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Over 100 refugees feared dead off Libya coast

15 January 2017 15:06

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Scores of people are feared dead in an incident involving a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea while carrying 110 asylum seekers.

The Italian coastguard said four people had been rescued in the waters between Libya and Italy, where the incident occurred, media reported on Sunday.

A spokesman for the coastguard added that 13 bodies had so far been recovered from the boat, which capsized around 50 kilometers off the coast of Libya. Italian, Spanish, and French naval and merchant vessels as well as a plane and a helicopter were involved in rescue operations, the spokesman said.

According to the Italian government, 181,000 asylum seekers arrived in Italy last year, all of them having departed from Libya.

The refugees, desperate to leave and thus at the mercy of human traffickers, are often loaded onto rickety vessels in the waters of the Mediterranean. Countless incidents of boats capsizing have occurred and hundreds have perished as a result. Last year, 5,000 asylum seekers died during the perilous crossing, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

This photo, taken off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea on November 03, 2016, shows asylum seekers on a rubber boat headed to Italy. (By AFP)

The exodus of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East has also led to a refugee crisis in Europe, their desired destination. In reaction to the crisis, European countries have mobilized resources to reduce refugee arrivals and deport those that do arrive to other countries.

Tougher border controls, strict refugee policies, and deals with countries to return asylum seekers are part of the measures enforced by European authorities to cope with the crisis.

This is while analysts believe Western policies are the root of the crisis, as those policies fan the flames of wars and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and force locals to leave their homes.

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