United Nations agencies say up to 245 migrants and refugees are missing and feared dead following two recent shipwrecks of smugglers' boats in the Mediterranean Sea.
Based on its interviews with survivors in Sicily, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimated the number of dead at more than 80, with around 50 people rescued. Just last month, reports about migrants being sold into slavery and the rescue boats carrying refugees on the Libyan Mediterranean route colluding with smugglers came about showing the horrendous situations faced by refugees and migrants in the region.
According to worldwide organisations, between 800,000 and one million people, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, are now in Libya hoping to make the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe. Last year, more migrants drowned attempting to reach Greece and Cyprus. The International Organization for Migration estimates 1,222 people have died making that voyage this year, compared to 966 over the same period in 2016. There were about 20 women, some five of whom were being taken for medical treatment as they arrived in Tripoli.
Almost 250 refugees are still missing after two boats sank in the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend.
As stressed by High Commissioner Grandi on Sunday, rescue at sea operations, including by the Italian Coast Guard, in coordination with Frontex, and by NGOs are of crucial importance.
The two shipwrecks took place on Friday and Sunday, but details did not emerge until later. People on smuggler boats are increasingly less likely to have a satellite phone - a trend that Ms. Pouilly said is confirmed by the Italian coast guard. Over 190 migrants lost their life in two shipwrecks. IOM spokesman Joel Millman feared the better weather is kicking off the Mediterranean's traditional summer migration surge.
Libya has been in turmoil for years and migrants living there or passing through say they are subject to a range of abuses.
But an immigration official said between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants are being held in harsh conditions in detention centres across Libya after entering the country illegally.