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Death toll confusion after overnight Mediterranean Sea boat capsize leaves hundreds of migrants dead
Tuesday April 19, 2016
Up to 500 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after the boat they were travelling in from Libya to Italy capsized overnight. However, official numbers of those who perished could not be confirmed, with conflicting accounts from Somalia’s government and the United Nation’s Refugee Agency.
Somalia’s President, Prime Minister and a parliament speaker in a joint statement confirmed the death toll from the incident, which mostly involved migrants from Somalia, had risen to more than 400 people.
However, since that statement was released, UNHCR has labelled the information as “inaccurate”, causing further confusion as to how many migrants actually drowned.
Some media reports also note that 200 migrants had died, but Awale Warsame, a migrant who managed to survive the incident, was quoted by the Irish Examiner as saying, “There were 500 passengers, mostly Somalis on the boat, but only 23 people survived.”
Survivors, whose reported numbers vary from over 20 people to 41, included migrants from Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt. They were moved on to a cargo ship after their boat capsized and were then in control of the Greek coastguard.
The migrants were travelling by boat in hopes of crossing into Europe illegally, which is said to be one of the reasons why it was so difficult to find the correct number of casualties.
According to commentators, another reason for the disparity in numbers is because the boat had capsized at night and in the open sea, making it difficult for authorities to tally the final death toll.
The tragedy occurred on the eve of the one-year anniversary of another incident which took the lives of almost 800 migrants after their ship sunk between Libya and Lampedusa.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni commented on the connection and what it means for Europe, stating, “What is sure that we are again with a tragedy in the Mediterranean, exactly one year after the tragedy we had … in Libyan waters… This is another strong reason for Europe to commit itself not to build wars.”
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