Almost 250 missing after two shipwrecks in the Mediterranean

A second shipwreck too place off the coast of Libya on Sunday, the UNHCR said. 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.

On Monday, the International Criminal Court prosecutor expressed alarm at the inhumane detention of thousands of vulnerable refugees and migrants in Libya and said she was examining whether an investigation could be opened into crimes against them.

"An global rescue organisation called Sea-Watch tried to hinder the work of our coastguard ... in a bid to take the migrants, claiming Libya is not safe for migrants", he said.

Survivors of one wreck, some of them hospitalized in Pozzallo, Sicily, where they were being treated for hypothermia and exhaustion, told authorities who interviewed them that their traffickers had crammed some 130-140 people, apparently all from central African countries, into a motorized rubber dinghy created to hold at most 20 people. It has become, however, virtually the only option for those trying to reach Europe, many of them seeking not only to escape the horrors wrought by imperialism in their homelands, but also to unite with family members already in Europe.

Overall the weekend disasters pushed the death toll on the Libya Mediterranean route for 2017 up to 1,300, while refugees and asylum seekers who successfully crossed the Mediterranean now number more than 43,000.

More shipwrecks expected The two latest shipwrecks came amid favourable weather over the weekend and improved sea conditions.

Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants are being held in Libyan detention centres after entering the country illegally, an immigration official said on Tuesday.

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Sea-Watch posted a video on Twitter of what it said was a Libyan coastguard vessel narrowly cutting across the bow of its ship.

The Nigerian survivor told the AP their smugglers gave them neither compass nor satellite phone.

Nigeria, represents the largest single nationality of migrants arriving in Italy - as it did past year - followed by Bangladesh, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Gambia.

The figure for the Mediterranean as a whole, including Greece, Cyprus and Spain, was 49,310 as of Sunday.

The number of people leaving Libya to reach Europe is up almost 50 percent this year compared with the opening months of 2016.

Keaten reported from Geneva. Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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