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June 24, 2024

Over 60 Migrants Feared Dead After Boat Capsizes Off Libya

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Dec 17, 2023

At least 61 migrants, including women and children, are feared dead after a boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Saturday, December 16th. The shipwreck is being called one of the deadliest disasters on the dangerous central Mediterranean migration route this year.

The Shipwreck

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the overcrowded boat was carrying over 100 people when it sank off the coast of Khums, Libya. After being alerted by local authorities, the IOM coordinated a search and rescue effort with Libyan coast guard and local fishermen.

So far, 61 bodies have been retrieved while 20 survivors have been rescued. The IOM fears the death toll may be much higher given the size of the boat and the number of missing passengers.

“It was horrifically overcrowded when it sank,” said IOM spokesperson Safa Msehli. “The first survivors said they think there were over 120 to 140 people on board.”

A Treacherous Journey

Libya has become a major transit point for migrants fleeing violence and poverty in countries across Africa and the Middle East. Many attempt the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to try to reach Europe for better opportunities.

This year alone, over 24,680 migrants have tried to cross the central Mediterranean route from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and Malta, while over 1,500 have died or gone missing at sea.

Migrants routinely face horrifying conditions on these overloaded, rickety boats that are unfit for the open ocean. Smugglers often provide just enough fuel to reach international waters where they rely on rescue ships to pick up passengers.

When boats stall or get stranded, food and water quickly run out leaving people adrift for days. Shipwrecks under these scenarios are devastatingly common.

“The increasing loss of life we see on this route is a wake-up call to us all,” said IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda. “More must be done to provide safe and viable migration alternatives to the dangerous crossings.”

Ongoing Risks

While the central Mediterranean route has claimed fewer lives so far this year compared to 2021, the chances of dying at sea continue to increase. Currently, over 5% of those attempting the crossing perish.

With winter approaching and sea conditions worsening, humanitarian groups are deeply concerned that more deadly shipwrecks are imminent if action is not taken.

Many worry that the loss of life is becoming normalized due to the high frequency of these Preventable disasters. Critics argue that European countries are evading responsibility by increasingly relying on Libya and private vessels to perform rescues outside their jurisdictions.

“The EU cooperation with Libya legitimizes and strengthens state-sponsored abuse against people on the move in Libya,” said a joint statement from over 90 humanitarian groups after Italy renewed a 2017 migration deal with Libya. “It is manufacturing the suffering of migrants and refugees, not resolving it.”

What Comes Next

The latest shipwreck tragedy has renewed calls for Europe and other nations to address the deep flaws plaguing current migration policies.

Advocates contend that safely managing irregular migration requires expanding legal pathways and introducing coherent search and rescue protocols for the Mediterranean. Relying on Libya’s dysfunctional government to coordinate rescues and block smugglers will only lead to more avoidable deaths, they argue.

Others believe a coordinated humanitarian response from the international community is urgently needed to alleviate the immediate suffering for migrants stuck in Libya. Reports of horrific abuse inside overcrowded detention centers are widespread, prompting allegations of crimes against humanity.

For survivors of Saturday’s sinking, trauma support and assistance will be provided by IOM. The long term physical and psychological impacts of such disasters should not be underestimated.

“They survived a major shipwreck which is traumatic enough,” said IOM’s Msehli. “But many suffered terrible abuse during their journey at the hands of traffickers.”

Going forward, the IOM plans to continue working with coastal communities and authorities in Libya to provide relief and build local capacity for future emergency responses.

But until political solutions match the scale of the current crisis, many fear the cycle of human misery and loss of life in the Mediterranean will continue unabated. This leaves advocates asking, how many more preventable tragedies must occur before real systemic changes are implemented?

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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