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More Than Two Dozen Bodies Wash Ashore in Libya as Migrant Crisis Continues to Escalate

Aid workers are still recovering the bodies, but it appears to be the latest deadly incident during a recent surge of attempted migrant crossings from North Africa to Europe.
Photo by Reuters

The bodies of at least 25 people who likely drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean washed ashore near the western Libyan city of Zuwara on Thursday, in what appears to be the latest deadly incident during a recent surge of attempted migrant crossings from North Africa to Europe.

Red Crescent official Al-Khamis Al-Bosaifi said aid workers were still in the process of recovering the bodies. The circumstances that led to the grisly discovery remain unclear. A coastguard spokesman in Tripoli said no migrant boats had been intercepted over the past two days, with rougher seas preventing patrols.


A surge in departures from the North African coast toward Italy left hundreds dead last week. Many of the boats are believed to have left from the shore around the western Libyan cities of Zuwara and Sabratha. At least 880 migrants and refugees died trying to cross the Mediterranean during that time period, according to figures from the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR). The route between North Africa and Italy was "dramatically more dangerous" than the one to Greece, UNHCR said, with the chances of dying estimated at one in 23.

Related: At Least 700 Migrants Died in the Mediterranean Trying to Get to Europe Last Week

So far this year, more than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy by paying smugglers for the journey. The figures are broadly in line with a steep increase in migrant crossings of the sea since 2014. Smugglers in Libya have exploited political chaos and lawlessness to expand their activities along routes from sub-Saharan Africa, often working with local militias.

The European Union recently struck a deal with Turkey to stem the arrival of undocumented migrants and refugees to Greece, and European authorities have been scrambling to shut down flows on the other major sea route into the continent from Libya as calmer weather begins.

In an interview with a Greek newspaper on Thursday, France's prime minister said the EU needs to work more with African countries to tackle migration flows into Europe.


"We need to cooperate further with African countries of transit or of origin," Manuel Valls told Kathimerini ahead of a two-day visit to Greece on Thursday. He specifically addressed the need to assist the West African nation of Niger, which is a major transit country for Africans seeking to reach Europe because of its location on Libya's southern border.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates as many as 150,000 people, most coming from other West African nations, will travel through Niger this year, crossing the Sahara Desert on their way to the Mediterranean coast. In Libya alone, IOM, has identified 235,000 migrants in Libya, but says the real number is likely to be between 700,000 and 1 million.

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