Libya’s coast guard says dozens of Europe-bound migrants are missing and feared drowned after the rubber boats they were travelling on capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.
Spokesman Ayoub Gassim says they rescued around 125 migrants on Thursday. The U.N. refugee agency says up to 150 may have perished at sea.
Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after the uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Traffickers and armed groups have exploited Libya’s chaos since his overthrow.
An air attack late on Tuesday hit a detention centre for mainly African migrants in the Tajoura suburb of the Libya’s capital Tripoli, killing at least 40 people, according to health and emergency officials
Deadly attack hits Tripoli migrant detention centre: UN Official
GENEVA (Reuters) – At least 30 migrants were killed in an overnight strike on a Tripoli migrant detention centre and dozens were injured, the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday.
An air strike late on Tuesday hit a detention centre for mainly African migrants in the Tajoura suburb of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, killing at least 40 people and wounding 80, a Libyan health official said.
UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said it could not confirm who launched the attack on the centre which held some 600 people, but that medical teams were on the ground. “While the rescue operation is ongoing, it may be that that death toll rises higher,” he told Reuters.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Catherine Evans
Remains of a boat, from a previous incident, carrying migrants from Libya that sank off south-east Tunisia. Photograph: F Nasri/AFP/GettySurvivors report fishing vessel coming to their rescue 40 miles of coast of Tunisia
As many as 70 people trying to reach Europe from Libya have drowned after their vessel capsized in the deadliest such incident in the Mediterranean since January.
According to survivors, at least 16 of whom were rescued, the boat left Zuwara in Libya, where renewed warfare between rival factions has gripped the capital, Tripoli, in the past five weeks. The vessel capsized 40 miles off the coast of Sfax, south of Tunis, as it headed towards Italy.
The survivors reported that a Tunisian fishing boat came to their rescue and transferred them to a Tunisian coastguard vessel.
The incident came as overall number of people reaching Europe has decreased, whilethe journey has become increasingly dangerous.
So far this year, 17,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe via the sea, about 30% fewer than in the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. The IOM said 443 people have reportedly died on Mediterranean crossings since 1 January, compared with 620 in the same period in 2018.
The Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) thinktank said that one person died for every eight people who left Libya from January to April, based on analysis of figures from the Italian interior ministry.
Libya’s western coast is a main departure point for people from across Africahoping to reach Europe.
Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has repeatedly declared Italian waters closed to NGO rescue vessels. Several boats have been left stranded at sea owing to this hardline approach, which is partly designed to force other parts of Europe to take in more refugees and migrants.
The rescue ship Mare Jonio, operated by Mediterranea Saving Humans, was docked in Lampedusa, on Friday morning, with 30 people on board who were saved the day before. Among them were two pregnant women, a one-year-old girl and four unaccompanied minors.
“The 30 survivors are about to land on Lampedusa. Their smiles give meaning to our work. They’re safe and that is the most important thing,” said one of the crew.
As has been happening for a year now, the ship was seized by the Italian authorities immediately after the landing and the captain investigated for aiding illegal immigration.
‘’The ship has been blocked and seized,” tweeted Salvini. “This will be their last trip. Bye Bye!”
Another boat carrying scores of people was reported in trouble off the coast of Libya. “Over 100 lives at risk, including 24 women and 8 children,” tweeted Alarm Phone, which relays distress calls from boats. “We were called this morning from a boat off #Libya. Communication difficult, calls repeatedly broke down. So-called Libyan coastguard not reachable.
“The people are in panic now. Their engine isn’t working and they can’t move. They are close to the Libyan coast.’’
Earlier on Friday, Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said the UNhad repeatedly voiced its concerns about the lack ofrescue vessels to pick up people fleeing from “the horrendous and horrible situation” in Libya. The UNHCR called on governments to step in.
Although the fighting in Libya has made the situation more difficult for people traffickers and smugglers, international aid officials have warned that it could prompt more Libyans to flee their country.
According to the IOM, 2,297 people died or went missing in the Mediterranean last year out of a total of 116,959 who reached Europe by sea. It added that 117 people who left Libya in a rubber dinghy in January went missing and most remain unaccounted for.
al-Maghrib al-Kabīr), or by some sources, the Berber world, Barbary and Berbery, is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.
This once famous middle east trade magnate in the recent years has mutated into ‘Africa to Europe by boat’.
The images are disturbing—hundreds of desperate young African men crowded shoulder to shoulder on rickety boats in the Mediterranean Sea, sailing toward an unknown future in Europe.
The story of this exodus, starting with long journeys through the punishing desert to North Africa, where they board the boats, is heart-rending. The fatalities are high. Yet daily more depart their home countries on similar journeys.
For African migrants, ‘extreme vetting’ from to Europe slams the door shut. The Trump administration’s immigration crackdown was only the beginning for Africans struggling to flee war and famine. New restrictions within Africa and opaque deals between European countries and African regimes could have a much more dramatic effect soon, Geoffrey York explains.
Tesfay Tesfaye Mebrastu, 16 left Eritrean capital Asmara in 2016 for Italy. “I saw a lot of my friends who had been to Europe come back to Eritrea with money and build houses for themselves,” he said, adding that many of his friends left without any documents.
“I thought I could be one of them,” Tesfay wrote for “I Am a Migrant”, a campaign sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that gives migrants a platform to tell their migration stories
A 253-feet long, 2,000-ton boat makes for an ungainly indoor political football ground – complete with supporting home crowd, especially when it is carrying some 629 desperate migrants and is staffed by a crew of angry humanitarian workers.
But since January 2015, when the MV Aquarius, a search-and-rescue vessel operated by Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) and European NGO SOS Méditerranée, came to the aid of several dinghy-loads of imperilled migrants who had set off from the Libyan coast for Europe, the boat has become a symbol of the continent’s most intractable crisis.
“Italy is done bending over backwards and obeying, this time THERE IS SOMEONE WHO SAYS NO;” Italian Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini
That wouldn’t be the plight of the migrants, which is indeed dire, but rather the inability of the European Union to tackle an issue that threatens to tear the bloc apart: what to do about the migrants and refugees who are willing to risk everything, even their lives, to reach European shores.
Even though the mayor of Sicily’s major port city of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, said he would accept the Aquarius and her passengers, Salvini overrode the offer, launching a Mediterranean standoff.
“Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons,” Salvini wrote on Facebook. “From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration.”
As UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, pleaded for sanity, calling for the issue of responsibility to be resolved after the migrants were safely offloaded, Spain finally stepped forward, offering its port of Valencia to the Aquarius. Salvini immediately tweeted “VICTORY.” But for the passengers, who have already spent the past three nights in discomfort upon the Aquarius’ steel decks, it is anything but. Valencia is at least another three days journey away, according to MSF, and bad weather is complicating matters with high winds and waves.
The boat also doesn’t have enough supplies to cater for the long journey. And so now the Italian Coast Guard is stepping back in, to resupply the Aquarius, take some of the load, and escort it out of Italian waters and over to Spain.
At least 1,500 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2018, one in 19 have lost their lives while trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, according to the U.N. migration agency