Humanitarian Groups Suspend Migrant Rescue Efforts Over Libyan Threats

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 16, 2017

The Proactiva ship has been conducting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean since 2016 and has in that time rescued about 18,000 people.

The European Union's border agency Frontex said on August 14 that the number of African migrants arriving in Italy after crossing the Mediterranean from Libya dropped by more than half in July from June.

Libya extended its own search-and-rescue area into worldwide waters last week and a senior naval official accused the aid groups of pretending to rescue migrants trying to make their way across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Libya also proclaimed its intention to "extend its control and prohibition of NGO ships in global waters", according to Save the Children.

Proactiva spokeswoman Laura Lanuza said the group's vessel had been in global waters, 27 miles (43 km) off the Libyan coast, carrying out search and rescue operations.

Sea Eye and two other aid groups are halting migrant rescues in the Mediterranean after Libyan hostility.

A Libyan coastguard spokesman in Tripoli declined to comment, saying they were collecting information on what happened.

In an interview published in daily newspaper La Stampa, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said, "We must avoid deaths at sea by reducing the departures" from Libya.

Some rescued migrants have told Italian judicial authorities that while waiting months for a chance to get on the smugglers' boats, they suffered from scarce rations, forced labour, rape, beating and torture.

Ships operated by NGOs have been increasingly important in sea rescues in the past years, picking up more than a third of all migrants brought ashore.

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