Mare Jonio was a direct eyewitness of yet another pushback of migrants towards war and torture

A Libyan militia intercepted a rubber dinghy, in distress a few miles from the location of Mare Jonio, Mediterranea Saving Humans’ ship. The militia captured and took back the survivors.

Mare Jonio (ship) -June 17, 2020- While we celebrate the rescue of children, women and men by Sea Watch3, just a few hours ago, we are also indignant that others were captured, just at the same time, by the Libyan Coast Guard, and brought back to hell, in front of our eyes.

Today, during Mediterranea’s monitoring activities of search and rescue in the SAR zone, close to our location, Libyan authorities carried out yet another crime, a crime financed by Italy, with the European Union’s support. At 1:27pm, Mare Jonio’s radar picked up a signal coming from a vessel that was moving westwards at high speed (over 20 knots), possibly coming from Tripoli, and crossing our patrol route at northwest. Our radar showed us that this vessel was directed at another vessel that was almost stationary, and in obvious distress, on 33 38N 13 35E.

We continued to listen to radio channel vhf 16, which is always open to this type of communication. The Libyans, however, did not communicate anything. Unfortunately, at 2:04pm, the speedboat had reached its target, just 10 nautical miles away from us. When they left, 20 minutes later, we were just 6 miles away from the location, close enough to see who it was very clearly, with our binoculars.

Powerless, we witnessed the intervention of the Libyan militiamen on speed boats donated by our own country, perhaps remotely directed from the Frontex call-sign Osprey3 plane, departed at 5:22 am this morning from Malta’s Luqa Airport: in violation of every international convention, they pushed back dozens of refugees back to the bombs and torture they were trying to escape.

Upon arriving at the location where their meager vessel had been intercepted, we only found its relict – a grey rubber dinghy, its inner tubes damaged and deflated. As always, the engine had already been taken: things and people, sold, in the very same way.

We will continue our mission, monitoring and reporting violations such as this one, in a sea turned into a theater of death and shame by European governments.