Italy’s Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, said that the detention of an Italian fishing boat crew in Libya since September is “unacceptable.”
In a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, Di Maio explained that if someone violates self-declared regional waters, they should not be detained. He also declared: “There is no way to say if you free some fishermen, we will release your citizens being kept in Italy.”
Di Maio pointed out that the Italian government is committed to finding a positive solution to the issue. He also was keen to clarify the complexity of the situation, and the timing in which it occurred. He also confirmed the Italian Foreign Ministry’s readiness to support the families of the imprisoned fishermen.
Di Maio renewed his calls to appoint a new UN Special Envoy to Libya, without delay. He also stated it is essential to ensure international support for the efforts of the United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), to organise the next meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), as well as to protect internal Libyan dialogue from any negative external interference.
On 1 September, the Libyan Navy arrested 18 Italian fishermen for illegally entering Libyan waters. In 2015, four young Libyans were sentenced by the magistrates of Catania to 30 years in prison. They were accused of organising a crossing from Libya, in which 49 migrants died. Libya is seeking a prisoner swap with the Italian government. Rome has claimed it refused to be “blackmailed”.
Last week, Major General Khaled Al-Mahjoub said that the Italian fishermen who have been detained in Benghazi, will appear before the Public Prosecutor. They will be tried according to Libyan law. The Director of the Department of Moral Guidance, in the Libyan National Army (LNA), added that the Italians were in excellent health and are treated well. “We treat them with respect in accordance with international laws, and human rights,” Al-Mahjoub assured.