More than 25 people missing off Libyan coast

TMP – 11/03/2017

At least 25 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe are missing following a rescue operation off the Libyan coast on Friday 3 March.

According to the Libyan naval forces the migrants were on an overloaded rubber boat which started taking in water and sank in the early morning of 3 March, about 5 kilometres off Tajoura, east of the capital Tripoli. Naval forces managed to rescue 115 other migrants.

“They [the survivors] are from different sub-Saharan countries, one from Bangladesh and six women,” coastguard spokesman General Ayoub Qassem said.

“Our coastguards carried out a search operation in that area off Tajoura in attempting to find the missing ones but no one was found,” he added.

At least 444 of people have died en route to Europe on the central Mediterranean route since the start of 2017, according to the latest International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports.

In early February, European Union leaders agreed on a plan to help stem the flow of people from Libya. The EU will provide the Libyan government with funds to increase the efforts to stop boats before they leave Libya’s territorial waters and to help break the business model of human smugglers.

The number of deaths on the Libya to Italy route are also increasing as smugglers grow more reckless. There is reported evidence of smugglers putting migrants on unseaworthy plastic dinghies or wooden fishing boats and overcrowding is commonplace.

At the end of last month, the bodies of at least 74 migrants were found washed up on the shore near Zawiya, in western Libya, after the engine of their inflatable boat was stolen by smugglers.

On 22 February IOM Libya recorded the disappearance of 105 migrants, the same day as 13 bodies washed up on the coast near Al Khoms, apparently from the same shipwreck.