Spanish rescue ship claims being threatened off Libyan coast by Libyan Navy boats


A migrant is rescued from the mediteranean sea by a member of Proactiva Open Arms NGO

A Spanish rescue ship carrying 216 migrants was heading Friday to a Sicilian port after having a high-seas run-in with Libya’s armed coast guard during the rescue.

Proactiva Open Arms said a sick baby and her mother were evacuated to Malta on Friday while the other migrants and crew on the ship waited at sea for instructions. By late Friday, the group’s founder, Oscar Camps, tweeted that the Italian coast guard had authorized the ship to dock in Pozzallo, Sicily, on Saturday.

Proactiva spokeswoman Laura Lanuza said a Libyan coast guard vessel on Thursday had threatened to shoot Proactiva’s rescue dinghies if they didn’t offload their passengers during the rescue in international waters, 73 miles (117 kilometers) off Libya’s coast. Proactiva refused and eventually the Libyan ship pulled away.

Italy’s coast guard, for the first time, then required Spanish authorities to formally ask that Proactiva’s ship be allowed to dock, Lanuza said. In a statement, the Italian coast guard said the insistence that Spain make the request was in accordance with international standards.

It said it allowed Proactiva’s ship to proceed to Pozzallo “given the precarious conditions of the migrants and worsening weather forecasts.”

The coast guard didn’t comment on Proactiva’s claims of Libyan threats, but said the Libyan coast guard had assumed responsibility for coordinating the rescue after the Italians reported that the migrants were in trouble.

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