9 December 2022. On the occasion of yesterday’s conference of the EU interior ministers, SOS Humanity demands a more humane migration policy. The crew of the rescue ship Humanity 1 had witnessed an illegal push-back by the so-called Libyan coast guard, which is financed by the EU, on Tuesday. The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean Sea urgently requires an EU solution that respects international law, the search and rescue organisation said. After three rescues, 261 survivors are on board the Humanity 1. No place of safety has yet been allocated despite multiple requests. Meanwhile, the weather is worsening.
Mirka Schäfer, advocacy officer at SOS Humanity: “Instead of implementing existing law at the EU’s external borders such as the central Mediterranean, the plans of the of the European Commission and the EU interior ministers rely on a further restriction of access to asylum in the EU and a continuation of a closed-door policy.” Among other things, an increased cooperation with third countries such as Libya and thus the so-called Libyan coast guard will be pushed. The involvement of the Libyan coast guard in the illegal detention system of migrants and refugees in Libya has been documented.
While carrying out a rescue of 103 people in distress at sea on the morning of December 6, the crew of the Humanity 1 witnessed at close range a forced pull-back by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. Using two boats, the latter forcibly stopped an unseaworthy rubber boat with about 50 people on board. Six people were in the water as a result of the risky maneuver, while the others were forcibly taken aboard the patrol boat and brought back to Libya. The incident was documented by the crews of Humanity 1 and the rescue boat Louise Michel. The six people left in the water were able to escape to a life raft of the Louise Michel and were subsequently taken aboard the Humanity 1.
People on board the Humanity 1 who had already been rescued in the hours before were forced to watch the forced interception from a distance. Darius (name changed), one of the eyewitnesses, reported: “I was detained in Libya. I saw people dying in front of my eyes. We were screaming here on Humanity 1, but we couldn’t do anything. At that moment we saw that our brothers were going to suffer again, maybe worse than we suffered before. We know what is happening in Libya. It will be a nightmare. They will be punished for it. And the money they are going to pay is going to be horrendous. You can hardly find words for Libya. They are selling people like bread there.”
SOS Humanity condemns the blatant violation of human rights and the reckless behavior of the EU-funded so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which is putting human lives in acute danger and forcing vulnerable people back into the cycle of exploitation and torture from which they fled.
Meanwhile, after three rescues by SOS Humanity between December 4 and 6, there are 261 rescued people on board Humanity 1, including nearly 30 women, some of them pregnant, and more than 90 minors, including three babies and nearly 70 unaccompanied minors.
The relevant rescue coordination centers, including those in Malta and Italy, were always informed in real time about the boats in distress and the search and rescue operations by the crew of Humanity 1. Despite requests no coordination by the rescue coordination centers took place. Four requests for a place of safety to the relevant authorities remained without positive response. SOS Humanity demands the immediate allocation of a place of safety for the 261 rescued people on board Humanity 1, as required by international maritime law.
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