First Published: 2017-04-21

Mediterranean migrant death toll tops 1,000 in 2017
Overstretched migrant aid groups describing "unprecedented mass rescues" of people fleeing horrors in conflict-torn Libya over Easter warn more people at risk of drowning.
Middle East Online

Migrants rest on Maltese aid ship a few days after being rescued in the central Mediterranean off Libya's coast

TRIPOLI - Around 100 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean according to shipwreck survivors, raising the death toll for the perilous crossing to Italy to over 1,000 victims in 2017, the UN's refugee agency said Friday.

"This latest tragedy pushes the number of people dead or missing in the central Mediterranean to 1,073 so far this year," the UNHCR said.

Among the 8,000 or so migrants plucked from flimsy dinghies over Easter weekend were survivors who told the agency about 100 of their fellow passengers had been claimed by the waves.

At this point last year, 853 people had lost their lives or were feared drowned.

Overstretched migrant aid groups describing "unprecedented mass rescues" of people fleeing horrors in conflict-torn Libya over Easter had warned more people risked drowning without EU action.

Italian tugboat Asso 29 disembarked 1,170 of those rescued in Vibo Valentia in Calabria on Tuesday, including families from Syria, Tunisia, Bangladesh and Sub-Saharan Africa.

"Some of those who arrived in Vibo Valentia told us there were around 100 people who died during the crossing," UNHCR's Federico Fossi said, stressing that as always in these situations it was "difficult to get precise details on what had happened".

- 'Incredibly dangerous' -

More than 36,700 people have been pulled to safety and brought to Italy so far this year according to the International Organization for Migration, an increase of nearly 45 percent compared with the same period last year.

At least 150 of those lost were children, though the figure is likely to be higher as many underage migrants travel unaccompanied so their deaths often go unreported, UNICEF said Friday.

"It is deeply concerning that vulnerable people, including thousands of children, are risking their lives to reach Europe's shores using this incredibly dangerous route," said Afshan Khan, UNICEF special coordinator for Europe's refugee and migrant crisis.

Several days of calm weather off the coast of Libya saw traffickers set dozens of dinghies or boats out to sea together.

Italy has hopes of shutting down the route, though a deal signed with Libya in February -- fiercely criticised by rescue groups and human rights campaigners -- is in doubt after it was suspended in March by Tripoli's Court of Appeal.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti said Friday Rome would supply Libya with 10 coastguard boats by the end of June in its bid to make the Libyan coastguard "the most powerful unit in northern Africa".

But critics have scoffed at the idea of making any deal with Libya and questioned the legality of returning those picked up at sea to a country where migrants are kept in detention centres and report cases of torture, rape and slavery.

 

Turkey says not reassured by US comments on border force

Trump dashes Netanyahu’s hope to move US embassy to Jerusalem

IS poses threat to Iraq one month after 'liberation'

Britain to put women at heart of peace work in Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan

Bitcoin appeal beats ban and warnings in Jordan

UN chief wants to revive Syria gas attack probe

US has no intention to build border force in Syria

Lebanese intelligence service may be spying using smartphones worldwide

Egypt's Sisi sacks intelligence chief

Cyprus denies bail for Israeli organ trafficker

Rising Yemen currency sparks hopes of relief

Turkish ministries to investigate underage pregnancy cover-up

Iraq PM launches online appeal for election allies

Iran central bank sees claim for billions from German stock market blocked

Iraq signs deal with BP to develop Kirkuk oil fields

Israeli occupation forces raid Jenin, kill Palestinian

HRW chief says 'Nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya'

Seven years since ousting dictator, Tunisians still protest

Iran says Trump jeopardising Airbus deals

China says Iranian oil tanker wreck located

Sudan arrests communist leader after protests

Syrian opposition joins condemnation of US 'border force'

Israeli judge detains teen until trial for viral ‘slap video’

Arab league slams US freeze of Palestinian funding

Dubai billionaire to sell 15 percent Damac stake

Saudi to give Yemen government $2bn bailout

US withholds $65 million from UN agency for Palestinians

Saudi Arabia intercepts new Yemen rebel missile attack

Syria Kurds vow to cleanse enclave from Turkish 'scourges'

Israeli police find missing Briton’s belongings in desert

Algeria gas plant workers mark five years since jihadist siege

UN says over 5000 children killed or injured in Yemen war

European leaders’ response to Iran protests raises questions

Erdogan to visit Pope Francis next month

Iran slams US-backed 'border security force' in Syria

Palestinian suspension of Israel recognition unlikely for now

Jordan to hike fuel, bread prices

Yemen rebels free journalist detained since August

Palestinian reconciliation brings no change for Gazans

Sudan police use force, tear gas against protesters

Both hardliners and moderates have failed Iranians

Erdogan says Turkish military op in Syria's Afrin to be supported by rebels

UAE to lodge complaint over Qatar flight 'interception'

UN says 22 million Yemenis in need of aid

Minorities in north Iraq look to post-jihadist future