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Up to 400 feared dead after boat capsizes in Mediterranean

Tension is currently mounting in Italy over a recent influx of migrants.

 

Italy Europe Migrants Rescued migrants wait to disembark from an Italian Coast Guard ship in the harbor of Palermo, Sicily. Source: AP/Press Association Images

UP TO 400 illegal migrants died after their vessel capsized off the Libyan coast at the weekend, according to survivors who have now been brought to Italy, where tension is mounting over a surge in boat arrivals from North Africa.

The Italian coastguard on Monday said they had managed to rescue 144 of the people on the sunken vessel, while nine bodies were also recovered.

The International Organization for Migration and the charity Save the Children said between 144 and 150 survivors arrived at Reggio Calabria, on Italy’s southern tip, on Tuesday morning.

“There were 400 victims in this shipwreck, which occurred 24 hours after (their vessel) left the Libyan coast,” Save the Children said in a statement, citing survivors.

Italy Migrants A Red Cross officer carries a baby wrapped in a blanket after migrants disembarked at the Sicilian Porto Empedocle harbour Source: AP/Press Association Images

“There were several young males, probably minors, among the victims” and also children among those rescued, the international NGO said.

IOM spokesman in Italy Flavio Di Giacomo told AFP several of the survivors had told his organisation there were between 500 and 550 people on board when the ship sank:

We are continuing to investigate in order to understand how the shipwreck happened.

Initial investigations indicate the boat may have capsized after passengers started moving when they saw the Italian rescue team.

The latest tragedy came as Italian authorities said around 8,500 migrants had been rescued at sea between Friday and Monday, reigniting a debate in Italy about whether the country has a duty to house all new arrivals.

Recent good weather in the Mediterranean has prompted a spike in the number of migrants attempting to reach Italy aboard boats.

An increasingly violent and chaotic situation in Libya, a key jumping off point for migrants, has also helped prompt the hike in asylum seekers trying to make it to Europe.

Italian authorities say more than 15,000 migrants have arrived so far in 2015. There were 15,000 in April alone last year and an average of 25,000 each month between June and September.

© AFP 2015.

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