More than 90 people drowned in the sinking of two refugee boats off the coast of Libya, a land of civil war. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Thursday that at least 74 people have died outside the town of Chums in western Libya. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also said on Twitter that 20 people further west had died in front of the city of Surman.
According to the IOM, more than 120 people, including children, were said to have been on board the boat that crashed off Chums. According to IOM, 47 survivors have been landed by the coast guard and fishermen. 31 bodies were recovered. The search for victims continues.
According to MSF, three women were the only survivors rescued by fishermen after the second boat sank. The victims should have watched family members die before their eyes.
A civil war has been raging in Libya for nearly a decade. In the chaos, the North African country has developed into one of the main transit areas for refugees on their way to Europe. Most migrants dare to make the dangerous crossing in non-seaworthy dinghies. Time and again many migrants are killed in accidents in the Mediterranean.
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The IOM said two boats have capsized in the past two days alone and at least 19 people have drowned. The number of departing boats has increased in recent weeks.
The increasing number of deaths in the Mediterranean indicates that states are unable to act decisively and deploy much-needed search and rescue capabilities, said IOM’s head of the Libyan mission, Federico Soda. “Thousands of vulnerable people continue to pay the price for inactivity, both at sea and on land,” he said.
At least 900 people drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year, according to the IOM. An additional 11,000 migrants were returned to Libya, where they are exposed to the risk of human rights violations, imprisonment or human trafficking, the organization criticized.
On Wednesday, Spanish private rescue workers rescued more than 110 migrants from Libya. Shortly after being rescued from the Mediterranean, a six-month-old baby of a refugee died on the ship “Open Arms”, according to the helpers. As Open Arms announced Thursday, the team pulled five people dead from the water during the operation. In the baby, the death toll rose to six.
Many people still leave in small boats in the North African countries of Tunisia and Libya to get to Europe. Several boats with hundreds of people have landed on Lampedusa Island in recent days. According to official figures, a total of nearly 31,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far in 2020. In 2019, there were just under 10,000 people in the same period. (dpa)