At least 180 refugees feared dead in migrant boat disaster

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As it slowly sank, more and more of the people on board were drowned under water. Photo Courtesy:- (The Associated Press)

At least Four people died and nearly 180 migrants and refugees are missing, believed to have drowned, after Saturday’s migrant ship capsize in the Mediterranean (a migrant boat that capsized off the coast of Libya), the IOM (International Organization for Migration) said on Tuesday after interviewing a handful of survivors.

Humanitarian workers from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM), recounted harrowing details of the latest shipwreck of a migrant boat off the Libyan coasts after talking to four rescued passengers, two Ethiopians and two Eritreans, who arrived last evening in the Sicilian port of Trapani.

According to Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM spokesperson and coordination officer for the Mediterranean, “They said there were an estimated 180 people on board of a barge.”

The UN (United Nations) migration agency released the figure after gathering testimonies from four survivors, one woman and three men, were described as “traumatised and exhausted”. The Italian coastguard said the boat had not been found so there was no way to determine the number of passengers. Survivors, who were rescued and taken to the port town of Trapani in Sicily on Monday evening. They said their two-tier, wooden boat had left Libya on Friday with more 180 people packed on board, all of them originally from East Africa.

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Photo Source:-Citizen Digital

After five hours in the water, the engine broke down and the boat started slowly to take on water and to sink. As it slowly sank, more and more of the people on board were drowned under water, some 30 nautical miles off Libya.

The survivors were finally saved on Saturday 30 nautical miles from the Libyan coast by a French boat operating as part of the rescue operation of the EU (European Union) border agency Frontex. On Sunday, they were transferred to a Norwegian ship of the same mission, the Siem Pilot, provided by the Norwegian coastguard, which brought them to southern Italy.

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Besides the four survivors, rescuers also recovered four corpses in the area. The Siem Pilot arrived in the port of Trapani on Monday evening, also bringing to land another 34 migrants rescued from another stricken migrant boat in a previous operation.

The four survivors (two Ethiopian and two Eritreans) reported that several hours passed before rescuers came to save them. All of the people on board were believed to be migrants and refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, according to the officer.

The overall death toll for refugees and migrants on the Mediterranean in the first two weeks of 2016 was 91, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

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According to the IOM’s latest figures, some 2,876 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, they were registered from Jan. 1 to Jan. 15, including 2,185 in Italy and 691 in Greece. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) data, which is published on Tuesday. In 2016, Some 180,000 irregular migrants entered Greece, were registered at Italian ports with some 80,000 Syrians forming the largest group. While the UN refugee agency UNHCR recorded 5,273 deaths and presumed deaths on the western Mediterranean route from north Africa to Italy.

The inflow of refugees and migrants to Europe by sea has been relentless so far, despite the mid-winter weather and rough sea conditions.