500 migrants suspected dead in Mediterranean

Apr 20, 2016, 1:16 PM EDT
Pile of PFDs. (Source: Ruth Hartnup/flickr)
Pile of PFDs. (Source: Ruth Hartnup/flickr)

A large ship heading from Libya to Italy sank last week in the Mediterranean, and the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday that as many as 500 people on board drowned. The numbers of dead were suspected to be in the hindreds, but the figures have climbed over the last couple of days as survivors are interviewed, and wreckage explored.

CNN reports that 41 survivors were rescued by a merchant ship on Saturday and taken to Kalamata, Greece. Out of the 37 men, three women, and one three-year-old child, those rescued included 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, 6 Egyptians, and one person from the Sudan.

The survivors relayed that they had been a part of a smaller boat’s group that transferred the passengers to a larger ship that was already overcrowded with people. That vessel capsized and sank during the transfer process.
The Guardian writes that the death toll of just half the size of the boat would bring the total number of mortalities in the Mediterranean in 2016 to over 1,000 – more than a quarter of last year’s record tally.
Boats smuggling people from Libya often rely on rescue operations in the Mediterranean to aid the transfer of migrants to Italy as smugglers’ vessels are damaged, not sturdy, and unfit to hold the numbers of refugees seeking safe passage to Europe.
The BBC published a recording of an account of one migrant’s journey, spoken by Abdulkadir Mohamed Moalim, a Somali who fled to Yemen.