Some 30 migrants missing after shipwreck off Libya

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Some 30 migrants missing after shipwreck off Libya

The boat overturned during a rescue operation. Seventeen migrants have been rescued, but 30 are still missing.

Some 30 migrants are missing after a shipwreck off Libya on Sunday during a rescue attempt by a cargo ship that was sailing in this area, two weeks after a shipwreck near Italy that left 76 dead.

During the rescue operations, the boat turned over in the middle of transferring the migrants: 17 people were rescued, but around 30 others are missing, the Italian coastguard announced.

This new tragedy comes two weeks after the sinking, off Calabria, Italy, of a boat carrying some 180 people. It left 76 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 shipwreck shocked Italy and sparked strong criticism of the far-right government of Giorgia Meloni, elected on an anti-migrant line.

The remains of the boat that was wrecked along the Italian coast.

This weekend, NGOs had reported that a boat carrying 47 people was drifting about 100 kilometers from the Libyan coast. Rescue organization Alarm Phone, which offers a hotline for migrants in distress, was the first on Sunday to report that migrants had drowned.

In a press release, the coastguard specifies 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 towards the migrant boat reported difficulty performing a rescue due to bad weather.

Meanwhile, Libyan authorities, responsible for search and rescue efforts in this area, reported a lack of boat availability and requested assistance from Rome, which sent three more merchant vessels to the area. to the migrant boat, the statement continues.

Migrant transfer operations began at first light on Sunday when the Froland vessel arrived on site, but the migrant boat capsized during the operation, according to the Coast Guard.

After picking up 17 migrants, the Froland headed for Malta to disembark two people in need of urgent medical attention.

Freighters are found still on site to try to find missing persons, with the assistance of two Frontex planes.

The rescue operation took place outside the Italian search and rescue [SAR] zone, recording the inactivity of other national maritime and rescue coordination centers involved in the area, said the coast guard.

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 deteriorating weather conditions and assured that Tripoli claimed not to be able to send a patrol boat.

On Sunday morning, Alarm Phone reported losing contact with the boat.

According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 17,592 people have landed since January 1 in Italy, compared to 5,976 over the same period in 2022 and 5,995 in 2021, i.e. almost triple. The number of migrant arrivals via the Central Mediterranean route jumped 116% in January and February compared to 2022, according to Frontex.

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