Five migrants were found dead in the sea off Libya on Thursday after the boats they were traveling in sank, likely carrying hundreds more to their deaths, a Spanish aid organization said on Thursday, March 23.
Proactiva Open Arms, one of several groups operating in the area, said it was notified that an inflatable boat was sinking early on Thursday and found another going down shortly afterwards.
“We brought on board five corpses recovered from the sea, but no lives. It is a harsh reality check of the suffering here that is invisible in Europe,” the group wrote on Facebook.
Laura Lanuza, a Proactiva Open Arms spokeswoman, said each rubber boat usually holds 120 people, but smugglers tend to fill them over capacity to maximize their benefits in each trip.
A spokesman for Italy’s coast guard, which coordinates and participates in rescues, confirmed the five bodies were on board Proactiva’s ship, the Golfo Azzurro, which he said would remain in the area in case of any emergency calls.
She said the NGO confirmed the sinking of two boats but was only able to find the bodies of five men of African origin on Thursday morning, about 13 miles (21 kilometers) north of the Libyan town of Sabratha.
The UN Refugee Agency said it was “deeply alarmed” by the reports.
“Those incidents come after an intense week of arrivals through the Central Mediterranean route, with almost 6,000 migrants and refugees rescued in just five days this week,” said the UNHRC in a statement released on Thursday.
A rising number of migrants is attempting to cross the central Mediterranean this year after a deal between the European Union and Turkey largely shut down a route to Greece.
A total of 559 deaths, excluding this latest incident, have been recorded in the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration. About 5,000 were recorded for the whole of 2016.
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