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What Italy, Malta and France blame the Lifeline for

(B2) When Matteo Salvini, the Italian Minister of the Interior, followed by Emmanuel Macron, the French President, question the NGO Lifeline (1) for not having followed certain rules, there is of course politics, but also “ some information, wiretaps, coast guard reports which support a certain mistrust of several European governments (Maltese, Italian, French, Dutch) with regard to the work of this NGO.

Out-of-area intervention and transponder cut

According to what the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, said during the European Council — particularly upset against the NGO — and what we have gathered, the story is thus established. The NGO ship picked up a distress call. When the rescue operation began, the MRCC in Rome informed the NGO that the area was covered by the Libyan coast guard, and they were going to take care of the survivors. But the Lifeline decided to ignore this order. The sailors of the German ship would then have cut off their transponder to leave the Libyan zone.

Vessel registration

First, European governments claimed that the flag displayed by the ship (that of the Netherlands) was false. A statement supported by a representative of the permanent representation in Brussels of the Netherlands, quoted by AFP. Finally, the statements of the NGO will prove to be correct: there is indeed a Dutch flag registered for the ship. The accusation then becomes clearer: this vessel is registered as a pleasure craft and not as a search and rescue vessel.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Founded in May 2016, the German NGO bought the ship in 2017 Sea Watch 2 to the NGO of the same name (Sea-Watch then equipping itself with a new, more modern vessel, the Sea Watch 3).

Read our file No. 63. The presence of NGO vessels off Libya: welcomed, encouraged, then vilified and refused

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).