(By Estera Popowska)
The death toll from a ship carrying migrants which capsized off Libya on Sunday has hit 800, the United Nations refugee agency after reportedly speaking to survivors of the disaster.
Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy on said Tuesday that "We can say that 800 are dead.”
AFP reported representatives from the UN agency and the International Organization for Migration as saying they had interviewed the majority of 27 survivors, who described the moment the trawler carrying them capsized after a Portuguese merchant ship approached the vessel, causing a stampede.
The UN spokeswoman, Sami added that “There were a little over 800 people on board, including children aged between 10 and 12. There were Syrians, about 150 Eritreans, Somalians... They had left Tripoli at about 8 am on Saturday.”
AFP says the survivors hailed from Mali, Gambia, Senegal, Somalia, Eritrea and Bangladesh, she added, and all had been taken to nearby holding centres. The Italian coastguard reportedly said separately they had recovered 24 bodies and did not confirm the death toll. Italian police said a Tunisian and a Syrian man among the survivors had been arrested due to suspicions they were members of a smuggling gang thought to have organised the fatal voyage (AFP)