27. November 2017 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Europe’s Plan to Close Its Sea Borders Relies on Libya’s Coast Guard Doing Its Dirty Work, Abusing Migrants“ · Kategorien: EU, Italien, Libyen, Mauretanien, Spanien · Tags: , , ,

The Intercept | 25.11.2017

Zach Campbell

When a Libyan coast guard officer raised his hands and pointed, as if holding a rifle, Thomas Schaible wasn’t too worried. It wasn’t his first violent encounter with the Libyan coast guard, but this time, with a helicopter from the Italian navy overhead and Italian and French warships nearby, Schaible knew it was an empty threat.

Schaible and his four-person crew from the German nonprofit Sea-Watch were working to pull people out of the water after a rubber boat full of migrants partially deflated. Sea-Watch got to the shipwreck first, but when the Libyan coast guard arrived, they threatened the rescuers and motioned for them to leave the scene. That’s when the officer threatened to shoot — with dozens of people still in the water without life jackets. Schaible says he and other Sea-Watch crew saw the Libyan coast guard beat the recently rescued people with long cables. Then, they took off for the coast with a few dozen people aboard, many others still in the water, and one person still hanging onto a ladder on the side of the Libyan ship. Schaible estimates that over 40 people drowned that day. All the while, European authorities were nearby.

This was not an isolated incident: In the last six months, with new support from European governments, the Libyan coast guard has substantially ramped up operations to intercept migrant boats in the international waters off their coast, where most shipwrecks take place. Confrontations with the European NGOs that work there have increased as well, with multiple organizations reporting warning shots and direct threats of violence from Libyan boats. The violence has led some organizations to stop their Mediterranean rescue operations.

The Libyan coast guard is a decentralized force often accused of working with local militias and smugglers and violating the rights of migrants. At the same time, it is a key player in Europe’s response to the refugee crisis.

Sea borders present a problem for European governments keen to limit the arrival of people fleeing wars, persecution, hunger, or poverty in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. On a sea border, there is no physical barrier. If a coast guard or NGO ship finds or rescues people in international waters, they have a legal obligation to take them to the nearest safe port. For Europeans, that often means taking the rescued back to Europe.

The Libyan authorities take them in the other direction — and so, European governments are financing, funding, training, and to some degree, coordinating, a coast guard that both the United Nations and the European Commissioner for Human Rights have found to be “directly involved in human rights violations” and exposing migrants “to a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Last week, the U.N. human rights chief said that “the EU and its member states have done nothing so far to reduce the level of abuses suffered by migrants.” […]

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