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At least 73 migrants "presumed dead," 7 survive after shipwreck off Libya, U.N. says

NGOs threatened by Libya
Libyan Coast Guard threatening NGOs saving migrants 02:14

Dozens of migrants are believed to have died in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, with only seven survivors found so far, the United Nations said Wednesday.

"At least 73 migrants are reported missing and presumed dead following a tragic shipwreck off the Libyan coast yesterday (Tuesday)," the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration said.

The boat carrying 80 people had departed Qasr Al-Akhyar, some 46 miles east of the capital, Tripoli, and was heading to Europe.

Shoes of immigrants are pictured on the beach, who died after their boat capsized, in Qassr Alkhyar
Shoes of immigrants are pictured on the beach, who died after their boat capsized, in Qassr Alkhyar, Libya February 14, 2023.  Reuters/LIBYAN RED CRESCENT

So far, 11 bodies have been retrieved by the Libyan Red Crescent and the local police, IOM said.

And the U.N. migration agency said that "seven survivors who made it back to Libyan shores in extremely dire conditions are currently in the hospital."

The central Mediterranean remains the world's deadliest migratory sea crossing.

The latest tragedy brings the numbers of deaths there since the beginning of this year alone to 130, IOM said.

Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East trying to make it to Europe. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

In 2021, rescue groups said more than 100 Europe-bound migrants were feared dead in a single shipwreck off the Libyan Mediterranean coast.

According to the U.N.'s Missing Migrants Project, more than 1,450 migrant deaths were recorded on that route in 2022.

And more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances have been recorded there since 2014.

"This situation is intolerable," IOM said. "Concrete action by states is needed to increase search and rescue capacity, establish clear and safe disembarkation mechanisms as well as safe and regular pathways to migration to reduce dangerous journeys."

According to IOM, there have been more than 25,000 migrants reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean region since 2014.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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