Libyan coast guard accused of preventing migrant boat rescue



A German charity, which rescued  77 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea is claiming that in the commotion, they were being shot at by a Libyan coast guard, according to Africa News and AFP.

The incident, which took place on March 2nd, involved crew members from the rescue ship Humanity 1 who work for German charity SOS Humanity. They had to intervene when migrants were forced to jump from three boats, that were unsuitable for the journey, into the water. The rescue mission soon took a violent turn when the Libyan coast guard opened fire. During the chaos, those who didn’t make it onto Humanity 1 were forced to board the Libyan coast guard boat which, as the German charity confirmed, led to the separation of “at least six family members from each other.” Despite the success of saving 77 migrants, at least one person drowned.

It’s not uncommon for Libyan coast guards to intercept boats with migrants, especially since 2015 when the EU began to fund the Libyan coast guard as part of a deal which they hope will lead to fewer migrants attempting to reach Europe from Libya.

In spite of the severity of the situation, with SOS Humanity highlighting that “Threatening crew members of search-and-rescue vessels and risking the lives of people in need of protection is a gross violation of international law,”, similar events have been reported in recent years. SOS Mediterranee, an organisation that operate as a European network, stated that the Libyan coast guard fired warning shots during one of their rescue missions to save migrants from a packed ship in March 2023. Fellow rescue group Sea-Watch use planes to monitor the sea for smugglers and migrant vessels but reported that in October 2022 the coast guard threatened to shoot down its plane.

The crisis isn’t limited to Libya’s coasts. Smugglers take advantage of the political chaos which Libya faces, especially since the NATO backed uprising in 2011.

READ: Libya: Paramilitary groups claim they will leave Tripoli

The fact that Libya borders six other nations means that migrants can be trafficked across borders too, before they attempt the journey at sea. The on-going migrant crisis in Libya has led to an ever-increasing death toll, with 962 migrants being reported dead in 2023 alone by the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

[mc4wp_form id="206"]