Brussels (Brussels Morning) The French humanitarian organisation SOS Mediterranee fears more than 130 migrants could be dead after ten bodies were found floating near a capsized rubber boat in the Mediterranean, Reuters reports.
The NGO believes the boat was carrying at least 130 migrants, while a wooden vessel with some 40 migrants aboard was still missing, with the search ongoing, a spokesman for the organisation said on Friday.
SOS Mediterranee received reports through its civil hotline of at least three boats in distress on Wednesday, sparking a search in very rough seas, with waves climbing up to six metres high. The NGO’s rescue ship Ocean Viking and three merchant vessels embarked on a search, concentrating on international waters northeast of the Libyian capital Tripoli.
One of the three merchant ships located three bodies in the water, while an Frontex EU border agency surveillance plane located the capsized rubber craft sometime later. Upon reaching the boat, Ocean Viking found no survivors, just the ten bodies floating nearby.
According to SOS Mediterranee, more than 350 people have already died this year in the Central Mediterranean, attempting to reach EU soil. Thousands are fleeing from conflict, poverty and religious persecution in Northern Africa, while individual EU states have mostly ceased looking for ships in distress.
“States abandon their responsibility to coordinate Search and Rescue operations, leaving private actors and civil society to fill the deadly void they leave behind”, an SOS Mediterranee statement said.
According to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration, more than 2,200 have died at sea in the last year, although the true toll is probably far higher since aid groups have found a number of “invisible shipwrecks”, which were never confirmed as they left no survivors.