NAIROBI – At least seven Somali refugees have died on their way to Malta from Libya, while other survivors managed to land on one of Malta’s most popular beaches, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the boat came ashore at Riviera Bay on Saturday carrying 90 exhausted people, and the emergency services were alerted by families spending the evening at the beach.
“Exhausted survivors from a boat carrying Somali refugees that landed on one of Malta’s most popular beaches this weekend have told the UNHCR that five men and two women aboard perished during the week-long voyage from Libya,” the agency said in a statement.
Last year an estimated 1,500 people were reported missing or dead attempting to reach Europe.
The UN refugee agency has reiterated its call to ship masters in the Mediterranean for heightened vigilance and continued adherence to the longstanding maritime obligation of aiding those in distress.
This is the fourth-such boat to have arrived in Malta this year, bringing a total of some 210 people. A further 45 boats have arrived in Italy.
“According to our regional office in Italy the latest deaths bring the number of reported or confirmed dead among people attempting to reach Europe from Libya to 81 this year — or two people every three days on average,” it said.
Compared with last year, which saw tens of thousands of people travelling from Tunisia and Libya, the number of arrivals in Malta and Italy from North Africa is down, with around 2,200 people having arrived in 2012, most in Italy.