(By Estera Popowska)
According to survivors brought to Italy, some 400 illegal migrants died after their vessel capsized off the Libyan coast on Sunday, where tension is mounting over a surge in boat arrivals from North Africa, AFP reported late Tuesday evening.
Earlier on Monday, the Italian coastguard said they rescued some 144 of the people on the sunken vessel, while nine bodies were also recovered, according to AFP.
On Tuesday morning, The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the charity Save the Children reportedly said between 144 and 150 survivors arrived at Reggio Calabria, on Italy's southern tip,
“There were 400 victims in this shipwreck, which occurred 24 hours after (their vessel) left the Libyan coast,” Save the Children said in a statement, citing survivors.
“There were several young males, probably minors, among the victims" and also children among those rescued, the international NGO said.
Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM spokesman in Italy reportedly told AFP that several of the survivors had told his organisation there were between 500 and 550 people on board when the ship sank. “We are continuing to investigate in order to understand how the shipwreck happened,” Di Giacomo said. Initial investigations indicate the boat may have capsized after passengers started moving when they saw the Italian rescue team.
Meanwhile, Italian authorities said around 8,500 migrants had been rescued at sea between Friday and Monday, reigniting a debate in Italy about whether the country has a duty to house all new arrivals. The Italian authorities further said more than 15,000 migrants have arrived so far in 2015. There were 15,000 in April alone last year and an average of 25,000 each month between June and September (Source: AFP)