Record number of African migrants die in sea crossing

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Rescue craft prepares to dock at Lampedusa

Rescue craft prepares to dock at Lampedusa

More than 1,500 African migrants died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2011, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

It’s the highest number of fatalities in the region since 2006. UNHCR says the crisis in Libya and Tunisia pushed the number of migrants crossing by sea to a record 58,000.

Sybella Wilkes from UNHCR says those who survived the perilous journey told harrowing stories of the crossing. 

"The majority of last year's arrivals by sea landed in Italy 56,000, of whom 28,000 were Tunisians, while Malta and Greece received 1,574 and 1,030 respectively. The vast majority arrived in the first half of the year. Most were migrants, not asylum seekers. The actual journey took place on unseaworthy vessels with refugee and migrants passengers often forced into having to skipper boats themselves. In addition some survivors told UNHCR that fellow passengers beat and tortured them."

Since the beginning of 2012, at least three boats laden with migrants have been reported attempting to sail from Libya to Europe.

UNHCR says one of the boats with at least 55 Somali migrants capsized before reaching its destination. 15 bodies including that of a young baby girl have been found.

Duration 38″

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