Hundreds of migrants feared dead off Egypt

Hundreds of migrants feared dead off Egypt

Hundreds of migrants feared dead off Egypt

AFP photo

Hundreds of migrants are feared to have died in a new migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said on April 18. 

Unconfirmed media reports earlier on the same day spoke of up to 400 victims from boats that capsized near the Egyptian coast as they attempted to sail to Europe. 

Dozens of African migrants drowned after a boat carrying 400 people capsized in the Mediterranean Sea after setting sail from Egypt, Daily Mail reported early April 18. 

Most of the 400 migrants aboard the boat were fleeing from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea and had been hoping to reach Italy, the report claimed. 

Over 400 migrants are thought to have drowned, the Somali ambassador in Egypt told BBC Arabic.

Mattarella, speaking at an award 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,” according to Reuters. 
He did not give any further details. 

The Italian coastguard said earlier on April 18 that they knew nothing about the reported disaster. 

Human rights organizations had repeatedly warned that a deal between Turkey and the European Union reached on March 18 to curb the migrant flow into the bloc via Turkey would eventually lead to migrants taking the more perilous road to reach the EU: Crossing the Mediterranean. 

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 352 migrants perished in the waters between Libya and Italy between the start of this year and April 15.

More than 24,000 migrants have made it to Italy through the same route, almost all of them having been picked up at sea by boats participating in a multinational search and rescue operation coordinated by the Italian coastguard.

The IOM also said almost 6,000 migrants and refugees have sailed from Libya to Italy from April 12 to April 15 in what appears the start of a wave of at least 100,000 and “possibly many, many more” this year. 

Only a few hundred of the people who crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in the same three days had entered via Greece, a massive reversal from the pattern seen until the Turkey-EU deal. 

The voyage by boat from Libya is far longer and associated with far higher death rates than between Turkey and Greece, but Libya’s lack of functioning government and lawlessness make it easy for people traffickers to operate with impunity. 

“If it continues at this rate through the coming spring and summer months, we have every reason to think that arrivals to Italy will pass 100,000 for the third straight year, and could possibly be many, many more than that,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva. 

In 2014 some 170,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy, and a further 153,842 came in 2015, compared with around one million who made the relatively brief sea journey from Turkey to Greece last year. 

Two years ago about 40,000 Syrians crossed Egypt to take the Libyan route, but Millman said Syria’s civil war did not seem to be driving the latest influx from North Africa.