Published: Thu, January 11, 2018
World | By Melba Underwood

Migrant Lives Feared Lost off Libya coast

Migrant Lives Feared Lost off Libya coast

An aid group not involved in the rescue said dozens of migrants could still be missing.

The Libyan Coast Guard noted that eight of those that drowned are from Bangladesh, including a woman, and two from Pakistan. "Search is still on", said the coast guard commander, Nasr al-Qamoud. Italian navy and coast guard vessels were involved in the rescue.

More than 2,000 migrants jammed in 25 boats arrived in Italy June 12, ending an global operation to rescue asylum seekers traveling from Libya. Unfortunately, we could not trace anybody or other survivors.

A little more than a week into the New Year, reports reveal that close to 200 migrants or refugees have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea - with up to 100 unaccounted for since Saturday, the United Nations migration agency said Wednesday. The smugglers routinely crowd much more than 100 people into motorized rubber dinghies created to hold far fewer, aiming to maximize profits on the route from lawless Libya toward southern Europe.

Several of the survivors, who were brought back to a naval base in Tripoli, said there were originally about 70 people on board the boat when it set off near the town of Khoms, east of the capital.

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Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish humanitarian group that is one of the few NGOs which still operate their own rescue ships outside Libyan waters, said some of the migrants had spent hours in the water before being saved.

Two years after more than a million people entered the European Union, mostly fleeing war in the Middle East and poverty in Africa, the IOM recorded 171,635 arrivals by boat in 2017. Over 50,000 migrants have landed Italy in 2014.

By contrast, at a time when Mediterranean migrants' death dropped sharply, IOM recorded only 26 on the Mediterranean Sea lanes in December.

Under heavy pressure from Italy, some Libyan armed factions have blocked smuggling since last summer. Many thousands are in Libya waiting to make the crossing.

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