From file: A shipwreck that took place in the Strait of Sicily | Photo: ANSA/Italian Navy
From file: A shipwreck that took place in the Strait of Sicily | Photo: ANSA/Italian Navy

In one of this year's worst tragedies involving migrants trying to reach Europe by boat via the Mediterranean, at least 75 migrants have presumably died off the coast of Libya. Over 1,200 migrants have gone missing so far this year in the Central Mediterranean Sea.

According to the 15 survivors, who were rescued by a fishing boat, the incident took place last Wednesday (November 17) off the Libyan coastal city of Zawara.

IOM spokesperson Safa Msehli said the boat left Tuesday evening around 10 pm with 92 Sudanese, Pakistani, Gambian, Nigerian and Ghanaian migrants on board. Three of the 15 survivors were transferred to a hospital after they were returned to land, Msehli told InfoMigrants.

So far, six bodies were retrieved by fishermen with the support from locals, according to Msehli, who told InfoMigrants IOM staff wasn't on site but talked to survivors in hospital after hearing about the incident from officials.

Despite grave dangers, tens of thousands of people try to cross the Central Mediterranean each year, normally setting off from Libya and sometimes Tunisia with the goal to reach the Italian coast. Last week, private rescue ship Geo Barents said it had rescued 99 people and found ten dead bodies at the bottom of the packed boat.

Also read: Libyan coast guard threatens Sea-Watch 4 in international waters

Uptick in interceptions, arrivals, deaths

According to the IOM, close to 30,000 people have been intercepted and forcibly returned to Libya since the beginning of the year, close to three times as many as during the whole of 2020. Between November 7 and 13 alone, almost 800 people were intercepted and returned.

The number of migrants who have arrived by boat in Italy this year is also up. According to the latest data from the Italian interior ministry, the number stands at more than 61,000 people, nearly twice as many as at the same point in time in the pandemic year 2020.

Hundreds of others have died in the attempted crossing: According to the IOM's Missing Migrants Project, more than 1,200 people have perished so far this year in the Central Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe. In comparison, there were nearly 1,000 deaths recorded in the Central Mediterranean in all of 2020.

With AFP


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