World

Anti-migrant ship Defend Europe rescued in Mediterranean after issuing distress call

Anti-migrant ship Defend Europe rescued in Mediterranean after issuing distress call

The C-Star, a ship used by anti-immigrant group Defend Europe to disrupt humanitarian search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea, has been "stranded in the Central Mediterranean", the Independent reported.

"The reason for this is the changed security situation in the Western Mediterranean, after the Libyan Government announced an indefinite and unilateral extension of their territorial waters - in connection with an explicit threat against the private NGOs. It would be irresponsible towards our crews".

MSF said Libyan authorities had announced the establishment of a search and rescue zone on Friday, and restricted access to humanitarian vessels into the global waters off the Libyan coast.

An English-language version of the status provided to BuzzFeed News by Sea-Eye said the C-Star had been "in distress at sea".

The announcement comes a day after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it was halting the use of its largest boat in the area because of an "increasingly hostile environment for lifesaving rescue operations".

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said in a newspaper interview on Sunday that Libya's growing role in controlling its waters was curbing people trafficking and producing a welcome "readjustment" in the Mediterranean. The Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre in Rome deployed a rescue ship to help it in global waters between Tunisia and Libya.




The humanitarian organization said it had asked Libyan authorities to adhere to the internationally recognized legal obligation to rescue boats in distress, and to allow this to take place in worldwide and Libyan waters.

MSF said its medical support team would still assist in rescues aboard the SOS Méditerranée-run boat Aquarius, which is now patrolling in global waters.

Libyan authorities have accused charities of aiding human smugglers with their rescues at sea, hampering efforts to crack down on the illegal migration route.

Libya was trying to increase the range of the waters its ships controlled from 12 nautical miles around its coast to 70 nautical miles, the humanitarian organisation said. "They don't have permission to work there", Brigadier Ayoub Qassem, a spokesman for the Libyan Navy, told CNN on Tuesday.

Aid groups and some Italian politicians warn that migrants intercepted by the Libyan coast guard are taken back to inhuman conditions in detention camps on the Libyan mainland.

In the last six weeks the number of migrant arrivals in Italy has slowed sharply and Rome has begun collaborating more closely with the Libyan coastguard, which De Filippi said was threatening the NGOs and preventing them from working. Hundreds of thousands of rescued asylum-seekers, many of them fleeing poverty in Africa, have been brought to safety in Italian ports in recent years.


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