THE MEDITERRANEAN, MAY 31 (CISA) – Hundreds of migrants and refugees are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean passage from North Africa to Italy last week.
A boat that sank on Wednesday, May 25 left 100 people dead as 45 bodies were recovered from another shipwreck on Friday, May 27.
In addition, the UNHCR and Save the Children were told by survivors that another vessel, carrying at least 500 people, sank without trace in the middle of the Mediterranean on Thursday May 26, bringing the combined death toll to at least 645.
“We’ll never know the exact number, we’ll never know their identity, but survivors tell that over 500 human beings died,” Carlotta Sami, UNHRC spokesperson, said on Twitter.
Survivors who were rescued at sea and brought to ports in Sicily told officials that Thursday’s disaster involved two boats – the first one, carrying around 500 migrants, was towing the second, which was also carrying about 500 people.
Because the bodies went missing in the open sea, it is impossible to verify the numbers who died. Humanitarian organizations and investigating authorities typically rely on survivors’ accounts to piece together what happened. Survivors of Thursday’s sinking were taken to the Italian ports of Taranto on the mainland and Pozzallo in Sicily.
Italy’s southern islands are the main destinations for countless numbers of smuggling boats launched from the shores of Libya each week packed with people seeking jobs and safety in Europe.
Hundreds of migrants drown each year attempting the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing.
Good weather and calm seas have resulted in a sharp increase in the number of boats making the crossing from Libya to Italy.
At least 1,475 migrants have died so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. But that number could skyrocket if the roughly 650 missing are confirmed dead.