The UN refugee agency has established a forum to enhance Libya’s response to boats in distress in its waters by streamlining information sharing and coordination with international organisations.
The contact group comprises of Libyan officials responsible for search-and-rescue, border security and detention centres for rescued or intercepted boat people.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office spokesperson Leo Dobbs said: "We hope the new contact group will boost Libya’s ability to save lives, collect bodies at sea or along the coast and improve the humanitarian care of the rescued on disembarkation."
The newly formed forum will meet at least three times over the coming nine months in order to discuss ways to minimise refugee and migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.
Funded by the European Union (EU), the group will also offer training in areas such as information management, body retrieval and identification of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.
The training will include receiving and questioning the rescued before their transfer to UNHCR’s detention centres.
In addition, the team will gather officials from the Libyan Coastguard, Port Security Department, and Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration and Libyan Red Crescent (LRC) to enhance its coordination with international actors.
Dobbs added: "Future training could include corpse retrieval and storage and the provision of body bags, other equipment and medical supplies, as well as trying to identify the dead in the hope of alerting families."
According to UNHCR, the group’s initial international members include UNHCR, IOM, the international committee of the Red Cross and the international medical corps.
Image: Specialised local operators carrying coffin of one victim of marine accident off the coast of Libya. Photo: courtesy of UNHCR/Fabio Bucciarelli.