‘Worst shipwreck in years’ leaves 500 boat migrants feared dead

As many as 500 migrants are feared to have drowned after traffickers rammed and sank their boat on Monday.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) described it as “the worst shipwreck in years”.

Horrific details of the shipwreck near Malta, told to IOM by survivors, came after dozens of African migrants were reported missing and feared dead after their boat sank off the coast of Libya on Sunday.

“If this story, which police are investigating, is true, it would be the worst shipwreck in years... not an accident but a mass murder, perpetrated by criminals without scruples or any respect for human life,” IOM said in a statement.

Two Palestinians plucked from the water by a freighter on Thursday after their boat capsized told IOM that around 500 passengers had been on the vessel, which was wrecked on purpose by people smugglers.

According to the survivors, the Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Sudanese migrants set out from Damietta in Egypt on Sept 6.

Forced to change boats

They were forced to change boats several times during the crossing towards Europe.

The traffickers, who were on a separate boat, then ordered them onto a smaller vessel, which many of the migrants feared was too small to hold them.

When they refused to cross over to the new boat, the furious traffickers rammed their boat until it capsized, the survivors told the maritime organisation.

Mr Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM’s spokesman in Italy, told AFP: “Two survivors brought to Sicily told us that there had been at least 500 people on board.

“Nine other survivors were rescued by Greek and Maltese ships, but all the rest appear to have perished.”

In a separate incident, dozens were feared drowned after a boat carrying 200 migrants sank off Libya, with only 36 survivors rescued.

Source: AFP