Armed men seize migrant vessel off Libya, aid group sounds alarm

SOS Mediterranee, a humanitarian organization, reported a disturbing incident during a migrant rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday.

The event, filmed by the group, unfolded roughly 46 nautical miles north of Zuwara, Libya – a known departure point for smuggling boats carrying migrants towards Europe.

Chaos erupted when two rubber dinghies approached the overloaded migrant vessel, with a masked bandit boarding it. Panic ensued among the 93 passengers, causing many to jump into the water.

The bandit then seized control of the empty boat and sped away as SOS Mediterranee crew members bravely rescued those who had gone overboard.

The motive behind the bandits’ actions remains unclear. Italian authorities often destroy such vessels discovered at sea due to safety concerns.

However, Valeria Taurino, General Director of SOS Mediterranee, emphasizes a more critical issue – the dwindling resources allocated for official rescue operations.

“The lack of state-run rescue vessels in the central Mediterranean over recent years has led to a reckless rise in armed presence, fostering illegal and dangerous activities that threaten both migrants and aid workers,” she stated.

Italian authorities maintain that humanitarian rescue ships act as a magnet, encouraging migrants to undertake perilous journeys across the sea. Rescue groups strongly refute this claim.

This incident occurred amidst a surge in rescue missions this week, possibly due to calmer summer seas. Despite the increase, figures from Italy’s Interior Ministry reveal a significant decline in migrant arrivals compared to last year.

As of now, only 27,744 migrants have reached Italy by boat in 2024, compared to 72,036 during the same period in 2023.

The right-wing government led by Premier Giorgia Meloni has made curbing migration a central policy objective.

They’ve implemented various measures to achieve this, including deals with African nations to prevent departures, restrictions on humanitarian rescue ships, and a crackdown on human traffickers.

These efforts aim to deter potential migrants from embarking on these hazardous voyages.

Scroll to Top