Boat Carrying Migrants Capsizes Off Libya, Killing 25

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July 10, 2012 Fifty-four migrants die when a motorized rubber dinghy deflates between Libya and tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Photo: Relatives of dead migrants protest in Turin in 2012.
The "Door of Europe" monument, which commemorates migrants who died on their journey, is seen on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Feb. 19.
The “Door of Europe” monument, which commemorates migrants who died on their journey, is seen on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Feb. 19. PHOTO: REUTERS

About 400 people are saved while rescue operations continue.About 25 people died when a fishing boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized on Wednesday in the Mediterranean Sea, around 15 miles north of the Libyan coast, the Italian coast guard said, as rescue operations were still under way.

About 400 people were rescued so far in operations coordinated by the Italian coast guard, spokesman Filippo Marini told Italian television, adding that the distressed boat may have been carrying as many as 600 migrants.

Another coast-guard spokesman said up to seven ships were involved in the rescue, including an Irish naval vessel and a boat operated by Doctors Without Borders, which were the first two to intervene. According to preliminary reports, the fishing boat capsized after the migrants moved to one side once they saw two rescue boats approaching, the spokesman said.

Wednesday’s deadly shipwreck is just the latest development in a growing wave of migrants who cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, often seeking to escape war and persecution. Italy and Greece have seen a surge in the number of migrants reaching its shores: About 97,000 people have tried to reach Italy so far this year, with another 90,500 landing in Greece. According to the International Organization for Migration’s latest data, more than 2,000 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, the vast majority of whom were seeking to land in Italy.

As in 2014, the overwhelming majority died in the Strait of Sicily in the central Mediterranean route connecting Libya and Italy, where unseaworthy vessels used by smugglers and traffickers significantly increase the likelihood of tragedies, the IOM said.

In April, about 800 migrants died when a ship sunk off the Libyan coast in one of the deadliest incidents ever recorded. With the Syrian civil war escalating and more refugees desperately trying to leave war zones as well as an increasingly unstable situation in Libya, the number of migrants trying to flee their countries of origin has been on the rise.

However, the number of deaths of migrants trying to reach Europe by boat has declined since the spring, after the European Union put in place sweeping patrols of the Mediterranean in the wake of the deaths in April, scaling up the European rescue operation named Triton.

“Loss of life has been greatly reduced in recent months and this is largely due to the enhancement of the Triton operation, which can now count on more vessels patrolling international waters, where most migrants run into difficulties,” the IOM said in a statement on Tuesday. About 188,000 migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean so far this year, according to its data.

The migrant crisis also prompted a series of EU emergency meetings and policy proposals, which failed to reach a comprehensive solution.

European Union leaders in June agreed to help Italy and Greece by sharing the task of housing refugees and processing their asylum claims. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive, in May proposed a binding system to redistribute 40,000 “persons in clear need of international protection” already in Italy and Greece over the next two years.

But after about a dozen countries refused to accept quotas set by Brussels, the binding system was replaced by voluntary pledges seeking to reach the 40,000 target.

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Source: Wall Street Journal

Write to Giada Zampano at giada.zampano@wsj.com

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