Another 170 migrants missing in Mediterranean, aid agencies report

An estimated 170 migrants have gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea in two shipwrecks involving dinghies departing from Morocco and Libya, said aid agencies on 19 January 2019.

In the first incident, three irregular migrants were rescued in a shipwreck. The survivors said 120 people were on board, which meant 117 migrants including at least two children were unaccounted for. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said most of the migrants were West Africans, but there were also about 40 Sudanese on board.

The migrants left from Garabulli, east of Libya’s Tripoli, said Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM spokesman. “After 10 to 11 hours at sea … (the boat) started sinking and people started drowning,” he added in an interview with Reuters. Survivors are now in hospital in Lampedusa, Italy.

The second incident left 53 people missing in the Alboran Sea, in the western Mediterranean, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). One survivor, who was reported to be rescued by a fishing boat after spending 24 hours stranded at sea, has now been taken to hospital in Morocco.

According to UNHCR, rescue vessels have been searching for the boat and survivors “for several days to no avail.” In a statement released by the agency, it said it was deeply saddened by reports of an estimated 170 people dead or missing, but added that it was unable to independently verify the death toll.

“The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in the statement. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe’s doorstep. No effort should be spared, or prevented, from saving lives in distress at sea.”

According to data from IOM, 4,449 migrants and asylum seekers have entered Europe in the first 16 days of 2019, almost all by sea. This is a marked increase from last year’s figure of 2,964. Nearly 80 per cent of Mediterranean arrivals by sea entered through Spain.

TMP – 28/01/2019

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