Forty-one people are missing following a shipwreck that took place last weekend in the Mediterranean, two UN agencies said on Wednesday. These people were among about 120 passengers in an inflatable boat that left Libya on February 18.
The dinghy began to take on water after “about 15 hours” of navigation and eight people died before a merchant ship came to rescue them, according to a statement from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The latter have collected “reliable testimonies on the sinking that occurred on Saturday February 20 in the central Mediterranean”.
Already 160 dead this year in the Mediterranean
The two agencies spoke with some of the 77 rescued people who were taken to the Sicilian port of Empedocle by a merchant ship, the Vos Triton. “Many other people lost their lives at sea” during a “difficult and delicate rescue operation”, during which only one body was found, according to the same source. Three children and four women, including the mother of a baby who is currently on the Italian island of Lampedusa, are among those missing.
The central Mediterranean is known as one of the deadliest migration routes in the world. According to the two United Nations agencies, around 160 people have died this year trying to reach Europe from North Africa. “The fact that refugees and migrants continue their desperate attempts to reach Europe via the central Mediterranean is proof of the need for an immediate international effort to offer them a valid alternative”, concluded IOM. and UNHCR.