Six people, including two children, dead in migrant boat capsize off Libya

Six people, including two children, dead in migrant boat capsize off Libya

Six people, including two children, dead in migrant boat capsize off Libya

AP photo

Two Syrian girls, one of them an eight-month-old baby, are among up to six people who died when a boat carrying would-be migrants to Europe capsized off Libya Aug. 18, rescuers said.

Five bodies were recovered and one passenger was missing, presumed drowned, following the capsize on Aug. 18, AFP reported. Some of the 21 survivors told aid workers there had been 27 people from eight Syrian families on the boat.

The Phoenix, a rescue boat run by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and the Italian Red Cross (CRI), recovered the corpses of two women, one man and the baby while the five-year-old’s body was picked up by a fishing boat, the organizations said.

Details of the tragedy emerged as the world’s attention has been re-focused on the crisis in Syria by this week’s poignant pictures of the bloodied, dust-covered face of four-year-old Omran following the bombing of his home in the war-torn city of Aleppo.

MOAS co-founder Regina Catrambone said the latest deaths were a tragic reminder that hundreds of migrant children continue to perish at sea a year after toddler Aylan Kurdi’s body was washed ashore on a Turkish beach last year.

“It is very sad and frustrating to witness the tragic loss of life at sea, especially that of such a young child,” she said.

“It is time for the international community to come to terms with this reality and to implement safe and legal solutions for the most vulnerable among us to avail themselves of the rights and protections they are entitled to.” 

Children represent a growing proportion of the migrants trying to reach Europe by sea from Turkey and North Africa - 27 percent of all arrivals in the first six months of this year were minors, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Italy’s coastguard said the five deaths occurred on a day when they supervised the rescue of 534 people in 11 different operations off Libya.

Meanwhile, around 50 migrants were rescued after their boat ran aground Aug. 19 off Greece’s southwest coast, police said, after an uptick in arrivals.

The group was found off the town of Methoni on the Peloponnese peninsula, stranded on a chain of rocky islets. They have since been taken to Methoni to be processed and identified, according to harbor police.

Between the mornings of Aug. 18 and Aug. 19, 261 new arrivals were registered on the Aegean islands - mainly Lesbos - an increase on recent days, according to the SOMP agency which is coordinating Greece’s response to the migrant crisis.

The number of new arrivals is however considerably lower than the peak of last summer when an average of 100 migrants were arriving daily.