By Michel Cousins.
Malta, 30 June:
Eleven senior Libyan coastguards and air force officers this week finished a four-week training course in Malta . . .[restrict]in search and rescue coordination. The course, run by the Maltese Armed Forced at its Maritime Safety and Security Training Centre and designed for personnel involved in air sea rescue missions, focussed on maritime search planning.
The coastguards are from Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk, the air force officers from Tripoli and Benghazi.
The course was part of training support by Malta for Libya, in particular help it deal with the rising tide of illegal, mainly African migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe.
Because of the clandestine nature of the business, sea search and rescue has become a growing need in Libyan waters. The boats the migrants use are often overcrowded and sometimes unseaworthy. Earlier this month, eight migrants who had set out from Libyan were said to have drowned after their boat sank off the coast of southern Italy; the Italian coastguard rescued four others. Two months ago, six Somalis and four Eritreans who had set sail from Zuara drowned then the boat they and 48 others were in hit rough weather between the coasts of Malta and Tunisia. The others were rescued by the Italian navy following an air search by the Maltese.
Last year, according to Amnesty International, at least 1,500 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe; most has set out from either Libya or Tunisia.