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65 refugees feared dead in shipwreck off Libyan coast

Italian, Maltese, Libyan and Tunisian coastguards accused of rejecting responsibility for refugee distress case in international waters

ACTIVISTS have laid the blame for the assumed deaths of 65 refugees in an apparent shipwreck off the coast of Libya this weekend.

A boat carrying around 65 people — including two pregnant women — in international waters off the Libyan coast contacted the refugee distress hotline operated by the activist network Alarm Phone early on Saturday evening as they attempted to flee war-torn Libya.

“The people alerted us, saying that their engine had stopped working and that they did not have any food and water left,” Alarm Phone said in a report about the incident on its website.

The activists provided the refugees’ GPS position to the Italian, Maltese, Libyan and Tunisian coastguards on several occasions that evening.

The Libyan coastguard and the Armed Forces of Malta failed to pick up the phone initially.

When the network did finally reach the EU-trained and supported Libyan Coastguard later that evening, an officer told them that they could not launch a rescue because “the engine of their patrol vessels had problems and that they had two other targets.”

The Libyan’s told them to call the Tunisian coastguard, who said “…we should call back on Monday as they were not working until then.”

Italy’s rescue coordination centre in Rome eventually told Alarm Phone that it had received their emails but claimed the GPS position was wrong.

“The last time we were able to reconnect with the people in distress was at 22:25 CEST, when the person on the phone was panicking and screaming into the phone, saying that people were about to die and that they needed immediate help,” the Alarm Phone report reads.

“This was our last contact with the boat. Since then, we have regularly called them, but without success.”

“For two days now, we continue to search for information about the fate of the people in acute distress. No authority is answering our questions: where are they? what happened to the 65 people in distress in a white rubber boat off the coast of Libya?

“We called for rescue, but all authorities rejected responsibility. Europe, this is the result of your policies – another mass murder in the Mediterranean Sea.”

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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