Libyan officials reported Friday that a total of 117 bodies have been found on a beach west of the country and the corpses are suspected to be victims of a shipwreck while trying to reach Europe. According to Mohammed al-Mosrati, a spokesman for Libya’s Red Crescent, 75 victims were women and six were children and the rest were men. The search efforts lasted until late Thursday night and continued Friday.
A spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent, Al Khamis al Bosaifi, had reported Thursday the discovery of numerous bodies of migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean near the Libyan city of Zuwara. The spokesman told the Associated Press that documents were found with the bodies, which were partly decomposed, but they were mainly sub-Saharan Africans. Al Bosaifi said the bodies were not in an advanced state of decomposition and is not clear how long they have been dead. However, officials believe the victims drowned within the past 48 hours.
Speaking with reporters, Mohammed al-Mosrati said the situation is “very painful, and the numbers are very high,” before adding that the dead were not wearing life jackets — something the organization had noticed about bodies recovered in recent weeks.
The number of boats that set sail from Libya to try to reach Italy has soared in recent weeks as a result of the arrival of good weather and increased controls on the route between Turkey and Greece. Organizations suspect that most of these boats leave from coastal areas located between the cities of Sabratha and Zuwara in western Libya.
“This is a cross-border network of smugglers and traffickers, and there is a need for an international effort to combat this phenomenon,” an official was quoted as saying.
The sea continues to drag bodies to the beaches of Zuara on the coast of Libya, and since Thursday, the lifeless bodies of numerous people began to appear. As previously mentioned, they are believed to have come from a shipwreck that occurred last week in the Mediterranean waters. The Red Crescent has already recovered at least 117 bodies of migrants and officials have not ruled out that there may be more to come.
“A ship can carry between 115 and 125 passengers,” Al Bosaifi explained.
Residents of Zuara, located 120 kilometers west of the capital Tripoli, alerted the police of the presence of these bodies, and the human rights organization on Thursday launched an operation to rescue them. Through Facebook, the Red Crescent provided images of the recovery of the bodies on a beach, where you can see how the bodies were wrapped in white for transport by ambulance. The organization has not yet released details of the identities of the deceased.
Each year, thousands of people embark on a journey from African and Asian countries trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, but often their ships wreck at sea. The agreement between the European Union and Turkey to deport migrants and refugees arriving in the Greek coast has shifted the route of the eastern Mediterranean to Libya.
As reported by the Associated Press, more than 1,000 refugees and immigrants have died in different shipwrecks in the Mediterranean over the past week. So far this year, 2,510 people have lost their lives trying to reach Europe by sea in rickety boats departing from Libya and Turkey.
According to the U.N., Italy is only 300 kilometers from the coast of Libya and is the point of arrival of many Libyan migrants. The International Organization for Migration estimates that one of every 24 people who have tried to reach Italy across the Mediterranean in 2016 have died in the crossing. Migrants hoping to reach Italy from Libya pay hundreds of dollars to traffickers for a place in a boat. The vessels are often flimsy and ill-equipped for the journey across the Mediterranean. Reuters reported that so far this year more than 40,000 migrants have arrived in Italy after crossing the central Mediterranean, many fleeing poverty, repression, and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa.
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