Sea Watch´s vessel and a patrol vessel of the Libyan Coast Guard simultaneously directed towards a migrant’s boat in distress that was located in international waters.

The Libyan Coast Guard approached the boat in distress and took over people from aboard the boat, beating and threatening them. Onboard panic started and a numerous refugees fell overboard. The Libyan ship took off with inappropriate speed while people were still latching onto the side, being dragged by their vessel. After Sea-Watch had already repeatedly alarmed the Libyans about their life-threatening practice, an Italian Navy helicopter had to intervene, briefly stopping the Libyan ship, to prevent further deadly maneuvering.

Due to this, a confrontation between Sea Watch and the Libyan Coast Guard occurred, which caused that at least 20 people died before or during the events, 59 migrants were saved by the NGO and 47 migrants were pulled back to Libya.

The intervention was coordinated by the MRCC Rome, partly by the Italian Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) and partly by the Italian navy assets of the Mare Sicuro mission, operating on the high seas and in Libyan territorial waters.

SAR case number: N.A

SAR asset: Sea Watch 3

Date of SAR (UTC): 06/11/2017

Time of first information received (UTC): 06/11/2017 12:00 am

Source of first information for the NGO: MRCC Rome

Starting time of first sighting / engagement with target boat in distress (UTC): 06/11/2017 6:35 am


Number of migrant boats: 3

Type of migrant boat(s): Dinghi

Number of people on board per boat: Between 130 and 150 migrants

Other vessels in the vicinity (e.g. unidentified / cargo / aircrafts): Libyan Coast Guard vessel

Actors involved (by asset / institution type): EU Member State warship (France); EU Member States aircraft (Italy); Libyan Coast Guard/Navy


Region of Mediterranean: Central Mediterranean

Position(s) of vessel(s) in distress at the time of SAR request:

Location description: High seas

Approximate distance from coast line: 30 Nautical Miles from Libya

Position(s) of rescue(s) at the time of SAR operation(s):

Location description: High seas

Approximate distance from coast line: 30 Nautical Miles from the Coast

Country of disembarkation: Italy


Total number of survivors: 47


Total number of confirmed deaths: 20

Involved in this incident