A boat crowed with dozens of migrants has capsized off Libya. UN officials say at least 16 people are missing, presumed dead.
The UN migration agency IOM reports that 16 people, including a child, are missing and presumed dead after their boat capsized off the Libyan coast near the town of Zuwara on Sunday (August 22).
A spokesperson for the IOM, Safa Msehli, said on Monday that about 70 people had been on the rubber boat. The Libyan coast guard managed to rescue 51 others. The survivors were Egyptian nationals.
Msehli said that one dead body had also been recovered. No further information about the deceased person was available.
The shipwreck on Sunday was the latest disaster off the Libyan coast involving people trying to reach Europe via the Central Mediterranean. In July, at least 80 people are believed to have died in two separate accidents in the region. The deadliest shipwreck so far this year happened on April 22, when 130 people drowned off the Libyan coast, despite the ship's having sent several distress calls.
The IOM's Missing Migrants Project, which tracks fatalities on migration routes worldwide, recorded 1,051 deaths of migrants in the Central Mediterranean this year: the total recorded number last year was 411.
Over 6,000 returned to detention centers
Recent months have seen a rise in the number of people setting out from the north African coast. According to the IOM, more than 22,000 migrants have been intercepted and returned to Libya since the beginning of this year. Around 6,000 of the returned migrants are in official detention centers, Safa Msehli says.
The IOM fears that many are extorted or ending up in the hands of migrant traffickers. Survivors from detention camps in Libya have given accounts over several years of systematic abuse including forced labor, beatings, rapes and torture. Rights groups insist that Libya is not a safe country for return.