Date
23 September 2017
These refugees are among the lucky ones. The Mediterranean has been the deadliest stretch for migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East. Photo: IPS News
These refugees are among the lucky ones. The Mediterranean has been the deadliest stretch for migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East. Photo: IPS News

Survivors recount horrific refugee deaths in shipwrecks

Horrific deaths involving hundreds of refugees fleeing Africa and the Middle East are coming to light after two survivors came forward with their story.

They said as many as 500 migrants may have died after traffickers rammed their ship off Malta’s coast last week, according to Reuters.

The traffickers ordered the migrants to change to another vessel in the middle of the Mediterranean and struck their shipl when they refused, sinking it, the report said, citing Christiane Berthiaume, a spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

IOM estimates that as many as 700 people may have perished in horrific deaths at sea, bringing the death toll this year to almost 3,000 over the past week alone.

In the latest incident, the ship had set off on Sept. 6 from the Egyptian port of Damiette and sank off Malta’s coast on Sept. 10, Berthiaume said. Some of the survivors were only rescued two days later.  

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it learned of the shipwreck off Malta but said its information was that it occurred on Friday.

It  said it could not confirm the circumstances of the incident but understood that the death toll was closer to 300.

“We don’t have confirmation of this account of alleged ramming. That was given to Malta authorities by survivors, but we can’t confirm it,” said UNHCR spokesman Francis Markus.

The UNHCR was trying to get confirmation of five shipwrecks in all. “At least 500 people have died or are missing in the last three days,” he said.

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CG/RA

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