Libya's coast guard has threatened to hijack the privately-run Sea-Watch 4 rescue vessel over the weekend. The vessel reportedly was in international waters at the time of the incident.
Aid workers on board the Sea-Watch 4 shared recordings of a radio conversation on Twitter, in which the ship was ordered to change course immediately by the Libyan coast guard -- facing the threat of forcibly being taken to Libya otherwise.
The voice on other end of the radio apparently threatened the NGO vessel, saying, “(o)therwise we will take you back with us to Libya. Is that clear to you? You know the rules of Libya."
Threats at high sea
Later on, there were further communications between the rescue vessel and Libyan authorities, who demanded that the Sea-Watch 4 turn off its engines, threatening that failure to comply would result in shots being fired at the Sea-Watch 4.
Sea Watch meanwhile has repeatedly called on the European Union to end its cooperation with Libya in the Mediterranean Sea. In it communiques, Sea-Watch stresses the widespread prevalence of human rights abuses in Libya, which include torture, slavery and sexual abuse. Attacks in open seas are now also added to the list of transgressions committed on part of Libyan authorities.
Sea Watch 4 looking for port
There are currently 482 people on board the Sea-Watch 4 following several rescue operations over the weekend. The private NGO ship is now beginning to look for a safe port to disembark the migrants, although it has in the past hosted as many as 800 people on board at the same time.
Another private rescue ship, the "Geo Barents," which is run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) meanwhile has managed to dock in the Sicilian port city of Messina with 186 rescued people on board.
In addition to those survivors, the ship also was also carrying the bodies of ten migrants discovered in the hull of a wooden boat during a rescue of 99 people almost a week ago. It was established that they had suffocated below deck.