150 Migrants Feared Dead After Boats Capsize Near Libya
Nearly 150 people are feared dead after two boats crossing from Libya to Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday (25 July 2019), according to the UN Refugee Agency. Two boats carrying around 300 migrants capsized on the east side of the capital city Tripoli, told Ayoub Gassim, a spokesman for Libya’s coastguard, to Associated Press.
Out of 300, around 137 migrants have been rescued and returned to Libya and only one body has been recovered so far.
“This horrific event highlights once again the dire need for a shift in approach to the Mediterranean situation. Urgent action is needed to save lives at sea and prevent people from getting on these boats in the first place by offering safe, legal alternatives,” said Charlie Yaxley, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson for Africa and the Mediterranean/Libya.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, referring to the incident as worst Mediterranean tragedy, said, “The worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year has just occurred.”
Calling for nations to resume missions in the Mediterranean sea, Grandi said that safe passage for people migrating from North African country are needed “before it is too late for many more desperate people.”
Bashing the European Union (EU) for pulling its forces and stopping rescue missions in the Mediterranean, Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “Instead of conducting European search and rescue in the Mediterranean, the EU has pulled its forces out. Instead of supporting non-governmental rescue operations, EU countries have thrown every obstacle in their way. Instead of taking responsibility themselves, EU countries have been propping up the Libyan coastguard without the resources or dedication to save lives at sea.”
Earlier, 117 people went missing off Libya’s coast in January and around 65 people drowned after their boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia in May.
Exodus From Libya
After Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in the 2011 uprisings, a huge mass of people from the country started moving to Europe, in search of a better life.
In 2019 alone, 37,555 people from Libya have migrated to Europe by sea and 8,007 via land, according to the International Organization for Migration.
So far this year, 164 confirmed deaths of migrants have been recorded on the route from Libya to Europe. According to the UN, one in every four people who set for Europe from Libya, via sea, dies before reaching Europe.
Earlier in July, more than 50 people were killed in an airstrike at the Tajoura detention centre. Earlier this week, three-dozen migrants were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and taken to the detention centre, where more than 200 migrants are being held.
Currently, at least 2,500 migrants are detained in centres in and around Tripoli, where forces aligned to commander Khalifa Hifter are fighting militias associated with a U.N.-recognized government since April.