They went missing days ago in the Mediterranean
4th April 2011: The UN is apprehending that more than 400 African migrants, seeking to travel to Italy in two vessels, may have drowned. They were missing days ago in the Mediterranean, a UN official said.
The two boats, set off from Libya almost two weeks ago carrying Eritreans and Somalians, are without a trace since then. The last information came more than a week ago when telephone calls from both vessels were made to relatives in northern Europe.
The officials believe the probable destination was the island of Lampedusa, swamped with more than 18,000 refugees.
A UN spokeswoman, Laura Boldrini, said they were urging the coastguard to carry on searching since even after 20 days at sea, some people can survive.
Another UN spokesman Federico Fossi said they had received reports one of the missing vessels may have sunk, as a Libyan news channel reported the discovery of 60 bodies in the sea.
He said they had information from relatives of the people on-board to say they left Libya two weeks ago and have not been seen since. They have been contacted by telephone and email by people who are worried. He added the UN was monitoring the situation.
Meanwhile, 362 migrants arrived in leaking vessels by mid-Sunday, as Italy commenced the evacuation of 3,000 Tunisians from Lampedusa. They have reached the island, since the collapse of the Tunisian government in January.
Three large passenger ferries docked at Lampedusa on Sunday to take the Tunisian migrants to makeshift camps on the Italian mainland.
Already, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to solve the growing humanitarian crisis on the island
Berlusconi at that time made it clear that only 2,500 migrants would be left on the island by Sunday evening.