Drowning claims lives of 400 migrants off coast of Italy

Mediterranean sea

More than 400 migrants, mostly from Somalia, are reported to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea on a boat trip from Libya to Italy.

Somalia’s state radio quoted the Somali embassy in Egypt in reporting the incident. 

In a joint statement from the president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament in Somalia, they said 400 migrants had drowned in the capsizing. 

However, later the Somali information minister said there was confusion over the number of casualties, which could be 200.

A Somali news website, Goobjoog News, carried an interview with Awale Warsame, who it said survived the incident. 

“There were 500 passengers, mostly Somalis on the boat, but only 23 people survived,” he said. 

“Survivors, including me, had to use broken wood pieces from the capsized boat to float over waters before we were rescued.

“We had travelled from Egypt, especially Alexandria, on April 7th and the boat capsized on April 12 but we were rescued by a Filipino ship off a Greek island five days later.”

Meanwhile, EU policymakers have been accused of “killing by neglect” by cutting rescue missions in the Mediterranean — potentially costing the lives of more than 1,500 migrants, according to a report.

The Italy-led search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, ended in October 2014 and was replaced by Triton, which deployed fewer ships and prioritised deterring migrants over rescue operations, the report says.

Charities and UN officials warned the move could have a disastrous impact and lead to far more deaths at sea.

Documents unearthed by British universities showed the European border force Frontex pushed ahead with the change despite an internal assessment warning that if it was not properly planned it “would likely result in a higher number of fatalities”.

The subsequent scaling back of search and rescue operations during the growing migrant crisis “created the conditions that led to massive loss of life”, the damning report states.

Over 1,500 migrants died trying to cross the sea in the months after the change was implemented, according to the report, ‘Death By Rescue: The Lethal Effects Of The EU’s Policies Of Non-assistance At Sea’.

The report found European policymakers came to regard Mare Nostrum as a ‘pull factor’ which encouraged migrants to make the perilous crossing as they knew they would be rescued if they got into difficulty.

It was scrapped in October 2014 and replaced by Triton, which deployed fewer vessels, patrolled an area further away from the Libyan coast, and did not have rescue as its priority.

The number of migrants crossing the Med in the first four months of 2014 and 2015 stayed the same at 26,000, but death rates have soared.

Sixty died in the first four months in 2014, but 1,687 died in the same four months in 2015, meaning the chances of dying at sea rose 30-fold.

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