Three bodies recovered and 13 missing; 22 survivors returned to detention camp in Libya, UN agency reports.
Three people have died and 13 are feared drowned after a boat carrying refugees and migrants capsized off Libya’s coast on Thursday night, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which added there were 22 survivors.
The dead include two Syrians and one man from Ghana.
The survivors – from Egypt, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Niger, Somalia, Syria and Ghana – were rescued by fishing vessels in coordination with the Libyan coastguard and later transferred to the Zliten detention centre, according to IOM spokeswoman Safa Msehli.
The Libyan coastguard said the death toll could rise as search teams scoured the area for more bodies.
🚨 Breaking: at least 13 lives are lost at sea and three bodies retrieved after a tragic shipwreck occurred off the coast of #Libya last night.
IOM staff are now providing medical assistance to 22 survivors brought to shore by fishing vessels. pic.twitter.com/KYfi6hmG74
— IOM Libya (@IOM_Libya) September 25, 2020
This is the second shipwreck in one month. The IOM had reported 20 people’s death after their boat capsized off Libya’s coast on September 15.
Libya acts as a major gateway for migrants and refugees hoping to reach Europe.
There are more than 636,000 refugees and migrants currently in Libya, according to the IOM. Fighting in the country endangers them as they wait to cross the sea across one of the deadliest migration routes in the world.
More than 620 people are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe from Africa’s shores this year – a dangerous sea journey that has killed at least 20,000 since 2014, according to data gathered by the IOM.
“It is horrible that the loss of life is normalised and even ignored as no action has been taken,” Msehli told Al Jazeera.
“We have consistently said that there is a need for dedicated state-led search-and-rescue capacity to save lives and respond to distress cases. In the absence of EU vessels, NGOs are filling an important gap yet continue to face restrictions.”
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have funded and delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan coastguard despite allegations of human trafficking and corruption.
At least 36,000 people have been intercepted and returned to the war-torn North African country, where they endure harrowing conditions and well-documented human rights violations in official and “unofficial” detention centres.