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Survivors of sea voyage to Malta say seven Somali refugees died

© ANSA. An aerial photo from the past shows an overcrowded boat off the coast of Malta.

Somali asylum-seekers who landed their boat on one of Malta's most popular beaches this month have told UNHCR that seven fellow passengers died during their week-long voyage from Libya.

The boat came ashore at Riviera Bay on Saturday May 5th and the emergency services were alerted to the arrival of 90 exhausted Somalis by people enjoying an evening on the beach.

This is the fourth such boat to have arrived in Malta this year, bringing a cumulative total of more than 210 people. A further 45 vessels carrying migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy. According to the UNHCR in Italy, the latest deaths bring the number of reported or confirmed dead among people attempting to reach Europe from Libya to 81 this year – or two people every three days on average.

Compared to last year, which saw tens of thousands of people travelling from Tunisia and Libya, numbers of arrivals in Malta and Italy from North Africa are down, with around 2,200 people having arrived in 2012, the majority in Italy.

Last year, an estimated 1,500 people were reported missing or dead attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.

UNHCR reiterates its call to ship masters in the Mediterranean for heightened vigilance and continued adherence to the longstanding maritime obligation of aiding those in distress.