(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Twenty-five bodies were found at sea after a vessel carrying hundreds of refugees sank off Egyptian shores last week. The discovery the bodies has raised the confirmed death toll to 194, said a rescue worker.
The boat sank on September 21, just off the coast of Burg Rashed, an Egyptian coastal village. Rescue workers had the aid of fishermen in the rescue operation which saved close to 269 refugees. The total number of passengers that were on the boat has not yet been confirmed.
An Egyptian official said the vessel was recovered from the Mediterranean Sea and could possibly have more bodies trapped on board.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has estimated that 450 people were on board and 300 of them are likely to have died as a result of the shipwreck.
“It is one of the worst tragedies of this year, but not the worst,” said Joel Millman, spokesperson for the IOM.
“We are concerned about what this says for the rest of the season as the weather turns cold and seas get more difficult.”
According to Egyptian security sources, there were close to 600 refugees on board the vessel.
Refugees on the boat were from Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia and were likely to have been heading towards Italy, said Egyptian officials.
Many refugees continue to risk their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean to flee war, oppression and violence in their home countries. And while most refugees try to reach Europe from Libya, the number of boats departing Egypt has been increasing as Libya continues to fall deeper into chaos and instability.
So far this year over 3,200 refugees have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean and over 300,000 crossed successfully, said the IOM.
IOM added that the total number of refugees who will make it to Europe this year will most likely be less than last year, however, the fatalities are likely to increase in comparison to 2015.
“Despite the drop in arrivals, which is considerable through this year, fatalities have exceeded last year’s total at this time by almost 600 and seem virtually certain to surpass what we saw last year, which was a record year,” Millman said.