Smugglers Deliberately Sunk Boat Carrying 500 Migrants, IOM Says

People traffickers deliberately sunk a boat carrying about 500 migrants to Europe from Egypt, the International Organization for Migration said, citing interviews with the few survivors and relatives.

The traffickers used their boat to ram the vessel carrying the migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and then waited until it disappeared from view before leaving the scene, according to a statement released by the Geneva-based group today.

Two Palestinians, both from Gaza, an Egyptian and a Syrian were among 10 survivors who were rescued separately after days in the water and brought ashore in Crete, Malta and Sicily. The IOM said it believes that as many as 100 children may have been aboard, based on accounts given by some of the survivors.

The migrants were taken in four buses to the port of Damietta, near the Egyptian city of Alexandria, on Sept. 6 where they boarded a ship already carrying some migrants, the IOM said. The trip turned violent last week when the migrants refused to transfer onto a smaller boat they deemed unseaworthy in what would have been the journey’s fourth switch of vessels.

The smugglers were Palestinian and Egyptian, according to the report. The IOM’s investigation is ongoing.

Authorities are also investigating a report that a further 200 people are missing, presumed drowned in an incident off Libya and another 15 died off the coast of Egypt.

If the accounts are confirmed, the past week will have been one of the most deadly for migrants in years, the IOM said. The number of migrants drowned trying to reach Europe’s shores this year is nearing 3,000, according to the IOM. That’s nearly four times the figure in 2013.

“The numbers dying off Europe’s coasts are shocking and unacceptable,” IOM Director General William Lacy Swing said in the statement. “We cannot keep abandoning them to their fate.”

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