On Thursday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) stated that at least 74 migrants had drowned in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast.
In a statement, the IOM said, “The boat was reported to be carrying over 120 people, among them women and children. Forty-seven survivors have been brought to shore by the coast guard and fishermen. 31 bodies have been retrieved while the search for victims continues.”
It added that at least 19 people, including two children drowned in the past two days, after two boats capsized in the central Mediterranean. The vessel ‘Open Arms’ – the only NGO ship currently operating on this route – rescued more than 200 people in three operations.
“The mounting loss of life in the Mediterranean is a manifestation of the inability of states to take decisive action, and to redeploy much needed dedicated search and rescue capacity in the deadliest sea-crossing in the world,” said Federico Soda, IOM’s Libya Chief of Mission.
“We have long called for a change in the evidently unworkable approach to Libya and the Mediterranean. This includes ending returns to the country and establishing a clear disembarkation mechanism, followed by solidarity from other states. Thousands of vulnerable people continue to pay the price for inaction both at sea and on land.”
So far this year, at least 900 people have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach European shores, many due to delays in rescue. More than 11,000 others have been returned to Libya, putting them at risk of human rights violations, detention, abuse, trafficking, and exploitation, as documented by the United Nations.
The IOM has recorded a recent upsurge in departures from the country. A reported 1,900 were intercepted and returned, and over 780 arrived in Italy, since the beginning of October alone.
“Worsening humanitarian conditions of migrants who are detained in overcrowded centres, widespread arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, and the extortion and abuse are alarming,” Soda said. “In the absence of any safeguards for migrants returned to the country, the Libyan search and rescue zone must be redefined to allow for international actors to conduct life-saving operations,” he added.
The organisation maintains that Libya is not a safe port for return. It reiterates its call on the international community and the European Union to “take urgent and concrete action to end the cycle of return and exploitation.”