As many as 700 migrants are believed to have died in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast, piling pressure on European leaders to find a solution to a spiraling migration crisis in the face of growing chaos in Libya and anti-immigration sentiment at home.
The 20-meter-long fishing boat sank on what has become the deadliest migrant route in the world—the crossing from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa—after launching a distress call early Sunday. The Italians sent a Portuguese mercantile vessel to help the boat near the Libyan coast. But when the migrants, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, saw it approach, they rushed to one side, capsizing the boat, the coast guard said.
The latest deaths, if confirmed, would mark one of the largest losses of migrants’ lives, bringing the number of people who have died attempting the passage this year to about 1,600. The dissolution of law and order in Libya in particular has left Europe exposed to an increasing wave of Africans risking their lives to find a better life or flee conflict. …
Survivors from the boat that capsized Sunday told aid workers from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that it originally held more than 700 people, but only 28 had been rescued by Sunday afternoon. The Italian Coast Guard dispatched 17 ships, including Maltese vessels, Italian fishing boats and other private vessels, to the area to search for other survivors.