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By Jacob Bojesson
A leaked audiotape suggests Italian authorities ignored desperate calls from Syrian refugees hours before 268 people drowned in a shipwreck.
The incident took place Oct. 10, 2013, about 60 miles south of the island of Lampedusa. The ship was heading for Lampedusa from Libya with at least 480 migrants on board.
A number of recordings published Monday by Italian newspaper L’Espresso suggest the coastguard was alerted five hours before the ship sank.
“Please hurry. The boat is going down,” one migrant said.
The Italian navy had a boat sitting less than 20 miles away, but the migrants were told to contact Maltese authorities instead. Malta referred the migrants back to Italy, and the countries argued over who was responsible for rescuing the ship. Italian and Maltese ships rescued many passengers during a joint operation, but a majority died.
European authorities struggle to keep track of boats crossing the Mediterranean, which has resulted in thousands of deaths in recent years.
The International Organization of Migration has recorded 1,309 migrant deaths so far this year in the Mediterranean. An estimated 49,310 have tried to reach Italy from Libya. Around 5,000 deaths were recorded in 2016.