News Europe SOS Méditerranée accuses Libyan coast guards of endangering its teams and migrants

SOS Méditerranée accuses Libyan coast guards of endangering its teams and migrants

Published on : 03/26/2023 – 09:01

SOS Méditerranée on Saturday accused the Libyan coast guard of having “deliberately” endangered its teams and people in distress, by firing shots in the air to prevent it from carrying out a rescue. The NGO, which specifies that another of its rescue operations had already been disrupted last January, condemns “this escalation of violence”.

The Libyan coastguard “threatened with firearms” the teams of the Ocean Viking, a humanitarian rescue ship, denounced Saturday March 25 SOS Méditerranée in a press release. The NGO, which accuses them of having “deliberately” endangered its teams and people in distress, also posted a video on Twitter where gunshots can be heard from a Libyan patrol boat near the NGO ship.

Alerted on Saturday morning to the presence of a boat in distress in international waters off Libya, the SOS Méditerranée ambulance ship was approaching it when a Libyan coastguard patrol boat “arrived on the scene, dangerously approaching the Ocean Viking”, writes the NGO.

“All attempts by the bridge team to contact the Libyan Coastguard building via VHF went unanswered, while the Libyan Coastguard crew began behaving aggressively, threatening with weapons fire and firing several shots in the air,” continued SOS Méditerranée, headquartered in Marseille.

The ship left the scene to ensure the safety of its teams, “while the Libyan coast guard continued to fire shots”, adds the press release, which assures that the NGO Sea Watch – which has also denounced the facts in a separate press release – was also able to spot, thanks to his plane, people who had fallen overboard from the inflatable boat in distress, then recovered.

“Shots fired by forces funded and trained by EU member states”

According to SOS Méditerranée, around 80 people were eventually intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya.

The NGO also assures that already in January, the Libyan coast guard had disrupted a rescue operation of the Ocean Viking, “knowingly endangering the lives of people in distress at sea (…) by preventing the ‘search and rescue team aboard (its) lifeboat returning to the main ship’.

>> Sophie Beau, SOS Méditerranée: “We cannot let these people die at the gates of Europe”

At the end of 2022, associations working in the sector estimated that around 100,000 people had been intercepted since the signing of an agreement with Libya in 2017 by Italy and the EU, which agreed to train and equip the Libyan coastguard to intercept migrants trying to leave this country plagued by instability – but which is only 300 kilometers from the Italian coast.

“For any response to this tragedy that continues to claim thousands of human lives in the central Mediterranean, it is gunfire that we are now receiving, gunfire from forces funded and trained by EU Member States “, denounces SOS Mediterranean.

The central Mediterranean is the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The UN agency estimates that 1,417 migrants disappeared there.

With AFP

Source: France 24

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