People smugglers fired several shots on Monday to recover a wooden boat after the migrants it was carrying were rescued some 60 NM from Libya. The search and rescue operation was carried out by an Italian tugboat and Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Týr deployed by Frontex.
Týr, already carrying 342 migrants from an earlier rescue operation, was called to assist the tugboat in another rescue. After most of the 250 people aboard the second migrant vessel were transferred to the tugboat, a speedboat approached. Its crew fired several shots into the air and then assailants sped away with the empty migrant boat.
This is the second time this year when armed smugglers took back a vessel used to transport migrants following a rescue operation in the Central Mediterranean.
“This is a sign that smugglers in Libya are running short of boats and are more willing to use weapons to recover those used to transport the migrants,” said Fabrice Leggeri, Frontex Executive Director.
Týr and all the other vessels and aircraft taking part in the Frontex-coordinated Joint Operation Triton have been continuously assisting the Italian authorities in the rescue of around 7 500 migrants since Friday. Eleven bodies of migrants were recovered, including nine from one capsized boat. Nearly all of the operations took place between 12 and 60 NM from the Libyan coast.
The migrants rescued in recent days mainly originated from countries in the Horn of Africa, Sub Sahara and West Africa.
“Over the last few days, all vessels and aircraft involved in the Frontex-coordinated Joint Operation Triton have taken part in the rescue operations. I would like to thank the officers deployed in operation Triton for their commitment to saving lives,” said Leggeri.