The Libyan navy, which is financed by the EU, put the lives of the Sea-Watch crew as well as those of several hundred refugees into danger during a return operation that breaches both international and sea law. The incident, in which a patrol vessel of the Libyan navy nearly collided into our boat, was documented by Sea-Watch. Their aim was to bring a refugee boat from international waters back to Libya. This happened according to the migration policy of the EU, which is designed to use the Libyan navy and coast guard to defend European borders from migration.
Similar operations have caused deadly incidents in the past. We demand that the EU change their anti-migration tactics immediately or the situation in the Mediterranean will escalate. Furthermore, there must be an independent investigation into whether European authorities were involved with this return operation.
Video footage on the incident: https://www.dropbox.com/s/92mtj3fauaeygpi/Libysche%20Marine.mp4?dl=0
Once more the Libyan navy interfered dangerously in a rescue operation of Sea-Watch. The unprofessional maneuver of the Libyan patrol vessel 206 not only put the lives of Sea-Watch crew into danger, but also those of several hundred refugees, who Sea-Watch started to rescue. The aim of the Libyan patrol boat clearly was to bring the refugees back to Libya. This return was accompanied by a German camera team on board the Libyan boat, and is illegal in two ways. Firstly, according to sea law, castaways must be brought to the next safe harbor. Libya is a country with ongoing civil war, unsafe for migrants to return to. Germany itself does not have diplomatic representation in Libya because of safety issues and international NGOs have similarly withdrawn. Secondly, the forced return of the boat, which was outside of Libyan territorial waters, violates the non-refoulement principle of international law. ‘It’s insane, they just ignored international law! We are concerned about the safety and lives of these people brought back into such an unstable country’, says head of mission Reinier Boere.
‘Especially shocking is the recklessness with which this maneuver and illegal return was performed’, says Captain Ruben Lampart. Surveillance cameras show that the heavily armed war ship only just missed the bow of the Sea-Watch 2. ‘This naval captain seems to have no idea what he is doing. He put his own ship in as well as my ship in complete danger. That was extremely close and we are lucky that we are not sitting on a life raft ourselves now’, states Lampart.
‘We are witnessing more such dangerous situations since the EU is supporting the Libyan navy to prevent migration to Europe. This policy has already cost several lives and needs to be ended’, says Axel Grafmanns, CEO at Sea-Watch. ‘These illegal returns according to the action plan of the EU make the Mediterranean more dangerous and not safer. This was demonstrated today’, says Grafmanns. In another incident, on October the 21st 2016, several dozen people drowned after an assault of the Libyan Coast Guard.
‘It is impossible to predict how the so-called Libyan Coast Guards operate and this makes cooperation in sea rescues extremely difficult. We therefore demand an explanation of the incident today. It also needs to be investigated, whether European authorities were involved in this illegal return action. Furthermore, we demand transparency regarding the training of the Libyan coast guard in international law and sea law. The EU high commissioner for foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini, should align with fundamental European rights and position herself against these return actions which breech international and sea law.’
For further inquiries please contact our spokespersons Theresa Leisgang and Ruben Neugebauer via mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More picture footage of the operations of Sea-Watch can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sea-watch