At least 400 refugees travelling by boats from Egypt to Italy have drowned in the Mediterranean sea, reported BBC Arabic citing Somalia’s Ambassador to Egypt.
Earlier in the idea, Somali media reported that hundreds of Somali youth had died when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.
Despite the reports, which were also relayed by MSF, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is yet to confirm the incident.
According to Somali media, the refugees were mainly Somalis but also included Ethiopians and Eritreans. The BBC reported that the boats involved in the disaster were mainly carrying Somali refugees and that some survivors had been taken to a Greek island.
Meanwhile, Italian President Sergio Mattarella acknowledged the reports.
Mattarella told reporters in Rome “yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean in which, it seems, several hundred people have died,” seemingly confirming reports on BBC Arabic that roughly 400 people traveling on four boats from Egypt perished after the vessels capsized. The victims are reportedly mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. News of the disaster broke almost precisely one year after around 700 migrants died off the coast of Libya following the capsizing of an overloaded fishing ship.
“What is sure is that we are again with a tragedy in the Mediterranean, exactly one year after the tragedy we had … in Libyan waters,” Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told Reuters.
Unconfirmed media reports earlier on Monday spoke of up to 400 victims from boats which capsized near the Egyptian coast as they attempted to sail to Europe.
Mattarella, speaking at a prize giving ceremony in Rome, said Europe needed to reflect in the face of “yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean in which, it seems, several hundred people have died”. He did not give any further details.
The Italian coastguard said earlier on Monday they knew nothing about the reported disaster.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the tragedy came on the one-year anniversary of the deaths of hundreds of migrants off Libya in April 2015.
“What is sure is that we are again with a tragedy in the Mediterranean, exactly one year after the tragedy we had … in Libyan waters,” Gentiloni said.
“This is another strong reason for Europe to commit itself not to build walls,” he said.
In 2016, the migrant crisis set a disturbing January record of at least 244 dead, “nearly three times the 82 people who died last January, and overwhelmingly more than the 12 people who died in January 2014,” Al-Jazeera reported. By Feb. 9, the tally had shot to 409, with arrivals up tenfold compared to a year before. According to Newsweek, efforts to slow migration by increasing border patrols may have simply forced migrants into more dangerous routes.