'Sea Eye' German NGO Suspends Migrant Rescue Missions in Mediterranean After MSF

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

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The suspension of rescue operations by Sea-Eye and MSF comes less than a week after a Spanish NGO, ProActiva, said two of its ships were chased away by Libyan coast guards.

"Even if they were 13 nautical miles away, they were still within the premise of Libyan search and rescue operations". As of August 9, at least 2,242 migrants had died this year attempting the Central Mediterranean crossing, according to its estimates. They also contend that if the Libyan coast guard blocks smugglers' boats, migrants will be returned to inhumane conditions, including beatings and forced labor, in Libyan detention centers.

"We need a significant, I repeat a significant European economic investment in Libya and in Africa", Alfano said.

Libya has restricted the access of humanitarian vessels carrying out rescues in worldwide waters, as part of a bilateral attempt with Italy to control the flow of illegal migration across a Mediterrenean channel between the two countries.

"In general, we do not reject (NGO) presence, but we demand from them more cooperation with the state of Libya. they should show more respect to the Libyan sovereignty", coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters on Sunday.

The humanitarian group said it was withdrawing its rescue ship Prudence after advice from Italian maritime authorities drawing attention to the Libyan declaration.

The organisation's founder Michael Buschheuer explained: "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".

Tens of thousands of migrants have resorted to paying people traffickers for the journey, often on overcrowded and unseaworthy boats, and charities have dispatched ships to rescue them from drowning. Italian officials told Sea-Eye, a German nongovernmental organization (NGO) that operates rescue ships in the Mediterranean, that Defend Europe's vessel "had suffered a mechanical failure and could not manoeuvre", according to the report. According to United Nations data, over 95,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy by sea in 2017, while more than 2,350 refugees died in the sea.

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The chief prosecutor for the Sicilian port city of Catania, Carmelo Zuccaro, announced an investigation on April 25.

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

Jugend Rettet denies it cooperates with people-smugglers. "If we all work together, we will find a solution", it said. Four NGOs have signed the code while four others, including MSF and Jugend Rettet, have not.

Cooperation between Rome and Tripoli on migration was endorsed as "very constructive" by the UN's new Libya envoy, Ghassan Salame.

The tougher line on migrants may already be reducing the number of migrants making the unsafe journey across the sea.

"We leave behind a deadly gap in the Mediterranean", Buschheuer warned.

The interior ministry said 11,193 new arrivals had been registered in July, compared with 23,552 in July 2016.

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