Red Crescent: 74 bodies of migrants wash ashore in Libya

Red Crescent: 74 bodies of migrants wash ashore in Libya

CAIRO — Scores of bodies of African migrants washed ashore in Libya’s western city of Zawiya on the Mediterranean, the Libyan Red Crescent said Tuesday — the latest tragedy at sea after migrant deaths rose to record levels along the key smuggling route over the past months.

At least 74 bodies were found in Zawiya, according to Red Crescent’s spokesman Mohammed al-Misrati, who feared an even higher death toll. He said that a torn rubber boat was found nearby and that he expected more bodies to surface as such boats usually carry up to 120 people.

Al-Misrati told The Associated Press that the bodies were found on Monday morning and that the Red Crescent workers retrieved them between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The aid agency posted on its Twitter account photographs of dozens of bodies in white and black body bags, lined up along the shore. Al-Misrati said the local authorities would take the bodies to a cemetery in the capital of Tripoli that is allocated for unidentified persons.

Libyan coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said over 500 migrants were rescued at sea on Friday and Saturday off the shore of Sebratha, a city to the west of Zawiya. The migrants’ boats were about 5-7 miles from the coast of Libya.

Gassims aid the coast guard is seeing the smugglers use larger rubber boats in order to pile more migrants into the weak vessels — some taking on 180 people — and dramatically increasing the risks to the migrants.

“We are seeing the new boats, which are not equipped with anything, but they carry more people,” he said. “This is going to be even more disastrous for the migrants.”

Last week, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said the Libya-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean has seen record numbers of migrant drownings in 2016.

According to Leggeri, migrant deaths along the central Mediterranean route stood at 4,579 for last year, which still might be much less than the true loss of life. That’s compared to 2,869 deaths in 2015 and 3,161 in 2014.

There is little sign of the surge abating, even during wintertime. There were 228 recorded deaths in January, by far the biggest monthly toll in recent years. Leggeri blamed the small dinghies and poor vessels used by the smugglers for the high death rate.

Overall, central Mediterranean migrant crossings increased by 17 per cent last year to 181,459 people, according to statistics.

On its Facebook page, the Red Crescent branch in Zawiya posted an appeal for support to handle the bodies. It said bodies still remain on the beach as the organization lacks vehicles to ferry them to the cemetery. “There are still bodies floating in the sea and we couldn’t reach them,” it said.

In Libya, the turmoil engulfing this North African country has become a death trap for thousands of migrants, most from sub-Saharan African countries, seeking to escape poverty and find a better life in Europe.

Libya is split by competing governments and many militias rule on the ground, including those profiting from smuggling and human trafficking. Rights groups have documented migrants’ horror journeys involving torture, rape, and forced labour inside Libya.

The country sank into lawlessness following the 2011 uprising that turned into a full-blown civil war that led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Since then, human trafficking has thrived amid Libya’s chaos.

___

This story has been corrected to show following new information that the bodies washed ashore on Monday, not Tuesday.

Maggie Michael, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Outbreak at Okanagan hospital

Gastrointestinal illness reported at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Kelowna public menorah lit tonight to celebrate Hanukkah

The menorah will be lit tonight after celebrations at 5 p.m. in Stuart Park

Big Band supports children with disabilities in Lake Country

Proceeds from the Okanagan Big Band performance in Vernon supports local kids

Were your hockey cards stolen?

The Kelowna RCMP are looking to reunite a hockey fan with their cards

RCMP look to reunite owner with stolen tools

Kelowna police seek to identify the owner of tablet and tools seized by RCMP

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Warriors ground Rockets in Moose Jaw

Moose Jaw scores five in the third period to down Kelowna in Rockets’ third game of prairie road trip

Horgan says pot smokers may face same outdoor rules as cigarette smokers

B.C. is developing its rules on recreational marijuana

Dedicated volunteers look for clues

Police appreciate work of those who provide extra eyes for missing women investigations.

Truck driver volunteers to take dog lost in B.C. back home to Alberta

Frankie, a pit bull service dog, was found wandering in the Lower Mainland

B.C. teacher suspended after explicit images projected to class

Jeffrey Rohin Muthanna had been viewing porn on a school laptop for two years

Man who pledged to give B.C. hockey team millions charged with fraud

Mike Gould has since repaid $8,000 he allegedly owed Cranbrook restaurant, owner says

Horgan on Site C: ‘dammed’ if did, ‘dammed’ if he didn’t

B.C. premier didn’t like keeping massive hydro damn project going, but felt he had to

Strong economy fuels housing sales in B.C.: report

Economist says demand for houses is being supported by a large number of millennials entering the market

Most Read