Woman ‘abandoned’ by Libyan coast guard recovering in Spain
ROME (AP) — A woman who was left behind at sea by Libya’s coast guard, sparking international outrage, has written to her Spanish rescuers and assured them Wednesday she is being well taken care of in Spain.
The Cameroonian woman, identified only as Josepha, was rescued by the Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms on July 17, at the height of controversy over Italy’s anti-migrant crackdown.
Proactiva accused the Libyan coast guard of abandoning Josepha and two others after intercepting some 160 Europe-bound migrants. The aid group said the three had refused to board the Libyan vessels and were left behind. Two of them died.
In a letter said to be written by Josepha, provided by Proactiva Wednesday, the migrant recounted that “when they abandoned me, they all left with another boat, I thought I was already dead.”
She has begun to walk again, and said she is being cared for by “people with a big heart. They are taking care of me. I never met people like this before in all my life.”
Josepha’s case fueled outrage at Italy’s insistence that the Libyan coast guard spearhead rescues and bring migrants back, despite international consensus that Libya doesn’t constitute a secure port.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has pressed the policy, and his predecessor Marco Minniti was fundamental in funding and equipping the Libyan coast guard to better patrol Libya’s coasts to keep migrants from reaching Europe.
This week, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi conceded that in legal terms, “Libya cannot be considered a secure port,” since it hasn’t signed relevant international conventions.
Proactiva filed a formal complaint on Josepha’s behalf in Spanish courts alleging she was abandoned. Other aid groups have challenged Italy’s policy in the European Court of Human Rights, accusing it of violating migrants’ rights by “subcontracting” rescue work to Libya.