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Updated December 17th, 2023 at 13:40 IST

Women, children among 61 migrants drown after Europe-bound boat capsizes off Libya coast

The shipwreck on Saturday was the latest tragedy in this stretch of the Mediterranean Sea, a crucial perilous route for migrants seeking a better life in Europe

Digital Desk
61 migrants drown off Libya coast boat shipwreck
Image used for representational purposes only. | Image: AP/File
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Cairo: A boat carrying dozens of migrants heading to Europe capsized off the coast of Libya, killing more than 60 people, including women and children, according to the United Nations migration agency. The shipwreck on Saturday was the latest tragedy in this stretch of the Mediterranean Sea, a crucial perilous route for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, where many have died, according to officials. 

The International Organisation for Migration noted in a statement that the boat was carrying 86 migrants when it was overwhelmed off the coast of Libya's western coast by heavy waves, and that 61 migrants drowned, citing survivors of the "dramatic shipwreck." 

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"The central Mediterranean continues to be one of the world's most dangerous migration routes," the agency stated on the social networking platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

In recent years, Libya has emerged as the primary transit hub for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Following a NATO-backed rebellion that deposed and murdered longtime tyrant Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, the North African country has descended into turmoil.

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The country serves as a significant entry point for migrants attempting to reach European ports across the perilous central Mediterranean. According to Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesperson, around 2,250 individuals died on this journey this year.

It's "a dramatic figure that unfortunately demonstrates that not enough is being done to save lives at sea," Di Giacomo wrote on X.

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Human traffickers have profited from Libya's upheaval in recent years, transporting people across the country's extensive borders, which it shares with six countries. The migrants are crammed into ill-equipped vessels, such as rubber boats, and embark on perilous sea journeys. 

Those who are apprehended and returned to Libya are imprisoned in government-run detention centres that are riddled with abuses including as forced labour, beatings, rapes, and torture – practices that, according to U.N.-commissioned investigators, amount to crimes against humanity.

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These acts are often accompanied by attempts to extract money from the families of those detained before the migrants are permitted to depart Libya on the boats of traffickers bound for Europe.

(With agency inputs)

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Published December 17th, 2023 at 13:40 IST

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