Over 20 migrants feared drowned off Libyan coast: International Organization for Migration

In this file photo taken on August 1, 2017 a member of Aquarius rescue ship run by NGO SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres holds a girl after she was recovered with others by Santa Lucia merchant ship in the Mediterranean Sea, 20 nautic miles from the Libyan coast. (AFP)
Updated 07 March 2018
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Over 20 migrants feared drowned off Libyan coast: International Organization for Migration

ROME: More than 20 African migrants were missing and feared drowned Tuesday after scores of people seeking to reach Italy were rescued from unseaworthy boats off the Libyan coast, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday.
A Cypriot merchant ship picked up 72 migrants in international waters on Saturday, 30 of whom had left Libya on a wooden boat and 42 others from a rubber dinghy.
They were then handed over to the Aquarius humanitarian ship chartered by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
The IOM said that after arriving at the port of Pozzallo in Sicily on Tuesday, the survivors from the first group told them that 21 people traveling with them had been lost at sea.
“People fell in the water when people panicked overnight and the boat almost capsized,” a young Gambian migrant told SOS Mediterranee.
“There were five women on board, four drowned, one of whom was a pregnant woman. My brother died.”
Those in the second group said that 90 people were rescued by the Libyan coast guard and taken back to Libya.
“We do not know exactly how it happened but families have been separated and we are trying to see how to bring them back together,” Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesman for IOM in Italy, told AFP.
Italy’s interior ministry said 5,300 migrants have arrived in the country this year, 66 percent fewer than over the same period of 2017.
That follows a sharp decline since last summer after a controversial agreement was struck with Libya that has drawn fierce criticism due to the often dire conditions migrants face when returned to the north African country.
At least 337 migrants have died or disappeared off the coast of Libya since the beginning of the year, the IOM said.


Palestinians protest in Ramallah over Gaza sanctions

Updated 34 min 29 sec ago
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Palestinians protest in Ramallah over Gaza sanctions

  • Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated Saturday in the occupied West Bank to demand the Palestinian Authority lift punitive measures against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
  • Demonstrators in Ramallah chanted “scrap the sanctions!” during protests against the Palestinian Authority.

RAMALLAH: Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated Saturday in the occupied West Bank to demand the Palestinian Authority lift punitive measures against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, an AFP reporter said.
Demonstrators in Ramallah chanted “scrap the sanctions!” during protests against the Palestinian Authority, organized by civil society groups.
The Ramallah-based administration has introduced a series of measures against Gaza over the past year.
Tens of thousands of its civil servants in the coastal enclave, separated from the West Bank by a strip of Israeli territory, have gone without full pay for months.
Critics say such moves by the PA, dominated by the Fatah movement of president Mahmud Abbas, further exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.
The rally passed peacefully, unlike a protest on June 13 during which Palestinian security forces fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
On Saturday, policemen were seen handing out Palestinian flags to the protesters.
Hamas has run Gaza since seizing it from the Palestinian Authority amid deadly clashes in 2007.
Since that year, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza which it argues is necessary to isolate Hamas.
Rights groups say the siege amounts to collective punishment.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the territory since 2008.
Neighbouring Egypt has also largely sealed its land border with Gaza in recent years, citing security threats.
The United Nations has said Gaza, which is home to two million people, will be uninhabitable by 2020.
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last October, but it has since collapsed.