Maritime News

Mediterranean migrants returned to Libya

3 August 2018

The United Nations (UN) has said that the return to Libya of more than 100 migrants and refugees rescued in the Mediterranean Sea might have breached international law.

An Italian towboat rescued 108 people, apparently from international waters, but then returned them to Libya, from where they had set off. Under international law, migrants rescued in international waters cannot be returned to a place where their lives are put in danger; the UN and European Union recognise Libya as not safe. However, the Italian coastguard claimed that the rescue took place in Libyan waters and was managed by the Libyan coastguard.

Since a change of political leadership in Italy, the country has taken a harder approach on its previous policy of accepting migrants and refugees rescued while crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. 

The UN refugee agency is investigating the case, but said that the operation “could represent a violation of international law”.



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