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New incident with the Libyan Coast Guard (V2)

(credit: SOS Mediterranean)

(B2) A new incident took place off the coast of Libya this Saturday morning (January 27), according to the sailors and the medical team of theAquarius.

Refusal of any assistance

The ship chartered by SOS Méditerranée was on a search mission for an inflatable boat in distress, on orders from the MRCC center in Rome, which coordinates all rescues in the Mediterranean, when a Libyan coast guard ship intervened. These ordered the crew toAquarius keep their distance, and refused any other assistance despite calls from the NGO ship (1). “ We were only 100 meters away, the MSF team could see people's faces and hear their cries but were unable to provide help » specifies the MSF team in a tweet. The Aquarius was forced to leave the stage, " team safety is paramount ».

Shelter, really?

But according to what the members of the NGO gathered, the Libyan coast guard vessel then “pushed refugees and migrants back to Libya ". " This cannot be considered a 'rescue operation' the reality is that people are not being returned to a safe harbor » protests the NGO.

NB: this is not the first time this type of incident has occurred. One particularly notable one took place at the beginning of November (read: 5 dead off Libya. Libyan Coast Guard indicted), to the point that it had raised official doubts about the formation of the Libyan coast guard by the Europeans. The Libyan coastguards are not up to the job,” stressed a European official (read: Migrants in Libya: the EU should not be ashamed of its role. A problem with the Libyan coast guard?).

An incident in territorial waters

Let us specify that this incident took place at a distance of 15 nautical miles from the Libyan coast, therefore strictly in international waters (outside the territorial limit 12 nautical miles from the coast). Furthermore, no Libyan relief zone has to date been recognized by the International Maritime Organization, in which Libyan ships would have responsibility for relief and rescue operations (SSR, Search and rescue region) contrary to what the Libyan authorities sometimes claim.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).