Fears 'several hundred people' have drowned in tragedy in the Mediterranean
Published 18/04/2016 | 09:26
Several hundred people have died in a migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean, Italy's president Sergio Mattarella said.
Unconfirmed media reports earlier today spoke of up to 400 victims from boats which capsized near the Egyptian coast as they attempted to sail to Europe.
Mattarella, speaking at a prize giving ceremony in Rome, said Europe needed to reflect in the face of "yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean in which, it seems, several hundred people have died." He did not give any further details.
However, Egyptian, Italian and Greek officials were unable to confirm the BBC report on Monday that up to 400 people, most of them Somali, had capsized near the Egyptian coast after setting off for Italy in boats.
Officials in Egypt did not immediately respond to inquiries and Italy's coast guard, which coordinates all rescues in the waters between Italy and Libya, said it had no information about a shipwreck. It did, however, say that six bodies had been recovered on Sunday and 108 migrants rescued from a semi-submerged rubber dinghy.
The Greek coast guard also said it had no news of a fresh tragedy, and the Somali ambassador to Egypt, cited by the BBC, could not be immediately reached.
In Geneva, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said: "Our offices in Egypt, Italy and Greece are trying to find out more about this reported incident but, so far, we cannot confirm it."
Exactly one year ago, an estimated 800 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast when the fishing boat they were travelling in collided with a mercantile vessel that was attempting to rescue them - the most deadly Mediterranean shipwreck in decades