CAIRO (AP) — A boat carrying Europe-bound migrants capsized off Libya, killing at least eight people, while 58 others were still missing, the country’s Red Crescent said Wednesday.
Tawfik al-Shukri, spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent, said the shipwreck took place Tuesday off the Mediterranean town of Garabulli, around 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of the capital of Tripoli.
The boat was carrying at least 150 migrants, of whom 84 survived and were taken to government-run detention centers for migrants, he said.
Al-Shukri said the dead who were recovered were all men. He shared images purporting to show workers in Red Crescent uniforms packing black body bags with the Mediterranean Sea in the background.
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 Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Tuesday’s shipwreck was the latest sea tragedy in the central Mediterranean, a key route for migrants.
In 2023, at least 17 migrants were reported dead and 18 others missing off Libya as of Jan. 21, according to the U.N. International Organization for Migration. More than 1,100 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya this year, the IOM said.
Last year, at least 529 migrants were reported dead and 848 others missing off Libya, while over 24,680 were intercepted and returned to the chaos-hit country, according to the IOM.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed 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 centers rife with abuses, including forced labor, beatings, rapes and torture — practices that amount to crimes against humanity, according to U.N.-commissioned investigators.
The abuse often accompanies efforts to extort money from families before migrants are allowed to leave Libya on traffickers’ boats.