EU to Listen to Libyan Version of Migrant Incident


The European Union Spokesman for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Peter Stano said that the European Commission “will listen to the Libyan version of the incident that occurred with the NGO, SOS Mediterranee’s boat, the Ocean Viking on Saturday.

Questioned about the incident, Stano said: “We will see what the Libyan partners will tell us exactly about this incident […] then, there will be time and opportunity to talk about the necessary follow-up.”

According to the EURACTIV news website, Stano explained that the EU was not funding the Libyan Coast Guard or any other entity in Libya.

“We are providing assistance to help them to improve their performance when it comes to search and rescue, be it with vessels, with equipment, or previously with training with the focus on human rights,” Stano added.

“Our assistance and cooperation are very flexible, which means that we adapt our actions according to developments on the ground, and the behaviour of partners. For us, safety and saving lives come first. Let us not forget, again, the context in which all this is happening. Libya is a country in which a long conflict is ongoing, which does not make solutions and ideal approaches possible”, he noted.

Stano pointed out that the EU’s priority “is to do everything possible to put an end to the conflict in Libya and find a political solution. Once this conflict is resolved, it will be possible to address other issues in a more favourable and optimal way, including that of immigration.”

Notably, the SOS Mediterranee claimed that Libya’s Coast Guard fired several warning shots over a humanitarian vessel, as it attempted to rescue a rubber boat carrying migrants off Libya’s coast, according to the Associated Press.

In a statement, the rescue group added that the Coast Guard went on to return some 80 Europe-bound migrants to Libyan soil.

It noted that this incident in international waters was the “latest reckless sea interception of migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, which is trained and financed by the European Union to stem the influx of migrants to Europe.”

The Italian Coast Guard said it had received a report about the incident, but complained that SOS Mediterranee failed to follow the correct procedures in reporting it.

The Ocean Viking, a rescue ship chartered and run by SOS Mediterranee, was responding to a distress call to help the rubber boat, when a Libyan vessel arrived at the scene, the group said.

The vessel “dangerously” approached the rescue ship, threatening its crew “with guns and firing gunshots in the air,” SOS Mediterranee said in a statement.

The Coast Guard was caught on camera threatening the vessel and firing a weapon into the air. In the footage, the vessel is seen traveling at a high speed before manoeuvring, apparently to prevent the Ocean Viking from reaching the migrant boat. At one point, gunshots are heard.

“You can’t shoot at us. You can’t shoot at us. We’re leaving the waters now,” a person on the Ocean Viking is heard saying.

“Under threat, the Ocean Viking sailed away while the Libyan Coast Guard intercepted the boat and ‘forcibly’ took the migrants back to war-wrecked Libya,” it said.