Reacting to reports that EU governments have agreed to significantly downscale the EunavforMed Operation 'Sophia', withdrawing ships from the central Mediterranean and only continuing the mission with air surveillance, Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International's Migration Researcher, said:
"This is an outrageous abdication of EU governments responsibilities.
"Having already used every excuse in the book to banish NGO rescue boats from the Mediterranean, and having already stopped carrying out rescues several months ago, EU governments are now removing their own ships, leaving no-one to save the lives of women, men and children in peril.
"EU governments will continue to use aerial surveillance to alert the Libyan Coast Guard when refugees and migrants are spotted at sea, so they can be taken back to Libya, despite knowing that people there are arbitrarily detained and exposed to widespread torture, rape, killings and exploitation.
"This shameful decision has nothing to do with the needs of people who risk their lives at sea, but everything to do with the inability of European governments to agree on a way to share responsibility for them.
"If these reports are correct, European governments must urgently reconsider this decision, and maintain rescue capacity at sea. A mechanism must be established for the prompt disembarkation and relocation in Europe of those rescued and any continuing cooperation with Libya must be conditional on the closure of the detention centres there."