UN anger after 50 migrants to Italy drown

UN anger after 50 migrants to Italy drown
A total of 170,000 migrants landed in Italy in the whole of 2014. Photo: Moas
A UN body on Friday slammed a lack of action over Palestinian refugees, after nine Palestinians were reported to be among 50 migrants who drowned off Sicily's coast.

The latest migrant drowning tragedy in the Mediterranean claimed several dozen lives, the International Organisation for Migration has said, after a boat capsized with more than 150 people on board on March 5th.

"The fact that this group reportedly consisted of Palestine refugees from Syria, as well as from Gaza and Lebanon, is a clear and tragic sign that Palestine refugees are finding life in Syria and beyond increasingly untenable," UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA's spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement.

"These tragedies…stem not only from armed conflict, occupation and a lack of protection of human rights, but more fundamentally from the failure to resolve the Palestine refugee problem," he said.

"At a time of rising extremism in the Middle East region, the failure of the international community to resolve the Palestinian issue takes on an added significance."

The accident claimed at least 50 lives, 40 more than first thought, the IOM said on Thursday.

Italy's coastguard rescued 127 people and recovered ten bodies after a boat capsized when its passengers rushed to one side of the vessel in a stampede to get onto the arriving coastguard boat.

The deaths took the migrant death toll in the waters between north Africa and southern Italy to more than 400 since the start of the year, according to the IOM.

A total of 170,000 migrants landed in Italy in the whole of 2014 and current trends suggest that record figure is likely to be exceeded this year.

In another shipwreck in the Mediterranean last September, dozens of Palestinians from the besieged and war-ravaged Gaza Strip were believed to be among 500 migrants who perished. 

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Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP