants to attempt the crossing by welcoming as many migrants as are able to arrive safely.

In this enterprise, a number of ONGs and other “humanitarian” organization have come under fire for aiding and abetting the work of human traffickers by providing a reliable taxi service from North Africa to Italy.

Earlier this year, the European Frontex agency denounced human traffickers’ exploitation of NGOs to efficiently transport African migrants from Libya to Italy.

In a 64-page report, European border control suggest that NGOs, whether knowingly or not, have become accomplices to people smugglers by providing a reliable shuttle service for migrants from Africa to Europe, lowering smugglers’ costs and improving their “business model.”

“Migrants and refugees – encouraged by the stories of those who had successfully made it in the past – attempt the dangerous crossing since they are aware of and rely on humanitarian assistance to reach the EU,” the report states.

The Frontex report found that the ready availability of effective SAR [search and rescue] operations has served to stimulate demand for smugglers services, by making migration to Europe more accessible, resulting in what Frontex describes as a dangerous “pull factor.”

SAR missions near the Libyan coast have had “unintended consequences,” the report states. “Namely, they influence smugglers’ planning and act as a pull factor that compounds the difficulties inherent in border control and saving lives at sea.”

“Dangerous crossings on unseaworthy and overloaded vessels were organised with the main purpose of being detected by EUNAVFOR Med/Frontex and NGO vessels,” the reports adds.

The assistance by NGOs has virtually eliminated the need for traffickers to procure seaworthy vessels capable of making the dangerous voyage across the southern Mediterranean, the report notes, since traffickers need only transport their passengers a few miles off the Libyan coast where they will be picked up by “rescue” vessels. It also allows traffickers to operate without fear of arrest by law enforcement.

Boosters of NGOs and humanitarian rescue missions in the Mediterranean have denied charges made by Frontex and others that their activity constitutes a dangerous “pull factor” for migrants.

In its report, Frontex proposed a solution to the uncontrolled migrant flows presently in effect by pointing to a strategy that has already yielded promising results elsewhere.

Frontex cited the example of the dangerous Western African route, which “was closed thanks to an effective combination of border surveillance, return operations, and joint law-enforcement work with countries of origin/departure.”

“This model represents one of the best ways to prevent a future migratory crisis in the Central Mediterranean,” it concludes. Unfortunately, the recommendation to shut down the dangerous route from North Africa to Italy has so far fallen on deaf ears.

Despite a growing outcry against the massive immigration flows and resulting deaths, Italy has refused to block the influx of migrants, exacerbating the “pull factor” cited by Frontex and the consequent migrant deaths that have resulted from it.

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