Over hundred dead after two migrant boats sank off Libya

2018-09-12T02:00:31+05:00 AFP

PARIS - More than 100 migrants, including at least 20 children, died when two boats sank off the coast of Libya early this month, according to Doctors without Borders (MSF), citing survivors.

The witnesses told MSF that two inflatable boats had left the Libyan coast on September 1, each with 160 people on board, the medical charity said in a statement. The migrants were from Sudan, Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Ghana, Libya, Algeria and Egypt, MSF said. According to a survivor, the motor broke down on one boat while the other continued until it "began to deflate... there were 165 adults and 20 children on board".

As the boat began to sink, "few passengers had life jackets or knew how to swim, only those who held onto the hull of the boat managed to survive," said the witness to the tragedy.

There were only 55 survivors, the source added.

On September 2, the Libyan coastguard brought 276 people to the port of Khoms, among whom were the survivors of this sinking.

The group was transferred to a detention centre under the control of the Libyan authorities, MSF said. MSF, which treated the survivors, said there were pregnant women, children and even babies. Some had suffered burns from escaped fuel, others had caught pneumonia from staying so long in the water. Some had burns over 75 percent of their body, said Jan Defransciscis, an MSF nurse who works in Misrate, Libya.

German NGO says Malta to blame for migrant deaths

German NGO Sea-Watch accused Malta Tuesday of thwarting Mediterranean migrant rescues by detaining its ship, and blamed it for "preventable" deaths at sea.

"For every preventable death that occurs at sea, your government has direct responsibility," a Sea-Watch statement said.

Its ship, Sea-Watch 3 has been confined to port in Valletta since early July despite safety inspections by Dutch officials, which the German non-governmental organisation (NGO) says entitles it to fly the Dutch flag.

"Your political pressure and power plays cost the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world today," Sea-Watch, said, calling Malta's action "a conscious attempt to hinder the rescue of people in distress." With the issue of immigration fuelling populist movements across Europe, the EU is under pressure to stem the arrival of illegal migrants, many of whom risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in derelict boats.

Latest figures from the International Organisation for Migration show that 73,696 migrants have reached five EU countries via the Mediterranean so far this year, while 1,565 have died at sea. In 2017, the IOM recorded 128,993 arrivals and 2,561 deaths.

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