UN: 74 Migrants die in shipwreck off Libya

Al-Khoms, Libya, Nov 12 (efe-epa).- At least 74 migrants died Thursday when a boat carrying more than 120 people sank near the Libyan coast, sources with the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) told Efe.

The contingent of migrants trying to reach Europe included women and children, according to the sources.

The 31 bodies recovered by Libya’s coast guard were laid out on a stretch of beach in al-Khoms, 120km (75mi) west of Tripoli, while 47 passengers rescued alive by the crew of a fishing boat were returned to port.

After receiving initial attention from IOM personnel, the survivors will be sent to detention centers that activists and NGOs say are ill-equipped to meet their needs and, in some cases, run by Libya’s warring militias.

This marks the third time in a week that a boat carrying migrants has encountered disaster off the coast of oil-rich Libya, which once boasted the highest standard of living in Africa but has been mired in civil strife since the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

On Tuesday, at least 13 migrants perished when a dinghy capsized in the Mediterranean hours after setting out from a beach near Tripoli, the IOM said.

Six more migrants died Wednesday after paying smugglers around 1,000 euros ($1,180) for the voyage to Europe.

A ship operated by Spain-based humanitarian NGO Open Arms has rescued some 250 shipwrecked migrants in recent days and recovered the bodies of six who died at sea.

The Open Arms is the only rescue vessel currently plying Mediterranean waters.

Upwards of 900 would-be migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean in 2020 and more than 11,000 others have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, “putting them at risk of facing human rights violations, detention, abuse, trafficking and exploitation,” the IOM said.

Since the start of October, nearly 800 migrants have reached Italian soil, while roughly 1,900 have been stopped en route and taken back to Libya.

“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,” Federico Soda, head of the IOM mission of Libya, said Thursday.

“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,” the IOM official said.

Earlier Thursday, Spain’s equality minister called for legal and safe migrant routes to be established in the Mediterranean after Open Arms sounded the alarm over a series of deadly shipwrecks.

Irene Montero was reacting to rescue footage shared on social media by Open Arms that showed a rescued mother crying out for her baby.

“It’s necessary that we listen to this heartbreaking cry and feel its pain. We are obliged to stop this human drama on Europe’s coasts,” Montero wrote.

Open Arms identified the 6-month-old infant who died as Joseph, originally from Guinea, in West Africa. The crew managed to revive him for a few moments, but he died before he could be evacuated.

Italian helicopters later evacuated two women from the Open Arms vessel, one of whom was pregnant, as well as Joseph’s body and his mother. EFE


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