The tragic shipwreck incident took place off the Libyan coast. Ten survivors were rescued and brought to shore by Coastal Security in Zwara.
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency say they are deeply saddened by the incident which occurred on January 19.
According to IOM and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), UNHCR’s partner on the ground, the boat, which embarked in the early hours of Tuesday from the city of Zawya, reportedly capsized due to bad sea conditions when its engine stopped, just a few hours after departure.
Survivors, mainly from Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, and The Gambia, reported that those who perished were all men from West African countries.
IOM staff and UNHCR partner, 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.
IOM and UNHCR fear that, due to the limited ability to monitor routes, the actual number of people who perished in the Central Mediterranean during 2020 could be much higher. This loss of life highlights once more the need for re-activation of State-led search and rescue operations, a gap NGO and commercial vessels are trying to fill despite their limited resources. IOM and UNHCR reiterate their call on the international community 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.
The situation for migrants and refugees in Libya remains extremely precarious. Arbitrary arrests and arbitrary detention in the direst of conditions continue. Many are victimized and exploited by traffickers and smugglers, held for ransom, tortured, and abused.
IOM and UNHCR acknowledge the efforts made by the Libyan authorities in combatting smuggling and trafficking and appeal 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.
The agencies stress that should inaction and impunity prevail, more avoidable and tragic loss of life can be expected.