AT LEAST 100 MISSING – 8 Migrant Bodies Recovered From Boat Off Libya

by Samuel Abasi Posted on June 11th, 2017

Colonel Fathi al-Rayani, head of the Libyan coastguard in Garabulli, 60 kilometres (40 miles) east of Tripoli announced the recovery of the bodies of eight migrants from an inflatable boat found east of Tripoli on Saturday, with at least 100 other migrants feared missing,.

“In general, this type of boat carries 100 to 110 people, so we do not know what has happened to the others,” said Issa al-Zaroog, a coast guard spokesman in the town of Garabulli.

It was not clear how the migrants, whose bodies were spotted by fishermen, had died, coast guard officials said.

Earlier, Tripoli coast guard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said one Bangladeshi migrant had been killed and two wounded in crossfire when coast guards from Zawiya, just west of Tripoli, had clashed on Friday with smugglers escorting migrant boats out to sea.

Qassem said two rubber boats and a wooden vessel carrying some 570 migrants had been intercepted near Sabratha, west of Tripoli, triggering the clashes, and that coast guards had destroyed a boat and a personal watercraft used by smugglers, arresting three of them.

But afterwards a further five rubber migrant boats got away after smugglers had fired at the coastguard from the shore and from boats, Qassem said.

The Italian coastguard meanwhile said it had coordinated the rescue of 1,650 migrants off the Libyan coast, with aid groups involved in the operations saying two dead bodies were found on a dinghy.

The Italian coastguard has said that more than 900 migrants were rescued off Libya on Thursday and Friday.

Libyan navy spokesman General Ayoub Qassem meanwhile said that coastguards patrolling off Zawiya, west of Tripoli, on Friday intercepted five inflatables and two wooden boats with more than 570 migrants on board.

He said the boats were being escorted by five Libyans on a jet ski and two outboards, and that three of the men were apprehended.

“The migrants are Africans, Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Moroccans… and were delivered to the detention centre in Zawiya,” Qassem said.

Intercepted or rescued migrants are often held in detention centres before being repatriated.

People traffickers have exploited the chaos in Libya since the 2011 uprising deposed and killed strongman Moamer Kadhafi to boost their lucrative but deadly trade.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said separately that 380 migrants in three rubber boats had been intercepted off Zawiya and brought back to Libya on Friday, and that another 438 were intercepted on Saturday.

Conflict-ravaged Libya has long been a stepping stone for migrants seeking a better life in Europe. The UN refugee agency has said around 61,250 migrants have reached Italy since the start of the year after crossing the Mediterranean, while nearly 1,800 more are dead or missing.

Libya is the most common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea, with the number making the crossing rising sharply since 2014. Most are packed onto ill-equipped vessels by Libyan smugglers, and are rescued by European ships once they reach international waters.

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