A boat carrying 67 refugees from Africa was in trouble and they put out a distress call, to which an Italian merchant ship responded to assist in the rescue off the coast of Libya. Once the refugees were on board, the ship turned towards the Libyan Coast Guard. At that point, the refugees started manhandling the crew and making slicing motions with their fingers across their throat. I have a feeling that there will be no more rescues by Italian merchant ships.
Italy intervened in a migrant rescue by a private Italian ship this week after migrants reacted to attempts to hand the operation over to Libyan authorities by threatening the crew, the vessel said.
The Vos Thalassa took 67 migrants, including six children, onboard on Sunday after responding to a distress call off the Libyan coast.
Several local and international media reports said the ship was denied permission to dock in Italian ports because of the migrants, marking the first time the government had turned away an Italian vessel.
The migrants were then handed over to the Italian coast guard, the reports said.
However, international shipping company Vroon, which operates Vos Thalassa, an oil rig supply vessel, told Euronews that the ship “never requested to enter an Italian port or even Italian territorial waters.”
Vroon said that when the vessel turned to meet with the Libyan coast guard to transfer the migrants, they “started to threaten the crew, surrounding and pushing them and making ‘cut your throat’ gestures.”
“Because of these threats the vessel returned to its position and reported this situation to the MRCC [Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre] in Rome.”
The shipping company said being “severely outnumbered on board a merchant vessel by an angry crowd that has very little to lose is very frightening”.
“We are very proud of the professionalism of our crew in these very challenging circumstances.”
Unless I miss my guess, ship owners will have policies against picking up refugees from this point on.