Boat tragedy off Moroccan coast, 4 dead, several boats rescued off Maltese, Italian and Libyan coasts

Briefing Notes, 6 December 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 6 December 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR received news late last week of a rescue by the Moroccan Royal Navy of a vessel with more than 60 people. 53 people on board were rescued while four were found to have died. The boat was found a few kilometres offshore from Dar Kabdani in the north of the country. A number of people are known to have drowned and their bodies have not yet been recovered.

Among the passengers were children under the age of ten, and women, some pregnant. The dead included a Congolese woman and her daughter, who UNHCR identified at the morgue. They were both registered refugees. The passengers mentioned that a Congolese refugee, a young man, is known to have drowned. His body has not been recovered.

Separately, two sailing boats with around 80 people onboard and of different nationalities (mostly Afghans) departing from Greece, were rescued by the Italian coastguard on Monday after a week at sea. They were found dehydrated and with no food and water left.

UNHCR has also been informed that a boat that left from the Libyan coast over the weekend was rescued by the Maltese Armed Forces overnight. Fourty-four people were reported to be onboard. Many are Somali, according to a Somali journalist who contacted our office in Rome.

The Libyan coast guard has reported that up to four hundred people were rescued from boats off the Libyan coast in recent days. It now seems that migrants and refugees are once again attempting to use Libya as a transit route to Europe. In years gone past it was rare to see boats attempting to make the perilous crossing during the winter.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Rome: Federico Fossi on mobile +39 349 084 3461
  • In Valetta: Fabrizio Ellul on mobile +356 99 69 0081
  • In Geneva: Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 9138
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