By Pavitra Dwibhashyam
Around 99 people have reportedly drowned off the coast of Libya in two separate shipwrecks on 29 April. A newborn baby was among the victims, survivors claimed. On Friday, 26 migrants were rescued by an Italian cargo ship as the rubber dinghy they were travelling in, sank off the Mediterranean coast, soon after leaving Sabratha in Libya.
The Italian coast guard responded to a satellite distress call and took the migrants from the merchant vessel to Lampedusa, the southern-most island of Italy, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Guardian reported.
The spokesperson for IOM Italy, Flavio De Giacomo said: “The dinghy was taking on water, in very bad conditions. Many people had already fallen in the sea and drowned. They were all very shocked.”
The rescued refugees will be provided with psychological help in Lampedusa. The UNHCR claimed that one rubber dinghy broke into two after taking on water and 26 people were rescued. It was not confirmed how many people were aboard the boat when it capsized.
Meanwhile, those who survived the second shipwreck were taken to the Sicilian Port of Pozzallo on Sunday. Around 105 people were rescued of which eight people were taken to the hospital with serious health issues. Two bodies were also fished out by coast guards.
The two shipwrecks come on the heels of a similar incident last week where around 500 people were believed to have drowned. The Italy-Libya route has been overshadowed by the Turkey-Greece route through which thousands of Syrian migrants have been making their way to Europe.
The Italy-Libya sea route has previously been used mostly from North African countries such as Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia to reach European shores, where as Syrian migrants are predominantly taking the Turkey-Greece route to flee the war-ravaged country.
A controversial EU-Turkey deal has been made to stop refugees from making the perilous journey, however, there is speculation that the number of migrants making their way to Italy could increase exponentially.
Since the refugee crisis began unfolding in 2014, at least one million people have crossed into Europe, according to data released by IOM and UNHCR. A majority of the refugees (800,000) came via sea to Greece and 150,000 of them to Italy. As of April 2016, 180,245 refugees had arrived in Greece and Italy via sea. Since the EU-Turkey deal has been signed, the number of daily arrivals to Greek shores declined. Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi nationals form the largest share of migrants arriving in Europe.
Source: IB Times
By Pavitra Dwibhashyam