200 killed in migrant shipwrecks

  • As Irrigation farmers lose N30m crops drying dam in Katsina

Almost 200 people are feared to have died in two Mediterranean Sea migrant shipwrecks during the weekend, according to reports on Monday.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Libya said that seven people were rescued off the north-western city of Zawiya, and one of them said 113 others were missing.

The information was posted on Twitter and confirmed by an IOM Spokesman in Rome, Flavio Di Giacomo.

Separately, 80 people died on Saturday after the rubber dinghy they were travelling on overturned, according to the ANSA news agency, which sourced its report from survivors’ accounts to Italian prosecutors.

The sea channel between Italy and Libya is the world’s busiest and most dangerous sea migration route.

More than 6,600 people were rescued there between Friday and Sunday.

On Sunday, the Head of the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, said more than 1,150 people died or went missing since the start of the year in sea crossings to Europe.

Grandi added that the mortality rate on the Libya-Italy route was one in 35.

He praised efforts by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), noting they had carried out one third of rescue operations since January 1, and renewed calls for EU authorities to open legal migration channels to spare people from dangerous sea journeys.

NGO involvement in sea rescues has become controversial since an Italian prosecutor accused them of acting in cahoots with Libyan people smugglers.

The prosecutor says he has suspicions but no proof; the NGOs have rejected all charges.

In the meantime, hundreds of irrigation farmers using water from Musawa dam in Katsina State are counting their losses following sudden drying up of the dam.

It was reported that crops at various stages of maturity have wilted, forcing some of the farmers to commence early harvest to salvage what they could of the crops.

Alhaji Idris Abdullahi, the Chairman of Musawa Irrigation Farmers Association said, on Monday that more than 150 farmers were affected.

Abdullahi put the estimated losses incurred by the farmers to around N30 million, and loss of jobs to about 1,000 farm hands.

He said about 150 hectares of tomato, potato, wheat, maize, onion and other vegetables were damaged.

The chairman said that the dam, constructed 60 years ago was only dredged once, and called on the Katsina State Government to intervene.

He said that the government should dredge the dam before the rains set in, and support farmers affected to cushion their losses.

The chairman described the dam as a major source of employment to people in the area, and said it should be salvaged to save the people from penury.

He, however, said that the Katsina Agricultural and Rural Development Authority had pledged to drill wash bores to assist the irrigation farmers.

Additional report from Nation