World, Middle East

43 perish in shipwreck off Libyan coast: UN agencies

10 survivors recovered in the first shipwreck of 2021 in Central Mediterranean

Peter Kenny   | 20.01.2021
43 perish in shipwreck off Libyan coast: UN agencies

GENEVA

Two UN agencies said Wednesday that at least 43 people lost their lives in a tragic shipwreck off the Libyan coast when their vessel capsized.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said the sinking was the first shipwreck of 2021 in the Central Mediterranean.

The IOM and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), UNHCR's partner on the ground, said 10 survivors were rescued and brought to shore by Coastal Security in Zwara on Libya's northwestern coast.

The boat, which embarked in the early hours of Tuesday from the city of Zawya, roughly 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Zwara, reportedly capsized due to bad sea conditions when its engine stopped running just a few hours after departure.

The survivors were mainly from the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, and Gambia, and reported that those who perished were all men from West African countries.

IOM staff and the IRC, provided them with emergency assistance, including food, water, and medical screenings, before they were released from the port.

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 and UNHCR fear that the actual number of people who perished in the Central Mediterranean during 2020 could be much higher due to the limited ability to monitor routes.

This loss of life highlights once more the need for re-activation of state-led search and rescue operations, a gap non-governmental organizations and commercial vessels are trying to fill despite their limited resources.

The IOM and UNHCR reiterated their international call for an "urgent and measurable shift in the approach to the situation in the Mediterranean."

"This includes ending returns to unsafe ports, establishing a safe and predictable disembarkation mechanism followed by a tangible show of solidarity from European states with countries receiving high numbers of arrivals."

They warned that the situation for migrants and refugees in Libya remains extremely precarious.

The two agencies acknowledged the Libyan authorities' efforts in combatting smuggling and trafficking and appealed for an increase in efforts to prosecute and hold accountable criminal groups responsible for human rights' abuses targeting thousands of migrants and refugees in the country.

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