UN: Over 160 migrants drown in shipwrecks off Libya | Taiwan News

CAIRO (AP) – More than 160 migrants drowned in two separate shipwrecks off Libya over the past week, a United Nations migration official said on Tuesday. The deaths were the latest disasters in the Mediterranean Sea involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

Safa Msehli, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, said at least 102 migrants were reportedly killed after their wooden boat capsized off Libya on Friday. At least eight other people were rescued and brought ashore, she said.

Three days later, the Libyan coast guard recovered at least 62 bodies of migrants from another shipwreck. said Msehli.

Another boat carrying at least 210 migrants was intercepted and returned to Libya, she said.

The deaths brought the tally on the central Mediterranean route to around 1,500 drowned migrants this year, Msehli said.

Around 31,500 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya in 2021, up from nearly 11,900 migrants the year before, according to IOM. About 980 migrants died or presumed dead in 2020, the UN agency said.

Libya has become the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Human traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos in the oil-rich country and smuggled migrants across the country’s long border with six nations. They embark desperate migrants in ill-equipped inflatable boats, then embark on risky journeys across the perilous Mediterranean Sea.

Those returned were taken to detention centers plagued by abuse, including forced labor, beatings, rape and torture. The abuses often accompany efforts to extort money from families before migrants are allowed to leave Libya on the traffickers’ boats.

UN-commissioned investigators said in October that the abuse and mistreatment of migrants in Libya could amount to crimes against humanity.

Janice J. Kostka