The International Organization for Migration yesterday said that a boat carrying migrants bound for Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, leaving at least two dozen people drowned or missing and presumed dead, the latest shipwreck off the North African nation.
Libya’s coast guard intercepted three boats on Monday, and one of them had capsized, said Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the UN migration agency.
She said the coast guard retrieved two bodies, and survivors reported 22 others were missing and presumed dead.
At least 45 survivors on the three boats were returned to the shore. All migrants were men, with a majority from Egypt and Morocco, she said.
Survivors and other intercepted migrants were taken to a detention center in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Msehli said.
“This new tragedy signals yet again the need for increased search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean. Instead, we are seeing restrictions on NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and long, unnecessary standoffs,” Msehli said.
The shipwreck was the latest maritime disaster involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
More than 350 migrants have died in the central Mediterranean this year, Msehli said last month.
Last month, a boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized leaving at least 45 people drowned or missing and presumed dead, marking the largest number of fatalities in a single shipwreck off the coast of the North African country.
The agency’s Missing Migrants Project said that since the middle of last month, when four shipwrecks were reported in the central Mediterranean, 48 bodies have washed ashore at Libyan coasts.
It said at least 54 other people might have died at sea in those tragedies.
Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.
Most make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats.
The agency said in March that its estimated death toll among refugees and migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean passed the “grim milestone” of 20,000 deaths since 2014.
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