The United Nations’ refugee agency said Thursday that scores of refugees and migrants, as many as 150 people, are feared dead in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, potentially marking the deadliest migrant disaster in the Mediterranean this year,
The Associated Press quoted Ayoub Qasim, a spokesman for Libya’s coastguard, as saying that two boats carrying around 300 people sank around 120km east of the capital, Tripoli, before adding that 134 others were rescued.
However, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in a tweet on Thursday said that more than 150 people were feared drowned while 145 were rescued and returned to Libya after the incident.
🚨Urgent: tragic shipwreck may have occurred in the central mediterranean.
Nearly 150 migrants are reported missing and 145 more returned to Libyan shore.
— IOM Libya (@IOM_Libya) July 25, 2019
Charlie Yaxley, spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), said the survivors were picked up by local fishermen and then taken back to shore by the Libyan coastguard.
“We estimate that 150 migrants are potentially missing and died at sea,” he said. “The dead include women and children.”
“The worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year has just occurred,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, wrote on Twitter, adding that migrants must be given safe pathways out of Libya “before it is too late for many more desperate people.”
“The worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year has just occurred.”
~ @RefugeesChief moments ago after hearing of some 150 lives lost off the coast of Libya
Restore rescue at sea.
End refugee/migrant detention in Libya.
Increase safe pathways.
— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) July 25, 2019