An estimated 170 migrants have been lost in the Mediterranean in two incidents involving dinghies that left from Libya and Morocco, migrants organisations said on Saturday.
The United Nations’ Refugee Agency said in a statement it was deeply saddened by reports of an estimated 170 people dead or missing. It said it had been unable to independently verify the death toll.
117 persons died in the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean as the inflatable dinghy they were on shipwrecked off Libya.
In another incident, 53 migrants who left Morocco on a dinghy were missing after what one survivor said was a collision in the Alboran Sea, in the western Mediterranean, according to Spanish non-governmental organisation Caminando Fronteras.
In the shipwreck off Libya, we read that “The International Organization for Migration reported the information given by the only three survivors – two Sudanese and one Gambian – who were transferred and treated in Lampedusa.
According to the Oim spokesman, Flavio Di Giacomo, they reported that they had left on Thursday 120 in an inflatable dinghy after about eleven hours of navigation, and the people gradually fell and most of them drowned.
Among them there were ten women, one of whom was pregnant, and two children, one of just two months.
They came mainly from Nigeria, Cameroon, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Sudan.
The three, who are traumatized and in shock, but in good health, told of having been three hours in the water, before being recovered, witnessing the tragedy.
No survivors were found by the merchant ship sent yesterday by the Libyan authorities in the area where a dinghy was sighted with 20 shipwrecked on board.
The Italian Coast Guard made known in a note explaining that “the operation, under the Libyan coordination, ended yesterday night after the intervention of a helicopter of the Italian Navy, which rescued three shipwrecked, a merchant ship hijacked by the Libyans, arrived in the area, carried out a research activity not finding any trace of the boat.”
Separately, the charity Sea-Watch said on Saturday it had rescued 47 people at sea, including eight unaccompanied minors, from a rubber boat in distress north of the Libyan city of Zuwara.
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, who has closed off Italian ports to humanitarian boats since a populist government came to power in mid-2018, said the ports would remain closed to deter to human traffickers.
“The latest shipwreck is proof that if you reopen the ports more people will die,” Salvini said in a video on Facebook on Saturday.
He said 100 people had reached Italy so far this year compared with 2,000 in the same period of 2018.