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400 feared dead in migrant vessel capsize

400 feared dead in migrant vessel capsize
The capsizing of a migrant boat off Libya is feared to have claimed over 400 lives, Save the Children reports.

So far, nine bodies have been recovered, with 144 rescued, many of whom were “young men, probably minors”, according to the charity. The vessel was said to be carrying around 550 at the time of its capsize.

According to statistics from Reuters, around 2,200 migrants attempted to make the crossing over the weekend, with two Albanian people smugglers arrested by Italy’s coastguard.

Improving weather is expected to herald the beginning of “migration season” during which many more illegal passages are expected to be attempted. Over 280,000 people entered the EU illegally last year, many fleeing conflicts in Syria, Eritrea and Somalia, with an estimated 3,400 deaths.

Merchant shipping has thrust into the frontline of illegal migration and concerns have been raised regularly by industry bodies, unions and the IMO.

“We are concerned by the problem of migrants and [safety] of ferry passengers. 2014 was a record year for the losses of lives of migrants - this is why we will hold a conference at the end of April in Philippines for ending migration problems,” IMO secretary-general Koji Sekimizu said at the opening of the Panama Maritime XII conference on Sunday, having previously referred to people smuggling as a “humanitarian tragedy” that was stretching authorities “to breaking point” in the Med.