German Migrant-Rescue Ship Threatened by Libyan Coastguard


On Saturday, a German refugee organisation Sea-Watch posted a radio exchange between its Sea-Watch 4 rescue ship and a Libyan coastguard patrol vessel that took place yesterday.

This came after the Libyan coastguard threatened to “kidnap” and then shoot at an NGO refugee rescue ship.

“Stop your engine,” the Libyans say in the clip. “Stop your engine. This is the Libyan Navy. We will shoot you.”

“It’s our order to you, stop your engine. Stop your engine or you will be shot.”

The Libyan vessel then changes tack. “Change your course and go away from here,” comes its reply. “I’m following you to clear our area. You have to go out 70 miles [away from the coast].”

In another clip posted by Sea-Watch yesterday, a Libyan coastguard vessel tells the ship to clear the area.

“This is not Libyan territorial waters, I’m at the high sea,” the Sea-Watch 4’s captain says.

“I’m more than 40 miles North of the coast of Libya and innocent passage [through these waters] is granted by law.”

The Libyan coastguard repeats its earlier message, adding: “Clear right now, otherwise we will take you back with us to Libya. You know the rules of Libya. Is that clear to you? Leave right now.”

Sea-Watch spokesperson, Mattea Weihe, told the Civil Fleet today that all this took place in international waters yesterday.

“As we know, Libya’s territorial waters only stretch 12 miles from the coast. So, the so-called Libyan coastguard has no jurisdiction over whether a vessel has to leave.”

“After a while, the so-called Libyan coastguard vessel came quite close. They put on a siren. They stared at our ship and took pictures of them. After a little bit they moved away slowly and left the Sea-Watch 4 alone.”

“Everything on the ship is currently fine. Everyone on board is feeling good and is hopefully safe.”

The Sea-Watch 4 is currently carrying around 120 people rescued by her crew in three operations since Thursday.

“Funded by Italy, the so-called Libyan coastguard threatens to shoot the crew of a civilian search-and-rescue ship with 120 shipwrecked on board in international waters,” Sea Watch said. “How long will Europe continue to be complicit in these crimes?”

Meanwhile, the Libyan coastguard intercepted 302 people, including some 50 women and 22 children, in three operations last night, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

A fact-finding mission commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council warned in October that migrants and refugees heading to Europe are “systematically subjected to a litany of abuses” from the moment they enter Libya.