At least 27 people died after an inflatable boat carrying African migrants sank off the French coast near Lampedusa, just north of Sicily, and up to 100 more remain missing, police said.
Migrant center staff said the boat’s passengers were Eritreans and Somalis who had been invited to Lampedusa, an Italian island off the north coast of Sicily, to apply for refugee status. Many refused to stay and eventually tried to sail north across the Mediterranean to northern Europe.
There were between 22 and 27 people in the wooden boat that sank on Friday night, coast guard rescuers said. That estimate was confirmed by Luca Cari, an official with the city of Brescia, which is about 50 miles north of Lampedusa.
The bodies of at least seven migrants were found in the water near the boat’s sunken hull. According to the news agency Ansa, the migrants aboard the vessel were believed to have set out in separate groups, and the survivors stayed on board as the raft capsized.
Fears of climate change have sent tens of thousands of African migrants to Italy over the past several years.
Earlier this month, Italy and Malta agreed to take in thousands of desperate migrants who risked their lives in overcrowded boats for the Sicilian island in response to a European Union rescue mission.
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