CAIRO – The latest in a series of at least eight ships in the central Mediterranean Sea since last month, at least 74 migrants have been sunk after their Europe-bound ship capsized off the coast of Libya.
The international organization Organization of Migration said the ferry was carrying more than 120 migrants, including women and children, when al-Khams moved off the coast of the Libyan port on Thursday. Only 47 people were rescued and brought ashore by the Libyan coast guard and fishermen.
So far 31 bodies were retrieved as the search for the remaining victims continued, added the IOM.
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The rebellion and the overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi in the years following 2011 has emerged as a major transit point for migrants hoping to emigrate from Europe to Africa and the Middle East.
Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the dangerous Central Mediterranean route. According to the IOM, at least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014.
“The increasing loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea is a demonstration of the states’ inability to take decisive action to reduce the inadequate search and rescue capability at the deadliest sea-crossing in the world,” Federico Soda, IOM Libyan chief Mission.
On Tuesday, 13 African migrants, including three African women and a child, were immersed in a similar vessel off the coast of Libya.
The IOM said it has seen a recent increase in the number of departures from the Libyan shores, with more than 780 arrivals in Italy since early October. More than 11,000 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya, where they faced human rights violations and the risk of captivity, the IOM statement read.
“IOM maintains that Libya is not a safe harbor for withdrawal and has reiterated its call to the international community and the European Union to take immediate and concrete action to end the cycle of withdrawal and exploitation,” the statement said.