Migrants drown as boat sinks off Libya


Up to 64 migrants died off the coast of Libya when their flimsy boat sank, humanitarian groups said after talking to survivors evacuated to Italy.

Eighty-six people were plucked from the stricken rubber dinghy on Saturday and eight bodies, all women, were recovered. The boat was carrying 150 migrants, survivors said, with many of the dead vanishing beneath the waves.
“Among them there were children believed to have drowned,” said Doctors Without Borders Sea on Twitter. “Among the survivors was a three-year-old child who lost her mother and arrived alone and a family of 11 now a family of three,” it added.

The Italian coastguard said the migrants were spotted on Saturday morning by a plane patrolling the seas on behalf of a European anti-smuggling operation. Rescuers believe their dinghy deflated following a puncture.

Such boats are usually crammed with migrants by people smugglers operating from Libya and were not built to withstand crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimated 2,832 migrants died last year trying to reach Italy from North Africa, down from 4,581 in 2016. Some 119,310 people made it alive to Italy in 2017 against 181,436 the year before.

The majority of migrants are Africans fleeing war and poverty in their home countries. Italy is working with various groups and authorities in Libya to slow the flow of newcomers.