Five migrants have died as a German nonprofit organization and the Libyan coast guard tried to rescue them from their foundering boat in the Mediterranean, with each side blaming the other for botching the operation.
Germany’s Sea-Watch said Tuesday its rescue ship was helping migrants on the sinking inflatable boat in international waters off the Libyan coast Monday morning when a Libyan coast guard boat also began to simultaneously take migrants on board.
Sea-Watch said the Libyan coast guard caused panic by “beating and threatening” the passengers, before driving off at high speed with people clinging to the side.
Five people, including a child, were killed and 58 rescued by Sea-Watch.
“Probably, nobody would have had to die today if only we had the possibility to operate reasonably in a calm environment,” said Sea Watch head of mission Johannes Bayer.
“These deaths have to be blamed on the Libyan coast guards who have obstructed a safe rescue with their brutal behavior,” he added.
“European governments finally have to draw conclusions from this incident and stop the collaboration with the Libyan coast guard.”
In response, the Libyan coast guard accused Sea Watch of causing “panic and confusion” among the migrants.
“They all wanted to reach the ship of the German NGO,” spokesman Gen. Ayoub Qassem said.
“Even those who had been rescued and were on the coast guard’s boat jumped in the water to try and reach the Sea Watch boat, which refused orders to leave the area,” he said.