THE EU-supported Libyan coastal security forces fired warning shots and carried out “risky manoeuvres” as a ship was attempting to save the lives of more than 60 refugees today.
The Alan Kurdi, a vessel operated by the German charity Sea Eye, was alerted to an emergency in the Libyan search-and-rescue zone this morning by the activists’ network Alarm Phone.
Arriving at the scene an hour later, the Alan Kurdi’s crew found a wooden boat with 68 people on board. None of them had a life jacket.
A Libyan-flagged speedboat approached at high speed and began shooting as the crew were beginning rescue procedures.
At this point, Sea Eye says, about half of the people from the overcrowded wooden boat jumped into the water and tried to reach the Alan Kurdi on their own.
“When I heard the Libyan gunfire, I was very concerned about my crew and the refugees,” the Alan Kurdi’s head of mission Stefan Schutz said.
The crew threw lifesaving equipment into the water to save people from drowning.
Captain Barbel Beuse informed the German authorities of the situation and the Libyans eventually let the evacuation take place. All 68 refugees were saved and no-one was hurt.
The Libyans took the wooden boat and disappeared, Sea Watch said.
This is the second time the Libyan coastal security forces (a separate body to the country’s coastguard) have fired its weapons at the Alan Kurdi. In October three of its gunboats fired shots over the heads of refugees and the ship’s crew during the rescue of 91 people.
The charity’s chairman Gorden Isler said: “With their behaviour, the Libyans risked the drowning of many people.
“While the EU member states pay money to so-called Libyan coastguards, our crew is once again hindered and threatened while saving lives.”
The European Union has been training the Libyan coastal security forces since at least 2017.
At the time of writing, the Alan Kurdi has been notified of another emergency and is heading there now.
UPDATE April 7, 2020:
The Alan Kurdi rescued a further 80 people from another wooden boat on Monday evening.
Mr Isler said the ship has never carried so many rescued people beofre.
“The Alan Kurdi saved 150 people today,” Mr Isler tweeted.
“We ask that [the German Foreign Office] and [Federal Foreign Minister] Heiko Maas for protection for these people. These days, every life, every heartbeat of every individual counts.”