[QODLink]
Africa
Migrants die of thirst off N African coast
Fifty-four people trying to reach Italy die after a voyage in which their rubber boat gradually deflated, says UNHCR.
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2012 23:44

Fifty-four people trying to reach Italy from Libya have died of thirst after a 15-day voyage in which their rubber boat gradually deflated, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said, citing the sole survivor.

The agency said on Tuesday that the only survivor, an Eritrean national, was rescued by the Tunisian coastguard in a state of advanced dehydration and clinging to the remains of the boat after being spotted by fishermen the previous night.

The Eritrean said that he left Libya towards the end of June as part of a 55-strong group, half of whom came from Eritrea.

"He told us that there were immediately problems on the boat, that unfortunately they weren't even allowed to take a bottle of water and so once they got lost and the voyage went on, people started to feel unwell and die because of the lack of water,"  Laura Boldrini, a UN spokeswoman, told reporters.

'Left to their fate'

"How is it possible that in a sea like the Mediterranean which is full of fishing boats, cargo ships, naval ships, these people were just left to their fate like that," she said.

The survivor, who was taken to a hospital in Zarzis in southeastern Tunisia, told UNHCR officials the craft nearly reached the coast of Italy but was driven back by strong winds and began to deflate after a few days. 

As their desperation grew, many drank sea water, which worsened their thirst, he told the officials.

The incident is the latest in a long series of disasters which have killed thousands of migrants attempting to reach southern Europe from North Africa in small, unstable and frequently overcrowded boats.

According to the UNHCR, about 170 people have died this year trying to reach Europe from Libya. Around 1,300 have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of 2012 and another 1,000 people have reached Malta.

310

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Activists say 'Honor Diaries' documentary exploits gender-based violence to further an anti-Islamic agenda.
As Syria's civil war escalates along the Turkish border, many in Turkey are questioning the country's involvement.
Treatment for autism in the region has progressed, but lack of awareness and support services remains a challenge.
The past isn't far away for a people exiled from Crimea by Russia and the decades it took to get home.
New report highlights plight of domestic helpers in the United Kingdom, with critics comparing it to kefala system.
join our mailing list