The current flood of migrants risking over-crowded boats to sail to Europe has led to bitter accusations between refugee agencies and NATO.
The alliance denies failing to help a drifting vessel on which 62 people died.
A priest in Rome, Reverend Moses Zerai from an Eritrean Refugee Agency claims he received a satellite telephone call for help and alerted the authorities, but to no avail.
“They were approached by a helicopter on Saturday, March 26, that provided them with water to drink and biscuits to eat, but afterwards it vanished. It didn’t send any help. Three days later they were spotted by an aircraft carrier that came near their boat. They don’t know what nation this aircraft carrier was from, but they said it was some 300-400 metres from them, so it’s not possible they were not seen.”
The boat was left to drift for 16 days. Most of those on board died from thirst and hunger.Only 11 people survived the journey. NATO says its units were not involved.
NATO spokesperson Carmen Romero said: “ Ships under NATO command will always respond to calls from ships in distress. This is their duty under the law of the sea, and to suggest that our ships’ captains would do otherwise is unfair and is disrespectful.”
NATO says they are doing what they can but those making the perilous journey set out on rickety boats on often rough seas.