Images have emerged that appear to show the Libyan coast guard firing at a ship in distress carrying migrant families in the Mediterranean Sea.
Rescue workers from the German organization Sea-Watch recorded the coast guard ship apparently trying to ram the small wooden boat and fire shots in an attempt to force the people on board to return to Libya.
In a statement on Wednesday’s incident, Sea-Watch said: “During our mission with our Sea-Watch Seabird reconnaissance aircraft on June 30, at 1:39 p.m., we heard a communication regarding the position of a ship carrying 50 people and many children within the Maltese islands. search and rescue area “.
He went on to say that the pilot had spotted the Libyan coast guard ship, supplied by Italy to help Tripoli control the flow of migrants in the Mediterranean: “Seabird flew into the case and saw the so-called Libyan coast guard ship PB 648 – Ras Jadir. “
Sea-Watch found a blue wooden boat carrying dozens of migrants, including children, and asked the rescue coordination center in Malta, by email and by phone, to intervene. According to the German NGO, the Maltese authorities said they were “investigating”.
“We witnessed the brutal attack by the so-called Libyan coast guard and recorded the situation before leaving the site due to fuel shortages,” Sea-Watch said.
Wednesday’s video, obtained by The Guardian, appears to show the Libyan coast guard firing at least two shots in the direction of the ship, while attempting to ram the migrant ship. Libyan officers threw objects at the passengers and pulled a rope with a buoy behind it to “catch” the wooden boat.
“The European partners of the so-called Libyan coast guards are accepting with approval the deaths of people on the move,” said Felix Weiss of Sea-Watch’s airborne operations.
“Those who shoot the refugees and try to capsize their boats are not there to save them. The EU must immediately end cooperation with the so-called Libyan coastguards. European states like Malta must take responsibility for their rescue zones and fulfill their duty to rescue. “
Flavio Di Giacomo, Italian spokesman for the UN migration agency, the International migration organization, called the video “disturbing.”
The migrant ship was able to avoid interception and reached the island of Lampedusa the next day, the same morning that another ship capsized off the coast of Sicily, leaving seven women confirmed dead and nine missing.
Nearly 700 people have died so far in 2021 while trying to cross the central Mediterranean Sea, according to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project. Meanwhile, more than 19,000 immigrants have arrived in Italy, three times more than during the same period last year, according to Italy’s Interior Ministry.
Libyan authorities, coordinated by Maltese and Italian officials, and supported by commercial ships and private vessels, according to the New York-based aid organization the International Rescue Committee, have intercepted and returned more than 13,000 people to Libya. during the first. six months of 2021: more than the 11,891 intercepted throughout all of 2020.
On June 14, 2021, after being rescued by the Gibraltar-flagged supply ship Vos Triton in international waters, some 170 people were handed over to the Libyan coastguard and returned there in what a report by migrant aid organizations . Mediterranea saving humans, Sea-Watch, WatchTheMed other Alarm phone called “backtracking by proxy”.
“The survivors, who had decided to risk their lives to escape Libya, should have been taken to safety as prescribed by international maritime law,” the report says. Instead, they were detained upon arrival in Libya, a country that is recognized neither as a safe country nor as a ‘safe place’ by the international community, and is known to subject detainees to systematic forms of intentional violence, including sexual violence such as rape and torture. “
In June, a week after the incident, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) decided to suspend their services in two detention centers in Tripoli, due to the unacceptable violence to which the detainees were subjected.
Libyan authorities were contacted for comment.