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Italy: Missing boat search efforts stepped up

Briefing notes

Italy: Missing boat search efforts stepped up

25 May 2007

We appreciate that the Italian Coast Guard and Navy have stepped up their effort to locate a boat crammed with more than 50 people and reported missing 80 nautical miles south of Malta since Tuesday. The Italian Navy has committed an Atlantic aircraft to the search, as well as seven Coast Guard patrol boats which left the southerly island of Lampedusa and southern Sicily on Thursday. The search-and-rescue operation highlights the Italian maritime authorities' commitment to saving lives at sea.

On Wednesday, UNHCR urged governments in the region to increase their search for the boat after the Maltese authorities, who originally spotted the boat during an aircraft patrol, lost contact with the vessel. Aerial photographs showed people on board apparently bailing out water with a jerry can. Subsequent search operations carried out by the Maltese authorities failed to find the boat and they discontinued their search and rescue efforts on Tuesday.

UNHCR works closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to disseminate principles and practices relating to rescue operations at sea which involve migrants and refugees in distress.

Migrants have survived aboard boats adrift in the Mediterranean for over two weeks, and we appeal for the search and rescue efforts to continue.