IOM says at least 95 people, including two children, were rescued after an inflatable boat capsized on the central Mediterranean route.
At least 15 people drowned when their boat capsized off Libya, the second sinking in just over a week involving people embarking on a dangerous voyage at sea in hopes of finding a better life in Europe.
Safa Msehli, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said on Sunday that the dead were on an inflatable boat carrying at least 110 people, who had boarded Friday from the Libyan coastal town of Zawiya.
The boat began to sink early on Sunday and the Libyan coast guard managed to rescue at least 95 people, including two children, she said.
“Tragedies and preventable loss of life continue as a policy of silence and inaction persists,” she said in a message on Twitter.
‼ ️ Shipwreck #Libya
At least 15 migrants drowned while 95 others were brought ashore by the coast guard today.
Tragedies and preventable loss of life continue as a policy of silence and inaction persists. pic.twitter.com/jeebpfz9zG
– Safa Msehli (@msehlisafa) February 28, 2021
Msehli said many survivors suffered burns from engine fuel and hypothermia, with some being taken to hospital.
Sunday’s sinking was the last along the so-called central Mediterranean migration route. International agencies said in a joint statement on Wednesday that at least 41 people drowned when their boat capsized off Libya on February 20.
On Saturday, the German charity Sea-Watch said it had saved nearly 150 people off the Libyan coast in two operations.
Libya has become the main transit point for people hoping to reach Europe, after the North African country plunged into bloody conflict following a NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Smugglers often embark desperate families in ill-equipped inflatable boats that run aground and sink in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the IOM, more than 20,000 people have died in the Mediterranean since 2014.
More than 20,000 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since 2014.
These are some of the poignant stories of those crossing Libya and at sea. pic.twitter.com/6Garcw7OIs
– IOM – UN Migration (@UNmigration) February 26, 2021
International agencies have also frequently denounced the return to Libya of people intercepted at sea due to the chaotic situation in the country and poor conditions in detention centers.
“At least 3,700 men, women and children have been returned to (Libya) this year,” IOM said on Friday.
“Most were taken into detention, where the already dire conditions continue to worsen.”