More than 40 people are presumed dead after a shipwreck off the Libyan coast. More than 900 people have died at sea attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year.
Rabat – A search and rescue mission made up of the Libyan coast guard and local fishermen recovered five bodies after a ship carrying about 100 people sank off the coast of Libya on August 27.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that three Moroccan nationals, who had been hoping to reach Italy were presumed among the five dead, a man, a woman, and a small child who are yet to be identified.
According to the UNHCR, more than 40 people are estimated to be dead or lost at sea following the boat accident. However, the rescue operation was successful in saving more than 60 people who are currently being held in the northern coastal town of Al Khoms near Tripoli.
Among the survivors were other Moroccan nationals, in addition to Egyptians and Tunisians. However, the bulk of passengers of the capsized ship transporting migrants to Europe were Sudanese.
In July, 155 migrants died in a similar accident in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, in the biggest reported fatality of the year. UNHCR estimates that after this latest incident, more than 900 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2019 alone. An additional 5,400 migrants and refugees have been intercepted at sea by the Libyan coast guard.
During the Gaddafi era, the state kept tight control over the country’s coastlines and stop migrants heading to Italy, in exchange for large sums of money handed over by European countries.
40 more people reported lost off Libya. 900 have died in the Mediterranean in 2019. Capacity to save lives at sea has much decreased. This is what happens when the humanitarian act of rescue gets politicized. It is inhumane, immoral and illegal. https://t.co/6Kwg8JQsHw
— Filippo Grandi (@RefugeesChief) August 27, 2019
Currently, over 90 percent of refugees and migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean towards European shores now depart from Libya. The war and political instability following the fall of the Ghaddafi regime has weakened the security apparatus and allowed smuggling networks to thrive, especially considering Libya’s porous borders with many fragile Sub-Saharan states and the length of its difficult to patrol the coastline.
The UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, has blamed the situation on ‘politicizing the humanitarian act of rescue’. Various NGOs active in the field have also condemned European policies of criminalizing search and rescue operations and aid to migrants in the Mediterranean.
Italy, for instance, has stopped a rescue ship operated by Mediterranean Saving Humans, from entering its territorial waters.
Earlier this week, the Italian government grounded two planes used by NGOs to search for migrants in the sea. Malta has also refused to let the rescue planes operate out of its airspace.