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Official: 59 Palestinians on board capsized migrant boat

March 12, 2015 10:32 A.M. (Updated: March 15, 2015 9:52 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- At least 59 Palestinian migrants were on board a boat which capsized off the coast of Sicily on March 4, killing an estimated 50 migrants, a Palestinian official said Thursday.

Palestinian ambassador to Italy Mai al-Kaila told Ma'an that the embassy has been in constant contact with immigration police and lawyers in Sicily to obtain information on the Palestinian migrants.

Around 180 migrants were believed to be aboard the boat when it left Libya.

Nine of the estimated 59 Palestinians were from Gaza, while the other 50 were Palestinians from refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria. Two of the dead migrants were identified as Ahmad Khalid Hasan, 17, and Mahmoud Hmeid, 23, from Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon.

They were buried in Sicily, al-Kaila said.

Three Palestinian survivors, Kamal Dahabra, Diyaa Muhammad Hamad, and Ahmad Muayyad Duwwa from Ein El-Hilweh, arrived in Milan following the incident and have now been moved to Eastern Europe with financial aid provided by the Palestinian Authority.

The latest migrant drowning tragedy in the Mediterranean claimed at least 50 lives, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said last week.

Italy's coastguard rescued 127 people and recovered 10 bodies on Tuesday after a boat capsized off Sicily when the people on board rushed to one side of the vessel in a stampede to get onto the arriving coastguard boat.

Interviews with the survivors have since revealed that at least another 40 people went overboard prior to the arrival of the rescuers, IOM spokesman Flavio di Giacomo told AFP.

Italy's foreign ministry said Thursday that 8,918 migrants had been landed in Italy between Jan. 1 and March 4, a near 60-percent increase from the total of 5,611 registered in the same period in 2014.

A total of 170,000 migrants landed in Italy in the whole of 2014 and current trends suggest that record figure could be comfortably exceeded this year.

AFP contributed to this report.
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