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Second Boat Sinks off Libyan Coast, 381 Refugees Rescued

A boat laden with refugees sank Thursday morning thirty miles off the Libyan coast, just 15 miles from where another vessel had capsized Wednesday. In Wednesday’s incident, at least 25 drowned, while in the more recent shipwreck, all 381 passengers were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard.

The passengers were from Syria, Bangladesh, and sub-Saharan Africa and included 55 women and 26 children. They were rescued by the Coast Guard ship Fiorillo, which was in the area searching for the missing from Wednesday’s shipwreck.

Meanwhile, searches continue off Libya, where a boat carrying 600-700 migrants overturned Wednesday. According to Coast Guard reports, so far, 373 migrants from that shipwreck have been rescued and 25 bodies recovered.

These shipwrecks draw attention to the staggering numbers of refugees crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe, often in an attempt to escape war and persecution. Already this year, 97,000 people have tried to reach Italy, and another 90,500 have set out for Greece. Of these, more than 2,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, the vast majority of whom were traveling to Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Most of these have died in the Strait of Sicily, which runs between North Africa and the south of Italy, where deficient vessels used by smugglers and traffickers significantly increase the probability of disasters, the IOM said.

In April, in what is considered one of the greatest migrant sea disasters of all time, 700 Africans died after a fishing boat packed with refugees capsized about 60 miles north of Libya in an attempt to make the crossing to Italy.

The Strait of Sicily is fast becoming what one source described as “a migrant graveyard.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.

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