A wooden boat off the coast of Libya | Photo: picture alliance/S. Palacios
A wooden boat off the coast of Libya | Photo: picture alliance/S. Palacios

The UN migration agency IOM reported on Friday, September 25, that a shipwreck off the Libyan coast had left at least 13 dead and 22 survivors which were brought ashore by fishing vessels.

"Breaking: at least 13 lives are lost at sea and three bodies retrieved after a tragic shipwreck occurred off the coast of Libya last night," reads the UN migration agency IOM Libya’s tweet on Friday, September 25.

According to the website Arab news, the migrants are thought to have left the Libyan coast from the town of Zliten, just east of the capital Tripoli on Wednesday. At some point on Thursday night their small dinghy got into trouble and capsized. It was spotted by local fishermen who managed to save 22 people from the shipwreck.

13 missing, presumed dead

Some of the survivors come from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana. Survivors said that at least 13 more passengers from the boat are missing, presumed drowned. So far three dead bodies have been recovered from the water. According to Arab news, those recovered included one Syrian man and woman.

The news agency Associated Press (AP) said that Libyan coast guards ordered the rescue and had sent several search teams to "scour the area for more victims." One of the coastguards, Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad, told AP that "so many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season. When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant."

Survivors returned to Tripoli

The survivors were taken back to Tripoli by fishermen and were met by staff from the IOM, according to agency spokesperson Safa Msehli. Many needed medical care for burns they got when fuel from the boat’s engine mixed with salt water.

AP then reported that the survivors were then taken to Zliten detention center, which is run by the UN recognized Tripoli government’s interior ministry.

Also read: Hunger, forced labor, torture: Shocking conditions in Libyan detention camps

This shipwreck is the second in the area recorded by the UN in as many weeks. Msehli said that this kind of event "signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum."

A week prior to the shipwreck, Msehli reiterated that Libya should not be regarded as a safe port. On September 22, she reported that "over 300 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya during the past 48 hours alone." She said, for most of those returned to Libya, "detention awaits."


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