Libyan Coastguard Fires Warning Shots at Spanish Migrant Rescue Vessel

A Libyan coast guardsman watches over during an operation to rescue illegal immigrants who attempted to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the capital Tripoli, on June 27, 2017. More than 8,000 migrants have been rescued in waters off Libya during the past 48 …

Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms has criticised the Libyan coastguard after they fired warning shots near one of their rescue vessels looking for migrants off the Libyan coast.

The group say the incident took place earlier this week in what it claims were international waters. The “Golfo Azzurro” was approached by a Libyan coastguard vessel which then fired warning shots in the air, Kurier reports.

According to the pro-migrant NGO, the Libyans then communicated with the vessel through a radio channel and said: “We have been watching you for the last two days. You are carrying out suspicious activities, we have confirmation that you have dealings with traffickers, do not come back to our waters.”

“Never come back, otherwise I will shoot you,” the Libyans added.

Proativa Open Arms has also accused the European Union of funding the Libyan coastguard. A European Commission spokesman rejected the accusation saying: “The EU is not financing the Libyan coastal defence forces, we are only training some of them.”

The Italian government has put money towards the funding of salaries for new recruits of the Libyan coastguard. The Italians also voted to send ships to help the Libyans who recently captured and turned back vessels containing over a thousand migrants earlier this week.

The spokesman added that the purpose of the EU support was “to enable them to better control the Libyan frontier, respecting international law and human rights” and said any conflicts that involved force were “regrettable”.

The incident is just the latest for the Golfo Azzurro and Proactiva Open Arms who were refused entry to Italian ports earlier this week after accusations from the Italians that they had violated the NGO code of conduct recently approved by the Italian government.

The Spanish NGO is not the only group to come under fire from the Italians over accusations of cooperating with people smugglers. The German NGO Jugend Rettet had their ship, the “Iuventa”, confiscated by Italian authorities after being accused of cooperating with people smugglers.

The Italians recently presented photographic evidence which they claimed showed the crew of the Iuventa cooperating with human traffickers off the coast of Libya.

Jugend Rettet has denied the claims against them and have instead blamed “right-wing hackers” for making it appear that their ship had entered Libyan territorial waters.

 Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at) 


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