Nearly 100 people have died in international waters after setting off from Libya in an overcrowded boat, an international aid group and the UN have confirmed.
According to Médecins Sans Frontières, a passing ship, Alegria 1, rescued four people from a life raft in the Mediterranean early on Saturday morning. "We know from our initial contact with Alegria 1 that the survivors reported being at sea for at least four days on a boat with nearly 100 people on board," said MSF on Twitter.
According to a transcript of the conversations with the tanker seen by Agence-France Presse, the crew said that "around 96 people died in the water".
Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi confirmed on Twitter yesterday that "more than 90 people" died in the tragedy. "Europe has proven its ability to host 4 million refugees from Ukraine generously and effectively," added the UN official. "It must now urgently consider how to apply this to other refugees and migrants knocking, in distress, at its doors."
READ: UN Libya mission discovers new mass graves
MSF stressed that those rescued on Saturday need "urgent" protection and care. "None of the survivors should be returned to a place where they face detention, abuse and ill-treatment." Libya, it pointed out, is not a safe place.
After a decade of conflict and chaos, Libya has become a major departure point for African and Asian migrants who often endure appalling conditions in the North African country before heading to Europe on overcrowded, unseaworthy boats that often sink or get into trouble.
The EU has been criticised for its close cooperation with the Libyan coast guard in reducing the numbers of migrants arriving on European shores. Upon their return to Libya, many face further horrific abuses in detention centres.
Prior to this latest tragedy, the UN International Organisation for Migration recorded 367 deaths in the Mediterranean so far this year. A total of 2,048 people were drowned trying to make the crossing in 2021.