Some 320 migrants and refugees are now feared to have drowned in a shipwreck off the Greek island of Crete last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday, citing survivors’ testimony.
The Greek coastguard said on Saturday that the migrants who survived had told authorities their boat set sail from Egypt with about 350 people. On Friday, Greek authorities said 340 people were rescued and nine bodies had been recovered about 75 nautical miles off southern Crete.
But survivors taken to the port of Augusta, Italy, who were interviewed by IOM staff reported that the vessel was carrying nearly twice the presumed number of passengers.
"We learned from survivors in Italy, in Augusta, that 648 or 650 men, women and children were on that ship. We heard both numbers from different survivors who some took pains to explain that the smugglers made a count twice a day before the departure," IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a briefing.
"We now fear some 320 migrants and refugees remain missing based on testimony received from survivors," IOM said in a statement.
At least 10 bodies have been found, Millman said.
The exact number of survivors was not clear but appeared to be over 300.
Survivors from the shipwreck, which occurred in territory which falls under Egypt’s search and rescue jurisdiction, were taken to Italy and Egypt.
"There’s also a slightly happier story," Millman said, referring to an Egyptian migrant woman named Mona who survived.
"She was travelling with three children, she thought they had all died. It turns out one of her sons was rescued and went on a different ship to Egypt. The Mother is in Italy, the son is in Egypt, and IOM was able to inform the mother on Monday morning that one of her children survived the trip and was safe in Egypt," he said.