German NGO accuses Libyan coast guard of threatening crew members

SOS Humanity ship.
SOS Humanity ship. Copyright Salvatore Cavalli/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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SOS Humanity said the guards fired real bullets while they were rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean, causing at least one of them to drown.

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The German charity SOS Humanity has accused the Libyan coast guard of threatening its crew members who were rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, causing at least one migrant to drown.

Civil society rescue ship Humanity 1 disembarked 77 people in the southern Italian port of Crotone on Monday evening.

SOS Humanity said the Libyan coast guard used violence and fired live bullets into the water during its “life-threatening intervention” on Saturday.

The charity said that many migrants who were aboard three unseaworthy boats bound for Europe were forced to jump into the water.

The Humanity 1 managed to rescue 77 migrants, but many others were forced on board a Libyan coast guard boat, “separating at least six family members from each other,” it said.

At least one migrant drowned, it added.

A spokesperson for the Libyan coast guard didn’t respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment.

An EU-funded problem

Since 2015, the European Union has been funding the Libyan coast guard as part of efforts to stem the flow of migrants from the North African country towards Italian shores.

As part of the deal, the coast guard has intercepted migrants in Libyan and international waters and has returned them to Libya.

Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, even though the North African nation has plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders, which it shares with six nations.

The migrants are crowded onto ill-equipped vessels, including rubber boats, and set off on risky sea voyages.

According to the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, at least 962 migrants were reported dead and 1,563 missing off Libya in 2023.

Around 17,200 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya last year.

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