Sea rescue off Libya: captains in legal gray zone

Sea rescue off libya: captains in legal gray zone

According to the opinion of the scientific service of the federal parliament, no fine should be imposed on captains of german ships if they do not bring back shipwrecked migrants to libya against the orders of the libyan coast guard.

Those who refuse to bring rescued people from the mediterranean to libya because of human rights concerns should not be prosecuted for it.

In its elaboration, however, the service also states that captains who bring people rescued from distress at sea to libya do not automatically violate the prohibition under international law against repatriation to a persecuting state – since this prohibition has so far only applied to state actors. However, the international maritime organization (IMO) recommends that rescued persons should not be brought to a place "where they will be persecuted and other dangers loom". The united nations last year deplored the "appalling living conditions" to which migrants are subjected in some detention centers in libya. In one of these closed accommodation facilities, for example, 22 people died of tuberculosis because they had not received medical treatment.

Deputy andrej hunko (left) called on eu commission president ursula von der leyen to ensure that operations in the libyan sea rescue zone would again be coordinated from italy in the future. This would be possible without further ado if the libyan government gave its consent. "This is all the more urgent because the libyan coast guard is only able to operate in exceptional circumstances due to the civil war," hunko warned.

Currently, captains of private ships under german flag in the sea area north of libya in the sea rescue of refugees moved in a kind of gray area, the scientific service noted. On the one hand, they had to comply with the instructions of the relevant sea rescue coordination center in accordance with the ordinance on maritime safety.

On the other hand, it is questionable to what extent the obligation to bring rescued persons to a safe port, where food and medical care are also guaranteed, can be considered fulfilled if the migrants are forced to return to libya. In the case of a repatriation in countries like tunisia or morocco, where smugglers' boats also take off, the situation is less clear than in the case of libya.

According to UN figures, 1327 people died or went missing in the mediterranean last year. The most important routes of the tugboats were from turkey to the greek islands, from libya to italy or malta, as well as from tunisia to italy and from morocco to spain. In individual cases, it has also happened that migrants rescued from distress at sea have prevented the crew of the receiving ship from taking them back to libya.

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