Up to 500 migrants may have drowned in Mediterranean tragedy: UNHCR | Reuters

ROME Up to 500 migrants might have drowned in the Mediterranean last week when human traffickers crammed people onto an already overcrowded ship, causing it to sink, the U.N. refugee agency said on Wednesday.

Reuters April 20, 2016 23:46:51 IST
Up to 500 migrants may have drowned in Mediterranean tragedy: UNHCR
| Reuters

Up to 500 migrants may have drowned in Mediterranean tragedy UNHCR
 Reuters

ROME Up to 500 migrants might have drowned in the Mediterranean last week when human traffickers crammed people onto an already overcrowded ship, causing it to sink, the U.N. refugee agency said on Wednesday.

If confirmed, it would be the worst such tragedy in 12 months and bring the total number of migrant drownings in the southern Mediterranean to nearly 800 so far this year.

The UNHCR agency said 37 men, three women and a three-year-old child had survived the disaster after being rescued by a merchant ship. The group, which was brought to Greece on April 16, included Somalis, Ethiopians, Egyptians and one Sudanese.

The survivors recounted that they had been among 100 to 200 people who had set sail from Libya last week headed for Italy. After several hours at sea, the traffickers tried to move them onto a bigger ship that was already packed with migrants.

This ship sank before the survivors could board it.

An Ethiopian man named Mohamed told the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that his wife, two-month-old child and brother-in-law had died in the sinking.

"The boat was going down, down. All the people died in a matter of minutes. After the shipwreck we were drifted at sea for a few days, without food, without anything," the IOM quoted him as saying.

UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said the eyewitnesses estimated that up to 500 people might have perished.

"We don't know exactly how many were there on that boat and they have now disappeared from the face of the earth," he told Reuters television said. "This is another example of what is happening almost in a daily basis in the Mediterranean."

The Somali government said on Monday that it believed that some 200 of the dead were from Somalia. It also said that the capsized boat had originally set sail from Egypt.

News of the disaster emerged on the first anniversary of one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean, when an estimated 800 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast after the fishing boat they were sailing in collided with a mercantile vessel that had been attempting to rescue them.

Some 150,000 migrants reached Italy by boat in 2015, the vast majority sailing from Libya. So far this year, about 25,000 migrants have arrived, an increase of 4.7 percent over the same period last year, according to Interior Ministry data.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

also read

Post-9/11, Europe's weak spots make it a jihadist target; 'alienation and frustration' act as fodder
World

Post-9/11, Europe's weak spots make it a jihadist target; 'alienation and frustration' act as fodder

Western Europe has struggled to integrate significant Muslim populations into mainstream society

Palestinian president, Israeli defence minister hold rare talks amid violent clashes along Gaza border
World

Palestinian president, Israeli defence minister hold rare talks amid violent clashes along Gaza border

Defence Minister Benny Gantz met Abbas in Ramallah late Sunday for what were reportedly the first direct talks between an Israeli cabinet member and the 86-year-old Palestinian leader in several years

Submarine deal row: France accuses Australia, US of lying and duplicity
World

Submarine deal row: France accuses Australia, US of lying and duplicity

The move comes after Australia's decision to break a 2016 deal for French submarines in favour of American nuclear-powered vessels