On Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that at least 43 migrants have drowned off the Libyan coast, when their boat capsized in rough seas. This is the first reported deaths of migrants this year.
In a statement, the IOM said that the boat left the coastal city of Zawiya but tipped over when the engine stopped, leaving it at the mercy of the rough weather.
All those who died were thought to be from Western African countries. The ten survivors from the shipwreck were from Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, and the Gambia, the organization said. The survivors were taken by the Coast Guard to Zwara. They were given food and water along with medical screenings before being released.
“Hundreds of people lost their lives last year attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean, where the highest number of fatalities along a single migration journey worldwide occurred,” the IOM said.
“IOM fears that, due to the limited ability to monitor routes, the actual number of people who perished in the central Mediterranean during 2020 could be much higher. This loss of life highlights once more the need for re-activation of state-led search and rescue operations, a gap NGO and commercial vessels are trying to fill despite their limited resources,” it added.
It also called on the international community to end returning migrants to “unsafe ports,” establish a safe location to disembark, and for solidarity from European states in receiving arrivals.
“The situation for migrants and refugees in Libya remains extremely precarious. Arbitrary arrests and arbitrary detention in the direst of conditions continue. Many are victimized and exploited by traffickers and smugglers, held for ransom, tortured, and abused,” it stressed.