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Doctors Without Borders suspends Mediterranean rescue mission

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Rome (dpa) - Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has temporarily suspended its search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea due to security risks arising from a new Libyan naval mission.

Libya is the gateway to Europe for people fleeing war, persecution and poverty. Hundreds of thousands have made the dangerous journey across Africa and the Mediterranean towards Italy in recent years.

Libya announced this week it was establishing a "search and rescue" zone off its coast. It ordered vessels belonging to non-governmental organizations that patrol the area to stay out.

Following the announcement, the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre warned NGOs that their employees working in the international waters off Libya were at risk.

MSF and other NGOs sail ships in the Mediterranean in order to rescue migrants attempting to make the journey to Europe. They are often crammed onto unseaworthy boats prone to sinking.

MSF has condemned the actions by Libya as well as the European Union, which has taken new measures to prevent people from making the crossing.

Italy last month approved a naval mission in Libyan waters. It would deploy a large vessel and several smaller ships to intercept migrant boats. The passengers will be taken back to Libya, where they often face torture, slave labour and sexual violence.

"The recent developments represent another worrying element of an increasingly hostile environment for lifesaving rescue operations," said Brice de le Vingne, MSF‘s Director of Operations, on Saturday.

"European states and Libyan authorities are jointly implementing a blockade on the ability of people to seek safety. This is an unacceptable assault on people‘s lives and dignity."


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