Mediterranean Migrants: NGOs suspend rescue operations off the coast of Libya

Migrants sit on the ground after disembarking from Vos Hestia ship of NGO "Save the Children" in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta, Italy August 4, 2017. Image courtesy: REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello
Migrants sit on the ground after disembarking from Vos Hestia ship of NGO "Save the Children" in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta, Italy August 4, 2017. Image courtesy: REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello
Migrants sit on the ground after disembarking from Vos Hestia ship of NGO “Save the Children” in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta, Italy August 4, 2017. Image courtesy: REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

Tensions have been mounting between aid agencies and Italian authorities. Many groups have suspended migrant rescue operations off the coast of Libya. They say they’re being threatened by the Libyan coast guard.

Italy are in a standoff with NGOs over refugee rescues, as several high-profile aid groups suspend rescue operations.

Aid groups have cited threatening behaviour by Libyan authorities, as Libyan navy have assumed greater control over international waters.

Italy has been overwhelmed by the number of refugee arrivals, and has announced a code of conduct for charity boats – yet has accused NGOs of facilitating people smuggling.

The migration spat between NGOs and Italian authorities kicked up a notch over the weekend. Doctor Without Borders, Save the Children and German NGO Sea Eye suspended operations to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean due to the increasingly threatening behaviour of Libyan authorities.

The Libyan Navy have now assumed greater control of international waters where charity boats have long conducted rescues for stricken vessels. Reports also suggest that the Libyan coast guard is ready to chase NGO boats from its coastal waters. A move that has been welcomed by Rome to restore what it calls balance in the Mediterranean.

Just before the summer, Italy was overwhelmed by the sheer number of migrants and finding no real concrete support from other member states, took matters into their own hands. It struck a new deal to train and equip the Libyan coast guard and drew up a new Code of Conduct for NGOs that would require them to allow Italian police on to their boats. Something that they objected to. Italy has long accused NGOs for facilitating people smuggling and encouraging migrants to make the journey to Europe.