Rescue groups decry loss of migrant lives in Mediterranean

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Flavio Gasperini/SOS Mediterranee

Debris from a dinghy which was supposedly carrying over 100 migrants are seen floating in the Mediterranean Sea northeast of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Thursday, April 22, 2021. SOS Mediterranee, which operates the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said late Thursday that the wreck of a rubber boat, which was initially carrying around 130 people, was spotted in the Mediterranean Sea. The aid vessel did not find any survivors, but could see at least ten bodies near the wreck, the group added in a statement. (Flavio Gasperini/SOS Mediterranee via AP)

ROME – Rescue groups and the Vatican are decrying the latest deaths of migrants who put to sea in traffickers’ unseaworthy boats, amid laments that central Mediterranean nations are choosing not to dispatch vessels to save them.

Aid group Alarm Phone said in a tweet that despite a spotter plane locating an overcrowded ship in the sea north of Libya on Wednesday and pleas for help from the occupants, "only non-state actors actively searched for the boat in distress at sea.”

By the time a charity rescue ship reached the site on Thursday evening, the boat had capsized and all the estimated 130 occupants are believed to have drowned.

“Abandoned and buried at sea” read the headline across a photo of the sea on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper on Saturday.

On Sunday, Pope Francis somberly built on the newspaper’s denunciation of what he called a “moment of shame.”

“Let us pray ... for those who can help but who prefer to look the other way. Let’s pray for them in silence,” he told the public in St. Peter’s Square.

The existence of the dangerously overcrowded boat was first signaled in a call to the aid group Alarm Phone on Wednesday.

Alarm Phone said it was in contact with the dinghy over a period of 10 hours on Wednesday. It said it “repeatedly relayed its GPS position and the dire situation on board to European and Libyan authorities and the wider public.”