Highlights

• Heartbreak as Women and Children Perish in Migrant Shipwreck

• The survivors, mostly from Senegal, Mali, Chad and Ghana, were rescued by local fishermen

At least 45 people including five children died earlier this week in the worst shipwreck reported so far this year off Libya’s coast, according to the United Nations.

At least 45 African migrants die off Libya in worst shipwreck of 2020

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said 37 survivors from Monday’s shipwreck reported that at least 45 others had died when the engine of the vessel they were aboard exploded off the coast of Zwara.

The two agencies said the survivors, mostly from Senegal, Mali, Chad and Ghana, were rescued by local fishermen and later detained upon disembarkation. Following the tragic incident in the Mediterranean, the UNHCR and the IOM urgently called for a review of countries’ approach in their rescue efforts.

The survivors were from four African countries 

“There remains an absence of any dedicated, EU-led search and rescue programme,” Federico Soda, head of the IOM’s mission in Libya, said on Twitter.

“We fear that without an urgent increase in SaR capacity, there is a risk of more disasters,” he added, referring to the search and rescue activities by the coastguards of countries in the Mediterranean. Human rights groups and agencies have repeatedly denounced what they describe as an inadequate response by maritime authorities when alerted of people left adrift in damaged boats after embarking on dangerous sea journeys to reach Europe.

While each state has the responsibility to conduct SAR operations within a defined zone, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue stipulates that they have the obligation to intervene in the zone of another state if that state fails to respond to a help request from that area.

On Tuesday, Alarm Phone – a hotline for migrant and refugee boats in distress – said it had alerted both the Libyan and Italian coastguards about the presence of about 100 people in a deflating rubber boat off the Libyan shore.

Both authorities failed to intervene, according to Alarm Phone. As of Tuesday, the NGO said it had lost contact with the vessel.

 

NP/Fatimah/Al Jazeera

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