Meanwhile, another refugee boat waits for the Maltese authorities to finally come to their aid
THE EU-supported Libyan coastguard threatened to arrest the crew of a civilian-run refugee rescue ship in international waters today.
The Sea-Watch 3 returned to the central Mediterranean on Monday, its first mission in the region since Italy detained it for four months for apparent safety failings.
In a recorded conversation between Sea Watch 3’s captain and the Libyans, the ship was ordered to leave — or the coastguards will “take every available means to force you to leave… and you will be arrested.”
Sea-Watch, the German organisation that operates the ship, insists its is in international waters and has every right to be there.
“They falsely claim to have jurisdiction over the Libyan search-and rescue (SAR) zone, although it is just their area of responsibility to save lives,” the charity said.
“Instead of fulfilling their responsibility to secure people‘s lives in the Libyan SAR zone, the so-called Libyan coastguard threatens to ‘take every available means’ to force us to leave.
“This is a serious violation of the [United Nations’] Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“If there wasn’t a European interest in protecting the systematic violation of international law at sea by Libyan authorities, this would lead to a diplomatic crisis.
“The relevant German authorities are informed.”
Earlier this month, the human rights organisation Amnesty International added its voice to the long list of organisations calling on the EU to end its support to the Libyan coastguards.
Meanwhile, the distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone alerted the authorities to another boat in distress last night.
“SOS! [around] 35 lives at risk off Libya,” the activist network posted on social media this morning.
“Last night, we were called from a boat in distress with about 35 people onboard. They fled from Libya but had engine problems. Authorities have been alerted. We lost contact to the boat [about] six hours ago.”
Then, later this morning, the boat entered Malta‘s SAR zone.
“[The] Maltese authorities have asked the merchant vessel Songa Iridium to be on standby,” Alarm Phone warned.
“We hope they will not facilitate an illegal pushback to Libya but a rescue to Europe!”
Top picture shows crew members on the Sea-Watch 3 scanning the horizon for for refugee boats [Pic: Sea-Watch]