The EU is 'endangering refugees' lives'

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Humanitarian agencies are calling on the UK and European Union to pull support from the Libyan coastguard after officers opened fire during battles to save almost 2,000 refugees. reports citing Independent.

Rescue ships operated by four charities were deployed by maritime commanders in Rome to help a dozen migrant boats in international waters, but were soon approached by two armed Libyan vessels.

Gunshots can clearly be heard in footage taken from the Aquarius, run by SOS Méditerranée, and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which shows one coastguard officer pointing a machine gun at refugees packed in a rubber dinghy.

It had already been partly emptied by rescuers, who had given those on board live jackets before being called to another boat nearby that was at risk of sinking.

Annemarie Loof, from MSF, said two armed coastguard officers boarded after they moved away and “took phones, money and other belongings” from passengers before attempting to force the boat back to Libya.

“Many passengers – who had luckily already received lifejackets before the shooting began – jumped off the boats into the sea in fear,” she added.

“Our teams pulled 67 people out of the water as gunshots were fired in the air. It’s a miracle that no one drowned or was injured.”

Ms Loof said the coastguard, which has been trained by countries including the UK as part of an EU mission, showed “little regard” for safety.

“Knowing that the Libyan coastguard has been receiving training and support from the European Union makes the incident all the more disturbing,” she added.

“We believe that the Italian and European authorities should not be providing support to the Libyan coastguard, either directly or indirectly. This support is further endangering people’s lives.”

2017.05.25 / 22:36
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