Sea-Watch, a German non-governmental organization that operates in the Mediterranean Sea to conduct rescue operations for migrants, released on Wednesday footage in which the Libyan Coast Guard appears to threaten to shoot down the NGO’s plane “by some missiles”.
The incident reportedly took place on Tuesday afternoon, October 25, when an airplane operated by Sea-Watch “sighted an overcrowded inflatable boat with about 70 people in distress,” according to the German NGO.
“Shortly after, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard reaches the boat – all within the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone,” Sea-Watch stated via Twitter.
“Upon arrival, the patrol boat threatens our aircrew – probably to prevent documentation of the following illegal pullback,” it added.
Sea-Watch claimed that the migrants were intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard “within EU waters in violation of international law, and the boat is set on fire by gunfire.”
Libya has always been a key route for clandestine migration. The lawlessness that ensued after the civil war in 2011 bolstered its position on the world’s deadliest migration route across the Mediterranean to Europe.
Migrants often face horrific treatment at the hands of smuggling gangs. Rights groups have repeatedly accused Libyan authorities and armed groups operating under state auspices of torture and other abuses.
NGOs operating in the Mediterranean Sea work to rescue migrants who are adrift international or European waters and bring them to Europe since the international humanitarian prohibits bringing them back to Libya, which is considered to be unsafe haven.
Meanwhile, the Libyan Coast Guard would usually intercept migrants if their boats were found in Libyan territorial. However, NGOs such as Sea-Watch claim that the guard tends to pullback migrants even if their boats are found in European waters.
“Pullbacks of the so-called Libyan coast guard take place deep in European waters on a daily basis,” Sea-Watch said, which heavily criticize the European Union and Italy for providing logistical and financial support to the Libyan Coast Guard despite “systematic human rights violations”.
“The EU and Italy have spent millions of euros supplying and training the so-called Libyan Coast Guards – directly financing illegal pullbacks of people to Libya and their return to arbitrary detention, violence and torture,” said Sea-Watch.
🔴 BREAKING: The so-called Libyan coast guard threatens our airplane crew with force of arms in the Maltese search and rescue zone: "Get away from Libyan territory, otherwise we will shoot you by some missiles."
The EU's partner's at work in violation of international law: pic.twitter.com/74NaQQyNy0
— Sea-Watch International (@seawatch_intl) October 26, 2022