The bodies of 74 migrants washed up on Libya’s northern Coast, close to the city Zawiya. The remains were recovered by the Libyan Red Crescent. The rescuers found only one survivor, who was clinging to a ripped rubber dinghy. The migrants are believed to have drowned while trying to reach Europe by way of the Mediterranean.
Taha K. Sultan Elbarghathi, the international relations officer at the Libyan Red Crescent, told CNN that the team saw more bodies in the water but were unable to reach them because of the rough sea and the team’s lack of boats. The bodies were first discovered on Monday morning and aid workers spent six hours recovering them.
Joel Millman, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in the Guardian it had been reported that traffickers had removed the boat’s engine and set it adrift. He went on to say this incident in Libya is not only a case of terrible deaths, it is also a case of deliberate punishment of migrants by traffickers, which has so far not been a common occurence.
The Libya-to-Italy smuggling route across the Meditteranean Sea has seen a record rise in migrant deaths. The migrants on this route often attempt to cross the sea on flimsy boats with only enough fuel to get them to where European rescue vessels can be found afloat in international waters.
On Friday and Saturday of last week, spokesman Ayoub Gassim of the Libyan coast guard stated over 5oo migrants were rescued at sea. The migrants were discovered around 7 miles off the coast of Libya.
Gassim went on to say that the coast guard has witnessed smugglers using large rubber boats in order to fit as many migrants as possible into the weak, unsteady vessels. In some cases, up to 180 migrants are piled into a single boat. According to NBC News, Gassim believes things are going to become even more disasterous for migrants.
In 2016, a record-breaking 181,000 migrants crossed from Libya to Italy. Of this number, 4,579 deaths have been recorded, higher by 1,700 compared to deaths recorded in 2015. After mostly closing the sea crossing between Greece and Turkey last year, the EU is still looking for more ways to stem off the flow of migrants from Libya.
The EU recently supported an agreement between Libya and Italy to deal with the migrant problem. The agreement calls for around 212 million dollars granted to the UN-backed government in Libya as well as training for the nation’s coast guard to better stem off the flood of migrants. The agreement has been heavily criticized by human rights activists.
By Rebeccah Dean
Photo Courtesy Libyan Red Crescent