Dead migrants wash up on Libya beach

TMP – 28/02/2017

The coastguard recovered the bodies of 74 dead migrants that washed ashore on Libya’s northern coast, near the city of Zawiya on 21 February. The migrants were all adults, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries, three of them were women.

The Libyan Red Crescent said that aid workers spent six hours recovering the bodies from the sea, with more migrants feared dead but not found yet.

A spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent, Mohammed al-Misrati, told the Associated Press that a torn rubber boat was found nearby and that more deaths are highly likely as such vessels usually carry about 120 people.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the rubber boat left Libya for Italy a few days ago and reports suggest that traffickers removed the engine from the boat and left it adrift for several days.

This latest incident has aid workers fearful that smugglers are getting increasing cruel in their treatment of migrants.

“This is not a only horrible number of deaths in one incident but it strikes us as something that we haven’t really seen much of, which is either deliberate punishment or murder of migrants,” an IOM spokesman said.

The route between Libya and Italy has recorded the highest number of deaths last year, when at least 4,579 people died, according to the head of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Nearly 240 migrants have died in January 2017 alone, however, the real number of dead is likely to be higher because not all drownings are documented.

Only last month the European Union th backed an agreement between Italy and Libya to stem the flow of migrants that includes financing for, and training to set up, holding centers for migrants in Libya as well as training of the country’s coastguard.