An NGO has said 84 people are missing after an overcrowded dinghy sank between Libya and Italy. The closure of the Balkan route has authorities worried that more migrants will attempt the far more dangerous crossing.
Following a late-night rescue at sea, some 84 migrants were still feared missing off the coast of Libya on Saturday. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) warned that though 26 refugees were saved from the sinking inflatable craft late on Friday night, dozens of their fellows were still unaccounted for.
"According to testimonies gathered by IOM in Lampedusa, 84 people went missing," IOM's spokesman for Italy, Flavio Di Giacomo, wrote on Twitter.
Earlier Saturday, the Italian coastguard had confirmed that 26 people were rescued by an Italian cargo ship that spotted the flimsy boat foundering between southern Italy and Libya. They were then escorted to the island of Lampedusa, a onetime tourist island near Sicily now known as a flashpoint of Europe's migrant crisis.
The nationalities of the migrants has not been made public.
Thousands of dead
With the land route from Greece to Western Europe across the Balkans now shut to migrants, officials expect many to attempt the longer and far more dangerous water crossing to Italy.
More than 350,000 people running from war and poverty have reached Italian shores, often on rickety, overcrowded boats, from Libya since the beginning of 2014. How many thousands have drowned in the process is unknown as Italy's coastguard and volunteer vessels grapple with a large part of Europe's most massive refugee crisis since World War II.
es/tj (AFP, Reuters)