UN says 11 Europe-bound migrants drown off Libya

SAMY MAGDY
·2 min read

CAIRO (AP) — At least 11 people drowned Sunday when a rubber dinghy carrying two dozen Europe-bound migrants capsized off Libya, the U.N. migration agency said. It was the latest shipwreck involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

The International Organization for Migration said the tragedy took place near the western town of Zawiya. The Libyan coast guard saved the lives of 12 migrants, it said. Those migrants were expected to be taken to a detention center.

Sunday’s deadly shipwreck was the latest along the Central Mediterranean migration route. Last month, at least 130 migrants were presumed dead after their boat capsized off Libya, in one of the deadliest maritime tragedies in years along the busy route.

“The continuous loss of life calls for an urgent change in approach to the situation in Libya and the Central Med.,” the IOM said in a Twitter post.

Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

There has been a spike in crossings and attempted crossings from Libya in recent weeks. Around 7,000 Europe-bound migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya so far this year, according to the IOM's tally.

Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. Over the last several years, hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached Europe either on their own or after being rescued at sea.

Thousands have drowned along the way. Others were intercepted and returned to Libya to be left at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers that lack adequate food and water, according to rights groups.