Saturday, February 4, 2023

Gambian Migrant dies, Eight Missing in Libya Shipwreck

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By Biran Gaye

Just two days into the New Year, a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea claimed the life of at least a Gambian. Eight are reported missing.

“We can confirm that 56 Gambians were on board the ship which sank on the Libyan Coast, out of which, 48 were rescued while 8 are missing or bodies not recovered as of now,” said Mr Musa Camara Foreign Affairs Ministry.

“Abubacarr Leigh, one of the 48 rescued victims, later lost his life after being rescued, and that the ministry is being provided his autopsy report.”

Mr Musa Camara is the Director of Migration and Diaspora Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), some 48 Gambian Migrants were on board the vessel that had sunk in the Mediterranean Sea, resulting to the missing and death of dozens of migrants. Libyan Coast Guards reported that 48 Gambian Nationals including Activist, Abubacarr Leigh, who died after capturing the footage, and recovered after the boat sank and taken back to Tripoli.

“One of the missing persons is Mr Abubacarr Leigh who allegedly died after Libyan Coast Guards took him and some other migrants between the period of 4:00 to 9:12 am at Tripoli seaport before referring them to a detention centre,” the Migrant Groups cited from correspondence between the Gambian Association in Tripoli and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

“The Gambian authorities were informed that Mr Leigh’s body was taken to a hospital mortuary by an ambulance and the remaining migrants were taken to a detention centre.”

They reiterated the common knowledge that migrants in Libyan detention centres experience unimaginable horrors.

Dozen migrants including Gambians as Team Gom Sa Bopa, Mediterranea Saving Humans, and Refugees in Libya, all migrant groups called for more protection and justice for migrants as well as demand a thorough investigation into the plights of Gambian migrants in Libya Detention Centres.

The migrant groups recently made these demands in a joint communiqué following the recent shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea.

Declaring it a humanitarian crisis of international significance, the migrant organisations call on the relevant authorities, civil society organisations and social justice movements to show the urgency required to stem the continued loss of lives at the Mediterranean Sea and the imminent danger facing survivors.

“Given that the United Nations (UN) is already involved and aware of the situation via the International Organisation for Migration, we remind the UN that the migration crisis is a global concern. People must have the freedom to migrate in a safe way but for many coming from destinations like the Gambia that is almost impossible,” they underscored.

Photo: Migrant drowning

On the safety of all migrants in Libya, the migrant groups challenged the UN to engage and request the European Union, the African Union and the Libyan Coast Guards to decisively intervene in order to mitigate the crisis. They also called on the UN to continue its efforts in documenting the number of persons currently in detention, the number of people who drowned or passed away during shipwrecks.

The groups also tasked The Gambia Government to make more efforts in ensuring the safety of its citizens who are currently in detention in Libya.

“Civil Society Organisations, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Activists and Social Justice Movements across the globe to galvanise their efforts in advocating for the safety of migrants especially those currently in detention. It’s up to us to pressure the authorities to explore every means necessary to bring justice to all victims of human rights,” they recommended.

When contacted to shed light on the shipwreck involving Gambians, the Directorate of Migration and Diaspora Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed the incident and added that Government is coordinating with the Gambian Association in Libya and Libyan Authorities to quicken the recovery of victims.

“We can confirm that 56 Gambians were on board the ship which sank on the Libyan Coast, out of which, 48 were rescued while 8 are missing or bodies not recovered as of now,” Director Camara said.

“Abubacarr Leigh, one of the 48 rescued victims, later lost his life after being rescued, and that the ministry is being provided his autopsy report.”

Speaking further, Camara noted that IOM and Gambian Association in Libya helped to provide accommodation for the rescued victims are currently in detention centres as authorities prepare to schedule another flight for migrants willing to be repatriated.

“Government plans to repatriate 160 migrants including the shipwreck victims this February,” he said.

However, in the spring of last year, the Director of Diaspora, and Migration Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Mr. Musa Camara led a delegation of relevant government authorities to Tripoli, Libya, to negotiate and facilitate the repatriation of Gambians as well get first-hand information on the plights Gambian migrants.

This came following the cancellation of the migrants’ flight, which was reserved and facilitated by IOM and Government, in a bid to repatriate almost four hundred Gambian migrants believed to be in detention.

“However, nothing is easy for the migrants with irregular status. They look very frail, weak and disorderly.. Some are school dropped-outs while others have not even gone to school and have no requisite skills. One of the minors we met came from Basse Dampha Kunda. He said he was intercepted two times but any time, he wants to return, his mother insists that he must stay,” Director Camara recently said of Gambian migrants in an interview.

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