The Address | Benghazi – Libya
ROME – A group of migrants rescued by a merchant ship off the coast of Libya have diverted it and are now going to Malta or to the island of Lampedusa, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday.
“There is an ongoing hypothesis of a hijack of a merchant ship that was arriving in Libya after rescuing migrants and which is now heading north to Malta or Lampedusa,” Salvini said.
“If this were the case it would be the first act of piracy on the high seas, with migrants hijacking the merchant ship that had arrived 6 miles from the Libyan coast,” he added.
In February 2017, Italy made a deal, backed by the European Union, to spend tens of millions of euros funding the Libyan Coast Guard of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which intercepts boats heading for Italy and returns those on-board to Libya.
The United Nations and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, do not consider Libya to be a safe harbor for migrants as severe abuse and crimes were reported to have been committed inside detention centers in Libya.