Two migrants dead, 290 rescued off Libya coast

Migrants rest at a naval base after they were brought back by Libyan coast guards in Tripoli. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 January 2018
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Two migrants dead, 290 rescued off Libya coast

TRIPOLI: Two women were found dead and 290 migrants rescued from two boats off the coast of Libya on Sunday, the country’s navy said.
The migrants were rescued off the coast of Garabulli, 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Tripoli, then taken to the capital, naval officer Meftah Al-Zlitni said.
He did not give further details on how the women had died.
They had left Libya Saturday evening on a makeshift craft with 140 other migrants from various African countries, but their motor broke down a few hours later.
“We stayed put from six o’clock in the morning” until the navy arrived, said Baba Koni, a Malian who was on board the boat.
He said the motor had become waterlogged and cut out.
Zlitni said 150 migrants were on a second boat that had been about to sink when the patrol arrived.
Since the 2011 fall and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has become a key launch pad for migrants making desperate bids to reach Europe, often on unseaworthy vessels.
Last year, 3,116 people died attempting the crossing, according to the International Organization for Migration.
That has continued into the new year, with at least 25 people drowning on Saturday off Libya’s coast in the sinking of a boat carrying as many as 150 migrants, rescue groups said.
There was however a sharp drop in arrivals in Italy during in the second half of 2017 following efforts by Rome to discourage migrants from attempting the crossing.
Some 119,000 embarked on the perilous journey, a decrease of one third on the previous year, according to Italy’s interior ministry.
The first six days of 2018 saw 400 people rescued and taken to Italy, compared to 729 over the same period in 2017, it said.


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 42 min 22 sec ago
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.