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21 Libyan Migrants Feared Drowned in Bid to Reach Italian Shores 


FILE - Migrants' personal belongings lie in a rubber boat after the people were rescued by aid workers of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, 60 miles north of Al-Khums, Libya, Feb. 18, 2018. The migrants had left Libya in an effort to reach European soil.

At least 21 Libyan migrants who were trying to make the dangerous Mediterranean Sea journey to Italy late last week are missing and feared drowned.

The U.N. migration agency said Tuesday that they were part of a large group who had set off from Libya aboard a wooden boat and a rubber dinghy and had to be rescued at sea.

Survivors said there was a panic on one of the vessels and people fell overboard, but the details of what happened were unclear.

The Libyan Coast Guard returned some to Libya while a Cypriot commercial ship picked up others. They arrived at the Italian port of Pozzallo on Tuesday.

The number of migrants trying to reach European Union nations from Libya is down substantially from the same time last year, in part because of an agreement between Libya and Italy to immediately return most of those picked up at sea.

U.N. migration officials said 421 people had died trying to sail to Italy so far this year, compared with 521 at the same time in 2017.

But they said more than 100 had died trying to reach Spain in an equally dangerous western sea journey.

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