The United Nations refugee agency said at least 50 migrants are feared to have drowned in a boat that capsized off the Libyan coast on Saturday, reported Reuters. It is the latest accident involving migrants trying to reach Europe.
Coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said the boat that capsized took place off the western city of Misrata, 187km east of the capital Tripoli.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said rescue efforts were ongoing on Saturday afternoon, and offered no details on casualties.
“A boat carrying over 50 persons capsized off Libyan shores. Rescuers on their way and UNHCR and partners ready to provide medical and humanitarian assistance upon disembarkation,” the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR wrote on Twitter.
Alarm Phone, an independent support group for people crossing the Mediterranean, informed that a second boat for migrants was in distress, with about 56 people on boat.
The group said it got a call from migrants on the boat, who left Libya’s shores days ago. The migrants said they are in need of immediate help as they are “afraid to die.”
“They are still in distress at sea with no rescue in sight,” Alarm Phone said. They have now been at sea for over 60 hours.”
Libya is currently a major crossing point for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after the uprising that killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. After Gadhafi’s death the North African nation entered into a political turmoil, armed militias proliferated and central authority collapsed.
At least 6,000 migrants from African countries including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and other nations are currently in Libyan detention centres run by militias accused of torture and other abuses.
A few days ago, around 66 African refugees and asylum-seekers from Libya landed in Rwanda. A second evacuation flight is expected in the upcoming weeks.