400 migrants fleeing Libya reported missing-UNHCR

April 5, 2011

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said it had unconfirmed reports the two boats left Libya in the last 10 days to two weeks but had no further word on their whereabouts or fate of the passengers.

“We understand the people on board are of different nationalities, mainly from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told Reuters in Geneva.

One of the boats was reported to have left Libya on March 22 with 335 people on board.

Italian media said 68 people on the other boat had almost certainly died during the journey, although there was no official confirmation. The top Vatican official in Tripoli, Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, said 10 bodies of African migrants were at the capital’s morgue on Monday.

“They were found on the beaches of Tripoli, eight men and two women. They are African migrants but it is difficult to say from which country, because their faces had already swollen,” he told Reuters by phone.

He said there were reports of “many more bodies” of migrants washed up on the shores of Garaboulli, some 40 km from Tripoli. (additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva)