Italy impounds charity ship over Libya migrant row         


A German charity vessel was impounded by Italian authorities after it ran into a dispute with the Libyan coastguard reports Reuters.

Due to a migration decree introduced in 2023 by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s rightist government, Italy often temporarily blocks the operations of charity-operated rescue vessels.

On the 5th of March, the charity vessel was impounded after a dispute with the Libyan coastguard over the rescue of as many as 100 migrants in international waters. 

Operated by the SOS Humanity organisation, The Humanity 1 was blocked for 20 days in the southern port of Crotone. It had docked on March 4th, bringing ashore 77 migrants it had saved in international waters over the previous weekend. 

READ: Libyan coast guard accused of preventing migrant boat rescue 

While the charity rescued 90-100 distressed migrants on three boats off the coast of Libya and Tunisia, they stated that a Libyan patrol boat stopped them and threatened its staff and migrants with a machine gun. 

A spokesman for SOS Humanity said the charity was “falsely accused” of failing to coordinate with Libyan authorities and of putting migrants’ lives at risk during a sea rescue.

The organisation said the intervention resulted “in people jumping in the water and at least one person drowning” and the separation of family members, as some migrants were picked up by the NGO and some by the Libyans. Libyan authorities did not respond to a request for comment. 

Migrants cannot be forced to return to countries where they risk serious ill-treatment under international humanitarian law. Widespread migrant abuse has been extensively documented in Libya.

Though Italy and other European Union governments are actively halting charity ships full of migrants out at sea, they have put efforts in place to cut the flow of migrants from North Africa at the source.

READ: Tunisian authorities foiled 70,000 migrants in 2023 

They have offered money or equipment to Libya and Tunisia to stop departures from their shores. 

Spain and the European Union have cooperation agreements with both Mauritania and neighbouring Senegal. Despite this, young migrants insist on taking their chances and making the dangerous journey. 



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