Five hundred migrants alleged killed in deliberate sinking in Mediterranean

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Monday about 500 migrants may have been killed in a deliberate sinking in the Mediterranean Sea last week. The unverified claim comes after IOM debriefed two Palestinian survivors.

In a statement, IOM said, "If this story, which police are investigating, is true, it would be the worst shipwreck in years". The organization added, if the story would be revealed as true it would be "not an accident but a mass murder, perpetrated by criminals without scruples or any respect for human life".

IOM Spokesperson in Italy Flavio Di Giacomo told AFP, "Two survivors brought to Sicily told us that there had been at least 500 people on board. Nine other survivors were rescued by Greek and Maltese ships, but all the rest appear to have perished".

According to the two survivors, the boat, which departed on September 6 from Damietta, Egypt bound for Malta, sank in the Mediterranean Sea last Wednesday when people smugglers rammed it; drowning the vast majority of its 500 plus passengers, including refugees from Egypt, Sudan, Syria and Palestine. They said the smugglers had become angry when the passengers refused transfer to a smaller vessel that they doubted could carry them.

The Palestinian ambassador to Malta, Jubran Tawil, said three Palestinians who had been on board the boat have been rescued with aid from Panamanian ships and flown to Malta by a Maltese helicopter together with some of the dead.

According to UN data, this year the number of migrants by sea to Europe exceeds 130,000, up by 50,000 from last year. Many people from North Africa and the Middle East attempt to reach Europe on overcrowded, unsafe boats. Over 2,500 people on this journey have drowned or disappeared this year, 2,200 of them since June.