90 migrants feared dead after boat capsizes off Libya

Pakistani nationals are now attempting the route from Libya to Italy
February 2, 2018, 1:30pm

As many as 90 people are feared dead after a smuggler’s boat capsized off the coast of Libya Friday morning, the U.N. reports.

Three survivors of the capsizing told the U.N.’s International Organisation for Migration that most of those who drowned were Pakistani, amid a recent uptick in people migrating from there.

IOM”s Olivia Headon, who is based in Libya, said 10 bodies are reported to have washed up on Libyan shores — two Libyans and eight Pakistani nationals. The bodies were discovered near the western Libyan town of Zurawa.

Headon told reporters that early indications suggested the boat, presumably bound for Italy, had become unbalanced.

Two of the survivors are reported to have swum ashore, while another was rescued by a nearby fishing boat.

Zurawa, which is close to the Libyan border with Tunisia, is the site of many migrant boat departures.

According to IOM’s records, Pakistani nationals were the third-largest group arriving in Italy from Libya in January. This marks a significant uptick compared to 2017, when Pakistani migrants were the 13th-largest ethnic group arriving from the North African country.

Headon said the reason for the increase in Pakistani migrants risking their lives on these trips was unclear, but they were “looking into it.”

In total last month, according to IOM figures, of the 6,624 migrants that crossed the Mediterranean from Libya — a 10 percent increase from 2016 — 246 of them are dead or missing.

Last year the EU struck a controversial deal to provide help to the Libyan coast guard to stop the flow of boats carrying migrants to Italy. Amnesty international labelled the deal “horrific” while the U.N. has described it as “inhuman.”

While the EU can point to a significant reduction in the number of migrants arriving on Italian shores in the second half of 2017 as a result of its deal, and a reduced number of deaths on the ocean, Amnesty says the EU is complicit in the human rights abuses committed by Libyan officials and security forces, as well as armed groups and criminal gangs.

“EU and Italian officials cannot plausibly claim to be unaware of the grave violations being committed by some of the detention officials and [Libyan Coast Guard] agents with whom they are so assiduously co-operating,” an Amnesty report from December 2017 says.

Cover: Life jackets are seen washed up on a beach after dozens of migrants drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Sabrata on September 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)