On Wednesday, the UN migration agency reported that a rubber boat transporting numerous migrants towards Europe sank off the coast of Libya, causing the deaths of at least 55 individuals, including women and children.
This recent incident is the latest tragedy to occur in the Mediterranean Sea, which is a primary route for migrants. The International Organisation for Migration disclosed that the disaster occurred on Tuesday.
The boat, carrying no less than 60 migrants, had departed from the coastal city of Garabouli, located to the east of Tripoli, the capital of Libya.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), five migrants managed to survive the shipwreck and were rescued by the Libyan coast guard and returned to the shore. The fate of the vessel is currently unknown. IOM spokesperson Safa Msehli explained that the rubber boat capsized shortly after departing Garabouli. She added that the Libyan coast guard had recovered the bodies of ten individuals, comprising nine men and one child, thus far.
As per the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, the first quarter of this year was the deadliest in the Central Mediterranean since 2017, with at least 441 documented deaths. However, this number is likely to be an underestimate of the actual number of lives lost. The agency is still investigating several unreported shipwrecks, and the fate of over 300 people on board remains unknown.
In 2022, the IOM reported that at least 529 migrants were dead, 848 were missing, and over 24,680 were intercepted and returned to Libya. Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East who are trying to reach Europe. After the NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, the oil-rich country plunged into chaos.
Human traffickers have taken advantage of the instability in Libya, smuggling migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are crowded into poorly equipped vessels, including rubber boats, and set off on dangerous sea voyages. Those who are intercepted and returned to Libya are held in government-run detention centers that are rife with abuses, including forced labor, beatings, rapes, and torture. These practices amount to crimes against humanity, according to investigators commissioned by the UN.