Libya threat­ens to ‘seize’ boats

Over 20 res­cued


TRIPOLI, Sept 28, (Agen­cies): Libya’s navy warned it will seize ac­tivists’ boats on mi­grant res­cue mis­sions that en­ter its waters unau­tho­rised, af­ter a run-in Wed­nes­day with a Ger­man ves­sel dur­ing which a warn­ing shot was fired.

“This time we avoided an es­ca­la­tion. In fu­ture, we will seize the boats of NGOs that do not re­spect Libya’s sovereignty,” said navy spokesman Gen­eral Ayub Kacem.

The Libyan coast­guard ear­lier boarded a boat op­er­ated by Ger­many’s “Mis­sion Life­line” which had picked up 52 mi­grants at sea. “You are not wel­come here,” a coast­guard of­fi­cial said in a video­tape posted on the in­ter­net by the NGO.

“They threat­ened us by telling us to hand over the peo­ple, which we re­fused,” said the group’s head Axel Steier, con­tacted by AFP.

“It was a real act of piracy be­cause they boarded our boat with­out any au­tho­ri­sa­tion,” he said.

Kacem said the boat had tried to flee with a coast­guard of­fi­cial still on boat. “Our pa­trol fired in the air to force the NGO boat to stop,” the gen­eral said.

“These NGOs must re­spect our author­ity and our sovereignty. Our pa­tience has reached its limit,” he added.

In Au­gust, the navy or­dered for­eign ves­sels to stay out of a coastal “search and res­cue zone” for mi­grants headed for Europe, a mea­sure it said tar­geted NGOs.

Mean­while, more than 20 mi­grants or refugees were res­cued and one child died Thursday on a Greek is­land af­ter the boat they set sail in overnight from the nearby Turk­ish coast either cap­sized or sank, Greek au­thor­i­ties said.

A ves­sel from the Euro­pean bor­der agency Fron­tex pa­trolling the area ini­tially picked up six peo­ple — one man, two women and three chil­dren — it spot­ted in the sea off the small south­east­ern is­land of Kastel­lorizo in the early hours of Thursday, the Greek coast guard said. The six were trans­ported to land im­me­di­ately be­cause one of the chil­dren, a 9-year-old girl, needed med­i­cal at­ten­tion, but she later died, the coast guard said. An­other four of the sur­vivors were hos­pi­tal­ized.

Greek au­thor­i­ties launched a search oper­a­tion with pa­trol boats and a he­li­copter, and crews later found and res­cued an­other 20 peo­ple – five chil­dren, two women and 13 men – who had man­aged to swim to a rocky coast on the is­land. One of the group was also hos­pi­tal­ized.

It was un­clear what type of ves­sel the mi­grants had used and whether it sank or cap­sized. The coast guard said all on board had been ac­counted for and there were no miss­ing peo­ple reported. Those in­jured were be­ing trans­ported to a hospi­tal on the is­land of Rhodes.

Greece was the pre­ferred route for refugees and mi­grants flee­ing war and poverty in their home­lands to seek ac­cess into the Euro­pean Union un­til last year, when an EU-Turkey deal dras­ti­cally re­duced the num­ber of peo­ple head­ing to Greek is­lands from the Turk­ish coast.

De­spite the deal and the over­crowded con­di­tions in the camps on the Greek is­lands, hun­dreds still make the jour­ney ev­ery week, us­ing of­ten un­sea­wor­thy and over­crowded in­flat­able dinghies or small wooden boats.

Mean­while, Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni on Wed­nes­day called for asy­lum reg­u­la­tions to be stan­dard­ised across Europe, say­ing im­mi­gra­tion was one of the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing the con­ti­nent and a ma­jor con­cern of EU cit­i­zens.

“We have to work on in­te­gra­tion, on vol­un­tary repa­tri­a­tions of peo­ple who don’t have the right to asy­lum, and stan­dard­ise asy­lum at the Euro­pean level be­cause we can’t have 27 dif­fer­ent asy­lum poli­cies in Europe,” Gen­tiloni said

The Ital­ian leader spoke at a press con­fer­ence in Lyon, France, where he met with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, who in a speech Tues­day pro­posed an EU agency to han­dle asy­lum re­quests as part of his vi­sion for re­form­ing the bloc.

“What is con­sid­ered one of the big­gest con­cerns of our cit­i­zens must also be one of the ma­jor poli­cies of our Euro­pean Union “Gen­tiloni said about the im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis fac­ing the con­ti­nent since 2015.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion on Wed­nes­day again called on the 27 mem­ber states – ex­clud­ing Britain, which is leav­ing the bloc -- to quickly adopt a “last­ing re­form” of com­mon reg­u­la­tions on asy­lum in Europe, which has been stalled for more than a year.

The right to asy­lum in Europe is cur­rently the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the EU coun­try where the asy­lum seeker ar­rive, a pro­ce­dure Brus­sels wants to main­tain while adding a “cor­rec­tion mech­a­nism” to help coun­tries that are cop­ing with a huge in­flux of mi­grants -- such as Italy and Greece.


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