Thursday 19 October 2017

Hundreds feared drowned as three migrant boats capsize off Libya

Warning: Scenes of death depicted in photographs

In this photo released by Proactiva Open Arms NGO on Friday, March 24, 2017 a sunken rubber boat in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast, during a search and rescue operation by Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms. (Proactiva Open Arms via AP)
In this photo released by Proactiva Open Arms NGO on Friday, March 24, 2017 a sunken rubber boat in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast, during a search and rescue operation by Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms. (Proactiva Open Arms via AP)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Hundreds of migrants are feared to have died off the coast of Libya after five bodies were found near two capsized boats, while the search goes on for a third vessel.

Spanish aid organisation Proactiva Open Arms found five bodies near two capsized boats on Thursday, and spokeswoman Laura Lanuza said German aid group Jugend Rettet found a sixth body on Friday.

In a tweet, the group said: "There will be many more."

Ms Lanuza said a Proactiva Open Arms vessel is expected to arrive at the Italian port of Catania on Saturday to hand over the bodies of the five men while other non-governmental organisations continue the search for more victims.

Meanwhile, Turkish media reported that 11 migrants had died after a boat sank in the Aegean.

Video footage on the DHA outlet in Turkey showed half a dozen covered bodies laid out near ambulances.

Lifeguards from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms sanitise five dead bodies of migrants on-board the former fishing trawler Golfo Azzurro following a search and rescue operation in central Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Lifeguards from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms sanitise five dead bodies of migrants on-board the former fishing trawler Golfo Azzurro following a search and rescue operation in central Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

The migrants' boat capsized near the resort town of Kusadasi and nine people were rescued, the Turkish Coast Guard Command said. It added that two people, believed to be smugglers, were detained on land.

The UN refugee agency said it was "deeply alarmed" by the latest reports, and warned the death toll may be much higher as migrant dinghies are normally crammed with scores of people.

The UNHCR cited NGO sources saying the first five bodies were recovered about 14 miles off the Libyan coast near two empty and partially submerged rubber dinghies.

Ms Lanuza said the boats were found north of the Libyan town of Sabratha. The five men, of African origin, were estimated to be aged between 16 and 25 and appeared to have drowned, she said.

The Red Crescent in Libya and the Libyan coastguard said they had no reports about dead migrants or capsized boats in the 12 miles of Libyan territorial waters.

The UNHCR said the latest incidents come after an intense week of arrivals through the central Mediterranean route with almost 6,000 migrants and refugees rescued in five days this week.

It said 21,903 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to European shores so far this year.

The agency said that since the beginning of 2017, and excluding the latest incidents, around 590 people have died or gone missing.

Last year was the deadliest recorded, with 5,096 migrants dying or going missing, according to the UNHCR.

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