More than 200 migrants dead off Libya

Body count mounts in Mediterranean

(ANSA) - Rome, August 28 - More than 200 migrants were found dead off Libya Friday as the body count in the Mediterranean continued to mount.
    The bodies were spotted by Libyan coast guards off the coast of Zuwara, at the border with Tunisia, where two shipwrecks occurred Thursday. The bodies of 40 people were found inside the hold of a ship that ran aground while at least 160 others were found floating in the water.
    The bodies at sea were discovered one km off the Libyan coast in front of Zuwara. Libyan coast guards were able to recover a number of bodies, an official said, but others were left at sea as the Libyan vessel "did not have enough light to continue working". The bodies appear to be of migrants "from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco and Bangladesh", said a Libyan security chief.
    Thursday's were two of the deadliest shipwrecks off Libya.
    On August 5, a boat carrying over 600 people sank, leaving at least 200 dead.
    In the Strait of Sicily, the deadliest post-WWII incident was reported on April 18, when 700 died.
    Libya, which is torn by a domestic crisis that has favored the infiltration of ISIS, is the departing point of most Europe-bound migrant vessels, which are manned by human traffickers who take advantage of the lack of controls due to the instability. Zuwara is known as one of the points of departure.
    The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday more than 300,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean in an effort to reach Europe and 2,500 have died or gone missing in the attempt since the year began.
    Of these, 200,000 reached Greece and 110,000 reached Italy.
    "This is a significant increase since last year, when some 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean throughout 2014," said UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming.
    Pope Francis is deeply concerned for the plight of thousands of migrants fleeing their lands, Vatican Radio said Friday.
    It is an exodus of biblical proportion - stressed the broadcast - with entire families reduced to poverty and risking their lives in search of a better life, far from wars, violence and hunger. The pontiff also invited people to open their hearts in a tweet: "My Lord help us become more generous and always closer to poor families". Meanwhile in Austria police said a total of 71 refugees - including eight women and four children - were found dead on a lorry that was abandoned Thursday along the A4 highway in the north of the country.
    Police said three arrests have been made in Hungary in connection with the mass deaths.
    The refugees were probably from Syria, police said. Also on Friday, the Romanian foreign ministry said the driver is not a Romanian citizen.
    The Hungarian deputy premier confirmed Thursday that the lorry had left from Budapest. British police on Friday arrested 27 migrants aboard a truck with Italian number plates at a service station in Surrey.
    They also arrested the driver.
    They were arrested for illegal entry into the UK.
    The New York Times said Friday that "he Italian government has had only limited success in pressuring its European partners to share the burden of the 83,000 migrants who have reached its shores so far this year".
    The White House on Friday urged the EU to take firmer action against migrant traffickers.