Spanish rescuers 'told by Italy to stay away from dinghy in distress'
Migration Spanish rescuers 'told by Italy to stay away from dinghy in distress'
Crew told Libyan coastguard was dealing with incident now thought to have left 100 dead
The crew of a Spanish rescue ship have said that Italian officials told them to let the Libyan coastguard respond to a distress call from a smuggling boat carrying migrants â" only to hear shortly afterward that 100 migrants were missing and feared dead in the same area.EU migration deal: what was agreed and will it work? Read more
The account by Proactiva Open Arms â" a Spanish NGO â" came as EU leaders in Brussels signed a deal aimed at controlling migration that steps up support for the Libyan coastguard and demands that humanitarian and other ships operating in the Mediterranean do not obstruct their operations.
The moves are part of efforts to stop smugglers from operating out of the lawless north African nation.
Open Arms founder Ã'scar Camps said such demands would cost the lives of people at sea. âThe problem is there wonât be anyone to witness this and denounce it, that is what will happen, starting now,â he said.
In the latest incident, the Open Arms head of mission, Ricardo Canardo, said the groupâs crew intercepted a radio transmission at about 8am on Friday between European military o fficials and the Libyan coastguard giving details of a rubber dinghy in distress with at least 100 migrants onboard.
But an official distress signal was only received by ships in the region on the Navtex navigation system 90 minutes later.
When Open Arms called the maritime rescue coordination centre in Rome to offer help, officials there said the Libyan coastguard had the situation covered and that no assistance was needed.
Shortly later, the group received the news that more than 100 people were missing at sea and feared dead in that same region. âWe suspect it is the same people,â Canardo said.
The Libyan coastguard service said it rescued 16 migrants from the boat that capsized east of Tripoli but about 100 who had been onboard were missing at sea and feared dead. A survivor said 125 people, including women and children, had been on the boat.âMy crew saved 218 migrants from drowning â" so why are we the enemy?â Read more
Riccardo Gatti, the captain of another Proactiva ship, the Astral, said he had witnessed tragic rescue attempts performed by the Libyan coastguard, which lacks the most basic equipment, including life vests.
Gatti said the Libyan coastguard never answered coordination centre phones when called by Proactiva, and had more than once aggressively told Open Arms and Astral to leave in the middle of a rescue.
He recalled one incident when the Libyans shot into the air and jumped into dinghies to try to take away migrants and another when they boarded the Open Arms rescue ship with guns and threatened the crew.
âFor months now, [the Libyan coastguard] has been presented as an official body, formal, very well-trained and legal, and these are the same people who have shot at us, who have kidnapped us,â Gatti said. âAll of this is theatre.â
The Astral left Malta early on Thursday with four European parliamentarians on board as observers. However, the shi p is unlikely to be able to return to Malta, as it has closed its ports to humanitarian ships as it investigates a private German rescue mission accused of allegedly violating maritime law.
Italy issued an order on Friday barring the Astral from its ports, citing public security.
The Open Arms ship has already been denied a request to dock in Malta to resupply and a similar request to Italy has not been answered.
Gatti said humanitarian groups were being targeted by governments for rescuing people who faced dire circumstances.
âThey say that we are the criminals [for the sea rescues] â" but they are the criminals that let 100 people die this morning,â he said.Topics
- Middle East and North Africa
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share via Email
- Share on LinkedIn
- Share on Pinterest
- Share on Google+
- Share on WhatsApp
- Share on Messenger
- Reuse this content