At least 30 people are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean due to “non-assistance” by Italian authorities, a monitoring organization has claimed.

In the early hours of March 11, Alarm phonea migrant rescue hotline, claimed it alerted the Italian Maritime Rescue Center (MRCC) – alongside the Maltese and Libyan coast guards – about a boat in distress carrying 47 people.

But despite repeated alarms, it accused them of deliberately delaying the rescue, with “only merchant vessels” reaching the site “after many hours” – by which time the boat had sunk.

The Italian coast guard said the capsize occurred outside Italy’s jurisdiction, plus the rescue effort was hampered by bad weather.

“The situation was critical. The boat was adrift. The weather conditions were extremely dangerous. The people on board were screaming on the phone that they needed help,” Alarm Phone wrote in a statement was released on Sunday.

“It is clear that the Italian authorities tried to prevent people from being brought to Italy, delaying the intervention so that the so-called Libyan coast guards would arrive and forcibly return people to Libya, back to the agonizing conditions they had tried to escape.”

Another organization, Sea Watch International, also claimed that Italian authorities knew about the stranded ship for over a day.

In October, Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged to stop migrants crossing by boat from Africa, making reducing immigration a key part of her agenda.

Her interior minister said he may block ships from bringing rescued migrants to Italy, reviving a controversial policy from 2019.

Italy – one of the main gateways to Europe – is currently grappling with the number of immigrant arrivals.

From January to August last year, 44,000 migrants and refugees from the southern shores of the Mediterranean landed in Italy, mainly on the island of Lampedusa.

Both by email and phone, Alarm Phone claimed it “repeatedly informed” the Italian authorities about the boat in distress, sending GPS coordinates, while pointing out the “deteriorating condition” of people on board.

The alarm was first raised at 2:28 a.m. local time on March 11, it said, calling the “systematic delay” “fatal.”

The Monitor’s last communication with those on board was at 06:50 on March 12, after which the boat capsized about 110 miles northwest of Benghazi, Libya.

Seventeen people were rescued by the merchant ship Froland, while 30 others lost their lives.

The migrant boat is said to have capsized during the rescue operation.

In the more than 24 hours that passed between the rescue and the alarm first being raised, the Alarm Phone stated that a merchant ship was passing the distress site, but that it did not stop.

“If instructed by MRCC Rome, it could have intervened… For many hours the merchant ships merely monitored the situation but did not intervene,” it added.

“For many hours the merchant ships just monitored the situation but did not intervene.”

Libyan authorities were also informed of the boat in trouble by Alarm Phone, but reportedly said they could not intervene “due to a lack of resources”, while stressing that Italy was coordinating the search and rescue event.

Nine hours after the first alarm, Seabird 2 from Sea Watch spotted the boat from the sky and also told the authorities that the situation was urgent.

On Sunday night, the Italian coast guard said two of them will be taken to Malta as they need urgent medical attention, while the rest will be taken to Italy.

More than 17,000 people have reached Italy so far this year, including about 4,000 this week.

“Why, given the urgency of the situation, did the Italian authorities not send adequate rescue assets immediately to the scene of the emergency,” Alarm Phone asked in its statement.

Hundreds of people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe already this year, with aid workers calling it a “floating graveyard”.

Critics have blamed strict rules brought in by Meloni’s far-right government for the deaths, but Italian authorities say they have saved thousands of migrants.

The country’s coast guard said more than 1,300 migrants had recently been rescued in three separate operations off Italy’s southern tip, in addition to another 200 off Sicily.

According to the UN’s Missing Migrants Project, more than 26,000 migrants have either died or disappeared in the Mediterranean since 2014.

The Italian Coast Guard has been contacted for comment.