Cargo ship rescues Lebanese, Syrian migrants from sinking boat after days of EU inaction
At least four children died while waiting for EU officials to coordinate a search and rescue operation
By News Desk - September 07 2022

Archive (Photo credit: AFP)

The BBC Pearl cargo ship, sailing under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda, rescued dozens of Lebanese and Syrian migrants from a sinking fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea on 7 September.

The group of migrants initially contacted their families via satellite phone on 5 September, alerting them that their boat had started to sink and that they had run out of food and water.

During their last contact, the migrants said three children had died from dehydration after spending more than 10 days at sea.

According to Alarm Phone, an international activist network that helps rescuers reach distressed migrants at sea, another child died after the dinghy was rescued.

Maltese, Greek, and Italian authorities are being accused of allowing the migrants to stay adrift at sea for several days without launching a rescue operation.

According to AP, on 6 September, Malta refused to grant permission to a commercial cargo ship that offered to rescue the migrants. Several other merchant vessels passed the boat in distress without helping them.

“Instead of coordinating a rescue operation, they have knowingly left these 60 people in distress at sea for days,” said Maurice Stierl of the network.

The Maltese authorities did not reply to requests for comments on the migrant boat.

The migrants and their families had implored European coast guards to rescue them after their ship began to sink.

“They’re trying to remove water leaking into the boat with buckets, that’s all they have,” the brother of one of the Syrian migrants told AP earlier this week.

The migrant boat left Lebanon from the coast of Tripoli late last month. The group was reportedly trying to reach Italy in search of work.

Lebanese legislator Ashraf Rifi asked Italy to send a rescue team and called on Lebanon’s foreign ministry and diplomatic mission in Rome to do the same.

According to a report by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), over 3,000 people escaping war and famine died or went missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean and the Atlantic last year.

“Most of the sea crossings took place in packed, unseaworthy, inflatable boats – many of which capsized or were deflated leading to the loss of life,” UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told reporters in April.

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