Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Bodies of at Least 6 Migrants Wash Up on Libyan Coast

Bodies of at Least 6 Migrants Wash Up on Libyan Coast

Friday, 22 November, 2019 - 14:00
A crew member of a NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue boat helps a child during a search and rescue (SAR) operation in the central Mediterranean Sea, November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina

At least six bodies of Europe-bound migrants were found on Libya´s Mediterranean coast on Friday, while another 90 were intercepted by Libya´s coast guard, the UN migration agency said.

Libya has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe. Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats.

The UN´s International Organization for Migration tweeted that the bodies washed up on the shores of the Libyan port of al-Khums, where there have been regular departures of boats packed with migrants trying to reach Italy, despite a sharp drop in overall crossings from Libya since mid-2017.

Those who died may have tried to swim from the boat on which the survivors were found, since it broke down and the migrants were in need of help, a coastguard official in Khums said

The survivors were from sub-Saharan African countries and included three children and 10 women, one of whom was pregnant and gave birth during the rescue operation, the official said.

They were not detained and left the port of their own accord, he said.

In recent years, the EU has partnered with Libya's coast guard and other local groups to stem the dangerous sea crossings. Rights groups, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers rife with abuses.

Separately, Libya´s eastern parliament Thursday accused the Italian government of violating the country´s sovereignty by flying a drone near the frontlines of the ongoing war between the Tripoli-based UN-backed government and the east-based, self-styled Libyan National Army.

"The Libyan parliament demands that the Italian authorities provide an official explanation to this act of aggression on Libya´s sovereignty," read the statement issued by the LNA-allied parliament.

In a Wednesday press conference Ahmed al-Mosmari, the LNA spokesman said their forces had shot down an Italian drone near the city of Tarhouna, a town about 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Tripoli.

In response, the office of Italy´s Joint Chief of Staffs issued a statement Wednesday affirming that an Italian drone crashed in Libyan territory while it was on a mission to support efforts aimed at stemming migrant sea crossings. He added that the plane was following a flight plan that had been communicated in advance to Libyan authorities.

Editor Picks