28th Sep 2023

EU to deliver two new patrol boats to Libya despite shootings

  • Image of a Libyan coast guard vessel, financed by EU funds, and filmed firing shots during a rescue operation by Ocean Viking (Photo: SOS Mediterranee)
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The EU is set to deliver two brand new patrol boats to the Libyan coast guard — despite repeated shooting incidents caught on camera during search-and-rescue operations.

On Monday (10 July), a European Commission spokesperson could not confirm their delivery date, noting the two vessels "are still under construction."

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The European Commission, along with Italian authorities, already handed over one new patrol boat to the Libyans in February.

In June, they provided another two refurbished vessels.

One of those, reportedly an ex-Italian Carrubia Class vessel, was on Friday filmed shooting into the air and water near an Ocean Viking rescue speed boat operated by the NGO, SOS Mediterranee.

In a statement, SOS Mediterranee said the shootings had endangered the lives of the crew and the people they had rescued.

European Commission spokesperson, Ana Pisonero, said they would ask both the Italians and Libyans to clarify the incident.

But they had made the same statement in March, when the Libyans were also caught firing live rounds near the Ocean Viking.

At the time, Peter Stano, the EU's foreign policy spokesperson, told reporters they would seek "explanations and clarifications of what happened, why it happened, and what would be the follow up."

Another shooting incident, registered last summer, led to the dismissal of a Libyan commander, said Stano.

But when pressed on Monday on the results of their March inquiry, the European Commission did not respond.

Instead, Pisonero told reporters that it will once again seek responses from the Italian and Libyan authorities.

"We will inquire the relevant authorities in Libya and Italy," she said.

The statement suggests the commission did not receive any responses to their March inquiries.

And it comes despite its repeated claims that EU assistance to the Libyans "is subject to robust monitoring".

This includes a confidential third party contractor, hired by the commission in 2019, tasked to ensure that its subsidised projects in Libya stick to a 'do no harm principle.'

Last week, EU migration commissioner Ylva Johansson, said there were clear indications that criminal groups had infiltrated the Libyan coast guard.

Almost 25,000 people were intercepted at sea last year and returned to Libya by the Libyan coast guard, Libya's general administration for coastal security (GACs), among others.

Around 50 percent of distress boat sightings in the Central Mediterranean last year by the EU's border agency Frontex triggered an interception by the Libyans.

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