Scores of migrants feared dead after boats capsize off Libya
search

Scores of migrants feared dead after boats capsize off Libya

One in four migrants traveling from Libya to Europe perishes en route, UN says; two boats with 300 migrants capsize 120 kilometers east of Tripoli, 150 still missing

In this July 17, 2019 frame grab from video, a migrant rests in a detention center in the city of Sabha, about 650 kilometers, or 400 miles, south of the Libyan capital Tripoli. (AP Photo)
In this July 17, 2019 frame grab from video, a migrant rests in a detention center in the city of Sabha, about 650 kilometers, or 400 miles, south of the Libyan capital Tripoli. (AP Photo)

CAIRO (AP) — Up to 150 Europe-bound migrants were missing and feared drowned on Thursday after the boats they were traveling in capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, the country’s coast guard and the UN refugee agency said.

A top UN official described the shipwreck as “the worst Mediterranean tragedy” so far this year.

Ayoub Gassim, a spokesman for Libya’s coast guard, told The Associated Press that two boats carrying around 300 migrants capsized around 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital, Tripoli. Around 137 migrants were rescued and returned to Libya, he said, and the coast guard has recovered just one body so far.

Charlie Yaxley, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, said 147 had been saved.

“We estimate that 150 migrants are potentially missing and died at sea,” he said.

Illustrative: In this July 25, 2017 file photo, sub-Saharan migrants receive life jackets as they are rescued by aid workers of Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms in the Mediterranean Sea, about 15 miles north of Sabratha, Libya. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios, File)

“The worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year has just occurred,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

In January, some 117 died or went missing off Libya’s coast and around 65 people drowned after their boat sank off the coast of Tunisia in May.

Grandi called on European nations to resume rescue missions in the Mediterranean, halted after an EU decision, and appealed for an end to migrant detentions in Libya.

He said safe pathways out of the North African country are needed “before it is too late for many more desperate people.”

After the uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees seeking a better life in Europe. Traffickers and armed groups have exploited Libya’s chaos since his overthrow, and have been implicated in widespread abuses of migrants, including torture and abduction for ransom.

This frame of a video taken by the Italian Coast Guard on January 6, 2018, in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, shows migrants being rescued from dinghies as they try to cross to Italy. (Italian Coast Guard via AP Photo)

Earlier this week, the Libyan coast guard intercepted around three dozen migrants off the coast and took them to a detention center near Tripoli where an airstrike killed more than 50 people earlier this month.

Over 200 detainees are still being held at the Tajoura detention center, near the front lines of fighting between rival Libyan factions. The UN has expressed concern for their safety.

In recent years the European Union has partnered with the coast guard and other Libyan forces to prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey by sea to Europe. Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers that lack adequate food and water.

At least 2,500 migrants are detained in centers in and around Tripoli, where forces loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter have been battling an array of militias loosely aligned with a UN-recognized government since April. The government blamed the airstrike on the detention center on Hifter’s forces, which denied responsibility and accused government-linked militias of storing weapons at the facility.

The UN refugee agency says 164 migrants have died traveling from Libya to Europe since the start of the year, fewer than in previous years. But the UN says the journey is becoming more dangerous for those who attempt it, with one out of four perishing at sea before reaching Europe.

The UN’s death toll did not include those reported missing at sea Thursday.

read more:
comments