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Libyan coastguard threatens to shoot and kidnap refugee rescuers

End ‘dirty partnership’ with the Libyan coastguards, Europe told after Sea-Watch 4 and its 120 rescued refugees are put in danger

EUROPEAN governments have been told to end their “dirty” deal with the Libyan coastguard after it threatened to “kidnap” and then shoot at an NGO refugee rescue ship.

German refugee organisation Sea-Watch today posted a radio exchange between its Sea-Watch 4 rescue ship and a Libyan coastguard patrol vessel that took place yesterday.

“Stop your engine,” the Libyans say in the clip. “Stop your engine. This is the Libyan Navy. We will shoot you.

“This is the Libyan Navy. We are not the coastguard. It’s our order to you, stop your engine. Stop your engine or you will be [shot].”

The Sea-Watch 4’s captain replies: “Repeat your ship’s name, [your signal is] broken.”

“You need our ship’s name?,” the Libyans ask.

“The tradition and the regulations on radio traffic on the high sea is to mention your ship’s name on your communications,” the Sea-Watch 4 says.

The Libyan vessel then changes tack. “Change your course and go away from here,” comes its reply. “I’m following you to clear our area. You have to go out 70 miles [away from the coast].”

In another clip posted by Sea-Watch yesterday, a Libyan coastguard vessel tells the ship to clear the area.

“This is not Libyan territorial waters, I’m at the high sea,” the Sea-Watch 4’s captain says.

“I’m more than 40 miles north of the coast of Libya and innocent passage [through these waters] is granted by law.”

The Libyan coastguard repeats its earlier message, adding: “Clear right now, otherwise we will take you back with us to Libya. You know the rules of Libya. Is that clear to you? Leave right now.”

Sea-Watch spokesperson Mattea Weihe told The Civil Fleet today that all this took part in international waters yesterday.

“As we know, Libya’s territorial waters only stretch 12 miles from the coast. So, the so-called Libyan coastguard has no jurisdiction over whether a vessel has to leave.

“They told the Sea-Watch 4 to head straight north. But our ship was really careful of course, and did not head go north because they have the right to stay there.

“After a while, the so-called Libyan coastguard vessel came quite close. They put on a siren. They stared at our ship and took pictures of them. After a little bit they moved away slowly and left the Sea-Watch 4 alone.

“They also paid the Sea-Watch 4 another short visit today, a bit further away from Libya, asking them how many people they had on board and what our direction was.

“Everything on the ship is currently fine. Everyone on board is feeling good and is hopefully safe.”

The Sea-Watch 4 is currently carrying around 120 people rescued by her crew in three operations since Thursday.

In one of those operations yesterday, the crew pulled six people from out of the water that had jumped overboard from a Libyan patrol boat as it passed dangerously close to the Sea-Watch 4.

“Funded by Italy, the so-called Libyan coastguard threatens to shoot the crew of a civilian search-and-rescue ship with 120 shipwrecked on board in international waters,” Sea Watch said. “How long will Europe continue to be complicit in these crimes?”

“For years the EU has relied on this cooperation with the so-called Libyan coastguard that violently prevents people from fleeing and is not too shy to threaten rescue ships,” the organisation said.

“Europe must finally end this dirty partnership.”

Elsewhere, the 186 people aboard the rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the Geo Barents, “breathed a sight of relief” today after the ship was granted permission to dock in Messina on the Italian island of Sicily.

MSF said it hopes the rescued will receive the assistance they need there, and that the bodies of the 10 dead people the Geo Barents’ crew found on Tuesday will have a dignified burial.

Meanwhile, the Libyan coastguard intercepted 302 people, including some 50 women and 22 children, in three operations last night, according to the UN’s human rights agency (UNHCR) this morning.

A fact-finding mission commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council warned in October that migrants and refugees heading to Europe are “systematically subjected to a litany of abuses” from the moment they enter Libya.

Top image shows six people swimming away from a Libyan Coastguard patrol vessel towards the Sea-Watch 4 [Pic: Sea-Watch]

Published by The Civil Fleet

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

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