Pictures of migrants struggling to stay above water after their boat capsized (not from reported incident) | Photo: Reuters
Pictures of migrants struggling to stay above water after their boat capsized (not from reported incident) | Photo: Reuters

About 12 migrants are believed to be missing, feared drowned after a boat carrying more than 30 mostly sub-Saharan African migrants capsized off the Libyan coast on Saturday. 20 of those on the boat were rescued.

The boat carrying the sub-Saharan migrants bound for Europe capsized about "six nautical miles" off the coast of Libya, not far from the port of Zawiya, said a tweet in Italian from organization Alarm Phone.

The small wooden boat with "32 people on board," continued the tweet, was found by fishermen who managed to save 20 of those on board. "12 more are missing," the survivors told the organization.

"The Libyan coastguard was not present," said Alarm Phone, even though it is "being paid by the EU to patrol the coasts to prevent people fleeing," tweeted the distress hotline. Alarm Phone said that they had been told there were two children among those missing.

'We are angry at this continual loss of life'

"The relatives of those on board have our sympathies and solidarity," read another tweet from the organization. "Let's stop these deaths at Europe's borders, #BlackLivesMatter in the Med too!" it wrote. "We are angry at this continual loss of life."

Earlier, the organization said that they had informed the coast guards in Malta and Italy of the accident and that both organizations "refused to offer any information" about whether or not they were searching for the missing.

On Saturday, Alarm Phone said they were originally informed about the shipwreck by a relative of someone said to be on board. Safa Msehli, formerly of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya and now with IOM in Geneva, confirmed reports of the shipwreck on Twitter, saying the information she had received was "credible."

Still searching?

Msehli said the agency was following up on information about the search operation. She later tweeted the news agency AP report about the incident, captioning it "more lives lost in the Mediterranean, trying to flee the misery, abuse and widespread human rights violations in Libya."

Among those 20 rescued and "returned to Libya" according to the news agency AP were migrants from Chad, Nigeria, Sudan, and Egypt. Msehli told AP that the migrants on board "had no life jackets," and that the boat had been in "poor condition," before capsizing.

In March, the IOM said that deaths in the Mediterranean of those hoping to reach Europe were estimated to have "passed the grim milestone of 20,000 since 2014." International organizations like UNHCR and IOM repeatedly say that migrants should not be returned to Libya, since it cannot be classified as a place of safety.

Nevertheless, returns to Libya happen regularly; both via the so-called Libyan coast guard, which patrols the waters along the coast, and via private vessels who pick up migrants en route in the Libyan search and rescue zone.

In the past few years, the EU has sent considerable funds to the so-called Libyan coast guard to support it in its work in an attempt to reduce the numbers of arrivals of migrants coming from Libya, and hoping to reach the Italian and Maltese coasts. A policy which has been criticized by humanitarian organizations.


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