240 African Refugees Heading To Europe Drown In Sea; 2016 Death Toll Of Migrants At 4500
November 17, 2016 – 240 African Migrants Heading To Europe Drown In Sea As 2016 Death Toll Of Migrants & Refugees At 4500
At least 240 people mostly Africans have died in boats in the Mediterranean Sea this week, according to officials, as horrifying new testimony emerged from survivors of yet another tragedy off the coast of Libya.
Departures from Libya are continuing unabated despite worsening weather in the Mediterranean, with over 3,200 people rescued from crowded and unseaworthy dinghies since Saturday. The total is the same as for the whole month of November 2015.
The new death toll was based on information gathered by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) from 15 survivors, who said some 135 people had drowned or lost their lives when a dinghy capsized on Monday.
Some 95 others are presumed dead after another boat sank on Tuesday.
Nine bodies have been recovered in total after both incidents, while a 10th person was seen to have drowned but could not be pulled from the sea by rescue teams.
The survivors of Monday’s shipwreck off Libya – overwhelmingly from sub-Saharan Africa – arrived on Wednesday in the port of Catania in Sicily, where they spoke of their ordeal.
They had set off from Libya on Sunday night with about 150 people on board, “so there would be about 135 missing”, UNHCR spokesman Iosta Ibba told AFP news agency.
“Their dinghy, which was already in a poor state, began taking on water several hours after they set off. It then overturned, tipping all 150 into the sea. Only 15 managed to survive by clinging to a part of the vessel which floated,” he said.
“They stayed like that several hours before help arrived,” he added.
Italy’s coastguard said 580 people had been brought to safety on Wednesday in five separate rescue operations, with one body recovered.
The deaths were not limited to the perilous crossing between Libya and Italy.
On Wednesday the bodies of four male refugees, aged between 20 and 40, were found in a boat that ran into trouble off Greece.
The Greek coastguard said it had spotted the boat some 15 nautical miles off the island of Thassos “with a total of 19 people on board, four of whom had lost consciousness”, probably due to hypothermia.
The latest deaths lift the total number of migrants and refugees who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year to just over 4,500, according to a UNHCR count based on bodies recovered and survivor accounts.