German govt warns Libya against restricting migrants rescue operations by NGOs

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The German government on Friday  warned Libyan authorities against imposing restrictions on rescue operations carried by non-governmental organisation off the Libyan coast.

On Aug. 10, Libya established a “zone of search and rescue” in its coastal area, into which all vessels excluding authorized ones are prohibited from entering.

The move is said to target NGOs suspected by the Libyan authorities of helping human traffickers.

On Sunday, three NGOs, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Save the Children and Sea Watch, announced that they suspended search and rescue operations off the Libyan coast because of threats from the Libyan Coast Guard.

“In talks with Libya, the federal government pointed out that the establishment of a search and rescue zone should not restrict rescue operations carried out by non-governmental organisations since it is against international law,” the spokeswoman told the Die Welt newspaper.

Many migrants fleeing poverty and conflict use Libya to reach Europe, choosing the so-called central Mediterranean migration route.

According to European border agency Frontex, the route saw almost 100,000 illegal border crossings between January and July this year.

However, thousands died along the way due to poor safety on board smuggling boats.

NAN reports that six years since a revolution that toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become a key departure point for migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Tens of thousands of migrants have resorted to paying people traffickers for the journey, often on overcrowded and unseaworthy boats.

Migrant aid ships have played a key role in assisting the rescue operations, and Sea Eye says it has helped save some 12,000 lives since April 2016.