Somalia Condolences on Report of Hundreds Drowned

Somalia Condolences on Report of Hundreds DrownedSomalia Condolences on Report of Hundreds Drowned

Somalia’s political leadership has issued condolences over unconfirmed reports saying scores of migrants may have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Their boat had apparently lost communication after leaving Egypt.

The joint statement issued by Somalia’s president, prime minister and speaker of parliament stated that 400 migrants, mostly Somalis, had drowned. However, the Somali information minister later said only 200 people had drowned, DPA reported.

“It’s a painful tragedy which reminds us all how important it is for us to discourage our youth from embarking on such high risk journeys,” the leaders’ joint statement said.

By Monday evening, however, officials were yet to confirm the story’s veracity.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella came closest, speaking at a prize ceremony in Rome, where he said Europe would need to reflect about “yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean in which, it seems, several hundred people have died”. He did not give any further details.

Somali government spokesman, Abdisalan Aato, told Germany’s DPA news agency that officials had received “reports indicating that many Somalis died in this tragedy”.

“Very few others were rescued by European maritime forces,” Aato added.

The report of the alleged sinking came on the one-year anniversary of the shipwreck of a fishing boat crowded with some 800 smuggled migrants which sank to the seafloor. Only 28 survived.

Unconfirmed media reports earlier on Monday spoke of 400 or more victims from boats that had capsized not far from the Egyptian coast as they attempted to take sail to Europe.

Reports of the drowning started circulating among families and on social media but have remained unconfirmed by coast guard officials in Italy, Greece, Libya or Egypt.

Frontex spokeswoman Izabella Cooper said the EU border protection agency had no confirmation of any such accident and was not involved in any search-and-rescue operation at the moment.

Italy’s coastguard said six bodies were recovered on Sunday and 108 migrants rescued from a semi-submerged rubber dinghy, but nothing of other sunken vessels. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said his country was still trying to get confirmation while the Greek coastguard said it had no reports of any boat sinking in the area.