More than 111 Eritreans die off the Italian coast, hundreds more missing

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Foto: Acnur

The death toll from Thursday’s migrant boat tragedy off the Italian island of Lampedusa has risen to 111, according to the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR).

155 people have been rescued, among them 40 unaccompanied boys aged between 14 and 17, and six women.

The boat was carrying up to 500 Eritreans.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says the tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the international community to step up efforts to provide protection to those who need it, and at the same time, crack down on human traffickers and smugglers.

Melissa Fleming is UNHCR Spokesperson in Geneva.

"According to the survivors, the boat they were on left from Libya 13 days ago carrying 500 people. Most came aboard at Misrata, but others joined them further west in Zuwara. As they approached the Italian coast early yesterday the boat's engine stopped. They had been hoping to be seen and rescued but, they said, fishing boats passed without helping. They then set fire to clothing and blankets to attract attention. The vessel was finally spotted by a tourist boat which sounded the alert. The Italian coast guard came to their rescue."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has also voiced her deep shock and sadness following the boat tragedy in Lampedussa.

She said the tragedy was an indication of the desperation people living in Eritrea and other countries, including Somalia face including insecurity, conflict as well as the lack of enjoyment of basic economic, social and cultural rights.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 1.55

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