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30 migrants presumed drowned after delayed rescue attempt in the Med

March 13, 2023 at 10:23 am

A view of the operation carried out by the Tunisian National Guard against African irregular migrants who want to reach Europe illegally via the Mediterranean Sea, off the city of Sfax in the south of Tunisia on October 27, 2022. [Yassine Gaidi – Anadolu Agency]

The charity Alarm Phone has blamed the Italian coastguard for the fact that 30 migrants are still missing and presumed to have drowned after it did not respond fast enough to distress calls made by a boat.

On Friday Alarm Phone alerted authorities to a boat carrying around 500 people which had left Libya, warning that water was entering the vessel.

It wasn’t until Sunday that 17 of the migrants were eventually rescued. However, 30 of the people on board are still unaccounted for after the boat capsized during the rescue attempt.

Alarm Phone has accused the Italian coastguard of delaying their rescue so that the Libyan coastguard would pick them up and take them back to Libya.

READ: Hundreds of migrants waiting for rescue on Italy’s coasts

A surveillance plane belonging to the NGO SeaWatch also alerted authorities to the vessel, saying it was “dangerously overcrowded and in frightening waves.”

The Mediterranean: A sea of blood - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

The Mediterranean: A sea of blood – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Italy has said that the boat capsized outside the Italian Search and Rescue Area and that they joined the rescue efforts after responding to a call for help from Libyan authorities.

At the end of February at least 76 people died off the southern coast of Italy bringing the government under intense scrutiny for failing to intervene on time.

Migrants on board were from Turkiye, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq.

In its 2022 World Report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Italy had renewed migration cooperation with Libya and obstructed sea rescue organisations.

The Mediterranean Sea is the deadliest migration route in the world, with known deaths hitting 25,000 over the last few years.

According to Italy’s Interior Ministry, almost three times the number of refugees that arrived last year have arrived this year.