Open Letter to Authorities

To: RCC malta, MRCC Rome, Frontex, IOM, UNHCR, Libyan RCC

Almost a year ago, on Sunday, 9 February 2020, Alarm Phone received a distress call from a black rubber boat, with reportedly 91 people on board, that had departed from Garabulli, Libya that night (Thuraya number: +88216xxxxxxxx).

At 04.09h CET Alarm Phone reported the distress case to the Libyan Coast Guard and to the Aita Mari rescue vessel; at 04.24h Alarm Phone forwarded the information to the Maltese and Italian authorities. Soon after, at 05.35h, Alarm Phone had a final phone call to the distressed people on board. At that time, the people were panicking, saying that their engine was not working, that water was entering the boat, and that some had gone overboard. Their position at 05.35h CET was: N33°09.069, E013°49.514. After this call, contact to the boat was lost and could not be re-established.

Since then, the 91 people have been missing. Alarm Phone have asked all authorities and international organisations to reveal their information on this case in order to clarify what had happened to the distressed, but never received any response. As all the rescue coordination centres were alerted, it was their legal responsibility to respond to distress situations and to make sure that people in distress were searched for and rescued, regardless of the boat location. We fear that, instead, European and Libyan authorities ignored the distress calls and decided to let 91 people die.

European authorities, coastguards and international organisations: you also failed to act in the aftermath of this presumed shipwreck. In case of shipwrecks, it is your responsibility to search for human remains, to identify the bodies, and to initiate proceedings to establish accountability for non-assistance.

Since 9 February 2020, the families and friends of the 91 people who were on board the rubber boat have been reaching out to Alarm Phone almost every week, asking what happened to their loved ones.

The families of the missing have also reached out to the Maltese and Italian authorities, as well as to international organisations, asking for answers, but they have never received a response. It appears that none of the approached authorities have any interest in shedding light on this case, and to ameliorate the distress and pain of the families.

The Missing Migrant Project of the International Organisation for Migration searched for some of the people in Libyan detention centres, but they were nowhere to be found.

Almost a year after Alarm Phone received the distress call and alerted all relevant authorities, there is still no answer as to what happened to this boat and to the people on board.

We are now writing to you once more to request that you release the results of the investigations we assume you have conducted on this case, including all footage and data you have collected. We also ask you to provide clear answers to the families of the missing – they have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. They have at least the right to know if their loved ones are alive or presumed dead. They need to know in order to be able to continue their search or to mourn for the dead even without a burial.