Sunday, 21 April, 2019

Scores of migrants unaccounted for after boat capsizes off Libya

Migrants rescued in Mediterranean Image Thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean. File pic
Pablo Mccormick | 20 January, 2019, 17:31

Three survivors who were rescued said up to 117 other migrants were on board at the time of the capsizing.

Among the missing are 10 women and two children, including a two-month-old baby, he said.

Three survivors of a rubber dinghy that sank in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya say up to 117 other migrants were aboard at the time, a United Nations migration official said Saturday.

The sinking dinghy, when spotted by a navy patrol plane, had about 20 persons aboard, the navy said.

The navy alerted Libyan authorities who coordinated rescue operations, ordering a merchant ship to rush to where the dinghy had sunk - although rescue efforts proved fruitless.

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Flavio Di Giacomo, of the International Organisation for Migration, said three survivors were plucked to safety by an Italian navy helicopter on Friday, and they said 120 were aboard when the dinghy left Libya.

Survivors indicated their fellow migrants came from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Sudan, Mr Di Giacomo said.

Later, another helicopter was dispatched from a naval ship and recovered the three survivors, who were suffering from severe hypothermia and were taken to a hospital on the island of Lampedusa.

Rear Admiral Fabio Agostini told Italian TV channel RaiNews24 that at least three people were seen in the water during the rescue, all of whom appeared to be dead.

Di Giacomo later told Italian media that the incident could be a much worse tragedy.

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Some 4,216 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through the first 16 days of 2019, double the amount that did so over the same period past year, according to the IOM.

In all, 116,959 migrants reached Europe by sea routes past year, it said.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, said Saturday it was "appalled" at the news of the latest migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.

Migrant arrivals to Europe in the first 16 days of 2019 totaled 4,449, nearly all by sea, compared with 2,964 in the same period of 2018, IOM data showed.

Italy has trained and equipped the Libyan coast guard so it can intercept and rescue more migrant boats closer to their shores.

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Italy's populist deputy PM Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook after the sinking that "as long as European ports remain open. unfortunately the smugglers will continue to do business and kill". "With a European Union that neither wants to rescue nor cooperate, it is the few civilian rescuers doing their best in saving lives and defending human rights at sea", Kim Heaton-Heather, Head of Operations on Sea-Watch said.

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