245 FEARED DEAD

2 ships cap­size in Mediter­ranean while try­ing to reach Italy

New Straits Times - - World -

UNITED Na­tions of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day that 245 mi­grants were feared dead in two ship­wrecks in the Mediter­ranean Sea.

The death toll rep­re­sents a ma­jor in­crease in an al­ready grim tally this year.

More than 1,300 peo­ple are now es­ti­mated to have died while try­ing to cross the Mediter­ranean to Europe this year, most while at­tempt­ing to reach Italy from Libya or Tu­nisia, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion.

Last year, 5,098 peo­ple died that way.

The two re­cent ship­wrecks oc­curred on Fri­day and Sun­day, though de­tails about the ex­tent of the loss of life were not re­leased un­til yes­ter­day.

On Fri­day night, a rub­ber dinghy sank af­ter sev­eral hours at sea, with 132 peo­ple on board.

Of those, 50 were res­cued and taken to Poz­za­llo, Si­cily, on Sun­day. An ad­di­tional 82 were be­lieved to have died.

On Sun­day, an­other ship­wreck was re­ported, this one off the coast of Libya.

The In­ter­na­tional Med­i­cal Corps, which works with the UN refugee agency, re­ported that one woman and six men had been res­cued by the Libyan coast guard, but that 163 peo­ple were feared dead.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple — 43,000 this year — con­tinue to brave treach­er­ous wa­ters to try to reach Italy.

It has be­come the ma­jor route for peo­ple flee­ing war and poverty in North or West Africa, and in some cases, far­ther east.

In con­trast, the flow of mi­grants across the Aegean Sea, from Turkey to Greece, has sig­nif­i­cantly slowed — though not en­tirely stopped — since Turkey and the Euro­pean Union reached a deal in March last year to try to con­tain that part of the cri­sis.

The UN refugee agency, in a state­ment yes­ter­day, de­scribed “an ur­gent need to ad­dress the root causes which lead peo­ple to move, as well as to of­fer cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tives to these dan­ger­ous cross­ings for peo­ple in need of in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion, in­clud­ing ac­ces­si­ble and safe ways to reach Europe such as fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion, re­lo­ca­tion and re­set­tle­ment”.

AFP PIC

Mi­grants and refugees on a rub­ber boat be­fore be­ing res­cued by Mal­tese non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions off the Libyan coast in the Mediter­ranean Sea last year.

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