GAETA, Italy (AP) – Italy has given the Libyan coast guard the first two of 10 boats to rescue migrants from foundering smugglers’ boats, as part of a strategy Rome hopes will reduce the huge numbers of the rescued from reaching Italian shores.
The boats were handed over Friday at a ceremony in Gaeta, Italy, where an initial group of Libyan coast guard members completed training at the naval school in that southern port town.
Human rights advocates fear that if the migrants are returned on Libyan boats to the largely lawless northern African country, they will again risk torture, sexual abuse and exploitation as laborers, as many migrants have reported suffering while waiting months for smugglers to put them aboard boats.
Libyan Ambassador Ahmed E.I. Safar, acknowledged that such abuses occur.