Three separate shipwrecks off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean in recent days are thought to have claimed the lives of more than 700 people, officials from the UN’s refugee agency said.
The boats capsized in the waters south of Italy on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as the migrants were making a perilous attempt to reach Europe in sea unworthy vessels.
The deadliest accidents took place on Thursday. At least 550 asylum seekers went missing. The boat, carrying about 670 people, left the Libyan port of Sabratha a day earlier.
Survivors said the boat had no engine and was being towed by a second smuggling vessel.
At least 104 people managed to survive: 25 reached another boat and 79 were rescued by international patrol boats. At least 15 bodies of migrants were recovered.
The Libyan coast is a major route for migrants trying to cross to Europe.
Almost 100 migrants are missing from a smugglers’ boat which capsized on Wednesday.
In yet another accident on Friday, rescuers saved 135 people, according to Sami. Some 45 bodies were recovered. The exact amount of people on board is as yet unclear.
The survivors were transported to the Italian ports of Taranto and Pozzallo, Sami said, adding that the UN is planning to speak with them and gather information about the sunken boats.
UNHCR spokesman Federico Fossi confirmed the report.
“The situation is chaotic, we cannot be sure of the numbers, but we fear up to 700 people may have drowned in three shipwrecks this week,” he told AFP.
According to Doctors Without Borders, about 900 people might have drowned in the Mediterranean.
The number of refugees trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean is increasing rapidly. According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration Refugee Agency (IOM), an estimated 190,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean in 2016. Of them, nearly 156,000 came to Greece and 34,000 to Italy, with 1,375 people considered missing or dead.
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) May 29, 2016