Italy - Survivors of what may be the worst tragedy in living memory involving migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa arrived in Catania, Sicily just before midnight last night.
The 27 migrants, plus one survivor evacuated to Sicily by helicopter, had been traveling on a wooden fishing boat carrying up to 800 people when it capsized near Libya, as a cargo vessel was coming to its aid.
Of the 28 survivors, most are from Sub Saharan Africa from Mali, Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Senegal, Sierra Leone. Others are from Bangladesh and Tunisia.
They were brought to Catania by the Italian Coast Guard vessel, the Gregoretti, which had also delivered 24 bodies from the same tragedy to Malta.
Soon after the Gregoretti’s arrival, IOM staffers boarded the vessel to verify the condition of the migrants and provide them with basics, including shoes and socks.
In the past week, IOM has received reports of 400 migrant deaths in a capsize on April 14 south of Malta, with 50 more on April 17. Including an estimated 770 lives lost off the coast of Libya over this past weekend, IOM believes the latest death toll on the Mediterranean this year is now 1,727 migrants.
On Monday reports came in of two or more boats in distress – one with between 150 and 200 migrants on board, the other with 300 – and the possibility of 20 fatalities. The whereabouts of those migrants still has not been confirmed, although IOM understands a search and rescue operation began late yesterday.
With this latest count, IOM calculates the 2015 death toll now is more than 30 times last year’s total at this date (April 21) when just 56 deaths of migrants were reported in the Mediterranean.
Through the end of April last year, 96 migrants had perished, indicating that the last week of April was the deadliest period of the year to date. IOM now fears that the 2014 total of 3,279 migrant deaths may be surpassed this year in a matter of weeks.