(Picture: an Italian Coast Guard’s CP 288, the patrol boat reportedly shot during a search and rescue mission last May 24th. Source: vesseltracker.com, filed picture)
by Alessandro Pagano Dritto (Twitter: @paganodritto)
[May 27th, 2017 – Italy] It’s not been possible to reach the Italian Coast Guard immediately, but it seems that a patrol boat of its was mistakenly shot by a unit of the Libyan counterpart last May 24th, as Italian website GrNet.it, focusing on defence news, reports. While Italian Coast Guard press office has been reported to be “unaware” of the event and no official statement has been published yet, mentioning it – neither on the very May 24th nor the following day – Italian Avvenire adds that “qualified sources consulted in Rome” confirmed what happened.
According to GrNet.it, not mentioning any open source over the news, the Libyan unit would have reportedly contacted the Italian patrol boat CP 288, mentioned by the Italian Coast Guard’s May 24th official statement – released the following day – as joining a rescue operation of 1800 migrants in the Central Mediterranean along with other two boats of the same body, a ship of the Italian navy, some foreign ships part of EUNAVFORMED, some from the ONGs and four civil boats.
As the Italian unit went away, the Libyan counterpart reportedly shot at it – leaving no one wounded – but then realized the mistake and apologized with the port authority: they – it is read – reportedly “confused the Italian unit with a boat of migrants”. This last detail, stressed also by Avvenire‘s article, has been openly mentioned by the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mario Giro, who shared the latter piece on Twitter and then wrote that nor the migrants nor “our patrol ships” should be shot at; somehow, apparently confirming the news once more as reliable.
Italy has been training the Western Libya’s Coast Guard for long in the framework of the naval EU mission EUNAVFORMED and has provided four guard ships up to now promising to reach the number of ten within June 2017, in order to let this Coast Guard to become the strongest in North Africa, as the Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti has recently stated while visiting Tripoli. Also the local police is trained by Italy’s Carabinieri, Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said, but details of this last training are less known, as of now.
[Read about the boats Italy handed over being delivered to Tripoli and the Italian IM Marco Minniti’s May visit to Tripoli on Between Libya and Italy]
Anyway, the training is most likely focused on patrolling the Northern and Southern borders, so that the illegal flows of migrants eventually reaching Italy can be stopped from both entering and finding a way out of Libya. That’s why Interior Ministers of Italy, Libya, Chad and Niger have recently met in Rome agreeing to set up camps for migrants in and out of Libya. How much the existing camps in Libya and the future camps in and out of the Country will met the international human rights standards is a very divisive and sensitive issue; as of now, UNHCR stressed they met very few and, at the contrary, the Libyan existing ones are in despicable conditions.
[Read about Libya, Italy, Chad and Niger’s Interior Minister meeting in Rome about migrants and Libya’s Southern border on Between Libya and Italy]
The Libyan Ambassador to Italy Ahmed Safar admitted last April that the Libyan Coast Guard is not always respecting migrants’ rights and the reported event of the shooting, as the Libyan unit reportedly shot confusing the Italian patrol boat with one filled with migrants, could once more rise concerns over that.
Western Libya’s seas are not the only ones where occasional problems could rise between Libya and Italy, as differently originated problems have risen also off Benghazi and Derna’s coasts. In the very month of May, also a fishing boat from Mazara Del Vallo, Sicily, had some problems with the Libyan Coast Guard, this time the Eastern one, being sized and freed in a couple of days, while another fishing vessel had been earlier shot by unknown armed men. Back then, Mazara fishing district’s president Giovanni Tumbiolo labelled such longstanding problems between the Libyan Coast Guard and the Italian fishing boats – dating back to the Gaddafi era – as “the war of fish”.
[Read about the Eastern Libya’s Coast Guard seizing an Italian fishing boat on Between Libya and Italy]