11 Oct 2013

Second migrant boat sinks near Italy’s Lampedusa

A boat has capsized off the coast of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, sending 200 migrants into the sea, one week after a similar incident led to the deaths of more than 300 Africans.

An Italian navy spokesman said naval vessels and helicopters were assisting at the scene of the incident, which is between Sicily and Tunisia.

The Italian coastguard is working with the Maltese government to rescue the 200 migrants on board. Maltese armed forces spotted the boat initially, and asked Italy for help.

The incident comes a week after more than 300 migrants from Somalia and Eritrea were killed when a boat carrying them from Africa caught fire and then capsized. The boat had been carrying around 500 passengers.

As divers finished the search of the sunken ship on Thursday, they said that the death toll was at 311. The hunt for victims will now continue beyond the boat.

Lampedusa, half way between the north east African coast and Sicily, has thousands of migrants arriving at its shores each year. On Wednesday, the head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso was heckled as he arrived on the island with cries of “shame”.

Earlier on Friday at least 500 more migrants in at least three separate boats arrived or were rescued on the way to different parts of Sicily.

Most migrants come from sub-Saharan Africa, but this year many are fleeing the Syrian civil war or political