130 migrants drown in Mediterranean after rubber boat capsizes

Horror at sea: 130 migrants drown in Mediterranean after rubber boat heading to Europe capsizes off the coast of Libya

  • The 130 migrants are feared dead after their rubber boat capsized near Tripoli
  • SOS Mediterranee, which operates the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said their ship did not find any survivors at the wreckage site, but could see ten bodies
  • Humanitarian organisations have accused the Libyan coast guard and European authorities of failing to meet their responsibilities to save lives
  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

More than 100 migrants are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean after their rubber boat heading to Europe capsized off the coast of Libya.

Independent rescue groups said 130 people are now feared dead in the latest loss of life for migrants attempting to cross the sea.

Humanitarian organisations have accused the Libyan coast guard and European authorities of failing to meet their responsibilities to save lives. 

A Libyan coast guard official today said that they searched for the boat but could not find it with their limited resources. 

SOS Mediterranee, which operates the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said their ship did not find any survivors at the wreckage site, but could see at least ten bodies nearby.

Debris from the dingy, which was carrying around 130 migrants, are seen floating in the Mediterranean sea on Thursday

SOS Mediterranee, which operates the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said their ship did not find any survivors at the wreckage site, but could see at least ten bodies nearby. Pictured: The body of one of the victims of the capsized rubber boat

The organisation said late on Thursday that the capsized rubber boat – which was initially carrying around 130 people – was spotted in the Mediterranean Sea northeast of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.   

‘Today, after hours of search, our worst fear has come true,’ said Louisa Alberta, Search and Rescue Coordinator on board the rescue vessel. ‘The crew of the Ocean Viking had to witness the devastating aftermath of the shipwreck of a rubber boat north east of Tripoli.

‘We think of the lives that have been lost and of the families who might never have certainty as to what happened to their loved ones.’ 

The migrant traffic has raised the question among European Union countries and Libya over who is responsible for saving those at sea.

The European humanitarian organisation said that those missing will likely join the 350 people who have drowned in the sea so far this year. It accused governments of failing to provide search and rescue operations. 

The organisation said late Thursday that the capsized rubber boat (pictured: remains of the dinghy), which was initially carrying around 130 people, was spotted in the Mediterranean Sea northeast of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

In the years since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, war-torn Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. 

Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route.

‘These are the human consequences of policies which fail to uphold international law and the most basic of humanitarian imperatives,’ tweeted Eugenio Ambrosi, Chief of Staff for the International Organization for Migration.

Alarm Phone, a crisis hotline for migrants in distress in the Mediterranean, said that it had been in contact with the boat in distress for nearly ten hours before it capsized. 

The organisation said in a statement that it had notified European and Libyan authorities of the GPS position of the boat but only non-state rescue groups actively searched for it.

Alarm Phone accused European authorities of refusing to coordinate a search operation, leaving it solely in the hands of the Libyan Coast Guard.

Humanitarian organisations have accused the Libyan coast guard and European authorities of failing to meet their responsibilities to save lives. Pictured: The wreckage of the rubber boat can be seen from the SOS Mediterranean vessel

Libya Coast Guard spokesman Commander Masoud Ibrahim Masoud labelled allegations that they had been negligent as untrue.

‘We coordinated the search operation,’ he said. ‘The ships kept searching in the sea for more than 24 hours but the waves were very rough.’

Masoud said that the Libyan coast guard had received around noon on Wednesday two rescue alerts from two different rubber boats in distress to the east of Tripoli. 

A patrol vessel was immediately dispatched and rescued 106 migrants, including women and children, who were aboard one of the two boats. 

Two bodies were also pulled out of the water near the capsized boat. He said the same vessel continued to search, but visibility was low and seas rough. 

He said the vessel eventually returned to port so that the other migrants onboard could receive medical attention.

Parts of the rubber boat carrying around 130 migrants is seen floating in the sea 

In the meantime, he said Libyan authorities asked three merchant ships and Ocean Viking to look for the missing rubber boat, until the Libyan patrol vessel could join them again.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with Libya’s coast guard and other local groups to stem such dangerous sea crossings. Rights groups, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers rife with abuses.

‘We are not as equipped as the US coast guard and the support we get from the EU does not meet our needs,’ said Masoud. 

Thousands of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean have died, the UN migration agency reports. 

At least 41 people drowned when their boat capsized in February this year in the Mediterranean see after fleeing Libya, the IOM said.  

‘Did you see my baby? I lose my baby! Why me? Where is my baby?’ The mother from Guinea shrieks in the harrowing footage

Last year in November, a mother was filmed crying out for her six-month-old son after being hauled onto a rescue ship after a dinghy capsized in the Mediterranean.  

‘Did you see my baby? I lose my baby! Why me? Where is my baby?’ The woman from Guinea shrieks in the harrowing footage.

Her baby, Joseph, was eventually hauled from the waves by Spanish rescuers but died aboard their ship of respiratory arrest.

The infant was among five migrants who perished after an inflatable dinghy laden with 116 people sank after setting sail from Libya.

The vessel started to deflate within three hours of leaving the port city of Sabratah. 

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