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.

 

US warns Iran over imprisoned Americans

Saudi King sets up new state security agency

Kuwait protests to Lebanon over Hezbollah training

30 extremists in Sinai operations

Foreign food chains hoping for taste of Iran market

Three Palestinians shot dead in Jerusalem

Nearly 360 injured in Turkey by magnitude 6.7 quake

UN says Saudi to blame for deadly Yemen strike on civilians

Police fire tear gas to disperse Morocco protest

Germany reviews arms sales to Turkey

Hezbollah launches Syria border operation

China calls for Gulf crisis talks

Israel bars men under 50 from Jerusalem Old City prayers

Intensifying Jihadist-rebel clashes in Syria's Idlib

Rebel ambush kills 28 regime fighters near Damascus

Turkey slams 'dangerous' Cyprus energy plans

Saudi prince 'arrested over leaked abuse videos'

Israel boosts 'security measures' as Al-Aqsa tensions simmer

Kuwait expels Iranian diplomats over 'terror' cell

Germany vows to overhaul Turkey ties as row escalates

Home cooked meals a relief for fighters in Syria's Raqa

US maintains designation of Iran as top 'state sponsor'

US halting support for Syria rebels

30 civilians dead in anti-IS strikes in Syria

Palestinian civilians urge ICC to speed up probe

Turkey PM opts for stability in light cabinet reshuffle

UN aid flight carrying journalists barred from Yemen

Former IS slaves fight for revenge in Raqa

US, Iran trade tit-for-tat sanctions

20 Yemeni civilians killed in air strike

14 killed in opposition infighting in Syria's Idlib

Morocco sentences 25 to prison over W. Sahara killings

Egypt police kill top militants

Heavy rainfall hits Istanbul causing transport chaos

Palestinians protest Israeli security measures at Al-Aqsa compound

Saudi police question woman who wore miniskirt

Rebels, US-backed Kurds clash in northern Syria

Netanyahu says Hungary is 'standing up for' Israel

Lebanon army to launch operation near Syria border

Morocco delays currency reform amid speculation

Iran parliament vows to fight US 'adventurism'

4 killed in suicide car bomb at Kurdish checkpoint in Syria

Israel opposes Syria truce deal over Iran presence

Egypt to end visas on arrival for Qatari citizens

Erdogan to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia