March 4. 2024. 5:10

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EU Commission will listen to Libyan version of Ocean Viking incident

The European Commission will listen to the version of Libyan partners about the incident that occurred with the NGO SOS Mediterranee boat Ocean Viking on Saturday (25 March), Commission spokesperson Peter Stano told the press on Monday.

SOS Mediterranee said the Libyan coastguard approached their rescue ship while it was on its way to rescue some 80 migrants in distress. The NGO said the coastguard had approached them “dangerously” and threatened its crew “with guns and firing gunshots in the air”.

Questioned about the incident, Stano said: “We will see what the Libyan partners will tell us exactly about this incident […] then, there will be time and opportunity to talk about the necessary follow-up.”

The spokesperson explained that “the EU is not funding the Libyan coastguard or any other entity in Libya, we are providing assistance to help them to improve their performance when it comes to search and rescue, be it with vessels built with equipment or previously with training with the focus on exactly human rights”.

The controversial Libyan coastguard has been linked with human rights violations and many of its members are former militia or suspected of involvement in smuggling.

Reconstruction of events

On Saturday, the Ocean Viking was going to rescue roughly 80 people in distress in international waters. The crew was alerted by Alarm Phone, an NGO which provides a hotline for people in distress at sea.

As documented via Twitter by SOS Mediterranee, the Ocean Viking was stopped by the Libyan coastguard, who started shooting in the air.

The NGO explained in a press release on Saturday, “all attempts by the bridge’s team to contact the Libyan coastguard vessel via VHF [very high frequency] went unanswered while the crew of the Libyan coastguard patrol vessel started behaving aggressively, threatening with guns and firing gunshots in the air”.

This morning, @SOSMedIntl crew was threatened by guns by the EU-sponsored Libyan coastguard: #OceanViking was alerted to a rubber boat in distress in intl. waters off Libya by @alarm_phone. Patrol vessel 656 approached dangerously close, threatening the crew & shooting in the air

— SOS MEDITERRANEE (@SOSMedIntl) March 25, 2023

Gli spari, in acque internazionali contro la nave di soccorso ONG #OceanViking

sono della vedetta 656 "Zawia"