Tuesday, 19 October, 2021
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70 boat migrants from Libya missing in Med: NGO

70 boat migrants from Libya missing in Med: NGO

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Seventy migrants headed for Europe across the Mediterranean from Libya have gone missing, the independent support group Alarm Phone said Saturday.

Separately, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said 89 migrants and two bodies had been brought by boat to the Libyan capital Tripoli Saturday, but 40 more were still missing.

It was not immediately clear whether the two organisations were talking about the same group of migrants.

Alarm Phone said a boat with 70 people on board had been missing for four days after leaving the port of Khoms, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of the capital.

"They departed from Khoms, #Libya, & called AlarmPhone several times," it tweeted.

"When we lost contact, they were in Malta SAR (search and rescue) zone, 11 miles (18 kilometres) to Italian waters, but there is no record of their rescue or arrival. Authorities are silent."

The UNHCR said in a tweet that the 89 survivors brought to Tripoli on Saturday included eight women and three children.

It said 40 more were "missing after the group set off on hazardous journey in wooden + rubber boats".

Alarm Phone criticised authorities in Malta and Italy.

"Why did Maltese and Italian authorities refuse first to rescue, then to provide information on their fate? Were the 70 people left to die? Were they secretly pushed back to #Libya? We demand answers!" it said.

Tens of thousands of people seek to cross the central Mediterranean each year, normally setting off from Libya and aiming for the Italian coast, but it is often a deadly journey.

At least 1,369 people have died on the route so far this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in early September.