Bourbon Argos, a rescue ship carrying more than 200 migrants and eight bodies, docked in Sicily on Sunday following a deadly week in the Mediterranean where hundreds drowned in an attempt to reach Europe from Libya.
The majority of the 219 migrants were West Africans, according to Doctors without Borders, which operates the ship. Out of them are 27 men who were rescued by the British navy on Wednesday, and transferred to the Bourbon Argos, after the rubber boat they were on deflated.
Six bodies were fished out of the water on Wednesday and 97 others who were on the dinghy are missing and feared dead, while survivors said that a smuggler towed them out to sea for two hours and then at gunpoint forced them to hand over the life jackets they had paid for, plus the dinghy’s engine, and left them adrift.
“At that moment I thought we were going to die, I knew we were not close to Italy and without an engine we could not get far. The smuggler told us we would be rescued, but I felt we were going to die,” Survivor Abdoullae Diallo, 18, from Senegal said in French in an interview conducted on board the rescue vessel.
It is estimated that 365 migrants drowned last week in the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday.
Survivors where found holding to what was left of the rubber boat about 55 nautical miles from Tripoli by the British Royal Navy’s HMS Enterprise, patrolling as part of the EU’s anti-smuggling mission Sophia.