Almost 250 migrants were feared dead in the Mediterranean after two vessels went down in recent days amid a sharp rise in attempts to make the risky crossing from Libya to Europe's southern shores, the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday.
A Libyan Coast Guard ship picked up more than 350 migrants at sea Wednesday after a potentially deadly encounter with a German rescue boat.
Some 50 people were rescued from the dinghy and reached the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Sunday, UNHCR stated.
Even before these latest tragedies, the UNHCR reported that more than 1,150 people had died or disappeared trying to make the treacherous crossing from North Africa to southern Italy so far this year.
Some 82 people are feared dead or missing.
A second shipwreck too place off the coast of Libya on Sunday, the UNHCR said.
Prosecutors say that the suspect was one of two alleged Libyan traffickers jailed in Catania after the May 4 shooting, which occurred before an NGO boat rescued the migrants. It estimated about 80 people died from the sinking of the dinghy off Italy, and at least 113 died following the shipwreck off the coast near Az Zawiyah, Libya. More than 43,000 are believed to have used the central Mediterranean to cross to Europe. 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.
Illegal migrants arrive by boat at a naval base after they were rescued by Libyan coastguard in the coastal city of Tripoli, Libya, May 10, 2017. Over 190 migrants lost their life in two shipwrecks.
Since Friday, some 6,612 people were saved in a dozen operations and brought to Italy.
Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants are being held in Libyan detention centers after entering the country illegally, an immigration official said on Tuesday.
There were also migrants from Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan, Chad, Mali and Nigeria, said navy spokesman Ayoub Qassem. Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed.