UN agency says 61 dead in migrant boat accident off Libya coast

The UN says the central Mediterranean is one of the world's most dangerous migration routes.

The UN says the central Mediterranean is one of the world's most dangerous migration routes. Photo: AP

More than 60 people including women and children have been killed after a boat carrying dozens of Europe-bound migrants capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations migration agency says.

Saturday’s shipwreck was the latest tragedy in this part of the Mediterranean Sea, a key dangerous route for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, where, according to officials, thousands have died.

The UN’s International Organisation for Migration said in a statement the boat was carrying 86 migrants when strong waves swamped it off the town of Zuwara on Libya’s western coast and that 61 migrants drowned, citing survivors of the “dramatic shipwreck”.

“The central Mediterranean continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes,” the agency wrote on social media platform X.

Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

The North African nation has plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The country is a major launching point for migrants trying to reach the European shores through the deadly central Mediterranean.

More than 2250 people died on this route this year, according to Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman.

It’s “a dramatic figure which demonstrates that unfortunately not enough is being done to save lives at sea”, Di Giacomo wrote on X.

Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders, which it shares with six nations.

The migrants are crowded into ill-equipped vessels, including rubber boats, and set off on risky sea voyages.

Those who are intercepted and returned to Libya are held in government-run detention centres rife with abuses, including forced labour, beatings, rapes and torture – practices that amount to crimes against humanity, according to UN-commissioned investigators.

The abuse often accompanies attempts to extort money from the families of those held, before the imprisoned migrants are allowed to leave Libya on traffickers’ boats to Europe.

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