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150 migrants in ‘grave danger’ after boat runs into trouble off Libya

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A migrant aboard a rubber dinghy off the Libyan coast is helped by rescuers aboard the Open Arms aid boat, of Proactiva Open Arms Spanish NGO. File picture: Olmo Calvo/AP

Rome – A migrant boat on the sea stretch between Libya and southern Europe is in distress with 150 people on board, activists said on Monday.

Alarm Phone, an organization that takes calls from migrant boats in distress, wrote on Twitter it was contacted by a vessel that took off from Khoms, east of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

"They say 50-60 women & 30 children among them! There are sick & pregnant ppl. Their engine stopped working. No rescue in sight – authorities in #Italy and #Malta were informed around noon," it said.

URGENT! 150 lives at risk! Alarm Phone was called by a boat coming from Khoms/#Libya. They say 50-60 women & 30 children among them! There are sick & pregnant ppl. Their engine stopped working. No rescue in sight – authorities in #Italy and #Malta were informed around noon.

— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone)
February 11, 2019

Alarm Phone later said it lost contact with the boat and that Italian authorities had turned over responsibility for the rescue to their Libyan counterparts.

We have lost contact to the boat and cannot reach the people anymore. The #Italian authorities once again rejected responsibility and informed the Libyan #coastguards. We fear that the people are currently being abducted back to horrible detention camps in #Libya.#united4med

— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone)
February 11, 2019

"Very concerned about this situation. No one is aware of ANY ongoing rescue operations at the moment," Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), tweeted.

"These people are in grave danger and risking their lives and they must be saved," Di Giacomo added.

Very concerned about this situation.
No one is aware of ANY ongoing rescue operations at the moment.
These people are in grave danger and risking their lives and they must be saved. https://t.co/Mjg10Q2DrA

— Flavio Di Giacomo (@fladig)
February 11, 2019

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Italy and the European Union for allowing migrants intercepted at sea to be sent back to Libya.

In January, Human Rights Watch released a 70-page report called "No Escape from Hell: EU Policies Contribute to Abuse of Migrants in Libya."

It claimed that migrants in overcrowded Libyan detention camps, including children, have no access to decent food, healthcare or sanitation, and are routinely beaten up by guards.

dpa

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