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Harrowing Images Show Refugees Being Left To Drown At Sea

Fifty refugees died at sea as reporters filmed.

Posted on November 14, 2017, at 6:54 a.m. ET

Photographer Alessio Paduano was embedded with the crew of the Sea-Watch 3 about 30 miles from the coast of Tripoli last week when they received a distress call from an inflatable boat with refugees on board.

Lisa Hoffmann / Sea-Watch / Via

Sea-Watch is a private German aid organization that operates three rescue boats in the Mediterranean.

Sea-Watch arrived at the scene at the same time as a Libyan patrol boat. A spokesperson for Sea-Watch told the Daily Mail that the Libyans started beating and threatening the refugees as they were drowning.

Alessio Paduano / AFP / Getty Images

That's when Paduano started taking these harrowing photos.

Alessio Paduano / AFP / Getty Images

"As I took this picture, I could hear how his breath was interrupted by the water flowing into his mouth. I still have the sound of that breath in my head," Paduano told the BBC. "It was a strong emotional moment but fortunately after a while our rescue raft approached him, now almost drowned, and the crew of Sea-Watch 3, with no small effort, was able to pull him out of the sea."

Rescuers and photographers watched as refugees began falling overboard as the patrol boat tried to leave with people still clinging to its sides.

Alessio Paduano / AFP / Getty Images

A helicopter from the Italian navy had to step in to calm the situation down.

Giovanni Isolino / AFP / Getty Images

Among the victims was a small child who could not be resuscitated.

Lisa Hoffmann / Sea-Watch / Via

"Nobody would have had to die today if only we had the possibility to operate reasonably in a calm environment," the Sea-Watch spokesperson told the Daily Mail.

Alessio Paduano / AFP / Getty Images

In videos from the rescue operation, you can see and hear Libyan soldiers beat the refugees with ropes, push them from the boat, or let them hang on the outside of the ship without any rescue attempts.

View this video on YouTube

At the end of the mission, there were still an unknown number of refugees on the Libyan boat — although the Sea-Watch 3 can be overheard on the radio assuring accommodation for all refugees.

#SeaWatch3 crew witnessed reckless and violent behavior by LYCG. A helicopter of the Italian Navy had to interfere…

This post was translated from German.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.