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Over 20 die off the coast of Italy

UN refugee agency on Monday said more than 20 people have drowned off the coast of Italy, as good weather prompted fresh attempts at the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

“Two shipwrecks off Lampedusa with 22 missing. Condolences to those who have lost family members at sea,” Chiara Cardoletti, the UNHCR’s representative for Italy, said on Twitter.

She added “Action is needed to stabilise the situation in countries of origin and transit, reducing the reasons that drive so many people to risk their lives at sea”.

A UNHCR press officer said the 36 survivors of the first shipwreck told the Italian coastguard that 19 people on board their boat had died after it partially capsized.

Three other people were reported to have died in a second incident, Federico Fossi told AFP, warning however that the details were hazy.

The Italian coastguard was unavailable for comment and it was unclear when the disasters happened.

Survivors of the first shipwreck including six minors had been travelling on a seven-metre-long boat that sank in Italian waters, according to the Repubblica daily.They were rescued by a fishing boat, the report adds.

Those saved hail from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea, Cote D’ivoire and Sudan, and had paid between 500 and 600 euros for the crossing, this is according to the Stampa daily.

After four days of poor conditions at sea, the number of boats that attempted crossing to the Italian island of Lampedusa rose again on Sunday.

Well over 36,000 people have arrived by sea in Italy this year, compared to some 9,000 in the same period last year, according to the country’s interior ministry.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has recorded 537 deaths or disappearances in the central Mediterranean, the world’s most dangerous crossing so far this year.

Writing by Tersoo Nicholas