500 'likely dead' after traffickers ram boat
About 500 Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians and Sudanese are feared to have died after their boat was rammed and sank off the Malta coast last week, the International Organization for Migration has said.
The group of migrant workers were travelling from the Egyptian port of Damietta, seeking a better life in Europe, when their boat was overtaken by human traffickers equipped with two vessels last Wednesday, said organisation spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume.
The two survivors, both Palestinian, claimed the human traffickers rammed the boat carrying the migrants with one of their vessels.
They said there had been a violent confrontation between the migrants and the traffickers when the traffickers tried to move the migrants onto a smaller boat.
Berthiaume said the traffickers "used one boat to knock the other" and that there were about nine known survivors in all. The two Palestinians were rescued by a container ship and brought to Italy. The other seven survivors were picked up by other boats.
Berthiaume said another boat carrying at least 250 African migrants to Europe capsized before leaving the coast near the Libyan capital yesterday, and that most were feared dead.
A coast guard spokesman said dozens of bodies were being retrieved 18km off the coast of Tripoli's Tajoura district.