World Bulletin / News Desk
The German aid group Sea Eye on Sunday said it was suspending its migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean, citing security concerns after Libya barred foreign vessels from a stretch of water off its coast.
In a statement, Sea Eye said it was with "a heavy heart" that it had decided to follow suit following the Libyan government's "explicit threat against the private NGOs".
Tensions have been on the rise since the Libyan navy on Thursday ordered foreign vessels to stay out of a coastal search and rescue zone, a measure it said was specifically aimed at non-governmental groups.
Libyan authorities have accused charities of aiding human smugglers with their rescues at sea, hampering efforts to crack down on the illegal migration route.
"Under these circumstances, a continuation of our rescue work is not currently possible. It would be irresponsible towards our crews," Sea Eye founder Michael Buschheuer said.
Italy, which has borne the brunt of Europe's migrant crisis this year, has also moved to rein in NGOs helping the multinational search and rescue operation by making them sign up to a new code of conduct.
Sea Eye said it would continue to monitor the "changed security situation" off the Libyan coast.
"We leave behind a deadly gap in the Mediterranean," Buschheuer warned.
Six years since a revolution that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Libya has become a key departure point for migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
Tens of thousands of migrants have resorted to paying people traffickers for the journey, often on overcrowded and unseaworthy boats.
Migrant aid ships have played a key role in assisting the rescue operations, and Sea Eye says it has helped save some 12,000 lives since April 2016.
President says he will take ‘preemptive’ action to halt the actions that have drawn widespread criticism
Al-Sadr’s Sairoon bloc fails to form governing coalition with Al-Wataniya, National Wisdom Movement
Top Trump advisers arrive in Cairo after earlier stops in Jordan, Saudi Arabia
Official results of May 12 elections have been dogged by controversy
Muhammed Ebu Dekka was wounded by Israeli gunfire on May 14, says Palestinian Health Ministry
Protestors march from Bryant Park to United Nations headquarters
U.S. withdrew from UN rights council, accusing it of being hypocritical and biased against Israel
New rule is latest effort by Trump to dismantle former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act
Foreigners buy over 2,400 houses, marking a 36.1 percent rise year-on-year, according to official report
Over 1.4 million Turkish expats have cast their votes
Antonio Guterres 'would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,' spokesman says
Long sentence would set ‘strong precedent’ against Islamophobia
"Officials do not want to report these crimes," Trump says without presenting any evidence
Israeli national security adviser meets Russian counterpart in Moscow to discuss Syrian developments
NATO's breakdown is not inevitable -- we can maintain it, and all the benefits we derive, argues Jens Stoltenburg