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UN: More than 70 dead in shipwreck off Libya

Refugees are seen after being rescued from the Mediterranean Sea on 15 June 2017 [Marcus Drinkwater/Anadolu Agency]
Refugees are seen after being rescued from the Mediterranean Sea on 15 June 2017 [Marcus Drinkwater/Anadolu Agency]

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on Thursday reported a devastating shipwreck that took the lives of at least 74 migrants off the coast of Al-Khums, Libya, Anadolu Agency reports.

The IOM said Thursday's sinking was the latest in a series of tragedies involving at least eight other shipwrecks in the Central Mediterranean since Oct. 1

The vessel was reported to be carrying over 120 people, including women and children.

Forty-seven survivors have been brought to shore by the coast guard and fishermen, and 31 bodies have been retrieved while search for victims continues.

"The mounting loss of life in the Mediterranean is a manifestation of the inability of States to take decisive action to redeploy much needed, dedicated Search and Rescue capacity in the deadliest sea-crossing in the world," the IOM quoted its chief of mission in Libya Federico Soda as saying.

In the past two days, at least 19 people, including two children, drowned after two boats capsized in the Central Mediterranean.

The IOM also said that the vessel Open Arms – the only NGO ship currently operating on this route – rescued more than 200 people in three operations.

"We have long called for a change in the evidently unworkable approach to Libya and the Mediterranean, including ending returns to the country and establishing a clear disembarkation mechanism followed by solidarity from other states," said Soda.

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He also said thousands of vulnerable people continue to pay the price for inaction both at sea and on land.

This year, at least 900 people have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach European shores, some due to delays in rescue.

More than 11,000 others have been returned to Libya, putting them at risk of facing human rights violations, detention, abuse, trafficking, and exploitation, as documented by the UN.

The IOM has recorded a recent upsurge in departures from the country with some 1,900 being intercepted and returned and over 780 arrivals in Italy from Libya since the beginning of October alone.

The IOM said worsening humanitarian conditions of migrants detained in overcrowded centers, widespread arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, and the extortion and abuse are alarming.

"In the absence of any safeguards for migrants returned to the country, the Libyan Search and Rescue zone must be redefined to allow for international actors to conduct life-saving operations," said the IOM.

It asserted that Libya is not a safe port for return and reiterated its call on the international community and the EU to take urgent and concrete action to end the cycle of return and exploitation.

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AfricaInternational OrganisationsIOMLibyaNewsUN
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