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.
⚫ We are in shock. According to different sources, dozens of people from this boat in distress have drowned. We first alerted authorities at 2:28h CET on 11 March, emphasising the urgent distress situation. The Italian authorities knowingly delayed rescue and let them die.
— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) March 12, 2023
🚩 Death Announcement
Not long ago the mechanised shipwreck that occurred in #Crotone shocked all of us (at least those with relative humanity) we thought the Italian government would change for better, but today 30 more people drowned due to the negligence of Italy 🇮🇹-Malta 🇲🇹 pic.twitter.com/i7J7xvPUDp
— Refugees In Libya (@RefugeesinLibya) March 12, 2023
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."
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.