41 migrants drown in the Mediterranean
Published: 11:46 AM, 25 February 2021
At least 41 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast in a shipwreck in the Central Mediterranean on Saturday.
In a joint statement, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday that 77 migrants were rescued by a commercial vessel.
A total of 120 people, including six women - one of whom was pregnant - and four children, were on a dinghy that left Libya on February 18, the statement said.
According to testimonies of the survivors, the dinghy started taking in water after about 15 hours at sea, and eight people died before a merchant vessel came to help.
“... six persons died after falling into the water, while two others tried to swim to a boat spotted in the distance and drowned.
“After about three hours, the vessel Vos Triton approached the dinghy to carry out a rescue but in the difficult and delicate operation many persons lost their lives.”
“Tens of thousands of persons travelling along the route through Libya to the Central Mediterranean have fallen victim to unspeakable brutality at the hands of traffickers and militias,” the statement said.
Migrants who were rescued and returned to Libya are forced into arbitrary detention and risk becoming victims of abuse, violence and major human rights violations, the statement said.
IOM and UNHCR reiterated that Libya “cannot be considered a safe port and that every effort must be made to ensure that persons rescued at sea are not sent back there.”
Due to the state of insecurity and chaos in the North African nation following the overthrow of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, thousands of immigrants, mostly Africans, chose to cross the Mediterranean from Libya towards Europe.
Some 160 migrants have died in the Central Mediterranean, while more than 3,500 others were rescued and returned to Libya so far this year, the statement said.