Some 30 migrants are missing after a shipwreck on Sunday off the coast of Libya, during the rescue attempt by a cargo boat sailing in the area, two weeks after a shipwreck near Italy that left 76 dead.
“During the rescue operations, the boat turned over in full transfer of migrants: 17 people were rescued, but around 30 others are missing”, announced the Italian coast guard.
This new tragedy comes two weeks after the sinking, off Calabria (southern Italy), of a boat carrying some 180 people. It left 76 people dead and bodies continue to wash up on the shore every day.
Italian justice has opened an investigation into this tragedy, the maritime authorities being suspected of not having reacted quickly enough to reports of the presence of an overloaded ship in the area.
This sinking shocked Italy and aroused strong criticism against the far-right government of Giorgia Meloni elected on an anti-migrant line.
This weekend, NGOs reported that a boat carrying 47 people was drifting about a hundred kilometres from the Libyan coast. The rescue organization Alarm Phone, which runs a hotline for migrants in distress, was the first on Sunday to report that migrants had drowned.
In a statement, the Coast Guard said that Alarm Phone alerted the Rome Relief Coordination Center on Saturday of the presence of this boat in distress, as well as the Maltese and Libyan authorities.
A merchant vessel heading for the migrant boat reported difficulty in carrying out a rescue due to bad weather.
Meanwhile, the Libyan authorities, responsible for search and rescue efforts in this area, reported “a lack of availability of boats” and asked for help from Rome, which sent three other merchant ships to the area. towards the boat of the migrants, continues the press release.
“The migrant transfer operations began at first light” on Sunday when the “Froland” ship arrived on site, but the migrant boat capsized during the operation, according to the coast guard.
After embarking 17 migrants, the “Froland” headed for Malta to disembark two people in need of urgent medical attention. Cargo boats are still on site to try to find missing people, with the assistance of two Frontex planes.
“The rescue operation took place outside the Italian search and rescue (SAR) area, registering the inactivity of the other national maritime and rescue coordination centers involved in the area,” the coast guard said.
SeaWatch, a German NGO, tweeted on Saturday that its surveillance plane had spotted the migrant boat which was “dangerously overloaded and in frightening waves”. A little later, she reported on the deterioration of weather conditions and assured that “Tripoli claims not to be able to send a patrol”.