The deaths of at least 57 people off Libya this week bring the number of illegal migrants who have died in the Mediterranean since the start of the year to around 970, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced on Tuesday. Among the victims of this new tragedy are twenty women and two young children, said the UN organization in Geneva.
The boat left the Libyan city of Khoms, some 120 kilometers east of the capital Tripoli, on Sunday, before encountering technical problems and sinking. “Local fishermen and the Libyan coast guard rescued 18 people,” said IOM spokesman Paul Dillon.
Increase in migrant departures
“The survivors told our teams who regularly respond to these heartbreaking scenes that at least 57 people were missing.” According to the spokesperson, IOM teams have provided medical assistance, water and food to survivors, who come from Nigeria, Ghana and The Gambia.
“This tragedy brings to approximately 970 men, women and children the number of deaths on the road of the central Mediterranean in 2021”, he indicated. IOM has reported an increase in migrant departures, interceptions and arrivals in the central Mediterranean this year.
An important crossing point
“By advocating for better migration management practices, better migration governance and greater solidarity on the part of EU Member States, we can achieve a clearer, safer and more humane approach to this issue, to start by saving lives at sea, ”the spokesperson said. He felt “the time has come” to adopt a new approach that would be decided by the States.
Paul Dillon said he did not know whether the 18 survivors were taken to detention centers in Libya, where returning migrants are regularly held. Despite persistent insecurity, Libya remains an important crossing point for tens of thousands of migrants each year seeking to reach Europe via the Italian coast, some 300 km from the Libyan coast. NGOs and UN agencies regularly denounce the return to Libya of migrants intercepted at sea and the deplorable conditions in detention centers.