Migrant Crisis: 90 Feared Drowned off Libyan Coast



Ninety migrants are feared drowned after a boat capsized off the Libyan coast, says the UN’s migration agency.

Three survivors said most of those who drowned were Pakistani nationals. Libyans were also aboard.

Libya has for years been a major transit route for migrants trying to reach southern Europe by sea.EU countries have wrangled over both reducing migrant numbers and deciding which countries are responsible for processing migrants on arrival.

The EU struck a deal with the Libyan coastguard last year to help intercept migrants and return them to Libya. But aid agencies and the UN accused European governments of taking an “inhuman approach”  

From a boat carrying more than 90, only three survivors are reported – two of whom managed to swim to shore while the third was picked up by a fishing boat.

Ten bodies are reported to have washed up on Libyan shores” the International Organisation for Migration IOM, said” in a statement.

Unusually, there were also Libyans among the dead and survivors of the shipwreck, reports the BBC’s North Africa correspondent Rana Jawad.

The Facebook page of the security directorate in the coastal city of Zuwara, where the bodies washed up, said a Libyan woman had drowned, but that of the three survivors two were Libyan nationals.

The majority of those on board were Pakistani – but the IOM says increasing number of Pakistanis are attempting the perilous crossing.

While Pakistanis were 13th on a list of the number of migrants trying to reach Europe last year by nationality, so far this year they are third, the IOM says.

Perhaps aware of the danger, Libyans rarely attempt the boat journey from their country to southern Europe.

Some cases of illegal Libyan migration were documented last year, but they usually involved sturdier boats that were carrying few people.

Overall this year, the IOM reports that there have been 6,624 arrivals by sea to Europe, compared to 5,983 in the same period of 2017.

“We think that there was a lot of pent-up demand in terms of migrants being held in warehouses by the smugglers,” said the IOM’s Joel Millman.

If the channels have been opened again, that might explain the sudden surge which has seen numbers increase again.