From file: Migrants in a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea | Photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo/O. Calvo
From file: Migrants in a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea | Photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo/O. Calvo

Frontex said Sunday it is searching for a rubber dinghy that went missing after it set sail from Libya to Italy. The boat is believed to be carrying around 85 migrants. International organizations and NGOs fear the boat has capsized.

Two German rescue organizations, Sea-Watch and United4Rescue, over the weekend had reported spotting four migrant boats in distress off the southern coast of Malta including the boat now missing.

Sea-Watch posted the boats' geolocation on Twitter -- including one boat marked "unknown GPS contact lost". The organization specified that the lost boat was carrying 85 people, while the other three boats were carrying 173 migrants in all.

Alarm Phone, the distress hotline for migrants in the Mediterranean, said on Twitter that it had been in contact with four boats in distress but had lost contact with two.  

Frontex monitoring

On Sunday, the EU border guard and coast guard agency Frontex said one of the four boats had safely reached Italy and another two were still at sea, adding that the fourth boat initially spotted on Friday was unaccounted for.

"Frontex plane will fly again (Monday) morning in search of the remaining boat," a spokesman told AFP.

Frontex said it had notified the coast guard authorities of Italy and Malta about the boats at sea. According to AFP, neither country's border authorities commented on the reported shipwreck upon request.

The flight track of a Frontex aircraft published on Twitter matched the positions of the distress cases, Alarmphone said, inferring that the boats had been monitored for days without any rescue effort being initiated.

'Shipwreck difficult to confirm at the moment'

The UN refugee agency UNHCR told news agencies on Sunday it is "very worried" about the fate of what could be 85 migrants drowned in Mediterranean Sea.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the reports about the missing boat were "very worrying" but difficult to verify. "In the absence of boats in the area, it is very difficult at the moment to confirm that there has been a shipwreck, or the number of victims involved," IOM Italy spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo told AFP.

"And unfortunately, from experience, we also think it is likely that there have been shipwrecks of which we are not aware," Di Giacomo added.

Italy is a primary European port of entry for migrants seeking refuge from Africa and the Middle East. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Italy shut down its ports and said it would quarantine any migrants who entered the country irregurarly.

With APF

 

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