BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — A spokesman for Libya’s Red Crescent said Friday that at least 15 bodies have been recovered after a migrant shipwreck off the country's western coast. Migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in a desperate attempt to reach European shores.
Tawfik Al Shukri said that local authorities had informed the aid group of bodies washing up onshore. He said they were retrieved and transported to a hospital, where the remains would be examined to determine the cause of death.
In a video circulated online, the burnt hull of the wrecked boat is seen lodged on coastal rocks with bodies strewn on it and nearby. The cause of the deaths was not immediately clear, nor was it apparent when the fire was started that burnt the vessel.
The shipwreck took place off the western Libyan city of Sabratha, a major launching point for the mainly African migrants making the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean.
The International Organization for Migration said in June that at least 150 migrants departing from Libya were feared to have drowned in the first sixth months of 2022. Crossings typically increase in the summer and early fall months.
Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East amid internal strife. Torn by civil war since 2011, the oil-rich country is divided between rival governments, each backed by international patrons and multiple armed militias on the ground.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across desert country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then typically packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.
Many of those who have been intercepted and returned to Libya — including women and children — are held in government-run detention centers where they suffer from abuse, including torture, rape and extortion, according to rights groups.
Rami Musa, The Associated Press