Dozens of bodies of African migrants and refugees have washed up on the shores of western Libya, the Libyan Red Crescent announced today.
The bodies of at least 74 people who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea were found in Zawiya in the latest tragedy that has seen the number of migrant deaths rise to record levels in the Libya-Italy smuggling route over the last couple of months.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Red Crescent spokesman, Mohammed Al-Misrati, said the bodies were found yesterday morning and retrieved by the organisation.
A ripped rubber boat was found nearby, Al-Misrati said, adding that more bodies are expected to wash up on shore in the coming days.
The Libyan Red Crescent posted dozens of images on its Twitter account of the bodies in white and black body bags lined up along the shore. Local authorities have taken the bodies to a cemetery allocated for unidentified persons in the capital Tripoli, Al-Misrati explained.
Rising number of deaths
According to Fabrice Leggeri, the director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the Libya-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean has seen record numbers of migrant drownings in 2016 with the numbers likely to rise as the weather warms up in the coming weeks.
Leggeri stated last week that the migrant deaths along the central Mediterranean route currently stands at 4,579 from last year, a figure that is likely to be less than the true loss of life suffered. Around 2,869 deaths were recorded in 2015 and 3,161 in 2014.
Though summer is usually the peak of migrant crossings, winter has still seen a few desperate escapes with 228 recorded deaths last month alone. Leggeri blamed the high death rates on the very poor dinghies and vessels used by smugglers.
Libya has come under fire in recent month for its authority's heavy-handedness when dealing with refugees and migrants trapped at sea and how they are then treated in detention centres. There have been many cases of refugees and migrants being tortured, forced into labour and raped whilst being held in the country.
The North African state has suffered from lawlessness following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-time Dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Human trafficking have thrived as a result of the ensuing chaos.