Mali says 22 migrants died off Libyan coast

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BAMAKO, July 5 (Reuters) - Twenty-two migrants from Mali, including three children, have died off the coast of Libya, Mali's government said on Tuesday, amid concerns that a hunger crisis arising from the war in Ukraine could stoke an increase in attempts to reach Europe.

The 22 who died were part of a group of 83 migrants stuck on a distressed vessel since June 22, the Ministry of Malians Abroad said in a statement. Of those, 61 were rescued, including some Malian nationals, with the help of the United Nation's International Organization for Migration (IOM).

There have been "significant increases" in migrant flows through Niger and Mali toward North Africa in the first quarter of 2022 compared with previous years, an IOM spokesman said.

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The number of migrants that left Niger between January and April was more than 45% higher than the number during the same period in 2021. The number of outgoing migrants from Mali almost doubled in the same timespan.

Analysts cite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout of the war in Ukraine as driving factors.

Spain, its southern neighbours and European Unions officials are increasingly alarmed that a hunger crisis worsened by the disruption of Ukraine's grain exports will trigger chaotic migration from the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions of Africa. read more

At least 23 migrants died after clashes with Moroccan security forces last week, when around 2,000 people tried to cross into Spain's North African enclave of Melilla. read more

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Reporting by Fadima Kontao; Additional reporting by Edward McAllister; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Edmund Blair, Angus MacSwan and Leslie Adler

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