The rubber dinghy packed tight with more that 95 people was bobbing helplessly in the Mediterranean on Sunday when the passengers issued a distress call, but help would not come anytime soon.
In the end, it took more than 33 hours — and the pressure of activists and nongovernmental groups — before the Maltese authorities launched a rescue operation.
All onboard were eventually brought to shore, but the incident, the latest of dozens like it in recent weeks, has raised questions about the risk to human life posed by policies intended to deter migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.
The dinghy carrying the migrants, who were said to be from Eritrea, was one of dozens of vessels left adrift in the central Mediterranean in recent months, said Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.
“The recurring delays that we are witnessing in rescuing people this year are unacceptable,” Mr. Di Giacomo said in a phone interview. “They put people’s lives at risk. These boats are unfit to sail, they can go down any time.”
The migrants on the overcrowded dinghy Sunday contacted Alarm Phone, a watchdog group that often acts as first point of call for migrants adrift in the Mediterranean. The group says it alerted the authorities — but hours later, there was still no rescue in sight.
“A merchant vessel is monitoring the situation but not providing assistance,” Alarm Phone wrote in a post on Twitter on Monday morning. “How long will the people be left suffering & at risk of drowning? How long can they survive?”
Malta rettet nach 33 Stunden