A rubber boat carrying around 100 migrants spent hours in distress off the Libyan coast on Sunday as officials ignored calls for assistance, according to search and rescue groups.
Pilotes Volontaires first spotted the vessel around noon CEST on Sunday.
It informed the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome, but said it was told the case was being referred to Libyan authorities who weren’t responding.
After six hours had passed, the helicopter had to return to its base to re-fuel and there was still no sign of any rescue effort for the boat, which was last seen north of the Libyan city of Zuwarah.
"At this time we don't know if the people will be rescued," the group wrote on Twitter.
German NGO Sea Watch, which is working with Pilotes Volontaires, had urged the Italian Coast Guard to rescue the vessel.
“This is a clear case of non-assistance,” Sea Watch spokesperson Ruben Neugebauer told Euronews on Sunday afternoon.
“The Italians were the closest MRCC [Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre] we could reach… We’ve tried everything to reach the responsible authorities. They know about it and they know they have to act”, he said.
Neugebauer said the lack of action by the Italian Coast Guard was “irresponsible”.
“There’s a boat in distress, there are people in distress and there cannot be time passing by. Even if a rescue is organised now it will take some time to get there… It’s irresponsible of the MRCC, which is obviously under pressure from the Interior Ministry."
However, the Italian MRCC told Euronews it had fulfilled its obligations, as it confirmed that the boat was recued by Libyan authorities on Sunday evening.
"The IMRCC, having received the report related to the event, has, as required by international conventions, informed the competent SAR authority for that part of the sea," a spokesperson said.
"The rescue occurred in the Libyan SAR [Search and Rescue] area, under the coordination of the Libyan Authority, which after having assumed the coordination of operations, sent its own means on the spot."
Earlier this year, Euronews learned that Libya had officially taken ownership of a large area of the sea migrant route into Europe for search and rescue operations.
NGOs said the move, backed by the European Union, would block asylum seekers from reaching safety.
Following reports of the rescue on Sunday evening, Pilotes Volontaires said it was concerned by reports that the group had been taken back to Libya, which it said "is not a safe place for fleeing people."