Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Almost 100 immigrants missing at sea off western Libyan coast: Libyan navy

Almost 100 immigrants missing at sea off western Libyan coast: Libyan navy

A little more than a week into the New Year, reports reveal that close to 200 migrants or refugees have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea - with up to 100 unaccounted for since Saturday, the United Nations migration agency said Wednesday. A search was ongoing to find any more possible survivors.

According to survivors' testimony, around 100 migrants remain missing.

In another incident, on January 6, Libyan coast guards found a shipwreck, where 64 migrants had been drowned.

The Italian coast guard, which coordinates rescues in worldwide waters off Libya's coast, said an aircraft on patrol for a European anti-smuggling operation had spotted the dinghy, which was in difficulty Saturday morning.

Italian navy rescues asylum seekers traveling by boat off the coast of Africa. He said survivors told rescuers that roughly 150 migrants were aboard when the dinghy was launched from Libya's coast. Unfortunately, we could not trace anybody or other survivors.

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Libya is the most common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa by sea. The smugglers routinely crowd much more than 100 people into motorized rubber dinghies created to hold far fewer, aiming to maximize profits on the route from lawless Libya toward southern Europe. All the immigrants were taken to a naval base in Tripoli after a 12-hour rescue operation.

Migrants sit at a naval base after they were rescued by Libyan coast guards, in Tripoli, Libya January 9, 2018.

Reuters spoke to survivors who say that about 50 people who had boarded the boats now are missing, while Libya's Coast Guard stated in a press release it believes that number might be as high as 100. Over 50,000 migrants have landed Italy in 2014.

Arrivals by boat in Italy accounted for most of the 2017 arrivals: 119,310 in total, down by a third compared to the previous year, the Italian Interior Ministry announced.

Under heavy pressure from Italy, some Libyan armed factions have blocked smuggling since last summer.

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