Italy recovers 24 bodies in deadliest refugee days

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Associated Press

Posted on August 26, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 26 at 2:30 PM

ROME (AP) — Another 24 bodies were recovered Tuesday from an overturned fishing boat off Italy's southern coast as would-be refugees fleeing increasing instability in Libya saw their deadliest few days this year with more than 300 drowned.

The U.N. refugee agency said the worst incident occurred Friday near Garibouli, east of Tripoli. That boat was reportedly carrying at least 270 people when it overturned and sank. Only 19 people survived, according to Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

On Tuesday, the Italian navy said two of its patrol boats recovered 24 corpses from a capsized smuggler's boat Sunday night. Their remains, as well as 364 survivors, were headed toward Augusta on Sicily's east coast.

The U.N. agency said more than 300 would-be refugees have been killed since Friday and that 1,889 have died since the start of the year, including 1,600 since the beginning of June when the influx grew exponentially as the security situation in Libya deteriorated.

More than 100,000 people have arrived in Italy so far this year thanks to increasing instability in Libya, where human smugglers operate. Some 42,000 had arrived in all of 2013.

Most of the migrants hail from Eritrea, Syria, Somalia and other African nations. They pay hundreds or thousands of euros apiece to Libyan-based smugglers to make the treacherous crossing to Europe.

At a meeting Wednesday with the EU's home affairs commissioner, Italy's interior minister is expected to demand that the European Union do more to help Italy rescue the migrants. Italy launched the 9.5 million euro ($13 million) a month "Mare Nostrum" operation last year after more than 360 migrants drowned when their boat capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

"As more refugees and migrants risk their lives at sea to reach Europe ... urgent action is needed including in finding legal alternatives to these dangerous journeys," Fleming said, according to a U.N. summary of her remarks.

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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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