Tragedy continues to unfold across the Mediterranean with another week of drownings, rescue operations and obstruction of disembarkation.

According to the Turkish coast guard, 12 people died and 31 were rescued after a boat carrying migrants to Greece sank in the Aegean Sea, off the Turkish coast of Bodrum on 17 June. On the same day, Spain’s maritime rescue service rescued 292 people attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe from North Africa. They were picked up in a stretch of the Mediterranean known as the Alboran Sea and in the Strait of Gibraltar.

About 20 people were reported missing after a ferry travelling between Nador in northern Morocco and Motril in the south of Spain rescued 27 people in distress on Wednesday, 19 June. Six were evacuated by helicopter to Almería in Spain for medical care.

A group of 75 people were finally allowed to disembark in Tunisia after being trapped onboard a merchant ship for almost three weeks waiting to dock. The group, who was rescued from a dinghy on 31 May, faced precarious medical conditions including trauma, lack of food and water and the spread of diseases on the tugboat.

Aid Groups are concerned that people may be sent back to Libya or deported to their home countries after landing in the port of Zarzis. Médecins Sans Frontières warned that, without a functioning asylum system, Tunisia could not be defined a safe haven for migrants and refugees.  A spokesperson said: “The nearest places of safety for rescues in the central Mediterranean are Italy or Malta”. According to the NGO Alarm Phone “the migrant boat was ignored by Italian and Maltese authorities, though they were in distress in international waters […] This is a violation of international law and maritime conventions.”

The civilian rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 is still stranded outside of the Italian island of Lampedusa waiting to be assigned a port of safety after rescuing 53 people off the coast of Libya last week. Italian authorities have disembarked ten “vulnerable” people in international waters but warned the crew members from the NGO Sea Watch that they could be fined up to 50,000 EUR if they entered Italian waters, according to new decree by Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini.  Meanwhile, the German Interior Ministry confirmed that it received formal requests from more than 50 municipalities to host migrants rescued in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast by German NGO Sea-Watch.

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic published recommendations for “Bridging the protection gap for refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean” this week and stressed: “The urgency to act is evident[…] The effective protection of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, on land and at sea, should always prevail over any political dilemma or uncertainty that the interaction of different legal regimes, practices and policies may cause”.

Missing Migrants recorded that at least 597 people died trying to cross the med in 2019.

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Photo: (CC) Patrick Nouhailler, June 2013

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.