Tuesday, October 19

130 people en route to Europe feared to die in shipwreck off the Libyan coast


Some 130 people are feared to have died after the wreckage of a ship carrying them to Europe was found off the Libyan coast.

SOS Mediterranee, which operates the rescue ship Ocean Viking, said late Thursday that the wreck of a rubber boat, initially carrying about 130 people, was seen in the Mediterranean Sea northeast of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

The group said it found no survivors, but saw at least 10 bodies near the wreck.

“We are heartbroken. We think of the lives that have been lost and the families who may never be certain of what happened to their loved ones, ”the statement on its website reads.

Posted yesterday, it said it had been alerted to three ships in distress in the past 48 hours off Libya.

All were at least ten hours from their position at the time they received the alerts, and the search for the boats was carried out “in a race against time and with very rough seas”, which had waves of up to six meters.

In the years since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, war-torn Libya has become the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty. in Africa and the Middle East.

Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stagnate and wreck along the dangerous central Mediterranean route.

The European humanitarian organization added that more than 350 people have drowned at sea so far this year, not counting the victims of this latest shipwreck.

“States abandon their responsibility to coordinate Search and Rescue operations, leaving private actors and civil society to fill the deadly void they leave behind,” the statement added.

Alarm Phone, a crisis hotline for migrants in distress in the Mediterranean, said in another statement that it had been in contact with the ship in distress for nearly 10 hours before it capsized.

Alarm Phone added that it had notified European and Libyan authorities of the ship’s GPS position, but only non-state rescue groups actively searched for it.

“People could have been rescued, but all authorities knowingly let them die at sea,” they said in the statement, describing the incident as “a maritime disaster.”

Alarm Phone accused European authorities of refusing to coordinate a search operation and instead assigned full responsibility to the Libyan coast guard, which also refused to launch a rescue operation.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the Libyan coast guard and other local groups to stop these dangerous sea crossings. Human rights groups, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers riddled with abuse.

“These are the human consequences of policies that do not respect international law and the most basic humanitarian imperatives,” tweeted Eugenio Ambrosi, Chief of Staff of the International Organization for Migration.


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