Up to 500 migrants feared dead after boat is rammed by traffickers off Malta

Survivors claim there was a violent confrontation between the migrants and traffickers

Samuel McNeil
Tuesday 16 September 2014 01:20
Comments

About 500 migrants are feared to have died after their boat was rammed and sunk off the coast of Malta last week, according to a United Nations agency.

The report emerged at the same time as reports of the sinking of a two migrant boats off the coast of Libya yesterday. Coastguards said at least 70 people and as many as 200 could have drowned.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said witnesses told them that the Malta boat left Damietta in Egypt in early September with Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians and Sudanese on board.

The vessel sank on Wednesday, reportedly after a group of human traffickers rammed it with another boat.

IOM spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said two Palestinian survivors had claimed there was a violent confrontation between the migrants and their traffickers, who wanted to move everyone on to one of their smaller vessels.

She said the traffickers “used one boat to knock the other,” and that there were only about nine known survivors.

On Monday, two boats carrying hundreds of migrants to Europe capsized near the Libyan capital.

Coastguard spokesman Qassim Ayoub said rescuers were retrieving dozens of bodies from the sea some 11 miles off the coast of Tripoli’s Tajoura district. He added that 36 African migrants, including three women – one of whom was pregnant – were rescued.

Ali Sarti, a Libyan coastguard unit commander, said patrol boats rescued the migrants lying in “a broken and damaged boat in the middle of the sea” before dawn on Monday.

Mr Ayoub said one of the boats was carrying at least 250 migrants.However, one of the 36 survivors said there were only 105 people on board. “There was a problem in the boat... Three women and one baby died,” he added.

There were no further details on the second boat accident.

Libya has grown increasingly lawless since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, making it a migration hub for sub- Saharan Africans seeking a better life. Scores die every year on the journey to Europe.

Refugee numbers have swelled as thousands of people flee conflicts in Syria, Iraq and across the Middle East and Africa, boarding unsafe smugglers’ boats in Libya.

The UN says more than 130,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea this year, compared with 80,000 this year. Italy has received more than 118,000 migrants, the UN said.

Nearly 110,000 people have been rescued since January, but at least 1,889 others have died making the perilous crossing.

AP

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in