Hundreds Feared Dead After Migrant Boat Sinks

More than 200 migrants trying to reach mainland Europe are feared to have drowned after their fishing boat sank off Libya.It is thought there were around 600 people – mostly Syrians – crammed on to a boat which sent out a distress call after running into difficulties some 15 nautical miles off the coast.According to the Italian Coast Guard, about 400 people have been rescued so far, including 13 children. At least 25 bodies have also been recovered from the water.An Irish patrol vessel, LÉ Niamh, was first on the scene – and deployed rigid hull inflatable boats on each side of the stricken boat.But the Irish navy said that despite taking care to follow standard operating procedure, the 20m (66ft) vessel capsized, sinking in around two minutes.Other rescue ships from charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the Italian Coast Guard also went to the scene.The MSF later tweeted a photo which showed survivors from the shipwreck being taken to safety, but said it was “still unclear how many people we have lost”.A statement from the Irish Navy said: “At 8am Irish time, the LÉ Niamh was tasked by the Italian Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC) to come to the assistance of a fishing vessel 110 kilometres north-west of Tripoli with an estimated 600 persons on board.”The LÉ Niamh arrived on scene at 11.45am and deployed two RHIBs (rigid hull inflatable boats) either side of the vessel as per standard operating procedure, however the vessel capsized.”The LÉ Niamh immediately deployed all available assets including RHIBs and life rafts.”The Irish ship is now on its way to the Sicilian port of Palermo, carrying most of the survivors.Will Turner, on the MSF ship Phoenix, which was on its way to the scene, told Sky News that the boat had now sunk, adding: “We know that there’s dozens of people who have died, but we do not know the exact number.”(The operation) is still going on… this boat … would have been horrendously overcrowded. They are built to safely take about 50 people.”With that number, simply a simple shift in people or a freak wave can be enough to make them capsize.”The fishing boat had set out from Zuwarah, close to the Tunisian border.It is feared it could be the worst loss of life in one incident since 800 migrants died when a boat capsized in April.More than 2,000 people trying to make the crossing from Libya to Europe have died this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.Earlier, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said EU governments had a duty to help migrants trying to reach Europe and not give in to “populist” demands to refuse them entry.He was disappointed, he said, that EU ministers had not reached agreement last month on how to distribute some 40,000 mostly Syrian and Eritrean migrants from Italy and Greece.Nearly all of those crossing the Mediterranean so far this year have landed either in Italy (97,000) or Greece (90,500), according to the IOM.

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