• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Over 200 migrants feared drowned off Libya

AFP · 5 Aug 2015, 17:05

Published: 05 Aug 2015 15:29 GMT+02:00
Updated: 05 Aug 2015 17:05 GMT+02:00

The boat, believed to have been carrying over 600 migrants including women and children, ran into difficulty about 15 nautical miles off Libya and sent out a distress call, which was picked up by the coastguard in Sicily.

Two vessels - the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) ship Dignity One and Irish patrol vessel LE Niamh - were immediately dispatched to the scene, but the stricken fishing boat capsized after the migrants moved to one side in the hope of being rescued, the coastguard said.

Coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini said around 400 people had been rescued from the water while 25 bodies had been recovered.

"The boat overturned and sank quickly because it was made of metal," Federico Fossi, spokesman in Italy for the UNHCR, told AFP.

The agency's chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said on Twitter that "100 (migrants) were in the hull" of the fishing vessel when it capsized.

Seven ships and two helicopters were helping search for survivors.

More than 2,000 people have already died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.

Wednesday's disaster could be the worst since 800 migrants were feared drowned off Libya in April.

Working flat out

Ireland's Defence Minister Simon Coveney confirmed that the Niamh was diverted to the scene at 7:00 am (0900 GMT) and warned "the loss of life is likely to be significant".

"The crew of the Niamh are working flat out with their counterparts to rescue as many as possible," he said in a statement.

Nawal Soufi, an Arabic-speaking Italian based in Sicily who is often contacted by migrants in distress, told AFP she had received a call earlier on Wednesday about a boat in trouble with more than 600 people on board.

She said she was called by someone onboard who said the fishing boat, carrying men, women and children, was in trouble because its engine room was flooded.

Marini confirmed it was probably the same boat.

 Disappointed

The latest shipwreck was set to shift the focus in the immigration debate back to the struggles of those fleeing war zones, after weeks of complaints from France and Britain over the disruption caused by asylum seekers at the Channel Tunnel.

Story continues below…

Also on Wednesday, 94 people on board a rubber boat were rescued in a separate operation, coastguards told AFP.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told AFP on Wednesday that EU governments have a duty to help the flood of migrants arriving in Europe and not cave in to "populist" demands to turn them back.

He said he was disappointed that EU ministers had failed late last month to agree on how to distribute a total of 40,000 mostly Syrian and Eritrean migrants from overstretched Italy and Greece.

They agreed to start relocating a little over 32,000 of the arrivals among the EU's 28 members in October, falling around 8,000 short of the target agreed by EU leaders at a summit in June.

"If we don't get there on a voluntary basis, we will have to reconsider the Commission's proposals," the former premier of Luxembourg said.

Nearly all of the people crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, often in rickety boats and at the mercy of human traffickers, have landed either in Italy (97,000) or Greece (90,500), according to the IOM.

The so-called central Mediterranean route proved by far the deadliest, with just over 1,930 people dying as they tried to cross from Libya to Italy, while only about 60 died trying to reach Greece.

The eastern route is shorter and IOM said that traffickers taking people to Italy tended to use more unseaworthy vessels.

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
Conte theatrics a boon for Italy, and Chelsea fans
Antonio Conte during the Italy-Spain game on Monday. Photo: Philppe Lopez/AFP

A "great" Italian feat toppled Spain at Euro 2016, but Antonio Conte's touchline theatrics were just as dramatic for Italy and Chelsea fans during an emphatic 2-0 win over the defending champions.

Five essential Bud Spencer films to watch this weekend
Italian actor, Bud Spencer, passed away on Monday. Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

If you're looking to remember - or even discover - the delights of the late Bud Spencer's work, here are five films you should definitely watch.

Six of the best places to visit within easy reach of Rome
Gubbio (L) and Norcia (R). Photos: Angus Kirk/EricHuybrechts

Rome has a lot to offer, but if you're looking for variety or simply want a break away from the city, there's a treasure trove of towns within easy reach.

Euro 2016
Germany boss to banish Italy 'curse' in quarter-final clash
Germany coach Joachim Loew says Germany do not have an Italian 'curse'. Photo: Patrik Stollarz/AFP

Germany have lost their last eight matches to Italy at the knockout stages of major tournaments.

Bangladesh official charged over Italian's murder
Tavella's body leaves Bangladesh. Photo: Munir Az Zaman/AFP

The Italian aid worker was shot last September.

Brexit
Italy, Germany and France vow 'new impulse' for EU
In a joint statement, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi have promised to reorder the EU. Photo: John MacDougall/AFP

"There is a great need to remodel the European project in the coming years."

Naples mobsters bring home dough from bread sales
Photo: Rick Gordon

From supermarkets to street vendors, all bread suppliers in the northern neighbourhoods of Naples have been forced to buy their products from bakeries controlled by the Camorra mafia - or else face the consequences.

Spaghetti western film star Bud Spencer dies
The late Bud Spencer in Cannes in 1985. Photo: Dominque Faget Ralph Gatti/AFP

Italian actor Bud Spencer, who starred in a string of spaghetti westerns, died on Monday in Rome aged 86, his family confirmed.

Euro 2016
Italy dump Spain out of Euro 2016 with 2-0 win
Graziano Pelle scored the second goal. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle scored the goals as Italy exacted revenge for their Euro 2012 final hammering by dumping Spain out of Euro 2016 with a deserved 2-0 last 16 win in Paris on Monday.

British business owners in Italy feel Brexit jitters
Photos: AFP

British business owners in Italy are rightly feeling jittery over Brexit.

Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How to get Italian citizenship (or at least stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Politics
Where does Britain's exit from the EU leave Italy?
Politics
Has the time come for Italy’s Five Star Movement to shine?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Why Italy must change after young woman’s brutal murder
Politics
Is Italy's Five Star up to the challenge of running Rome?
Culture
Six of the most bizarre Italian foods everyone should try
Culture
Italian restaurant crowned the best in the world
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Travel
Ten breathtaking Italian gems you've never heard of
National
Eritrean held in Italy denies being trafficking kingpin
Health
Italian man 'turns French' after brain injury
Travel
Six reasons why South Tyrol will absolutely blow your mind
National
Why Italy's facing another tough summer
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
Politics
Five reasons Rome's mayoral elections actually matter
Travel
Ten Airbnb apartments where you'll feel at home in Rome
Politics
Quiz: Silvio Berlusconi versus Donald Trump - who said it?
National
Crew who sunk with WWII sub 'wanted to be found': relative
Culture
Why the average ancient Roman worker was dead by 30
Did a Nazi official save Ponte Vecchio from destruction?
National
How the brutal murder of an anti-mafia hero altered Sicily
Travel
These are the best beaches within easy reach of Rome
National
Why Italians are falling out of love with the EU
Business & Money
Foreign, female and a self-made success in arduous Italy
2,526
jobs available