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Another Disaster — Involving Hundreds of Migrants — Hits Mediterranean


This undated image made available on May 30, 2016, by the Italian Navy Marina Militare shows migrants being rescued at sea.

Nine people were confirmed dead and many more feared missing after a boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea early Friday, while the bodies of over 100 migrants from another vessel that capsized days earlier washed up on a beach in Libya.

Friday's emergency began when a crowded, 25-meter-long wooden boat overturned 140 kilometers (75 nautical miles) south of the southern Greek island of Crete. Rescuers pulled more than 340 people from the sea, most of them from Africa.

At least three ships, including one from the Greek coast guard, and two rescue helicopters searched for survivors. About 700 people were believed to have been aboard the ship.

Most survivors were taken to Italy; others were sent to Malta, Egypt and Turkey. If those who were rescued are determined to be migrants seeking economic opportunity, rather than refugees fleeing for their safety, they risk being sent back to their home countries.

The rights group Amnesty International urged the European Union on Friday to halt its plan to return asylum-seekers to Turkey, which already has 3 million refugees, more than 90 percent of them from war-torn Syria.

Amnesty said the arrangement between the EU and Turkey to curb the tide of refugees trying to reach Europe was "illegal" and "reckless."

Though most Syrian refugees enter Europe by land through Turkey, a boat carrying 65 Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis was intercepted off the Greek coast last week.

The U.N. Refugee Agency's latest weekly report on the flow of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean region said an estimated 880 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea during the past week.

The total loss of life among those trying to reach Europe has risen to more than 2,500 people during the first five months of this year, UNHCR said. By contrast, 1,855 people died in the same period of 2015.