Sunday 22 April 2018

Forty migrants reported drowned in Mediterranean

Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Navy vessel Bettica in the harbour of Salerno, Italy (AP)
Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Navy vessel Bettica in the harbour of Salerno, Italy (AP)

The Save the Children aid group is reporting that around 40 migrants have drown in the Mediterranean.

Migrants arriving on the Italian island of Sicily on Tuesday said 40 of their fellow passengers fell out of a rubber boat and drowned as a rescue vessel neared.

Some of the 194 survivors, originally from Ghana, Mali, Gambia, Senegal and the Ivory Coast, said the drownings occurred on Sunday when one of the rubber boats the migrants were travelling on exploded or burst in the heat of the sun.

The charity's spokesman Giovanna di Benedetto, speaking from Catania, Sicily, said the exact toll is not known, but several survivors in their first interviews with aid groups reported "dozens" of people fell into the sea and could not swim.

She said the incident is believed to have occurred on Sunday in the sea between Libya and Sicily when a commercial vessel approached to rescue the migrant boat. The vessel arrived in Catania today.

The weekend saw a dramatic increase in rescues as smugglers in Libya took advantage of calm seas and warm weather to send thousands of would-be refugees out into the Mediterranean in overloaded rubber boats and fishing vessels. The Coast Guard reported rescuing nearly 7,000 in a three-day span that ended on Sunday.

The latest deaths, if confirmed, come on top of the estimated 800 migrants who drowned last month when their boat capsized off Libya with hundreds of passengers locked in the hold by smugglers. A few days earlier, a further 400 people were feared drowned in another capsizing.

After the deaths, the European Union held an emergency summit and agreed to contribute more boats and patrol aircraft to Mediterranean rescue efforts.

Press Association

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