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No trace of boat with 500 migrants, rescue group says after an alarm sparked Mediterranean search

No trace of boat with 500 migrants, rescue group says after an alarm sparked Mediterranean search

An Italian humanitarian group says it found no trace of a boat said to be in distress and carrying 500 migrants

ROME (AP) — A day after searching a stretch of the Mediterranean Sea, an Italian humanitarian group said Friday that its rescue vessel found no trace of a boat said to be in distress and carrying 500 migrants, including a newborn.

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The vessel “Life Support found no wreckage of any shipwreck, and the 500 persons didn't disembark in Italy,'' the nongovernmental organization Emergency said in a written statement from Milan. ”It's hard to believe that no coastal authority knows where those 500 persons are."

Emergency raised the possibility that the migrants were brought back to Libya, the launching point for many of the smugglers’ unseaworthy boats that aim to bring migrants to Italy’s shores. The group's statement said that Libyan authorities so far were denying it brought the passengers back to Libya, where many migrants spend months in inhumane conditions in detention camps, often enduring beatings or rape, until they or families back in their homelands can pay smugglers for the sea journey toward Italy.

On Tuesday, another NGO, Alarm Phone, which receives calls from migrant boats in distress, said a boat filled with 500 migrants needed help.