Survivors of sea voyage to Malta say seven Somali refugees died

News Stories, 8 May 2012

An aerial photo from the past shows an overcrowded boat off the coast of Malta.

VALETTA, Malta, May 8 (UNHCR) Somali asylum-seekers who landed their boat on one of Malta's most popular beaches at the weekend have told UNHCR that seven fellow passengers died during their week-long voyage from Libya.

The boat came ashore at Riviera Bay on Saturday and the emergency services were alerted to the arrival of the 90 exhausted Somalis by people enjoying an evening on the beach.

This is the fourth such boat to have arrived in Malta this year, bringing a cumulative total of more than 210 people. A further 26 vessels carrying migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy from Libya. "According to our regional office in Italy the latest deaths bring the number of reported or confirmed dead among people attempting to reach Europe from Libya to 81 this year or two people every three days on average," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

Compared to last year, which saw tens of thousands of people travelling from Tunisia and Libya, numbers of arrivals in Malta and Italy from North Africa are down, with around 1,400 people having arrived in 2012, the majority in Italy.

Last year, an estimated 1,500 people were reported missing or dead attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.

"UNHCR reiterates its call to ship masters in the Mediterranean for heightened vigilance and continued adherence to the longstanding maritime obligation of aiding those in distress," Edwards stressed.