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200 migrants from Nigeria, others drown in Mediterranean

It was a tragic start to New Year for migrants from
Nigeria and other countries as hundreds of them crossing to Italy and Spain
were feared dead in the Mediterranean Sea, the International Organisation for
Migration (IOM) has said.

IOM’s Public Information Officer in Libya, Christine
Petré, reported that the boats carrying the migrants departed from the coastal
towns of Azzawiyah and Al Khums in Libya.

“Most of the survivors hail from African countries,
including Senegal, Mali and Nigeria. The Libyan Cost Guard reported that eight
were from Bangladesh while two were from Pakistan,” Petré said.

According to IOM, and a report released by Libya’s Coast
Guard, about 100 people on board remain missing.

The UN migration agency said its officials were present at
the disembarkation point in Tripoli and provided the survivors with food and

Othman Belbeisi, Chief of IOM Libya Mission, said on
Wednesday that about 200 migrants or refugees had died or gone missing in the
Mediterranean Sea with up to 100 unaccounted for since Saturday.

“It’s very distressing that during the first 10 days of
2018 we have seen close to 800 migrants rescued or intercepted off the Libyan
coast, with more lives lost at sea.

“More has to be done to reduce irregular unsafe movements
of people along the Central Mediterranean route,” Belbeisi said.

According to him, the tragedy came at a time when
Mediterranean migrants’ death dropped sharply as IOM recorded only 26 on the
Mediterranean Sea lanes in December 2017.

Belbeisi said while January 2017 had witnessed some 254
deaths, this week’s reports suggest that the start of 2018 may be even

IOM reported on Tuesday that 81 Mediterranean Sea deaths
of migrants or refugees were recorded in the first eight days of the year
with five in Western Mediterranean waters off Spain and Morocco and the rest
between Italy and Libya.

In the latest, and third deadliest, shipwreck in the
Mediterranean since Saturday, the Libyan Coast Guard rescued three
rubber boats with 279 migrants made up of 19 women, 243 men, 13 boys and four
girls, in an operation lasting at least 12 hours.

The UN migration agency said it continued to provide
support and direct humanitarian assistance to the survivors of this latest
tragedy, many of whom now are at Libya’s Tajoura detention centre.

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