19 African Migrants Suffocate On Boat To Italy

Written by Dana Sanchez


Nineteen migrants suffocated aboard a boat carrying 600 people from North Africa to Italy, Italian news agency Ansa reports.

The migrants died inhaling fumes from an old engine while they were confined below deck.
Rescuers found 18 people in a tangle of bodies. Another person died during evacuation.

Italy is struggling to cope with the rising flow of migrants to its shores, many making the dangerous crossing from Africa on crowded and vessels that are not seaworthy, according to BBC correspondent, Alan Johnston.

European Union border agency Frontex says almost 60,000 migrants have already landed in Southern Italy this year.

The 19 deaths occurred on a boat heading for the Italian island of Lampedusa, intercepted after it sent out an  S.O.S. signal. Two passengers were taken to a hospital in Sicily for treatment.

At least 45 migrants died in similar circumstances in the past month due to crushing or asphyxiation aboard overcrowded boats, according to the report.

Migrants rescued by a merchant ship this week reported of a shipwreck in which 60 people drowned, according to Ansa.

Most migrants attempting to enter Italy by boat are from Africa or the Middle East and pay large sums to smugglers in Libya and Tunisia, who transport them in unsafe fishing vessels.

Officials say Libya’s continuing political instability is partly responsible for the rise migrants.

Italy is the prime destination for migrants making the crossing. It launched a rescue operation in the Mediterranean in 2013 and has repeatedly appealed for help to the European Union.