Up to 100 migrants, including babies, feared dead after boat sinks off the coast of Libya
July 21, 2020
The bodies of three babies were recovered and around 100 people were missing after a migrant boat sank off the coast of Libya on Friday, survivors and the coastguard said.
About 120 migrants were aboard the inflatable dinghy at the time, survivors brought ashore in Al-Hmidiya east of the capital Tripoli told AFP.
The Libyans managed to rescue 16 migrants from the group Friday and recovered the bodies of three children.
Coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim quoted a Yemeni survivor as saying the boat carried around 120-125 migrants, including women and children, before it capsized.
The Libyan coast guard also intercepted three smuggling boats carrying around 345 migrants east of Tripoli.
Libya is the main departure point for most migrants trying to reach Europe. More than 1,000 people have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean already this year.
The deaths came as EU leaders came to an agreement on how to deal with unauthorised migration following marathon talks overnight in Brussels.
The 28 leaders agreed to consider setting up "disembarkation platforms" outside the bloc, most likely in North Africa, in a bid to discourage migrants boarding EU-bound smuggler boats.
No third country has so far offered to host these reception centres, where authorities would distinguish between irregular migrants and asylum seekers admissible into the EU.
According to the EU deal, member countries could also set up migrant processing centres – but only on a voluntary basis – to determine whether the arrivals should be returned home as economic migrants or admitted as refugees.
The deal was denounced by the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which said it appeared to be aimed at blocking even the most vulnerable people outside of the bloc.
"The only thing European states appear to have agreed on is to block people at the doorstep of Europe regardless of how vulnerable they are, or what horrors they are escaping," MSF’s emergencies chief Karline Kleijer said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Italy’s hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini announced that Italian ports would be closed "all summer" to NGO ships which rescue migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.
"The NGOs will only see Italy on a postcard," quipped Mr Salvini, who is also the new deputy prime minister and head of the far-right League party.
"The ports will be closed all summer," he said on Italian radio.
He added that the ban would concern not only access to ports but also "the furnishing of fuel to the NGOs."
"As the Italian military tells me as well as the Libyans, the NGOs help traffickers, consciously or not," said Mr Salvini.
But he stressed that Italy with other states "would continue to save all those who need to be saved."