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Boat carrying migrants sinks in Mediterranean Sea near Libya killing at least 57 people

By abc.net.au , in World News , at July 27, 2021 Tags: , ,


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A boat carrying African migrants has capsized off Libya’s coast, leaving at least 57 people presumed dead, a UN migration official said.

It was the latest disaster in the Mediterranean Sea involving migrants heading to Europe.

The vessel left the western coastal town of Khums on Sunday, Safa Msehli, a spokesperson for the International Organisation for Migration, said.

She said there were at least 75 migrants on board, including women and children. Among the 57 presumed drowned were 20 women and two children.

Eighteen of the migrants were rescued and returned to shore by fishermen and Libya’s coast guard.

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Ms Msehli added that the survivors, who are from Nigeria, Ghana and Gambia, reported the vessel had stopped due to an engine problem, then capsized amid bad weather.

The capsizing was the second sea disaster in less than a week off the Libyan coast involving Europe-bound migrants.

At least 20 migrants went overboard from a vessel last Wednesday and were presumed dead, according to the UN migration agency.

There has been a spike in crossings and attempted crossings from Libya in recent months.

Amnesty International has said that in the first six months of this year, more than 7,000 people intercepted at sea were forcibly returned to detention camps in Libya.

A migration agency report earlier this month said the number of migrants and refugees who died while attempting to reach Europe on dangerous sea crossings more than doubled so far this year, compared to the first six months of 2020.

The report said at least 1,146 people perished between January and June, with the Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy being the deadliest, claiming 741 lives.

The deadliest shipwreck so far this year took place April 22 off Libya, when 130 people drowned despite the ship sending multiple distress calls.

The Italian Navy is often deployed to rescue migrant boats in the Mediterranean Sea, like this group of asylum seekers in 2017.
The Italian Navy is often deployed to rescue migrant boats in the Mediterranean Sea.(

Reuters: Yannis Bhrakis

)

Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Rights groups and officials at UN agencies that work with migrants and refugees have for years cited survivor testimony about systematic abuse in detention camps in Libya.

These include forced labour, beatings, rapes and torture. The abuse often accompanies efforts to extort money from families before migrants are allowed to leave Libya on traffickers’ boats.

Earlier this month, Libyan maritime authorities acknowledged that one of their coast guard vessels had fired warning shots at a migrant boat it was chasing in the Mediterranean.

They said it was an apparent effort to stop the vessel from crossing to Europe and endangering the lives of the migrants onboard.

AP

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