RESCUERS witnessed the EU-supported Libyan Coastguards snatch around 80 refugees in the central Mediterranean today, and force them back to Libya.
The rescue ships Louise Michel and Humanity 1 saved the lives of over 100 people from a severely overcrowded rubber boat in international waters around 7am local time this morning.
The crews worked together to bring everyone safely aboard the Humanity 1, the larger of the two ships.
During this operation, the crews spotted another rubber boat carrying about 90 people close by and headed towards it when they were done.
“Sadly, a so-called Libyan Coastguard vessel also proceeded towards the boat in distress, and intercepted most of the people onboard,” the Louise Michel crew said this evening.
“In a highly dangerous manoeuvre by the so-called Libyan Coastguard, several people fell into the water. [Fortunately], they were recovered by our crew and taken aboard the Humanity 1.
“We must assume that at least 80 people from that boat are now being taken back to Libya. Back into torture and detention. Libya is not a place of safety.”
SOS Humanity, the organisation which operates the Humanity 1, said this evening that they tried to contact the Libyan vessel after it took off in the direction of Libya, but received no reply.
“A ‘coastguard’ which forces people into the water is no better than a fire brigade which starts fires,” the rescuers said.
“Such actors, who keep committing human rights violations, should not receive any form of financial support through the EU!”
The Louise Michel and Humanity 1 crews have been tormented by Libyan coastguard vessels since they returned to the Mediterranean at the weekend.
On Sunday, a Libyan vessel claimed the Louise Michel was inside its territorial waters, when it was in fact in international waters. When the activists told the Libyans this, they spammed one of their radio distress channels with music.
“Our second encounter was the same day in the evening,” a Louise Michel member told The Civil Fleet today.
“We were assisting a rubber boat with 103 people on it, when again a Libyan vessel — but this time a smaller one — entered the scene fast and threatened both our crew and the crew from SOS Humanity with guns in their hands.
“Unfortunately, due to their dangerous approach, the people on the boat started panicking and we had to embark everyone quickly onto the Lousie Michel as their boat started to take in water.
“Last night, again, we assisted another wooden boat with 49 people on board which was in a very unstable condition. It got worse due to the appearance of the same so-called Libyan Coastguard vessel.”
After four joint rescues with the Louise Michel, the Humanity 1 is now providing temporary shelter to at least 250 people.
The Geo Barents, another rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is carrying 254 survivors.
Elsewhere, the 450 people in the distress off the coast of the island of Sicily were rescued by the Italian coastguard last night, the distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone announced this morning.
The activist network warned this morning that another boat carrying around 32 people was in trouble south of the island this morning.
In their last update around 12:30pm this afternoon, Alarm Phone said the 32 were still adrift and calling for rescue.
“Their voices are getting weaker due to exhaustion after several days at sea. The authorities were alerted five hours ago. Do not delay your efforts and rescue them now!”
Top image shows a man swimming away from a Libyan speedboat as a larger coastguard vessel waits in the distance [Pic: ©Nici Wegener / MV Louise Michel]