A Libyan coastguard vessel yesterday intercepted a large migrant boat in international waters and returned the approximately 500 migrants to Libya. This incident is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it may represent the first such interception/rescue operation by Libya in international waters in recent years. Second, the Libyan vessel may have been one of coastguard vessels recently donated by Italy and whose personnel have been trained by the EUNAVFOR MED operation, though this is not clear. And third, an NGO rescue vessel operated by Sea-Watch was responding to the migrant vessel and beginning SAR operations, but according to press reports, the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre , directed the Libyan coastguard to assume “on-scene command.” The result of this was the return of the migrants to Libya. While this was perhaps not technically a “push-back” operation, the effect is the same. The orders issued by the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre determined where the intercepted/migrants would be taken.
The Libyan coastguard vessel also apparently almost collided with the NGO vessel.