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Libya | About 30 migrants are missing after a ship sank in the Mediterranean

(Rome) About 30 migrants are missing after a ship sank Sunday off the Libyan coast, during a rescue attempt by a cargo boat that sailed in the area, two weeks after a shipwreck near Italy left 76 dead.

And the Italian Coast Guard announced that “during the rescue operations, the boat capsized with a complete transport of migrants: 17 people were rescued, but about 30 others are missing.”

This new tragedy occurs two weeks after a boat carrying about 180 people sank off Calabria (southern Italy). It left 76 people dead and bodies are still falling on the beach every day.

The Italian judiciary opened an investigation into this tragedy, as it was suspected that the maritime authorities did not react quickly enough to reports of an overloaded ship in the area.

This shipwreck has shocked Italy and sparked fierce criticism of the far-right government of Giorgia Meloni, elected on an anti-immigrant line.

This weekend, NGOs reported that a boat carrying 47 people was drifting about a hundred kilometers off the Libyan coast. The rescue organization, Alarm Phone, which operates a hotline for migrants in distress, was the first to report on Sunday that the migrants had drowned.

The Coast Guard said, in a statement, that the von Alert alerted the Relief Coordination Center in Rome, Saturday, to the presence of this boat in distress, as well as the Maltese and Libyan authorities.

A merchant ship bound for the migrants’ boat reported difficulty carrying out the rescue operation due to bad weather.

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“Not available”

Meanwhile, the Libyan authorities, who are in charge of search and rescue efforts in this area, reported “no boats available” and asked for help from Rome, which sent three more merchant ships to the area. Towards the immigrant boat, it still continues. Press release.

The Coast Guard said “migrant transfers began at first light” on Sunday when the “Froland” arrived at the site, but the migrant boat capsized during the operation.

After boarding 17 migrants, the Froland headed for Malta to disembark two people who needed urgent medical care.

Cargo boats are still on site trying to find the missing people, with the help of two Frontex aircraft.

“The rescue operation took place outside the Italian search and rescue (SAR) area, registering the inactivity of other national navigation and rescue coordination centers in the area,” the coast guard said.

German NGO SeaWatch said on Twitter on Saturday that its reconnaissance aircraft had spotted the migrant boat, which was “dangerously laden and in frightening waves”.

Shortly thereafter, she reported deteriorating weather conditions and confirmed that “Tripoli claims not being able to send a patrol.”

On Sunday morning, the alarm phone indicated that it had lost contact with the boat.

According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, 17,592 people have landed since 1any January in Italy, compared to 5,976 during the same period in 2022 and 5,995 in 2021, almost three times as much. 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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On Saturday, the Italian Coast Guard rescued more than 1,300 migrants who were on overcrowded boats.