Fears 400 refugees have drowned in Mediterranean after boats capsize

Reports say the refugees were fleeing to Italy from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea

Samuel Osborne/ independent

Hundreds of refugees are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boats capsized. Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, said there seemed to have been “yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean”.

refugees-boatHis comments followed a report by BBC Arabic quoting the Somali ambassador to Europe that 400 people had died crossing from Egypt to Europe. Reports said the refugees were fleeing to Italy from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea in four boats which were ill-equipped for the journey.

“2016, the Mediterranean is a mass grave,” Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) tweeted in response to the news.

The original flurry of reports have, however, yet to be confirmed by either Egyptian or Greek officials. The Italian coastguard has also said it knew nothing about the reported disaster. Médecins Sans Frontières has also been unable to confirm to The Independent whether the tragedy has taken place.

Earlier on Monday morning, the Italian coastguard said 108 refugees had been saved and six bodies recovered from a semi-submerged rubber dinghy on Sunday. Separately, 33 refugees were rescued overnight off eastern coast of Sicily.

A year ago, a fishing boat crowded with refugees sank in the Mediterranean with around 800 people trapped inside. Italy has now vowed to raise the shipwreck from the sea floor, to recover the corpses.

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