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Libya defends banning foreign ships from 'search and rescue' zone

Europe
13.08.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Tripoli (dpa) - The Libyan navy said its order to foreign ships to stay out of a coastal "search and rescue" zone for illegal migrants complies with international laws.

"All countries have their own search zones. The decision was taken according to international laws and regulations," Ayoub Qasim, the spokesman for the Libyan navy forces, said.

"This is within the work of the Libyan navy. We have notified the United Nations agencies," he told dpa without details.

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

Qasim accused some NGOs of having links with people-smuggling rings. He claimed the smugglers are tipped off by those NGOs ahead of Libyan coast guard missions.

"We do not have evidence. But it is strange that there are no migration boats when Libyan navy patrols are at sea although vessels of these organizations are there."

Qasim‘s remarks come a day after the aid group, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced a temporary halt to its search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean due to security risks.

The German aid group Sea Eye, which operates two boats in the sea, said Sunday that it was also suspending its migrant-rescue missions.

NGOs sail ships in the Mediterranean in order to rescue migrants attempting to illegally sail to Europe. 

Libya has descended into chaos since the 2011 revolt that toppled long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi.

 

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