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80 more migrants drowned in latest Italy boat tragedy

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Near 80 migrants on board a boat traveling from North Africa to Italy are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

Catania prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said on Wednesday that the shipwreck “occurred because the rubber dinghy was overcrowded and in a poor state.”

A group of 27 migrants, who were rescued by the Italian navy vessels over the weekend, said nearly 75 others were also on board the boat when it went down.

Six other migrants from another boat were lost at sea while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya.

The victims “met an atrocious end at the hands of unscrupulous death merchants who profit from desperation to make money out of journeys carried out in inhuman conditions,” Italy’s Interior Minister Angelo Alfano said in an address to the Senate on Wednesday.

The Wednesday incident took place just days after dozens of others suffocated in the hold of an overcrowded fishing boat there.

On Sunday, Italian authorities announced that more than 1,600 migrants had been rescued by the navy and coast guards over the weekend, bringing the total number of migrants arriving on Italian shores in 2014 to above 60,000.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) earlier called on governments to provide legal alternatives so that desperate people in need of refuge can seek and find protection and asylum.

The UNHCR says 500 migrants and refugee seekers have lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of 2014.

“Despite the huge efforts by the Italian authorities and the constant help offered by private boats, hundreds of innocent migrants and refugees continue to lose their lives at Europe’s boundaries,” it said.

Over the past years, Italy has been the scene of a number of tragedies for African migrants in crowded boats who are seeking refuge in Europe.

In October 2013, more than 300 migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Somalia, were killed after their boat capsized off Lampedusa, located halfway between Sicily and Tunisia.

During the past 20 years, an estimated 17,000 to 20,000 migrants have perished during the dangerous crossing, as they travel on badly overcrowded fishing vessels or rubber boats.

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