Approximately 80 migrants from Libya died in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Italy, the ANSA News Agency said yesterday. The deaths were reported about 40 survivors who were rescued by a coast guard ship and taken to the port of Pozzallo in the Ragusa region. The migrants said they sailed from Libya several days ago but their boat was destroyed from being loaded beyond capacity. Ragusa's public prosecutor has launched an investigation into the accident. At total of "20,484 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through March 19, with over 80 percent arriving in Italy and the rest in Spain and Greece," according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). "This compares with 160,331 through the first 79 days of 2016."
The group reported 525 Mediterranean deaths, short of the 553 reported during the same period in 2016. At least 481 migrants or refugees have drowned or gone missing this year along the Central Mediterranean route linking North Africa to Italy. At the same time last year, 159 migrants had been lost on the route.
Italy and Libya inked a deal in February calling for Italy to train Libyan coast guard officers and to provide them with a dozen ships to patrol the country's lawless coasts. EU leaders hailed the accord as a new commitment to save lives and stem the flow of migrants to Europe, where the refugee influx has become a pressing political issue.
Aid groups, however, have criticized it as hypocritical and cruel, arguing that migrants who have already endured grave human rights abuses in Libya will face renewed violence, torture, sexual assault and other injustices if they are returned by the Libyan coast guard.
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