Executive Summary for December 14th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including Libya dropping its claim to a search-and-rescue zone off its coast, Italy being offered cash by refugee quota opponents, and refugee clothes becoming an art installation in London.

Published on Dec. 14, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Libya Drops Claim to Search-and-Rescue Zone, IMO Confirms

Libya has dropped its claim to a search-and-rescue zone off its coast. The move will add to confusion over who is in charge of waters where thousands of refugees and migrants have drowned.

The International Maritime Organization, the U.N. agency that regulates shipping, told Refugees Deeply it had received a notification from Libya on December 10 dropping the claim.

“The IMO Secretariat has just received on 10 December 2017, an official communication from the Government representative of Libya, to withdraw their previous official notification, dated on 10 July 2017, to the IMO Secretary-General on their Government’s designation of Libyan SRR.

In recent months, Libyan coast-guard boats have increased their interceptions of migrant craft, sometimes pursuing them outside territorial waters. Charity boats have been warned to stay out of Libyan waters and have, in some instances, been stood down by the Italian coast guard when attempting rescues.

Naval officials from Libya’s U.N.-backed government claimed in August that Libya was reasserting its right to conduct rescue operations in its territorial waters. At the time, the IMO said it had received communications from the Tripoli port authority but had sought further clarifications.

Under IMO rules, a country can assert a “search-and-rescue region” only if it has a 24-hour Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC), staffed by English-speakers. Almost all rescues off the coast of Libya are managed by the MRCC in Rome.

The Libyan coast guard, which is trained by the E.U. and equipped by Italy, has been accused of repeated human rights violations, as well as attacks on charity boats in violation of the law of the seas.

Visegrad Countries Offer Cash to Italy to Avoid Refugee Quotas

Eastern European leaders will offer cash to Italy to avoid refugee resettlement quotas. The row over quotas has roiled the E.U., with court cases pending against member states.

Italy’s prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, will speak to his counterparts from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia ahead of Brussels talks among all 28 members on December 14.

The four holdouts, who led opposition to a scheme to relieve pressure on Greece and Italy, are expected to offer funds to an Italian aid scheme in Libya. Reuters reported that the quartet hope to defuse the row by offering $41 million to the E.U.-backed projects that Rome has been leading in Libya.

Relocation quotas to share the burden of migration spikes among members have been bitterly opposed by a handful of states. Another front in the fight was opened when Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, came out against “divisive” and “ineffective” obligatory quotas.

His stance has been strongly attacked by the E.U. policymaking executive, the European Commission.

Refugees’ Clothes Become Poignant Exhibition in London

A British artist has turned clothes discarded by refugees into an art installation. The piece, called “Suspended,” is on display at St. James’s Church in Piccadilly, London.

Arabella Dorman, whose work focuses on war, was among the thousands of Europeans who visited the Greek island of Lesbos during 2015 at the peak of refugee crossings from Turkey.

“There were thousands of items of clothing discarded by refugees,” she told the Guardian. “I was struck by the concept of the empty garment, evoking the hidden presence of the person who had worn that item. These clothes reveal what is now being forgotten.”

The British peer Alf Dubs, once a child refugee on the Kindertransport, said he had been moved by the artwork: “Every one of these items of clothing represents a life; it’s very poignant.”

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