Libyan coast guard fire live ammunition at a migrant boat, June 30, 2021 | Photo: Sea-Watch
Libyan coast guard fire live ammunition at a migrant boat, June 30, 2021 | Photo: Sea-Watch

The non-profit sea rescue group Sea-Watch on June 30 said it witnessed the Libyan coast guard fire live ammunition at a migrant boat in an apparent effort to stop the crowded boat from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

Members of Sea-Watch filmed the incident on Wednesday, June 30, while flying over the area in an observation mission. They said a Libyan coast guard ship was chasing the migrant boat and shooting in its direction in an apparent effort to stop it from continuing its course towards European shores.

The crowded boat was 35 nautical miles from Lampedusa, reported Sea-Watch on its Twitter account.

The footage shows the coast guard firing live ammunition into the water directly beside the migrant boat.

Despite the gunfire, the boat tried to continue on its way. "After these failed attempts, the Libyan coast guard attached a long rope to their motor and with a buoy attached to the end of it," Sea-Watch told InfoMigrants.

The coast guard circled the migrants for several minutes, "hoping to harpoon their boat." On numerous occasions, it also attempted to ram it at full speed. At one point, when they are positioned only a few meters away, the Sea-Watch video shows the coast guard throwing numerous objects at the passengers.

After 90 minutes in pursuit, the Libyan authorities gave up and returned south. The migrants' boat continued north. It finally arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa later that night.

The Libyan coast guard attempts to intentionally crash into the migrant boat. Photo: Sea Watch
The Libyan coast guard attempts to intentionally crash into the migrant boat. Photo: Sea Watch

Also read: Record number of migrants returned to Libya, UN says

'Unprecedented violence'

Alerted by Sea-Watch, the Malta Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) said its teams were "investigating" what had happened, but "hung up" the telephone when the NGO reminded them "that the Libyan coast guard's push-backs are illegal," Sea-Watch explained.

"In the central Mediterranean, shooting live ammunition at migrants is sadly not new," laments Felix Weiss, a member of Sea-Watch. "In 2019, we witnessed a similar scene, where the Libyan authorities had also thrown objects, rushed the migrants' boat to capsize them, and pulled a long metal cable to try to wrap it around their small engine."

"But what happened this time was even more brutal. It is a unprecedented level of violence that we have never seen before".

 

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