Italian patrol boats yesterday rescued approximately 300 migrants from a disabled boat 90 miles south of Lampedusa. There are unconfirmed reports from survivors that before the rescue many people died and bodies were put in the sea. The boat may have been drifting for one and a half days before the rescue.
The disabled migrant boat was reportedly first discovered by a Cyprus tug boat which was forced to move away from the disabled boat when some migrants jumped overboard and tried to swim to the tug. An Italian helicopter which attempted to lower emergency supplies was forced to abandon its efforts when persons attempted to climb into the basket being used to drop supplies.
According to news reports, a NATO ship was located about 27 miles from the disabled migrant boat, but NATO reportedly failed to respond to a request by Italian authorities to render assistance. Italian patrol boats were then forced to travel 90 miles from Lampedusa in order to reach the migrant boat.
The Italian government is seeking clarification from NATO regarding the possible failure to respond to the request to render assistance to the migrant boat. A Spanish frigate under NATO command on 11 July rescued 100 migrants. During the five day period that the migrants were on board the Spanish frigate, before the migrants were eventually transferred to Tunisian authorities, the Spanish frigate was removed from its NATO Operation Unified Protector embargo patrols due to the civilian passengers.
Click here for short AFP TV video from rescue helicopter.