MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) - About 500 migrants are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean when the boat they were on was apparently rammed by human traffickers, an International Organization for Migration (IOM) representative said Monday.
The survivors claimed the traffickers ordered the migrants to change vessels in the middle of the Mediterranean. The migrants refused, leading to a confrontation that ended when traffickers rammed the ship carrying they were on, causing it to sink, IOM spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told Reuters in Geneva.
The UN Refugee Agency said there is no clear information on the incident yet. "We don't have confirmation of this account of alleged ramming. That was given to Malta authorities by survivors, but we can't confirm it," Reuters quoted United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Francis Markus as saying Monday.
The vessel was carrying about 500 people – Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians and Sudanese – from Egypt to Malta. Nine people survived. Two Palestinian survivors were interviewed by IOM officials, while other survivors were taken to Malta and Crete, Greece.
The vessel had set off on Saturday, September 6, from Damiette, Egypt, and sank off Malta's coast on September 10.
According to the IOM, about 2,900 migrants have died this year in the Mediterranean from 700 in 2013.