Deadly Med: Libyan Coastguards Slammed for Firing at Migrant Boat

Written by | Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

A non-profit sea rescue group slammed Libya’s coast guard on Thursday (1 July) for what it described as the Libyans‘ ‘brutal attack’ on boat of migrant families in Mediterranean. A footage allegedly recorded by the German NGO Sea-Watch appears to show the Libyan maritime authorities chasing a crowded migrant boat in distress and firing in its direction in an apparent effort to stop it from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Members of the German non-governmental group filmed the incident a day earlier while flying over the area in an observation mission. During the chase, which occurred in international waters under Malta’s search and rescue responsibility, men in uniform on the Libyan vessel can also be seen coming dangerously close to crashing into the boat several times.
After receiving a warning by the Sea-Watch via radio that lives of innocent people are endangered, the Libyan coast guard replied in broken English that they were trying to rescue the migrants. “These maneuvers that we have seen yesterday could easily kill persons easily. Everyone of us is really wondering how no one has died yesterday,” said Felix Weiss, head of airborne operations at Sea-Watch. “Europe’s partners of the so-called Libyan coastguard are approvingly accepting the death of people on the move,” he added. “Those who shoot at refugees and try to capsize their boats are not there to save them. The EU must immediately end cooperation with the so-called Libyan coastguard. European states like Malta must take back responsibility for their rescue zones and fulfil their duty to rescue.” Flavio Di Giacomo, Italy’s spokesman for the UN migration agency, the International Organization for Migration, called the video “disturbing”.
The EU trains, equips and supports the Libyan coast guard to intercept people trying to cross the Central Mediterranean to Europe. Speaking to the media earlier in February, the navy chief in charge of the EU operation policing the waters said the European Union should give Libya more autonomy to deal with illegal immigration. Admiral Fabio Agostini, the head of Operation Irini, said that the best way to stop migrants crossing to Europe was to help prepare the Libyan coast guard for tackling people smuggling. “I believe that the best way to stop illegal immigration, to contribute to the dismantling of these human smuggling models, is to train the Libyan coast guard, the navy, just because we need to let them be more autonomous in dealing with security issues in their water of responsibility,” Agostini said. At least 723 people have reportedly either died or gone missing taking this route on unseaworthy boats so far this year.

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