Africa

Mediterranean migrant crisis: Dozens 'drown off Libya'

Migrants rest after disembarking from a German vessel in Augusta, Sicily. Photo: 23 July 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nearly 90 migrants were rescued and later arrived in Italy

Up to 40 African migrants are feared to have drowned when their rickety boat sank off Libya's coast, survivors say.

They told UN and aid agencies more than 120 people were on the boat when it started taking in water on Wednesday.

A number of people - including women and children - drowned in the chaos that followed. Nearly 90 migrants were rescued and later arrived in Italy.

The UN says 60,000 people have already tried to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa this year.

More than 1,800 migrants have died - a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.

Escaping poverty

All of the migrants are believed to have been from Sub-Saharan Africa, including Senegal, Mali and Benin, Save the Children spokeswoman Giovanna Di Benedetto told the BBC.

Separately, Federico Fossi, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, told AFP: "My colleagues are interviewing the survivors... who arrived this afternoon in Augusta (Sicily), and they are talking of 35 to 40 people missing at sea."

The survivors were picked up hours later by a passing merchant ship and brought to Sicily on an German military vessel operating in the area.

Each year, tens of thousands seek to escape from poverty and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East by heading for Europe.

This year has seen a series of migrant boat tragedies in the Mediterranean - a shipwreck in April left nearly 800 people dead in the worst single incident.

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