At least 240 migrants have drowned off the coast of Libya within the last 48 hours, the U.N.’s migration agency said. It said this might possibly be as a result of unintended consequence of European efforts to stop people-smugglers and to train Libyan coastguards.
“Five rescue ships, coordinated by the Italian coastguard, were within sight of the migrants but despite attempts to rescue them, most died.
“Two rubber dinghies, which is what they are, packed with migrants, over 300 in all have succumbed to the waves off Libya in very bad weather,’’ Leonard Doyle, the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) said.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened by another tragedy’’.
He said many lives could be saved if European countries volunteered to take in more refugees rather than leaving them to make the risky boat trip.
“The Mediterranean is a deadly stretch of sea for refugees and migrants, yet they still see no other option but to risk their lives to cross it,’’ he said.
IOM’s Italy spokesman, Flavio di Giacomo, said migrant arrivals in Italy surged to 27,388 in October.
“More than the two previous Octobers combined, bringing this year’s total to more than 158,000.
“Migrants have told the IOM that smugglers say European training of Libyan coastguards means that rescue missions will soon be handed over to Libya.
“It means that any rescued migrants will be taken ashore in Libya rather than in Italy, that might be causing the rush, despite the bad weather,’’ he said.