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Up to 500 migrants might have drowned in the Mediterranean last week when human traffickers crammed people onto an already overcrowded ship, causing it to sink, the UN refugee agency said on Wednesday.
If confirmed, it would be the worst such tragedy in 12 months and bring the total number of migrant drownings in the southern Mediterranean to nearly 800 so far this year.
The UNHCR agency said 37 men, three women and a three-year-old child had survived the disaster after being rescued by a merchant ship. The group, which was brought to Greece on April 16, included Somalis, Ethiopians, Egyptians and one Sudanese.
The survivors recounted that they had been among 100 to 200 people who had set sail from Libya last week headed for Italy. After several hours at sea, the traffickers tried to move them onto a bigger ship that was already packed with migrants. This ship sank before the survivors could board



it.
An Ethiopian man named Mohamed told the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that his wife, two-month-old child and brother-in-law died in the sinking.
“The boat was going down, down. All the people died in a matter of minutes. After the shipwreck we were drifted at sea for a few days, without food, without anything,” the IOM quoted Mohamed as saying. UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said the eyewitnesses estimated that up to 500 people might have perished.
“We don’t know exactly how many were there on that boat and they have now disappeared from the face of the earth,” he told Reuters television said. “This is another example of what is happening almost in a daily basis in the Mediterranean.”
The Somali government said on Monday that it believed that some 200 of the dead were from Somalia. It also said that the capsized boat had originally set sail from Egypt.

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