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Over 1,500 North African migrants died enroute to Italy in 2011

(Xinhua)

09:44, August 17, 2011

GENEVA, August 16 (Xinhua) -- More than 1,500 people have lost their lives at sea while attempting to reach the Italian shores from Tunisia and Libya so far this year, the Geneva-based United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.

The tragedies were often the result of unseaworthy vessels and an absence of qualified skippers on board, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told media.

According to statistics, of the 52,000 people who have managed to sail across the Mediterranean this year, 27,000 departed from Libya, and the rest from Tunisia.

Just over the past weekend, some 2,000 people were reported to have arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the closest and most targeted landing zone for migrants from North Africa.

While some of the migrants, in particular people from countries like Somalia caught up in the Libyan war, have been identified by the UNHCR as refugees who deserve resettlement and protection, others came across for economic reasons.

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