No sign of boat carrying 500 migrants, rescue team says after alert triggers Mediterranean search

ROME — A day after searching part of the Mediterranean Sea, an Italian humanitarian group said on Friday that its rescue ship had found no trace of a ship it said was carrying 500 migrants, including a newborn, in distress.

“Life Support did not find any wreckage and the 500 people did not disembark in Italy,” according to a statement from the NGO Emergency in Milan. “It’s hard to believe that no coastal authority knows where these 500 people are.”

The emergency has raised the possibility that the migrants could be brought back to Libya, where smugglers’ unseaworthy vessels set out to bring the migrants to Italy’s shores. Libyan authorities have so far denied bringing the passengers back to Libya, where many migrants spend months in inhumane detention camps, often beaten or raped, until they or their repatriated families can pay smugglers, the group said in a statement. sea ​​voyage to Italy.

On Tuesday, another NGO, Alarm Phone, which takes calls from migrant boats in distress, said a boat full of 500 migrants needed help.

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The Emergency said Life Support sailed for 32 hours to reach the area where the distressed vessel was believed to be and searched for 24 hours on Thursday in international waters that are part of Malta’s search and rescue area. But on Thursday night, the group said deteriorating weather had forced the search to end.

The ship is believed to be carrying 45 women, some pregnant, and 56 children, including a baby apparently born during the voyage.

The Libyan Coast Guard did not immediately respond to The Associated Press’ request for comment on Emergency’s hypothesis that the migrants had been returned to Libya.

On Thursday, the Italian coast guard said one of its ships had rescued nearly 1,100 migrants from two fishing boats in distress in two separate operations in its search and rescue area.

The Italian coast guard has denied any involvement in a third ship in distress, carrying 27 migrants. According to the statement, merchant ships were also involved in assisting the ship and “although they were initially contacted by the Italian rescue center, they (the cargo ships) then received instructions directly from the Libyan authorities as part of an incident within the area of ​​responsibility”. Libya.

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The Libyans “legitimately undertook to coordinate the rescue,” the Italian coast guard said in a statement on Thursday, denying any involvement in the “pushing back” of migrants to Libya.


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