2,000 migrants drown in the Mediterranean in six months
Celebrating the World Refugee Day on Tuesday, the agency released a catalogue of fresh deaths in the region.
“This is among the world’s most dangerous routes — a journey that no one takes lightly,” it said, as witnesses described the horror of watching friends and loved ones drown.
After reports on Monday of a shipwreck off the Libya which claimed nearly 130 lives, the UNHCR said dozens of families with children were feared drowned in a separate incident after their boat snapped in two and sank off the North African country.
“According to witnesses, a boat carrying at least 85 people broke in two and sank shortly after setting off from Sabratha on Thursday,” spokesman Federico Fossi said.
Three wooden boats had set sail together from the conflict-hit country that morning: those travelling on one of them were rescued at sea and brought to Italy, where they described the fate of the other two.
One was intercepted by the Libyan coastguard and towed back to shore, while they saw the other snap in half, throwing many of those on-board into the sea, Mr Fossi said.
Some of those who survived, he said, later started calling people they knew on the first boat to say they had been rescued by the Libyans.
“We don’t know how many others were lost to the waves,” he said.
There were many families with children from Syria and North Africa among those feared dead.
Migrants brought to Sicily on Monday told aid workers of yet another shipwreck in which seven people had died after falling overboard, including the husband of a pregnant survivor from Cameroon.
“These incidents are a reminder of the grave dangers that people confront when forced to flee their countries because of war and persecution,” UNHCR’s Cecile Pouilly said.
“Since the beginning of the year, over 77,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe,” said Ms Pouilly, a spokeswoman.
“Despite the heroic work of those involved in rescue at sea, the death toll continues to rise. Close to 2,000 people are reported to have died or gone missing since the start of the year,” she said.