The Italian Coast Guard, which denied having asked the Libyan authorities to intercept that barge, said that the request for help from the boat occurred within the Libyan search and rescue zone (SAR).
Therefore, after the rescue of the migrants, the Bahamas-flagged merchant ship Grimstad handed over the migrants to the Libyan authorities in waters off the port of Zueitina.
Sea Watch considers that the return of the immigrants is illegal since Libya is a country in chaos and does not represent a "safe harbor" for the people rescued.
Contattato via radio Grimstad ha detto a #Seabird che riporterà le persone in Libia su indicazioni dell'MRCC di Roma. È in corso una gravissima violazione del diritto internazionale. È inaccettabile. pic.twitter.com/3qfr2aEPA5
The tweet reads, "The freighter Grimstad rescued a distressed vessel with about 30 people who were sighted by Seabird yesterday, after Libya denied being the responsible authority."
In an audio posted on social networks, the humanitarian surveillance plane "Seabird" is heard communicating with the Grimstad commander, who assures that he was following orders from the Italian Coast Guard Operations Center.
Currently, Italy is facing a crisis due to the migratory flows coming from the coasts of Tunisia and Libya. So far this year, some 40,856 migrants have landed on Italian territory, especially on the island of Lampedusa, whose primary reception center is completely saturated.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has documented 441 dead immigrants in the first quarter of 2023 in the waters of the central Mediterranean.
This is the highest figure recorded since 2017. Since 2014, however, migration across the Mediterranean has left 26,664 dead and at least 17,000 missing people.
At least 60 people died, including several children, when a boat capsized with about 200 migrants on board off the coast of Italy's southern Calabria region, coast guard sources said Sunday. pic.twitter.com/ojzGrIvqbF