Over 20,000 migrants have died in the last seven years
At least 74 migrants died in a “devastating” shipwreck on Thursday off the Libyan coast, the United Nations said, the latest in a spate of migrant vessel sinkings in the central Mediterranean.
This year has seen a resurgence of boats in the central Mediterranean, a well-trodden but often deadly route for those hoping to travel to Europe, mainly embarking from Libya and neighbouring Tunisia.
The UN’s International Organisation for Migration reported “a devastating shipwreck which claimed the lives of at least 74 migrants today off the coast of Khoms,” in a statement, adding that the coastguard and fishermen were searching for survivors.
Khoms is a port city 120km west of the Libyan capital Tripoli.
The IOM called it the latest disaster in a “series of tragedies” involving at least eight other shipwrecks in the Mediterranean sea since the start of October.
“The boat was reported to be carrying over 120 people, among them women and children,” the IOM said, adding that 47 survivors had been brought back to shore and 31 bodies retrieved.
The IOM said that in the past two days, at least 19 other people, including two children, drowned after two boats capsized in the central Mediterranean.
More than 20,000 migrants have died in the last seven years, according to the UN refugee agency.
Human traffickers have taken advantage of persistent violence in Libya since the 2011 fall of dictator Moamer Kadhafi, turning the country into a key corridor for migrants fleeing war and poverty in desperate bids to reach Europe.