Alert in Mediterranean: NGO loses contact with 47 'panicked' migrantsComments
The Alarm Phone group says it has lost contact with a vessel carrying 47 distressed migrants in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea after it alerted the Libyan coast guard.
"The people on board are in a panic. They are screaming on the phone and we have difficulty communicating with them. They must be rescued without further delay!" said the NGO which serves as a hotline for refugees who run into problems at sea.
Alarm Phone traditionally puts pressure on rescue groups to avert boat push-backs and human rights violations against migrants who make the high-risk crossing across the Mediterranean.
Generally, if a coast guard does not follow through, the group will try to mobilise search and rescue missions through public pressure.
If all else fails, the group says it attempts to alert cargo ships and commercial vessels in the vicinity.
On Saturday night, the NGO reported that an oil tanker was en route to the passengers in distress who had attempted to cross the sea from Libya, however, it suggested that if discovered the migrants onboard could be forced to turn around.
"We fear that it will bring people back to Libya. They must be taken to a safe place, not in the terrible conditions of Libya".
While the Libyan coast guard advised Alarm Phone that the Italian authorities would coordinate the search mission they have not revealed any information.
Alarm Phone warned that due to "extremely dangerous" weather conditions, the passengers onboard would need to be rescued as soon as possible.
This latest alert followed a march in the Italian town of Cutro on Saturday, commemorating the victims of the February 26 shipwreck, 75 migrants lost their lives.
The solidarity demo attracted thousands of protesters.
Meanwhile, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex said that crossings in the dangerous central Mediterranean Sea have more than doubled in the first two months of this year, with more than 28,000 irregular crossings.
Last month alone, nearly 14,000 irregular crossings were detected, slightly more than a year ago.