1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

64 probably dead in migrant boat sinking: UN

January 8, 2018

The UN migration agency now says 64 people likely lost their lives when a boat carrying migrants sank off Libya on Saturday. Initial reports had put the death toll much lower in what was the first such incident in 2018.

African migrants on rescue boat
Archive photoImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Palacios

Sixty-four migrants are thought to have died when a rubber dinghy became punctured and sank on Saturday in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Monday.

The incident was 2018's first known deadly migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean.

Italien Flüchtlinge werden von Hilfsorganisation Sea-Eye gerettet
The Italian coast guard was involved in rescue operations (archive photo)Image: picture alliance/dpa/NurPhoto/C. Marquardt

IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said there had been 150 people aboard the boat when it left Libya, of whom 86 survived the shipwreck. He said eight corpses had been recovered and a further 54 people were missing.

He said the information was obtained from survivors who were interviewed by the agency in Catania, Sicily, after they arrived on a rescue ship.

Initial reports had put the death toll lower, with the German migrant rescue charity Sea-Watch speaking of "at least" 25 dead.

Perilous voyage

The incident took place north of Tripoli on what is the world's most dangerous migration route. The IOM says 2,832 people drowned in 2017 attempting to cross from Libya to Europe, while 20,335 were rescued or intercepted. Altogether 118,928 people arrived in Italy via the route.

Although still high, figures have nonetheless dropped after the Italian government signed multiple deals with the Libyan coast guard in the summer with the EU's backing. 

Illegal migrants in Libya
Would-be migrants are often repatriated from LibyaImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Doma

Under the agreements, the EU and Libya cooperate in intercepting migrants as they try to cross the Mediterranean for EU shores and returning them for detention in Libya.

The cooperation has aroused controversy amid reports that migrants detained in camps in Libya have been subjected to severe mistreatment.

Read more: Tunisia's gravedigger of drowned migrants

tj/rc (dpa, AFP)