LAMPEDUSA, Italy: Dozens of people were missing and 54 rescued after a migrant boat sank off the island of Lampedusa early yesterday, Italian officials said. Italian and NATO boats were last night searching the waters around the island, the BBC reported.
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A distress call to the port in Palermo, Sicily, said 100 people were on board the vessel, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Lampedusa, about 120 kilometres from Tunisia, is one of the nearest gateways to Europe for African migrants.

A spokesman for the Italian coast guard, Filippo Marini, said 54 people had been accounted for by early Friday morning local time, all of them Tunisian and in good health, Associated Press reported.

The migrant boat, reported to be 10 metres long, sank about 20 kilometres off Lampedusa.

Last year Amnesty International reported at least 1500 people had drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe.

At least 58 migrants drowned in the Aegean Sea just off the Turkish coast after a fishing boat that was carrying them sank early on Thursday, local officials told a Turkish news agency.

Forty-six others who were on the boat, including the two-man crew, reached shore safely, and were detained, the semi-official Anatolian News Agency reported, adding that two of the passengers were taken to hospital.

Fifteen of the dead were apparently locked in a cabin on the sinking boat, but it was not clear why, the officials said.

The boat was carrying more than 100 Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians who were apparently trying to migrate to the European Union when it struck rocks and foundered near the Turkish town of Menderes in Izmir province, the agency said.

Turkey’s Aegean coastal region and the Greek islands a short distance offshore are a frequent route for migrants seeking refuge in Europe, often by paying smugglers to transport them clandestinely by sea.

The Greek island of Samos is less than 30 kilometres from where the boat sank.

The New York Times

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