European aircraft backed out from taking migrants from seized Turkish oil tanker: Captain
Hülya Güler - ISTANBUL
The captain of a Turkish oil tanker hijacked in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya’s coast on March 27 has said a European naval aircraft that initially requested the ship to rescue migrants has failed to keep its promise to take the migrants back.
“As we had itinerated for the Port of Tripoli in Libya, we received a call up from a European naval aircraft. They said that there was a migrant boat in mortal danger on our route and asked us to board the migrants to our ship. They said they would come and take them. Thus, we boarded these people with the instruction of the EU naval aircraft,” Turgut Mahno, the Turkish captain of the hijacked ship, has told daily Hürriyet.
“Then we went to the meeting point as said by the plane. We waited until the morning yet no one came to take the refugees from our ship,” he said.
“The plane, which patrolled us until we boarded the refugees, disappeared after. They also did not answer any radio calls we made,” he added.
Mahno said that after these events, the crew decided to head for the Port of Tripoli.
“As we approached the port, the migrants realized that they had returned to Libya and attacked us with iron pieces,” he said.
The captain said that the migrants had told the crew ship they preferred to die instead of returning to Libya and asked the crew to take them to Italy or Malta or otherwise they would kill them.
“Because it was a matter of life or death, we turned our route back to Italy,” the captain said.
Mahno also stressed that the migrants were in a pretty bad condition and the crew shared their food with them, especially women and children.
The migrants are facing charges of “detaining a merchant ship,” “impairment” and “jeopardizing human life,” he said.
He also expressed that the crew is currently in Malta, identifying the attackers.
Mahno also underlined that there are no charges against the crew because they were in cooperation with the security forces all along.
“When we arrived in Malta, the Turkish embassy contacted me. I and all the crew are in good health, we were not severely injured. We have also contacted with our families, we do not have a problem right now,” he said.
Following the incident, EU member countries have decided to withdraw the military rescue vessels involved in the rescue operations of migrants in the Mediterranean, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on March 28.
A Maltese special operations team boarded the hijacked Turkish tanker on March 28 and recaptured control of it before escorting it to a Maltese port.
Migrants fleeing Libya, including nationals from other African countries, have in the past said they face horrible treatment and human rights abuses in detention centers in Libya, prompting them to brave the Mediterranean Sea to seek better lives in Europe. Italy has been criticized by humanitarian groups for outsourcing its management of the crisis to Libya, whose coast guard has also been condemned for bad treatment of migrants.