At least 74 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya after a boat carrying them to Europe capsized, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday, marking the latest incident in a series of similar tragedies in the Mediterranean in the last few months.
The boat, which was reportedly carrying more than 120 people, including women and children, capsized near the Libyan port of Khums on Thursday.
Libyan coast guard and local fishermen were able to rescue only 47 survivors, while 31 bodies have been retrieved from the sea.
Thursday’s tragedy is the eighth such incident since the beginning of October as the IOM has recorded an upsurge in departures from Libya to Europe in recent weeks.
900. That the estimated number of people who have drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach European shores this year, the IOM said. More than 11,000 others have been intercepted en route and have forcibly been returned to Libya which, according to the U.N., puts them at risk of human rights violations, detentions, abuse, trafficking and exploitation.
In a statement, the IOM said: “We have long called for a change in the evidently unworkable approach to Libya and the Mediterranean, including ending returns to the country and establishing a clear disembarkation mechanism, followed by solidarity from other states. Thousands of vulnerable people continue to pay the price for inaction, both at sea, and on land.”
Fredrico Soda, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Libya slammed countries in the region for the tragedies in the Mediterranean, saying: “The mounting loss of life in the Mediterranean is a manifestation of the inability of States to take decisive action, to redeploy much needed, dedicated search-and-rescue capacity in the deadliest sea-crossing in the world.”
Earlier this week, at least 19 people, including two children, drowned in the same region after two boats capsized. The vessel ‘Open Arms’ — the only NGO-run ship operating on that central Mediterranean route, has had to rescue more than 200 refugees on three separate occasions recently, the IOM said. Following the 2011 uprising that resulted in the ousting and death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the civil war-torn nation of Libya has become the primary transit point for African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to reach Europe, AP reports. These migrants have to often rely on smugglers who pack them into poorly equipped rubber boats that are often inadequate for the dangerous central Mediterranean route.
More tragedy on the Mediterranean as 74 migrants reportedly drown off Libya coast (UN News)
UN migration agency: 74 drown after boat capsizes near Libya (Associated Press)