Dozens of immigrants die after boat sinks off coast of Libya

AFP (archive photo)

At least 36 people died after a boat carrying immigrants predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa sank off Libya’s coast just east of the capital Tripoli earlier this week, the Libyan government said on Sunday.


The vessel appeared to run into trouble around 37 miles (60 km) east of Tripoli, Rami Kaal, a spokesman for Libya’s Interior Ministry said.

Libya’s porous borders with its sub-Saharan neighbours and its proximity to Italy and Malta across the Mediterranean have made the North African country a common transit route for immigrants trying to reach Europe.

With their coast guard, navy and armed forces ill-equipped and still in training, Libyan officials want more help from Western partners to stem the flow of illegal immigrants trying to cross through Libya to Europe.

Libya’s Interior Minister Saleh Maziq threatened on Saturday that his country would help immigrants reach Europe if the European Union does not do more to help deal with a flood of immigrants using Libya as a transit point.

Speaking at a news conference, Maziq blamed the presence of illegal immigrants in his country for a rise in crime, the spread of illegal drugs and diseases. He did not elaborate. He also appealed to Libya’s southern neighbors to help it stop the flood of immigrants.

Chaos has prevailed in Libya since the 2011 overthrow of its former leader Muammar Gaddafi. With the police and the military in disarray, human smuggling has become an organised industry in which Libya’s militias have gotten involved, activists and police say.

Cities along Libya’s 1,600-kilometre (1,000-mile), largely unpatrolled Mediterranean coastline have become collection points where Africans mass, scrounging up the cash for a boat to take them the roughly 300 kilometres (200 miles) to Malta or Lampedusa.

The world, Maziq said, “must actually take a serious stand with actions and not just words.”

Following Maziq’s comments, the Libyan government issued a statement Sunday saying it will continue to combat illegal immigration to Europe and cooperation with European countries, particularly Italy, in monitoring borders to curb the migration


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