Another 290 migrants rescued off Libya’s eastern coast

The Libyan Navy said the country’s coastguard has rescued 290 migrants found clinging on to three inflatable boats in the Mediterranean Sea.

On the morning of 23 May 2019, the Libyan coastguard patrol received distress signals from two boats off the town of Zliten, 160 kilometres east of Tripoli. Search patrols reached the stranded inflatable boats, and rescued 203 migrants.

Later that afternoon, another distress signal arrived from a boat about 50 kilometres off the coast of Tripoli. The boat’s bottom had collapsed, leaving passengers hanging to the wreckage of the inflatable boat and plastic containers used to carry water and fuel. A coastguard vessel rescued 87 migrants, including six women and a child.

“The illegal migrants were found clinging to shabby and broken boats. They were rescued by patrols of coastguards on two different vessels,” coastguard spokesman General Ayoub Qassem said. German aid group Sea-Watch also said its aircraft had witnessed all three rescue operations.

The migrants were from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Chad, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Bangladesh. They have been handed over to the Libyan Department for Combating Illegal Migration, which oversees Tripoli’s detention centres.

Migrants held in the various detention centres in the Libyan capital have been trapped in the middle of heavy fighting since the eastern Libya based General Haftar’s army launched an attack on Tripoli on 4 April 2019.

“By detaining migrants and refugees in such close proximity to an active military site, the Libyan authorities are endangering the lives of civilians who are completely in their power,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Middle East and North Africa representative for Amnesty International.

“They should be doing everything possible feasible to remove them away from military targets. The allegations that some of the detainees were forced to work at the military sites against their will also violate international law.”

TMP – 31/05/2019

Photo credit: Sea Watch / Twitter

Photo caption: Sea Watch’s aircraft Moonbird witnesses a rescue operation by Libyan coastguard on 23 May 2019.