March 23 (UPI) — About 250 migrants are feared drowned after two dinghies sunk off Libya’s coast, Italy’s coast guard and a Spanish aid organization said Thursday.
Proactiva Open Arms reported it pulled five bodies floating near the dinghies, about 18.5 miles off Libya’s coast. A spokesman for the coast guard confirmed the fatalities to the BBC..
Proactiva Open Arms said each vessel carries at least 100 people.
“It is a harsh reality check of the suffering here that is invisible in Europe,” the agency wrote on Facebook.
More migrants are attempting to reach Europe from Libya via Italy since the route between Turkey and Greece has effectively been shut down.
The International Organization for Migration reported 559 have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year, and 5,098 last year.
In one week, through Wednesday, 4,822 migrants arrived in Italy — and more than 25,000 have traveled to Europe this year.
“We have yet to complete March, and we are already racing at a pace of arrivals that has exceeded anything we’ve seen before in the Mediterranean,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman said earlier this week.
“This is typical of spring, getting very busy, but it’s not typical to have the numbers be so high this early and the corresponding deaths that go with it.”
Last month, the European Union voted to give $215 million to Libya’s government to curtail the number of boats in the country’s territorial waters. On Monday, the the U.N.-backed government of Fayez Serraj asked for an additional $864 million for military, rescue and emergency equipment.