This year is on track to become the deadliest ever for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea after two heavily loaded boats wrecked in the past week, possibly killing 700 people fleeing Africa for Europe—the same number as died during all of last year. About 500 Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Sudanese are feared dead after their boat was rammed and sunk off the Malta coast last week, the International Organization for Migration, an inter-governmental organization with 156 member countries, said yesterday. Another 200 are feared dead in the wreck of a second boat that was carrying at least 250 African migrants to Europe when it capsized off the Libyan coast. That would raise the total number of migrants killed on the sea in 2014 to about 2,900, according to estimates from the IOM and other officials.
The migrants apparently lost off Malta were undertaking a perilous journey from the Egyptian port of Damietta, seeking a better life in Europe, when their boat was overtaken by human traffickers on Wednesday, said IOM spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume. According to IOM's interviews with two survivors from that group, the traffickers rammed the boat carrying the migrants with one of their two vessels. The two survivors, both Palestinians, said there had been a violent confrontation between the migrants and the traffickers when the traffickers tried to move the migrants onto a smaller boat. Berthiaume told the AP the traffickers "used one boat to knock the other" and that there were about nine known survivors in all. Berthiaume said the other boat capsized yesterday before leaving the coast near the Libyan capital.