Boat capsizes near Libya; 24 migrants presumed dead

CAIRO (AP) — The United Nations (UN) migration agency said yesterday that a boat carrying migrants bound for Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, leaving at least two dozen people drowned or missing and presumed dead, the latest shipwreck off the North African country.

Spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Safa Msehli told The Associated Press (AP) that Libya’s coast guard intercepted three boats on Monday, and one of them had capsized.

She said the coast guard retrieved two bodies, and survivors reported 22 others were missing and presumed dead.

At least 45 survivors on the three boats were returned to the shore.

All migrants were men, with a majority from Egypt and Morocco, she said. Survivors and other intercepted migrants were taken to a detention centre in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Msehli said.

Migrants from different nationalities including 14 minors and four women, rest on board the Spanish NGO Open Arms vessel after being rescued as they were trying to flee Libya on board a precarious wooden boat, in international waters, at the Central Mediterranean sea. PHOTO: AP

“This new tragedy signals yet again the need for increased search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean. Instead, we are seeing restrictions on NGOs and long, unnecessary stand-offs,” Msehli said.

The shipwreck was the latest maritime disaster involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Msehli said last month more than 350 migrants died in the central Mediterranean this year.

In August, a boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized leaving at least 45 people drowned or missing and presumed dead, marking the largest number of fatalities in a single shipwreck off the coast of the North African country.

IOM’s Missing Migrants Project said that since mid-August, when four shipwrecks were reported in the central Mediterranean, 48 bodies have washed ashore at Libyan coasts. It said at least 54 other people may have died at sea in those tragedies.