Libya: 90 migrants feared dead in boat accident | News | DW | 02.02.2018
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Libya: 90 migrants feared dead in boat accident

There were three survivors when a smuggler's boat carrying over 90 people capsized off the coast of Libya. More than 6,600 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea in 2018, according to the IOM.

More than 90 migrants are feared to have drowned after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

The boat, which was taking a commonly used smugglers route to Italy via the Mediterranean Sea, capsized off the coast near the city of Zuwara in the early hours of Friday.

Read more: EU refugee quotas: interior ministers seek compromise as deadline looms

The details

  • At least three people survived: Two Pakistanis were able to swim to shore and one Libyan was rescued by fishermen.
  • Ten bodies have washed ashore so far — they are thought to be eight Pakistanis and two Libyans.
  • Survivors told aid workers that most of the migrants on the boat were Pakistanis.
  • IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon in Tunis said the boat possibly sank because it was overloaded.

Every life lost 'one too many'

Speaking in Brussels on Friday, European Union foreign policy spokeswoman Catherine Ray said the EU would continue its rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea and its fight against traffickers who put migrants' lives in danger.

Read more: Germany's Bundestag votes to expand refugee family reunifications

"Every life lost at sea is one life too many," Ray said.

The IOM said it was surprising that Libyans were among the dead, noting that in all of 2017 just 29 Libyan nationals were rescued or intercepted trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and no Libyan deaths were recorded.

Referring to Libyans being among migrants trying to reach Europe, IOM spokesman Joel Millman told the AFP news agency, "We haven't [really] seen that before. They could have been smugglers."

Read more: Applications for EU asylum drop by nearly half in 2017

Number of Pakistani migrants increasing: The IOM said Pakistani migrants made up the 13th largest group trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean last year, with 3,138 arriving in Italy in 2017, and no recorded sea deaths. They have, however, climbed to third place so far this year, with an estimated 240 Pakistanis reaching Italy in January, compared to just nine during January 2017.

Read more: Italy: 800 migrants rescued from Mediterranean Sea, two bodies found

Migration to Europe in 2018: Friday's incident comes after a dinghy with about 130 people on board capsized in the Mediterranean on Saturday night, leaving up to 40 dead. More than 6,600 migrants and refugees have already entered Europe by sea this year, the IOM said, with the journey to Italy via the central Mediterranean route making up almost 65 percent of the entries.

More than 700,000 applications for asylum were lodged in Europe in 2017, but the number of applications dropped by 43 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, according to the EU Asylum Support Office.

​​​law/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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