At least four migrants were confirmed dead and three missing after their boat capsized off the Libyan coast. With warmer weather, scores of migrants continue to try to cross the Mediterranean, departing from the shores of the troubled North African nation.
Libya's coast guard said on Tuesday (May 24) that it had managed to save 13 lives at sea during the same operation, adding that the migrants suffered shipwreck as they were trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
"The rescued migrants were taken to the Mellitah landing point and handed to the competent authorities," the agency said, adding that the migrants would be sent "back to their countries."
According to reports on the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency, 12 of the rescued migrants were Syrian nationals and one was Egyptian. The nationalities of those who had drowned were unknown for the moment, however, authorities in Libya confirmed that they were three men and a woman.
Deadliest sea route in the world
The North African nation remains lawless in many parts. Following the 2011 revolution that saw longterm strongman Moammar Gadhafi and his autocratic regime topple, various factions have tried to claim leadership of the country, with the internationally recognized government battling against breakaway parallel structures.
Amid the ensuing chaos, people smugglers and human traffickers have turned Libya into the biggest departure point for migrants coming from Africa, the Middle East and beyond.
Located about 300 kilometers away from the nearest EU territory in Italy, scores of migrants risk life and limb each year, boarding rickety boats and dinghies in hopes of reaching Europe; many drown at sea each year, making the Central Mediterranean migration journey the deadliest migration route in the world. At least 129 people have died attempting that crossing since the beginning of 2022, and 459 have gone missing, according to the United Nations' migration agency (IOM).
Severe abuses in Libya
Meanwhile, human rights organizations say that thousands of migrants remain stuck in Libya under severely abusive and exploitative conditions, facing severe human rights violations ranging from forced prostitution to extortion and even all the way to murder.
The EU and several European governments continue to support the coast guard in Libya in hopes of keeping migrants away; however, oftentimes the migrants that are intercepted at sea and returned to Libya walk right back into the hands of traffickers and their gangs.
Since the start of 2022, at least 6,340 migrants have reportedly been intercepted and returned to Libya, according to figures published by the IOM on Monday.