On Friday, 25.05.2018, the Sea-Watch 3 was involved in the rescue of more than 400 people from three rubber boats in distress. Once more the EU-funded, so-called Libyan Coast Guard (LYCG) intervened in rescue operations and turned a manageable situation into deadly chaos. With already 157 people from a previous rescue on board, Sea-Watch 3 started into a double mission with two rubber boats, carrying over 300 people, in the morning hours. When a powerboat of the LYCG arrived on scene and tried to take over the rescue, a large group of refugees, afraid of being kidnapped and returned to Libya, panicked and started jumping onto a rescue floating device and into the water. The most catastrophic consequences could only be avoided by a retreat of the Libyan vessel and determined action by the Sea-Watch rescue crew. After our first assessment – miraculously – no one had died in the incident.
Now, four days after, we have to come to terms with the idea that this assessment was wrong, that this miracle might not have been one. In a survey among the rescued, five people were reported missing.
We are deeply saddened by these reports because missing at sea most likely means dead. And the loss on this day might even reach beyond five souls.
When we asked one of the witnesses, why he didn’t tell us about his missing friend on his own accord, he answered: „Death was everywhere in Libya, we had our friends being shot in the head right next to us… Losing people is daily routine for us so we didn’t think this was important.“
It might not be the objective of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard to cause people’s deaths. But it is their objective to return them to the country from which they just escaped. This is what the people on the boats fear most – even more than death at sea, as many told us. This has repeatedly been the reason for mass panic and loss of life. And this has to end.
No one should have to die at sea.