400 migrants adrift in Mediterranean Sea
None came to help them
Batan Biswas, UE Correspondent: A boat carrying around 400 migrants is adrift in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Malta, and is at risk of capsizing after being stranded for at least 24 hours, along an immigration route that NGOs have warned is perilously dangerous.
The support service Alarm Phone said in a tweet on Sunday that it had received a call from the boat, which had departed from Tobruk, Libya, overnight, adding it had reported the situation to authorities, but no rescue operation had been announced.
Many on board require medical attention, Alarm Phone said, including a child, a pregnant woman and a disabled person.
The boat in distress with about 400 people on board is pictured in the Central Mediterranean Sea in this handout obtained by Reuters on April 10, 2023.
It said passengers reported some distressed people may have jumped overboard, including one person who it said was unconscious on the boat. The boat’s hull had filled with water, it added.
Every year, tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty risk the treacherous route in search of better economic prospects.
They travel in dinghies that are unfit for the journey and can be left stranded, sparking major diplomatic rows between European countries in the region.
In 2022, 105,131 people reached Italy via the Mediterranean Sea, according to the latest figures from the UN’s refugee agency. The same data found that 1368 were left dead or missing.
In March, at least 28 migrants died after their boats sank off the coast of Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy.
So far this year, 27,875 people have made the voyage. Most arrivals have journeyed from the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Pakistan.
German NGO Sea-Watch International tweeted it had found the boat on Sunday, adding Maltese authorities had ordered two nearby merchant ships not to rescue those on board, but had asked one of them to supply the boat with fuel, food and water.
CNN has contacted the Maltese authorities for comment, but has not yet received a response.
Sea-Watch told CNN on Monday that the weather had become “very bad” during the night, with waves up to 1.5 metres.
“Due to the number of people on the boat and the current weather conditions, there is an urgent risk that the boat will capsize,” a spokesperson for the NGO said.
“The sea rescue coordination centre in Malta must therefore immediately initiate a rescue operation.
“Instead, however, merchant ships are instructed to simply dispense gasoline so that the boat can sail to Italy on its own, which is terribly dangerous.”
Alarm Phone said in a tweet it had managed to reconnect with the boat during the early hours on Monday, adding the migrants had continued their journey and had now reached the shared Search and Rescue (SAR) zone between Malta and Italy.
“They report high waves and strong wind. Still, no rescue is in sight! Don’t abandon them at sea, rescue [them] now!” the NGO urged.
The Italian Coast Guard told CNN on Monday it had no information to share about the boat, but said more than 1000 migrants had arrived on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in the last 24 hours. It added there were now 1800 migrants in a space designed for 400.
Lampedusa, the closest Italian island to Africa, is a major destination for migrants seeking to enter European Union countries.
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