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European authorities refuse to rescue over 400 refugees in Malta's Mediterranean rescue zone

EUROPEAN maritime authorities have refused to come to the aid of over 400 people travelling across the Mediterranean in an overcrowded boat, an activist group warned today.

On Wednesday morning, the refugee distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone alerted Italy and Malta to about 430 people in distress off the coast of Libya.

But neither countries’ coastguard launched a rescue, despite the boat reaching Malta’s search-and-rescue zone on Wednesday night, Alarm Phone said today.

“The boat is disintegrating, and they cannot hold out much longer. Moreover, they report that several people have already died. There are over 100 people below deck — in case of a shipwreck, they would be trapped inside the vessel.”

The Libyan Coastguard — which despite being equipped by the EU is frequently spotted intercepting refugees without using life vests and behaving erratically — would be unable to handle such a boat safely, Alarm Phone warned.

The Tunisian coastguard were believed to have reached the 430 people as the Star went to press last night. But it was unclear if they had begun to rescue anybody.

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