CAIRO (AP) — A boat carrying about two dozen migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya on Saturday, with at least 19 people missing and presumed dead, authorities said.
The Libyan Coast Guard said a group of 23 migrants – Egyptians and Syrians – left the eastern city of Tobruk earlier in the day. Three migrants were rescued and taken to hospital. Only one body was found and the search is continuing, the agency said.
The sinking is the latest tragedy at sea involving migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from the North African nation in a desperate attempt to reach European shores. Libya has become the main transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, hoping for a better life in Europe.
In recent years, human traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos in Libya, smuggling migrants across the long borders of the oil-rich country with six nations. Migrants are then crammed into ill-equipped dinghies and set off on risky sea voyages.
At least 192 migrants have drowned along the central Mediterranean route in the first two months of 2022, the International Organization for Migration has said. More than 2,930 were intercepted and brought back to Libya. Once back, migrants are usually taken to government-run detention centers where abuse and mistreatment prevail.
In 2021, at least 32,425 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya. At least 1,553 are believed to have drowned last year, according to the IOM.