500 asylum seekers vanish in Mediterranean Sea boat

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Reports from two humanitarian organizations indicate that a vessel transporting roughly 500 asylum seekers, including expectant mothers and a newborn infant, has vanished in the central Mediterranean.

On Friday, Alarm Phone, a renowned organization that attends to calls from refugee vessels in dire straits, reported a loss of communication with the vessel on Wednesday morning.

The vessel was found to be without a functional engine, and was drifting amidst turbulent waters approximately 320km (200 miles) north of the Libyan port of Benghazi. It was situated at a distance exceeding 400km (250 miles) from both the southern Italian island of Sicily and Malta.

On Thursday, the Italian non-governmental organization Emergency reported that its Life Support vessel, in conjunction with the Ocean Viking, a separate charitable craft, conducted a thorough 24-hour search for the absent vessel, but regrettably, no indication of its whereabouts or any wreckage was discovered.

As of Friday, a representative from Emergency has reported that the search remains ongoing. The possibility that the individuals aboard may have been rescued by another vessel or have successfully remedied their engine troubles and resumed their journey towards Sicily has been posited.

Distinct operations

In a recent development, the Italian coastguard has reported the successful rescue of a staggering 423 individuals, followed by another operation that saved 671 people in the search and rescue waters of Italy. According to reliable sources, these operations were conducted independently and were not related to the ongoing search for the missing boat.

In a distinct occurrence, the German humanitarian organization SOS Humanity reported that a group of 27 individuals were intercepted at sea by an oil tanker and subsequently transported to Libya in violation of international law.

According to international humanitarian law, it is impermissible to repatriate asylum seekers to nations where they may be subjected to severe mistreatment. Libya has been the subject of extensive documentation regarding the rampant abuse of refugees.

Despite repeated attempts to elicit a response from Performance Shipping, the Greek firm that is purportedly the owner of the P Long Beach vessel implicated in the incident, no comment has been forthcoming at this time.

Governments across Europe have adopted a more stringent stance on migration, with Italy in particular grappling with a mounting influx of sea arrivals.

More than 47,000 refugees have arrived by boat so far this year, up from about 18,000 in the same period of 2022.

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