Hundreds feared dead in migrant shipwreck off Libya
Hundreds of people are feared to have drowned in the southern Mediterranean last week, in what would be the deadliest migrant shipwreck in months.
A repurposed fishing boat overloaded by smugglers with up to 500 Africans hoping to reach Italy from eastern Libya sunk as passengers from smaller boats were trying to board it, survivors told the International Organisation for Migration(IOM). The survivors’ accounts described panicked passengers desperately trying to stay afloat by jumping between vessels.
A death toll of just half the size would bring the total number of mortalities in the Mediterranean in 2016 to over 1,000 – more than a quarter of last year’s record tally.
The IOM said its staff met on Tuesday with survivors of the incident who were rescued on Saturday by a Filipino cargo ship off the Libyan coast. The group said some 200 migrants left the Libyan coastal city of Tobruk on several small boats, each carrying between 30 to 40 people and bound for a larger vessel on the high seas.
IOM said the larger vessel, which was already desperately overcrowded with about 300 people, “began taking on water” when the newcomers got on. As the larger vessel began to sink, “panicking passengers tried to jump into the smaller boats they had arrived in.”
The survivors “claim to have been part of, and to have witnessed, a large shipwreck that took place in the Mediterranean Sea claiming the lives of approximately 500 people,” UNHCR said.
The survivors will not be deported to Turkey under the terms of a new deal between Turkey and the EU, since they departed from Libya – a war-torn country with whom the EU has not yet negotiated a returns agreement.
As a result, their arrivals highlight the limits of the EU-Turkey deal as a means of preventing migration to Europe. While the deal has made it harder for people to reach Greece, other routes to Europe exist – including from Libya.
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"Il devient absolument urgent de mettre un terme à cette injustice. Il y a un manque de connaissances et de recherches. Il faut donc promouvoir le recueil de témoignages, mais aussi construire des mémoriaux, organiser des expositions..." - @BenjaminAbtan