Eight migrants and refugees drowned off the coast of Turkey as their small boat sank attempting to reach the Greek islands. The Turkish coastguard rescued 31 people from the boat; a further nine were still missing. Seven people had died the previous week in attempting a similar crossing.
Although the number of migrants and refugees attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece has reduced significantly since the European Union reached a deal with Turkey on the issue, the number of migrants and refugees losing their lives throughout the Mediterranean attempting to cross into Europe totalled 555 in the first six months of 2019, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.
Standoff as rescue boat reaches Italy
Despite attempts by the Italian government to stop rescue boats landing and disembarking migrants and refugees in Italian ports, a charity rescue boat, the Netherlands-flagged Sea-Watch 3, has reached the Italian island of Lampedusa with 42 people rescued off the coast of Libya. Although the authorities accepted a further 13 of those rescued for health reasons, they have prevented the boat from docking and no other country has yet offered to take in the rescued migrants, despite attempts by the boat’s captain.
The rescue boat had spent 14 days at sea since the rescue trying to negotiate an outcome for the rescued migrants before it finally sailed into Lampedusa.
Regretting the standoff, a spokesperson for the United Nations commission for refugees explained that: “Rescue at sea is a centuries-old tradition. It is an obligation under international maritime law and NGOs’ search-and-rescue vessels have saved thousands of lives in the central Mediterranean in recent years.”
Tunisia sends home rescued migrants
Seventy-five migrants rescued by an Egyptian tugboat at the end of May and then trapped off Tunisia for three weeks have been sent back to their home countries. The migrants, who came from Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan, were taken off the boat and transferred to a Tunisian detention centre pending their repatriation. Aid groups and relatives of more than 30 rescued Bangladeshis said that they were forced to accept repatriation against their will, a claim denied by the International Organization for Migration.
Migrant boats intercepted in English Channel
The authorities have intercepted more boats carrying migrants as they attempted to cross the English Channel into Britain. The French authorities rescued 15 migrants after their boat’s engine failed in French waters. British patrol boats stopped two dinghies carrying 38 men, women and children off the Kent coast.
The authorities have intercepted a total of 754 people in small boats trying to cross the Channel since the beginning of November 2018.