By Ebi Kesiena
A vessel carrying over 60 migrants, including women and children, capsized off the coast of Libya, leaving a grim toll of casualties.
The United Nations migration agency reported that the incident occurred late Saturday, making it the latest in a series of tragedies in the Mediterranean, a perilous yet commonly traversed path by migrants seeking refuge in Europe.
The boat, with 86 migrants on board, succumbed to strong waves near the town of Zuwara on Libya’s western coast. According to survivors, 61 individuals tragically lost their lives in the shipwreck, underscoring the hazardous nature of the central Mediterranean migration route.
Expressing the severity of the situation, U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) conveyed on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that the central Mediterranean remains one of the most perilous migration routes globally.
Disturbingly, reports from the hotline for distressed migrants, Alarm Phone, revealed that some migrants had reached out to the volunteer group. The group promptly alerted authorities, including the Libyan coastguard. Shockingly, the Libyan coastguard allegedly declared that they would not initiate a search and rescue operation.
A spokesperson for the Libyan coast guard was not immediately available for comment, leaving questions about the lack of response in the face of such a humanitarian crisis.
Libya has increasingly become a predominant transit point for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Despite the nation’s descent into chaos following the NATO-backed uprising that ousted Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, migrants continue to risk their lives in pursuit of a better future in Europe.
Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesperson for the IOM, disclosed that over 2,250 lives were lost on the central European migration route this year alone, emphasizing the urgent need for enhanced measures to save lives at sea.
The IOM’s missing migrants project reported that between January 1 and November 18, at least 940 migrants were confirmed dead, and 1,248 were missing off the coast of Libya.
Human traffickers have exploited the chaos in Libya, capitalizing on porous borders to smuggle migrants across the country. These vulnerable individuals often find themselves aboard ill-equipped vessels, including rubber boats, embarking on perilous sea voyages in the hopes of reaching European shores.
As the international community grapples with the escalating humanitarian crisis, urgent attention is required to address the root causes and implement measures that prioritize the safety and well-being of migrants on their perilous journeys.