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82 African migrants drown, 100 missing in Mediterranean crossing

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Rome: Italian authorities Thursday said at least 82 African migrants drowned and 100 people were lost in the sea after their boat capsized off Lampedusa Island, Italy's southernmost territory.

Rescue teams recovered the bodies of 82 people who drowned after the fishing boat carrying them capsized. The boat was reportedly transporting around 500 illegal migrants, including women and children, from north Africa, reports Xinhua.

Around 150 migrants were rescued by coastal guards who were checking if there were more victims of the unfortunate crossing, according to ANSA.

Thousands of immigrants seek the southern shores of Italy every summer, when Mediterranean waters in the Strait of Sicily calm sufficiently for small boats to make the crossing, usually from Libya or Tunisia.

They come looking for work in the European Union and many do not remain in Italy. Those who do, or who are taken into Italian custody, can be sent home.

According to United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, almost 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers landed on the coasts of southern Italy in the first half of this year. The vast majority were from North Africa, mainly Libya, which has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

IANS

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