The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Thursday another devastating shipwreck in the central Mediterranean, which has claimed the lives of at least 74 migrants off the coast of Khums, Libya.
It is the eighth such incident since early October, said a UN statement.
He said the ship was reportedly carrying more than 120 people, including women and children. The coast guard and local fishermen brought a total of 47 survivors to shore. More than 30 bodies have been recovered, but the search continues.
The statement said that in the last two days, at least 19 people, including two children, drowned after the capsizing of two boats in the same area of the Mediterranean, while the ship ‘Open Arms’, which is the only NGO ship currently operating on the route, rescued more than 200 in three separate operations.
“The increasing loss of life in the Mediterranean is a manifestation of the inability of States to take decisive action, to redistribute the much-needed dedicated search and rescue capacity, at the deadliest sea crossing in the world,” said Fredrico Soda. IOM Chief of Mission in Libya.
“We have long called for a change in the obviously unworkable approach to Libya and the Mediterranean, including an end to returns to the country and the establishment of a clear disembarkation mechanism, followed by solidarity from other states. Thousands of vulnerable people continue to pay the price of inaction, both at sea and on land ”.
So far this year, at least 900 people have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach European shores, some due to delays in rescue, the IOM said.
More than 11,000 people have been returned to Libya, putting them at risk of human rights violations, arrests, abuse, trafficking and exploitation, all well documented by the UN.
IOM has recorded a recent increase in departures from the country with some 1,900 people intercepted and returned, with more than 780 arrivals in Italy recorded from Libya, since the beginning of October alone.
The worsening humanitarian conditions for migrants detained in overcrowded centers, widespread arbitrary arrests and incarcerations, and extortion and abuse are alarming, according to the migration agency.
In the absence of safeguards for migrants returning to the country, the IOM is calling for Libya’s search and rescue zone to be redefined, to allow international actors to carry out rescue operations.
IOM remains clear that Libya is not a safe haven for return and reiterates its call to the international community and the European Union (EU) to take urgent and concrete measures to end the cycle of return and exploitation.
Continued restrictions on the work of NGOs carrying out crucial rescue operations must be lifted immediately, the agency said, “and their crucial interventions must be recognized in line with the humanitarian imperative to save lives.”