At approx. 7 am, the crew aboard Sea-Watch 3 received a call of Rome MRCC. North of Tripoli a sinking inflatable boat in international waters had sent a distress call. The Sea-Watch 3 crew arrived on location at about the same time as a Libyan Coast Guard patrol boat and started boarding of people in distress. The Libyan Coast Guard approached the boat as well and took over people from aboard the boat, however beating and threatening them. Onboard panic started and a numerous refugees fell overboard. The Libyan ship took off with inappropriate speed while people were still latching onto the side, being dragged by their vessel. After Sea-Watch had already repeadtedly alarmed the Libyans about their life-threatening practice, an Italian Navy helicopter had to intervene, briefly stopping the Libyan ship, to prevent further deadly maneuvering. At least 5 people were killed in the boat’s sinking, among them a child whom the medical crew onboard Sea-Watch 3 was not able to reanimate.
Libyan Coast Guards have clearly breached international law by bringing an unknown number of people onboard their vessel, probably with the goal to take them back to Libya. “We were at high seas, outside of libyan territorial waters, about 30 nm north of Tripoli – even outside of the consecutive zone. There, the Libyans have no sovereign rights whatsoever”, says Sea-Watch captain Pia Klemp.
Almost a year ago, October 21 2016, in a similar disastrous event many people died when, during a rescue operation of Sea-Watch 2, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard had tried to displace refugees back to Libya from international waters.
All 58 survivors are now safe aboard the Sea-Watch 3. We will post updates here!
Photos: Lisa Hoffmann / Sea-Watch