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Dozens feared dead after migrant ship sinks off Italy

An SOS rescue ship during a rescue operation off of Libya's coast [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 March, 2018

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Twenty-three are likely dead after two boats carrying 174 passengers were rescued off the Italian coast.

A rubber dinghy and wooden boat enroute from Libya to Italy had to be rescued, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday, raising fears that almost two dozen missing passengers likely drowned.

Twenty-one people were reported missing from the wooden boat carrying 51 passengers. Two dead infants were also discovered on board, raising the likely death toll to 23.

The 132 aboard the rubber dinghy were all rescued, according to IOM spokesman Joel Millman.

The boats began sinking on Saturday, but survivors only reached the Italian port of Pozzallo on Tuesday.

If the death toll is confirmed, this week’s incident marks the deadliest migrant crossing between Libya and Italy in more than a month.

Since last year, drowning deaths are down since over the Libya-Italy route. But a separate sea route to the west has become more lethal this year.

“We continue almost every day to learn of deaths in Moroccan, Algerian and Spanish waters,” Millman said.

“We understand the total for the first 63 days of the year is 105 deaths on that route, which is well ahead of what things were like a year ago, when we just had 44,” he added.

Well over 20,000 migrants have disappeared or died trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014. Increasingly tight security along Europe’s eastern borders has forced migrants to choose the more dangerous sea journeys.

In 2016, one in 49 migrants who attempted the central Mediterranean route – the most dangerous crossing – died at sea.

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