Nearly 60 migrants seeking to reach Europe, including women and children, drowned Monday in a shipwreck off Libya, a new tragedy of illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, reported the International Organization for migration (IOM).
“At least 57 migrants drowned in a shipwreck off Khoms today,” IOM said. The city of Khoms is located 120 kilometers from the capital Tripoli on the west coast of Libya, a country plunged into chaos since 2011.
“Survivors who spoke to our staff said 20 women and two children were among those who lost their lives,” IOM added, pointing to “another migratory tragedy” on this “dangerous route”. IOM does not specify the nationalities of the migrants, but images released by the organization show aid workers distributing water and food parcels to visibly exhausted survivors, all appearing to be from countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Almost 900 dead since January
Libya is an important crossing point for tens of thousands of migrants each year seeking to reach Europe via the Italian coasts, some 300 km away from the Libyan sides. The number of migrants who died at sea trying to reach Europe has more than doubled this year, IOM said in mid-July. Almost 900 people have died in the waters of the Mediterranean this year.
The Libyan Coast Guard repatriated more than 13,000 people to Libya in the first half of 2021, exceeding the total figure for 2020, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). NGOs and UN agencies regularly denounce the return to Libya of migrants intercepted at sea and the deplorable conditions in detention centers.
Smugglers and traffickers have also profited over the past ten years from the climate of instability that has reigned in this North African country since the 2011 revolt.