Sea-Watch, a German charity, said its rescue ship was deployed by the Italian coastguard to help an overcrowded dinghy off the coast of Libya. They arrived to find a rubber dinghy packed with 150 people, and proceeded to give those on board life jackets and help them to safety.
But during the operation, a vessel marked with the insignia of Libya’s national coastguard approached, and armed men boarded the migrant boat, attempting to detach its motor. These men attacked the refugees, hitting them with clubs while preventing the rescuer’s two speedboats from intervening. A situation of mass panic on board the rubber boat ensued and the rubber boat collapsed, causing the majority of the 150 people to slip into the water. More than 20 refugees are feared to have died.
“This latest incident of alleged Libyan official units endangered not only the crew of rescue volunteers but moreover caused the death of many migrants,” Sea-Watch said in a statement. “It is unclear why Libyan Coast Guard engaged the way it did. Sea-Watch calls for an immediate and detailed investigation of this violation of humanitarian law.”
Britain is among the countries training Libyan coastguard and naval personnel in an attempt to stem the number of boats being launched from the country’s shores.
We should not expect too much of an investigation by the UK. A diplomatic blind eye will be turned to the event and the needless deaths will be ignored.