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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

At least 61 migrants drown off Libya, agency says

By Yonette Joseph

More than 60 migrants drowned in a shipwreck off Libya, an international migrant agency said Saturday, another chapter in the unrelenting toll in the Mediterranean Sea as people in Africa flee famine, conflict and other upheavals for distant shores.

The International Organization for Migration in Libya said in a post on the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that women and children were among the 61 migrants who died. The Libyan government did not immediately comment on the agency’s report.

The boat had set off from the Libyan city of Zwara with about 86 people, the agency said, citing survivors of the shipwreck. It was unclear exactly when it began its voyage. The IOM said “the central Mediterranean continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes.”

Earlier this year, at least 73 migrants died in another disaster off the Libyan coast. That episode involved a boat carrying at least 80 people that was believed to have departed from Qasr Alkayar, Libya, on Feb. 14, bound for Europe, the IOM said at the time. Seven people survived, and 11 bodies were recovered, it said.

More than 28,000 Africans have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean since 2014, according to IOM data. Many set off north to Italy and Greece, in one of Europe’s most defining challenges.

In June, at least 79 people drowned in the Mediterranean after a large boat carrying migrants sank, Greek authorities said, in the deadliest such episode off the country’s coast since the height of the 2015 migration crisis. More than 100 people were rescued.

And in February, a wooden boat with 130 to 180 migrants broke apart against rocks near a beach town in southern Italy, drowning at least 59 people, including a newborn and other children, authorities said.

European leaders have put in place a patchwork of policies to handle the influx, with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy announcing in November that her government had struck an agreement with Albania, a non-European Union nation across the Adriatic Sea, to outsource the processing and containment of migrants. But Italian politicians surprised by Meloni’s announcement questioned whether the agreement was legal, ethical, practical or even real.

Greece has taken a tough line on migrants. Its judiciary has cracked down on nongovernmental organizations that work with migrants, and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government has been accused of illegally pushing asylum-seekers back at sea.

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