300 drown off Libyan coast

March 31, 2009 7:17:16 AM PDT
Vessels carrying hundreds of migrants capsized off the coast of Libya, with more than 300 people believed to have drowned, an international migration group said Tuesday. The International Organization for Migration said Libyan officials reported between one and three ships had sunk in Libyan waters Monday. The group confirmed the information with diplomatic sources, spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said.

He said strong winds could have caused the vessels to capsize.

IOM believes the migrants were trying to cross from North Africa to Italy in search of a better life in Europe.

According to the group's figures, some 33,000 people crossed from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa alone in 2008. Many of the boats are not seaworthy and deadly accidents are frequent.

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