A UN migration official said on Tuesday that more than 160 people died in two separate shipwrecks off the coast of Libya in the last week. The deaths were the latest in a series of tragedies involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe in the Mediterranean Sea.
At least 102 migrants were reported killed after their wooden boat overturned on Friday, according to Safa Msehli, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). At least eight people were rescued and returned to land.
On Saturday, the second shipwreck occurred. According to Msehli, the Libyan coastguard collected at least 62 dead of migrants. The coastguard also apprehended a third wooden boat with at least 210 migrants on board the same day, she said.
According to Msehli, the fatalities raise the total number of migrants who have perished this year on the central Mediterranean route to over 1,500.
Crossings and attempted crossings from Libya have increased in recent months as authorities in Tripoli have intensified their deadly crackdown on migrants.
According to the IOM, almost 31,500 migrants were apprehended and returned to Libya in 2021, compared to nearly 11,900 migrants the previous year. According to the UN, over 980 migrants died or were assumed dead in 2020.
Libya has emerged as the primary transit route for migrants escaping Africa and the Middle East’s wars and poverty. The oil-rich nation was thrown into instability in 2011 when a Nato-backed rebellion deposed and murdered Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s longstanding ruler.
Human traffickers have taken advantage of the disarray in the oil-rich country, smuggling people through the country’s long border with six other countries. They cram desperate migrants onto ill-equipped rubber boats and send them on dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea.
Those who were repatriated were placed in prison centers where they were subjected to atrocities such as forced labor, beatings, rape, and torture. Attempts to extort money from families before migrants are permitted to leave Libya aboard traffickers’ boats are frequently accompanied by brutality.
Abuse and ill treatment of migrants in Libya, according to UN-commissioned investigators, might amount to crimes against humanity, according to a report released in October.