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6th July 2017, 00:01:43 UTC

2016 was the most deadly year for refugees trying to cross the Central Mediterranean.

More than 4,500 men, women and children drowned or disappeared as they fled in unseaworthy and overcrowded boats. Many more lives have already been lost this year.

Despite this, European governments have reduced boats patrolling the sea, leaving NGOs alone to save lives at sea.

Instead of saving lives and offering safe routes to people embarking in desperate sea crossings, Europe started cooperating with Libyan authorities to enable them to intercept refugees and migrants and take them back to Libya, where they are detained and subjected to horrific abuses, including torture and rape.

Rescuing people in the Mediterranean only to send them back to face hell in Libya is not rescuing them.

This has to stop. Saving lives at sea is our moral and legal duty. Offering protection and assistance too.

We choose to save lives. European governments should do the same.

Demand that European governments:

• Open and expand safe and legal channels for refugees and migrants.
• Step up search and rescue capacities in the Central Mediterranean, in areas where most shipwrecks happen and commensurate with the number of departures from North Africa.
• End cooperation with Libyan authorities that leads to refugees and migrants being taken back to face torture, rape and other abuses in Libya, and focus instead on improving the human rights situation in the country.

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