Members of the coast guard found 271 survivors aboard the 50-foot boat when they boarded it less than a mile off the small Italian island of Lampedusa, which lies near the North African coast and is a frequent destination for illegal migrants.
About 90 migrants were traveling below deck when the boat left an unidentified port near Tripoli, but most could not make their way to the deck for air during the crossing, survivors told international migration officials.
A few survivors said that some had managed to get a little fresh air and some had even been able to leave the hold, but that crew members stopped others for fear that the boat would capsize, according to Simona Moscarelli, an official with the International Organization for Migration, whose colleagues in Lampedusa were interviewing survivors.
“Some of them died from suffocation, but some others were apparently beaten up by traffickers and members of the crew,” Ms. Moscarelli said. Many of the migrants were from sub-Saharan Africa; others came from Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia.
Unrest in northern Africa this year has resulted in a steady exodus of migrants to Europe, a voyage made more perilous because of the precarious state of many of the vessels used by traffickers, which are often dangerously overcrowded. In the worst of the migrant disasters, about 250 people drowned in April when a boat capsized off the coast of Lampedusa.
Survivors of the most recent crossing were taken to a Lampedusa migrants’ center for identification and were to be moved to other centers across Italy, Lampedusa’s mayor, Bernardino De Rubeis, said by telephone. A coast guard commander, Cosimo Nicastro, said there were 36 women and 21 children among the survivors.
- Italy finds 25 migrants dead on boat from Libya (cbc.ca)
- Libya: 25 refugees found dead on boat (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- Libyan migrant boat arrives in Italy with 25 dead (windsorstar.com)