ROME (AP) — The United Nations’ migration agency said 75 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya earlier this week as they attempted to reach Italy by boat.
The International Organization for Migration reported the latest tragedy in a tweet Saturday, attributing the information to 15 survivors who were rescued by fishermen and brought to the port of Zuwara in northwestern Libya. It did not immediately provide further information.
Also on Saturday, the Italian Coast Guard rescued more than 420 migrants, including dozens of minors, from boats in difficulty in the Mediterranean Sea.
A coast guard statement said 70 people were brought safely by one of its motorboats to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily.
Meanwhile, a different coast guard vessel was headed to the port of Porto Empedocle on Saturday evening in Sicily with more than 350 migrants aboard after they were plucked to safety from a foundering fishing boat 70 miles from the Sicilian coast, the statement said. Among them were more than 40 minors.
That fishing boat “was in danger, due to the bad weather conditions at sea and due to the elevated number of persons on board,” the Coast Guard said. After being rescued by two motorboats, they were transferred to a larger Coast Guard vessel.
The statement described the rescue of the larger number of migrants as “complex.” Four cargo ships in the area were pressed into service to “mitigate the impact of the wind” on the rescue operation, it said, allowing the migrants to be safely rescued.
Each year, thousands of migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia attempt the deadly Mediterranean sea crossing to Europe on overcrowded and often unseaworthy boats. More than 1,300 men, women and children have died so far in 2021 trying to cross the Central Mediterranean from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and Malta according to IOM.