Rescue ship detained by Italy after being threatened by Libyans

Fotobeweis von der Gewaltbereitschaft der sogeannten libyschen Küstenwache
Camilla Kranzusch / SOS Humanity

Berlin, 6 March 2024. The rescue ship Humanity 1 was detained for twenty days by the Italian authorities late on Monday evening after disembarking the 77 rescued people on board. On Saturday, the so-called Libyan Coast Guard had intervened in the rescue operation which had already begun, using armed force, causing panic and endangering human lives. Numerous people jumped or fell into the water and the Libyans fired a shot. One person most probably drowned. However, it is not the Libyans who are being held responsible by Italy, but the non-governmental search and rescue organisation SOS Humanity, which tried to rescue all the people in distress.

“Our vessel has been detained even though we followed international law at all times. We have been transparent and provided all evidence. Now Humanity 1 is detained due to the Piantedosi Law for a reason that none of the present authorities could explain to me,” criticises Leo, the captain of the Humanity 1, in the port of Crotone. “Humanity 1 was first on the scene and therefore responsible for the rescue according to maritime law. I was personally in charge of the operation. We started by distributing life jackets to people in three boats in distress. If the so-called Libyan Coast Guard had not turned up to illegally return survivors to Libya, we would have carried out the rescue in an orderly way. However, because they intervened violently, people jumped into the water in panic and we eventually had to withdraw from the scene. I am appalled that weapons were involved and a rifle even fired – but now it is us who are being punished by Italy for our life-saving work. The Humanity 1 must be released immediately!”

SOS Humanity will not accept this distortion of the facts by the Italian authorities. The events in the central Mediterranean on Saturday afternoon were filmed by the civilian reconnaissance aircraft Seabird 2 and the video was published. The dangerous maneuver and the threat to use weapons by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which forced the crew of the Humanity 1 to abort the rescue mission, are thus proven beyond doubt. The Italian authorities attempted to justify the arrest of the Humanity 1 on the grounds that the Humanity 1 would have caused a dangerous situation for the people in distress at sea. In fact, it was the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, financed by the EU, who endangered the lives of the people in the water and our rescue crew.

EU supports the breaching of the law in the Mediterranean

Survivors among the 77 people rescued on board the Humanity 1 have reported to the crew that the so-called Libyan Coast Guard left one person in the water who is presumed to have drowned. Around 20 people were forcibly taken on board the patrol boat and forced back to Libya. This Libyan patrol boat P662 “Murzuq”, which apparently intercepted a total of around 150 people and brought them back to Libya on Saturday, was delivered to Libya by the EU in the summer of 2023. According to Italian journalist Sergio Scandura, it came from former stocks of the Italian Guardia di Finanza.

While the EU interior ministers praised each other for their inhumane closed-door policies at their meeting earlier this week, SOS Humanity calls on them to immediately end their support and cooperation with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. The EU-financed, brutal interceptions of refugees on the Mediterranean and their illegal return to Libya must be stopped immediately. SOS Humanity demands an independent investigation into the incidents on 2 March and the immediate release of its illegally detained rescue ship Humanity 1 in order to continue saving people in distress at sea from drowning.

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SOS Humanity e.V.

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