More than 400 drowned when a vessel crammed with migrants capsized early Monday morning during an attempt to make the crossing from Egypt to southern Italy across the perilous Strait of Sicily.
The migrants were mostly Somalis, along with some fleeing from Ethiopia and Eritrea, and all were hoping to reach Italy. Conflicting reports speak of one or several boats involved in the disaster.
The Somali ambassador to Egypt has confirmed the incident, but stated that the embassy has not yet taken a firm position regarding the tragedy.
A BBC correspondent in Kenya said he had spoken with relatives of three young Somalis who were members of the family of one of the drowned migrants.
The Somali media report that emergency vehicles have so far been able to rescue thirty people.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted the news:
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) April 18, 2016
On Sunday night there was also another shipwreck in the Mediterranean when a small vessel loaded with migrants tried to cross the Strait of Sicily from Libya. The Italian Coast Guard was able to rescue 108 people, but also pulled six corpses from the sea some 20 miles from the Libyan coast.
The crossing between Libya and Italy has been described as the deadliest sea route in the world and the death toll for the current year was already in the hundreds prior to the latest tragedies. At this time last year, 800 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean’s worst-ever migrant disaster off the coast of Lampedusa.
Some 10,000 migrants reportedly attempted to use this route to reach Europe in March alone, and the total number of arrivals in Italy in the first quarter of 2016 are almost double what they were in the same period in 2015.
According to the International Organization for Migration, tens of thousands more are waiting to make the crossing in an effort to reach Italy via this route.
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