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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladeshis among 22 migrants rescued in shipwreck off Libya coast

The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday

Update : 26 Sep 2020, 02:45 PM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Friday that a shipwreck off the Libyan coast left at least 16 migrants dead and 22 survivors, including several Bangladeshis, who were brought ashore by fishing vessels.

Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the IOM, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria, Somalia and Ghana, reports AP.

Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman, and at least 13 other migrants were missing and presumed drowned, the IOM said.

The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.

The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and warned the death toll could rise further as search teams scoured the area for more victims, reports AP.

“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”

In the years since the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, war-torn Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. 

Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the IOM.

 Also read: 3 migrants dead, 13 missing in shipwreck off Libya coast 

Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.

Libyan authorities took the survivors to the Zliten detention centre, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. 

Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centres notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centres.

The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.

Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters.

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