Hundreds drown in rush for Italy
DESPITE five rescue ships being in sight, more than 200 asylum seekers have drowned off the coast of Libya within 48 hours, the United Nation's refugee agency says.
The International Organisation for Migration's Leonard Doyle said two rubber dinghies packed with more than 300 migrants had "succumbed to the waves off Libya in very bad weather”.
Most of the migrants died despite rescue attempts by the Italian Coastguard- coordinated vessels.
It takes the death toll in the Mediterranean to 4220 so far this year, compared with 3777 for the whole of 2015.
Asylum seekers have reportedly been told by people smugglers that rescue missions will soon be handed over to Libya and so any rescued migrants will be taken ashore in Libya rather than in Italy.
Beating that change might be causing the rush, despite the bad weather.