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Death toll in the hundreds as refugee-jammed smuggler ship capsizes

Survivors tell of horror when ship transfer in mid-Mediterranean turns into a catastrophe

Coast Guard members help refugees to disembark April 17 at the port of Kalamata in Greece. The survivors told U.N. staff that they had been part of a group of between 100 and 200 people who departed from Libya the previous week. There are reports of up to 500 refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

The same day Pope Francis brought 12 Syrian refugees to Rome from Greece, a merchant ship rescued 41 refugees, including a three-year-old child. They told human rights workers they saw as many as 500 others drown when the refugees' boat sank.

The UN Refugee Agency reported April 20 that its personnel interviewed the rescued men and women who said they were being transferred to a large, overcrowded boat, which sank in the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy.

The survivors — 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, six Egyptians and a Sudanese — were rescued April 16, the same day the Pope visited refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Taken to Kalamata, Greece, the survivors told UN staff that they had been part of a group of between 100 and 200 people who departed from Libya the previous week.

"After several hours at sea, the smugglers in charge of the boat attempted to transfer the passengers to a larger ship carrying hundreds of people in terribly overcrowded conditions," the UN Refugee Agency said in a statement.

This article continues at [The Catholic Register] Rescued refugees report hundreds drowned in Mediterranean

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