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Italian Coast Guard stops migrant rescue ship for checks

05 August, 2017, 00:35 | Author: Christina Hansen
  • Confiscated NGO ship Iuventa heading to Trapani

According to the latest figures from the global Organization for migration (IOM), more than 111 000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea since the first of January, of which almost 95 000 in Italy. A second vessel was expected to join it in the coming days.

In another move to stem the flow of migrants, Italy set conditions for rescue vessels to be allowed to ferry rescued migrants to its ports, including a provision that the craft that pick up the migrants take them to port themselves, rather than transfer them to other vessels at sea.

The government said the mission had been requested by Libya's UN-backed government.

General Khalifa Haftar, a Gadaffi-era military commander who now leads a military force opposed to the Tripoli government, ordered his troops to repel "any naval vessel that enters national waters without permission from the army", according to the official Facebook page of Haftar's Libyan National Army.

Italian authorities ordered a German group's migrant rescue boat seized Wednesday on suspicion it was used to aid human traffickers in Libya who are engaged in "clandestine immigration".

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"This includes pushbacks to Libya or handovers to Libyan forces and applies even if Italy rescues or interdicts people in Libyan territorial waters", HRW's Sunderland said.

The defence ministry on Wednesday said that the Italian ship the Comandante Borsini had entered Libyan territorial waters after receiving the necessary authorisations.

Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said the plan is to provide technical assistance for the Libyans rather than imposing a "hostile" naval blockade against migrant boats.

The GNA is headed by Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj, whose authority is contested by Haftar and a rival administration based in Libya's east that he supports. The number of arrivals this year is fast approaching 100,000, UNHCR says, on par with 2016.

At least 2,385 migrants have died during the perilous crossing since January, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

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Human Rights Watch says country's new vote could interfere in the rights of migrants seeking asylum in Europe.

Many of those on board the trafficking boats are fleeing poverty, conflict and political persecution.

A charity boat operating in the Mediterranean allegedly colluded with people smugglers to accept multiple "deliveries" of migrants, investigators have revealed.

Rome has also put pressure on nongovernmental organisations that have played an increasingly important role in picking up migrants off the Libyan coast and bringing them to Italy. Several non-governmental groups strenuously oppose having weapons on the ships at any time, saying guns and humanitarian operations are incompatible.

An Italian judge on Wednesday ordered seizure of a migrant rescue ship chartered by German NGO Jugend Rettet which they accuse of abetting illegal immigration.

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It did not give any immediate comment on the police probe.


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