More than 120 migrants drown in latest Mediterranean disaster on World Refugee Day

At least 1,850 refugees have lost their lives on the dangerous crossing so far this year, says the IOM

May Bulman
Tuesday 20 June 2017 14:31
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News of the deaths comes on World Refugee Day, whereby the global community is invited to commemorate and show support for those forced to flee persecution
News of the deaths comes on World Refugee Day, whereby the global community is invited to commemorate and show support for those forced to flee persecution

More than 120 refugees are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean after a boat sank off the Libyan cost on Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said.

Four survivors who were rescued by Libyan fishermen said the boat sank after its motor was stolen by human traffickers, according to IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo.

After drifting for a while, the boat, believed to have been carrying 130 refugees — most of them of Sudanese and Nigerian nationality — capsized.

News of the deaths comes on World Refugee Day, during which NGOs encourage the world to commemorate and show support for those forced to flee persecution.

But there is little sign of the plight of refugees in the Mediterranean abating. The death toll passed 1,000 in April — marking a record high with that figure not reached until the end of May last year — and the latest count by the IOM shows at least 1,850 have lost their lives on the dangerous crossing.

Up to 146 people drowned when a refugee boat sunk in March, and up to 250 refugees, including a baby, were reported to have drowned in May after two refugee boats sunk in the Mediterranean Sea.

It comes after a report earlier this month accused the EU of disregarding human rights and international law in its desperation to slow refugee boat crossings across the Mediterranean Sea.

The bloc has pledged tens of millions of euros in funding for authorities in Libya, despite the country’s ongoing civil war and allegations of torture, rape and killings earning it the moniker “hell on Earth” among migrants, according to the report, published by the US-based Refugees International (RI) group.

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) reports that 81,292 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 18 June, with 85 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided among Greece, Cyprus and Spain. This compares with 215,702 arrivals across the region through 18 June 2016.

Nearly 70,000 migrants and refugees have been rescued in the Mediterranean so far this year and taken to Italy – a 23 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

The most numerous nationality, representing 15 per cent of arrivals, are Nigerians, according to analysis by UNHCR. They are followed by people from Bangladesh (12 per cent), Guinea (10 per cent), Ivory Coast (nine per cent), Gambia (seven per cent) and Senegal (also seven per cent).

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