A Spanish NGO believes that it had tried to respond to a distress call from the 100 migrants on Friday morning that were reported to have drowned later.
The Open Arms vessel, the Astral, said that it had been told by the Italian officials at the Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome that the distress call was being handled by the Libyan coast guard – but feels it is too much of a coincidence for a dinghy with the same number of people to have been lost in the same area.
The NGO’s claim comes just hours after the leaders of the EU member states in Brussels that they had reached an agreement on how to control migration, one of the pillars of which is more support for the Libyan coastguard. The agreement also insists that NGOs should back off and not hinder their operations.
Open Arms founder Oscar Camps said: "Today 100 people died in the Med. We are outraged, not only for the deaths of these people, but because they didn't use the rescue boats in the area. The Open Arms has been here for many days, and neither Italy, nor anyone else, is using our capabilities," he said.
"We did it in the past - we intervened at seven miles from the Libyan coast to assist with a shipwreck - we have done so many operations under the coordination of the Italian coast guard.
“But suddenly, they ignore us, they don't call us, and people keep dying a few miles away from us. This is a shame and someone needs to take responsibility for this. We are not here to obstruct the work of the coast guard. We are here to collaborate so that people don't die in the sea."
Sixteen migrants were rescued by the Libyan coastguard which said that their boat capsized east of Tripoli with around 100 on board who are missing at sea and feared dead.
Malta said on Thursday that the island's ports will no longer allow entry to ships carrying migrants that are operated by NGOs.
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