A woman and a child died 80 nautical miles off the shore of Libya after coast guards left them adrift, says a Spanish NGO in a new report by Reuters.
Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish sea rescue charity that operates in the Mediterranean, attempted to rescue three migrants in a damaged dinghy but found two of the occupants had already died by the time they were discovered, according to the report.
“When we arrived we found one of the women still alive. We could do nothing to save the other woman and the boy who appeared to have died a few hours before we found them,” said Proactiva Open Arms founder Oscar Camps in a tweet.
The migrant women were allegedly left by the Libyan coast guard after refusing to get on their boat with their 4-year-old companion, as some 158 other intercepted migrants had done. The NGO then alleges that officers intentionally disabled the dinghy the three were floating on.
“I want to denounce the Libyan coast guard that did not know how to manage an emergency situation, arriving two days, two nights late, and abandoned two women and a child in the remains of a vessel that they themselves destroyed,” Camps told Reuters TV.
Camps said a merchant ship in the area had also failed to provide help to the migrants, reported DW News, and went on to criticize Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, whose government prevents NGOs from working in the Mediterranean and has vowed to stem refugees coming to Italy by crossing the Mediterranean via Libya.
Both countries rejected the claims.
The Libyan coast guard defended its rescue efforts in a statement, saying they were carried out in accordance with international standards, according to DW News.
"All disasters happening in the sea are caused by human traffickers who are only interested in profit and the presence of such irresponsible, nongovernmental groups in the region," Libyan coast guard spokesperson Ayoub Gassim told DW.
As recently as last week, Salvini vowed to end migrant arrivals by boat completely, saying the aim of the new policies was that "not one more person arrives by boat" on Italian shores, according to Al Jazeera.
He has accused previous NGO ships of aiding human traffickers to bring migrants to Europe, noted the report.
The Libyan Coast Guard is trained in Italy, added DW News.