Up to 40 migrants die after boat deflates during Mediterranean crossing

The incident follows warnings from a humanitarian group that more than 2,000 children will likely die in this summer's expected inflow of migrants to Europe.

By Fred Lambert

CATANIA, Sicily, May 5 (UPI) -- Dozens of migrants drowned after their boat deflated while crossing the Mediterranean Sea toward Europe on Sunday, according to a human rights group.

Save the Children, an international non-governmental organization that promotes children's rights, says survivors reported about 40 migrants falling into the sea when an inflatable boat carrying approximately 137 people deflated.


Some survivors, many of whom were brought to the Sicilian port city of Catania on Tuesday, reported hearing an explosion before the vessel sunk.

The report comes two days after the Italian and French navies were reported to have rescued up to 3,700 migrants near the coast of Libya in 17 different operations on Saturday and early Sunday.

The Italian coast guard says it has rescued up to 7,000 people and recovered about 10 bodies near the Libyan coast over the past three days.

Each year thousands of people fleeing violence in Africa and the Middle East drown in the Mediterranean while traveling over rough seas on overcrowded or unseaworthy boats.

In early April, the Italian coast guard and navy says it rescued up to 1,500 migrants from the sea over a period of 24 hours, but later in the month about 400 migrants drowned when their ship capsized off the Libyan coast.


At least 1,829 people have died this year attempting the crossing, 20 times more than the same period in 2014.

During the first two months of 2015, there was a 43 percent increase in migrant arrivals in Europe over January and February 2014.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 218,000 people crossed the Mediterranean using irregular routes in 2014, of whom 3,500 died. Italy alone dealt with about 170,000 such refugees in that time.

"Mare Nostrum" was the name given to Italy's migrant rescue operations, but right-wing politicians in the country expressed concerns about its daily cost and the possibility that Middle Eastern and North African terrorists might make their way into Italy's borders.

Mare Nostrum ended late last year and a smaller European Union operation known as "Operation Triton" took over, but U.N. leaders predicted a higher degree of migrant deaths due to lighter efforts.

In March an EU official warned that up to a million migrants could leave Libya for Europe in 2015.

Save the Children representative Linda Bordoni on Sunday said she expects up to 2,500 children to die in this summer's expected inflow of migrants to Europe.


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