A ship carrying 700 migrants has capsized off the Libyan coast, the Italian news agency Ansa reported on Sunday, adding that many are feared dead.
Coastguard vessels rescued 28 people after the accident was reported around midnight, it said, giving no source for its report. The Times of Malta said migrants rushed to one side of the boat to alert a passing vessel, prompting the ship to capsize. The accident occurred some 200 kilometres south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Times of Malta reported. The rescue operation continues.
Sunday, 19 April, 2015 at 11:49 (11:49 AM) UTC RSOE
Other News Reports
15:22, UK, Sunday 19 April 2015
Search As Hundreds Of Boat Migrants Feared Dead
The capsizing of a boat, with up to 700 people on board, may be the “worst massacre ever seen in the Mediterranean”, says the UN.
Hundreds of people are feared drowned after a fishing boat trying to smuggle migrants to Europe capsized off Libya, the UN refugee agency says.
A major search and rescue operation by air and sea is taking place after the vessel, with up to 700 on board, went down about 120 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.
It is believed to have overturned when migrants moved to one side of the overcrowded 20-metre long boat in a desperate bid to get off and be rescued as a merchant ship approached.
At least 28 people were saved in the Mediterranean, while there were other reports of 50 survivors.
The alarm was raised at about midnight and the Italian coastguard and navy are continuing to search for survivors.
Mediterranean migrants: Hundreds feared dead after boat capsizes
Hundreds of people are feared to have drowned after a boat carrying up to 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian coastguard says.
A major rescue operation is under way after the vessel, thought to be just 20m (70ft) long, capsized at midnight local time in Libyan waters south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.
So far 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies retrieved.
At least 900 other migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year.
The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, said the latest sinking could amount to the largest loss of life during a migrant crossing to Europe.
Italian naval and coastguard ships, the Maltese Navy and cargo vessels, along with three helicopters, are all involved in the rescue operation, 130 miles (210km) off the coast of Lampedusa and 17 miles (27km) from the Libyan coast.
The Italian coastguard’s spokesman told the BBC the operation was still focused on search and rescue, “but in time it will be a search [for bodies] only”.
Migrants rescued 10-17 April
Migrants died attempting the crossing between 1 Jan and 15 April
- 31,500 Migrants have arrived from North Africa so far this year
- 218,000 Estimated to have crossed the Mediterranean in 2014
- 3,500 Migrants died attempting the crossing last year
The migrants reportedly fell overboard when they rushed to draw the attention of the passing Portuguese merchant ship King Jacob, causing their ship to capsize.
The Italian coastguard says the 28 survivors and 24 bodies are now on its vessel the Gregoretti.
Lampedusa is scrambling to react to the latest horror in the seas off its coastline. Much of the harbour has emptied. Coastguard, customs and fishing boats all left before dawn to help with the rescue.
Marta Bernardini works for the charity Mediterranean Hope, which is based on the island and works with migrants. She told the BBC: “We are very sad. It’s so difficult for us who live and work in Lampedusa every day, to know that a lot of people die in this way, in the Mediterranean Sea.”
Lampedusa is the most southerly point of Italy – nearer Africa than the Italian mainland. Locals say that since January – when the EU took control of patrolling Europe’s maritime borders – between 9,000 and 10,000 migrants have arrived on the island.
There are currently 1,000 migrants in a detention centre on Lampedusa – an island of 5,000 people.
Maltese PM Joseph Muscat said rescuers were “literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water”.
Mr Muscat told the BBC: “What is happening now is of epic proportions. If Europe, if the global community continues to turn a blind eye… we will all be judged in the same way that history has judged Europe when it turned a blind eye to the genocide of this century and last century.”
Pope Francis expressed his “deepest sorrow” over the sinking and appealed to the international community to prevent such incidents from happening again.
“These are men and women like us who seek a better life. Hungry, persecuted, injured, exploited, victims of wars. They were looking for happiness,” he said.
It was the Pope’s second appeal in less than 24 hours. On Saturday, he backed a call by Italy for the EU to intervene to stop more lives from being lost.
The EU has been criticised for ending its maritime rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, last year. Some EU members said they could not afford it and expressed concerns that it was encouraging more migrants. The EU now runs a more limited border control operation called Triton.
While Mare Nostrum had a monthly budget of €9.5m ($10.3m; £9.6m) and covered much of the Mediterranean, Triton’s budget is less than a third of that at €2.9m ($3.1m), and its remit extends only into Maltese and Italian waters.
The UNHCR said that migrant boats had carried 13,500 people into Italian waters last week alone.
Justin Forsyth, chief executive of aid group Save the Children, urged the EU to restart rescue operations.
“The scale of what is happening in the Mediterranean is not an accident, it is a direct result of our policy,” he said.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the recent wave of migrant boat disasters was “unacceptable”.
“We have said too many times ‘never again’. Now is time for the European Union as such to tackle these tragedies without delay,” she said.
EU foreign ministers will meet to discuss the migrant issue on Monday.
Last year, a record 170,000 people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East made the perilous crossing to Italy. Thousands died making the journey.
Recent Mediterranean migrant disasters
Oct 2013: More than 360 people, mostly Eritreans and Somalis, die as their boat sinks off Lampedusa.
Sept 2014: At least 300 migrants drown off Malta when people smugglers ram a boat after its occupants refuse to move to a smaller one. Survivors said it was “mass murder”.
Feb 2015: At least 300 migrants feared drowned as four dinghies get into trouble after leaving Libyan coast in bad weather.
April 12, 2015: Some 400 migrants feared drowned after their vessel capsizes off Libya.
April 19, 2015: About 650 migrants feared drowned as boat capsizes in Libyan waters south of Lampedusa.
EU plans meeting after 700 migrants drown off Libyan coast
Sunday 19 April 2015 15.07
The European Union said it is organising an urgent meeting of foreign and interior ministers after the latest migrant boat disaster in the Mediterranean was feared to have killed up to 700 people.
In a statement, the European Commission said: “For as long as there is war and hardship in our neighbourhood near and far, people will continue to seek a safe haven on European shores.
“And as long as countries of origin and transit do not take action to prevent these desperate trips, people will continue to put their lives at risk.”
Full story here: http://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0419/695113-malta-migrant-boat/
Italy PM: Don’t leave us to deal with migrant crisis alone
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has urged other European countries not to leave his country alone in dealing with the increasing number of migrants being trafficked across the Mediterranean.
Speaking after a shipwreck which is estimated to have left hundreds of people dead, Renzi said Italy often works alone in saving migrants by both blocking trafficking from Libya and rescuing those that are left stranded at sea.