Boat capsized out of Italy’s search and rescue area, but charity Alarm Phone blames Rome
Italy rescued at least 17 migrants while 30 others are still missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean.
The Italian Coast Guard Command said on Sunday they conducted a rescue operation targeting the boat carrying 47 people about 177 kilometers (110 miles) off the coast of Libya after being alerted by the Alarm Phone charity, which picks up calls from migrant vessels in distress, and receiving a request for support from Libyan authorities.
It added that two commercial ships in the region and a patrol plane of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) are continuing to search for the missing migrants.
Two migrants who were injured in the capsizing and needed urgent medical treatment were brought to Malta for assistance, the coast guard said.
The new tragedy comes just a few weeks after the shipwreck of a wooden boat close to the coasts of Italy’s southern Calabria region that killed at least 79 migrants, including more than 30 minors.
The Italian right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is facing increasing criticism for not having activated rescue forces soon enough to avoid the shipwreck.
In relation to the Libya incident, Alarm Phone blamed Italy again for not sending its coast guards despite having been repeatedly alerted on Saturday that the boat was in distress.
Italy’s coast guard, however, stressed in its statement that the boat capsized outside the Italian Search and Rescue area (SAR) and that it was forced to intervene due to the inactivity of the competent authorities in the area.
The Meloni government took power last October promising a tough stance against illegal immigration and human traffickers.
However, it is facing an increase in arrivals of migrants on Italian shores. About 17,600 irregular migrants arrived in Italy in 2023 as of March 10, which is almost three-fold the number compared with the same period last year, according to Interior Ministry data.
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