The U.N announced over the weekend that at least 41 people had drowned when their boat capsized in the Central Mediterranean. The incident was the latest one in a series of other shipwrecks involving migrants fleeing the conflict in Libya. Over the past few months, numerous Libyans have been fleeing Libya seeking better lives in Europe.
Witnesses report what happened at the Central Mediterranean
According to the U.N. migration and refugee agencies, a dinghy carrying at least 120 migrants left Libya on Feb. 18. During the trip, the shipwreck took place two days after their departure. So far, the authorities have only managed to find 41 of the 120 migrants traveling on the dinghy. A commercial vessel at the scene of the incident helped rescue some survivors before the authorities arrived.
One survivor rescued from the wreckage told reporters the tragedy started when the dinghy took on water. According to him, the disaster happened about 15 hours after the migrants embarked on their perilous voyage. Within hours, at least six people fell into the sea and perished. The survivor said he saw two others drown while attempting to swim to a boat spotted in the distance. A few hours later, a commercial vessel Vos Triton arrived at the scene, rescuing the few remaining survivors. The UNHCR described what the crew on commercial vessels did as a complicated and delicate operation. But despite their efforts, many other migrants died during the rescue operation. Those who got rescued from the sea were taken to the Sicilian port town of Porto Empedocle in Italy by the commercial vessel.
Out of those recovered from the sea, the commercial vessel crew managed to recover one body. Some of those in rescued said the missing included three children and four women. One of the women missing left behind a newborn baby who was taken to the Lampedusa.
Violence in Libya causes continued fleeing
An uprising in 2011 caused the killing and ousting from power of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Since then, Libya has seen the violence continue for years with no hopes of the violence coming to a stop. Due to the constant violence, Libya emerged as a transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Just last week, another shipwreck occurred along the Central Mediterranean migration route. In that incident, about 160 Europe-bound migrants died. According to the U.N., since the beginning of 2021, numerous other shipwrecks have been reported with many casualties.
When migrants attempt to flee Libya, they seek the help of smugglers. These smugglers pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats for travel. The boats stall and sink along the dangerous Central Mediterranean route. Since the conflict began in Libya several years ago, hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached Europe. These individuals have managed to accomplish this on their own or after being rescued at sea. Thousands of others, on the other hand, have ended up drowning along the journey. Meanwhile, authorities have intercepted others and returned them to Libya. The U.N reported that the authorities had so far returned around 3,600 to Libya since the beginning of 2021.