Switzerland: UNHCR reports three new shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said on Tuesday that it has received information on Monday night of three new shipwrecks in the Mediterranean with at least 130 people feared to be dead or missing.

UNHCR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly told a press briefing in Geneva that the first and largest of these incidents involved a rubber dinghy that left Libya on 15 June and began taking on water just hours into its journey.

"From the Italian coast guard, and the four survivors - Sudanese and Nigerian nationals – we understand the boat was carrying at least 133 people. 129 people are missing," she said.

Ms Pouilly said the second incident involved a boat carrying at least 85 people which broke in two and sank on Monday, adding that people who witnessed the sinking say the boat was among three that left Libya on the evening of 15 June.

She said there were many families with children aboard. The nationalities of those lost are Syrians and people from North African countries.

A third shipwreck, Ms Pouilly said, is reported to have left seven more people dead or missing. Survivors were disembarked on Monday in Messina, Sicily. Their boat left Libya on 14 June. A pregnant woman from Cameroon lost her husband in the shipwreck.

She said: "Today is World Refugee Day. These incidents are a reminder of the grave dangers that people confront when forced to flee their countries because of war and persecution."

Since the beginning of the year, over 77,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, according to UNHCR. This is among the world’s most dangerous routes – a journey that no one takes lightly.

It said despite the heroic work of those involved in rescue at sea, the deal toll on the Mediterranean continues to rise. More than 2,000 people are reported to have died or gone missing since the start of the year.

Ms Pouilly said with so many lives at stake, UNHCR appeals again for enhanced rescue operations and more viable and safe alternatives for those in need of international protection so people are not compelled to take such dangerous journeys.

"More efforts are also needed to address the root causes behind these movements of people to Libya, including by solving conflicts and reducing poverty," she added.

UNHCR on Monday published a report which said war, violence and persecution worldwide are causing more people than ever to be forcibly displaced.

UNHCR’s new "Global Trends" report, the organization’s major annual survey of the state of displacement, says that at the end of 2016 there were 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide – some 300,000 more than a year earlier. This total represents an enormous number of people needing protection worldwide.

The figure of 65.6 million comprises three important components, UNHCR said in a press statement.
-0- PANA MA 20June2017

20 june 2017 12:00:30

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