Design a site like this with
Get started

85 refugees saved, a day after rescuers witness an illegal pushback in Malta’s waters

AN NGO rescue ship has saved the lives of over 80 people off the coast of Libya, a day after witnessing an illegal pushback of refugee inside European waters.

ResQ People, a ship operated by an Italian charity of the same name, announced on social media this afternoon that it found a small wooden boat carrying about 85 people inside Libya’s search-and-rescue (SAR) zone.

The ship’s crew, the charity said, is “hard at work assisting the castaways on board.”

The ResQ People set sail on its first mission to the central Mediterranean on August 7th and yesterday made its first encounter with the EU-supported Libyan coastguards.

French charity Pilotes Volontaires‘ reconnaissance plane alerted the ResQ People to three wooden boats inside Malta‘s SAR zone, meaning the island nation is responsible for saving the lives of anyone in distress within its waters and for bringing them to a safe port.

Libya — according to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a host of human rights organisations (most recently Amnesty International), and all the civilian rescuers — is not a safe place to disembark anyone rescued at sea.

The ResQ People arrived in time to witness a Libyan coastguard vessel intercept the last boat.

Footage of the incident shared by ResQ People yesterday shows the Libyans taking people from an overcrowded wooden boat, including a very small child, and bringing them onto their already crowded vessel. None of the refugees were provided with life jackets.

“Please go away,” the commander on the Libyan vessel tells his counterpart on the ResQ People. “The people [refugees] don’t have a problem, okay.”

The ResQ People’s commander asks the Libyans if they know that they’re inside Malta’s SAR zone. “Okay, okay. Just go away, go away,” comes the reply.

The Libyan Coastguards are then seen taking the engine from the refugees’ wooden boat and abandoning it before turning south and heading back in the direction of their war-torn country.

Returning people back to a place where they could face persecution is a breach of international human rights and refugee laws.

In the post above the video ResQ People said: “Here is what happened today, in front of our eyes, in front of our ship. We could not help but document this interception.

“Knowing that the destiny of these people is to be brought back to torture, to arbitrary detentions, to abuses that no one can now say they are ignorant of.”

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders‘ (MSF) rescue ship, the Geo Barents, is still at sea with 25 rescued people on board.

Earlier this week it came across the remains of an empty rubber boat in the about 42 nautical miles off the coast of Libya.

“Most likely an interception by the Libyan coastguard,” MSF said in a tweet above a picture of the partially sunken boat.

“So far in 2021, more than 20,000 people have been intercepted at sea and returned to unsafe Libya!”

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: