Friday 19 January 2018

Bodies of 74 African migrants wash up on Libyan beach

Libyan Red Crescent workers recover bodies of people that washed ashore, near Zawiya, Libya. It says that more bodies may yet surface. Photo: Mohannad Karima/AP
Libyan Red Crescent workers recover bodies of people that washed ashore, near Zawiya, Libya. It says that more bodies may yet surface. Photo: Mohannad Karima/AP

Jonathan Gray

At least 74 bodies of African migrants have washed ashore in western Libya, the Libyan Red Crescent has said.

It is the latest tragedy at sea along a perilous, but increasingly popular trafficking route to Europe.

The bodies were found near the western Libyan city of Zawiya on Monday, Red Crescent spokesman Mohammed al-Misrati said, adding that he feared more might surface.

He said a torn rubber boat, the kind that usually carry up to 120 people, was found nearby.

The Red Crescent's branch in Zawiya said there are bodies still floating out at sea but it has no means to retrieve them.

The International Organisation of Migration said the traffickers took the engine and left the boat to drift. Another 12 migrants remain missing and are "presumed drowned," and a sole survivor was transferred to a hospital in a coma, the UN migration agency said.

The Red Crescent posted photographs of dozens of bodies in white and black bags, lined up along the shore. Mr Al-Misrati said the bodies would be taken to a cemetery for unidentified people in the capital, Tripoli.

The Red Crescent appealed for help on Facebook, saying there are no vehicles to transport the bodies.

Libyan coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said over 500 migrants were rescued at sea on Friday and Saturday off the coast of Sebratha, a city to the west of Zawiya. The migrants' boats were 8-10km from the coast.

Mr Gassim said the smugglers pack larger rubber boats with up to 180 people, dramatically increasing the risk of capsizing.

"We are seeing the new boats, which are not equipped with anything, but they carry more people," he said. "This is going to be even more disastrous for the migrants."

The Libya to Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean saw record numbers of migrant drownings in 2016, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said last week.

Some 4,579 migrant deaths were documented in 2016, up from 2,869 deaths the previous year and 3,161 in 2014. The real number of deaths is believed to be much higher.

Mr Leggeri blamed the small dinghies and poor vessels used by the smugglers for the high death rate. The smugglers also appear more willing to brave the choppy winter sea. January alone saw 228 recorded deaths, by far the biggest monthly toll in recent years. IOM says the latest tragedy brings the total death toll this year to 365.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News