More than 700 migrants may have drowned in the Mediterranean sea last week while fleeing from Africa and the Middle East.
According to Yahoo News, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported on Monday that several shipwrecks could result in a death toll of migrants for the entire year reaching 3,000.
The worst of the wrecks took place when traffickers rammed a ship full of 500 migrants off the coast of Malta.
The boat left Damiette, Egypt on Saturday, September 6 and sank on September 10.
Only nine people survived the incident to report on it. Some of the survivors were not rescued until the following Friday. The IOM interviewed survivors from Palestine in Sicily, while the rest of the shipwreck survivors were taken to Malta and Crete, Greece. A spokeswoman for the IOM, Christiane Berthiaume, explained that the survivors were told to board the traffickers’ vessel in the middle of the Mediterranean. The migrants refused, so the traffickers proceeded to ram their ship until it sank.
“Some 500 people were on board – Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians and Sudanese. They were trying to reach Europe,” Berthiaume said. “That means that 700 people perished at sea these last days in the Mediterranean, the deadliest incidents in the space of a few days.”
The other 200 deaths came from a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, according to The Huffington Post. A vessel full of as many as 250 African emigrants sank, according to a spokesman for the Libyan navy. Twenty-six of the 250 passengers survived, the rest of them are likely dead.
Vessels carrying refugees out of North Africa have become more frequent in recent years, carrying migrants out of Libya, a notoriously lawless nation in Africa. Many of the ships are of poor quality and are crammed to the max with refugees. The boats usually head for Italy, which is a gateway into the European Union.
“A combination of factors have led to a major increase,” said a spokesman for the UNHCR, a United Nations refuge agency. “They do not have other very easy options to get anywhere else from Libya. They are not able to get to surrounding countries in North Africa from Libya. These are all factors pushing up the number of people desperate to make the crossing who are preyed on by unscrupulous traffickers.”
According to The Hindu, the IOM has released a statement about the shipwrecks.
“If this story — which is being investigated by police — is confirmed, it would be the biggest shipwreck of recent years,” the IOM said. “It would be particulary serious as it would not be an incident, but an episode of mass killing… The death toll in the Mediterranean in these hours is extremely grave… 700 people may have died at sea over the past few days.”
The sad news of the 700 dead in shipwrecks has come during the height of unrest in the Middle East, resulting from the violence enacted by the terrorist organization called the Islamic State. Read more about the ISIS here.
[Image courtesy of Yahoo]