Up to 400 mi­grants killed in boat cap­size off Libya: sur­vivors

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ELLA IDE

Up to 400 il­le­gal mi­grants died af­ter their ves­sel cap­sized off the Libyan coast on Sun­day, said sur­vivors who were brought to Italy, where ten­sion is mount­ing over a surge in boat ar­rivals from North Africa.

The Ital­ian coast­guard on Mon­day said they had man­aged to res­cue 144 of the peo­ple on the sunken ves­sel, while nine bod­ies were also re­cov­ered.

The In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Migration and the char­ity Save the Chil­dren said be­tween 144 and 150 sur­vivors ar­rived at Reg­gio Cal­abria, on Italy’s south­ern tip, on Tues­day morn­ing.

“There were 400 vic­tims in this ship­wreck, which oc­curred 24 hours af­ter (their ves­sel) left the Libyan coast,” Save the Chil­dren said in a state­ment, cit­ing sur­vivors.

“There were sev­eral young males, prob­a­bly mi­nors, among the vic­tims” and also chil­dren among those res­cued, the in­ter­na­tional NGO said.

IOM spokesman in Italy Flavio Di Gi­a­como told AFP sev­eral of the sur­vivors had told his or­ga­ni­za­tion there were be­tween 500 and 550 peo­ple on board when the ship sank.

“We are con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate in or­der to un­der­stand how the ship­wreck hap­pened,” Di Gi­a­como said.

Ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­di­cate the boat may have cap­sized af­ter pas­sen­gers started mov­ing when they saw the Ital­ian res­cue team.

The lat­est tragedy came as Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties said around 8,500 mi­grants had been res­cued at sea be­tween Fri­day and Mon­day, reignit­ing a de­bate in Italy about whether the coun­try has a duty to house all new ar­rivals.

Re­cent good weather in the Mediter­ranean has prompted a spike in the num­ber of mi­grants at­tempt­ing to reach Italy aboard boats.

An in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent and chaotic sit­u­a­tion in Libya, a key jump­ing off point for mi­grants, has also helped prompt the hike in asy­lum seek­ers try­ing to make it to Europe.

Row over Mi­grant Beds

Ital­ian

au­thor­i­ties say more than 15,000 mi­grants have ar­rived so far in 2015. There were 15,000 in April alone last year and an av­er­age of 25,000 each month be­tween June and Septem­ber.

Italy’s in­te­rior min­istry has or­dered re­gional pre­fects to find emer­gency hous­ing for 6,500 mi­grants — a move con­demned by the op­po­si­tion, which ar­gues the pol­icy of res­cu­ing im­mi­grants en­cour­ages oth­ers to at­tempt the risky sea jour­ney.

With sum­mer ap­proach­ing — and more than 500,000 peo­ple wait­ing to set out from Libya for Europe ac­cord­ing to EU bor­der agency Fron­tex — aid groups are warn­ing Rome is not pre­pared to deal with the next wave of ar­rivals.

Greece

said Tues­day

it was plan­ning to set up re­cep­tion cen­ters on the main­land to deal with an in­flux of mi­grants ar­riv­ing on its is­lands.

The de­ci­sion at an emer­gency cabi­net meet­ing chaired by Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras came af­ter more than 700 mi­grants and refugees, mainly Syr­i­ans and Africans, ar­rived in Greece be­tween Fri­day and Tues­day.

Mean­while, Fron­tex on Tues­day said hu­man traf­fick­ers had fired shots into the air to re­cover a ves­sel that had been used to trans­port mi­grants across the Mediter­ranean.

The in­ci­dent hap­pened on Mon­day when an Ice­landic coast­guard ves­sel was res­cu­ing 250 peo­ple from a wooden boat some 60 nau­ti­cal miles off Libya.

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