A migrant woman and a toddler were abandoned and left to die in the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan coast guard, a Spanish aid group alleged on Tuesday.
The group, Proactiva Open Arms, found the two bodies amid the remains of a destroyed migrant boat about 80 miles off the coast of Libya. Another woman was found alive.
The organization claimed that after the three migrants refused to board the Libyan vessels, they were abandoned the Libyan coast guard had destroyed the boat they were on.
A spokesman for Libya’s coast guard responded to the group’s criticism late Tuesday, saying guard members carry out rescues of Europe-bound migrants “in accordance with international standards in saving lives at sea.”
The head of the aid group, Oscar Camps, blamed the Italian government’s cooperation with Libyan authorities for the death of the woman and the toddler.
“This is the direct consequence of contracting armed militias to make the rest of Europe believe that Libya is a state, a government and a safe country,” Camps said in a video posted on Twitter.
Italy’s new populist government has vowed to halt the influx of migrants across the Mediterranean and has given aid to Libyan authorities toward that end. Human rights activists have weighed in with sharp criticism, saying migrants being returned to Libya are at risk of beatings, abuse, rape and enslavement.
However, aid groups have been blocked from helping migrants in the Mediterranean, purportedly by being refused entry to ports or by having their vessels impounded.
The Italian government has vehemently denied these claims.