At least 34 people drowned when a smugglers’ boat capsized Friday afternoon, about 65 miles southeast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. The 143 survivors, mostly Syrians, arrived in Malta yesterday.
The tragedy came eight days after a trawler packed with 500 Eritreans capsized and sank within sight of Lampedusa. Caskets of the 339 dead arrived yesterday in Sicily, where they are to be buried.
Some 30,100 migrants arrived in Italy and Malta this year, according to the UN refugee agency. Most are asylum seekers, fleeing civil war in Syria or repression and mandatory conscription in Eritrea.
Lampedusa is the destination of choice for smugglers, who usually charge more than 1,000 euros a head and cram the migrants onto unreliable boats.
Fortress Europe, which tracks migrant deaths reported by the media, says about 6,450 people died in the Strait of Sicily between 1994 and 2012.
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