The German government warned Libyan authorities against imposing restrictions on rescue operations carried by non-governmental organization off the Libyan coast, a government spokeswoman said Friday.

Libya established a “zone of search and rescue” in its coastal area, into which all vessels excluding authorized ones are prohibited from entering. The move is said to target NGOs suspected by the Libyan authorities of helping human traffickers. On Sunday, three NGOs, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Save the Children and Sea Watch, announced that they suspended search and rescue operations off the Libyan coast because of threats from the Libyan Coast Guard.

“In talks with Libya, the federal government pointed out that the establishment of a search and rescue zone should not restrict rescue operations carried out by non-governmental organizations since it is against international law,” the spokeswoman told the Die Welt newspaper.

Many migrants fleeing poverty and conflict use Libya to reach Europe, choosing the so-called central Mediterranean migration route. According to European border agency Frontex, the route saw almost 100,000 illegal border crossings between January and July this year. However, thousands died along the way due to poor safety on board smuggling boats.

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