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Dublin: 15°C Tuesday 16 August 2022

Almost 250 migrants, who were forced to sail at gunpoint, feared drowned in Mediterranean

Many of those who sailed today from Libya are believed to have been forced to do so at gunpoint.

NEARLY 250 MIGRANTS ARE feared drowned off the coast of Libya.

At least 110 people, out of a total on board of 139, drowned after their boat overturned.

“A vessel with around 140 people on board overturned just a few hours after setting off from Libya, throwing everyone into the water. Only 29 people survived,” UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami told AFP.

Survivors of that shipwreck have alleged that they were forced to set sail at gunpoint. Just 12 bodies have thus far been recovered.

In an as yet unconfirmed second incident, a further 125 people are believed to have died after two women told the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) they were the sole survivors of another capsized craft.

“They told us they were on a faulty dinghy which began to sank as soon as they set sail. They were the only survivors,” Sami said.

“Their tales are horrifying,” doctor Pietro Bartolo told Italian television network Tv2000.

Shot dead

Once the migrants had realised they were being put out to sea in bad weather, they tried to turn back, but were forced on at gunpoint.

“To make them get on the dinghies they (the traffickers) shot a man, killing him dead. They made them depart and after a few miles at sea the tragedy happened,” Bartolo said.

One woman said she had to hold on to a dead body to survive. They said they spent many hours in the water in the hope someone would save them. But when the rescuers arrived there was nothing to be done for most of them.

The doctor said at least three children were among the dead.

The latest tragedy brings the number of migrants who have died or are missing feared drowned this year to over 4,000.

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Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, 750 migrants were today rescued by the Italian Coast Guard amongst others.

October marked a record monthly high in the number of migrants arriving in Italy in recent years – some 27,000 people – and the departures have showed no sign of slowing, despite worsening weather in the Mediterranean.

Amnesty International have warned today that their research into the refugee situation in Italy suggests that EU pressure on Italian authorities is causing instances of migrant abuse and false expulsion as the country attempts to keep up with expected standards regarding the number of refugees returned to their homeland.

Additional reporting Cianan Brennan

© – AFP, 2016

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