More than 100 feared missing after migrant shipwreck off Libya, says UN refugee agency

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More than 100 people are presumed missing at sea after the sinking of a dinghy off the coast of Libya, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Carlotta Sami, UNHCR spokesperson in Rome, reported the incident on Twitter on Thursday, but told dpa she did not have any additional information.

If confirmed, it would be the first major shipwreck on the central Mediterranean route in “several weeks,’’ Sami added.

Earlier, the ANSA news agency quoted a spokesperson of the Libyan Navy, Ayoub Qassem, as saying that the Libyan coastguard received a call for help and was able to rescue only a few people.

The shipwreck was said to have taken place off the eastern port of Zuwarah a well-known migrant smuggling hub and survivors told rescuers that “more than 120’’ people had been on board.

Migration flows from Libya to Italy have sharply decreased since July following deals Rome struck with the Libyan coastguard and allegedly local militias.

From the previous years till date, there has been a 21 per cent decrease in migrant landings to Italy, by 103,000, compared to the same period of 2016, Italian Interior Ministry data shows.

However, numbers surged last week, for reasons yet unclear.

More than 2,200 people arrived from September 11 to 17, almost five times more than the previous week, the International Organisation for Migration said.

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