TRIPOLI: The Libyan Red Crescent retrieved the bodies of 22 migrants off the coastal town of Zwara on Sunday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
“Today, 22 bodies were retrieved by the Libyan Red Crescent in Zwara,” the IOM’s chief of mission in Libya, Federico Soda, wrote on Twitter, sharing a photo of body bags lined up on a beach.
On Wednesday, the IOM and the UN refugee agency said dozens of migrants and refugees had perished off Libya in the deadliest shipwreck so far this year.
The agencies said that survivors from Monday’s sinking, 37 of whom were rescued by fishermen, said at least 45 others, including five children, had died when the engine of the vessel they were aboard exploded off Zwara.
The latest tragedy, west of Tripoli, brings to 302 the number of migrants and refugees known to have perished on the route so far this year, the IOM and the UNHCR said, stressing that the actual figure was likely much higher.
Safa Msehli, spokesman for the IOM in Geneva, told AFP on Sunday it was possible the 22 bodies were from that same sinking, “given the reported location of the shipwreck”.
“The bodies retrieved today were all African males. We still don’t have information on the nationalities,” she added.
Libya has been in chaos ever since the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a Nato-backed uprising, though its warring rival administrations said Friday they would cease all hostilities and organise nationwide elections soon.
Since the ousting of Gaddafi, Libya has become a key route for irregular migration from Africa into Europe, across the Mediterranean Sea.
Migrant departures from Libya’s coast increased by nearly 300% this year between January and the end of April, compared to the same period in 2019, according to the UN.
“These painful deaths are the result of the increasingly hardening policy towards people fleeing conflict and extreme poverty, and a failure to humanely manage migration flows,” Soda added Sunday.
More than 100,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean last year with more than 1,200 dying in the attempt, according to the IOM.