Activists: slow response led to 30 migrant deaths off the coast of Libya

MILAN (AP) — An activist network supporting rescue operations in the Mediterranean has accused Italy of failing to provide timely assistance to a smuggler boat in distress, leading to a deadly shipwreck that left at least 30 migrants missing and presumed dead in the Libyan region. search and rescue area.

Seventeen survivors were rescued on Sunday in an operation about 100 miles off the Libyan coast, coordinated in part by the Italian coastguard. The incident comes two weeks after another shipwreck off the coast of southern Italy killed at least 79 people.

The wrecks have drawn attention to Italian and European protocols for responding to suspected smuggling boats; the number of crossings through the deadly central Mediterranean has doubled in the past year.

The migrants in the most recent incident died when their wooden boat capsized as a merchant vessel, the Froland, approached the distressed boat carrying nearly 50 people.

Alarm Phone, which notifies authorities of migrants in need of rescue, said it had informed Italian, Libyan and Maltese authorities of the boat’s location, stressing that it was in danger due to high waves. It claimed the migrants died as a result of “fatal non-assistance from Italian authorities”, noting that the same boat was spotted by another group conducting surveillance flights nine hours after the initial report.

“This delay, one of many systematic delays Alarm Phone has documented over the years, proved to be deadly,” the organization said on Sunday. “They would still be alive if Europe hadn’t decided to drown them.”

Italy has denied not responding to migrant boats in distress, and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will answer questions in parliament this week about Italy’s response to the shipwreck two weeks ago off the coast of Calabria. Italian authorities brought more than 1,000 rescued migrants to the Italian coast this weekend.

About Sunday’s shipwreck, the Italian Coast Guard said it had asked three merchant ships to respond to the emergency after Libyan authorities informed them they could not. Another boat was already nearby and was in direct contact with Alarm Phone.

The Froland, which arrived first, rescued 17 survivors. It took two of them to Malta for urgent medical care and would travel on to Italy with the other 15.

Commercial ships are continuing the search for the missing migrants, assisted by aerial surveillance flights operated by European border control, Frontex said, according to the Italian Coast Guard.

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