Migrant crisis: Dozens of asylum seekers drown off Libyan coast

Asylum seekers wearing life vests are seen floating in the water before being rescued at sea.

More than 30 asylum seekers — mostly toddlers — have drowned after around 200 people without life jackets fell from a boat into the sea off the Libyan coast. 
The boat was near a rescue vessel when it suddenly listed and many asylum seekers tumbled into the Mediterranean, Italian Coast Guard commander Cosimo Nicastro said.

"At least 20 dead bodies were spotted in the water," he said.

The rescue group MOAS, which also had a ship nearby, said it had already recovered more than 30 bodies. 
"Most are toddlers," the group's co-founder Chris Catrambone said on Twitter.

The coast guard called in more ships to help with the rescue, saying about 1,700 people were packed into about 15 vessels in the area. 
More than 1,300 people have died this year on the world's most dangerous crossing for asylum seekers fleeing poverty and war across Africa and the Middle East.

The journey across the Mediterranean on overloaded migrant boats is notoriously risky as passengers often surge to the side nearest a rescue vessel and destabilise their flimsy craft, which then list dangerously or capsize. 
On Wednesday, Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) has accused the Libyan coastguard of endangering people's lives during a Mediterranean rescue.

MSF said during a rescue of refugees off the Libyan coast yesterday, their staff witnessed a Libyan coastguard vessel approach boats in distress. 
The NGO says armed Libyan coastguards took money and other belongings from the migrants and fired gunshots into the air.

They say mass panic broke out with 60 people jumping into the sea. All were then rescued by the NGO.

ABC/Wires

Migrant crisis: Dozens of asylum seekers drown off Libyan coast Migrant crisis: Dozens of asylum seekers drown off Libyan coast Reviewed by Nene Sochi-Okereke on Thursday, 25 May 2017 Rating: 5

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