June 8, 2023
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The NGO SOS Méditerranée, whose ship Ocean Viking rescues migrants at sea, accused the Libyan coast guard on Saturday March 25 of having “deliberately” endangered its teams and people in distress, by firing shots. in the air to prevent him from performing a rescue.

Alerted on Saturday morning to the presence of a boat in distress in international waters off the coast of Libya, the NGO’s ambulance ship was approaching it when a Libyan coastguard patrol boat “arrived on the scene, s ‘dangerously approaching the Ocean Viking’, wrote SOS Méditerranée in a press release.

“All attempts by the bridge team to contact the Libyan Coastguard building by VHF (very high frequency communication medium, editor’s note) went unanswered, while the Libyan Coastguard crew began to behave aggressively, threatening with firearms and firing several shots in the air,” the NGO continued.

The vessel left the scene to ensure the safety of its crews, as the Libyan Coast Guard continued to fire gunfire. A version corroborated by the NGO Sea Watch, present on the spot by plane, which denounced the same facts through a separate press release.

about 80 people intercepted by the coast guard

According to SOS Méditerranée, around 80 people were eventually intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya.

The NGO also assures that in January already, the Libyan coastguard had disrupted a rescue operation of the Ocean Viking, “knowingly endangering the lives of people in distress at sea (…) by preventing the ‘search and rescue team aboard their lifeboat to return to the main ship’.

At the end of 2022, associations working in the sector estimated that around 100,000 the number of people intercepted since the signing of an agreement with Libya in 2017 by Italy and the European Union. A Europe singled out by SOS Méditerranée, which believes that it receives “shots fired by forces funded and trained by European Union member states”.

The central Mediterranean is the most dangerous migration route in the world. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 410 people have died or gone missing since the start of 2023.

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