The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported yet another devastating shipwreck in the Central Mediterranean, which has claimed the lives of at least 74 migrants off the coast of Khums, Libya. It is the eighth such incident since the beginning of October.
The boat was reported to be carrying more than 120 people, among them women and children. A total of 47 survivors were brought to shore by the coast guard and local fishermen. More than 30 bodies have been retrieved, but the search continues.
So far this year, at least 900 people have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach European shores, some due to delays in rescue, said IOM. More than 11,000 others have been returned to Libya, putting them at risk of facing human rights violation, detentions, abuse, trafficking and exploitation – all well-documented by the UN.
IOM has recorded a recent upsurge in departures from the country with some 1,900 people intercepted and returned, with more than 780 arrivals in Italy recorded from Libya, since the beginning of October alone.
Worsening humanitarian conditions of migrants detained in overcrowded centres, widespread arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, and extortion and abuse are alarming, according to the migration agency.
In the absence of any safeguards for migrants returned to the country, IOM is calling for the Libyan Search and Rescue zone to be redefined, to allow international actors to conduct life-saving operations.
IOM continues to be clear that Libya is not a safe port for return and reiterates its call on the international community, and the European Union (EU), to take urgent and concrete action to end the cycle of return and exploitation.