More bodies of would-be immigrants found in sea off Libya

Other News Materials 6 June 2008 21:00 (UTC +04:00)

An Italian Navy patrol boat recovered Friday the bodies of seven would-be immigrants in Libyan territorial waters of the Mediterranean Sea, reported dpa.

The find, brought to 12 the number of people believed to have drowned in a shipwreck involving an inflatable boat carrying would-be immigrants attempting to reach Sicily from North Africa, coast guard officials said.

"We believe all the missing people are now accounted for," coast guard official, Michele Andrea, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

"However, one can never be sure because survivors often don't know how many people were travelling with them, and even if they do, they are often reluctant to provide the information, probably because of some irrational fear," he said.

On Thursday, a Italian trawler rescued 27 people - including seven women - who managed to survive by holding on to the boat after it had capsized.

The trawler also recovered five bodies in the same area which lies some 150 nautical miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, in waters controlled by Libya.

Authorities are yet to establish the identity or nationality of the survivors and those who died, but believe they are from East Africa, possibly Ethiopia or Eritrea, Andrea said.

Each year thousands of would-be immigrants from Africa and Asia try to enter Europe illegally by crossing the Mediterranean Sea and attempting to land on Italy's extensive coastline.

These journeys, which are mostly carried out using ramshackle vessels, often have fatal consequences.