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500 Migrants Feared Dead In Migrant Shipwreck In Malta

Hundreds of migrants trying to escape nations plagued by conflict are feared dead after traffickers reportedly sunk the ship carrying them.
Posted at 8:57 PM, Sep 15, 2014

As many as 500 migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East are feared dead after human traffickers reportedly sunk the ship carrying them across the Mediterranean Sea last Wednesday.

The passengers included Sudanese, Syrians and Egyptians trying to escape nations plagued by conflict and political unrest and migrate to Europe. (Video via Euronews)

The human smugglers stopped them off the coast of Malta, near Italy, and — by most media accounts — intentionally sank their boat. Only nine people are believed to have survived.

The International Business Times reports two of the survivors told officials the "smugglers on a separate boat rammed the ship loaded with migrants after they refused to transfer to a smaller vessel." It's still unclear if there was any motive to wreck their boat outside of that dispute.

In a statement recorded by the Times of Malta, the International Organization for Migration said, if true, "it would be the worst shipwreck in years... not an accident but a mass murder, perpetrated by criminals without scruples or any respect for human life."

This is the second shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea over the past the week from immigrants trying to leave wartorn areas and find a better life elsewhere.

As many as 250 people are feared drowned after another crowded boat capsized near Libya Sunday, though it's unclear if that was the result of an attack. A few of the survivors are shown here.

Angelina Jolie, who serves as a Special Envoy for the United Nations made a trip to Malta Sunday and spoke with surviving refugees and their families. Jolie says the desire to immigrate has become a huge problem and has gone mostly unnoticed.

"We all need to wake up to the scale of this crisis. There is a direct link between the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere and the rise in deaths at sea in the Mediterranean." And she called the fleeing an "overwhelming desire to find refuge."

A spokesperson for the UN also said rescue operations are often difficult because the Mediterranean Sea is not only massive but is also "one of the busiest seaways in the world, as well as a dangerous frontier for many asylum-seekers." (Video via CCTV)

The amount of migrants killed from sunken ships crossing the Mediterranean has increased substantially over the past year. The United Nations says more than 2,500 people have died trying to flee embattled regions — more than three times the amount in 2013.

This video includes images from Getty Images / Oli Scarff, Jason Tanner